Let Me Know Just How Much I’m Missing-Face The Nation’s Interview With Defense Secretary James Mattis

Here’s a May 28th, 2017 interview with the Secretary about current American foreign policy being coordinated through the Departments of Defense and State, under the direction of the President (it still feels a little strange to write….President Trump):

My takeaways below.

  1. Regarding ISIS: ‘Accelerate’ confrontation and engage ISIS where they are, ‘clearing’ them once engaged and isolated (no longer allowing them either maintain territory, disperse and/or regroup).  Let the people on the ground pursue this strategy with a fair amount of latitude. ***As to the psychological, ideological, social, political and religious reasons individuals seem to be joining ISIS…from Molenbeek all the way to Raqqa, worry about that later, I guess.  No more territory and the legitimacy/revenue that comes with territory, seems to be the current plan regarding ISIS, which will require more resources.
  2.  Regarding Turkey’s NATO membership and internal pressures from the Kurdish PKK (Kurdish [Communist] militiamen who are Turkish citizens fighting ISIS), it seems Mattis is more committed to NATO obligations despite Erdogan’s autocratic moves.  The fact that Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish militias/leadership have been primary anti-ISIS combatants, means that Kurds should probably expect to receive some arms/logistical/tactical support during the fight against ISIS, but should probably expect to fend for themselves on any grander scale/later on.
  3. North Korea: While maintaining the DMZ, and honoring South Korean obligations, consulting Japanese leadership and leveraging Chinese influence, the goal is to try and hold the North Korean regime to some account in continuing the process of marrying ICBM technology with nuclear capability to fulfill its presumed ideological supremacy/destiny.  This will also be an attempt to reassert more of a leadership role for American hard and soft power in the region, while trying to deny the North Korean regime’s economic channels.
  4. Try and deal with Russia as it is, which is to say, Russian leadership continues a divide and conquer strategy in Georgia/Ukraine, and also continues the cold logic and vague threat of force with former Soviet satellites in the Baltics, testing the resolve of European and Western leadership and organization.  They’re not playing nice and pursuing a deeply anti-Western strategy (low birth-rates and Russian nationalism is being solidified around an assertive, kleptocratic regime heavily reliant on natural resources).
  5. NATO is not going to be abandoned, but it probably won’t hurt to have members pony-up some dough to realize the fundamental mission of security NATO offers to its members.  You may not need to change the by laws, but let’s make sure the members have reasonable skin in the game and review the membership rules from time to time.

Domestically, I suppose the plan is to maintain as much political/cultural unity in the American Republic as possible (a serious issue, indeed), while reaffirming American alliances abroad around this basic strategy.

Interestingly, Dickerson asks Mattis about Iran, and why post-1979 Iranian revolutionaries always seem to have a hand in all kinds of guns/money/terrorist activity throughout the Middle-East, so often aligning against American interests (Hizbollah in Lebanon, current uprisings in Yemen, meddling in Israel/Palestine etc.).

Mattis attributes this to the nature of their 1979 Islamic revolution, the beliefs and ideals of the people who grabbed and still maintain power in Iran (suppressing political dissent).

This reminded me that some in the West and the Middle-East will argue exactly the same about moral legitimacy since the American revolution (some with better reasons and understanding than others).  Why does America (and not so much Canada, Australia etc.) go around and keep trying to re-make the world in its image?

Isn’t it all just morally relativistic, anyways, man?

And more broadly: Do moral relativism, value pluralism and all manner of modern liberal projects run aground upon the rocks of nihilism?

Correspondence here.

Kelley Ross responds to a correspondent on Isaiah Berlin’s value pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:

‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extent that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism. I have no doubt that respecting a considerable value pluralism in society is a good thing and that a nomocratic regime that, mostly, leaves people alone is morally superior to a teleocratic regime that specifies and engineers the kinds of values that people should have. However, the project of showing that such a regime IS a good thing and IS morally superior is precisely the kind of thing that Gray decided was a failure.

Thus, I believe Gray himself sees clearly enough that a thoroughgoing “value pluralism” would mean that the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini is just as morally justified as the regime of Thomas Jefferson. Gray prefers liberalism (or its wreckage) for the very same reason that the deconstructionist philosopher Richard Rorty prefers his leftism: it is “ours” and “we” like it better. Why Gray, or Rorty, should think that they speak for the rest of “us” is a good question. ‘

and about providing a core to liberalism:

‘Why should the state need a “sufficient rational justificaton” to impose a certain set of values? The whole project of “rational justification” is what Gray, and earlier philosophers like Hume, gave up on as hopeless. All the state need do, which it has often done, is claim that its values are favored by the majority, by the General Will, by the Blood of the Volk, or by God, and it is in business.’

And that business can quickly lead to ever-greater intrusion into our lives:

‘J.S. Mill, etc., continue to be better philosophers than Berlin or Gray because they understand that there must be an absolute moral claim in the end to fundamental rights and negative liberty, however it is thought, or not thought, to be justified. Surrendering the rational case does not even mean accepting the overall “value pluralism” thesis, since Hume himself did not do so. ‘

Are libertarians the true classical liberals?  Much closer to our founding fathers?

What Henry Kissinger still has to offer:

On Burkean Conservatism:

‘The billiard table is a seductive analogy. But in real foreign policy, the billiard balls do not react only to physical impact. They are also guided by their own cultural inheritances: their histories, instincts, ideals, their characteristic national approaches to strategy, in short, their national values. A realist foreign policy needs a strong value system to guide it through the inherent ambiguities of circumstance. Even Bismarck, the supreme realist, emphasized the ultimate moral basis of realist statesmanship: “The best a statesman can do is to listen carefully to the footsteps of God, get ahold of the hem of His cloak and walk with Him a few steps of the way.’

and a partial look at ideas underlying his multipolar vision:

‘The distinction between idealism and realism rejects the experience of history. Idealists do not have a monopoly on moral values; realists must recognize that ideals are also part of reality. We will be less frequently disillusioned if we emphasize a foreign policy designed to accumulate nuance rather than triumph through apocalyptic showdowns, and our values will benefit over the longer term.’

Related On This Site: Isaiah Berlin, as a youth fled a well-integrated family of Latvian Jews to Britain (for his life), subsequently spending more time with Marx than any man should…but also Mill, is value pluralism a response…or does it just lead to the same relativism and nihilism?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray is criticizing many claims to progress in ethics and politics in the Western World, with a heavy Nietzschean influence (man is still capable of great barbarism & achievement) Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Robert Kagan At Brookings: ‘The Twilight Of the Liberal World Order’

Some thoughts on Fukuyama and Leo Strauss: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Repost-Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’

Written over two years ago, now.  I think it holds up decently:

Piece here (link may return behind a paywall)

A good analysis, likely worth your time. ======================

This blog remains skeptical, and mostly critical (surprise me) of the potential Iran deal so far, because, as Richard Epstein has pointed out, without the threat of force, the deal doesn’t have the leverage needed to really put pressure where it’s needed:  Upon a throughly committed, anti-American incentivized group of mullahs and post-1979 revolutionaries running terrorism, militias, guns and money around the region (and sometimes further afield) to become as powerful as they can.

Deliverable nukes are not just a means for an authoritarian theocracy to keep repressing its own people (though there’s plenty of that) nor a way to quell Iranian hostility towards and isolation from international institutions (plenty of that, too), but also a way for deeper Persian, Shia, and national Iranian identity and pride to assert itself in a dangerous region under an authoritarian theocracy. The basic security issues are more than mullah-deep, and the basic security of the Saudis, Israelis, and other interested Sunni-led countries and parties leads one to conclude this could easily turn into an arms race.

This is very risky if you’d prefer peace, or fighting the wars that you need to fight for the security of yourself and your own people, for treaties, alliances and trade, basic human rights or whatever interest or ideal you’d like to see leading our policy in the world (I’d prefer to stay ahead of war in the first place). More details at the link:

‘Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints. It only places them under temporary restriction and safeguard—amounting in many cases to a seal at the door of a depot or periodic visits by inspectors to declared sites.’

The negotiations may yet do a lot of harm because they may not be capable of stopping the Iranian regime from buying time, nor ultimately getting deliverable nukes, nor changing nor constraining their activities enough for the possible opportunity costs involved. Our authors finish with:

If the world is to be spared even worse turmoil, the U.S. must develop a strategic doctrine for the region. Stability requires an active American role. For Iran to be a valuable member of the international community, the prerequisite is that it accepts restraint on its ability to destabilize the Middle East and challenge the broader international order. Until clarity on an American strategic political concept is reached, the projected nuclear agreement will reinforce, not resolve, the world’s challenges in the region. Rather than enabling American disengagement from the Middle East, the nuclear framework is more likely to necessitate deepening involvement there—on complex new terms. History will not do our work for us; it helps only those who seek to help themselves

Addition:  Richard Epstein ‘Barack vs. Bibi:’ takes the classical liberal, non anti-war libertarian position:

‘In the end, it is critical to understand that the current weaknesses in American foreign policy stem from the President’s adamant reluctance to commit to the use of American force in international relations, whether with Israel, Iran or with ISIS. Starting from that position, the President has to make huge unilateral concessions, and force his allies to do the same thing. Right now his only expertise is leading from behind.  The President has to learn to be tough in negotiations with his enemies. Right now, sadly, he has demonstrated that toughness only in his relationships with America’s friends and allies.’

Another Addition: Adam Garfinkle has a thoughtful piece on American political discourse and the Iran deal.

Another Addition: Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’ So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

Democracy as we envision it requires people to constrain themselves within laws and institutions that maintain democracy…through Mill’s utilitarianism?: Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill  Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’
Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft of perpetual peace?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

Niall Ferguson At The L.A. Times: ‘Think Kissinger Was The Heartless Grandmaster Of Realpolitik? What About Obama?’

Full piece here.

‘Wait — realism? Isn’t that the hard-nosed — not to say amoral — approach to foreign policy commonly associated with Henry Kissinger?

Having spent much of the last decade writing a life of Kissinger, I no longer think of the former secretary of State as the heartless grandmaster of realpolitik. (That’s a caricature.) But after reading countless critiques of his record, not least the late Christopher Hitchens’ influential “Trial of Henry Kissinger,” I also find myself asking another question: Where are the equivalent critiques of Obama?’

Perhaps this is a useful line of thought.

Wherever you happen to be coming from, I’ve often taken ‘realpolitik‘ to mean:  Tempering one’s idealism and moral/professional/political commitments with some empiricism or ‘things as they are’ regarding policy and world events (empiricism is complicated, and it ain’t always ‘(S)cience’ as I’ve come see the world).

This can offer a valuable space where some reflection, intellectual honesty, and adjustment can occur by those making decisions, and where people under such decision-makers can hold them to some account (a reasonable constraint if there ever was one).

People rarely agree on beliefs, principles, politics nor policy prescriptions, but as Kissinger noted, there’s always a necessary political component to our beliefs and principles:

“Moreover, the reputation, indeed the political survival, of most leaders depends on their ability to realize their goals, however these may have been arrived at.  Whether these goals are desireable is relatively less crucial.”

Kissinger, Henry. American Foreign Policy:  Three Essays.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.  1969.

Ferguson:

‘There is disenchantment with Obama’s foreign policy these days. In recent polls, nearly half of Americans (49.3%) disapprove of it, compared with fewer than 38% who approve. I suspect, however, that many disapprove for the wrong reasons. The president is widely seen, especially on the right, as weak. In my view, his strategy is flawed, but there is no doubting his ruthlessness when it comes to executing it.’

The place where ideals are tested in the world, and found wanting, often requires the cold-eyed application of strategic logic, and to his credit, Obama’s at least stayed this course to some extent as Ferguson points out (though nowhere near enough, and without nearly enough criticism, for my taste).

As I see it, a Western Left activism and liberation idealism was always more the root from which Obama’s policy sprang (the kind of liberation politics and cooled street activism to which many folks have been hesitant to critize when it comes to implications for current institutional authority). The application of cold-logic and non-action out in the world often came later, often out of necessity, where the ideas and policies have failed or been challenged.

As for realpolitik, some of its inherent pragmatism is applicable now, as it’s wise to be pragmatic about what should stay and go, and what’s working now and what might work better. This seems worthy of consideration for no other reason than the reasonable transfer of power in our Republic.

On that note, some people get really angry at Henry Kissinger, with an anger perhaps reserved for heretics and apostates.  I’m figuring his roots in an Enlightenment Kantian transcendental idealism make him a target for adherents, believers and true-believers of Left-liberalism idealism out in the world.

This seems to challenge many folks where they live.

As previously posted:

On Niall Ferguson’s new Biography- ‘Kissinger: Volume I: The Idealist.1923-1968:’

FT review.

The Economist

Ferguson discusses the first volume in D.C.

=========

-Scowcroft and Brzezinski may be offering plans: ‘George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’ So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’Inside Everyone Is A Western Individual Waiting To Get Out?-Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Organizing For Action?-Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘What Erdogan’s Pivot To Putin Really Means’

Mead here:

‘The issues in Syria are difficult and the alternatives are few, but President Obama’s Syria policy is one of the shabbiest and sorriest displays of serial ineptitude that has unfolded in world politics in all these many years.’

Assad is still there…

My long-winded, critical take: Many bad actors claim to honor the rules of the ‘international community’ while continuing to pursue their aims, which often work against any such definition of said ‘community’ many in the West would like to see.  The Moscow/Tehran/Damascus alliance has strengthened considerably, while the Syrian conflict has continued.

Of course, acquiring deliverable nukes doesn’t just potentially conflict with American interests, but against the professed ideals of those claiming to currently speak for the ‘international community’ within American leadership. American interests are still primarily bankrolling (blood and treasure) much of the ‘international community’s’ ability to influence bad actors.

It’s not clear to me current American policy will stop the Iranian regime from trying to get where, quite apparently, it wants to be.  In trading the previous negative constraints (sanctions, threat of force), for such weak affirmative restraints (the current deal), this may have simply deleveraged American advantage for little ‘yield’.

It’d be nice to be wrong.  I’m listening.

A potentially useful analogy: The American military could be analogous to the police in Dallas, or St Louis, or Boston:  They still have to protect and serve American citizens but they’ve been brought to heel under the scrutiny of activist logic.

Such logic incentivizes a lot of people, including bad actors, without much in the way of constraints upon behavior, except in joining the activist’s cause or the activist’s definition of ‘community’ in de-legitimizing current traditions and institutions, and in often dehumanizing ‘others’.  The American military, much like the police in Dallas, St Louis, or Boston, are still responsible for dealing with bad actors who wish to do them (and us) harm, but their risk has gone way up, while their legitimacy has gone way down (and our legitimacy wasn’t great before Obama).

***I suspect anti-American interests will keep doing what they can to maximize advantage in the meantime (Putin is a prime example), while interests that could align with American interests may look around for other strong-horses.  Situational logic applies in decisions that could be a matter of life and death for smaller players (you’ve got to cozy up to someone, maybe just to keep ’em off you). More strongly allied nations will likely wait around and quietly diversify their portfolios.

At home, putting an activist at the helm has tacked American policy/politics Leftward, and may well create more hawkish Democrats, neo-conservatives, and conservatives both angry/disconsolate at this state of affairs, looking to carve out a path forward in reaction and response.

Populist anger and political dysfunction don’t tend to make for great foreign policy.

Let me know what/how much I’ve got wrong.

Via A Reader: Walter Russell Mead On The Steve Paikin Show…

Is Barack Obama A Realist?

Addition: Link sent in to a Ben Domenech piece at The Federalist: ‘Reject Naive Foreign Policy, Whatever Its Source

The American Response To ISIS-Not So Strategic

I can claim no expertise on the matter; except that of a moderately informed American citizen trying to keep up…

Key points:  ISIS clearly represents a form of radical Islam; one with fascistic and Western elements, yes, but Islam-inspired nonetheless. To my knowledge, there are no non-Muslim, nor non-Muslim-aspiring converts and self-radicalizers joining this fight, nor seeking to advance ISIS aims.

I do not believe people in the West are at war with Islam, perhaps that’s not as obvious as it should be in certain quarters, but in other quarters it should be just as obvious the West has been in a form of warfare with radical, guerilla-style, Islamic-inspired terrorist groups for some time. These groups keep emerging out of Islamic societies, capable of attacking Western societies, and even radicalizing a few Muslims within Western societies.

Some of these radicals have been forged (supported even) out of direct contact with American military engagement in the past and present, and also other Western/Russian engagement, too. Some such radicals can even be born within, or travel freely to and from, Western societies and the front lines of their ordained battlefield, as many Muslims are voting with their feet; seeking more freedom, opportunity, and security than their own societies can provide, becoming immigrants, economic migrants, and in some cases, benefit-seekers, and in a few, rarer cases…radicalized terrorists and murderers.

Deeper down, though, it seems these radicals are being born out of the conflict within Muslim societies and those societies’ contacts/conflicts with both the West and what is generally called ‘modernity.’  Islam and Islamic societies are having a pretty rough time with so much change, and most Muslims’ view of how society ought to be, and what the good society is, and what will happen in the future, differs greatly from what many in the West live and propose.

So, how does the West respond, and according to which leaders and ideas?

As to ISIS, Grame Wood’s piece and interview seem like a decent place to start:

Here he is in a VICE interview on the same subject:

===============

As to the American response, I’m quite sympathetic to viewing the President thusly:  Take the easy path of blaming your ideological enemies at home when the fruits of your foreign-policy decisions are borne.  Elide over the radical Islamic nature of the threat which can cost people their lives and likely prohibits reasonable policy-making.  Gloss over the humanitarian disaster Syria’s become, largely on your watch.

If necessary, double-down on your own policy positions and political coalitions (climate change is the real threat, peace is next, the Syrian mess will be solved by humanitarian means alone, that’s what ‘good’ people do).

Jonah Goldberg here.  Walter Russell Mead here.

‘From the standpoint of American interests and of the well being of the Syrians, the primary responsibility that the United States has toward the people of Syria is not to offer asylum to something like 0.25 percent of its refugee population. The primary duty of this country was to prevent such a disaster from happening and, failing that, to support in-country safe havens and relief operations. No doubt President Obama and the unthinking press zealots who applaud his every move prefer a conversation about why ordinary Americans are racist xenophobes to one about why President Obama’s Syria policy has created an immense and still expanding disaster.’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Which map are you using to understand this conflict?:  From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington

Ebrahim Moosa At Bloggingheads Discusses Islamic Reform

al-Zawahiri’s Egypt, a good backstory: Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’

Michael Moynihan jihad.com.

Repost: Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie’

Link sent in by a reader to Alexander Hitchens essay:  As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became The Face Of Western Jihad

Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’….From The AP: ‘Al-Awlaki: From Voice For Jihad To Al-Qaida Figure’

From Reason: ‘Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks Headbutted During Lecture’

Many libertarians stand firm on freedom of speech:  Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra LevantFrom Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’Christopher Hitchens At Slate: Yale SurrendersYale concluded that the risk of violence and the potential consequences that stemmed from their decision to publish a scholarly work about the Mohammed cartoons (reprinting those cartoons) was not worth the risk. Hitchens was not a fan of religion.

Maajid Nawaz At The New York Times-The Education Of ‘Jihadi John’

Full piece here.

Interesting read:

‘By age 16, I had adopted Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s ideas wholeheartedly. I was asked to enroll at Newham College, a state-supported continuing education institution in east London, with the aim of gaining prominence on campus and recruiting other students to the cause. Once elected as president of the student union, I exploited the naïveté of the college, registering supporters to vote for me and consolidating our control.’

and:

‘Islamist “entryism” — the term originally described tactics adopted by Leon Trotsky to take over a rival Communist organization in France in the early 1930s — continues to be a problem within British universities and schools. Twenty years ago, I played my part as an Islamist entryist at college.’

al-Zawahiri’s Egypt, a good backstory: Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’

Michael Moynihan jihad.com.

Repost: Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie’

Link sent in by a reader to Alexander Hitchens essay:  As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became The Face Of Western Jihad

Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’….From The AP: ‘Al-Awlaki: From Voice For Jihad To Al-Qaida Figure’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What The MSM Is Failing To Tell You’

Full piece here.

‘Hizballah is an Iranian proxy operating for many years now in and out of Lebanon and, more recently, in Syria. Its past forays have extended all the way to Buenos Aires, and not long ago to Bulgaria. It is part of an Iranian-supported, and in many cases Iranian-directed, network that also includes several murderous Shi’a militias operating on Iraqi territory.’

Now that Syria and Iraq have fallen apart, and ISIS is filling in, Hizbollah, what’s left of Assad’s regime, and higher-up Iranians are managing what they can of their interests, and continue to run guns, ideology, influence, and terror, if necessary, around the region, and further afield:

This particularly threatens the Saudis and the Israelis:

‘…contrary to what most Westerners think they understand, Saudi Arabia from the start has been a ruling biumverate: The Al-Saud has worked the temporal, political side, and the Al-Wahhab has worked the spiritual, religious side. Each respects the others’ domain. We care about the Al-Saud because we see succession in the Al-Saud part of this arrangement, but we don’t know the names of and don’t pay any attention to changes in the Al-Wahhab part.

Why do these people care about what we think, one way or the other:

‘Great powers are in the protection business. The United States, as a great power, deserves a more formal and less misanthropic description of the same thing: U.S. grand strategy since the end of World War II has included prominently the suppression of security competitions in the world’s main regions, so as to minimize opportunities for would-be regional hegemons—the Soviet Union in Europe and the People’s Republic of China in Asia—to profit from mayhem.’

Now that we’ve pulled out…

‘And the United States? It’s too late. Having abdicated responsibility to suppress such a major regional security competition, there is no way now to get back to relative stability. Not that it would have been easy or cheap for the Obama Administration to do its duty effectively, and not that its predecessor did not make the situation worse; but abdication is now yielding bad and much more expensive options, whether of passivity or activity, in all directions. At least for the duration of the Obama Administration, respect for American power and trust in American judgment are all but gone. We have made ourselves, in effect, spectators; we are not likely, however, to enjoy the show.’

That’s a vital issue as to what this last election in the U.S. was about:  Will we lead?  To whom, to which ideas or principles, organizations and institutions, laws and contracts do we entrust our interests and military capabilities?  With whom can we do business?

*What about all the budgetary waste and undoubted overspending in D.C?

What about an unadventurous foreign policy, but still very risky nonetheless?

-Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

-Scowcroft and Brzezinski may be offering plans, but they were conditional and required competence: ‘George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Which Ideas Are Guiding Our Foreign Policy With Iran.’ Some Saturday Links On Iran-Peace At What Price?

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-Semitism

Update And Repost: Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill