WELCOME TO THE CLUB:

July 19, 2007

In Africa, an island of democracy asks: Where is US help?: Somaliland, a breakaway republic of Somalia, considers itself a model for the region. (Ginny Hill, 7/19/07, The Christian Science Monitor)

During the last 16 years, as Somalia has torn itself apart, Somaliland’s leaders have disbanded a guerrilla movement, drafted a constitution, and held multiparty elections.

Development consultant Mark Bradbury, who monitored parliamentary elections in 2005, says the republic performs as well as, if not better than, other countries in the region, such as Ethiopia and Eritrea, on public participation in the democratic process and freedom of speech. Said Noor, the foreign minister, goes one step further: “We have created a modern, African parliamentary system. It’s a model for the region.”

Civil war is our friend.


DIPLOMATS DON'T GET TO DETERMINE BORDERS, PEOPLES DO:

July 19, 2007

The Old World Order (ADAM KIRSCH, July 18, 2007, NY Sun)

Like the peace-makers at the end of every great war, the powers who assembled at Vienna promised the world that its sacrifices would not go for nothing. Napoleon had redrawn the map of Europe according to his own wishes, erasing a country here and creating one there, turning monarchs into paupers and his relatives and henchmen into kings. But the Allies, led by the moralistic and self-mythologizing Tsar Alexander, had vowed that they were fighting to return the principles of justice to international affairs. Mr. Zamoyski, who finds Alexander a repellent but irresistible subject, writes that the tsar “had come to view his struggle with the French Emperor not only as a personal contest, or as a clash between two empires, but as a veritable Armageddon between good and evil.”

The problem was that good did not defeat Napoleon; the armies of three monarchs did, and each of those monarchs had his own vision for postwar Europe. Combining impressive scholarship — “Rites of Peace” cites sources in English, French, Russian and German — and a gift for clear narrative, Mr. Zamoyski unravels the tangle of motives and propaganda to show just what was at stake for each participant in the Congress. France, ironically, had the least to gain or lose. Her borders had been decided on months earlier, when the allied armies entered Paris. Instead, the major problems had to do with Poland and Germany, whose political arrangements had been thrown into complete chaos by the war.

Geographically, the problem at Vienna was roughly the same as the one facing the Allies at Potsdam in 1945. Russia, which bore the brunt of the war against Napoleon, had marched its armies across Europe and was now effectively in control of Poland and much of Prussia. Alexander, who had a messianic dream of restoring Poland to the map as a kingdom under his control, refused to give back the parts of Poland that had formerly belonged to Prussia. As a result, Prussia sought compensation to the west, demanding to annex the independent kingdom of Saxony. Austria, meanwhile, under the wily conservative Metternich, hoped to maintain a balance of power, to rein in Alexander’s ambitions, and to keep Prussia from dominating the smaller German states. It was a thoroughly unedifying spectacle, in which the great powers swapped cities and provinces like horse-traders, while the claims of small nations were ruthlessly ignored.

By the time the Congress produced its Final Act, in June 1815 — after a hiatus for Napoleon’s Hundred Days, a romantic episode to which Mr. Zamoyski devotes little attention — no one could still believe that a fairer world was in the offing. “We are completing the sad business of the Congress,” wrote one diplomat, “which, by its results, is the most mean-spirited piece of work ever seen.” As in 1945, power trumped justice, especially in Eastern Europe. Mr. Zamoyski has little patience for the argument, made by Henry Kissinger in his 1957 study “A World Restored,” that at least the Congress established a workable international system that could guarantee peace.

In fact, he insists, the settlement of Vienna — which frustrated national aspirations in Germany and Italy, and installed “legitimate” autocrats in Spain and elsewhere — guaranteed an endless cycle of repression and revolution, which finally issued in the cataclysmic wars of the 20th century. “The peacemakers of Vienna,” Mr. Zamoyski concludes, “had attempted to reconstruct a European community in total disregard of the direction in which the Continent was moving,” and rulers and peoples alike paid the price.

The lesson of the English/American Revolution is so simple and yet we’ve had so much trouble learning it: governments have to be consensual to be legitimate.


YOU HATE TO KICK A GUY IN HIS CASKET, BUT…:

June 11, 2007

Can the “American dream” belong also to the world? (Richard Rorty, 2007-06-10, Open Democracy)

The thought that America is a place where values and institutions are being nurtured that could eventually transform the world crystallised in the middle of the 19th century. Those were the days of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman. These two men played an important role in the formation of the American Dream. Whitman’s Democratic Vistas is the ancestor of Henry Luce’s musings on the American Century.

When he wrote that “(the) Americans of all nations at any time upon the earth have probably the fullest poetical nature”, Whitman meant that Americans were more inclined than most to dream of a better world – a world at peace, in which social justice was reconciled with individual freedom. He encouraged them to believe that their country would help bring that world into existence. Whitman and Luce both hoped that the American dream would become (in your words) “the world’s dream”.

That dream has been kept alive by all those American intellectuals and politicians who have tried to convince their fellow-citizens that the important thing about their country is not that it is rich and powerful, but rather that its history embodies (again in your words) “a persistent faith in the values of democratic individualism as the indispensable guardians of personal dignity and individual opportunity”. These men and women established a tradition of idealistic internationalism. Ever since Whitman’s day, they have struggled both against the imperialists, who wanted to use American wealth and power to establish a global hegemony, and also against the isolationists, who wanted the United States to mind its own business and not meddle in world affairs.

The hidden agenda of the internationalists (one that they still cannot put forward explicitly, for fear of a chauvinist reaction from the voters) is to bring into existence what Tennyson called “The Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World”. They want to do for the almost two hundred sovereign nation-states what the American Founding Fathers did for the thirteen original American colonies.

The internationalists dream of a world government that will bind Iranians, Chinese, Germans, Brazilians and Americans together in a single political community. For they think that only such a government, able to deploy an international police force, can ensure world peace. They share the hopes of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Harry Truman (who always carried those lines from Tennyson in his wallet). These American presidents all took for granted, as had Emerson and Whitman, that it is America’s destiny to bring peace and justice to the world.

Because the imperialists have recently wrenched control of American foreign policy from the internationalists, it has become more difficult for non-Americans to remember that the US is a country of idealistic dreamers as well as of chauvinist militarists. […]

Even if the internationalists should regain control, however, it may be too late in the day for their dreams to be realised. For even if the Americans did elect a president willing to dilute United States sovereignty by signing binding international agreements, it still might be impossible to persuade Russia and China, and the growing list of lesser nuclear powers, to go along.

…it’s worth noting the really basic absurdities here. In the first place, we have the hilarious notion that those who believe in liberating the peoples of the world from tyrants are imperialists, while those who would impose a centralized world government on them are not. Then we have the bizarre formulation that those who would use a transnational state and police force to impose our values are idealists, while those who believe that the liberated peoples will freely choose to organize their own countries around our universalist values are chauvinists. Even from the beyond he’s pegging the nonsense meter here.


IT'D BE A GOOD FIRST STEP:

June 10, 2007

Former Taiwan President Lee Says Island `Independent’ (Hiroshi Suzuki, June 9, 2007, Bloomberg)

Taiwan is an independent nation and should strive to free itself from China’s influence, former President Lee Teng-hui said on the last day of a trip to Japan.

“Taiwan has been independent, and the Taiwanese people have the clear belief that it is theirs,” Lee, 84, told reporters in Tokyo today. “Taiwan should start walking toward a new direction of freedom and democracy, or else remain forever within China’s fluctuating political influence.”

Japan’s government distanced itself from Lee’s 11-day trip to avoid angering China, which considers Taiwan its own territory and was infuriated by Lee’s emphasis on Taiwan’s sovereignty during his 12 years in office. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki earlier this week said Lee came to Japan “as a private citizen” unrelated to any government relationship.

China’s government was “very dissatisfied” with Lee’s trip, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing on June 7.

One salutary step we could take vis-a-vis China is to officially repudiate the one-China policy and fully recognize the independence of one of our best allies.


BERLIN VS JERUSALEM:

June 9, 2007

The End of Politics (Mark Lilla, 06.17.03, New Republic)

Somewhere in his writings Leo Strauss remarks that the Jewish problem is the political problem in nuce. This pregnant remark was meant to invite two sorts of reflections. One, the most obvious, concerns the historical fate of world Jewry, from the biblical age down through the Diaspora and the establishment of the state of Israel. The other, less obvious, concerns the light that Judaism as a social fact sheds on our understanding of politics more generally. Here Strauss had in mind what he called the “theological-political problem,” which he saw as the unavoidable tension between political authority and divine revelation. But the Jewish problem is significant in a third sense, too. For how nations or civilizations cope with the existence of the Jews can, at certain historical junctures, reveal political pathologies whose causes have little or nothing to do with Judaism as such. There are periods when the acuteness of the Jewish problem is a symptom of a deeper malaise in political life and political ideas.

There is little doubt that contemporary Europe is passing through such a moment. It is not the first. Throughout Europe’s history there have been periods in which a crisis in political ideas had important consequences for Jews in their relations with other Europeans. The anti-Semitic persecutions of the Middle Ages, which had many sources, also coincided with a disturbance in European thinking about the relation between ecclesiastical power and secular power, between the City of God and the City of Man. The emancipation of the Jews in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries coincided with the epochal shift from absolutism to theories of republicanism and democracy. And the rejection of those Enlightenment political concepts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the name of nationalist, racialist, and anti-modern ideals portended events that will shape Jewish consciousness for all time.

Today Europeans find themselves living in what historians call a “saddle period.” One distinct age has passed, that of the Cold War, and an obscure new one has begun. Looking back on the era just ended, one fact is especially striking about the intellectual life of Western Europe, or “old Europe”: the omnipresence of political ideologies and passions, and the relative absence of serious political thought, understood as disciplined and impartial reflection about distinctly political experience. There were exceptions to this intellectual collapse, and they are widely recognized and revered today: Isaiah Berlin and Michael Oakeshott in Britain, Raymond Aron in France, Norberto Bobbio in Italy, and perhaps a few others. But due to the overwhelming attraction of Marxism and structuralism in all their variants, the influence of these thinkers on wider intellectual discussions was actually quite limited in this period. What was paradoxical about those schools was that they encouraged political engagement while at the same time absorbing all thinking about political experience into amorphous discussions of larger historical, economic, or linguistic forces. The result was that political action intensified as political thought atrophied.

Viewed in retrospect, the intellectual flight from political thought in Europe now appears as a reaction to, and a means of coping with, the unique conditions of the Cold War. After the disasters of the first half of the twentieth century, Western European politics were put on ice–or at least some of the essential questions were. Economies were reorganized, constitutions rewritten, parliaments and parties reconstituted, social mores revised. But the most fundamental issue for all modern nation-states–the issue of sovereignty–could not be addressed, because neither the European community as a whole nor Western European countries individually were fully sovereign. The concept of “sovereignty” has been given many, even incompatible, meanings over the centuries, but at its core is the notion of autonomy, which in political terms means the capacity to defend oneself and, when necessary, to decide to wage war. In this respect European nations were not sovereign during the Cold War. There were good reasons why that was so, and why for decades Western European thinkers were relieved not to have to think about such matters, and the United States and NATO were relieved to do their thinking for them. It was a prudent arrangement, but in the end it had unhealthy intellectual consequences.

Those consequences have been on public display in two related spheres since 1989. The most important is Continental thinking about the European Union. In the early postwar decades, there was some inspiring talk about a “United States of Europe,” but as the decades wore on, the concept of “Europe” came to have little meaning beyond economic cooperation. Over the past decade, though, we have witnessed an extremely uncritical embrace of the idea of Europe among Western European intellectuals generally, and its invocation as a kind of charm against the most difficult political questions facing the Continent today. There are many reasons for this, and they differ country by country. In formerly fascist countries–Germany, Italy, Spain–the idea of the nation-state remains in ill repute, while the blissfully undefined notion of “Europe” inspires pacific, post-political hopes. In France, the idea of Europe is generally seen not as a substitute for the nation but as a tool for constraining German might on the Continent and American influence from across the Atlantic. And for intellectuals in the smaller countries, belonging to “Europe” means the hope of escaping cultural obscurity.

What Europe means as a distinctly political entity remains a mystery to all involved. The wisest European commentators worry about this. They are concerned about what is called the “democratic deficit” in the European institutions of Brussels and Strasbourg. They also wonder how widely the community can be extended, not only in economic terms but, as in the case of Turkey, also in cultural ones. Yet serious reflection about the nature of European sovereignty and its relation to national sovereignty is rare these days, except among academic specialists. And so natural concerns about the future of the nation, and the public debate about it, have been left to xenophobes and chauvinists, of whom there are more than a few in every European country.

It is nothing less than extraordinary that the idea of the nation-state as the locus of political action and political reflection fell so quickly and so silently into oblivion among Western European thinkers in our time. The great exception that proves the rule is France, where passionate appeals to the Gaullist tradition of national autonomy have run up against equally passionate appeals to European and international cooperation, leading to the kind of diplomatic incoherence that was recently put on display at the United Nations. There are some understandable reasons for this development, too. After all, one of the important lessons that Europeans have drawn from their twentieth-century history is that nationalism is always a danger, and that it can infect and eventually destroy liberal democracy. […]

It is against the backdrop of this intellectual crisis of sovereignty that the contemporary “Jewish question” in Europe must be seen. For centuries that question was, broadly speaking, one of inclusion: what sorts of people could be citizens and under what conditions, whether religion mattered, whether differences could be tolerated. This form of the problem still exists in Europe, though today Muslims are more likely to be the object of prejudice and violence than Jews are. The battle for toleration as an idea has largely been won; the challenges now are to put it into practice and to understand its limits within each national context.

It is not the idea of tolerance that is in crisis in Europe today, it is the idea of the nation-state, and the related concepts of sovereignty and the use of force. And these ideas have also affected European intellectual attitudes toward world Jewry, and specifically toward Israel. Here there is an extraordinary paradox that deserves to be savored. For centuries Jews were the stateless people and suffered at the hands of Europeans who were deeply rooted in their own nations. The early Zionists, from Hess to Herzl, drew a very simple lesson from this experience: that Jews could not live safely or decently until they had their own state. Those who claim today that the state of Israel is the brainchild of nineteenth-century European thought are not wrong; this is hardly a secret. But the point is often made with sinister intent, as if to suggest that Israel and the Zionist enterprise more generally represent some kind of political atavism that enlightened Europeans should spurn. Once upon a time, the Jews were mocked for not having a nation-state. Now they are criticized for having one.

And not just any nation-state, but one whose founding is still fresh in living memory. All political foundings, without exception, are morally ambiguous enterprises, and Israel has not escaped these ambiguities. Two kinds of fools and bigots refuse to see this: those who deny or explain away the Palestinian suffering caused by Israel’s founding, and those who treat that suffering as the unprecedented consequence of a uniquely sinister ideology. The moral balance-sheet of Israel’s founding, which is still being composed, must be compared to those of other nations at their conception, not to the behavior of other nations after their existence was secured. And it is no secret that Israel must still defend itself against nations and peoples who have not reconciled themselves to its existence–an old, but now forgotten, European practice. Many Western European intellectuals, including those whose toleration and even affection for Jews cannot be questioned, find all this incomprehensible. The reason is not anti-Semitism nor even anti-Zionism in the usual sense. It is that Israel is, and is proud to be, a nationstate–the nation-state of the Jews. And that is profoundly embarrassing to post-national Europe.

Consider the issue from the perspective of a young European who might have grown up in the postwar world. From his first day of school he would have been taught the following lesson about twentieth-century history: that all its disasters can be traced to nationalism, militarism, and racism. He might even have learned that Jews were the main victims of these political pathologies, and would have developed a certain sympathy for their plight. But as he grew up he would have begun to learn about contemporary Israel, mainly in light of the conflict with the Palestinians, and his views would probably have begun to change. From his own history he would have concluded that nations are suspect entities, that the distinction they make between insider and outsider is immoral, and that military force is to be forsworn. He would then have likely concluded that contemporary Israel violates all these maxims: it is proudly independent, it distinguishes between Jew and non-Jew, it defends itself without apology. The charges that Zionism is racism, or that Israel is behaving like the Nazis in the occupied territories, undoubtedly have roots in anti-Semitism; but frustration with the very existence of Israel and the way it handles its challenges has a more proximate cause in European intellectual life. That cause is the crisis in the European idea of a nation-state.

There’s one important caveat here: Americans are so supportive of Israel precisely because we think of them as a country like ours — and, therefore, a logical member of the Anglosphere — rather than a nation, like the continental Europe states.


REDEFINED, AND THEN DEFENDED:

May 4, 2007


TRADE WITHOUT TRANSNATIONALISM:

April 23, 2007

US experts call for new trade system (Krishna Guha, April 20 2007, Financial Times)

[The Atlantic Council of the US], which is chaired by two former US commerce undersecretaries, said the struggle to complete the Doha round showed that it was no longer possible to make meaningful progress in a global negotiating system that operated through consensus. It said economies willing to offer large tariff and subsidy cuts need to be able to deal with the “free rider” problem by not extending the same terms to everyone regardless of whether they made equally big concessions – the so-called MFN principle.

A coalition of pro-free trade states should be able to exclude non-participants from taking advantage of tariff cuts in specific product lines, though not from sectoral agreements.

Stuart Eizenstat, a former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration, said this proposal would be compatible with World Trade Organisation rules and the coalition of the willing would agree to use the existing WTO dispute settlement mechanism.

Mr Eizenstat said whether the current Doha trade round yielded an agreement or not, it should be the last of its kind. “The world is moving too fast for this kind of consensus-driven, five, six, seven, eight-year rounds.”

In order to preserve sovereignty, the rulings ought to be merely advisory.