Category Archives: Germany

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

One president at a time


Former Pres. Barack Hussein Obama refuses to leave the stage.

He is defying the tradition of former presidents who too a senior statesman role with philanthropic, scholarly and other non-political activities. True, he has a different problem with a decimated Democratic Party bereft of leadership.But stationing himself in Washington, with a $8.1 million house, despite the fact he has no roots in the District, was generally seen as an expression of his continued search for political leadership.

He also has violated the tradition of former presidents of taking only a ceremonial role in visits overseas. When Pres. Donald K. Trump was making his first visit to Europe, for a controversial NATO summit, Obama turned up simultaneously to court German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It’s true, of course, again, that Obama was recalling his pre-presidency May 2017 Brandenburg Gate speech before a wildly enthusiastic 70,000 Europeans. He got a premature Nobel Prize for Peace for that performance. But his activities made Trumps’ simultaneous diplomatic efforts more difficult. The sitting president, of course, had taken up the cudgels for NATO members to pay up and Washington is facing difficult trade issues with Merkel, who is playing domestic politics as she approaches an election with lagging support.

Obama “…push [es] back against those trends that would violate human rights or suppress democracy or restrict individual freedoms” and to “fight against those who divide us”. These charges are widely interpreted as being aimed at Trump.
There has been, of course, a tradition that former American officials do not criticize Washington policy from overseas venues. Longer lifespans have proliferated the number of former chief executives increasing the importance of the issue with so many ex-presidents around.

In early June, speaking to the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, Obama called on people, in the face of uncertainty, to stand by some of the very post-World War II economic and political institutions. These are postwar positions Trump has repeatedly called into question.

“In periods like this, people looking for control and certainty — it’s inevitable,” Obama told the Canadians. “But it is important to remember that the world has gone through similar moments. … Our history also shows there is a better way.”
He said people should overcome fear and not listen to those who “call for isolation or nationalism” and those who “suggest rolling back the rights of others.”

The fact is that although Obama is touted as “the first black president”, he neither comes from the Urban Ghetto nor the rising black professional class but a multicultural environment in Hawaii with time out as a student in Indonesia. On June 30 in Jakarta, Obama, greeted by a crowd of thousands of leaders, students and business people, where he opened the Fourth Congress of Indonesian Diaspora, struck out against Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement on climate change. “In Paris, we came together around the most ambitious agreement in history about climate change, an agreement that even with the temporary absence of American leadership, can still give our children a fighting chance.”

At a time when the Trump Administration is facing difficulties in its own Republican Party and with the President’s unpredictable – he says it is a strategic tactic – approach to issues, Obama is becoming a center of anti-Trump activism.With his own fanatical following within the left, Obama may continue to pursue his own set of domestic and foreign policies in public debate with Trump. But it is neither appropriate nor helpful to defy the traditional American withdrawal of former executives after they have had their “innings”.
It’s time for Obama to make a dignified exit to the traditional role of elder statesman.
Sws-07-01-17

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

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

Obama, you are there, nicht wahr?


Angela Merkel, Germany’s long-lifed chancellor, is noted for her Teutonic precision in public statements. So one cannot ignore her remarks after meeting Pres. Barack Obama on his present loop around the Europe. Over and over, she repeated the importance of the U.S. participation in Alliance strategies. The meaning might have been charged off to the ordinary polemics, except that the tone had a new quality. Merkel seemed to be ending each such assertion with an unspoken “that’s right, isn’t it?”
The German chancellor perhaps was hoping against hope that Obama assertion of American withdrawal from old leadership commitments to postwar Europe wasn’t true. If so, she was not only disappointed. For in an unusual public display of disagreement over policy, the two outlined their basic disagreement over Syria with its inundation of migrants and refugees for Europe.
Merkel, increasingly exposed to bitter opposition after continuing difficulties getting the rest of Europe to bear its share of the burden, is facing a crisis over the inflow. More than a million migrants invaded Germany last year, not only Syrians but other Mideasterners and Africans anxious to taste the fruits of the European welfare state.
Merkel has been trying to close the door she so righteously opened to all and sundry – a policy seen as a reflection in part of the guilt for the Nazis’ race policies. The business community at first welcomed the new labor recruits with a general German consensus. But as the numbers have increased, with the prospect of a continued flow, and the difficulties and cost of settling the newcomers, more and more Germans are questioning the policy.
But Merkel’s implied question was for a much larger question. In effect, she was asking how far Obama’s withdrawal of American leadership will go, and inferentially, whether another president in 2017 will continue that strategy. That Obama contradicted his own policy was probably irrelevant. He had, for example, taken a heavy hand in Britain arguing against Brexit, the U.K. pulling out of the European Union. But he offered nothing to amend his own erosion of Britain’s historic “special relationship” with the Americans. [British politicians, too, were quietly shaking their heads over the former university lecturer’s confusing the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with that of the European Union.]
Through smiles and reaffirmation of agreement, the division of Germany and the U.S. over Syria was laid out unusually forthrightly. Merkel has repeatedly called, and she did so again in this meeting, for the establishment of “safe zones” in Syria. The theory is that Syrian “moderates” would herd refugees into areas protected through military intervention, if necessary, by the Western powers. Obama has continually and emphatically rejected this strategy, even when it was proposed by American critics of his Mideast policy. That’s despite he was simultaneously announcing another increment in the renewed U.S. military presence in Iraq.
Instead, Obama put the emphasis on Sec. of State John Kerry’s conference for a negotiated political settlement. That, of course, runs up against the hard reality that the civil war in Syria centers on the continuance in office of Basher al-Assad and his bloody regime. One of Obama’s “red lines” once called for Assad’s immediate departure, but like his other “red lines, it has now been eroded into a compromise for Assad to remain through a transition period. Most observers give Kerry’s conference little hope of success. And Merkel and her supporters argue that until the moderates can claim a bit of territory, they have no real voice. And, of course, there is the problem of the continuing flow to an overwhelmed Germany and Europe. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is blackmailing Berlin with the threat that he will renege on his pact to curb illegal migration to Europe if Brussels blocks his request for visa-free EU entry for his 78 million Turks.
All of this to say that Obama’s planned retreat from what he saw as overextended American commitments to leadership abroad is leaving no end of doubts and chaos in its wake.
sws-04-24-16

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

Ozzies solve migrant problem – for a while


 

Australia’s highest court has given at least a temporary respite from a migrant threat such as has engulfed Europe.

With its higher standard of living and broad welfare net, the Land Down Under is the potential target for millions of Asians. Many are, as in the Middle East, legitimate refugees seeking shelter for life and limb, but others are economic migrants chasing jobs or professional careers.

In a test case involving a Bangladeshi woman, the Ozzie high court has ruled that the bipartisan strategy of holding migrants in New Guinea and on the equatorial island of Nauru was valid. Despite being a verified refugee by the Nauruan government, the court has ruled Australian forces could confine her to the island’s immigration detention centre.

What’s at stake, of course, is a possible huge flow of migrants from South Asia, replacing the current straggling arrival of occasional refugees and migrants seeking Ozzie asylum. With the archipelago of some 20,000 islands, a thousand of them permanently inhabited, on its northern flank, the Australians face the constant threat of such an invasion. The Indonesian government, although formally committed to helping Australia suppress human traffickers, there is a constant network exploiting Asians trying to make their way south. Australia, too, has recently had an outbreak of Islamic terrorist sympathizers among its recent Arab and Moslem immigrants.

The instability of Southeast Asian and South Asia is a fertile source for migrants. Most recently, for example, an explosion of anti-Moslem violence in southwestern Burma has produced a refugee crisis among the Rohinga. One of Burma or Myanmar’s dozens of minority groups, many have longtime histories of revolt against the post-World II independent government of the former British colony. The Rohinga are descendants or more recent migrants from neighboring Bangladesh, Muslims in a predominantly Buddhist country. Despite their commitment to traditional Buddhist pacifism, there have been recent outbreaks of violence against them and revenge attacks. It’s significant that even Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel prize winner an leader of a democratic movement to wrest power from the Burmese military, has refused to endorse the Rohinga cause. This ethnic dispute is only one among dozens that dog the region.

Refugee lawyers argued the woman, who had been brought temporarily to Australia for medical treatment, being detained at the behest of Canberra in a foreign country did not have the full protection of the Australian constitution. The case could have immediate ramifications for 80 children being detained, including a five-year-old boy who was sexually assaulted on Nauru. Although Immigration Minister Peter Dutton promised to take a “compassionate” approach, he said: “The last thing I want is for boats to restart and, as we’re seeing in Europe at the moment, there are thousands of people who are willing to pay people smugglers to get onto boats to come to countries like Australia. We’ve been able to stamp out that trade, and I don’t want it to restart, I don’t want our detention centers to refill.”

The Australian court’s ruling runs totally contradictory to American courts who have consistently ruled that guarantees of personal liberty afforded to U.S. citizens by the Constitution and other laws extend to any foreigners under American control. European governments, many of whom extend citizenship to individuals who have familial roots in their countries whether born outside or not, have more conflicting outcomes.

The U.S., except for the steady stream of Mexican and Central American illegal immigrants flowing across our southern border, has not had to face the complexity of a massive migrant influx as has Europe. In fact, currently, if temporarily, the flow of migrants is back to Mexico where economic conditions have improved and with the U.S. demand for unskilled workers in abeyance because of the faltering economy. But the threat of such a massive migration might develop if, for example, the current collapse of Brazilian prosperity develops into a Continent-wide Latin American economic tide.

Constant Washington surveillance to such a threat, now seemingly unlikely, is certainly necessary, especially in an atmosphere where government strategy depends on complicated and difficult compromise in the Congress and an idealistic if naïve presence in the White House.

sws-01-06-16

 

 

 

 

 

Scandinavian hypocrisy


Rather suddenly, the northern European Scandinavian democracies and Finland have reversed their policies toward the limitless wave of migrants from the Mideast and North Africa besieging Europe.

It’s not uncommon for the Scandinavians — particularly the Swedes – to claim great humanitarian credentials while they betrayed their neighbors. Some of us at the wrong end of Sweden’s excellent 90mm Bofor artillery remember all too well Stockholm’s role in WWII. It claimed neutrality but was a critical supplier of high quality munitions to the Nazis, permitted them to cross Swedish territory when they invaded Norway, and often rejected the flood of refugees all around them.

Norway, in turn, which fell into the role of “a white sheikh” with the discovery and exploitation of North Sea oil, has been all too anxious to deliver political nostrums to others. Its “mediation” in Sri Lanka’s civil war, until it was finally shaken off after a decade, muddled those issues and led finally to a bloodbath. But this record hasn’t stopped the Scandinavians from presenting themselves as the moral arbitrators of the Western world with a high vaunted social democractic model that has created vast if unacknowledged social problems.

Rather suddenly, Sweden announces it will reject up to 80,000 asylum seekers who have arrived since last year, half of whom officials admit will be forced to leave against their will. Furthermore, Stockholm calls on police and migration authorities to prepare for a sharp increase in deportations, and to arrange charter flights to their country of origin. That may turn out to be difficult since some countries of origin, most prominently Pakistan, are refusing to take backtheir former residents. Sweden is also organizing other EU countries, including Germany, to discuss cooperation to make sure flights are filled to capacity. Sweden took in more than 160,000 asylum applications last year, by far the biggest influx in the EU as a proportion of the population.

Sweden’s move follows Denmark – which had seen its longtime open border with Sweden suddenly snapped closed for identification of each entrant – announced it not only was slowing accomodation of migrants but was confiscating their assets to help finance their accomodation. Norway has begun deporting arriving migrants through its Arctic border with Russia. The interior minister of Finland, a much more realistic player given its long history of fighting off Russian aggression, said Helsinki also intends to expel about two-thirds of the 32,000 asylum seekers it originally accepted in 2015..

Until now, the Nordics had trumpeted their open door to all migrants, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, now under attack within her own conservative coalition for her earlier welcome mat. But the arrival of more than a million migrants in Germany alone – a very large majority of them young single men and not the highly advertised families with women and small children – and predictions of an increased flow in 20916 have brought on an immigration crisis.

Germany’s elaborate social welfare program, a goal of many of the migrants, is breaking down under the impact of so many sudden arrivals with their growing demands – often reinforced with local rioting. The dramatic not atypical Mideastern male attack on New Year’s Eve female celebrants in Cologne and other large German cities, originally ignored by the mainline media, is reinforcing the new mood of resistance to the migrants. That’s despite their welcomed arrival by European Union businessmen facing a growing labor shortage due to a demographic slowdown in all the industrials societies.

Having accelerated the migrant flow with announced liberal policies of accommodating them, the Europeans now face a crisis: how to bloc a tsunami of migrants, the majority of whom are seeking economic opportunity rather than escape from refugee status, without violence and bloodshed.

 

 

sws-01-19-16

 

 

 

The Shale Revolution [Cont.]


The  Shale Revolution continues to wreak havoc as revolutions are wont to do.

The abundance of U.S. natural gas, in many ways a more satisfactory fossil fuel than either coal or oil because of its lesser emissions, has dynamited the whole worldwide energy market. Whether or not the Obama Administration wants it, the export of oil and gas is going to be a function of the new energy picture with the growing economic pressure to sell off our low priced gas to a world market which hasn’t yet taken advantage of the new mining technologies.

Along with the flagging economies of Europe, and now China, and subsequent lower demand, energy prices are under attack everywhere. The stock markets, long dependent on high energy costs and their very profitable producers, are lurching under the torpedoing of the old price structures. Fuel economies, sometimes at the insistence of government fiat as in the American automobile industry, are also finally having their effect and slowing growing energy demand.

In the long run, there is every reason to hope and believe that lower energy prices will be an enormous fillip for the U.S. and the world economies. But, as Maynard Milord Keyes once quipped, in the long run, we will all be dead. Projections of energy demand and supply have in the past been notoriously wrong. And they may be again. But for the moment, what looks likely for several years if a continuing low price for energy. The U.S. which has always prospered on low energy costs, as compared with Europe, is likely to benefit from this new situation.

Geopolitical developments overseas, for the moment at least, seem to be bolstering this new abundance of energy. Iraq’s fabulous oil and gas reserves are coming back onstream after so many years of war and destruction. Pres. Obama’s “deal” with Iran is likely to see sanctions against its sales of oil lifted with new entries to the market.

Most important has been the effort of our friends the Saudis to regain their role as the marginal producer and dictator of the international market pricing. They have opened all the valves and are producing and marketing at record levels. The intent, without doubt, was to hammer the American shale gas and oil producers with their higher costs than those on the Persian Gulf. But while there have been some difficulties and cutbacks for the U.S. producers, the shale oil entrepreneurs have been adept at coming up with new technological fixes which have in the main maintained their role in this new struggle for prices and markets.

Meanwhile, much propaganda and pure and simple idiocy dominates much of the talk about energy and its application. Electric cars, for example, may eventually become a reality because of new battery developments. But recharging the electric car off their baseboard plug – if that becomes the reality – is going to demand that more electricity be produced somewhere and by someone with some fuel. Coal which has until recently dominated the electrical generating plants, about 60% of the total energy consumption, is fading as more and more quick fix gas generators go into service and environmental constraints demand cutbacks in coal emissions. The pain in the old and often poverty-stricken coal mining areas is something the rest of the country is going to have to be attended [and be paid for].

But, returning to our original point, progress is rarely achieved without considerable pain – for some part or other of our society. And it is clear that is going to be case as the Shale Revolution with almost daily announcements of increased reserves is no exception. Government subsidies for wind and solar will continue to feed the trendy enviromentalists’ pressure on more innocent lawmakers. That, too, is a burden which the taxpayer appears inevitably going to bear.

sws-01-26-26

 

 

The death of multiculturalism


A generation ago the Europeans who had bled themselves white in war after war based on chauvinistic nationalism, decided their salvation would come through multiculturalism. The concept was a vague but expansive one which sought to celebrate ethnic and other cultural differences by giving them a place in the national firmament. Rather suddenly Europe’s “native” multitudinous minorities had been enhanced by the arrival in the post-World War II era by vast new numbers of non-Europeans, many of them from former colonial appendages. By cultivating their differences rather than trying to integrate them into the host cultures, it was believed, tolerance and cultural enrichment would be an automatic benefit.

 

But increasingly prominent Europeans are turning their backs on the whole idea. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both taken the floor to denounce the whole concept.

 

The reasons are clear. The supposed exemplary idea that new arrivals would end up with a mixture of the best of their inheritance and the new host’s culture largely turned out to be nonachievable. Instead, multiculturalism created ghettoes, often impoverished ones.. The institutionalized subsidies to the new arrivals often helped create dependence on government hand-outs rather than workplace integration. This, in turn, produced a reaction among some native elements, increasing leading to the formation of nationalistic political parties threatening the moderate center. In some instances, this has even led to violence such as the homicidal attack in July 2011of Anders Behring Breivik on the Norwegian island of Utoya.

 

The face of multiculturalism was different in each country. In the United Kingdom ethnic communities were encouraged to take part in the political process as separate entities. The Germans provided jobs and security but refused citizenship to the large Turkish immigration, alienating its second generation and setting some of them off on radical political tangents. France believed it was integrating the new arrivals as it had earlier mass Italian and East European immigration, but in fact, they herded North African Moslems with high unemployment. into separate communities on the edge of the large cities,

 

The truth was that the huge flow of immigrants was transforming European society, much of it in unknown ways, and attempts to channel the various cultural streams were either inappropriate or ineffective or both. The numbers were staggering. <strong>B</strong>y 2013 Germany, which took in more immigrants than any country in the world except the U.S., had foreign born population of 12%. Even relatively remote Sweden had 12% foreign-born and its generous welfare system was becoming a magnet for heavier flows, causing a near breakdown during the current wave of Syrian and other Mideastern migrants.

 

The argument that this influx of immigrants is not that different from earlier flows of population in Europe ignores the fact that there are racial and ethnic differences among the non-Europeans. The old institutions of church and trade unions, for example, which were once able to help absorb new migrants, have for various reasons become much weaker and no longer can perform that function. A British government report warned in 1953 that “[A] large colored community as a noticeable feature of our social life would weaken . . . the concept of England or Britain to which people of British stock throughout the Commonwealth are attached.”

 

Today, of course, there is a newset of concerns. Multiculturalism has not vitiated the concept of a growing Moslem community in all of Europe, and, unfortunately, one that has ties, however nebulous, to the Islamic terrorists. Events has forced a nw and more aggressive Moslem identity on the migrants to Europe that was not prominent in earlier years when a ge neration sought to  improve their standard of living in a free society .

 

What is obvious now is that European leadership has to go back to the drawing board for new concepts to handle new problems. It is a warning that Americans, even with their long history of relatively easy assimilation, must hear with the possibility of new and different migrants in large numbers being welcomed to our shores.

No Brexit please!


 

There’s not much good news from Europe these days.

It’s clear that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has bitten off more than she can chew with her big, big welcome mat for any and all migrants. The Hungarians and the Poles have different ideas, don’t want to take their “share” as Berlin sees it. That could be the death of “Shengen”, movement within the EU as free as it was in the golden years before World War I when a flicking a passport got you anywhere from the Irish Sea to Carpathians.

Merkel & Co. have bared their teeth and not for the first time, talked of solving an EU problem by creating a “mini-Shengen”, in effect two levels of EU membership to maintain free-passage. Then there is the whole mess of the Euro, that common currency which was supposed to eliminate balance of payments. Instead it has been an artifice for pushing German exports down the throats of willing consumers – like Greece – who really didn’t have the wherewithal for all those Mercedes.

European, not to say Obama Administration resolve, to meet Ras’ continued aggression in Crimea, Ukraine, and threats in Belarus and the Baltic States, as well as his blind man’s bluff in Syria, has faded.

But the biggest cloud on the horizon was the possibility that the Brits would pick up their marbles and go home. That old hundred miles of often treacherous water which has given the not-so-longer United Kingdom its distance from Continental troubles is getting wider and stormier again. The growing encampment t of migrants [including legitimate refugees] on the Calais side epitomizes the issue. Britain, earlier than her neighbors was getting indigestion from absorbing unlimited numbers from her former empire to share the bounties of the original welfare state. And there is universal sentiment now in Britain that a Continental surge would tip the boat.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who unexpectedly won a majority in May’s elections, as part of his electioneering, promised what used to be called before Hitler discredited it, a plebiscite, on British EU membership. That is, Brits would go to the polls to decide whether they wanted to continue what has been their limited membership – no participation in the Euro, for example – in the Community. Armed with that, and the possibility that without concessions, the British might really exit, he has gone back to dicker with the autocrats at Brussels.

Now comes word that despite earlier statements on how the Brits would not pass, the EUrocrats are willing to make concessions. European Council president Donald Tusk December 17 opined: “Leaders voiced their concerns but also demonstrated willingness to look for compromise,” Tusk told a press conference, he was “much more optimistic” than before the talks began.

In all the welter of political shoving back and forth at the moment, this negotiation could in the long run be the most important. It goes without saying, Pres. Obama’s problems ousting Winston Churhill’s bust from the Oval Office as an opening gambit in his Administration notwithstanding, that the Special Relationship between Washington and London remains a cornerstone of our foreign policy.

Many, here and there, have seen Britain’s participation in the EU as an obstacle. We never have. That Britain has taken up the cudgels, in fact more forcefully than the Obama Administration, in the fight against Daesh, the Mideast terrorists, as an American ally is just one more example of the relationship’s importance despite Britain’s economic and therefore military travails. Blood, Roberts’ Rules of Order, and Shakespeare do count, you know!

But perhaps even more important, Britain’s presence inside the EU, with whatever limitations, is the best assurance that the tyranny of the clerks in Brussels will be held in check. More than its Continental neighbors,  perhaps for the younger folk out there, British representative democracy is so solid and so well grounded that it cannot but have an effect in Brussels. That is of the utmost importance, not only for the Brits and their EU partners, but also the whole of the democratic West including the U.S.

So please, let’s do have an old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon compromise and keep Britain in the EU with no Brexit on the horizon!

sws-12-17-15

 

Refugees, Terrorists and Morality


Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, America’s leaders are presented with a vexing problem of statecraft which poses realism versus idealism.

Millions of refugees are pouring out of Syria, victims of the more than four year bloody Civil War. Many choose a perilous path on to Europe; some certainly pursuing lifelong dreams for a better life in European countries with their elaborate safety nets and dwindling labor pool. More, even, are not Syrians at all, but Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis and even Central Asians, seizing this opportunity for new lives in the West.

To the consternation of many of her fellow conservative party colleagues, German Chancellor Angela Merkel initially welcomed any and all of these migrants. Although of another generation, and in fact, reared under the Communist East German tyranny herself, she has said that given Germany’s onerous Nazi history, her country could do no less. The German welcome, since its social welfare benefits lead the field, has made it the destination of most of the migrants — what will be 850,000 or more this year. Berlin is now pleading with its fellow European Union members to take more. Some, like Poland and Hungary, however, are adamant that they cannot absorb these new non-Europeans, for economic and cultural reasons.

The flow shows little sign of abatement what with the Syrian chaos enhanced by the emergence of a barbaric, self-appointed Islamic “caliphate”, Daesh [or ISIS or ISIL. While Europe wrestles with the problem, the U.S. now explores its traditional role of welcoming “your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. Pres. Barak Obama has called for the admission of at least 10,000 of these migrants immediately, another 200,000 for the next two years.

The House of Representatives has just passed legislation calling for a pause in admission of the migrants. This comes after FBI Director. James B. Comey, among others competent to judge, have insisted that currently the federal government does not have the capacity to vet these newcomers, weeding out possible covert terrorists. Those defending the President’s initiative have called the opposition everything from racist to calling up the refusal of the U.S. to admit Jews during Nazi persecution and destruction of six million during the 1930s and 40s. While that blot on America’s moral record lives on, it is hardly relevant; although some of us greybeards remember arguments with some of the few German Jewish arrivals about the Versailles Treaty and Hitler, there were no suspicions any were German agents.

Nor is the argument that suggestions only Christians be s prejudicial as it sounds at first glance. The laws under which refugees are given special entry to the U.S. are couched in terms of rewarding specific groups who are the target of a foreign tyranny. That is certainly the case with Christians and other minority groups like the Yazidi and even non-Sunni Moslems who have been the victims of Daesh’s unspeakable barbarity.

Perhaps some of the President’s supporters are correct that opposition to his proposal is based on ulterior motives, for example, an appeal to old-fashioned xenophobia. But the strength of an argument for a “pause” to reconsider who we are admitting and under what conditions is a necessity. The growing evidence that the Paris terrorist acts – as others before them in Europe and the U.S. – were committed not by illegal immigrants but by visaed newcomers or even native-born Moslem ethnics, is evidence of a source of concern. Certainly the growing skill and increasing reach of Daesh indicates they would have every incentive and techniques for infiltrating the migrants.

The U.S. has committed $4.5 billion since the Syrian conflict began in 2011 to aid Syrian refugees and the neighboring countries housing them, more than any other country. This might be a good time to up that ante if it is possible for it to be absorbed by the mechanisms now in place. But it makes all the sense in the world that for the moment we reexamine our vetting processes as a measure of national security for those additional refugees we intend to admit as permanent residents.

sws-11-20-15

 

 

 

 

 

 

Netanyahu –again!


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done it again: he has repeated what any historian of the Middle East knows, that the so-called Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, was a buddy of Adolph Hitler’s. Netanyahu has a terrible way of reminding the world of awful truths at a time – has it ever been otherwise? – when most people including major politicians would like to look away.
One is reminded of an old very Jewish joke: Britain’s then general, Harold Alexander [the hero of the ordinary Tommy, not “the movie star” Gen.Bernard Montgomery] was making a protocol visit to a synagogue in Jerusalem. He was back in British Mandated Palestine to check out logistics for Britain’s see-sawing grim war in the Western Desert against legendary Nazi Gen. Erwin Rommel. The president of the Congregation made a little speech: “General, I want to you to know that everyday we pray 24 hours a day for an Allied victory in The Desert”. One of the little old congregants, in tallis and phylacteries, totters up, tugs the president’s sleeve, and whispers in Yiddish, “Don’t say that! If they lose, they will take it out on us”.
There was never any question of what would happen to the Mandate’s then small Jewish community if the Germans did break through. It was well known at the time that Hussein, the leader of the Arabs’ war against the Jews, had escaped British capture and was in Germany. [“Palestinian” did not designate the Arabs of the Mandate until the 1960s but contradictorily did the two Jewish brigades recruited in Tel Aviv fighting with the British in Italy].
Netanyahu, not for the first time of course, has been misinterepted, in that he did not suggest Hussein gave Hitler the idea of wiping out the Jews but simply that they had mutual ideas on the subject. [The Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942, which gathered high Nazi officials to lay out the techniques of the Holocaust would only take place a year after the publication of the official photograph of Hitler with Hussein.] It’s likely Hitler had already considered the ways in which he would try to extinguish the Jews long before Husseini recommended burning them, if he indeed he did.
Does any of this have relevance today?
Does the fact that the Palestinians only became Palestinians recently mean that their cause is any less just?
One is reminded that Ferhat Abbas, the leading Algerian intellectual, only a few years before the beginning of the bitter war by Algerian Muslims for independence from France, had questioned whether there was such a thing as an Algerian identity. He, like so many other Algerians, unlike Arab Muslims as well as those to be called Pieds Noir [Black Feet], European refugees, who later flooded into metropolitan France, came to believe in their “nationhood” as he came to be its first president on independence.
But whatever the present day claims of “The Palestinians” to “an independent state, living side-by-side in peace” with a Jewish Israel, the long history of Arab aggression and institutionalized hatred of and warfare against the Jews in that tiny piece of land must be taken into account. At a time when the Mainstream Media, again, distorts the fundamental aggression of Arab terrorists, in personal attacks, often on civilian targets, it is well to be reminded of the long history of violence and who perpetrated it.
Yes, it will be argued that the Jewish state is a colonial manifestation, the imposition of a Western culture in an aggression on a “native people”. That appeals as such leftwing rhetoric has so often to some American “political pilgrims” [see Paul Hollander’s Political Pilgrims: Western intellectuals in search of the good society]. They have in the last half century jumped from one miserable cause to another in search of perfection – Communist China, Castro Cuba, Sandinista Nicaragua, and now, “Palestine”, only to be disillusioned by oppression and corruption. Fulsome examination of a blind loyalty to “the Palestinian cause” will eventually return the same results.
Netanyahu, as brutally frank as he sometimes is, was right to remind us of this little tidbit of history.
sws-11-25-15

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Resovietizing Russia


 

While Vladimir Putin is busy challenging America’s role as leader of the free peoples, the Russian dictator is also refiguring his domestic scene in the Soviet image. In fact, one could make the argument that in many ways he has already accomplished that and to a degree even the old Soviets hands would have been envious. What Putin and his small band of supporters have done at home may in the long run be more important than his aggression against Ukraine, his support f the crumbling the al Bashar regime in Syria, and his feints at the Baltic states.

There are, of course, important historical differences to Soviet times. There is no Communist Party with its monopoly of power and its tentacles throughout the world. But Putin has eliminated, in all but name, any organized political opposition to his one-man coterie of hangers-on, some his old colleagues in the secret police and others profiteers from Russia’s new state capitalism. That too, is a difference: Russia no longer pretends to an oligarchic Soviet economy.

In fact, with 40% of its economy now dependent on oil and gas exports to Europe, Putin’s No. 1 problem is Western sanctions and the dynamite that American shale gas and oil technology has thrown under world energy prices. Supplying one third of the European Union’s energy imports, Putin despite the fall in world energy prices and the sanctions slapped on some of his buddies as a riposte to his efforts to take over Ukraine and Byelorussia, is desperatelyl trying to hang on to those ties.Gasprom, the world’s largest gas distribution network, is trying to expand its Nordstrom line down through the Baltic Sea. A state-controlled company, having squeezed out competitors and grabbed stakes of foreign oil companies in new fields in Sakhalin in the Far East, it is trying to dominate European distribution networks as well..

But Putin’s reversion to and dependence on a government elite which leeches off the economy as did the so-called nomenclatura, the Soviet leadership and bureaucracy, is all too familiar. In fact, Gennady Gudkov claims “there are now five to six times more bureaucrats in a Russia with 140 million population than there were in the entire USSR with its 286 million residents.” Gudkov, himself, one of the vanishing band of Putin’s critics. is a businessman and former member of the Duma [parliament] who has seen his business wither as he has become a victim of Putin’s persecution

Furthermore, the bureaucracy led by the chief bureaucrat, Putin himself, is acquiring more and more power. Even claptrap trimmings of the Soviet system have been abandoned – such as the largely fraudulent elections for regional governors. Even the billionaires who profit from their relationship within this highly personalized rule are vulnerable and can be – as several have in the recent past – fallen into disfavor and purgatory if not exile or jail.

Putin’s rule resembles, more than anything else, the style of a banana republic, with little or no hint of ideology. He does try – and gets cooperation – from the Russian Orthodox Church just as the tsarist regime did for centuries. But he continues to cultivate old Communist talisman, including the reenshrinement of Feliz Dzerzhinsky, the archleader of Soviet internal repression. It was Putin, after all, who said that the fall of the Soviet Union was the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century.

What characterizes Putin’s strategy, however, is the old role of a bully on the international stage. It was inevitable that U.S. policy, which under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, tried to find a “reset” button for American-Russian relations would fail. Reinstituting Moscow’s former glory is Putin’s only strategy to retain what is, alas!, his vast popularity at home and that requires an American enemy. Washington has no options in this situation: it must maintain a quiet, non-bellicose opposition to the Russian leader. Just as with the Soviet Union, the economic soft underbelly of the Putin regime is extremely vulnerable. Nothing would make more sense now than to reverse the Obama Administration’s policy and permit market forces to export American gas, and perhaps even oil, now in overabundance, to continue the disintegration of Russian markets and Europe’s dependence on that supply.

sws-11-14-15.

 

 

 

Readin, Ritin, Rithmetik


In another of those grabs for power, if slightly more subtle, Pres. Barrack Obama has laid out the government’s evaluation of the quality of tertiary educational institutions. It is another exercise of government power [and expenditure on unnecessary bureaucracy] that we did not need. There are innumerable independent and non-governmental sources for comparing individual university education in this country. Many, if not most, are relatively free of prejudice and conflicts of interest.
Above all else, that is not true of the federal government. It has a vested interest in distributing funds – in a variety of ways, from legitimate research grants to bogus efforts at affirmative action. It would be inevitable if these lines of support and ecommendations of universities were to cross.
But even more important, at least intellectually, is the obvious consideration that choosing a university – or not choosing one at all [more later] – is for the student and his [probably strapped parents] very much an individual consideration. It depends on everything from his desire to escape the old homestead as far as money can take him or those who want to remain a close to the feathered nest as possible. It depends on the student’s taste in exposure, whether he wants the anonymity of being a part of a huge mass audience or tended to in a small, intimate environment. Obviously the list of considerations goes on forever.
Obama on more than one occasion has alwo dropped into the automatic assumption as so many in the American elite – and professional educators – that college is for everyman. That’s despite the fact that recent California testing – and one has to be more than a little suspicions of the testors and their methodology – says too many high school graduates are just not up to challenge of a college curriculum.
That hardly comes as surprise: for half a century or more, most colleges have equired a freshman English course for the simple reason that the old grammar, elocution and even handwriting courses, have been abandoned for partial illiteracy. Many if not most high school graduates today have an inadequate comprehensive of their mother tongue, aggravated, of course, by the growing number of children who come from households where English may not be the mother tongue. This has been a part of abandoning many of the old standbys in secondary schooling. We have been startled to find the old phys ed has gone in many places, rewiring some basic hygiene and dietary instruction along with mandatory exercise. And we are surprise by the obesity figures!
There is the whole question of whether everyone should go to college. For many, if truth were told, it is a part of the lengthening adolescence in this society where the growing up is more and more thrust on the schools rather than taking place in the home and the society in general. For more than a hundred years, Germany has demonstrated that the higher forms of elementary education linked to private industry can well be an introduction to an alternate, worthwhile and prosperous lifestyle as a technician by providing an kind of indentureship to an industry along with the last years of formal education.
That this was once the case with many young immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century has been forgotten along the way. Many of us have immigrant grandparents who worked their way through night school where they learned English. Some even went to so-called trade schools and learned a “profesion” which did not require of them that they study history and technical subjects in a college enrvironment.
In a world where menial and unskilled jobs are being replaced faster than the blink of an eye through the digital revolution, it becomes even more important that we think of how to guide young people into technical skills that provide a livelihood. It’s a well known cliché among many employers now that they avoid the so-called graduates of college courses in information technology. The fact is that colleges are neither equipped nor are they sympatyhetic to that sort of teching. It would be far better that we create a new sort of technical high school which guarantees a young man or woman a technical education.
And that, as much as anything else, depends on return to some educational fundamentals that have been lost along the way. Old rote learning for some of the basics have been discarded for new and more erudite educational philosophies. And that has resulted, alas! in such ignorance of commonly held old knowledge that it intrudes on the new workplaces. We had the experience a few days ago of asking for shipping rates and found in both the major parcel companies that those answering the telephone could not neither spell Copenhagen nor quite identify where Denmark was!
But Obama’s new grab for instructing the unwashed mob on which university is the better one is not a contribution to the new education challenge awaiting us. And it is again another example of his fixation on big government as the solution to all our problems.
sws-09-13-15

The German Gamble


Chancellor Angela Merkel has dramatically reversed her position that her country could not take unlimited numbers of refugees seeking asylum from the chaos of the Mideast and North Africa.
We give her the benefit of the doubt: She changed her mind in the light of the enormous human tragedy taking place in Syria where as many as 220,000 have died in a cataclysmic civil war with millions sent into exile. The refugee flow out of the region has further dimensions; there are large numbers of people fleeing both Iraq and Afghanistan. And across the Mediterranean, large numbers are moving not only out of the chaos of Libya, but beyond the Desert, from Central and West Africa. The new German welcome this year will total 800,000 refugees in a population of 80 million, and the flow is on the increase.
The German welcome is stunning given the bitter history of that country’s minorities. This is not a generation which can be blamed in any way for the murder of its own Jews as well as those other six million of countries it temporarily occupied in World War II. But the experience with German gastabreiters [“guest workers”] during the 1960s and 70s who helped fuel the enormous German prosperity also has a troubled history. It was assumed that these workers, mostly Turks, would remain for two years. But when the agreement ended in 1973, it was clear that most, largely men, would not return to Turkey where there were no jobs and when German unemployment and other social welfare benefits were accorded them.
By 2010, there were some 10 million Turkish-speaking residents, many offspring of the original immigrants, but they were only partially schooled in German, and were not, for the most part, citizens. [Germany like most European nations uses jus sangjuinis, “the right of blood”, rather than place of birth as in the U.S. to grant citizenship.] Such questions as Christian sponsorship of much of German education, the growing Islamicist revivalism, traditional issues such as womne’s rights and headscarfs as a symbol of the veil, aggravated the overall problem of becoming “German”. Menschen mit Migrationshintergrund [people with a migratory background] is still a common term for these minority members born in Germany.
Now Germany proposes to absorb increasing numbers of Arabs and Black Africans – with the bitter experience of their neighbor France with its Muslim “no-go” North African ghettoes.
Why has the German mood turned around?
Implicity, although rarely discussed except in erudite economic terms, is Germany’s rapidly declining birthrate. It is producing a labor shortage and severe economic problems. So much so that Niklas Potrafke of the prestigious Ifo Institute argues Germany should spend this year’s budget surplus of $7.8 to $10 billion euros on refugees. “If Germany gets this right, it may just be solving part of its demographic problem for the next decade,” said Holger Schmieding, economist at Berenberg Bank.
That demographic threat is a serious obstacle to continued German prosperity. By 2060 there will be fewer than two Germans under 65 to work and generate taxes to support each German over 65. That means that age-related spending on pensions, health and long-term care is expected to rise a hefty five percentage points of national income by 2060.
Other Europeans are grumbling that Angela Merkel is creaming off the most economically useful of the asylum seekers, those exhibiting the ambition to risk life and limb fleeing to Europe. Other Europeans pushed by humanitarian concerns, will pick up the poorest, less educated, wounded physically and spiritually, at the bottom of the refugee barrel.
But taking in large numbers of young men who may not share nor want to learn German traditional values is a gamble that might threaten future governance in what is a rapidly diminishing traditional German polity.
sws-08-07-15

Greece: the real question


When the Euro was being proposed and in its early days, some of us had a question: could a common currency be possible within a group of countries all of whom maintained their own individual economic, monetary and fiscal policies?
When we got an answer back, which wasn’t too often, it came in myriad voices.
On one end were those who “promised” us that in some mysterious way this fundamental problem would be solved. At the other end of the spectrum were a few brave if somewhat idealistic souls who advocated the abolition of individual nation states for at least a federal if not a unitary political union for which the common currency would be a handmaiden.
In between, were all the spoken and unspoken solutions, verging from a seemingly commonsense vow that progress toward a commanding central bank and one policy would emerge out of the various European institutions – the bureaucratic European Commission, the nominal multilateral executive, the Council of Ministers and the relatively powerless European Parliament. In addition, this Christmas Tree was decorated with an additional four high-sounding named institutions such as the European Court.
Britain, of course, in the usual pragmatic way of the Anglo-Saxon constitutional process, opted out. It would not and could not abandon sterling, if no longer a challenge to the dollar as a world reserve currency, still served as a handmaiden to The City and the continuing profitable dominance and profitability of London as a leading world currency exchange.
Of course, in what could have easily been predicted would be the new order, each country went its own way. There was even continual conflict between Paris and Berlin, the two central pillars of the new money, with France always flirting with “dirigisme” – central planning – and Germany pretending, at least, to be a full-fledged market economy.
But while the big boys discussed the major issues interminably, the cat was away and the mice, they did play. It was far too easy for Athens [and to an extent Lisbon, Madrid and even Rome, a major EC player] to use their unlimited draw on the common currency to finance lifestyles to which they would like to become accustomed but for which they were either incapable of producing or for which they were unwilling to work hard enough to attain.
True, much of the Greek mess is historical. It has always been easy – with some tjustification — to blame it on the hated Turks’ Ottoman Empire heritage, but now a hundred years away.
Yet no one now speaks above the intense and infinitely complicated negotiations to trim Greece’s exceseses without killing its economy altogether, a game in which Athen’s shrewd if amoral leftwing government pulls the cat’s tail and dares it to take a fatal snap that would destroy the figment of a voluntary association of free nations.
sws-07-06-15