Category Archives: France

18Reality and foreign policy


 

 

Donald K. Trump and his base went into office – unexpectedly for most observers – with a promise to cut back on American commitments abroad and to avoid new ones. That was the essence of ”America First”, an echo of an isolationist group and slogan in the pre-World War II debate over U.S. involvement in European arguments.

 

But what they have found to their chagrin is that it is not possible. Overwhelming relative power of the U.S. not only in relation to smaller countries but to other major world leaders makes it ipso facto a determining factor – even when it exercises the option not to take part in the decision-making.

 

The extent of U.S. power in relative terms cannot be overstated. The American GDP of almost 19 billion – the sum total of all its economic activity — in 2016 was $8 billion more than its nearest rival, China. That GDP is a combination of high average individual incomes, a large population, capital investment, moderate unemployment, high consumer spending, a relatively young population, and technological innovation. None of these are challenged by most of its competitors, again save China, and then only n a couple of categories.

The United States shares 24.9 percent of global wealth, while the smallest economy, Tuvalu, a Polynesian island nation, contributes only 0.00005 percent. Fist ranked China shares 18.3 percent. In nominal data, in 2017 five economies would have GDPs above $1 trillion, 62 above $100 billion and 177 above $1 billion. The top five economies account for approximately 53.82 % of the total of world production, where as the top ten account for approx. 67.19 %.

The U.S. overseas involvements continue with few changes in American policy by the Trump Administration.

Washington’s involvement in the Middle East continues to be one of its most important foreign entanglements. The U.S. alliance with Israel depends not only on the important lobby of pro-Zionist Americans including the influential Jewish community, but important commercial and technological ties based on their commercial relationship.

When Trump initially tried to downgrade if not reject American participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO], he encountered counter pressure. The threat of NATO intervention blocked further Moscow action against Ukraine, and supported UN and U.S sanctions against Russian as a lever against further aggression against its Western neighbors which its leader Vladimir Putin had threatened.

Trump’s short-lived love affair with China’s Xi Jinping has been torpedoed by China’s aggressive moves in the Sea of Japan and the South China Sea. Beijing’s base-building athwart one of the major commercial naval routes of the world is inimitable to America’s longtime advocacy of freedom of the seas for itself and all navigators.

The China relationship also is critical to fending off the threat of North Korea to use its intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons against Guam or other U.S. territory. China not only accounts for 90% of North Korea’s external trade, but Pyongyang’s IBM and nuclear weapons owe much to the earlier transfers of Chinese technology.

A Trump hands-off policy in the civil war which has developed in Venezuela is not likely to be sustainable. The attempt to set up a so-called :”socialist” dictatorship backed by the Castro Regime in Cuba is an effort to seek anti-American allies among the left throughout the Hemisphere. Washington’s relations with Latin America are too intimate in terms of trade, immigration and defense capabilities to be left to the machinations of the bankrupt regime in Havana whose only strategy continues to be anti-American.

Trump, as his predecessors – since the end of World War II – finds increasingly that the U.S. must have a policy toward any of the major developments in world politics.

Sws08-09-17

 

 

 

 

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17Islamization of Europe


Western civilization as represented by the European cultures is under threat from militant Islam.

 

A combination of falling birthrates among the native-born and the influx of hundreds of thousands of Moslem refugees from the Mideast are threatening to swamp the indigenous European culture.

 

Because the French census forbids asking religious questions, estimates of the number of Moslems there varies but may be as much as 10% of the total   population of 70 million, a third of whom described themselves as observing believers. Germany in 2015 was calculated to have 4.4 to 4.7 million Muslims [5.4–5.7% of the population]. But that was before Chancellor Angela Merkel permitted a million Syrian and other refugees to enter in 2016.

 

Optimists have suggested that the growing numbers of Muslims will assimilate to the powerful post-Christian, largely secular culture of the West. They also point to the many aspects of Islam which share the Judaic and Christian religious experience.

 

But that may well be wishful thinking, given the Moslem numbers and their tendency to form self-contained slums around the great European urban centers, incubators of Islamic extremism. Police fear to enter many of these and radical imams [Islamic clerics] in their mosques aggressively recruit young men to wage jihad against the West. The November 2016 bloody attack in Paris hailed from Molenbeek, a Brussels slum that has long been a hotbed for radical Islam, drugs and lawlessness.

 

It also ignores the fundamentals of Islam. Moslems debated the authoritarian aspects of their dogma – which advocated forced conversion and led to the conquest of much of the Mediterranean world.— during the so-called golden age of al-Anduls in present day Spain. But Ibn Rushd [1126 – 1198], often Latinized as Averroes, a medieval Andalusian polymath and cleric, lost the argument with more rigid Moslem theologians The argument came down to whether any individual act of a natural phenomenon occurred only because God willed it, or Ibn Rushd’s insistence that phenomena followed natural laws that God created, The latter, of course, was an important fundamental concept of the European Renaissances and the rediscovery of much of earlier Greek and Roman learning.

Since 2014 Europe has seen an upsurge of Islamic terrorist activity, a spillover of the Syrian Civil War linked to the European migrant crisis. Moslem radicals have used social media to encourage terrorism across Europe; including a number of “lone wolf” attacks..

The number of so-called “honor” crimes has escalated in Germany. Honor violence ranges from emotional abuse to physical and sexual violence to murder, usually carried out by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought shame upon a family or clan. Offenses include refusing to agree to an arranged marriage, entering into a relationship with a non-Muslim or someone not approved by the family, refusing to stay in an abusive marriage or living an excessively Western lifestyle. In practice, however, the lines between honor crimes and crimes of passion are blurred being any challenge to male authority. Elicit retribution is sometimes staggeringly brutal – as with a German husband who dragged his wife behind his car with their two-year-old child sitting in the backseat after plunging a knife into her several times.

The growing American debate over the qualifications and numbers of refugees to be admitted takes on some of these questions. Proponents of a more generous policy toward the refugees point to the U.S.’ strong tradition of assimilation. Others argue that conditions in the world and in America have changed radically; for example, rapid and cheap communications and transportation have reinforced ties between immigrants and their origins which did not exist in the past..

Sws-08-14-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The end of World War II


In a sense, the current Hamburg meeting of the world’s most important economic powers represents the end of the more than six decades of the Post-World War II Era.

In 1945, the second civil war among the European powers ended with the almost total devastation of Europe. Although the U.S., as a late arrival on the scene, suffered almost a half million deaths, its homeland remained isolated from the conflict.

Furthermore, the war effort had left behind an enormously new powerful industrial and managerial revolution.

It therefore seemed logical enough that not only would the U.S. participate in the rebuilding of Europe, but that it would assume a greater proportionate share of the burden.

That arrangement, in which the U.S. “inevitably” assumed a larger per capita role in any international undertaking has continued as the norm. That is despite the fact that the rebuilding of Europe with American production enhanced its already overwhelmingly leading worldwide economic role.

The Europeans – to a greater or lesser degree, notably Germany most of all, ironically one of the originators of the war and the major enemy.– profited from this assigned disproportional contribution. It became part and parcel of an international strategy of the American political Liberal Establishment – which profited from being its administrators, aided by the more conservative/corporatist business community which gained directly from its activity.

But left behind was the debris of the policy; not least was the growing erosion of the U.S.infrastructure which had not kept up nor pushed forward with the maximum new technology.. Also there was the burden – with whatever incidental profit to the economy and it was considerable – of a military defense force against the new threat to Western Europe of Soviet Communism and its international appurtenances.

The losers in this macroeconomic arrangement were the American constituency of lower middle income families and especially those which saw their more menial industrial jobs move abroad to lower wage countries. Their rebellion against their disadvantaged situation suddenly, unperceived initially by the political and bureaucratic establishments, brought the election of Donald K. Trump to the presidency. Trump, of course, was neither a rebel nor an innovator, but ipso facto he began to speak for what he himself labeled “the forgotten Americans”.

It was inevitable, perhaps, that this new domestic American scene was to be reflected on the international tableau. Rather suddenly it was recognized that there was nothing sacred about the rule of thumb which had assigned the U.S. a larger than proportionate cost in any international economic undertaking. The most dramatic, of course, was the American military expenditures [$600 billion in 2017] which maintained armed forces far larger than all the others in the world in order to defend a European constituency which as individuals for the most part did not bear its share of the load.

The expression of this new call for the U.S. 350 million gross national product, almost one quarter of the world’s total, is now being put forward by the Trump Administration in such international fora as the G20. To a world – and even part of the American public – that does not recognize the change of mood and its U.S. policy and strategic implications, it is seen in the Establishment circles – including the Mainsteam Media – as a reversal of all the chosen criteria for U.S. policy, and to an extent it is just that.

But the world – and the American Establishment – is going to have to live with a new U.S. strategy which claims “what is mine is mine”, not what is mine could be partly yours. The political manifestations could turn ugly.
Sws-07-06-17

Shame on us!


The almost total absence of public mourning for an 85-year-old Christian priest whose throat was slit by Islamicist terrorists while he led prayer in a small church in Normandy, France, is a scandal.
Even the French have demonstrated less feeling for this horrendous deed than one would expect from an event which took place in the village which once hosted the trial of Joan of Arc, France’s national heroine and a saint of French Christianity.
There was no moment of silence in the U.S. Democratic Convention, not unexpected given its total avoidance of the worldwide terrorist threat. One could have expected that Pres. Barack Obama, too, would have made a special effort to acknowledge this incident, so gratuitously evil as to be virtually indescribable. But that might be charged to his continuing effort to obscure the terrorist threat by refusing to name its origin in Islam and his elaborate courting of the terrorist mullahs in Tehran.
Searching for the answer to our question is the general concern above all others of the American and European political elites to avoid any hint of criticism or Islam. To be accused of Islamophobia now is an accusation in the Establishment which ranks above all others by the moral standards of those believers in bien pensé Being “politically correct” bans any negative reference to Islam.
Not only is this errant nonsense but it is a continuing impediment to the forceful pursuit of a worldwide campaign to end Islamic terrorism. Moslems, above all, must concede that the terrorists now among us who pledge their loyalty to Islam as a religion must be confronted on that ideological score..As the crude phrase has it, not all Moslems are terrorists, of course. But all terrorists are Moslems.
What is it, indeed, that however twisted in the history and practice of Islam which can be misinterpreted, if you will, into a rational for the kind of killing of innocents that took place in Etienne du Rouvray, in an almost empty church, involving three parishioners, two nuns and a very old priest. Knife-wielding ISIS terrorists interrupted the service and slit the throat of Father Jacques Hamel and recorded their crime to use to attract new followers.
The truth is that much of the rationale which is constantly mouthed by our leadership about Islam simply is not true. It is not one of the three Abrahamic religions. It is a totalitarian concept which demands total adherence on the part of its believers for whatever its tenets as expressed by its largely uneducated clergy. The test of Greek knowledge which early was applied to Judaism and was a part of early Christianity was rejected almost a thousand years ago by Moslem theorists. The few Moslem voices who oppose Islamic terrorism are nevertheless reluctant to take on the problem of the political movement Islam represents.
Since its founding in the Arabian deserts, Islam has not been a religion of peace is so often stated. It has, in fact, from its origins been spread largely by the sword with the death of “non-believers” and those Moslems who have rejected its principal tenets.
The history of Europe shows how since its founding 1500 years ago, organized Islam – when it has existed – has challenged the political status of the European states. At its high points of strength, it has come near overpowering European armies and putting the West to the sword of forced conversion.
Yes, it is true, that Islam has absorbed – after its initial brutal and primitive organization among the Arabs – some of the rich philosophical background of its conquests such as from the Persians. But it remains, largely, a religion of conquest wherein now reside many, perhaps a majority, of supposed adherents who reject this concept. But it is also true that often through intimidation and intellectual confusion this vast majority refuses or fears to publicly oppose its ignominious concepts.
Until this problem of the fundamental relationship between Western societies and the peaceful Buddhist societies of Asia is addressed, there is no hope of defeating the continuing worldwide terrorist threat.
sws-07-30-16

Special Relationship II


Back in 1887 the famous poet and storyteller Oscar Wilde quipped: ‘We [English] have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language’. We got another example of this malediction in the blah-blah-blah which has attended Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. What is most apparent to all but the Talking Heads is that London’s negotiating a two-year exit from the EU will result in a revival not only of the vestiges of empire – as much legend as reality – but a renewed emphasis on the Anglo-American alliance, “the Special Relationship”
Like so much of traditional diplomacy, Pres. Barrack Obama and his former secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, gave that relationship short shrift. Obama, imbued with the Left’s religion of anti-colonialism – a view of the world which is not only unrealistic but ignores the actual relationship of the Metropoles of Britain, France, Italy, and once Germany, to their 19th centuries acquisitions. True, they were exploitive relation ships but they also accelerated the arrival of at least portions of modernism to pre-industrial societies.
As Obama’s attempts to “transform” American foreign policy have either miscued or collapsed over the last seven-plus years, his attempt to derail the historic relationship between the U.S. and Britain has also gone astray. Common language, shared democratic values and concepts, special interests throughout the work, have made a working relationship between Washington and London an irreplaceable part and parcel of U.S. internationalism.
The combination of Obama’s war on this tradition, his buffoonish attempt to influence British voters on withdrawal from the EU which boomeranged, and the U.S.’ expanding interests in the post-World War II world have tended to eclipse that relationship. That illusion was enhanced when London seemed to be throwing in its lot with the movement for a united Europe, one which had been a special project of American strategy for a half century, but not always with its final destination in view.
Now, the latter project is in deep trouble. Few Europeans want to face the reality of German domination as by far the largest and economically the most powerful of the EU states. That will halt the perfectly “logical” calls by Berlin that the EU must go forward to further political integration or collapse. But the French, once Germany’s twin partner in European unity, in a miraculous and real transformation, are for the first time abandoning dirigisme, French promotion of economic planning and control by the state, under the pressure of the competitive drive of “globalization” is being abandoned – and that under a socialist government! The concept had defined the distinctive character of French politics, inherited in part from its royal and multi-republican past, and which it had passed on to the Brussels Eurocrats it had largely supplied and still dominated.
London ‘s withdrawal — although it will continue to bargain for special trading and other economic rights inside the EU, whatever it means in the short-term — means a return to Britain’s diminished but continuing role as a world economic power. The good sense and good luck that kept Britain out of the EU’s now faltering monetary union means that once again, in parallel with the dollar, sterling will resume an stronger international character.
London’s City, which was ceding its role to Frankfurt and Zurich, will be reinvigorated in the longer term by the British withdrawal. That role of London as the world’s second financial center after New York will be felt all the way through the Middle East oil countries [with their traditional ties to the Colonial Office] to Hong Kong and beyond. [What the Japanese will do with their heavy investments in British manufacturing as a base for the EU remains to be seen. But it would not be the first time that Japanese business has had to make major adjustments to its successful formula for being the only non-European power to have made it to First World status].
The revival of the Special Relationship will have new and totally different aspects – again, despite Obama’s original high-priced energy policies, the U.S. and its Shale Revolution has put a new floor under world energy prices. It is one the Mideast producers can meet, of course, but not without cutting back on their enormously spendthrift policies of the past. It could well be that Special Relations II will see the U.S. as Britain’s major supplier of energy and energy technology for development of its own shale resources, environmental freaks notwithstanding.
Prime Minister David Cameron may have to go as a sacrifice on the altar of City business interests and the universal “internationalization” panacea which has dominated both U.K. and U.S. politics under his Conservatives – as well as the Democrats in Washington. And that may introduce new uncertainties along with some disturbing personalities.
But the dye is cast: Special Relationship II has begun with the British voters’ decision that they wanted autonomy and not collaboration at too high a price in cultural values with a Continental bureaucracy and its economy That bureaucracy, too, is now fatally wounded and events will lead to new and likely unpredictable changes in Paris, Berlin,.Brussels and the other EU capitals.
sws-06-24-16

Undiplomatic diplomacy


Fifty-one career diplomats have signed a protest to the Secretary of State and Pres. Barack Obama concerning U.S. policy toward the chaotic situation in Syria. Their essential point, that the U.S. should be doing everything it can to unseat the barbarous regime of Haffez al Assad, is well taken. Al Assad’s regime is now responsible for some 400,000 deaths by using weapons of war including aerial bombing against innocents caught up in the fighting. The barbarism of the regime is unparalleled. save perhaps that of Al Assad’s father, the former Syrian dictator. Unfortunately the regime is now regaining lost territory and taking a stronger line against any negotiated settlement of the civil war proposed by the U.S. and its allies in the Geneva peace conference which would see Al Assad go.
Yet we think the diplomats’ protest is a mistake. First of all, diplomats are civil servants, whose duty lies in implementing policies in which they have a participatory contribution, but one that demands public loyalty. For diplomats who cannot and will not abide by what they see as unredeeming strategic or policy mistakes, there is only one position: either keep still and work against policies within the Department or, resign with a public denunciationt as the Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, a career diplomat, did in May 2014. Ford was pulled out of Syria in a U.S. protest in February 2012 as the civil war escalated. He remained ambassador until 2014 but with an active campaign on against the regime on the social media.
But the diplomats’ statement – and surrounding publicity engendered by its being leaked to The New York Times. — has a much graver problem. The memorandum, or at least what has been released to the media, places the entire onus for the current state of Syria, on the al Assad regime. Unfortunately, there is not much now to choose from as far as U.S. policy is concerned in the parties in the chaotic internal struggle.
A moderate and democratic opposition to the al Basher regime — if it ever existed in sufficient numbers and influence even had it had American assistance which was not forthcoming from the Obama Administration — has been wiped out. Opponents of the regime now consist of Islamic terrorists of whatever flavor, but including both the two principal American enemies, Al Qaeda and Daesh [ISIS or ISIL].
While one can make the argument, and that is implied in the diplomats’ statement, that the nature of the al Basher regime was the fundamental reason for the breakdown in civilization in the country, today the threat to U.S. national security comes from the Islamicist opponents of the regime. That has been proved conclusively in the series of terrorist attacks in the U.S. over the last year culminating in the greatest mass killing in U.S. history in Orlando.
The final outcome of the civil war in Syria – with growing Russian and participation by other Arab regimes – appears likely to culminate in an international conflagration ended only by an international negotiation. From the U.S. standpoint, absolutely essential to such a settlement would be the disarming and destruction of the regime’s Islamicist enemies. In that, at least, we appear to have the support of Moscow and certainly of our Western allies, led by the French with their long influence in the country and who have long advocated a more aggressive policy than the Obama Administration.
The Obama Administration has made its concept of threats to U.S. national security the sine qua non of its foreign policy. Whether it has, indeed, always recognized the issue in the tangled Syrian environment is another question. It may well be argued that it was Pres. Obama’s reluctance to intervene, after initially announcing a “red line” in Syria, and his earlier overly rapid withdrawal from Iraq, which brought on the current situation.
It would be well, then, were the concerned diplomats to consider the broader issues involved in the current Syrian inferno, before taking a position outside what are their normal demanding functions.
sws-05-18-16

Twilight for social democracy


Ironically, at a time when American politicians are flirting with social democratic concepts, their historic parties are fading in Western Europe where those political slogans originated.
The prime example is Spain. There the PSOE [Partido Socialista Obrero Español], the Party of the Spanish Worker, the country’s oldest, has weathered many crises. During the 40-year-long Franco dictatorship, it maintained its role as the principal anti-Communist left opposition operating among refugees in France.
After governing in Madrid 21 of the last 39 years, the PSOE will probably lose its commanding position in this month’s elections, even losing role as leader of Spain’s left where the majority of the voters self-identify. Shorn of their old Soviet attachment and command structure, a revolutionary movement on the left, Podemos, and a right of center party, are likely to reduce the PSOE to less than 20% of the vote. Spanish political theory is highly influential throughout the whole Ibero-American world, and Latin American styles are almost certain to follow – as already demonstrated in Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and soon in Venezuela, where left-wing regimes are being ousted.
The loss of popularity of the social democrats in Spain echoes throughout Western Europe where for more than a half century they have played a dominant role. In Germany, the original home of social democratic concepts, the socialists are polling new lows. The ruling French Socialists have become increasingly unpopular under their Pres. François Holland, in part because he has adopted a program of economic and labor reforms ignoring traditional socialist nostrums.
In the early 90s, Italy’ socialists – in the early postwar years with a Soviet line by far the largest party, an ally of the Communists — under their first prime minister, Bettino Craxi, was almost wiped out by corruption. Three Socialist deputies committed suicide as a result of the scandals. Splinters of the early socialist parties, from anti-Communist to those fellow-traveling in the Soviet era, have joined forces forming the Socialist Party (PS), renamed Italian Socialist Party (PSI) in 2011. But many former social democrats have deserted the socialists for four-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s bigger tent, largely a right-of-center grouping.
Europe’s social democrats have become discredited through their growing association with the policies of the moderate right — austerity, deregulation, liberalization and free trade. Virtually the whole technocratic community has seen these as necessary economic measures to restore prosperity. These have been increasingly seen by the media and among many younger politicians as the cause of Europe’s present economic decline.
But as voters of the traditional left have grown bitter as they saw their party of the welfare state, the public sector and of the blue-collar workers, reverse its governing strategy. That feeds a growing separation between social democratic politicians who view these policies as the only options as jobs have disappeared and economies flattened and the street, always ready to find leaders for protest and violence..
In Spain, an inconclusive general election last December left the socialists in a dilemma: either adopt the centre-right promises of tax cuts and more supply-side reforms, or bend to a new left that calls for an end to austerity and channels the anger of the mob.. In the U.K., this dilemma has produced a new leftwing leadership in the Labor Party, But whether, even with the conservatives in disarray over the question of withdrawal from the European Union, they have a formula to gain power is dubious.
It seems unlikely that this paradox won’t be present for the European socialist movement for the indefinite future. Whether it has application to the American scene – current political fashions to the contrary – seems highly unlikely. The U.S. economy, while not roaring forward, still is the envy of most of the Western world, with few calls even from the “progressives” for the nationalization and “socialization” of the major industries.
sws-06-22-16

La France, les pauvres!


The French are going through terrible times.
As a principle target for the Moslem terrorists, Paris, with two bloody attacks in the past 18 months, now has unlimited security concerns, bracing for further attacks.
The government of Pres. François Hollande, a socialist mind you, has taken the country’s restrictive labor laws in hand to make that peculiar if highly personalized French work ethic internationally competitive. France’s unions – actually a smaller portion of the work force than in most countries – are in revolt, as much among themselves as with Hollande, with daily strikes in transportation and other services. The old former Communist CGT is leading the pack, often violently.
In that inimitable French sympathy for the downtrodden, the public is largely supporting the strikers. So Hollande has had to resort to extra-legislative action to get the ruinously restrictive labor laws off the books. They not only make firing a worker almost impossible but also block the organization of new businesses through hiring restrictions. Eventually he will have to tackle the 35-hour workweek which was adopted in 2000, supposedly to minimize unemployment and to enhance quality of life in an industrial system demanding more of workers. Most observers believe it has failed on both counts.
Most of the economic indicators are grim. In the first quarter, the economy grew at only a half percent. Ten percent of the workforce or over 10% is unemployed, a rate almost twice that of the rest of the European Community. The worst is that among the young the figure is closer to 25%. The French government is borrowing at a rate higher than theoretically permitted by the EC. France’s enormous overstuffed public sector accounts for almost 60% of its GDP.
To aggravate the situation even more, Paris and most of central France, is suffering a record flood. The Seine has burst its bounds and threatened the Louvre, the world’s most historic museum, with paintings being carted off for safety. [Leonard da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was housed on an upper floor.] The terrorist threat, labor snafus and the flood are bound to cut into tourism, accounting for 3% of the GDP as the most favored destination in the world with almost 90 million foreign tourists in 2013.
It is common for Americans to denigrate France and the French. The rapid collapse before the Nazis in 1940 set that pattern of thinking. But the French deserve better of us. It has to be remembered that American independence might not have been achieved without George Washington getting the help of the French navy at Yorktown. It was the autocrat Napoleon Bonaparte who took the French Revolution’s promises of liberty, equality and brotherhood to the rest of Europe where they remained, at least, as goals of future governments. Nor can it be forgotten that France led world technology through the 19th and early 20th century. That hideous monument to Gustave Eiffel’s engineering skill, still towers over Paris as well as his constructions all over the world, in Vietnam, for example, where his railroads are still remarkable engineering achievements. The Panama Canal was his concept, even if the French companies failed in their attempt to create it.
France, traditionally has accommodated large numbers of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. But it is now handicapped with an Arab Moslem minority, given sanctuary after Charles DeGaulle recaptured power by abandoning the French military bitter victory in the Algerian War. For various reasons, the seven million have resisted the normal francoization and former indigestible and depressed separate communities around Paris. [Hollande does have a female Moslem minister of labor.] But it is increasingly clear that all of Europe, including Germany, has a similar growing problem of absorbing Mideastern and African migrants.
France still has a great deal to contribute to the wealth of Western culture. And it will likely get through the current crisis with its own inimitable solutions. In the meantime, it deserves the sympathy of American friends, and where possible, their assistance.
sws-06-13-16

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose


The French, as always, have a word for it: the more things change, the more they are the same.
Looking around the world just now, one has to take that into account. After the cataclysmic destruction and rehabilitation of World War II, we would have thought that patterns of political life were so changed forever that nothing of the old would remain. That’s true, of course, to a certain degree.
But looking around the world just now, you will excuse old men from seeing much, in some instances far too much, which is the same.
With all the blood spilled in Europe and in Asia– over 60 million people killed, about 3% of the 1940 world population (estimated at 2.3 billion) – it would have seemed that old patterns were completely destroyed. Yet a look around the world some 60 years later suggests the opposite.
We might begin with European anti-Semistism, that unreasonable but merciless hatred of the Jews. True, there has been a change: except for the 400,000 or so Jews who live in France – and who are now rapidly emigrating for just this reason – The Holocaust destroyed the bulk of European Jewry, the six million lost souls. But the themes continue and we now have anti-Semitism without Jews, proving once and for all how nonsensical is this hoary Western sin.
Then there is European nationalism, which brought on the centuries of dynastic, religious and nationalist wars in one of the most sophisticated regions of the world. European economic and then political union was to finally end all this. And while we may not be facing warfare among the European nationalities, we are again seeing an effort to form a union falling apart from many of the same old ailments. Moscow’s Ukrainian aggression suggests even war may not be that far away.
Of course, the problem at the center of the European political conflict for generations was the overwhelming and always growing strength of a Germany, late to united but always hovering over the European scene. That, we were led to believe, would no longer be the case with a federal Germany dedicated to democracy and having given up its goal of unification with an Austria whose existence and neutrality would be subsumed in a united Europe guaranteed by the major powers. But one problem stalking the Europeans today is again the overwhelming strength, this time with an emphasis on the economic factors, of a strong Germany. Having exported part of its wealth to its neighbors on credit, it is now being forced into billcollecing – not an enviable role. And it is one that again puts Germany’s strength and power, seemingly threatening, against the center of European speculation as the united construct at Brussels shakes loose.
Pearl Harbor, it seemed, had decided once and for all the argument over America’s participation in world politics, a disputed role going back to The Founders. The success of U.S. arms in World War II not only preserved the world from Nazi barbarism and Japanese colonialism, but it placed Washington at the center of world’s disputes as arbiter and conciliator. But with the access to power – rather inexplicably – of a young and inexperienced historian-manqué as a “transformative” president, the old argument is back. The call of Donald Trumpet may not be called “isolationism” but it bears all the hallmarks of the all the old arguments updated with 21st century figures against what used to be called :”interventionists”, those who see an undeniable dominant role for the U.S. in world affairs.
One could go on with this analysis, of course. But the point is all too obvious. The question is, of course, what does it mean? Karl Marx, quoting the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel that “xxx all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.xxx” True enough, when we observe some of those playing out these old roles now, we see them as buffoonery. But the sad part of any commentary must be that we will have to try to work our way to some sort of solution of all of the issues, as we have done in the past.
sws-04-17-16

World War III


Everyone but the President of the United States seems to understand that the civilized world is in an all-out struggle with evil as represented by the Islamic terrorists. Nor is it less clear that Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] is gaining ground and consolidating the various Islamic terrorist groups around the world into an increasingly formidable foe.

Pres. Obama’s speech on Tuesday March 22nd was directed, he said, to the Cuban people as well as their Communist leadership and the American public. Well and good; it was a call for a new era of communication and hoped for collaboration with the Castro regime which remains in power. Most of us who know the history of U.S.-Cuban relations object to his innuendo that before 1969 the U.S. tried “to control Cuba”, something he charged in a throwaway line in his continued apology for world leadership. In fact, the U.S. after the Spanish-American war was critical with the venerated revolution leader Jose Marti in setting up Cuban independence, even at a time when some Cubans wanted amalgamation into the U.S.

Furthermore, one can only anticipate instability with the approaching departure of Raul Castro [88] and the crumbling economic and political regime with its old Soviet sponsor long since gone. Obama’s policy has helped rescue what will be an unstable continuing dictatorship. Throwing new political prisoners into jail and beating up the wives of current imprisoned dissidents on his arrival was hardly a good omen, nor were petty childish gestures by Raul Castro himself.

But whatever the long-term result of the President’s Cuba visit, one is struck by his insistence on delivering a formal prepared speech at a moment when a new horrendous episode of terrorism had erupted in Europe. There is hardly a terrorist expert who does not believe that the U.S. is inevitably doomed to more violence imitating that in Europe. For security reason the FBI and other intelligence units of our government are secretive about the number of plots that have been discovered and thwarted. But the Boston marathon bombing, the incestuous murders at Fort Hood, the shootings at military installations in Chattanooga, and the savagery of the attack at San Bernardino in California are only a foretaste of what will inevitably be our Paris and now our Brussels massacres unless the root cause of the problem is eliminated.

Obama’s 51-second acknowledgement of the Belgian atrocities was certainly not commensurate with the importance of the attack. Counter-terrorist officials in Belgium, the capital of Europe which made the attack all the more significant, in France, in Germany and in Britain all admit unofficially that they are overwhelmed with their problem. The sophistication of the weaponry and the coordination of a multi-targeted attack in Brussels prove that Daesh and its followers are gaining on the largely defensive effort of the U.S. and the Europeans.

In Iraq and Syria, Daesh’s headquarters operates an increasinly highly nuanced campaign using all the tools of the new digital world. The American response has been a limping incremental effort to bring the terrorists to heel, but with no long-term strategy and effort to end their existence as soon as possible. That kind of all-out goal is the only one which can turn around what is an essentially defense effort of the West to defend itself.

Hopefully, the President – as he enjoys a much more sympathetic atmosphere in Argentina where the leadership has turned in the U.S. direction – will begin the preparation for what must be a massive and immediate effort to destroy Daesh. Whether it is indeed World War III as Pope France called it months ago, it demands the full intellectual resources at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the mobilization of a new military effort in the Middle East, as weary as the American public is of armed encounters there. Leadership is, after all, not only the acknowledgement of problems but a determined effort to solve them.

sws-03-22-16

 

 

Mideast peace threat accelerating


 

The chaotic Middle East is taking on convolutions which bring it ever closer to a clash among the major powers.

  • Despite his rapidly deteriorating economy, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is taking an increasingly aggressive role in supporting the Basher Al Assad Syrian regime and its Iranian partners. His efforts to strengthen the Damascus regime have kept it alive but show no signs of a significant victory against its opponents, some of whom represent jihadist goals with liaison to international Islamic terrorism.
  • Israel’s security on its northern border is deteriorating as its traditional Lebanese enemy, Hezbollah – with a long record of terrorism against the U.S. – becomes increasingly embroiled as an Iranian ally in Syria. Hezbollah’s operations beyond the Middle East, especially in Latin America in league with local guerrillas and drug traffickers, are a growing challenge to American influence and stability there.
  • A seemingly leaderless explosion of individual terrorist acts against Israeli civilian and military targets has assumed new significance with an attack by a U.S.-trained Palestinian Liberation Organization security official on Israeli military. The knifing attacks are generally by teenagers schooled by UN-supported Palestinian educational institutions where anti-Semitism is standard curriculum. They are an expression of the collapse of secular Palestinian leadership which is hanging on Israeli security support. The growing strength of the Muslim terrorists Hamas, again being rearmed by Iran, are now infiltrating the West Bank from Gaza.
  • Saudi Arabians are persuaded of their abandonment by the Obama Administration in its pursuit of agreements with Tehran. In the face of an Iranian attempt at Mideast hegemony, Jeddah is lashing out militarily with the support of its traditional Arab allies in the Persian Gulf. But explosions of Sunni-Shia violence, including in the Saudi’s southeastern oilfields, and its see-saw battle in Yemen against Iranian-back rebels is inconclusive at best.
  • Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] continues to recruit young Muslims, even in the West and the U. S. Those who remain in their homelands present the prospect of “lone wolf” terrorist massacres resembling the almost daily occurrences in the Mideast. Despite effective continued FBI surveillance and discovery of terrorist plots, it seems only a question of time until new episodes such as San Bernardino and Ft. Hood will erupt in the Homeland.

The Obama Administration’s strategic response to this growing catastrophe is an incremental injection of small special forces teams in the Mideast conflicts. Sec. of State John Kerry has carried on frenzied whirlwind diplomatic activity. [Are secretaries of state now being judged by how many flight miles they put in?] And he has persuaded all parties to attend a Syria peace conference. But no one believes in its success with parties – including the U.S. and the Russians — pursuing directly contradictory goals.

Not even the other Republican candidates for president appear prepared to adopt Jeb Bush’s formula for a massive all-out military effort to destroy Daesh as a threat to U.S. national security. Meanwhile,Yeltsin pretends to have a common enemy with Washington in the Daesh terrorists, but Russian initiatives in Syria have been largely limited to direct support of the al Assad regime. Israeli, and American interventions in pursuit of their own direct security – for example, transfer of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Syria by Iran – run the risk of confrontation despite intense communications to control the traffic. The continued violation of Turkish sovereignty by Russian fighter-bombers and Ankara’s past winking at jihadist communications through its territory pose a growing problem for NATO and Washington.

Despite its continued professions of loyalty to the U.S.-Israeli alliance, the Obama Administration moves closer to the growing antagonism and pro-Palestinian policies of the Europeans. Paris, for example, now threatens to recognize a non-existing Palestinian state if bilateral negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians do not go forward, an exceedingly unlikely phenomenon given the lack of a viable Palestinian negotiating partner.

The latest sign that the Obama Administration is moving away from Israel is its adopting the Europeans’ designation [and implied boycott] of Israeli manufactures from the Jewish Settlements on the West Bank which employ tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs. Indeed, the “Palestine” cause has united old European anti-Semites with the traditional left for the creation of a Palestinian state which would be a direct threat to Israeli security.

Whether this turmoil will await a new approach, at least one generally anticipated, by a new U.S.  president in another year before some unintended action ignites a larger explosion, remains problematical.

sws-01-02-16.

 

 

 

France leads the Free World


The United Nations Security Council has voted, a week after the brutal massacres in Paris, unanimously to authorize countries to “take all necessary measures” to fight Islamic terrorism.

The resolution, drafted and introduced by France, calls on all UN member states to “redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist attacks” committed by Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] and other extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda. The Council had been stymied over Syria’s bloody civil war now nearing five years largely due to the deep division of its members over the role Damascus bloody dictator Basher al Assad would play. The Western allies including a red line drawn by Pres. Obama insist he must play go while Moscow – with the support of Iran – are in fact supporting his continuing attempt at rule in Damascus.

It’s fitting that Paris took the lead in the latest. But, of course, as with so many UN actions, we are not sure how much it adds to the very necessary international solidarity to fight this plague. If proof were needed that the world faces a new kind of barbarity, it came only hours after the vote when Islamist gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Central African Mali’s capital Bamako ending after  nine hours later with at least 27 dead.

French diplomats argued that the UN resolution, which provided no further legal basis for the campaign against the terrorists, would nevertheless reinforce the effort to mobilize international opinion and action. French diplomacy beat back a competing Russian resolution whose intent was to continue support for Syria’s dictator Basher al Assad, whose unprecedented war against his own people has precipitated the Mideast chaos.

In Paris itself, the French launched a campaign to remind themselves and the rest of the civilized world how much it has come to symbolize Western culture through the centuries. Paris’ celebration of life in all its aspects compares with the cult of death of the Islamicists.

Parisians were buying copies of Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast”, placing them in shrines with candles and flowers where the victims were struck down. It was in response to a TV interview with one of those unique Parisiennes in her 70s, known only as Danielle, who had quoted one of Hemingway’s famous passages: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

“Reacting to barbarity through books is a very French thing,” writer and journalist Pierre Assouline, one of the judges of country’s most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt, commented. The publisher of the Hemingway’s book – in French, “”Paris est une fête”, Paris is a party – was going into print to meet the demand.

But as much as these gestures please us, and remind us of the unique place Paris holds in our cultural traditions, we hope we will also remember that they have to be defended with force of arms. France is going full blast, given its relative military inferiority to the U.S. or even Britain, to annihilate Daesh. It will boost triple its bombing with the arrival of its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle within striking distance, especially now that the American carriers are being refitted. France will shortly be joined by Britain where Prime Minister David Cameron will call on Parliament for airstrikes in Syria.

One might well ask where the Obama Administration is in all this. Professions of support for our oldest ally, France, are less than convincing with the growing evidence that even the bombing campaign against Daesh has been half-hearted. Ironic as that may seem, at the moment it is France which is leading the charge to defend the West against the Islamicist barbarians.

Shades of Charles Martel and the Battle of Tours 1238 years ago last month when France turned back the Moslem conquest of the West!

sws-11-21-15

Russians facing up to a Syrian climax?


With Pres. Obama’s self admission that the U.S. has no Syria strategy and a destabilizing flood of millions of refugees piling into neighboring countries and now Europe, Vladimir Putin who usually plays it by ear seems to be betting on a climax to the barbarous five-year civil war.
U.S. sources report that Moscow is expanding its base at Latakia, Syria’s chief port and the traditional home of Pres. Basher al-Assad’s Alawite minority. The Alawites, a Shia offspring and therefore culturally linked to Iran’s mullahs, despite their inferior numbers have dominated recent Syrian regimes. Their hold on the Syrian Air Force, long time client of the Soviets/Russians, was a fulcrum to power in the multi-ethnic, always unstable caricature of a state the French created in the post –World War Ottoman empire implosion.
But when peaceful demands for reform of the Syrian regime were brutally repressed by al-Assad and loosed the whole gamut of conflicting religious and ethnic forces, al-Basher reacted with unrestrained violence. That hasn’t been enough, despite the fragmentation of the opposition and no help from the U.S. – after an initial Obama statement of support and then withdrawal – to restore his rule. The Damascus regime, despite the conflict among its opponents, appears to be on its last legs.
Furthermore, Obama’s flirtation with the Tehran mullahs, ostensibly to end their immediate pursuit of nuclear weapons, has realigned Mideast forces. Fear and opposition to Tehran’s bid to become the hegemonic power in the region – now seemingly with U.S. acquiescence — has created a new and tacit alliance among the Gulf states, Egypt, and even Israel, against the American-Iranian modus operandi – if indeed one has been successfully negotiated.
In order to reassure America’s traditional allies in the region that his deal with Iran would not jeopardize their security, Obama has made repeated promises to increase U.S. assistance. This past week in Washington, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz publicly accepted Obama’s assurances – even though Saudi spokesman privately leaked their unassuaged andd growing concern with the U.S.-Iran deal.
Encouraged by their beating off, at least temporarily, a takeover by pro-Iranian forces in neighboring Yemen which the Saudis consider vital to their security, the Saudis are privately announcing their continued effort to topple al-Basher in Syria. The aggressive nature of what is traditionally accommodating Saudi policy obviously has to do with al-Basher’s Iranian alliance, anathema to Jeddah and its Sunni Arab following.
The Saudis are buying billions worth of arms, from the U.S. and Western Europeans, in what their friends in the Western media call their attempt to turn themselves into a major military power. Ironically, Obama has had to go along with what now is the seemingly inevitable unstable arms race in the region between Iran and its allies and the Gulf states and Egypt, which critics of his Iranian deal promised would be its dangerous outcome.
Although it has been trumpeted as Putin’s renewed effort to bolster the besieged al-Assad regime – with its main support coming from Iran and the mullahs’ Levantine ally, the Lebanese Hezbollah – something else may be afoot.
Putin just told a Vladivostok audience – at the other end of a Russian empire suffering economic devastation with a halving of the oil and gas price and U.S. and European sanctions over his Ukraine aggression – that al-Assad was ready for a compromise. But what the reinforcement of the Russian installations in Latakia may mean is that Putin anticipates a Syrian breakup and he is grabbing onto a piece of the carcass dominated by his Alawite allies. That would give even Moscow’s sagging international stature a continuing spoon in the continuing boiling Mideast pot.
But it puts the catch-up incremental U.S. strategy for peace and stability in the area in that much more jeopardy.
sws-09-05-15

Maybe a longer spoon, Mr. Obama


The proponents of trade wherever, whenever, whoever tell us that Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong was taken aback at the reception he received this past week. For he was treated, at the State Dept., and elsewhere like a chief of government or state rather than the head of one of the most corrupt and repressive political organizations in the world.
The rationalization we are getting for all this pomp and circumstance was that fetting Phu Trong was throwing a little sand into Beijing’s eyes. The theory thereby being expounded was that with the continuing aggressive Chinese thrusts into the South China Sea – even a drilling rig in Hanoi’s claimed economic zone – Washington was demonstrating the growing tacit alliance with Vietnam as well as the other Southeast Asians against Beijing’s threatened aggression. Presidential candidate, then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton called it the pivot to Asia which has creaked rather violently as the Mideast continues to enthrall the U.S. in its tortured problems.
Of course, the fact that Boeing – probably with the dying Ex-Im Bank’s help – has just made a big sale to the Vietnamese might explain more than either State Dept. Protocol officers. Pres. Obama turned up at State. [Sec. John Kerry who once testified against his fellow American soldiers in Vietnam, if in camouflage, at a Congressional hearing was too busy trying to make a deal with the Tehran Mullahs in Lausanne.]
Obama told the gathering at State that “[O]bviously, there has been a difficult history between our two countries in the 20th century.” That could go down as the understatement of the year; one would have hoped a speechwriter even at this White House might have chosen a more profound reference to “a difficult history” that cost more than 54,000 American and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives.
True, history marches as they say, and it is probably time to try to reach some sort of working relationship with Hanoi that fits into the current and future Asian and world geopolitical picture. Obama claimed “what we’ve seen is the emergence of a constructive relationship that is based on mutual respect, and that has benefitted the peoples of both countries.”
Maybe. But we are old enough to be uncomfortable with a former enemy who still shows every sign of not mending his ways. Persecution of the religious and all political opposition is still the way Phu Trong’s comrades run the Vietnam they reunited with force in 1975. Corruption is so rife foreign investors shy away from moving there even with the increasing flight from China because of rising costs and the same sort of difficulties as Vietnam presents. The $7 billion in remittances this year from the huge and relatively prosperous Vietnamese American community are a big part of keeping the whole gimcrackery afloat.
All in all, we think it’s best if the President – and those minions at State always willing to find diplomatic compromise – remember the old adage, “When supping with the devil …”
sws-07-09-15

When is a Thug not a Thug


Thug, noun, pronunciation: /THɡizm/ [Early 19th century (sense 2): from Hindi, hag ‘swindler, thief’, based on Sanskrit sthagati ‘he covers or conceals’.
One of the footnotes to the postmortem on the rioting in Baltimore has been an argument over the use of the word “thug” to describe the mostly young rioters, sackers and arsonists.
The city’s African-American mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, used the term, though she later backed away from her earlier comments. In uncharacteristically strong language, Pres. Barack Hussein Obama used it too when he denounced the Baltimore violence.
Megan Garber, in an article in The Atlantic, writes that “thugs” “are [seen as] both victims and agents of injustice, they are both the products and producers of violence, and mayhem, and outrage”. Some of the media, muddling the argument even more, has trotted out arguments for excusing behavior which brought the city to near chaos. CNN has spread a clever piece of wordsmithery, “Rioting is the voice of the unheard”, when its interviewers court dissident and inflamatory reactions..
The fact is that young hoodlums [“a person who engages in crime and violence; a hooligan or gangster”] broke the peace of one of largest and once most prosperous American cities, burning and looting. Furthermore, their action did not elicit from the city’s leadership the kind of response for which a city’s police force is dedicated. It was only luck that there was not major loss of life.
That is why it is incumbent on the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Marilyn J. Mosby, now that she has quickly brought forward an indictment of the policemen involved in the death in custody of Freddie Gray, to go after these young miscreants. There is apparently yards of video taken during these violent acts from which the perpetrators can be identified.
Just as one mother, Tonya Graham, took the responsibility for her son when she caught him joining the mob, the Baltimore authorities now have a duty to bring the other delinquents to justice.
That won’t be easy.
There are already many voices arguing that they are victims, that they need help, that they have to be forgiven for their acts of violence against civilized society. Baltimore Councilman Carl Stokes has what he sees as their case. “It’s not the right word to call our children ‘thugs’. These are children who have been set aside, marginalized, who have not been engaged by us.”
All that may be true and must be considered if justice is to be served. But identifying these young people, naming their criminality, and bringing them before a court to have their actions explained is necessary if real peace is to be reestablished in Baltimore.
Without the rule of law, no civilized society can exist. Respect for the law has to begin in childhood. And without an attempt to bring these youngsters to justice – for their families’ sake if nothing else – the confidence that is going to be necessary if the destruction of Baltimore’s reputation [and livelihood] is to be restored will not be forthcoming..
Sws-05-03-15

Remembering the fall of Vietnam


http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/3/sol-sanders-remembering-the-fall-of-vietnam/Opinion

\Commentary

Remembering the fall of Vietnam

Hopes for freedom died 40 years ago

Illustration on remembrance of the Vietnam War by Alexander Hunter/The Washington

By Sol Sanders – – Sunday, May 3, 2015

Probably no event in contemporary American history touched more of its citizens than “Vietnam.” I use the quotes to describe a concept that includes more than the country, the American war and 58,000 lost American lives, and convoluted arguments still haunting our political discourse.

Millions of words have been written about this tragedy. Unfortunately, much is ill-informed, ideological and distorting the issues. I sometimes despair historical truth will ever emerge from all the claptrap.

My own “Vietnam” begins much earlier than for most Americans, decades before the massive U.S. military buildup and its disastrous end. It began when I was a callow youth, a budding journalist fascinated with Asia after a short collision with India as an ambulance driver in the British army in World War II. That led to Indonesia, and thence to Vietnam. It metamorphosed into roaming Southeast Asia as a freelancer.

My year in Hanoi during “the French war” (1950-51) taught me basics of the convoluted Indochina conflict. And they were far from those I — and some of my well-meaning anti-colonialist friends — thought we knew. We thought we had done our bit when in 1946 a few Vietnamese emigres — mostly sailors who had jumped French ships — staged a highly successful protest meeting at the old McAlpin Hotel on Herald Square in New York City. Do Vang Ly, then a Columbia University Vietnamese student but already a veteran fighter for his country, and I were the spark plugs.

We drew for participants on an early United Nations General Assembly session Asian luminaries and Americans noted for their interest in the new “underdeveloped countries.” They included everyone from Norman Thomas, the old U.S. socialist warhorse, to Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru’s poet sister, and novelist Pearl Buck, epitome of Western interest in China. Naively, our purpose was to support Ho Chi Minh, purportedly heading a broad national alliance, still negotiating with the French for independence until almost by accident they stumbled into war. A quiet agent among us from Ho’s Paris “embassy,” we were to learn later, saw to it that we adhered to the Communist “line.”

In Hanoi, I learned that beyond the constantly mutating argument between the Vietnamese and the French was the more bitter struggle between the Vietnamese Communists and nationalists. During a 16-month post-World War II hiatus, when the Communists controlled the Tonkin Delta, they had massacred nationalist leaders. In my time, plaques — imitating those for fallen French Resistance heroes throughout Paris — marked the spot where anti-Communist nationalists were struck down. Those included, interestingly enough, the older brother of Ngo Dinh Diem, later to lead the Republic of South Vietnam — the man of that generation from their Confucian court family originally slated to have been the politician.

I still remember the shock when I wrote a friend back in Boston, Harold Isaacs, author of a famous tome on the Chinese Revolution, that were it a choice between Ho Chi Minh and the then-French puppet “chief of state” Bao Dai, I would choose the ex-emperor. As the dedicated southern Vietnamese Trotskyists calculated, it was clear what Ho’s Indochina would be, whereas the corrupt and incompetent Bao Dai might still afford an avenue to Vietnamese freedom.

These two currents — dedicated, efficient, merciless Stalinists with their calls on the Soviet Union and its propaganda and infiltration in the West — and the incompetent, feuding and often far too fallible non-Communists continued the Vietnamese struggle. That contest seemed to have been finally decided once and for all with the fall of the Saigon regime, the 40th anniversary of which we marked on April 30.

However painful the specter of Americans being hauled off the roof of the Saigon embassy as North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the Presidential Palace gates, the United States was ready to shrug and turn to other issues. Nor were officials in Washington ready to admit the cutoff in American military aid had produced the catastrophe. But alas, for the Vietnamese, it marked yet another milestone in that continuing struggle between an alien totalitarianism — morphing as Lenin had prophesied in his more pessimistic moments into traditional Asian despotism — and the universal search for freedom.

Tens of thousands fled the “reunification.” Unknown thousands died in unworthy seacraft. My friend, Do Vang Ly, managed only by an accident of fate to survive. Washing up on an eastern Malaysian beach, he and a little band shepherded by a Catholic priest, were about to be shoved back into the water by their fellow Southeast Asians (a long-forgotten footnote to all the horror). But he took his water-soaked diplomatic passport from his shoe and persuaded the police to take it to a friend, the Malaysian foreign minister.

As with more than 1.5 million other Vietnamese refugees, “Tony” and his family made it to America. But he did not live to see the democratic Vietnam to which he had devoted his life. The continuing travesty in Vietnam today mocks those hopes. Nor do the new self-serving American rationalizations — in which some of our most aspiring politicians indulge — mask that the old fight still goes on if under different auspices.

• Sol Sanders is a veteran international correspondent.

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Islam is the problem


The worship of Mohammed’s followers throughout their history has rarely constituted a religion of peace, contrary to repeated statements by leaders in the West – above all Pres. Barack Hussein Obama. These have been made in their pursuit of trying to defuse the current crisis, but nevertheless are now a part of the problem..

One might stretch to argue that Mosses, founder of Judaism, had a “battlefield commission”. But neither Jesus, Gautama nor Confucius, leaders or founders of the several other great world religions, advocated violence. Nor were they soldiers as was Mohammed, the messenger who carried the word of Allah to his flock.

Furthermore, virtually all Muslims accept that in his last decade of what may be a largely legendary life, he pursued that career with ferocity in the destruction of his Arabia peninsular enemies, most notably the contemporary Jewish tribes who refused to accept his new religion. The history of Islam is inseparable from its attempt to conquer alien societies and turn them forcibly to its belief. That code demands – unlike the other great religions today – unquestioned obedience to a legal as well as a moral code of contradictory but supposed God-given dictums from the Koran and the accumulation of practices in the hadith, pronouncements and activities surrounding Mohammed the man.

Again today, as repeatedly in the past 1500 years, the West is fighting off a campaign of Muslim fanatics to overtake and replace its Judeo-Hellenist-Christian- civilization. Rather than massive armies at the Tours battlefield in the 8th century or at the gates of Vienna in the 16th and again 100 years later, this time the attacks are continual thrusts at the ineludible vulnerable “soft targets” of modern open societies.

As incomprehensible as it is to Westerners and non-Muslim societies of the East, these fanatics are willing to die so long as they can bring pain and disaster on their targets. It is, as some Muslim fanatics have proclaimed proudly, that the rest of the world loves life and these psychotics worship death.

When the leaders of the whole world – not excluding both Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Liberation Organization Mahmoud Abbas – came together in Paris for a demonstration of unity of purpose against this new threat to humanity, there was a missing figure. It was no accident, as the Communists would say, that Obama was not there among the leaders of most of the civilized world.

In a tortured and benighted view of the world’s issues, Obama apparently believes that outreach to the Muslim fanatics through Islamic state leaders – including the mother hen of all the contemporary terrorists, the insidious Muslim Brotherhood – will appease the tiger. His closest advisers make desperate attempts to convince the rest of the world that the great mass of Muslims are innocents. True enough, but that they will [the “good”Germans with the Nazis or a dozen other historical instances] bring down the militants is highly questionable. .

Obama rides this tiger not only in great peril to the country he leads and to the world in general, but at the risk of his own role in history. Calling a blatant attack at Ft. Hood by a twisted mind – a psychiatrist indeed! – “workplace violence” not only distorts the real meaning of the incident making it impossible to deal with it, but this refusal to name the crime makes it difficult to meet out the modest reparations to the survivors.

In the same vein, by not identifying the current worldwide campaign of terrorism – now into its second decade – as an outgrowth of Islam itself, he and his advisers make it impossible to understand it and mobilize to defeat it.

At the United Nations, instead of a straightforward attack on the origins of this violence to all civilized society, Obama was busy warning against any attack on the sanctity of Mohammed’s name. [A documentary producer who had the audacity if however clumsily to challenge the relationship of Islam to the wave of terrorism still is serving a prison sentence, part of the design to obscure the martyrdom of four Americans at the hands of terrorists at Benghazi.] Nothing plays more into the lying of Muslim fanatics in dealing with their fellow citizens; they can carefully site elements of their dogma which sanction deceit in their professions of innocence with nonbelievers.

Any attempt to take on the long awaited need to bring the religion of Mohammed to a test of modernity and contemporary morality is denounced. Earlier attempts were abandoned after a bitter debate in Andalusia, Spain, in the late 12th century when Ibn Rushid [Averroes], ironically sometimes called “the father of modern Western secularism”, was defeated in his efforts to find a synthesis of Hellenic, Judeo-Christian and Islamic values. Ironically Averroes contributed mightily to Western religious and philosophical thought. But his Islam retreated into the thousand-year bowels of a totalitarian conformity that imprisons it to this day. Those who call for a constructive new debate are quickly denounced as “Islamophobia” – even when they come from acknowledged scholars such as the eminent modern philosopher, Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger.

It remains to be seen if Muslim leaders will rise to join Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who recently pleaded with Islamic clerics to examine their game. He argued Moslem “thinking” had stymied, that concepts “we have sacralized over the years” are “antagonizing the entire world”. In practical terms of a hard-bitten military leader of the largest and most important Arab nation, he argued that it is not “possible that 1.6 billion people [a reference to the world’s Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live”. He warned that Egypt [or the Islamic world in its entirety] “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”

Again, it is no accident that the Obama Administration’s relations with the al-Sisi regime hang by a thread while it has continued to court the likes of Turkey’s increasingly Islamicist Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan [and with a lesser and lesser degree of success]. It also continues to bemoan the fall of al Sisi’s predecessors, the discredited Muslim Brotherhood. [Alas! That is also true of Hillary Clinton with her own close connections to the Brotherhood leadership through her principal aid, Huma Mahmood Abedin.].

Recognizing Islam’s relationship to the Muslim terrorists is critical if the U.S. and the world is to defeat this aberration before it destroys Western civilization through its steady depredations, always forcing restraints on our liberties in order to defend ourselves.

sws-01-11-15

 

 

 

.

 

Strategy, any one?


 

“Okay, smart-a___, what is your strategy?”

In a [rather large] nutshell; here are the tactics which when pulled together make up a grand strategy:

Domestic

Make an “America is back!” speech from the Oval Office in the White House modeled on Harry Truman’s “Doctrine” speech of 1947. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/harrystrumantrumandoctrine.html   Its principal theme would be recognition that the U.S. and its allies are launched in an extended war — and still far from being won — against the Islamic jihadists.

Immediately ask Congress for emergency lifting of all Sequestration applying to the Department of Defense, the CIA and other security agencies for five years. Halt and reverse with continuing extension and recruitment the personnel cutbacks now decimating the American armed forces.

Reverse energy policies to provide the U.S. economy and our allies with a noninflationay stimulus of cheaper fuel, simultaneously directly providing hundreds of thousands of new jobs, by:

 

  • Administratively, opening up all federal lands [including offshore Virginia, etc.] to fracking,
  • Administratively, waiving all EPA regs on fracking for five years.
  • Administratively, fast-tracking applications for the dozen or so outstanding applications for liquefied natural gas export facilities, putting on hold any Environmental Protection Agency regulations concerning them for a five-year period.
  • Asking  Congress to lift all oil and gas export restrictions, including a waiver on EPA fossil fuel export regs for five years. [These exports would begin to supply allies in Europe and Asia and simultaneously help mend the balance of payments hemorrhage against the dollar.]
  • Immediately okaying the XL Keystone Pipeline and other Canadian applications for pipelines into the U.S. directed at Houston refineries and their export facilities.
  • Pushing Detroit and foreign-owned auto companies to organize and subsidize a national network of filling stations for an expanded production and use of LNG-fueled vehicles.

To reinforce federalism, begin the rescission of the 17th amendment, restoring the original intent of the Founders by returning the power on how to elect senators to the states, freeing the states to determine their own method including indirect election by the various legislatures. [Most of the turn of the 20th century arguments for direct election are now better ones for indirect election, e.g., “it’s a millionaire’s club”.]

Resurrect the independent U.S. Information Service with a cabinet post and assistant secretaries from State, Defense and CIA. The new department would incorporate the Board of International Broadcasting, expanding Radio Liberty [with renewed local language broadcasts to Central Asia] in order to tell “the American story” to the world.

Mideast

            Bomb the ISIL in Syria and Iraq “back to the stone age” with a massive WWII type aerial bombardment. In riposte, sanction all banks and financial institutions – including third parties, and, of course, including all Russian and the Chinese institutions – doing business with the al Assad regime.

“Pressure” Turkey to accept a NATO mission on its southeast flank to work directly with the secular and “moderate” Islamic anti-Assad forces from a Turkish sanctuary. Organize with our NATO partners a joint “request” that Ankara release immediately all imprisoned Turkish journalists as the first step in reinaugurating the movement toward a civil society. Let Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan know if he does not acquiesce to these quiet pressures and move back from his drift into Islamism, Washington will demand Turkey’s expulsion from NATO.

Reinvoke strict sanctions on Tehran until the mullahs accept a NATO – not the UN IAEI which has been so notoriously inept — inspection of their nuclear activities. Slam the possibility of military intervention “back on the table” and be prepared for surgical strikes to slow if not deter the Mullahs’ acquisition of WMD.

Administratively, add the Moslem Brotherhood to the State Department’s terrorist list, and direct the FBI to insure that all domestic Islamic organizations [including mosques] with formal and informal ties to the Brotherhood be put on a terrorist alert list.

Lift all restrictions on arms to Egypt now being temporarily enforced and invite al Sisi to visit the U.S. before mid-summer 2015.

Persuade al Sisi to abandon his dicey Second Suez Canal Project. Instead round up  Gulf States, Israel’s Dead Sea Works, the World Bank [IBRD] and private European, American and Japanese capital to fund the Qattara Depression Project to provde Egypt with cheap hydropower and a new chemical industry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qattara_Depression_Project

Immediately and with considerable public fanfare accept Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s request for stationing additional American forces [he has called for 10,000] on the world largest air base at Al Udeid [Abu Nakhlah Airport], the U.S. Army base at Sayliyah and the U.S. base at Doha. Then, “encourage” the Gulf States [UAE, Dubai, Saudi Arabia] in concert with the United Arab Republic [Egypt] to ultimatum the Sheik to end all payments and subsidies to the Moslem Brotherhood, Hamas, al Nusr and ISIL and to both Arabic and English al Jazeera networks — “or else”. Compensate by helping the EU, and especially Germany, to negotiate greater LNG purchases from Qatar, if necessary using additional European storage facilities, to negate the Russian fossil fuels blackmail.

Immediately supply Ukraine with necessary heavy weapons and technical assistance to meet Pres. Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

Reoccupy with significant ground forces and maximum publicity the old Wheelus U.S. Air Force base at Mitiga International Airport in eastern Libya. “Encourage” Gen. Khalifa Belqasim Haftar to negotiate merger of Libya with the United Arab Republic [Egypt] with the help of ENI [Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi ] whereby the huge oil revenues could be stolen and wasted more beneficially.

“Persuade” the UN to amalgamate the UNWRA [special Palestinian UN organization with its enormous budget] with the UN Refugee Organization with the appointment of an American administrator by withholding the major part of both their fundings from the American taxpayer [as was done earlier to reform UNESCO and ILO]. Insist on a purging UNWRA staff, ejecting all those who have worked for or been active in Hamas, a terrorist organization so designated by the US and its allies.

Europe

Put the ruffles and flourishes back into the Anglo-American alliance with its attendant links to Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the cornerstone of NATO and America’s world alliance strategies.

Deliver SAPiest heavy weapons and technical assistance to Ukraine in its fight against the invasion by Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s forces and block Moscow intervention in rewriting the structure of the Kyiv regime.

Establish a NATO base in Estonia.

Move into lock-step with the French in tamping down West and Central African violence [see below].

See that the NATO Rapid Deployment Force becomes a reality SAPiest with the training on a level with the U.S.’ and Britain’s Special Forces.

Prepare for the eventual collapse of the Euro.

East & South Asia

Quietly assign a senior U.S. diplomat to a special U.S.-Japan-Korea commission to sit sine die to help sort out issues between Tokyo and Seoul with special personal representatives of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Pres. Park Geun-hye. [Their grandfather and father, respectively, established postwar relations between the two countries.] This would aim to smooth over the most important obstacle in an American-led defensive alliance in Asia against North Korea and Communist China threats.

Reinvoke the strict sanctions earlier used to induce the North Koreans to come to heel, including third party sanctions against any financial institutions who deal with them, openly or clandestinely. They would be lifted when an international inspection team consisting of Americans, Japanese and the NATO allies certify its weapons of mass destruction programs have been ended.

Nudge ASEAN to resurrect the intent of Sec. of State John Foster Dulles’ 1950s Southeast Asia Treaty Organization with the headquarters again in Thailand, and hold out admission possibility to Vietnam [if it makes major “reforms”, that is de-Communize] in its feud with Communist China.

Push Taiwan rearmament and “invite” the Republican Party to cuddle up to the Democratic Progressive Party to pressure the Kuomintang back into a stronger line against amalgamation with the Mainland to maintain the oinly democratic society in Chines history.

Latin America

Initiate “tough love” with Mexico, e.g., introduce legislation to subsidize American investment in Mexican oil and gas in exchange for joint paramilitary border operations to halt illegal flow of immigrants to the U.S. with reinforced joint patrols on both sides of the border and a joint U.S.-Mexican undercover immigration control force on the Mexican-Guatemala border. Reach agreement on new “modalities” for protecting American citizens traveling, visiting and doing business in Mexico, matching those affording Mexican citizens in the U.S.

Swap new legal provisions for bond concessions to the Argentines for their cooperation in U.S. Latin American projects, especially cleaning up “ice” trafficking through Rosario and Iranian penetration of neighboring Paraguay, and a quit-claim to the Falkland Islands.

Introduce legislation to reinstitute the macro aspects of the Cuban embargo at the same time removing all restrictions on movement to and from Cuba by American and Cuban citizens.

Africa

Move U.S. Africom to a new joint U.S.-French-Portuguese-NATO base to be built rapidly with port and air facilities on São Tome e Principe in the Gulf of Guinea while pursuing a campaign of destruction with African and Eruopean allies against Boka Harum.

If this seems a formidable list, it is indeed. It it seems an impossible list, remember that a population less than half the present one in the American war mobilization between 1939 and 1944 doubled real wages in the U.S., produced 229,600 aircraft, added 5,000 ships to the existing merchant fleet, even though two-thirds of the economy was devoted directly to military equipment — and simultaneously won a war against two formidable enemies. It took leadership and political resolve. But just as the attack on Pearl Harbor alerted a recalcitrant nation, however far current leadership has drifted away the country should be reminded that 9/11 was proof that “the splendid isolation” of the U.S. from the rest of the world’s troubles during the 19th century is long past history.

But no amount of posturing over strategy and tactics will suffice if the leadership is irresolute and tries to wish away the dangers of that world jungle that has now physically encroached.

sws-09-07-14

Foreign Policy 101


In a revolutionary world environment, foreign policy of a great power – and especially the lone superpower – is bound to be full of inconsistencies. Interests are far-flung and constantly demanding new priorities. But one does not have to refer to Machiavelli to recognize rules of the road which when violated are costly and in the case of the U.S., destabilizing for the entire world.

Again, those guidelines are often internally contradictory in the nature of generalizations.  But a knowledge of and adherence to them is essential to pursue a foreign policy, and, in this instance, of the superpower, the United States, and world peace and stability..

That we living through cataclysmic times does not have to be extensively argued. Suffice it to say that the digital revolution alone has made it harder than ever to distinguish between reality and perception by exaggerating – to quote Sec. Donald Rumsfeld – unknown unknowns. A recent former CIA operative hired by a Swiss bank to prevent fraud put it to me succinctly: the ability to reproduce almost any document [or signature] has led to almost unlimited financial hoax.

In the world of international relations something similar is equally true. But, again, there are basic dictum which are as old, at least, as the European nation-state and apply today as they always have. Many are commonsensical. To be unacquainted with them is to introduce new and additional volatility in an uncertain world.

America’s role Because of its size, its population and continental breadth, and its economy, the U.S. under any conditions would play a major world role — disengaged as well as engaged. But there are important additional nonphysical aspects. The Founders, however conservative their personal backgrounds [with the unresolved problem of black slavery], constructed a new nation on ideology rather than ethnicity, race or language. They believed that they were creating a new and unique beacon of liberty and justice harking back to Greek and Roman institutions as well as a Judeo-Christian ethic.

That, in essence, is “American exceptionalism”. To associate it with such more precise policies as “interventionism” or “isolationism” is to misunderstand completely. All one has to do is hark back to the 1930s debate of America’s world role in which both poles invoked U.S. singularity, whether Midwest agrarian populist isolationists, or East Coast industrial and financial bureaucratic interventionists.

Furthermore, it might not make much difference whether the concept is valid.the fact that it has been accepted as a part of American foreign policy for more than 200 years – however much hypocrisy one might charge – makes it is an important part of any discussion. Perhaps that is why Pres. Barrack Obama had to make the sharpest possible break with his earlier [presumably] offhanded remark in Europe denigrating the whole concept. But he did so now “with every fiber of my being. ” – indeed a turnabout!

America’s tools The most important if the most nebulous of tools in making foreign policy is the prestige of the United States abroad.[So-called opinion surveys, especially those in countries with widespread illiteracy are ridiculous.] More than half a century of overwhelming domination of the world scene, especially the two decades since the implosion of the Soviet Union, have contributed to an overestimate, if anything, of the U.S.’ power and ability to solve problems.

But there is a general talking heads consensus that belief has eroded significantly for whatever reason – policies of the current Administration or the accumulation of debris from two indecisive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a welter of unidentified “mistakes” to which Obama has continually referred. That may be true, but that also depends on the strength of American prestige at its zenith, if, indeed, that point is behind us. My own reading from conversations with informed foreign friends at home and abroad is that the belief in American omnipotence, for better or for worse, is alive and well.

If I am correct, then American power arises in no small part from Harvard University’s political scientist and former government official Joseph Nye has called “soft power”. Americans who have not traveled abroad or those who have accepted internationalization of U.S. fashions as the norm are often unaware of how that influence permeates foreign cultures. However, some of the clichéd ideas concerning American influence are equally irrelevant; e.g., the idea that a U.S. education automatically makes a returned foreigner sympathetic to Washington policy. [Some of the most virulently anti-American politicians abroad have been – and continue to be – products of at least a partial American education, a tribute perhaps to our tolerant institutions.]

In the best of all worlds formal U.S. diplomacy would exploit these cultural levers. That is rarely the case. The massive efforts of American propaganda, for example, that accompanied The Cold War have been largely abandoned. Just as it demoralized a more efficient consular service, incorporation of United States Information Service by State has been a disaster. Libraries which once were the most important U.S. cultural activity [aside from American movies] in backward countries have disappeared without an organized digital replacement.

Less difficult to define, of course, are four other major instruments in the conduct of U.S. foreign relations: formal diplomacy, economic warfare, the U.S. military and clandestine espionage and “special” operations.

Unfortunately, over the years, U.S. diplomacy has taken on more and more the attributes of its traditional European model. As it has done so, for the most part, American embassies abroad deal with their counterparts in a bubble to the exclusion of any attempt to cultivate a wider public. [In many countries, with authoritarian governments, of course, this may not be a choice.]

Worse still, U.S. diplomats suffer from what the French call déformation professionelle – if you are a lawyer, your first instinct is to litigate, if you are a surgeon, you instinctively want to cut, etc. And if you ae a diplomat, you first seek to negotiate. But since a successful diplomatic outcome requires compromise, what do you do when your opponent refuses to budge? You  extend unilateral  concessions  to achieve “success”, including abandoning prematurely “the military option”.

Much is made of the fact that U.S. military expenditures are more than the sum of most other major military powers. The argument is fallacious. Unfortunately, our European NATO allies have cut back their military expenditures, too often already eaten away by non-fighting bureaucracies. Or, for example, the French in their desperate pursuit of a policing francophone Africa have had to rely on U.S. transport.

In a sense that the one and only time NATO’s famous Article 5 has been invoked in Afghanistan is unfotunate– answering the 9/11 attack on the U.S. that required all partners to come to a member’s aid.  For the intervention in an siolated pre-industrial soceity was always destined to be inconclusive otherthan t eliminate the immediate source of violence against America’s heartland.

Ironically, Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine may have restored some relevance of that concept, for the Europeans if not for a war weary American public.

All that notwithstanding, the mere threat to use U.S. military in a given crisis – what the geopoliticians call “strategic ambiguity” – is perhaps American policymakers’ most potent weapon. A generally quiet if dramatic example has been the guarantees to Taiwan which permitted development of the first democratic and prosperous society in Chinese history. [However, recent Washington foot-dragging on arms and accomodation of the current Taipei government for economic collaboration with the Mainland may have put it in jeopardy.] Were the Chinese Communist to have bases on Taiwan, it would be a game-changer in the increasingly delicate Northeast Asian powder keg with a rapidly accelerating North Korean drive for WSM and an. aggressive Beijing posture.

To name specific conditions and dates when American military power is to be used [or withdrawn] is perhaps the greatest weakness of the current Administration’s foreign strategies. It prepares the ground for the opponent’s counterstrategy. Even worse is to rattle the cage of a potential opponent – whether Pres. Obama with an announced on-and-off “limited blow”, as against the bloody Syrian regime or Defense Sec. Chuck:Hagel’s latest provocative public denunciation of Chinese adventurism while at the same time cutting back military budgets.

Waging the U.S.’ economic weapon is also a mixed bag. International trade has increasingly become a larger part of the U.S. gross national product, producing jobs as well as profits. And because since 1985 there is more foreign investment in America than U.S. equity abroad, the Treasury has had to trim its use as an instrument of foreign policy. A tax structure which has U.S.-based multinationals holdings in the tens of billions in profits stashed overseas also weighs heavily.

Still, Americaneconomic sanctions – especially when they are applied to third parties – can be crippling as Tehran found out before the Obama Administration loosen the bolts as incentive for a hoped for negotiated settlement..

Clandestine American operations abroad are part and parcel of any effective foreign policy. But certain conventions, however false, have to be adhered to. Yes, everyone knows Washington is listening to their mail but to tell the world as Edward Snowden and his pal Glenn Greenwald did is not only to prejudice important sources of information but to raise doubts for those who would want secretly to collaborate with the U.S., including foreign intelligence organizations. It is no secret that because of its superior facilities, Washington quietly has sometimes done “favors” for those allies.

For the White House [it says] to accidentally reveal the name of a station chief is inconceivable; not that in virtually any country there has always been unacknowledged cognizance generally of who he was. [Our old joke was that he could always be identified because he collected “art”, had a wife named “Magda”, and stacked all Praeger’s books in his shelves – and wore U.S. Navy officer shoes.]

Perhaps the most important and incalculable element in the search for an effective foreign policy is political will. When presidential candidate Barrack Obama — whose team showed incredible smarts at manipulating the media so it seems hardly an accident — prominently carried a copy of Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World so it could be photographed, friends and enemies got an unmistakable  signal.

Defensive backpedaling, even in front of an audience as important as West Point’s graduation class, will not be enough to avoid new crises through miscalculations, the kind which have brought on most wars. Nor must a policymaker wallow in what used to be called “mirror imaging” – assuming your opponent’s motivations are yours.

After the longest war in U.S. history, Obama is unilaterally calling an end to violence in Afghanistan – and, in fact, to “the war on terror”. Is he so certain a sprinkling of Al Qaeda splinters of increasing sophistication in a half dozen other countries – including their recruiting some of our native-bred — will do the same?

sws-06-01-14

Decorum and Readin’, ‘Ritin” and ‘Ritmetic!


Among the many complaints I have against most of my colleagues in the mainstream media [MSM] these days is the anachronistic and contradiction that they are largely ahistorical. An anachronism since there has never been a time when with the benefits of the digital revolution more information is available – including archives.. A contradiction, of course, in that journalists are at least amateur historians themselves reporting on current events which will build into the longer narrative in the future.

A decade or so ago when I temporarily got off the path [“journalism is a road that leads anywhere — as long as you get off it”, says an old French axiom], I taught for a semester at the fastest growing university in the U.S. This Florida institution, a state-financed school, offered “a media stream” matriculation for its undergraduate degree. I answered a last minute appeal for a substitute teacher, who while I am bereft of graduate degrees, as a candidate I had a long and relatively successful career in what appears to be now the dying print journalism. The course was to be an introduction to/history of journalism, but not to be called that in order to keep it out of the [moribund] history department! I wondered, in fact, what so many students were doing pursuing these kind of studies with the print media on the ropes and even TV networks under siege. That is, until I began to count up all the new public relations jobs in our society, and, hopefully, the expansion of the social media could absorb them.

Most of my two dozen students were in their third or last year before their Bachelor’s. And in order to do what I could for them, in the earliest sessions I asked for a show of hands on issues which I thought were important. How many, for example, came from homes where their parents had college educations? Most, it turned out. How many worked at part-time jobs? Perhaps two-thirds, in the kinds of jobs you would suspect – 7/11s, professors’ assistants, etc. I came up short, however, when one young woman told me she worked for the student government, paid repeat paid as a receptionist. I also learned the elected officers had special parking privileges – one of the great concerns of my group, free laptops, etc. Could this kind of government largesse have had anything to do with a very, very low participation rate by students in their self-government?

But there was something alarming in their formation, their training and earlier education as the French quite fittingly call it. None, repeat none, had ever had a history course. Oh yes, they had, for the most part, had, a course in “American Civilization”, whatever that was. None had ever had a course in English grammar in their entire schooling.Only another handful had ever had an English literature course.

I never really found out what was the substitute for what I would have considered the bare minimum for someone entering the profession of current affairs reporting. [I always thought all reporting was “investigative”, by the way!]  I learned over the semester that most were intelligent, some even academically ambitious. A not all that young Caribbean immigrant, for example, a housewife married to a police officer, who tried mightily to write on changing race relations and journalism in America although she seemed to think there was TV in every home 75 years ago. And there was the young woman who went to the department head over me when I gave her a B instead of the A she thought she deserved as she said, “because she got all As”. He told me I could hang on to my decision, but should I do so, he warned me there would have to be a staff “inquiry”.

But they struggled with any attempt at an intelligent discussion of any issue in journalism, in part because their writing was crippled and they had no vocabulary. I found this out in the first class when I used the word “onus” and got blank stares. After that, I often caught myself in my lectures and discussion asking if they understood a word we were using, and often when they did not, I wrote it on the chalk board and explained it with examples. No one had ever attempted to tell any one of them the difference between literal ad figurative meaning of words, and the whole concept came as a revelation to the brighter ones.

Did I just have a bunch of dullards? Some of the other faculty told me something along those lines: those just skating through the four-year effort went to the media stream because they perceived it the “easiest”, I was told.. [Of course, this was the same faculty that permitted a new arrival from Macao to produce a doctorate thesis on how the Chinese Communists had organized a nationwide and efficient domestic violence alert network and remedial structure!] Perhaps. But certainly an earlier exposure to a Long Island university where I taught for a semester had yielded similar results. And, in fact, when the dean, then a close, old friend, asked me to host a seminar on the media and foreign policy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, part of a prestigious Ivy League university, I was less than impressed with the preparation of the graduate students who attended. [My star pupil, in fact, was a young Japanese businessman, taking the course “without credit” as part of his training as the second or third in line to take over the Washington office of his trading company. Another was the daughter of an old Shanghai-born Armenian newsman friend, somewhat distracted because her sister was allegedly linked to terrorists knocking off Turkish military attachés at the time. But the give and take in the discussion was not sparkling and when I complained at a faculty lunch, all looked grim when they didn’t look the other way, and said, “sometimes it is like that, a class just don’t spark,”  no matter what the instructor did. Maybe.

But I am afraid through these experiences and what the academics now obsessed with statistics would decry as “anecdotal evidence”, I fear my younger colleagues in the MSM just aren’t prepared for their onerous and terribly important job of informing the public. There is, to use another old wives’ adage, much more stupidity [and cupidity].in the world than villainy.

That is why the reader/listener gets so many of these grossly inaccurate media stories based on a lack of historical background and understanding. Most annoying to me is all that talk about the first-time-ever and the-biggest-ever or the-most-difficult ever, etc., etc.. As the old wives’ saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun. You don’t have to make false analogies to history to deflate some of these claims; You just have to use your common sense – and know a little history..

I have been thinking recently about one of the most important, respected and beloved among our Founders, Thomas Jefferson. Yes, he was a slaveowner saying, among other things, that “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever”. But he was also the man who celebrated the French Revolution until it turned into the Reign of Terror. He opposed a permanent military force but – and after his failed long negotiation with John Adams with the European powers for a common policy – ordered the first American foreign intervention of our Marines on the Barbary Coast. And he put Aaron Burr into the vice presidency, even though he was a  political competitor who would later turn on him [and the United States] because he needed Burr’s intervention in the New York state electors to become president. Does that diminish Jefferson’s standing among us? I think not. For, again to quote an old wives’ adage, politics is politics and by its very nature calls for a politician [or a statesman] to change his mind and often fundamentally. Pace Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr on why personal morality cannot be translated into public morality and cannot be one and the same thing. And those changes may not always be for the worse; need I remind my readers of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s pilgrimage from Jim Crow to one of the most successful fighter for human rights in our time.

But the verities do hang on. Economics, despite all the differences, have been pretty fundamental since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the early 18th century. That is, until our time with the coming of the second industrial revolution with the digital breakthrough where we may have entered unexplored territory may have made fundamenta; changes. We don’t know yet I contend. Politics are as old as our oldest Western societies [ask Socrates who took the hemlock]. Many if not most of the issues today have been around for that long. Take for example the problem of corrupt public officials – whether endangering the public welfare on the world’s busiest bridge or pouring government funds into inoperative energy adventures of their crony capitalist friends, we have been there before.

So is society immutable, have there been no changes [except as our Christian friends would say with the First Coming of Jesus]? And if so, what does style have to do with it?

It may seem trivial to some but I think the one great difference in lifestyle, in my own long lifetime, has been the retreat from public and perhaps private decorum. Somehow I like what the New Oxford calls the old-fashioned rendering of its definition: “archaic suitability to the requirements of a person, rank, or occasion.” Or to put it another way: an old and longtime friend, alas! now gone,  one who led a a rather unproductive life despite the fact he was most well-read person I have ever known, a real intellectual. He lived with a very small trust fund and with what we call today post-traumatic syndrome as a bomber gunner over Germany in World War II. He used to say, only half jokingly: the source of allcontemporary ills is the increasing retreat from “style” in Western culture, disappearing since the Victorian Age.

In a sense, it may not matter so much whether an interlocutor is sincere, whatever that means, but that he uses the proper forms.  It was with a shudder I saw — a publicly disseminated photograph at that — of a booted foot propped on the [SS] Nishiki; Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. [Mr. Reagan never entered what he considered this shrine to American governance and patriotism without a tie and jacket.] Or, granted at a celebration of what perhaps most considered a long and beneficial life rather than the traditional funeral, taking a “selfie” in the midst of the program.

The digital revolution with its enormous opportunities and its attendant social media may come to our aid. But I doubt it. Technology is neutral. It performs in the hands of its operatives and only to the extent they have mastered their own cultural values. Robert Bork has pointed out that Methodism, whatever else it did not do, rescued Britain — perhaps you could say with style — from its longtime drunken stupor in the 18th century. But can one expect that kind of cultural revolution of the Methodists or their brethren in the Mainline Churches or the Reformed Synagogues today. Nott likely even from their Evangelical cousins.

For style today is not to own an American Express card. If we can bring it back, it might, just might be one of the beginnings of self-knowledge and the ability to handle the larger issues in life – or in government – so sadly lacking at this moment in our history..

sws-01-12-14