Friday, August 18, 2017

A REVIEW OF NIALL FERGUSON'S KISSINGER, VOLUME I: THE IDEALIST, 1923-1969.

This is a biography of an intellectual, but it is more than just an intellectual biography because , in the evolution of Kissinger’s thought, the interplay of study and experience was singularly close. For that reason, I have come to see this volume as what is known in Germany as a bildungsroman---the story of an education that was both philosophical and sentimental. The story is subdivided into five books. The first takes Kissinger from his childhood in interwar Germany through forced emigration to the United States and back to Germany in a U.S. Army uniform. The second is about his early Harvard career, as an undergraduate, a doctoral student, and a junior professor, but it is also about his emergence as a public intellectual as a result of his work on nuclear strategy for the Council on Foreign Relations. The third describes his first experiences as an adviser, first to a candidate for the presidency---Nelson Rockefeller—and then to a President---John F. Kennedy. The fourth leads him down the twisted road to Vietnam and to realization that the war there could not be won by the United States. The fifth and final book details the events leading up to his wholly unexpected appointment as national security advisor by Nixon.”
Niall Ferguson. Kissinger. Volume I. 1923-1969: The Idealist. (2015), pp. 31-32.
If history teaches anything it is that there can be no peace without equilibrium and no justice without restraint. But I believe equally that no nation could face or even define its choices without a moral compass that set a course through the ambiguities of reality and thus made sacrifices meaningful”.
Henry A. Kissinger. The White House Years. (1979), p. 55.
What can one say about Niall Ferguson’s voluminous, nay grandiose first of two, three or even four volume official biography of ‘Super K’? That it is a superbly written book. A book which shows a deep immersion into both the available (in many cases only available to Ferguson) primary sources as well as the mountainous secondary literature. And that he has, regardless of any minor errata that the book contains, or differences in interpretation, written the definitive first half of Kissinger’s vita. So, with that being said and understood, what does Ferguson make of Kissinger and what does the reader make of Ferguson’s Kissinger? That in many ways, Kissinger was a part and parcel of the ‘Greatest Generation’. The generation of men who were adolescents during the Great Depression, fought in World War II and subsequently went off to University due to the GI bill and were the pilots in charge of the ship of state when it ran aground in that shoal called ‘Indochina’. In the case of Kissinger, he appears to have come through life experiences: being a Jew in Nazi Germany, an intelligence soldier (not an officer), in the midst of the hard battles of the Western front from mid-1944 to the Spring of 1945, a Jew again in a liberated Nazi Germany who witnessed at first hand the abysmal horrors of the concentration and death camps, with virtually no psychological trauma or scars. Indeed, au fond, Kissinger gives the appearance, because no doubt it is true that he is that species called the American immigrant ‘type-A’. Someone for who the usual emotional difficulties that immigrants suffer in America, were merely phases and experiences to be gotten over and passed-through. Not the stuff that one goes to an analyst to ‘discuss’ and then ponder and psychologically wrestle with. Indeed, the word ‘weltschmerz’, and Kissinger based upon this book do not only not belong in the same sentence, they do not even belong in the same book. Equally illuminating and I would argue groundbreaking is that Kissinger quickly became and no doubt remains to this very day, a one-hundred percent American. Per contra to the usual stereotype of Kissinger as a European émigré intellectual, a combination Dr. Strangelove and Humbert Humbert, he was in fact an American to his finger tips in his allegiances and his intellectual background. So much so that as he admitted to his ex-Harvard colleague (and my old Professor) MacGeorge Bundy, his German vocabulary: “is not good enough to speak extemporaneously on a complicated subject. Because my secondary and higher education was in English, all my thinking on international and military affairs has been in English also”. Albeit, in a fact not noted by Ferguson, it was President Kenned's dismissal of him as "ponderous and long-winded", rather than Bundy's maneuvering which prevented Kissinger from obtaining a permanent appointment in the administration 1. For Kissinger the Jamesian stance of a George Kennan about the United States, its domestic polity and its foibles in world affairs is conspicuous by its absence in his own case 2. Similarly, per contra to John Lewis Gaddis statement that Kissinger was the natural heir to Kennan’s concept (as opposed to Paul Nitze’s concept) of containment, with its stress on the importance of concentrating on the important zones of England, Western Europe, North America and Japan, there is nothing in Ferguson’s opus to indicate anything of the sort 3. Indeed, unlike say Hans J. Morgenthau, Kissinger does not (in Ferguson’s reading) appear to have given any deep thought to the fact that based upon any realpolitik analysis, the entire American commitment to South Vietnam, circa 1954 onwards was non-sensical 4. Indeed, despite his private pessimism about the eventual success of the American military and political effort, it is quite apparent from Ferguson’s account that Kissinger was indeed a ‘true believer’ as it pertains to the nominal American ‘mission’ in support of the Government in Saigon 5. Which highlights a point that Ferguson brings up constantly in his narrative: namely that contrary to most of the commentary on Kissinger, in fact ‘Super K’, was not an adherent of realpolitik or machtpolitik 6. Following in the path of Peter Dickson, Ferguson makes a good argument that it was Kant and not Metternich or Bismarck who influenced his thinking on international relations. The only flaw in it, to my mind is the fact going back to the mid-1950’s, we can see a sort of hero-worship (if one wishes to characterize it as such) by Kissinger of such figures as Chou En-Lai , Stalin and Mao. Something which of course became much more transparent in his diplomacy towards the PRC in the 1970’s, his memoirs covering the same and his writings afterwards. The requisite quotation (not quoted in this enormous book) is as follows:
Whatever the qualities of the Soviet Leadership, its training is eminently political and conceptual. Reading Lenin or Mao or Stalin, one is struck by the emphasis on the relationship between political, military, psychological and economic factors, the insistence on finding a conceptual basis for political action and on the need for dominating a situation by flexible tactics and inflexible purpose. And the internal struggles in the Kremlin ensure that only the most iron-nerved reach the top.....As a result, the contest between us and the Soviet system has had many of the attributes of any contest between a professional and an amateur.” 7.
One can only hope that this is a subject matter which Professor Ferguson will discuss at some length in the next volume of this superb biography.
1. Ferguson, op. cit., p. 487. On Kennedy's negative view of Kissinger, see: Lawrence Freedman. Kennedy's Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam. (2000), p. 68.
2. See: Walter Hickson. Cold War Iconoclast (1988). David Allen Mayers. George Kennan and the dilemmas of American Foreign Policy. (1988). Anders Stephanson. Kennan and the Art of Foreign Policy. (1989). In the latter (page 215), there is a revealing quote in which it is noted that: "he [Kennan] toyed with the idea, the drastic alternative of exile, along the lines of Henry James and T. S. Eliot, to a more organic society". Comments which are conspicuously absent from Ferguson's text in re Kissinger of course. Kennan's own memoirs are full of similar sentiments.
3. For Gaddis’ assertion see: Strategies of Containment. (2005), pp. 279-281 and passim.
4. Ferguson, op. cit., pp. 621-656 and passim.
5. Ibid., pp. 659-689 and passim.
6. For a typical example of this, see: “Kissinger’s dissertation, which gained him a Ph. D. in May 1954, was also a statement of the author’s worldview. He was, and would remain, a firm believer in realpolitik, in the primacy of geopolitics and the balance of power”. In Jussi Hanhimaki. The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy. (2004), p. 7 and passim. For Peter Dickson’s study, see: Peter W. Dickson. Kissinger and the meaning of History. (1978).
7. See: Henry A. Kissinger. Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. (1957), pp. 434-435. For the more illuminating examples of Kissinger's near sycophantic interaction with both Mao & Chou, see: William Burr. The Kissinger Transcripts: the top secret talks with Beijing and Moscow. (1999), p. 86-110 and passim.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

THE MASSACRE IN BARCELONA: A COMMENT

"A van driver deliberately zigzagged into a crowd enjoying a sunny afternoon on Barcelona’s main pedestrian mall Thursday, killing at least 13 people and leaving 80 lying bloodied on the pavement. It was the worst terrorist attack in Spain since 2004, and was at least the sixth time in the past few years that assailants using vehicles as deadly weapons have struck a European city. The police cordoned off the Plaza de Cataluña and Las Ramblas in the heart of Barcelona, both tourist destinations, and began a chaotic pursuit for the people who carried out the attack. Two people were later arrested, including a Moroccan man whose identification documents had been used to rent the van. But the Barcelona police said neither was believed to be the driver, who remained at large. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the assault, which shattered a peaceful summer afternoon in one of Europe’s most picturesque cities. President Trump and other Western leaders quickly condemned the attack and pledged cooperation".
ANNE-SOPHIE BOLON, PALKO KARASZ and JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr, "Van Hits Pedestrians in Deadly Barcelona Terror Attack". The New York Times. 17 August 2017, in www.nytimes.com.
"Most organised human societies are plagued by terrorism. Within any structured system there will be a political spectrum, and at the ends of this spectrum there will be extremes populated by people who feel the rest of the society is not hearing a political message they need to be awoken to. Last week, Jonathan Evans, the former head of the UK security service MI5, said he believes that Britain will have to confront Islamist terrorism for at least another 20 years. And the reality is that once we have dealt with that strain of the virus, it will simply morph into a new form. To get to the origins of violent Islamist terrorism, one has to go back far beyond the spectacular attacks on the US on September 11 2001 to 1979, a year that rocked the Muslim world. The Iranian revolution, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the siege at the Grand Mosque in Mecca by a group of fanatics all showed the violent force of fundamentalist ideas and their power to upend the established order. These three events showed how violent political movements inspired by Islamic theology could threaten superpowers. This was the lesson drawn by the architects of al-Qaeda’s confrontation with the west that culminated on 9/11. Isis is in many ways simply an evolution from that. The attacks on New York and Washington DC almost 16 years ago were not the first time that terrorism had been visited on the west, of course. Before 9/11, Europe had endured successive waves of terrorist violence. Those responsible included right and leftwing groupuscules, separatist outfits such as the IRA and Eta, Middle Eastern networks often linked to the intelligence services of hostile states, and (in the case of France in particular) violent Islamists linked to Algeria and the conflict in Bosnia".
Raffaello Pantucci, "Terrorism will always be with us". The Financial Times. 15 August 2017, in www.ft.com.
The easy cynicism of the bient-pensant liberal, post-enlightenment intelligentsia on the subject of terrorism can be seen on full display in Mr. Pantucci's commentary of two days ago 1. To-day of course we have been forcible reminded that while it is easy (nay far too easy) for bien-pensant commentators like Mr. Pantucci to state that 'terrorism will always be with us', the brutality of that cynicism is exposed for what it is by the events of Barcelona. Of course the sheer mendacity of Mr. Pantucci's comments and those like them are exposed by the fact that people like him would never in a hundred-years, nay a thousand-years state that (to give some easy examples): 'racism will always be with us', 'sexism will always be with us', 'inequality will always be with us', et cetera, et cetera. As per the gist of Mr. Pantucci's argument, it contains aspects which are both accurate and inaccurate. Where Mr. Pantucci's argument is truthful and empirically verifiable, is in his contention that the Muslim extremist violence of the past twenty some years are per se, nothing new. And that Western societies have had problems with terrorism since the early 1970's. Indeed it would be accurate to state that even the numbers killed by Muslim terrorists were to remain at the elevated level of years 2015 and 2016, it would still not come to more than half the total number of attacks and deaths that Europe saw in the 1970's and 1980's 2. Where however Mr. Pantucci's arguments is in erratum, is his thesis that one type of terrorism inevitably replaces another. History shows that this is in fact erroneous. Viz: prior to 1969-1970, terrorism was a non-existent problem in the Western World. Similarly, in the case of Western Europe, terrorist attacks and deaths went down remarkably as old political conflicts in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country were settled or began to be settled. And then for approximately ten-years, European figures on terrorist attacks and deaths by the same went down greatly. In the case of the United States, the number of terrorist attacks and deaths from the same went down drastically from the late 1970's to a low point in 1994. Thereafter with the rise of Muslim extremism and violence in Western societies, does the figures go higher. Of course it is good to be reminded that comparing absolute numbers of deaths from the 1970's and the 1980's with those of the past ten to fifteen years is something akin to a mugs game due to the fact that many injuries which thirty or forty years ago, resulted in someone dying would to-day, due to advances in medicine, merely result in injury and prolonged hospitalization. My larger point herein, aside from exposing the fallacious arguments of Mr. Pantucci and those like him, is to show that Muslim terrorism is both extraordinary (in its violence and its evilness) and yet treatable. It does not require that our Western societies be cowed in fear and craven-like appeasement to those elements who engage in such violence. What our societies need to do is to tackle the problem of Muslim violence head-on with iron gloves. Engage and try to support, 'moderate Muslims' (insofar as they exist) and deport, banish, and drive-out of our societies those Muslims, many of them economic migrants or 'refugees', who engage and or support violence, extremism and or engage in it. What Western societies need is to restore faith in itself. In its basic and fundamental beliefs and verities: Christianity, the rule of law, equality of opportunity, neighborliness even. Au fond, Western society of fifty or forty years ago, were in the mots of George Orwell, akin to a family (albeit in his words: "A family with the wrong members in control") 3. What is needed and required, via a strict control of third-world immigration is to endeavor to return to those halcyon feelings and day before it is too late.
1. See for a similar type of argument. Not as cynical of course: Martin Wolf, "Overreaction to the terrorist threat is the perpetrators’ prize". The Financial Times. 29 June 2017 in www.ft.com.
2. Data Team, "Terrorist atrocities in western Europe". The Economist. 23 March 2017, in www.economist.com.
3. George Orwell. The Lion and the Unicorn. Part One: England your England. (1940).

Monday, August 14, 2017

THE KOREAN CRISIS ANEW: WHAT HISTORY SUGGESTS MAY PERHAPS BE THE VERY BEST OPTION

"In his acclaimed book The Sleepwalkers, Christopher Clark wrote about how the great powers of 1914 stumbled into a pan-European war that not only destroyed much of the continent, but unleashed destructive forces that defined the global order for much of the following century. Some of us fear that we are sleepwalking again, blindly unaware of the abyss that lies ahead. As a Chinese friend reminded me recently, war has its own logic. So too do crises. History teaches us they are both hard to stop once they start. The greatest global flash point today is the Korean peninsula. Most analysts regard crisis and conflict over the North Korean nuclear programme as improbable. They are right. But the uncomfortable truth is that it is now becoming more possible".
Kevin Rudd, "Creative diplomacy is vital to defuse Korean crisis". The Financial Times. 11 August 2017, in www.ft.com.
"The whole position of the United States is in the balance".
Dean Acheson, position paper dated the 28th of June 1961 on the Berlin Crisis. In Lawrence Friedman. Kennedy's Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam. (2000), p. 67.
"We cannot and will not permit the communists to drive us out of Berlin, either gradually or by force....In the thermonuclear age, any misjudgment on either side about the intentions of the other could rain more devastation in several hours than has been wrought in all wars of human history".
President John F. Kennedy, Speech on the Berlin Crisis, 25 July 1961, in Friedman, op. cit., p. 71.
History while far from an exact science, does and can tell us a few things concerning the ongoing crisis over North Korea and its mercurial leader. First is that for all the bloodcurdling rhetoric by Mr. Kim Jong Un, as well as its missile and nuclear programme, the fact of the matter is that there is little likelihood that North Korea will unilaterally attack any of its neighbors of the United States. The North Korean nuclear programme is a very expensive and dangerous insurance policy for Mr. Kim. He possesses it, in the expectation that by possessing these weapons and by constructing systems which will allow him to fire nuclear warheads at the United States, that he will ensure the safety of his regime. In point of fact, with the ongoing and now recently strengthened sanctions on his regime, it is far more likely that some day soon, if not this year than in five to ten years from now, the current regime in North Korea will collapse. There most likely will be some coup d'etat by some internal enemy who will: a) oust and probably kill Mr. Kim; b) once 'a' occurs the regime will quickly begin to implode from within. With the eventual crisis resulting in the reunification of the two Koreas and the ending of the North Korean nuclear threat. The upshot is that just as the Americans and their allies withstood the rhetorical blasts of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in the years (1958-1962) of the Berlin Crises, so must they do the same now. What occurred was that history was ultimately on the side of the West, the Americans and their allies and the stalemate that ended the crisis, eventually collapsed with the collapse of the DDR in November 1989. It took of course almost thirty years for this to occur. But occur it did. And it is my prognosis that similarly, in due course the regime in North Korea will also eventually collapse, and there is accordingly, absolutely no point in the least to either be provoked by North Korean rhetoric or for that matter North Korean stunts (missiles which are fired off and which hit nothing except empty air and the blue waters of the Pacific). North Korea au fond is a land and a regime of the past. Just as the DDR was. And it will suffer the very same fate. What the Americans and their allies the South Koreans and the Japanese need to do is to keep their nerves and a stiff upper lip while this hoped for event does indeed occur. Accordingly, the less said by the mentally challenged American President the better.

Monday, July 24, 2017

THE ENDGAME FOR THE OPPOSITION IN SYRIA: A COMMENT

"Trump’s termination of CIA funds to Syrian rebels signals the death knell for Western efforts to roll back Iranian and Russian power in the Levant. The reassertion of Assad’s control over much of Syria underlines the success of Iran’s policy in the Northern Middle East. Western efforts to overturn Assad and bring to power a Sunni ascendency in Syria have failed as have efforts to flip Syria out of Russia’s and Iran’s orbit and into that of the United States and Saudi Arabia. The cut off of CIA funding for Syria’s rebels is the raggedy ending of America’s failed regime-change policy in Syria and the region at large. President Trump called the wars in the Middle East “stupid wars” during his campaign. He called America’s policy of regime-change a “failed policy.” This is his effort to concentrate narrowly on eliminating ISIS and ending Washington’s effort to drive Assad from power by force of arms. He believes that by working with the Russians, the United States will destroy ISIS more quickly. It should be added that Syria’s military, with Russian backing, has killed hundreds of ISIS fighters in the last several months. It has driven ISIS from territory twice the six of Lebanon in the last two months alone. Further efforts to weaken the Syrian Army could only slow ISIS’s demise. Many Western leaders have preceded Trump in coming to the conclusion that Assad is staying in power. They no longer believe that driving Assad from Damascus by force of arms is realistic. President Macron has articulated this position for the EU. The end of Western support for Syria’s militant opposition has been clear since radicals began setting off bombs in European capitals. Trump’s decision to stop support for Syrian rebels will be the final nail in the coffin of those factions which draw salaries from the CIA. They will be forced to pursue other careers. More radical groups, such as those historically connected to al-Qaida and Ahrar al-Sham will also suffer from this decision. The radical militias prey on the weaker ones. They extort arms and money from the CIA-supported factions. The porous Syrian border with Turkey can now also be shut more tightly. The need to push resources to the CIA-vetted militias, kept border crossings open to all rebels, including al-Qaida. Factions merge and regroup with such regularity, that border guards could not know who was fighting for what end. This is the last gasp for America’s policy of regime-change which has so compromised its efforts to promote democracy and human rights in a part of the world that needs both".
Joshua Landis, "End of US Support for Syrian Rebels Sounds Death Knell for Attempt to Roll Back Iran & Russia in Syria – By Joshua Landis". Syria Comment. 23 July 2017, in www.syriacomment.com.
"I have never subscribed to the idea that the Assad regime was about to collapse due to the protests in the various cities. And indeed the fact that the regime is able to both parlay with the Arab League on a so-called 'peace plan', while at the same time employ overwhelming force in the city of Homs and elsewhere merely shows that the regime is absolutely determined, come what may to remain in control of the country 1. And that any pour parlers with the Arab League or for that matter anyone else is merely a diplomatic smokescreen to divide et impera any potential international coalition in opposition to the Syrian regime from forming, `a la what occurred in the case of Libyan this past Spring. With the likelihood of either Turkey or NATO intervening militarily being the ultimate non-starter. In short, I for one, cannot fathom at the present time, any short-term collapse of rule of Assad Fils and his clique. To imagine anything else is merely a phantasm of the highest order".
Charles Coutinho, "SYRIA: IS THE END IN SIGHT FOR THE ASSAD REGIME?" Diplomat of the Future. 10 November 2011, in www.diplomatofthefuture.blogspot.com.
One does not have to necessarily agree with everything that Professor Joshua Landis has to say on the subject of the Syrian Civil War to acknowledge that he is without a doubt one of the leading experts on all matters Syrian in the United States. In the case of the reported change in American policy, it is obvious that the good Professor, an old acquaintance of mine, agrees with the decision by the Trump Administration to in effect 'drop' support for the Syrian rebels. That whatever may have been the one-time hopes for ousting the regime of Assad Fils, that those hopes are now strictly speaking eyewash and fantasy. That by intervening in the half-hearted manner that it did so, the Americans and their allies in the West (not, mind you their local Sunni Arab ones) have lost whatever opportunity once existed to perhaps over-throw Assad. Professor Landis would have said and did in fact say that any such hopes were always very slim indeed, once Moskva decided in 2012, to increase its support for Assad come what may in conjunction with Persia. That once that occurred then only a major military intervention by the West would have changed the calculus on the battlefield. And for reasons cited by many individuals (myself included) there was never any reason to expect that the Western powers were prepared to intervene overtly to overthrow Assad Fils. That both for reasons of realpolitik (Syria has never been a 'major' American / Western interest), and primat der Innenpolitik (any major military intervention would have been wildly unpopular outside of bient-pensant liberal intelligentsia), there was never any real likelihood of Western intervention occurring. Instead a halfway house type of intervention by the Western powers, of indirect military assistance to some not very credible and effective militias was the only game in town. And that game did not play out very effectively, except for the Syrian Kurds. And the Kurds of course have their own, limited agenda. An agenda which does not include overthrowing Assad. In short, it could be very well to argue that whatever one thinks of the Trump regime, the fact is that it is time to call it quits as per Western policy in Syria. And that for the foreseeable future, Assad Fils, et. al., will be in power and control in Damascus. That may strike many people as a horrid result of almost six-years of civil war, but I do not see any other possibility on the horizon. To expect anything else at this point in time would be the very mid-summer of madness. And that the only Western interest in Syria is to combine with Assad and his not very appealing allies (A/K/A Moskva and Persia) to destroy the Islamic State monstrosity. Pur et simple.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

DONALD TRUMP AND THE QUESTION OF IS IT 'STUPIDITY OR TREASON'?

"Whom US presidents engage and how they engage in settings such as these can have lasting implications for foreign policy and the US’s relationships with allies and adversaries. That is why presidents and cabinet members always follow a set of rules on engaging foreign leaders, rules that Mr Trump recklessly disregarded in his one-hour meeting with Mr Putin.... For one reason or another, while he was at the G20 dinner, Mr Trump decided that, irrespective of what his team had spent months planning, he would disregard both their guidance and standard protocol and meet Mr Putin for a second time. How do we know his team had not planned for an informal pull aside with Russia at the dinner? They did not send a translator who spoke Russian. There are many reasons why this unplanned meeting with Mr Putin is so disturbing and dangerous. Most troubling is that the presidents of Russia and the US met without staff and an American translator. Doing so gave the Russians a huge advantage. It enabled Mr Putin to say things he might not have said in the presence of his own staff or Mr Trump’s. It ensured that there would not be any formal record of the conversation, granting Russia as much control over the narrative as the US. And it allowed Mr Putin to claim something was “lost in translation” if, as is often the case, he fails to follow through in the future on a promise made to Mr Trump. The latter will probably live to regret ceding control of the meeting. Equally troubling was the fact that the meeting lasted an hour, which means it was neither happenstance nor a brief pull aside. If the two leaders met for an hour, we can be sure they were not comparing notes on the food. The US president was discussing policy with the president of a country actively working to undermine democratic institutions on both sides of the Atlantic. Did Mr Trump, with his notorious pro-Russian views, promise to lift sanctions, give up on Ukraine or ignore Russia’s human rights abuses at home? We will never know. Finally, the discussion took place in front of all the other attendees, including some countries that failed to secure even one meeting with Mr Trump. The optics of this discussion — Mr Trump and Mr Putin sitting together for an hour — will not have gone unnoticed by the US’s closest allies. It sent a clear signal about how much the US values Russia, a signal that Mr Putin certainly relished.".
Julianne Smith, "Putting aside protocol spells danger for Donald Trump". The Financial Times. 20 July 2017, in www.ft.com.
"Does it matter, gentlemen, as a practical question, whether we are, in the present case, dealing with stupidity or treason? When the Duma keeps everlastingly insisting that the rear must be organized for a successful struggle, the Government persists in claiming that organizing the country means organizing a revolution, and deliberately prefers chaos and disorganization. What is it, stupidity or treason"?
Pavel Milyukov, Leader of the Kadet Party, in speech to the Russian State Duma on the 14th of November 1916.
There are two ways of analyzing the Trumperian behavior at the G-20 summit in having an unscheduled and it would appear a completely unbriefed and unprepared meeting with the Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin: first that like a wayward and ill-disciplined child, President Trump had this unscheduled meeting with Grazhdanin Putin because he 'wanted to' and that was that. There was nothing untowards meant nor discussed, merely like a five-year old who has been told that he cannot take a chocolate biscuit, will when no one is around he immediately endeavor to reach around and eat said biscuit. Pur et simple. Nothing malevolent, merely au fond endemic stupidity. The second way of looking at the matter is that President Trump is some species of a 'Manchurian Candidate', who has been parachuted into the American Presidency. And that everything that he does between now and the day that he leaves office is for purposes of pleasing his Russian puppet masters. The second scenario may perhaps be in fact true. I do hope that it is not. But until sufficient evidence comes into play to prove that, I believe that it is more likely that Trump is merely behaving like a five-year old child and the more backward variant of those do have a tendency to engage in this type of stupidity. Which is not to deny that there are dangers in this type of behavior. Nor that for the most part, ignoring protocol is indeed dangerous and that diplomatic protocol exists for a reason. Unfortunately, five-year old children tend to be impervious to the reasoning of adults.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

HENRY KISSINGER AT THE LOTOS CLUB

"Doctrinaire...yet devious, because the very certainty of his [Fürst von Metternich] convictions made him extremely flexible in his choice of means; matter-of-fact and aloof; coldly pursuing the art of statecraft. His characteristic quality was tact, the sensibility to nuance....A mediocre strategist but a great tactician, he was a master of the set battle in periods when the framework was given or the objectives imposed from the outside."
Henry A. Kissinger. A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the problems of peace, 1812-1822. (1957).
Last month former Secretary of State Dr. Henry A. Kissinger was honored with a 'state dinner' at the Lotos Club here in Manhattan. I was one of the attendees. The following are some of the remarks made by Secretary Kissinger, at this event:
"The importance of the relationship between the Peoples Republic of China and the United States in the contemporary world. The need for these two countries understand each other. The PRC has had three phases in its history so far: a) Mao; b) Deng; c) Li, the current President. It is most important that Peking learns to live with other countries as equals. We live in post-1648, Westphalian International system. The need for a new international order to incorporate each of us to mutual recognition. The next decade will show if the Peoples Republic will be adversaries or partners of the United States. Failure to form a partnership will result in a possible Great War scenario. There is a need to develop a dialogue and rules in which the International system is re-founded. The 'one-belt, one-road' concept is not a military one, but a peaceful one. The Chinese and the American concepts of diplomacy are very different. The peace of the world depends upon dialogue between these two countries. They are not permanent adversaries. Even with all the specific issues at hand, we are still in a hopeful period. I am hopeful about the future. A new international order is on the cusp of the future" (sic).
What is one to make of these comments? I for one believe that they are of a piece with the general line that Secretary Kissinger has been enunciating for the past twenty to twenty-five years. That the Peoples Republic is not a revisionist power and that it wishes to be integrated into the existing (formerly, now it is in some future) international system. Secretary Kissinger's analysis is flawed by virtue of his forgetting one of the points that he himself enunciated in A World Restored. That the continental power's (then Austria, now China) foreign policy was and is a function of its domestic political structure. A/K/A primat der Innenpolitik 1. The primacy of domestic policy in determining foreign policy. The regime in Peking's legitimacy and raison d'etre is founded upon its extreme version of Chinese Nationalism. This discourse mandates among other things that the Senkaku Islands, Formosa, various points in the South China Seas all belong to China. China's pursuit of a aggressive policy towards its neighbors in the past eight to ten years is a function of this domestic political imperative. Unless and until the current regime in power in Peking is overthrown, then there is nothing to suggest that the Peoples Republic will move away from its current aggressive and revisionist stance towards almost all of its neighbors. It is highly unfortunate that a master tactician (albeit not strategist) such as Secretary Kissinger should for reasons of ignorance (he was never a China 'expert') and hubris continue to peddle this outworn view of what is now, along with Russia, the leading disrupter of the international system.
1. See: "Metternich, the statesman of a power situated in the centre of the Continent, sought above all to forestall upheavals....Oppressed by the vulnerability of its domestic structure in an age of nationalism, the polyglot Austro-Hungarian (sic) empire insisted on a generalized right of interference to defeat social unrest wherever it occurred." Kissinger, op cit., p. 5.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TWO CHEERS FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP'S WARSAW SPEECH

"Addressing a large crowd on Thursday in Warsaw, Mr Trump hit out at Russian actions in Ukraine and urged Moscow to “cease . . . support for hostile regimes, including Syria and Iran”. The remarks came just hours before Mr Trump flew to Hamburg for the G20 summit, which is expected to be fractious because of acute differences over issues from climate policy to trade and tackling North Korea. He will also hold his first meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin at a time of rising tensions between Washington and Moscow.  While Mr Trump lavished praise on Poland for meeting the Nato goal of spending two per cent of GDP on defence, he renewed his criticism of other nations — such as Germany, albeit not by name — that have not met the target. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor who is hosting the G20 gathering, is due to meet the US president on Thursday. But in comments welcomed by the alliance, Mr Trump said the US strongly backed the mutual defence component of the Nato treaty, something he had controversially refrained from doing when he recently attended his first Nato summit. “To those who would criticise our tough stance, I would point out that the US has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defence commitment,” Mr Trump said.  In a speech that had some echoes of his inauguration address, Mr Trump cast the challenges facing the west in stark terms, saying “the fundamental question of our time is whether the west has the will to survive”, in reference to a range of threats that he said included “radical Islamistic terrorism” and government bureaucracy".
James Shotter & Demetri Sevastopulo, "Donald Trump criticises Russia ahead of G20 meeting with Putin". The Financial Times. 6 July 2017, in www.ft.com
"The key passage in the Trump speech went as follows: “The fundamental question of our time is whether the west has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilisation in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?” Read at face value, this passage seems exceptionally melodramatic. Does anybody seriously doubt that the west has “the will to survive”? Mr Trump’s underlying point only becomes clear in the context of the later sentence: “Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders...?” It also means that Mr Trump is on a similar wavelength to the Polish government, which has strongly objected to accepting Muslim refugees, as part of an EU-backed resettlement programme. Finally, the Trump argument tacitly labels Angela Merkel as one of those who lack the “desire and courage” to protect western civilisation. After all, it was the German chancellor who allowed more than 1m refugees, mainly from Muslim countries, to enter Germany in 2015. But Ms Merkel’s supporters, in Germany and overseas, regard the German chancellor as the true defender of western values — and President Trump as the real threat. Beyond the personalities, the argument comes down to a question of what “the west” really means. In Warsaw, Mr Trump flirted with a civilisational view of the west. He argued that “we write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand new frontiers.” But for many western liberals, the west is defined less by cultural achievements and “timeless traditions” than by a set of political ideas. Those ideas include political pluralism, freedom-of-speech and — at least in modern times — a belief in the primacy of the individual, rather than the tribe. To be fair to Mr Trump, he also nodded in this direction, arguing that in the west “we treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression”. But, coming from a president who has sacked the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and who attacks the “fake media” at every opportunity, those words lack conviction."
Gideon Rachman, "Donald Trump’s speech on the west lacks conviction". The Financial Times. 7 July 2017, in www.ft.com.
Donald Trump's speech in Warsaw was and is worthy of at least two 'hurrahs'. It would of course have been an even better speech if it was delivered by someone, anyone else: Secretary Clinton, the ex-Junior Senator from Illinois with the absurd name, Mitt Romney, indeed almost anyone. As it is, the speech highlighted in a way that his predecessor singularly failed to do so in his Cairo Speech of 2009, the fact that Western Civilization has in comparison to everyone else much to be proud of and much to celebrate. And that the other nations and regions of the world, would be infinitely better off in adopting, in as organic and Burkean fashion as is possible, those self-same qualities which have raised North America and Europe to the eminent position that they occupy at present. A position which as Trump correctly stated is under threat due to our bien-pensant liberal, bourgeois, post-enlightenment elites (which Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times is a perfect example if not in fact a parody), forgetting the sinews of those values and truths: Christianity, political pluralism, free-enterprise, community, order, which have raised the West to its current position. As the scholar and political commentator, Victor David Hanson correctly noted, while it is truly ironic (and indeed au fond rather depressing) that Donald J. Trump of all people had to deliver this particular speech, that per se does not obviate the verity of its contents:
"The billionaire, thrice-married, and creature-of-luxury Donald Trump, in his 70th year, was warning the West in Poland that precisely because it is very rich, extremely wealthy, singularly leisured, and technologically sophisticated, it faces the most peril — amid failed enemies who hate those who are more successful for encouraging their own taboo desires for something that they cannot create. In sum, Trump’s anti-Cairo message is that only a disciplined, strong West — confident in its past and sure of its present success — will deter enemies, appeal to neutrals, and keep friends. Trump should not have had a need to deliver such a self-evident but now rare message. That he alone had the courage to state the obvious — and was criticized for doing so — reminds us that the corrective to our Western malady is seen as the problem, not the cure" 1.
1. Victor David Hanson, "Trump’s Anti-Cairo Speech". The National Review. 11 July A. D. 2017, in www.nationalreview.com.