Monday, September 29, 2014


Yet again, America finds itself in the eye of the storm.  It is fruitless to look for cause and effect when the house is on fire. Academic debate only slows when speed is needed.  Unfortunately, on top of more objective arguments pro and contra, the out of hand polarization of American politics brings out the worse outcome in both parties. The right looks and sounds like a deranged species, while the left is torn between demagoguery and utopia.  As if this mess was not enough, there is a president who has lost so much credibility that he lacks the political capital to convince.

As is often the case, China and the Russian federation play their usual voyeur role and should not be counted on to support a world order which, in their eyes, has been hijacked for too long by the United States.  A lot is said and written about America's supposed "free fall."  Francis Fukuyama's "End of History" has been rewritten as "America Degenerated:  Victim of Internal Vetocracy".   Obviously he has a point. The political discourse in Congress is nothing but shameful on all sides and Obama has lost his "touch" and appears to be reluctant or unable to reconnect, both in the US and abroad.

All these negatives do not diminish the "indispensability" of America's role in world affairs. It has just become more arduous, given the topsy-turvy turns in various situations and alliances, and considering that the branches of the political system in Washington act more as opposite camps than as the depositories of a checks-and-balance philosophical model.

Unfortunately, America has no choice but to get involved, since nobody else dares (as yet) or just cannot. The enumeration of situations which require urgent attention span an arc which goes from Asia to Europe. The sum of problems is further mortgaged by asymmetric components which lead to weaken the purpose of ad hoc alliances. They simultaneously strive more often than not for divergent ends. 

The Iranian clock is also ticking.  If a transparent agreement were to be considered wherein the loopholes look larger than the benefits, Washington might as well "pack" for a while, rather than alienating the Sunni states who are already suspicious of any accommodation with Iran or, for that matter, of the US president's vacillations.

The pessimists who comment about America's supposed downturn exaggerate. The model still attracts. More people want to emulate it, rather than follow Russia's dead end or China's Orwellian paranoia. This being said, it has equally to be recognized that the United States must recreate an all encompassing concept of society and strategy for the long haul. Presently there is too much short term coping, which just fills the gaps rather than creating an opportunity to participate in a larger ideological ambition.

One can double-guess Putin's long-term goal (the transgressions of the Helsinki agreement or the Budapest memorandum speak louder than words).  We can guess how China will try to satellize its reach (Hong Kong is an interesting "flash point"), be it through economic or military (sea power) means.  One doesn't know any longer what America wants. The rhetoric is flat and the ideas, if they appear, are unconvincing.  It becomes more difficult of course when the US has to fill a black hole without much hard- or soft-power support. The vacuum should allow the United States to project a coherent ambitious project for a new world architecture, as was done before (with uneven results). America has to stop looking "reluctant" and not stay shy of projecting ambition.

Instead of looking forward, the White House and Intelligence are stuck in a turf war over who underestimated ISIL! 
The very able Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addressed the US in almost condescending terms.  They better get their act together rather than being patronized, by Russia of all undesirable others...

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