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Offline tomahawk6

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #575 on: October 08, 2015, 08:24:47 »
You overlook China's current economic malaise which is of concern to the CCP.

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #576 on: October 08, 2015, 08:55:49 »
America and Europe both recovered from the "economic malaise" of 2007-09. Business cycles and economic cycles (booms and busts) are normal ... China will have to find ways to adapt. Others have, China can. It might not and that would be interesting ... as the Chinese say in a curse.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline Thucydides

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #577 on: October 11, 2015, 02:45:42 »
Niall Ferguson goes to the real roots of America's foreign policy problems. While the Obama Administration has ramped the problem up to "11", the underlying factors will bedevil not only the next Administration, but others to come unless there is a rather drastic change to American political culture or society:

http://www.wsj.com/article_email/the-real-obama-doctrine-1444429036-lMyQjAxMTI1MjEwMDgxMTA1Wj

Quote
The Real Obama Doctrine
Henry Kissinger long ago recognized the problem: a talented vote-getter, surrounded by lawyers, who is overly risk-averse.
By NIALL FERGUSON
Oct. 9, 2015 6:17 p.m. ET

Even before becoming Richard Nixon ’s national security adviser, Henry Kissinger understood how hard it was to make foreign policy in Washington. There “is no such thing as an American foreign policy,” Mr. Kissinger wrote in 1968. There is only “a series of moves that have produced a certain result” that they “may not have been planned to produce.” It is “research and intelligence organizations,” he added, that “attempt to give a rationality and consistency” which “it simply does not have.”

Two distinctively American pathologies explained the fundamental absence of coherent strategic thinking. First, the person at the top was selected for other skills. “The typical political leader of the contemporary managerial society,” noted Mr. Kissinger, “is a man with a strong will, a high capacity to get himself elected, but no very great conception of what he is going to do when he gets into office.”

Second, the government was full of people trained as lawyers. In making foreign policy, Mr. Kissinger once remarked, “you have to know what history is relevant.” But lawyers were “the single most important group in Government,” he said, and their principal drawback was “a deficiency in history.” This was a long-standing prejudice of his. “The clever lawyers who run our government,” he thundered in a 1956 letter to a friend, have weakened the nation by instilling a “quest for minimum risk which is our most outstanding characteristic.”

Let’s see, now. A great campaigner. A bunch of lawyers. And a “quest for minimum risk.” What is it about this combination that sounds familiar?

I have spent much of the past seven years trying to work out what Barack Obama ’s strategy for the United States truly is. For much of his presidency, as a distinguished general once remarked to me about the commander in chief’s strategy, “we had to infer it from speeches.”

At first, I assumed that the strategy was simply not to be like his predecessor—an approach that was not altogether unreasonable, given the errors of the Bush administration in Iraq and the resulting public disillusionment. I read Mr. Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech—with its Quran quotes and its promise of “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world”—as simply the manifesto of the Anti-Bush.

But what that meant in practice was not entirely clear. Precipitate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq, but a time-limited surge in Afghanistan. A “reset” with Russia, but seeming indifference to Europe. A “pivot” to Asia, but mixed signals to China. And then, in response to the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Libya, complete confusion, the nadir of which was the September 2013 redline fiasco regarding the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in Syria and Mr. Obama’s declaration that “America is not the global policeman.”

An approximation of an Obama strategy was revealed in April last year, at the end of a presidential trip to Asia, when White House aides told reporters that the Obama doctrine was “Don’t do stupid sh--.”

I now see, however, that there is more to it than that.

The president always intended to repudiate more than George W. Bush’s foreign policy. In a 2012 presidential debate with Mitt Romney, Mr. Obama made clear that he was turning away from Ronald Reagan, too. “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back,” he jeered, “because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” Mr. Romney’s reference to Russia as “our number one geopolitical foe” now looks prescient, whereas the president’s boast, in a January 2014 New Yorker magazine interview, that he didn’t “really even need George Kennan right now” looks like hubristic rejection of foreign-policy experience itself. Two months later, Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea.

Mr. Obama also had his own plan for the Middle East. “It would be profoundly in the interest” of the region’s citizens “if Sunnis and Shias weren’t intent on killing each other,” Mr. Obama said in that same interview. “If we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion—not funding terrorist organizations, not trying to stir up sectarian discontent in other countries, and not developing a nuclear weapon—you could see an equilibrium developing between . . . predominantly Sunni Gulf states and Iran.”

Now I see that this was the strategy—a strategy aimed at creating a new balance of power in the Middle East. The deal on Iran’s nuclear-arms program was part of Mr. Obama’s aim (as he put it to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg in May) “to find effective partners—not just in Iraq, but in Syria, and in Yemen, and in Libya.” Mr. Obama said he wanted “to create the international coalition and atmosphere in which people across sectarian lines are willing to compromise and are willing to work together in order to provide the next generation a fighting chance for a better future.”

The same fuzzy thinking informed Mr. Obama’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly last week, in which he first said he wanted to “work with other nations under the mantle of international norms and principles and law,” but then added that, to sort out Syria, he was willing to work with Russia and Iran—neither famed for spending time under that particular mantle—so long as they accepted the ousting of yet another Middle Eastern dictator.

A fighting chance for a better future in the Middle East? Make that a better chance for a fighting future.

It is clear that the president’s strategy is failing disastrously. Since 2010, total fatalities from armed conflict in the world have increased by a factor of close to four, according to data from the International Institute of Strategic Studies. Total fatalities due to terrorism have risen nearly sixfold, based on the University of Maryland’s Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism database. Nearly all this violence is concentrated in a swath of territory stretching from North Africa through the Middle East to Afghanistan and Pakistan. And there is every reason to expect the violence to escalate as the Sunni powers of the region seek to prevent Iran from establishing itself as the post-American hegemon.

Today the U.S. faces three strategic challenges: the maelstrom in the Muslim world, the machinations of a weak but ruthless Russia, and the ambition of a still-growing China. The president’s responses to all three look woefully inadequate.

Those who know the Obama White House’s inner workings wonder why this president, who came into office with next to no experience of foreign policy, has made so little effort to hire strategic expertise. In fairness, Denis McDonoug h (now White House chief of staff) has some real knowledge of Latin America. While at Oxford, National Security Adviser Susan Rice wrote a doctoral dissertation on Zimbabwe. And Samantha Power, ambassador to the U.N., has published two substantial books (one of which—“A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide”—she will need to update when she returns to academic life).

But other key players are the sort of people Henry Kissinger complained about more than half a century ago: Michael Froman, the trade representative, was one of Mr. Obama’s classmates at Harvard Law School; Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken is a Columbia J.D.; éminence grise Valerie Jarrett got hers from the University of Michigan. What about Secretary of State John Kerry ? Boston College Law School, ’76. Not one of the people who advise the president could claim to have made contributions to strategic doctrine comparable with those made by Mr. Kissinger or Zbigniew Brzezinski before they went to Washington.

Some things you can learn on the job, like tending bar or being a community organizer. National-security strategy is different. “High office teaches decision making, not substance,” Mr. Kissinger once wrote. “It consumes intellectual capital; it does not create it.” The next president may have cause to regret that Barack Obama didn’t heed those words. In making up his strategy as he has gone along, this president has sown the wind. His successor will reap the whirlwind. He or she had better bring some serious intellectual capital to the White House.

Mr. Ferguson’s first volume of his Henry Kissinger biography has just been published by Penguin.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #578 on: October 11, 2015, 08:13:57 »
Niall Ferguson goes to the real roots of America's foreign policy problems. While the Obama Administration has ramped the problem up to "11", the underlying factors will bedevil not only the next Administration, but others to come unless there is a rather drastic change to American political culture or society:

http://www.wsj.com/article_email/the-real-obama-doctrine-1444429036-lMyQjAxMTI1MjEwMDgxMTA1Wj

Quote
...
But what that meant in practice was not entirely clear. Precipitate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq, but a time-limited surge in Afghanistan. A “reset” with Russia, but seeming indifference to Europe. A “pivot” to Asia, but mixed signals to China. And then, in response to the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Libya, complete confusion, the nadir of which was the September 2013 redline fiasco regarding the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in Syria and Mr. Obama’s declaration that “America is not the global policeman.”
...


And those "mixed signals" are not just to China. The whole of Asia is receiving "mixed signals" from Washington, from the White House, from Foggy Bottom (State Department) and from the Congress. Who, then, can blame Philippines for looking to Japan, rather than America, for military aid and, even (much) more important, who can blame the Republic of Korea (South Korea) for looking towards China as this article, which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from Foreign Affairs, suggests it is doing?

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2015-10-08/path-less-chosun
Quote

A Path Less Chosun
South Korea's New Trilateral Diplomacy

By Victor Cha

SNAPSHOT, October 8, 2015

There was much handwringing in Washington at the sight of South Korean President Park Geun-hye standing with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing at the Victory Day celebrations on September 3, 2015. Park was the only head of state from a major Asian democracy that attended the military parade, which was aimed at showcasing the latest Chinese weaponry designed to counter U.S. power in the Pacific. In a calculated move, Park made sure to wear a pair of dark sunglasses to signal passive engagement in photos, but the pictures from the Chinese capital were worth a thousand words.

Several U.S. pundits opined about a Korea that was slowly but surely gravitating into the Chinese orbit and away from the United States and Japan. Others countered that Washington is missing the real picture—that Park was on the viewing stand rubbing shoulders with Xi in the spot traditionally occupied by the North Korean leader (whose representative was relegated to the cheap seats). Put another way, Park is not distancing South Korea from the United States; she is bringing Beijing closer to Seoul while distancing it from Pyongyang.

Both outlooks are shortsighted. There is no denying that each has its own logical coherence, but both represent the type of two-dimensional, zero-sum thinking that typified U.S. strategy during the Cold War era. What we are actually seeing is Diplomacy 2.0 on the Korean peninsula: a nuanced, three-dimensional foreign policy strategy designed to alter Chinese strategic thinking, engage U.S. interests, and ultimately build Northeast Asian cooperation where there was little in the past.


South Korean President Park Geun-Hye (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping inspect Chinese honour guards during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing June 27, 2013.

UPGRADING THE SYSTEM

In Northeast Asia, Diplomacy 1.0 meant choosing the least controversial path on the international stage. Under this logic, the safe play would have been for Park to attend the Beijing celebrations and politely excuse herself before the parade of missiles began to roll. But if Park wished to send credible messages about positive atmospherics in South Korean–Chinese relations, and her wish to take their relations to the next level, that wouldn’t do. In this case, Park was willing to take a hit to her reputation in Washington. She has a larger three-dimensional game in mind, of which spoiling the party for North Korea is only a small part.

Seoul signed a free trade agreement with Beijing in June 2015, in addition to opening a dialogue between each nation’s national security council in November 2013. Earlier that year, Park had visited Tsinghua University in Beijing and, speaking in Mandarin Chinese, gave an address on the future of relations between China and the Republic of Korea. All these efforts were meant to alter Beijing’s assessment of its importance on both ends of the Korean peninsula. By any metric, China’s future is brighter if it is pegged to an economically vibrant, technologically savvy, and globally relevant South Korea rather than an aid-devouring black hole to the North. Many Chinese officials and scholars believe that North Korea’s regime belongs in a museum, but such clearheaded thinking is often obscured by two generations of “sealed in blood” policy embedded in Chinese bureaucracy and strategic culture. This is what Park is up against.

In this regard, few noticed Seoul’s casual reference to unification within its statement on Park’s meetings in China. The document states that “the two sides also had in-depth discussions on the issue of unification. The Korean side stressed that with the Korean Peninsula in its 70th year of division, peaceful unification was a pressing aim, the realization of which would also contribute to promoting peace and prosperity in the region. The Chinese side said that it supported "the peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula by the Korean people.” This was, however, the first time that China has ever mentioned unification in a statement with South Korea, signaling that bilateral discussions between Seoul and Beijing on unification have entered new territory. Of course, gaining Chinese support for South Korean positions in a unification scenario is not all that Park is after: she is also looking to build a trilateral dialogue among China, South Korea, and her key ally the United States about the peninsula’s future.

Indeed, Park’s attendance at Beijing’s V-Day celebrations is but a part of her larger use of geometry diplomacy to bring Beijing, Seoul, and Washington together. And this fall appears to be the appropriate moment for her plan to come together: Park met with Xi in Beijing on September 2, Xi met with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on September 25, and Obama and Park plan to meet in Washington on October 16. Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean leaders are scheduled to hold a trilateral meeting in Seoul at the end of October or beginning of November. These meetings provide the building blocks for what Seoul hopes will be the first ever three-way discussion among China, South Korea, and the United States later this year or early next year. Although no formal date has been announced, a trilateral meeting could be held on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Turkey in November, the 2015 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in December, or the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington next March. If such a meeting were to occur, its agenda could be used to coordinate priorities, establish a division of labor to tackle these tasks (for example, to secure nuclear weapons, stem refugee flows, and stabilize the situation on the ground), increase transparency between actors, and reduce the potential for miscalculation along the way.

Admittedly, these are lofty strategic goals. The state of U.S.-Chinese relations today is challenging. But even broaching a discussion on formerly taboo topics, however, might be significant. Such a dialogue ties into the broader vision for Northeast Asian cooperation that Park officials have called the Northeast Asian Peace and Cooperation Initiative (NAPCI). The region’s unparalleled levels of economic growth and prosperity have not translated into the sort of political cooperation and institution building that the liberal paradigm upholds. To fix this, the NAPCI framework suggests the construction of incremental cooperation that is pragmatic, functional, and devoid of both history and ideology. Such cooperation could take form on issues such as nuclear safety, cybersecurity, climate change, health pandemics, and disaster response, where each party has an interest in sharing information and pooling resources. But as U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said during the recent gathering at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the region’s primary threat to prosperity and stability is North Korea.

The North Korean regime under Kim Jong-un grows more reclusive by the day, focusing solely on its burgeoning weapons of mass destruction programs at the expense of the well-being of North Koreans. Kim’s continued purge of high-level officials during the first four years of his transition into power has signaled that all is not well in Pyongyang. Although the country continues to lack food and energy, the leadership spends its resources on building amusement parks, ski resorts, and hosting Dennis Rodman, which is an embarrassment to Beijing. The Chinese president has refused to meet with the young, rambunctious Kim, while he has met several times already with Park. Chinese scholars and officials, as a result of past North Korean missile and nuclear tests, are now at liberty to express their frustration with Pyongyang and the lack of a way out. The nightmare scenario for the region is a North Korea in collapse, with loose nuclear weapons that heighten tensions and military competition between the United States and Japan and with China.

New ideas will always meet resistance because they are foreign and unfamiliar, and Park’s Diplomacy 2.0 is no different. This new form of diplomacy cuts against the grain in Asian diplomacy, where uncontroversial and one-dimensional thinking predominates. It is also not without its challenges. First, South Korea’s vision for Northeast Asian cooperation cannot happen without an improvement in Seoul’s bilateral relations with Tokyo. The estranged ties between Park and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appear to be on the mend, but should they deteriorate instead, Park’s plans will be almost moot. The second challenge is a North Korean provocation. The honeymoon in the Park-Xi relationship has not been tested by Kim’s misbehavior, as it was during the 2010 sinking of the Cheonan. Beijing’s silence following North Korea’s actions, which killed 46 South Korean sailors, soured Chinese–South Korean relations. Seoul will expect much from China in the event of a North Korean missile or nuclear test. But if China rises to meet these demands, then the region might be entering a new phase of diplomacy after all.


"New ideas" from e.g. South Korea are necessary because there are no ideas, none at all, from the USA: none from a tired, uninspired White House, none from a beaten down, defeated State Department and none from a Congress that is intellectually inferior, in my opinion, to any in American history.

America remains a great power ~ economically, militarily and, above all, socially. But the American people, great and powerful though they may be, have given up on their political processes. Maybe it's still OK at some local, school board and city hall, levels, but it looks broken, to me, at the state and national levels. There are still people, many, many people, in America of the like of Henry Stimson, George Marshall, Charles Bohlen, Dean Acheson, Dwight Eisenhower, John McCloy, George Kennan, and Averell Harriman (and many others) but they no longer choose to enter the public service, either in uniform or as "gifted amateurs" and seasoned professionals in government. Running America and, de facto, running the world no longer challenges Americans.  Instead we are left to ponder a world led by the likes of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. :dunno:

That's why Asia is "pivoting" away from America.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #579 on: October 15, 2015, 13:21:02 »
Further to the above, this article, reproduced under the fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from The Economist, examines the challenges to America's global strategic position:

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21674699-american-dominance-being-challenged-new-game?fsrc=scn/fb/te/pe/ed/thenewgame
Quote

The new game
American dominance is being challenged

Oct 17th 2015 | From the print edition

A CONTINENT separates the blood-soaked battlefields of Syria from the reefs and shoals that litter the South China Sea. In their different ways, however, both places are witnessing the most significant shift in great-power relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In Syria, for the first time since the cold war, Russia has deployed its forces far from home to quell a revolution and support a client regime. In the waters between Vietnam and the Philippines, America will soon signal that it does not recognise China’s territorial claims over a host of outcrops and reefs by exercising its right to sail within the 12-mile maritime limit that a sovereign state controls.

For the past 25 years America has utterly dominated great-power politics. Increasingly, it lives in a contested world. The new game with Russia and China that is unfolding in Syria and the South China Sea is a taste of the struggle ahead.

Facts on the ground

As ever, that struggle is being fought partly in terms of raw power. Vladimir Putin has intervened in Syria to tamp down jihadism and to bolster his own standing at home. But he also means to show that, unlike America, Russia can be trusted to get things done in the Middle East and win friends by, for example, offering Iraq an alternative to the United States (see article). Lest anyone presume with John McCain, an American senator, that Russia is just “a gas station masquerading as a country”, Mr Putin intends to prove that Russia possesses resolve, as well as crack troops and cruise missiles.

The struggle is also over legitimacy. Mr Putin wants to discredit America’s stewardship of the international order. America argues that popular discontent and the Syrian regime’s abuses of human rights disqualify the president, Bashar al-Assad, from power. Mr Putin wants to play down human rights, which he sees as a licence for the West to interfere in sovereign countries—including, if he ever had to impose a brutal crackdown, in Russia itself. 

Power and legitimacy are no less at play in the South China Sea, a thoroughfare for much of the world’s seaborne trade. Many of its islands, reefs and sandbanks are subject to overlapping claims. Yet China insists that its case should prevail, and is imposing its own claim by using landfill and by putting down airstrips and garrisons.

This is partly an assertion of rapidly growing naval might: China is creating islands because it can. Occupying them fits into its strategy of dominating the seas well beyond its coast. Twenty years ago American warships sailed there with impunity; today they find themselves in potentially hostile waters (see article). But a principle is at stake, too. America does not take a view on who owns the islands, but it does insist that China should establish its claims through negotiation or international arbitration. China is asserting that in its region, for the island disputes as in other things, it now sets the rules.

Nobody should wonder that America’s pre-eminence is being contested. After the Soviet collapse the absolute global supremacy of the United States sometimes began to seem normal. In fact, its dominance reached such heights only because Russia was reeling and China was still emerging from the chaos and depredations that had so diminished it in the 20th century. Even today, America remains the only country able to project power right across the globe. (As we have recently argued, its sway over the financial system is still growing.)

There is nevertheless reason to worry. The reassertion of Russian power spells trouble. It has already led to the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of eastern Ukraine—both breaches of the very same international law that Mr Putin says he upholds in Syria (see article). Barack Obama, America’s president, takes comfort from Russia’s weak economy and the emigration of some of its best people. But a declining nuclear-armed former superpower can cause a lot of harm.

Relations between China and America are more important—and even harder to manage. For the sake of peace and prosperity, the two must be able to work together. And yet their dealings are inevitably plagued by rivalry and mistrust. Because every transaction risks becoming a test of which one calls the shots, antagonism is never far below the surface.

American foreign policy has not yet adjusted to this contested world. For the past three presidents, policy has chiefly involved the export of American values—although, to the countries on the receiving end, that sometimes felt like an imposition. The idea was that countries would inevitably gravitate towards democracy, markets and human rights. Optimists thought that even China was heading in that direction.

Still worth it

That notion has suffered, first in Iraq and Afghanistan and now the wider Middle East. Liberation has not brought stability. Democracy has not taken root. Mr Obama has seemed to conclude that America should pull back. In Libya he led from behind; in Syria he has held off. As a result, he has ceded Russia the initiative in the Middle East for the first time since the 1970s.

All those, like this newspaper, who still see democracy and markets as the route to peace and prosperity hope that America will be more willing to lead. Mr Obama’s wish that other countries should share responsibility for the system of international law and human rights will work only if his country sets the agenda and takes the initiative—as it did with Iran’s nuclear programme. The new game will involve tough diplomacy and the occasional judicious application of force.

America still has resources other powers lack. Foremost is its web of alliances, including NATO. Whereas Mr Obama sometimes behaves as if alliances are transactional, they need solid foundations. America’s military power is unmatched, but it is hindered by pork-barrel politics and automatic cuts mandated by Congress. These spring from the biggest brake on American leadership: dysfunctional politics in Washington. That is not just a poor advertisement for democracy; it also stymies America’s interest. In the new game it is something that the United States—and the world—can ill afford.


The Economist has hit it squarely on the head: the problem ~ and I assert that there is a problem ~ is with "dysfunctional politics in Washington" and that problem is created because the American people have lost interest in their country and the world. If the Americans, themselves, don't want to be bothered mattering then, sooner rather than later, they will not matter. America doesn't have to matter: China can fill the void if Americans don't want to be bothered.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
----------
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Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #580 on: October 20, 2015, 15:23:07 »
Considering Obama's constant snubs against the UK, I'm not surprised HM's government is choosing to go their own course without too much reference to the Administration. Of course, a great deal of the world is no longer paying attention to official Washington any more (historians will probably mark the "Red Line" pronouncement against Syria as the official "best before" date).

The unravelling of the Liberal world order (Individual freedom, unfettered use of property, Rule of Law; initially created by the British Empire and handed off the the United States in the aftermath of WWII) may well be looked at as one of history's great tragedies.


Washington, official and unofficial, will get its stuff together ... the questions are: how long will we all have to wait? and who else will have "risen" while we're waiting?

But we're going to have to wait until America rids itself of rubbish like ...


                                   This                                  and                                 This                               and                           This                  and                                  This bozo, too
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline Thucydides

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #581 on: November 09, 2015, 16:37:42 »
This could fall under any number of categories, but since it is talking about leadership and this thread is bemoaning the lack of leadership in the current American political class, here are the things any real leader will need to pick up and carry:

https://ricochet.com/geopolitical-predictions-place-your-bets/

Quote
Geopolitical Predictions: Place Your Bets
Claire Berlinski, Ed.
November 8, 2015

The historian is a prophet looking backwards. ― Friedrich von Schlegel, Philosophical Fragments
 So where is it all going, folks? Does anyone have an instinct?
 
When I wrote about why Margaret Thatcher mattered, I concluded "that the political figures who matter have two rare gifts."
 
First, they are able to perceive the gathering of historical forces in a way their contemporaries were unable to do. What do I mean by "the gathering of historical forces?" I mean, they are able to sense the big picture. Lenin was able to discern a convergence of trends in Czarist Russia -- the migration of the peasants, the rise of revolutionary consciousness, the weakness of the Czarist government, the debilitation inflicted upon Russia by the First World War -- and to recognize what this convergence implied: The old order could now be toppled -- not merely reformed, but destroyed. Czar Nicholas II could not perceive this. It is thus that Lenin now matters and Nicholas II does not.
 
Second, when promoted to power, those who matter are able to master those historical forces. Chiang understood perfectly that China was vulnerable to communism and understood as well what communism in China would mean. But he was unable, for all his energy and efforts, to master them. And so, tragically, he does not matter.
 
Churchill perceived the forces of history and then mastered them. In 1933, Hitler was widely regarded outside of Germany as no more than a buffoon. Churchill knew better. His assessment of Hitler was at the time astonishingly prescient and singular. He perceived the unique danger of Nazism when others could not see it or refused to believe it. He was steadfast in his warnings. When at last Churchill acquired power, he discharged his responsibilities in a fashion as to gain him immortality.
 
When politicians matter, they matter because of these gifts.
 
Thatcher had these gifts. She perceived -- as did many of her contemporaries -- that Britain was in decline. She perceived that the effects of Marxist doctrine upon Britain had been pernicious. But unlike her contemporaries, she perceived that Britain's decline was not inevitable. And she perceived too that socialism was not -- as widely believed -- irreversible.
 
Simultaneously, she sensed a wider and related tide in history that no other leader, apart from Reagan, sensed at all. She understood that the Soviet Union was far from the invulnerable colossus it was imagined to be. She sensed, in fact, that it was unable to satisfy the basic needs of its population. It was corrupt, moribund, and doomed.
 
Having perceived the gathering of historical forces, she mastered them. She reversed the advance of socialism in Britain, proving both that a country can be ripped from a seemingly overdetermined trajectory and that it takes only a single figure with an exceptionally strong will to do so. She did not single-handedly cause the Soviet empire to crumble, but she landed some of the most devastating punches of the Cold War, and extraordinarily, emerged unblooded from the fight.
 
I wrote those words in 2007, and as you can see immediately, my own ability to perceive the gathering of historical forces will not leave me numbered among the immortals. Shortly after I wrote that conclusion, Lehman Brothers collapsed. The world's confidence in capitalism was shaken by the subsequent events nearly as greatly as its confidence in communism after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
 
If you had told me then that in 2015, the better part of the Islamic world would be consumed in anarchy and savagery; that hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees would be streaming across Europe's borders, threatening its unity and stability; that Russia would determine to re-prosecute the Cold War; that China would surpass America as the world's largest economy and expand its military influence beyond its own shores; that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty would be in shreds, that the United States would begin a long, slow, melancholy retreat from the world stage -- or even that Jeremy Corbyn would be the leader of a Labour Party whose own former director of media relations said, in 2002, "We are all Thatcherites now" -- I suppose I wouldn't have published that book.
 
So I don't have the gift. I did grasp that Turkey was by no means a model democracy, and I said so before it was a truism. I saw exactly how serious the events in Syria were, and what their implications would be. But I have no strategy now for mastering these disasters, and I'm not sure at this point what one might even look like, or how I would recognize it.
 
So let's hear from you. What will the world be like in six months, next year, in five years, in twenty? What are the most important gathering historical forces? What is the big picture? Which political figure, if any, has shown a sign that he -- or she -- has the ability to master them? If none of them do, and if the task by some accident fell to you, how would you approach it?
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #582 on: November 15, 2015, 19:22:56 »
While a lot of this piece smacks of conspiracy theory, I think the underlying premise (a mismatch between resources and goals) is fairly clear, and the answer si to somehow reform the system so that resources and goals are more closely aligned. That the US elites have been thinking in a very insular manner is hardly a revelation, but then again, so is everyone else. The author's thesis is flawed in one major area, however, since even the BRIC's have nowhere near the resource base needed of a successful "transfer of power" that is being suggested (and in any case, much of their potential is not being harnessed in productive activities).

How exactly this can be resolved isn't clear; certainly those in power are willing to scarifies the last taxpayer to maintain their positions of power and privilege, and the "revolution" scenario generally leads to chaos and the arrival of"The man on the white horse", with all that entails. decentralization and devolution so that there can be multiple centres to pick up the pieces when the centre fails is probably the best we can do, unless someone has an even better idea?

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-11-14/time-running-out-pax-americana

Quote
Time Is Running Out For Pax Americana
Tyler Durden's pictureSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/14/2015 22:00 -0500
Submitted by Rostislav Ischenko via The Oriental Review,

The paradox of the current global crisis is that for the last five years, all relatively responsible and independent nations have made tremendous efforts to save the United States from the financial, economic, military, and political disaster that looms ahead. And this is all despite Washington’s equally systematic moves to destabilize the world order, rightly known as the Pax Americana.

Since policy is not a zero-sum game, i.e., one participant’s loss does not necessarily entail a gain for another, this paradox has a logical explanation. A crisis erupts within any system when there is a discrepancy between its internal structure and the sum total of available resources (that is, those resources will eventually prove inadequate for the system to function normally and in the usual way).

There are at least three basic options for addressing this situation:

Through reform, in which the system’s internal structure evolves in such a way as to better correspond to the available resources.
Through the system’s collapse, in which the same result is achieved via revolution.
Through preservation, in which the inputs threatening the system are eliminated by force, and the relationships within the system are carefully preserved on an inequitable relationship basis (whether between classes, social strata, castes, or nations).


The preservation method was attempted by the Ming and Qing dynasties in China, as well as the Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan. It was utilized successfully (in the 19th century) prior to the era of capitalist globalization. But neither of those Eastern civilizations (although fairly robust internally) survived their collision with the technologically more advanced (and hence more militarily and politically powerful) European civilization. Japan found its answer on the path of modernization (reform) back in the second half of the 19th century, China spent a century immersed in the quagmire of semi-colonial dependence and bloody civil wars, until the new leadership of Deng Xiaoping was able to articulate its own vision of modernizing reforms.

This point leads us to the conclusion that a system can be preserved only if it is safeguarded from any unwanted external influences, i.e., if it controls the globalized world.

The contradiction between the concept of escaping the crisis, which has been adopted the US elite, and the alternative concept – proposed by Russia and backed by China, then by the BRICS nations and now a large part of the world – lay in the fact that the politicians in Washington were working from the premise that they are able to fully control the globalized world and guide its development in the direction they wish. Therefore, faced with dwindling resources to sustain the mechanisms that perpetuate their global hegemony, they tried to resolve the problem by forcefully suppressing potential opponents in order to reallocate global resources in their favor.

If successful, the United States would be able to reenact the events of the late 1980s – early 1990s, when the collapse of the Soviet Union and the global socialist system under its control allowed the West to escape its crisis. At this new stage, it has become a question of no longer simply reallocating resources in favor of the West as a collective whole, but solely in favor of the United States. This move offered the system a respite that could be used to create a regime for preserving inequitable relationships, during which the American elite’s definitive control over the resources of power, raw materials, finance, and industrial resources safeguarded them from the danger of the system’s internal implosion, while the elimination of alternative power centers shielded the system from external breaches, rendering it eternal (at least for a historically foreseeable period of time).

The alternative approach postulated that the system’s total resources might be depleted before the United States can manage to generate the mechanisms to perpetuate its global hegemony. In turn, this will lead to strain (and overstrain) on the forces that ensure the imperial suppression of those nations existing on the global periphery, all in the interests of the Washington-based center, which will later bring about the inevitable collapse of the system.

Two hundred, or even one hundred years ago, politicians would have acted on the principle of “what is falling, that one should also push” and prepared to divvy up the legacy of yet another crumbling empire. However, the globalization of not only the world’s industry and trade (that was achieved by the end of the 19th century), but also global finance, caused the collapse of the American empire through a policy that was extremely dangerous and costly for the whole world. To put it bluntly, the United States could bury civilization under its own wreckage.

Consequently, the Russian-Chinese approach has made a point of offering Washington a compromise option that endorses the gradual, evolutionary erosion of American hegemony, plus the incremental reform of international financial, economic, military, and political relations on the basis of the existing system of international law.

America’s elite have been offered a “soft landing” that would preserve much of their influence and assets, while gradually adapting the system to better correspond to the present facts of life (bringing it into line with the available reserve of resources), taking into account the interests of humanity, and not only of its “top echelon” as exemplified by the “300 families” who are actually dwindling to no more than thirty.

In the end, it is always better to negotiate than to build a new world upon the ashes of the old. Especially since there has been a global precedent for similar agreements.

Up until 2015, America’s elite (or at least the ones who determine US policy) had been assured that they possessed sufficient financial, economic, military, and political strength to cripple the rest of the world, while still preserving Washington’s hegemony by depriving everyone, including (at the final stage) even the American people of any real political sovereignty or economic rights. European bureaucrats were important allies for that elite – i.e., the cosmopolitan, comprador-bourgeoisie sector of the EU elite, whose welfare hinged on the further integration of transatlantic (i.e., under US control) EU entities (in which the premise of Atlantic solidarity has become geopolitical dogma) and NATO, although this is in conflict with the interests of the EU member states.

However, the crisis in Ukraine, which has dragged on much longer than originally planned, Russia’s impressive surge of military and political energy as it moved to resolve the Syrian crisis (something for which the US did not have an appropriate response) and, most important, the progressive creation of alternative financial and economic entities that call into question the dollar’s position as the de facto world currency, have forced a sector of America’s elite that is amenable to compromise to rouse itself (over the last 15 years that elite has been effectively excluded from participation in any strategic decisions).

The latest statements by Kerry  and Obama which seesaw from a willingness to consider a mutually acceptable compromise on all contentious issues (even Kiev was given instructions “to implement Minsk “) to a determination to continue the policy of confrontation – are evidence of the escalating battle being fought within the Washington establishment.

It is impossible to predict the outcome of this struggle – too many high-status politicians and influential families have tied their futures to an agenda that preserves imperial domination for that to be renounced painlessly. In reality, multibillion-dollar positions and entire political dynasties are at stake.

However, we can say with absolute certainty that there is a certain window of opportunity during which any decision can be made. And a window of opportunity is closing that would allow the US to make a soft landing with a few trade-offs. The Washington elite cannot escape the fact that they are up against far more serious problems than those of 10-15 years ago. Right now the big question is about how they are going to land, and although that landing will already be harder than it would have been and will come with costs, the situation is not yet a disaster.

But the US needs to think fast. Their resources are shrinking much faster than the authors of the plan for imperial preservation had expected. To their loss of control over the BRICS countries can be added the incipient, but still fairly rapid loss of control over EU policy as well as the onset of geopolitical maneuvering among the monarchies of the Middle East. The financial and economic entities created and set in motion by the BRICS nations are developing in accordance with their own logic, and Moscow and Beijing are not able to delay their development overlong while waiting for the US to suddenly discover a capacity to negotiate.

The point of no return will pass once and for all sometime in 2016, and America’s elite will no longer be able to choose between the provisions of compromise and collapse. The only thing that they will then be able to do is to slam the door loudly, trying to drag the rest of the world after them into the abyss.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #583 on: November 17, 2015, 14:23:27 »
I was going to post this in Radio Chatter but, on reflection, I think it's serious:

         

Our best friend, most important trading partner, indispensable ally, guarantor of our sovereignty and security, and, and, and ... is in deep trouble. The American people are being offered, thus far, a horrible list of candidates ~ with one or two notable exceptions ~ for the highest office in their land and, de facto, leader of the free world.

If you are one of those who prays, now is not a bad time to start ... pray for some good sense and a couple of half decent late entrants to join the one or two half decent ones already in the race.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #584 on: November 30, 2015, 09:18:19 »
Ellen Laipson, president emeritus of the Stimson Center utters a profound truth in a column in WPR:

    "... the yearning for a more robust, decisive use of American power came across as nostalgia for the past, one that fails to recognize some very basic and profound new realities. Nondemocratic states and nonstate actors have
     acquired forms of power and are asserting their national or transnational interests. The club of democracies cannot assume that the tools of the past and the primacy of the West—and its values—will be sufficient to find peace
     and security in this uncertain world."



Edit: format
« Last Edit: December 01, 2015, 05:08:23 by E.R. Campbell »
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #585 on: November 30, 2015, 19:46:43 »
I was going to post this in Radio Chatter but, on reflection, I think it's serious:

         

Our best friend, most important trading partner, indispensable ally, guarantor of our sovereignty and security, and, and, and ... is in deep trouble. The American people are being offered, thus far, a horrible list of candidates ~ with one or two notable exceptions ~ for the highest office in their land and, de facto, leader of the free world.

If you are one of those who prays, now is not a bad time to start ... pray for some good sense and a couple of half decent late entrants to join the one or two half decent ones already in the race.

I'm not entirely sure that getting a decent candidate for either party will solve the problem. I think that the gridlock in Congress is a bigger problem overall. Until that gets resolved, not much is going to go forward. The GOP has to either dump or reign in the vocal far right wing minority that is holding it hostage. Ditching the Hastert Rule would be a good start. The Dems have their own issues with the far right as Bernie Sanders is showing. Getting back to a Congress that works across partisan lines will be the only way that the US will move from stagnation back towards its so-called exceptionalism.
It's hard to win an argument against a smart person, it's damned near impossible against a stupid person.

There is no God, and life is just a myth.

"He who drinks, sleeps. He who sleeps, does not sin. He who does not sin, is holy. Therefore he who drinks, is holy."

Let's Go CAPS!

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #586 on: December 01, 2015, 05:24:35 »
As I and others have mentioned elsewhere, here in Army.ca, I think the problem is with the very peculiarly American idea of partisanship in politics. Our American friends seems to have concluded that politics is a zero sum game and one must win all or nothing.

I don't think Canada is there yet, but we are always very much influenced by what our good friends and neighbours do and think,)

I think political opinions remain on the bell curve ...

               

                    ... about ⅔ of us are, quite firmly, inn the "mushy middle." About 15% of us are left of centre, centre left, centre right and right of centre while about 10% of us are absolutely, squarely, in the centre.

But the "activists' who, increasingly (absolutely in America) control the parties at the so called "grass-roots" level are anything but centrists they are the 7% or so on the left and right who still believe in the political process but who reject bi-partisan compromise ... they want it all, in fact they want more than just "all" of their platform, they want the other party's platform to be destroyed.

So it is all of them: the contenders for the highest offices, the senators and representatives, the state and local politicians, some (actually many) of the judges, and, above all, the "activists" who are the problem.


It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #587 on: December 27, 2015, 21:24:16 »
This is going to be a dragging issue for the United States for decades to come unless steps are taken today. The unfunded liabilities of the United States could exceed $100 trillion dollars when social security, pensions and medicare/medicade are added together until the majority of the boomers die in the 2060's. Or the issue could lead to an implosion as taxpayers decide what, exactly the are willing to pay for (and I suspect they are not going to make the choice of public service pensions and benefits at the expense of current services like police and EMS):

http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/12/24/oregon-wrestles-with-public-pension-costs/

Quote
Oregon Wrestles with Public Pension Costs

Conflict between public employees on the one hand and schools and business groups on the other is setting up a political clash in Oregon. The Portland Tribune:

Oregon’s major business groups want lawmakers to start dealing with rising public pension costs as early as the session that opens Feb. 1.

Although those costs start to kick in with the 2017-19 budget cycle — 18 months away — advocates say it’s not too early to whittle down an unfunded liability projected at $18 billion over the next few decades.

“If we do nothing, 100 percent of the burden falls on taxpayers, government services and their ability to undertake reinvestment in budgets going forward,” says Tim Nesbitt, currently a consultant for the Oregon Business Plan. […]

Cheri Helt, co-chair of the Bend-La Pine School Board, says pension costs will jump from the current 16 percent of payroll to 20 percent in 2017-19, and to 25 percent in the cycle afterward.

The question of how America’s state and local governments dig themselves out of their massive pension hole will be one of the great (and underrated) fiscal and political questions of the next generation. As the article implies, the process of divvying up resources to fund the pensions will not be pretty, pitting key Democratic constituencies—public employees (producers of services) and citizens who consume public services—against one another in a blue civil war. The reckoning can only be put off for so long.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #588 on: December 30, 2015, 00:59:34 »
This could go in many different threads, such as Libertarians (this is the root of the Libertarianism as a Social Movement meme) or US Election 2016 (Trump's popularity isn't just because he says things other candidates don't dare, but also acknowledges issues that the political establishment would prefer to ignore, issues which voters are fully aware of). Since this is more of an examination of the meta issue of current institutions, structures and practices becoming obsolete because they no longer address the issues of the day without any replacements in sight, I chose to put it here:

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-12-28/democracy-s-destabilizer-tmi

Quote
Democracy's Destabilizer: TMI
17 DEC 28, 2015 10:00 AM EST
By Virginia Postrel

For most of Martin Gurri’s 29 years working for the Central Intelligence Agency’s open-media group (now the Open Source Center), the world was very different from the one we now inhabit. “When I started out in government,” Gurri recalls in an interview, “it was a perfectly reasonable expectation that an analyst could absorb all the meaningful political information coming out in a day from even a very developed country like Britain or France. And, of course, now if you tried to do that your head would explode.”

Information used to be scarce. Now it’s overwhelming. In his book “The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium,” Gurri considers the political implications of this change. He argues that the shift from information scarcity to abundance has destroyed the public’s established trust in institutional authorities, including media, science, religion, and government.

“Once the monopoly on information is lost, so too is our trust,” Gurri writes. Someone somewhere will expose every error, every falsehood, every biased assessment, every overstated certainty, every prejudice, every omission -- and likely offer a contrary and equally refutable version of their own.

The result is the pervasive distrust that the columnist Anne Applebaum recently decried as “the terrible damage done by Facebook and other forms of social media to democratic debate and civilized discussion all over the world.” Gurri is less nostalgic for the past. Although he describes himself as an “uncomplicated defender of our system of government,” his experience makes him acutely aware of officials’ mutual protection practices, unwillingness to acknowledge uncertainty and rewards for failure. The CIA, he pointedly notes, “demanded and received a bigger budget after 9/11.”

Over history, Gurri argues, information has grown “in great pulses or waves” as technologies have changed -- from writing to the alphabet to the printing press to mass media to today’s digital networks. Each of these great waves has brought with it new institutions and sometimes great political and social upheavals, most notably in the case of the printing press.

We are in the very early days of what he calls the Fifth Wave. Institutions that developed in the age of industrialized, top-down mass media are losing legitimacy while new arrangements have yet to evolve. The challenge is to manage the hazardous transition to a new stage without falling into nihilistic chaos and destruction.

Neither celebrating nor denouncing the collapse of authority, Gurri seeks to understand its implications. He offers a disturbingly convincing model uniting such disparate phenomena as the Arab Spring, the 2011 protests in Spain and Israel, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, and, although he doesn’t discuss them, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Black Lives Matter and Islamic State.

As information becomes abundant, he writes, “the regime accumulates pain points." By this he means that problems like police brutality, economic mismanagement, foreign policy failures and botched responses to disasters "can no longer be concealed or explained away." Instead, "they are seized on by the newly empowered public, and placed front and center in open discussions. In essence, government failure now sets the agenda.”

Yet the public’s expectations for government are at least as great as before. And those high expectations -- not merely for justice or prosperity but for happiness and meaning--engender even greater anger.

“The public now takes it for granted that government could solve any problem, change any undesirable condition, if only it tried,” he writes. “The late modernist urge to intervene, with its aimless meandering, has been interpreted by the public as either tyranny or corruption -- never, somehow, as the ineffectual pose of a kindly uncle.” In short, “The public has judged government on government’s own terms, but added bad intentions.” The result is a crisis of legitimacy.

Central to Gurri’s analysis is the contrast between the once-authoritative “center” and increasingly vocal “border sects,” a dichotomy he adapts from the 1983 book “Risk and Culture” by the cultural theorists Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky. Sects coalesce in opposition to the center; they are, Douglas and Wildavsky wrote, “essentially critical of some defined other part of human society where power resides.” A sect’s message is one of negation.

In Gurri’s view, digital communities form sectarian publics whose only shared agenda is opposition to the status quo. Negation holds their coalitions together. If the Tahrir Square “protesters had sought to replace the regime with a specific set of people, programs, and principles, the weak bonds of the digital world would have been insufficient,” he writes. “But that’s not what brought out the variegated Egyptian public to the streets. They just wanted to get rid of Hosni Mubarak.” Once they succeeded, they couldn’t govern.

Lacking a clear positive agenda, a sectarian triumph creates a vacuum. The coalition breaks down or, standing outside the give-and-take of politics, simply loses interest.

Something like that happened to Barack Obama, Gurri argues. Obama ran against the status quo not only in 2008, when he was the insurgent, but in 2012 when he was the incumbent. Positioning himself as “a denouncer rather than a fixer of problems,” he identified with the public’s discontent and distanced himself from the workings of the federal government, eschewing responsibility for its mistakes and misdeeds and abandoning the give-and-take of political negotiation.

Obama, Gurri suggests, “represented a new and disconcerting development in democratic politics: the conquest of the Center by the Border, and the rise of the sectarian temper to the highest positions of power.” It’s easy to imagine a President Ted Cruz, representing a different brand of border sectarian, pursuing a similar approach.

Then there’s Donald Trump. By stoking magical thinking about what government can do, elite distrust of what the public wants, and sectarian rage at government failures, Trump feeds the nihilism that makes this period of transition so perilous. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Virginia Postrel at vpostrel@bloomberg.net
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #589 on: January 30, 2016, 20:03:51 »
I felt this was a good place for the article, since much of the problem is the gradual disintegration of the civic body of the United States. If more people are trained to think for themselves and become self sufficient, then at least some of the issues can be addressed in a sensible manner, and indeed some issues might essentially "solve themselves" as people take the initiative and find solutions rather than wait for the government or bureaucracy. A self reliant mindset is really the beginning for everything else.

http://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/01/28/schools-arent-preparing-students-for-a-post-blue-world/

Quote
Schools Aren’t Preparing Students for a Post-Blue World

Blue model education systems were built on the assumption that most middle-class Americans didn’t have to be especially proactive about their retirement planning. In the blue heyday, it was often the norm for Americans to work at the same company for their entire careers and retire with a defined-benefit pension. But in today’s economy, where most people switch employers every few years and depend on 401(k)s for retirement security, it’s increasingly important that public education systems equip students to take charge of their own financial fate. Unfortunately, according to a recent report, schools don’t appear to be making much progress on this front. CNBC reports:

The number of states that require high school students to complete a course in economics has dropped over the last two years, and mandates for personal finance education in the upper grades remain stagnant, a new survey shows.

The biennial Survey of the States by the Council for Economic Education, released exclusively to CNBC.com, found 20 states currently mandate that high school students take economics — two fewer than in 2014.

… At the same time, the Council for Economic Education survey found the number of states that require high school students to take a course in personal finance has remained unchanged at 17 since 2014.

America is currently in the midst of a transition from an employer-driven retirement model to a self-driven retirement model. This transition must be managed in part by individual workers, who will need to become more proactive in their financial planning, and in part by corporations, many of which should auto-enroll more workers in retirement plans (as some already are), matching employee contributions more generously. But there’s also a role for the government: Financial services firms that deal with 401(k)-type accounts will need to be regulated and overseen with these broader social trends in mind. And even more critically, schools must prepare students for the economic landscape that awaits them. Policymakers who are interested in facilitating the post-blue economic transition should make beefing up financial education a priority.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #590 on: February 10, 2016, 04:14:28 »
What the next President will not have is time:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/02/09/the-simultaneity-trap/

Quote
The Simultaneity Trap
Eliot A. Cohen

The next President can’t help walking into four distinct strategy traps. The first one: The sheer scarcity of time.

There are the traps you suspect are out there and try to avoid, and then there are the traps that you have no choice but to walk into. So it will be with the next President, no matter who he or she may be. He or she will confront not just specific strategic problems such as what to do next in Syria, but a more generic set of challenges. These four strategy traps are inevitable. They can be managed but not avoided.
The first of these is the simultaneity trap, and it goes like this. In any government, be it in Luxembourg, Angola, the People’s Republic of China, or the United States, and on any given large national security issue, somewhere between five and fifty people really count. The number is usually closer to five than to fifty. We have one President, one Secretary of State, one Secretary of Defense, one Director of Central Intelligence, and one Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But the United States is not Angola. More than any other power in history—even the British Empire at its height—the U.S. government has global concerns and global interests. Even a decision not to act requires a conscious effort of will, in the awareness that real consequences flow from U.S. inaction as well as action. The daily briefings and meetings with top aides of a Cabinet Secretary are a dizzying tour of the world, and even after a large and intelligent bureaucracy (which the United States actually has) digests the issues, the principal still has to decide. If it’s a serious effort, the Cabinet Secretaries and some other senior officials will spend time meeting in the Situation Room, and then engaging the President. As Peter Drucker once pointed out, the only inelastic commodity in any organization is executive time—and the time (and energy levels) of the big players in government is no greater than that of kindergarten teachers.

The range of their international responsibilities would overwhelm any President and his or her subordinates. As the ultimate decider, the President bears the greatest burden, on top of all the pressing domestic issues that come his way. But it is not much easier for his key subordinates. As the country’s chief diplomat, the Secretary of State travels incessantly; indeed, recent Secretaries have engaged in an unhealthy competition with their predecessors to see who can spend the most time abroad in inconclusive talks with foreign leaders, all the while courting deep vein thrombosis from endless hours on official airplanes. The Secretary of Defense has to manage the government’s most complicated bureaucracy. The National Security Adviser has to be on top of everything, and keep the President staffed in a way no other official in the world has to be—all the while thinking months if not years ahead, monitoring the implementation of decisions, and being ready to manage a sudden crisis.

The problem of simultaneity is worsened by the four geopolitical challenges we face. The first is the rise of China, a great power whose economy is, or will be, roughly the size of ours. The chronic war with jihadis throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond—including at home—is the second; hostile states like Russia and Iran with regional ambitions and the willingness to use force to achieve them are a third. Lastly, ungoverned space, including some in our own hemisphere, poses a different kind of threat, one that can also exacerbate the other three.

These four different threats require different weapons, different organizations, different time horizons, and different strategic approaches. But the same small group of decision-makers has to decide them all, individually and collectively. The upshot is a more complex, if not always a more dangerous, set of international conditions than any during the Cold War, when we faced one main enemy and other lesser foes aligned with it.

How to cope with so much to do and so little time?

The simultaneity trap cannot be avoided, because ultimately the hard choices get bounced to the top. It can only be managed. When the Republican and Democratic transition-planning teams begin to assemble late this spring or early this summer, one hopes the candidates will direct them to spend as much time thinking about the processes and staffing of a new administration as about the substantive problems it will face.

There is nothing particularly exciting about making the trains run on time: having regular meetings; keeping them on topic and on schedule (meetings longer than two hours can be assumed to be a waste of effort); preparing conclusions and directives; monitoring bureaucratic implementation; and ensuring that the President and his or her advisers get enough of the details to make decisions, but not so much that they are overwhelmed. In practice, however, orderly administration is very hard. The White House Chief of Staff may usurp the authority of a National Security Advisor; meetings may be long, inconclusive, and repetitive; the NSC staff may either overstep their role and begin acting as a mini-State Department or Office of the Secretary of Defense, or, conversely, fail to do their proper job of highlighting departmental differences for the President; an intemperate, egotistical, or servile National Security Advisor can prevent real differences of opinion from being aired and debated.

It is all humdrum stuff, conducted (one hopes) by people with level tempers, checked egos, a collegial spirit, a distaste for publicity, and an awareness that campaigning is one thing, governing another. It has on occasion been done very well, as under Brent Scowcroft in the George H. W. Bush Administration. Most of the time, however, it is not, and the simultaneity trap begins to yield foreign policy disasters of exponentially increasing severity.

None of this matters just yet. For the next nine months foreign and defense policy will be subjects of the broadest possible debate. No voter will make a decision based on whether they think a candidate will realize that an NSC staff of 500 is too large to be effective, or order issues to get sorted out in interagency meetings below the level of the Deputies Committee. But before too long it will matter. The next President will face the most difficult international environment in more than half a century, but without the economic and military edge that we can see—only in retrospect, admittedly—Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy could take for granted. He or she will need a machine that works.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #591 on: February 10, 2016, 09:13:55 »
Except that the world in 1950 and, still, in 1955, was at least as complex and perhaps, I would argue, even more complex and dangerous, but these guys managed ...

     

     

          ... from both the "corridors of power" and from the sidelines.

Maybe it's not complexity, danger or even time that is the problem, maybe it is the character of the people that push themselves forward for election or appointment as "leaders." Maybe the key question is: where are the Achesons, Eisenhowers, Kennans and Marshalls and why are they unwilling to contest for the highest office?

It's not that very good, even great people, are lacking ...



... but they all seem to have migrated away from the foreign and defence policy (strategic) domains and into the world of business, banking and finance. Maybe that's a reflection on our values, those of the US led West.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #592 on: February 10, 2016, 10:51:43 »
... but they all seem to have migrated away from the foreign and defence policy (strategic) domains and into the world of business, banking and finance. Maybe that's a reflection on our values, those of the US led West.

BINGO
Lead me, follow me or get the hell out of my way

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #593 on: February 13, 2016, 17:43:25 »
It will be interesting to see how today's death of Justice Antonin Scalia plays out over the next few months.

I would not be surprised that the GOP lead Senate drags out the nomination process until after the November election to see how the 2016 presidential campaign turns out.
It's hard to win an argument against a smart person, it's damned near impossible against a stupid person.

There is no God, and life is just a myth.

"He who drinks, sleeps. He who sleeps, does not sin. He who does not sin, is holy. Therefore he who drinks, is holy."

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Offline tomahawk6

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #594 on: February 13, 2016, 19:12:49 »
I am very saddened by the passing of Justice Scalia he was a great jurist.As for filling the seat,it may be an advantage to the liberal wing to not fill the seat.

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #595 on: February 13, 2016, 20:06:11 »
Replacing Antonin Scalia Will Be No Simple Task

http://www.npr.org/2016/02/13/466686993/replacing-antonin-scalia-will-be-no-simple-task?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20160213

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The sudden and shocking death of Supreme Court icon Antonin Scalia this weekend will have enormous repercussions for the U.S. legal system and political process, both in the immediate term and for many years to come.

Justice Antonin Scalia at the Supreme Court in 2012.
REMEMBRANCES
Justice Antonin Scalia, Known For Biting Dissents, Dies At 79
Although Scalia's death at 79 had scarcely been confirmed Saturday, senators and presidential candidates were already speaking publicly about what his demise will mean. And while the Court itself and the White House respectfully declined to discuss such matters, the fallout was Topic A from the Republican presidential debate in South Carolina to the cable news shows to social media and radio call-in shows everywhere.

The two big questions for everyone right from the start are Scalia's replacement and the functioning of the court with just eight members.

President Obama will, of course, be entitled to name a successor on the High Court. But the Senate is also required to confirm. That process is always a political challenge, and it is especially difficult when the opposition party controls the Senate (as Republicans do now, 54-46). In times of greater partisan harmony, bipartisan coalitions of approved the nominees of presidents whose party is not in Senate control. Scalia himself was confirmed 98-0 in 1986.

But these are scarcely such times.

Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, arguably the two senators most implacably opposed to President Obama and all his works, immediately sent social media messages saying no Obama nominee should be confirmed. The next president, both said, should name Scalia's successor.

Before an hour had passed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had said the successor should be named by "the next president," and not Barack Obama.

Cruz, of course, hopes that next president will be himself. He is one of six major candidates still in the race for the Republican nomination.

In truth, even a nominee Republicans did not immediately reject would need to get all 46 Democrats (including two independents who caucus with the Democrats) and 14 Republicans to vote to confirm. Even under ideal circumstances, this would be hard to imagine.

The last justice appointed to the Supreme Court to be confirmed by a Senate controlled by the opposition was Clarence Thomas. Nominated by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, Thomas was confirmed when several of the majority Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for him.

If no Obama nominee is confirmed this year, two things happen. First, the current court concludes its current term with just eight justices. Second, it begins (and probably concludes its) next term (beginning in October 2016) with no more than eight. If any other of the justices should leave for any reason, the court would be down to seven.

But what happens when the court is short-handed by one? Given the 5-4 votes by which the closely divided Court now typically rules, Scalia's reliable vote on the conservative side will probably mean at least a few cases ending in a 4-4 vote — perhaps many.

These could include the crucial matters of abortion access, affirmative action in college admissions and the executive actions of the president on immigration and greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. In such a case, there is no majority for a decision and the court is simply not able to rule. That means the lower court's ruling will stand, and it will be as if the case had never come to the Court or the Court had declined to hear the case.

A corollary question involves the fate of cases already argued in the current term that have not yet been decided? According to Thomas Goldstein, publisher of the authoritative SCOTUSblog and a member of the Supreme Court bar, any case where the justices have taken an internal vote but not publicly decided the case will be void.

"Of course," adds Goldstein, "if Justice Scalia's vote was not necessary to the outcome, for example if he was in dissent or if the majority included more than five justices, then the case will still be decided, only by an eight-member court."

In other words, if the court decides something 5-3 or 6-2 or 7-1 or unanimously, being short-handed does not matter. But in all cases of a tie, the absence of a deciding vote will matter a great deal.
It's hard to win an argument against a smart person, it's damned near impossible against a stupid person.

There is no God, and life is just a myth.

"He who drinks, sleeps. He who sleeps, does not sin. He who does not sin, is holy. Therefore he who drinks, is holy."

Let's Go CAPS!

Offline Thucydides

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #596 on: February 14, 2016, 20:16:42 »
America will face increasing challenges from predatory powers seeking to realign the world to their benefit against the American led West:
(part 1)
http://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/02/12/predators-on-the-frontier/

Quote
Predators on the Frontier
A. WESS MITCHELL & JAKUB GRYGIEL
America’s rivals are probing U.S. defenses across the globe.

Revisionist powers are on the move. ‎From eastern Ukraine and the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea, large rivals of the United States are modernizing their military forces, grabbing strategic real estate, and threatening vulnerable U.S. allies. Their goal is not just to assert hegemony over their neighborhoods but to rearrange the global security order as we have known it since the end of the Second World War.

We first wrote about these emerging dynamics in 2010, and then in TAI in 2011. We argued three things. First, that revisionist powers were using a strategy of “probing”: a combination of assertive diplomacy and small but bold military actions to test the outer reaches of American power and in particular the resilience of frontier allies. Second, we argued that the small, exposed allies who were the targets of these probes were likely to respond by developing back-up options to U.S. security guarantees, whether through military self-help or accommodation. And third, we argued that that China and Russia were learning from one another’s probes in their respective regions, and that allies themselves were drawing conclusions about U.S. deterrence in their own neighborhood from how America handled similarly situated allies elsewhere.

Five years later, as we argue in a new book released this month, these dynamics have intensified dramatically. Revisionist powers are indeed probing the United States, but their methods have become bolder, more violent—and successful. Allies have grown more alert to this pressure, amid the steady whittling away of neighboring buffer zones, and have begun to pursue an array of self-help schemes ranging from arms build-ups to flirtations with the nearby revisionist power. It has become harder for the United States to isolate security crises to one region: Russia’s land-grabs in Eastern Europe provide both a model and distraction effect for China to accelerate its maritime claims in the South China Sea; Poland’s quest for U.S. strategic reassurance unnerves and spurs allies in the Persian Gulf and Western Pacific.

By degrees, the world is entering the path to war.By degrees, the world is entering the path to war. Not since the 1980s have the conditions been riper for a major international military crisis. Not since the 1930s has the world witnessed the emergence of multiple large, predatory states determined to revise the global order to their advantage—if necessary by force. At a minimum, the United States in coming years could face the pressure of managing several deteriorating regional security spirals; at a maximum, it could be confronted with a Great Power war against one, and possibly two or even three, nuclear-armed peer competitors. In either case, the U.S. military could face these scenarios without either the presumption of technological overmatch or favorable force ratios that it has enjoyed against its rivals for the past several decades.

How should the United States respond to these dynamics? As our rivals grow more aggressive and our military edge narrows, we must look to other methods for waging and winning geopolitical competitions in the 21st century.
The most readily available but underutilized tool at our disposal is alliances. America’s frontline allies offer a mechanism by which it can contain rivals—indeed, this was the original purpose for cultivating security linkages with small states in the world’s rimland regions to begin with. In coming years, the value of strategically placed allies near Eurasia’s large land powers will grow as our relative technological or numerical military strength shrinks. The time has come for the United States to develop a grand strategy for containing peer competitors centered on the creative use of frontline allies. It must do so now, before geopolitical competition intensifies.

Predatory Peers

Probing has been the strategy of choice for America’s modern rivals to challenge the existing order. Over the past few years, Russia, China, and, to a degree, Iran have sensed that the United States is retreating in their respective regions—whether out of choice, fatigue, weakness, or all three combined. But they are unsure of how much remaining strength the United States has, or of the solidity of its commitments to allies. Rather than risking direct war, they have employed low-intensity crises to test U.S. power in these regions. Like past revisionists, they have focused their probes on seemingly secondary interests of the leading power, either by humbling its weakest allies or seizing gray zones over which the United States is unlikely to fight. These probes test the United States on the outer rim of its influence, where the revisionist’s own interests are strongest while the U.S. is at its furthest commitments and therefore most vulnerable to defeat. Russia has launched a steady sequence of threatening military moves against vulnerable NATO allies and conducted limited offensives against former Soviet satellite states. China has sought out low-intensity diplomatic confrontations with small U.S. security clients, erected military no-go zones, and asserted claims over strategic waterways.

When we wrote about this behavior in The American Interest in 2011, it was composed mainly of aggressive diplomacy or threatening but small military moves. But the probes of U.S. rivals are becoming bolder. Sensing a window of opportunity, in 2014 Russia upped the ante by invading Ukraine—the largest country in Eastern Europe—in a war that has so far cost 7,000 lives and brought 52,000 square kilometers of territory into the Russian sphere of influence. After years of using unmarked fishing trawlers to harass U.S. or allied naval vessels, China has begun to militarize its probes in the South China Sea, constructing seven artificial islands and claiming (and threatening to fight over) 1.8 million square kilometers of ocean. Iran has recently humiliated the United States by holding American naval vessels and broadcasting photos of surrendering U.S. sailors. In all cases, revisionist powers increased the stakes because they perceived their initial probes to have succeeded. Having achieved modest gains, they increased the intensity of their probes.

The strategic significance of these latest probes for the United States is twofold. First, they have substantially increased the military pressure on frontline allies. The presence of a buffer zone of some sort, whether land or sea, between allies like Poland or Japan and neighboring revisionist powers, helped to reduce the odds of sustained contact and confrontation between allied and rival militaries. By successfully encroaching on or invading these middle spaces, revisionists have advanced the zone of contest closer to the territory of U.S. allies, increasing the potential for a deliberate or accidental military clash.

Second, the latest probes have significantly raised the overall pressure on the United States. As long as Russia’s military adventures were restricted to its own southern periphery, America could afford to shift resources to the Pacific without worrying much about the consequences in Europe—an important consideration given the Pentagon’s jettisoning of the goal to be able to fight a two-front war. With both Ukraine and the South China Sea at play (and with a chaotic Middle East, where another rival, Iran, advances its reach and influence), the United States no longer has the luxury of prioritizing one region over another; with two re-militarized frontiers at opposite ends of the globe, it must continually weigh trade-offs in scarce military resources between geographic theaters. This disadvantage is not lost on America’s rivals, or its most exposed friends.

Frontier Frenzy

The intensification of probing has reverberated through the ranks of America’s frontline allies. In both Europe and Asia, the edges of the Western order are inhabited by historically vulnerable small or mid-sized states that over the past seven decades have relied on the United States for their existence. The similarities in the geopolitical position and strategic options of states like Estonia and Taiwan, or Poland and South Korea, are striking. For all of these states, survival depends above all on the sustainability of U.S. extended deterrence, in both its nuclear and conventional forms. This in turn rests on two foundations: the assumption among rivals and allies alike that the United States is physically able to fulfill its security obligations to even the smallest ally, and the assumption that it is politically willing to do so.
Doubts about both have been growing for many years. Reductions in American defense spending are weakening the U.S. military capability to protect allies. Due to cuts introduced by the 2009 Budget Control Act, the U.S. Navy is smaller than at any point since before the First World War, the U.S. Army is smaller than at any point since before the Second World War and the U.S. Air Force has the lowest number of operational warplanes in its history. Nuclear force levels are static or declining, and the U.S. technological edge over rivals in important weapons types has diminished. The Pentagon in 2009 announced that for the first time since the Second World War it would jettison the goal of being able to conduct a two-front global war.

At the same time that U.S. capabilities are decreasing, those of our rivals are increasing. Both Russia and China have undertaken large, multiyear military expansion and modernization programs and the technological gap between them and the United States is narrowing, particularly in key areas such as short-range missiles, tactical nuclear weapons, and fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
Recent American statecraft has compounded the problem by weakening the belief in U.S. political will to defend allies. The early Obama Administration’s public questioning of the value of traditional alliances as “alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War” shook allied confidence at the same time that its high-profile engagement with large rivals indicated a preference for big-power bargaining over the heads of small states. The U.S.-Russia “reset” seemed to many allies both transactional and freewheeling, and left a lasting impression of the suddenness with which U.S. priorities could shift from one Administration to the next. This undermined the predictability of patronage that is the sine qua non of effective deterrence for any Great Power.

As the revisionists’ probes have become more assertive and U.S. credibility less firm, America’s frontier allies have started to reconsider their national security options. Five years ago, many frontline states expressed security concerns, began to seek greater military capabilities, or looked to offset risk by engaging diplomatically with revisionists. But for the most part, such behavior was muted and well within the bounds of existing alliance commitments. However, as probing has picked up pace, allied coping behavior has become more frantic. In Europe, Poland, the Baltic States, and Romania have initiated military spending increases. In Asia, littoral U.S. allies are engaged in a worrisome regional arms race. In both regions, the largest allies are considering offensive capabilities to create conventional deterrence. Their willingness to build up their indigenous military capabilities is overall a positive development, but it carries risks, too, spurring dynamics that were absent over the past decades. The danger is that, absent a consistent and credible U.S. overwatch, rearming allies engage in a chaotic acquisition strategy, poorly anchored in the larger alliance. Fearing abandonment, such states may end up detaching themselves from the alliance simply by pursuing independent security policies.

There is also danger on the other side of the spectrum of possible responses by frontline allies. Contrary to the hopeful assumptions of offshore balancers, not all frontline allies are resisting. Some are choosing strategies of accommodation. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia in Europe and Thailand and Malaysia in Asia are all examples of nominal U.S. allies that are trying to avoid antagonizing the stronger predator. Worsening regional security dynamics create domestic political pressures to avoid confrontation with the nearby revisionist power. Full-fledged bandwagoning in the form of the establishment of new alliances is not yet visible, but hedging is.

Seeds of Disorder

The combination of intensifying probes and fragmenting alliances threatens to unravel important components of the stability of major regions and the wider international order. Allowed to continue on their current path, security dynamics in Eastern Europe and the Western Pacific could lead to negative or even catastrophic outcomes for U.S. national security. One increasingly likely near-term scenario is a simmering, simultaneous security competition in major regions. In such a scenario, rivals continue probing allies and grabbing middle-zone territory while steering clear of war with the United States or its proxies; allies continue making half-measure preparations without becoming fully capable of managing their own security; and the United States continues feeding greater and greater resources into frontline regions without achieving reassurance, doggedly tested and put in doubt by the revisionists. Through a continued series of probes, the revisionist powers maintain the initiative while the United States and its allies play catch up. The result might be a gradual hardening of the U.S. security perimeter that never culminates in a Great Power war but generates many of the negative features of sustained security competition—arms races, proxy wars, and cyber and hybrid conflicts—that erode the bases of global economic growth.

A second, graver possibility is war. Historically, a lengthy series of successful probes has often culminated in a military confrontation. One dangerous characteristic of today’s international landscape is that not one but two revisionists have now completed protracted sequences of probes that, from their perspective, have been successful. If the purpose of probing is to assess the top power’s strength, today’s probes could eventually convince either Russia, China, or both that the time is ripe for a more definitive contest. It is uncertain what the outcome would be. Force ratios in today’s two hotspots, the Baltic Sea and South China Sea, do not favor the United States. Both Russia and China possess significant anti-access/area denial (A2AD) capabilities, with a ten-to-one Russian troop advantage in the Baltic and massive Chinese preponderance of coastal short-range missiles in the South China Sea. Moreover, both powers possess nuclear weapons and, in Russia’s case, a doctrine favoring their escalatory use for strategic effect. And even if the United States can maintain overwhelming military superiority in a dyadic contest, war is always the realm of chance and a source of destruction that threatens the stability of the existing international order. Having failed a series of probes, the United States could face the prospect of either a short, sharp war that culminates in nuclear attack or an economically costly protracted two-front conflict. Either outcome would definitely alter the U.S.-led international system as we know it.

A third, long-term possibility is a gradual eviction of the United States from the rimland regions. This could occur either through a military defeat, as described above, or through the gradual hollowing out of U.S. regional alliances due to the erosion of deterrence and alliance defection—and therefore this scenario is not mutually exclusive of the previous two. For the United States, this would be geopolitically disastrous, involving a loss of position in the places where America must be present to prevent the risk of hemispheric isolation. Gaining a foothold in the Eurasian rimlands has been a major, if not the most important, goal of U.S. grand strategy for a century. It is through this presence that the United States is able to shape global politics and avoid the emergence of mortal threats to itself. Without such a presence, America’s largest rivals would be able to steadily aggrandize, building up enlarged spheres of influence, territory, and resources that would render them capable of sustained competition for global primacy. Unlike in the 20th century, current A2AD and nuclear technology would make a military reentry into these regions difficult if not impossible.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #597 on: February 14, 2016, 20:17:26 »
(part 2)
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Averting Course

Avoiding these scenarios should be a high priority for the United States. In all three cases—a simmering competition along Eurasian rimlands, a great power war, and a forced U.S. retreat to hemispheric defense—it is likely to be more cost-effective for the United States to prevent negative outcomes than to undo them once they have occurred. The current moment therefore represents an important and likely perishable opportunity in which to take strategic action for shaping emerging security dynamics to our advantage. Unlike the past geopolitical contests in which it has participated, the United States will not have inexhaustible resources with which to wage the emerging battle of the 21st century. Unlike in the Second World War, it cannot simply out-produce its rivals; unlike in the Cold War, it cannot outspend them and ultimately rely on better technology. Both China and Russia, despite the latter’s relative economic weakness, have been able to use the slippage in U.S. defense spending to significantly close both the qualitative and quantitative gaps with U.S. forces. Militarily, the
United States will face a more leveled playing field than it has against any other rival for many decades.

The United States should avoid the error of thinking that the contest can be industrial or technological. It is first and foremost a strategic rivalry for alliances: the revisionist powers aim to weaken the rings of allies the United States has constructed over the past century, while the U.S. wants to maintain and improve them. This—namely, the system of alliances and the inherently conservative nature of America’s grand strategy—is also where the United States has a comparative advantage.

A global network of alliances is particularly important now in the age of contested primacy. In the bipolar and nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union U.S. alliances added few material advantages, and arguably in the immediate post-Cold War period they were disposable if not for the diplomatic benefit of having multi-national forces fighting alongside American ones. Now, alliances represent a critical margin of advantage for the United States over its peer competitors.

For the United States, the contemporary advantage of alliances goes back to their original purpose of containing distant rivals arising across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and menacing the political plurality of Eurasia. Allies, in particular those located on the expansionistic path of the regional predators, are most valuable because they are the most effective mechanisms to maintain the geopolitical status quo. Frontline allies have the most to lose from a dramatic change in the existing order, and thus are the most motivated to sustain it. They are the first targets of revisionists, and thus are the place where the contest is occurring and will be decided. They can also benefit from the modern technological regime that allows small states to be more lethal than in previous decades, and thus can potentially turn into defensive strongholds on their own. They want to be and can be key defenders of the Western order.

The objective of U.S. grand strategy coincides with that of its frontline allies: the maintenance of the status quo. America’s geopolitical project is conservative in nature because it aims to uphold the current geopolitical order. This goal translates most immediately into holding the existing regional limes as they are, a clear benefit to our frontline allies. Additionally, relying more on these frontline allies will allow the United States to manage the security threats in multiple regions, spanning the length of the 21st century “arc of instability” from the Baltic through the Black Sea, the Persian Gulf, and East Asia. The United States cannot thwart these challenges alone and needs to refocus its grand strategy on frontline alliances.

The purpose of such a grand strategy is to strengthen the current posture of deterrence to prevent further probes by the revisionist powers. As these probes are slowly rewriting the rules of the regional orders and are redrawing the physical lines of influence on the maps, U.S. strategy must hinder this gradual but increasingly more assertive revisionism. The role of the most vulnerable allies is crucial in the success of this strategy. The underlying assumption is that, without the active American involvement in these regions, the allies will not resist the revisionist thrusts of Russia and China, either because they cannot do it effectively alone or because they will choose to accommodate the local rival. There is nothing automatic in the survival of the current international order and the resulting security of the United States.

A strategy centered on frontline alliances will be informed by three principles.

First, the United States should organize allies. Without America’s stabilizing political leadership and reassuring military presence, the various frontier regions—U.S. allies in the most exposed rimlands—are unlikely to be able to create new regional diplomatic arrangements that can serve as the immediate bulwarks to the revisionist powers. Current alliance structures are functioning but are not well suited to the nature of the challenge. In Europe, NATO, perhaps the most successful alliance in history, incorporates states with such a fundamentally different threat assessment that its cornerstone, Article 5, suggesting that an attack against one is an attack against all, is increasingly seen as just that—a suggestion. Under the NATO umbrella, there are incipient new formations, most notably of states around the Baltic Sea (Baltics, Poland, Norway, Sweden—the latter not a NATO member). A further sub-alliance can link the Baltic region with the Black Sea, by strengthening military cooperation between the two states most interested in defending the status quo: Poland and Romania. In Asia, the alliance structure inherited from the 20th century is very different, built along bilateral relationships between individual states and the United States. But several states located on China’s seaward projection of power—for example, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, and, farther out, Australia—share parallel concerns and fears that were not present a few decades ago. This opens up the possibility of security cooperation and planning, building a new set of regional alliances. Historical grievances continue to be an obstacle but this is why U.S. leadership and presence continues to be crucial. Without it, these frontline states will maintain a posture that only timidly considers other states in their region as solid partners in the competition with China. In brief, old alliances are not to be jettisoned but should serve as foundations for new configurations that will strengthen the frontlines.

Second, the United States should arm frontline allies. Not all, but some (e.g., Poland and Japan) are openly pursuing programs of defense modernization and seeking to acquire new weapons. The United States should encourage this by speeding the process of acquiring U.S.-made platforms and by helping these countries to think through their role in the larger strategy of anti-revisionism. Frontline states should be enabled to deter their nearby revisionists, mostly by denial. Deterrence by denial involves the development of capabilities that hinder the enemy’s military advance by increasing the costs of territorial expansion and control. Relatively cheap weapons for this purpose are widely available: anti-tank missiles, precision-guided artillery, small arms, anti-air missiles. This is also politically appealing because it is clearly an effort to shore up territorial defense, creating a difficult environment for the aggressor. But there are also other capabilities that the United States should proliferate to select allies: medium to long-range missiles, drones, and, on the higher end of the spectrum, stealth planes are examples of weapons that have a longer reach and can strike within the enemy’s territory. More offensive in nature, they still serve a defensive purpose by enhancing the ability to deter by denial. The capability to strike beyond the immediate frontline inflicts costs on the aggressor and creates problems for his logistics. By targeting command and control centers and radar installations, it also can serve to blind the enemy, easing the projection of allied reinforcements toward the attacked state. U.S. frontline allies are no longer in a permissive environment in which American forces can function unopposed. These allies therefore have the greatest incentive to keep their own air, sea, and land routes open so that the United States and other states can join them in the conflict.

Well-armed allies on a frontier under assault are a strategic blessing for the United States. They can stymie the expansion of revisionist states by becoming hardened obstacles. And the current technological regime characterized by wide availability, ease of use, and relative cheapness of many lethal platforms favors such a strategy centered on arming small states. We live in the age of small states, and even non-state actors, that are capable of inflicting serious destruction and of being strategic actors on their own. Usually in U.S. policy circles the spread of lethal capabilities is seen as a source of instability, presenting a challenge to the maintenance of international order and regional security. The plethora of hostile groups and reprobate states that can destabilize their respective regions through their capacity to wield violence is undoubtedly a problem, but the trend that makes this possible has also positive connotations. U.S. small and medium-sized allies can in fact be sources of regional stability thanks to the same technological developments that are allowing challengers to be more disruptive. The United States should harness these developments to its own advantage by doing a targeted proliferation—by arming its frontline allies.

Third, the two main revisionists, Russia and China, are nuclear powers—and the smaller third, Iran, is likely to be one in the future. Their probes are occurring therefore in the shadow of nuclear weapons. Even more disturbingly, Russia has exacerbated tensions with Europe and the United States by recurrent nuclear saber rattling in the form of provocative flights of nuclear-capable bombers, large conventional military exercises ending in a virtual nuclear attack against a NATO member, and public statements threatening nuclear use. Nuclear weapons are not decreasing in importance; on the contrary, they play a greater role now than they did fifty years ago. Any U.S. strategy dealing with its frontline allies must have a nuclear component because it needs to figure out how to deter a small conventional attack (a militarized probe) under the threat of potentially rapid nuclear escalation.

The United States should therefore enhance its nuclear arsenal by maintaining and modernizing it. It needs to sustain a credible nuclear extended deterrent at a time when revisionist states are gradually pushing their spheres of influence and control closer to, if not against, U.S. allies. Moreover, it should use the limited tactical nuclear weapons at its disposal and seed them in a few of the most vulnerable and capable frontline states (Poland and Japan, for instance) under “nuclear sharing” agreements.

By organizing and arming its most exposed allies, the United States can shore up the frontier of its influence and security. The stability of these regions cannot depend exclusively on the capability and credibility of the United States—that is, on America’s extended deterrent—but has to be built on the strength and resilience of the local allies. America’s frontline on Eurasia’s rimlands requires local defense: a well-armed and well-organized limes of allies. Only by building up such allies will the United States be capable of enduring the persistent challenge of multiple rivals that are eager to impose their own orders in their respective regions.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #598 on: March 21, 2016, 17:59:29 »
This could go in the US election thread, since the issue of immigration is driving a lot of voter anger (Rubio was probably knocked out because of his membership in the "gang of eight"). It could also go into the Migrant threat to Europe thread, since while the cast of characters are different, the effect is quite similar. It also bodes ill for the long term survival of the United States as a singular political unit, fracturing and splintering could become common as the social, cultural and financial foundations unravel:

https://pjmedia.com/vodkapundit/2016/03/21/core-education/?singlepage=true

Quote
Core Education
BY STEPHEN GREEN MARCH 21, 2016

What holds a nation together — and for how long?

You've probably already seen the lead story on Drudge this morning, but despite the Drudge-size hype, this story of a small diplomatic maneuver has far-reaching implications.

Mexico is mounting an unprecedented effort to turn its permanent residents in the U.S. into citizens, a status that would enable them to vote -- presumably against Donald Trump.

Officially, Mexico says it respects U.S. sovereignty and has no strategy to influence the result of the presidential race. Yet Mexican diplomats are mobilizing for the first time to assist immigrants in gaining U.S. citizenship, hosting free workshops on naturalization.

Curious, yes -- but this might not be about a single election, even though Mexico almost certainly doesn't have anything more daring in mind than that.

To explain why, I need to go on one of those odd detours I used to call "Late Night Rambling," back when I had no children and would stay up through the wee dark hours with a brandy and my keyboard. So please come along with me as we take a detour through the strange world(s) of historical computer gaming.

Probably the most difficult path for real-world strategy game developers to tread is the one between playability and realism. That is, players' actions still need to matter, they need to be able to change the map, to fight their own wars. But there have to be game mechanisms to keep things from getting too far away from the historical mean.

One game which accomplishes this tricky balance quite well is Paradox Interactive's Europa Universalis IV. Players can choose to lead any nation on the earth, during the three-and-a-half centuries between the fall of Constantinople, through the end of the Napoleonic Era. EUIV is well enough balanced that it should be possible for a skilled and patient player to do "better" than history, but not too much better. For example, I finished a game as France, in which Paris owned all the historically French provinces, plus Catalonia and all the German & Dutch territories west of the Rhine.

In a well-balanced game like EUIV, it should not be possible, say, for even the most skilled player to take Luxembourg and conquer all of Europe, colonize the New World, and convert the Middle East to Christianity. Sure, it might be fun to do all that (and you can if you have the cheats enabled!) -- but that result wouldn’t pass muster in a comic book, much less for serious players of difficult strategy games.

One of those mechanics is the key concept from the real world which we need to talk about today: Core provinces.

A core province is one which rightfully belongs to a country -- whether or not that country actually holds it. An example. Let's say a French-speaking province, a core of France, is conquered by one of the German states. In an "unbalanced" strategy game, that's the end of it — players own, a la Risk, whatever provinces they conquer. But in EUIV, as a core province, the simulated people in the conquered province will look continue to think of themselves as Frenchmen, and will agitate for independence or for reunion with France.

The game makes it possible to add a core to a conquered province, but the process is expensive and time-consuming. And unless you go through the additional time and expense of teaching all those nasty Frenchmen to speak proper German, France will never lose their core on that conquered province, even after you add your core to it. And whenever your country holds another country's core, they have a cassus belli on you so strong that the rest of the world will shrug -- or even ally with them -- when they go to war to take back their core.

And so French provinces tend to stay French, and German provinces tend to stay German, and the Supreme and High Holy Global Empire of Luxembourg never comes into being.

In the real world, the United States has enjoyed an ingenious method for gaining cores.
 
Remember that this nation started out as a few million farmers and merchants hugging the Atlantic coast, and yet not much more than a century later, the United States stretched from "sea to shining sea." And the key point here is that nobody seriously questioned our ownership of all those new lands -- we had "cored" a continent.

Our coring process is almost certainly unique in human history. Congress might organize a Territory, or the Army might conquer new lands, but that's not what earned us our cores. American people would move into a new Territory, the people there would establish their own government, and the people there would eventually petition Congress for statehood. Once accepted into the Union, each new state earned the same powers and responsibilities as all the others. At every step of the way, legitimacy was conferred upon a core province -- er, upon a state -- by the express will of the people.

Through this process, California very quickly went from "Of course it's part of Mexico!" to "Of course it's part of the United States!"

Thanks to two other key concepts, language and legitimacy, Mexico lost a core and we gained one — practically overnight.

A short story from the Austrian Empire:

It was the Emperor Francis II who first used the term "A Patriot For Me". One day, when a distinguished servant of the Empire was recommended to him for special notice, his sponsor remarked that he was a staunch and loyal patriot. The old Emperor looked up sharply: "Ah! But is he a patriot for me?" the Habsburgs had created, largely through marriage and treaty, rarely through conquest, this vast amalgam of areas in Europe torn by hereditary jealousies and rivalries.

The Habsburg system worked just fine -- right up until Czechs stopped thinking of themselves as loyal members of the Empire, and started thinking of themselves as Czechs. The story repeated throughout the Imperial realms among the Hungarians, the Croatians, the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Slovenians, and most especially the Serbs. It was a Serbian nationalist who assassinated Austria-Hungary's heir apparent, inadvertently starting the war which would destroy the Habsburg Empire.*

Contrast old Austria's troubles with our particularly American genius for making Americans out of, well, pretty much anybody and everybody. Come here from wherever, and if you couldn't speak English we'd make damn sure your kids did. And we eventually brought everybody into the political system, too, extending our (mostly) free and fair elections to anybody willing to make the modest effort to register and show up on election day.

Language and legitimacy are powerful forces, perhaps the only two which can hold together a polyglot nation like our own.

A few years ago, my PJM colleague Victor Davis Hanson wrote Mexifornia: A State of Becoming. In his book, VDH argued that

a loss of confidence in the old melting pot model of transforming newcomers into Americans, is changing the very nature of state. Yet we Californians have been inadequate in meeting this challenge, both failing to control our borders with Mexico and to integrate the new alien population into our mainstream.

The "state of becoming" reaches even further than it did when Hanson wrote those words a decade ago. California's government can no longer be said to legitimately represent the interests of the people. When semi-clownish geriatrics like Jerry Brown can ignore his state's real needs — water, jobs, safety — while wasting billions enriching single-party insiders building high-speed trains to nowhere, then it's safe to say that the polyglot peoples of California no longer live under a legitimate government.

And now if that Bloomberg story I quoted at the top of this article is correct, it would seem that a foreign government may be using citizenship as a weapon to further its own interests via our election.

Under these conditions, how long will the people of California, or at least the southern half of it, continue to look to Washington? How long will they continue to think, "Of course we're a part of the United States!"

How long can they remain a core?

---

*It is one of history's sublime ironies that the war which destroyed Austria-Hungary's doomed polyglot empire gave Serbia a doomed polyglot empire of its own.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #599 on: March 30, 2016, 12:10:04 »
How America's political elites are paving the way for a potential fguture disaster:

http://20committee.com/2015/03/02/yugoslavias-warning-to-america/

Quote
Yugoslavia’s Warning to America
March 2, 2015

That America is in trouble, and headed for more of it, is becoming received wisdom across the political aisle. For many on the Right, the Obama presidency heralds a new political age which they don’t like, just as many on the Left believed that the presidency of George W. Bush indicated that the end of the American experiment was nigh.
 
While the right-wing media regularly includes warnings that Obama has ushered in politico-economic trends that bode ill for America’s future, their counterparts on the Left are beginning to admit their doubts about our whole enterprise. Today, over at Vox, Matt Yglesias confesses that American democracy may well be doomed after all.
 
Yglesias is hardly a fringe character, rather an embodiment of Millennial liberalism. Once a mover and shaker over at the influential (and notorious to conservatives) JournoList, Yglesias has undeniable cachet among Beltway influencers, so when he says the country is pretty much cooked, it matters.
 
As usual over at Vox, his argument has a lot of flashcard-friendly facts and figures to back it up, and his conclusion — that political paralysis rooted in deep partisanship is only getting worse and threatens America’s constitutional democracy — is difficult to refute entirely. That said, Yglesias’ prognostications about America’s future course, including that the United States may turn into a gigantic, nuclear-armed Honduras, seem far-fetched, notwithstanding the apparent desire of Vox writers and readers to invite all of Central America to live in this country.
 
Yglesias gives short shrift to notions of a military coup or even a second American Civil War, and I don’t think he’s correct here. While it is difficult for anybody who knows the Pentagon well to imagine American generals and admirals getting together to overthrow the civilian government — that would require obscene amounts of PowerPoint and might endanger top brass golden parachutes with Beltway Bandits — the notion of a Civil War 2.0, however terrifying it may be, needs to be faced squarely, if we wish to avoid that awful fate.
 
America in the 21st century runs little risk of becoming Honduras Grande, but if current politico-economic trends continue much longer, we might well wind up a lot like Yugoslavia. That statement is sure to be controversial, since few Americans, citizens of the global hegemon and to many of them a most exceptional country, like to be compared with a relatively small Balkan federation that collapsed into wars and genocide a generation ago.
 
Yet the collapse of Yugoslavia offers several cautionary tales to Americans today, and if they are wise they will heed them and set the United States on a correction course before it is too late. As one who witnessed the dreadful collapse of Yugoslavia and its terrible aftermaths — including the seemingly permanent impoverishment of Southeastern Europe, mired in crime, corruption, and extremism — I would very much like America to discover a far happier fate.
 
However, some of the parallels are eerie and troubling. The differences must be explained up-front. Yugoslavia at its collapse had less than one-tenth of America’s population now, and its system of government was a socialist dictatorship, albeit one of a relatively enlightened kind. Notwithstanding a very nasty secret police force, Yugoslavia as nurtured under the charismatic Tito was a good deal more pleasant place to live than anywhere in the Soviet Bloc. Yugoslavs were free to travel abroad and, after the early 1950s, the repressive state apparatus didn’t have to throw many dissidents in prison, as public shaming, including threats of unemployment and loss of housing, cowed most would-be complainers into towing the party line, at least in public.
 
The root of Yugoslavia’s collapse was economic, particularly its parlous state finances. During the Cold War, Tito, who broke with Stalin in 1948 and thereby shattered Communist unity in Eastern Europe, was able to get big Western loans, since NATO viewed Yugoslavia as a necessary anti-Soviet bulwark in Europe, and with these billions of dollars, at low interest rates, the country developed a wide array of industries under its unique market socialist model.
 
Unfortunately, the oil shocks of 1973 ultimately undid this Balkan ponzi scheme, and as the cost of borrowing foreign money became prohibitive, Yugoslavia’s economy began to creak. At root, the country’s current operations, including funding the bloated state sector, depended on borrowed foreign money that Yugoslavia could no longer afford.
 
After Tito’s death in 1980, amid Western fears that Yugoslavia might implode to Moscow’s benefit, NATO signaled to Belgrade that, if they got their fiscal house in order, the money might keep flowing. In response, the Communist Party ordered Sergej Krajgher, a party stalwart from Slovenia, to see what had to be done to repair the country’s mounting socio-economic mess.
 
After two years of study, Krajgher’s commission in 1983 released its report, which correctly assessed that Yugoslavia needed to get its economic house in order to avoid financial, and then political, collapse. Specifically, Krajgher recommended the sell-off of unprofitable state enterprises, allowing more market forces to work, and above all comprehensive fiscal reform to get Yugoslavia off the drug of foreign loans. This was all excellent advice.
 
Its effect, however, was zero. The report was ignored, and Communist officials never made any effort to seriously implement any of Krajgher’s solid recommendations. It was too politically painful to make cuts, so the government pretended there was no problem. Until it was too late.
 
Comparisons to Obama are unavoidable. Early in his first term, he empowered a bi-partisan board, known colloquially as the Simpson-Bowles commission, to investigate improving the long-term condition of America’s state finances. The commission’s findings were thorough and persuasive, and they offered a way out of the country’s fiscal morass. At a minimum, Simpson-Bowles set the terms for a necessary debate. But Obama inexplicably pretended that his own commission ever existed. No debate ensued, since discussing cuts of government benefits to voters is electorally toxic — Republicans are no more eager to talk about this pain than Democrats — and nothing happened.
 
America, possessing the global reserve currency, has a margin for fiscal error enjoyed by no other country, but at some point the game of borrowing vast amounts of foreign money to fund our government will end, and end badly. The U.S. national debt now exceeds $18 trillion, which given the fact that only a little more than 120 million Americans actually pay federal taxes, amounts to almost $150,000 of debt per taxpayer. To say nothing of ballooning state and local government indebtedness. Rhode Island, where I lived for many years, witnessing its love of other people’s money to pay for an unsustainable welfare state, is so deeply in debt that it’s as bad off as Greece, as even the mainstream media admits.
 
There is no reason to think this will end pleasantly, given the track record of every other country that has gotten itself deeply into long-term debt and dependency on borrowed foreign money to pay for current liabilities. Once doubts of any sort emerge about the U.S. dollar’s status as the global reserve currency, the rot will emerge rapidly and America’s fiscal nightmare will be here, with a vengeance. That reckoning can be delayed for years, even decades, but when it comes, as it eventually will, it will come suddenly, at which point there will be no palatable remedy.
 
Possessing only the weak dinar, Yugoslavia had no such margin for error or avoidance, and the party’s punting on economic reform meant that the fiscal collapse would come sooner than later. By the late 1980s, interest rates and unemployment were both sky-high and Belgrade was running out of hard (i.e. real) money. Repeated devaluations of the dinar did little good, and even a belated IMF effort in 1988 to float Yugoslavia a bit longer, in exchange for promises of real market reforms, could not stave off disaster. It was too late. Political dysfunction had become fatal, making economic reform impossible.
 
Worse, economic problems, including unemployment and inflation that impoverished Yugoslavs rapidly — by the time the country went over the cliff in 1991, real incomes were half what they had been a generation before — exacerbated the country’s serious ethnic grievances. When combined with economic emergency, Yugoslavia’s ethnic politics proved a lethal combination that led directly to wars and genocide.
 
Yugoslavia was a very diverse country, ethnically and religiously, and the divisions between groups were real and serious. Unlike 21st century Americans, Yugoslavs were under no illusions that “diversity is our greatest strength” — they knew the opposite was the truth — and the Communists went to great lengths to keep ethnic peace by banning what we would term “hate speech” while mandating that the official doctrine that Yugoslavia’s diverse peoples really loved each other deeply be placed at the level of quasi-religious dogma.
 
Rewriting history, to show certain ethnic groups as victims and others as perpetrators of race-based crimes, took its toll, since Yugoslavs knew this was too simple, and was being used as a political weapon by the authorities. Aggressive “affirmative action” in education and employment — Belgrade termed it the “ethnic key” — was another perennial sore-spot for many citizens, since ethnic status and ties often mattered more than competence. Needless to add, this hardly helped the economy either.
 
Perhaps worst of all, by preventing any honest discussion of ethnic matters, the Communists had a perverse knack of making each of Yugoslavia’s many ethnic groups feel that it was uniquely aggrieved. Thus any Serb or Croat or Albanian or Bosnian Muslim, could look at similar events and quietly determine that his group was really the persecuted one in the Communist-mandated racial games that were enforced by the authorities.
 
When the Communist monopoly on power began to wane in the mid-1980s, as across Eastern Europe, and the Yugoslav media began taking on taboo topics, nothing was more discussed than ethnic politics and their messy history. It quickly became a firestorm. To cite the most damaging example, around 1985 the Serbian media began reporting violent crimes committed against Serbs by Albanians in Kosovo, which was a majority-Albanian province that enjoyed self-government under Tito’s system.
 
While Albanians did commit crimes against Serbs, the opposite was also true, yet the Belgrade media focused on the former while ignoring the latter. Accounts of rapes of Serbian women — some real, many imagined  — served to whip up nationalist fervor. The press, with Serbia’s Communist Party increasingly behind them, since they realized that nationalism was a powerful motivator for potential voters, indulged in regular accounts of lurid Albanian crimes against Serbs.
 
A classic case was that of Djordje Martinović, a Serb in Kosovo who in 1986 claimed he had been brutalized by Albanian thugs, including being anally raped with a bottle, in a horrible hate crime. The Serbian media went wild with the story, which inflamed rising nationalist passions. Albanian protests that the media was wrong made no headway with Serbs, who preferred what I have elsewhere termed The Narrative over facts. The subsequent revelation that Martinović had faked his attack, having injured himself in an act of self-pleasuring gone seriously wrong, got a lot less media attention than the initial story.
 
By then the damage was done, as anybody familiar with Yugoslavia’s tragic demise knows. A colorless Communist functionary on the make, Slobodan Milošević, realized that nationalism was the ticket to political success as Communism waned. He made the fate of Serbs in Kosovo, real and imagined, his major plank, and he exploited this toxic environment created by the media to whip up a frenzy that he could exploit, and he did.
 
By 1989, Milošević was the master of Serbia, and he promptly cancelled Kosovo’s autonomy, reducing the Albanians there to second-class status under the Serbs. This was payback for all the crimes perpetrated by Albanians against innocent Serbs. Of course, radicalization inevitably begets counter-radicalization, and before long Croats, Albanians, and all the non-Serbian groups in Yugoslavia were digging up their own nationalist grievances and skewed history to counter the Serbs. War and genocide were soon to follow, in a tragedy that was especially poignant because it was eminently avoidable.
 
Playing political games with race and ethnicity in any multinational society is a dangerous thing. Obama, by promising that he wanted to be president of all Americans, then governing as a highly partisan Democrat, has laid the groundwork for a hazardous future for the United States, hardly helped by his public indulging of black nationalism, particularly his incautious discussion of crimes both real and imagined against African Americans. However verboten discussion of white nationalism is at present among polite Americans, it is unavoidable that this will become an issue in the future, with potentially explosive consequences — to say nothing of the rise of Hispanic and Asian nationalisms too, as the United States becomes even more diverse than Yugoslavia was.
 
Managing this increasingly fissiparous country as economic prospects diminish will challenge the most gifted politicians. Indulging in ethnic resentments as a substitute for solutions to vexing politico-economic problems only makes things go from bad to worse, sometimes rapidly and painfully. With both our parties increasingly beholden to Wall Street at the expense of Main Street, average Americans of all backgrounds will not be happy that they are bequeathing a life of less affluence and opportunity to their children. In such a time of troubles, playing ethno-racial political games as a substitute for reform is deeply irresponsible.
 
It would be nice if Democrats and Republicans played better together, particularly on the budget and borrowing money. It would be especially nice if they seriously addressed issues of rising economic inequality and diminishing opportunities for average Americans.  But it is imperative that they not fan the flames of ethnic and racial resentments if they wish to avoid a terrible outcome for our country.
 
The fate of Yugoslavia was anything but preordained. The United States, whatever its problems, is a far richer and better-run state than anything created by Tito. But the same threats lurk, particularly those of economic degradation caused by debt and made impossible to fix thanks to toxic racial politics. America need not become a vast Balkan horror show — I think it’s more likely in coming decades to become a huge nuclear-armed Brazil, with entrenched economic inequality, often among racial lines, that I find noxious and unworthy of our country — but the fate of Yugoslavia must be avoided at all costs. Our next Civil War would be much more vicious and protracted than the last one, have no illusions.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.