Monday, December 11, 2017
Kicking the Afghan Syndrome
Vladimir Putin’s triumphant
arrival to Syria today reminds one of the moment in 1991 when the US President George H. W. Bush declared that he and his
country, because of its quick victory in the Gulf War, had kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all. In retrospect the
diagnosis is rather debatable, after what his son and others managed to do in the same part of the world.
One wonders also whether the Russians will experience the same feeling
now. In contrast to their humiliation in Afghanistan some thirty years ago, and to a lesser extent in Chechnia, their work
in Syria – with roughly the same goal as the US had in Vietnam, that is, propping up an ally in the midst of an insurgency
to the point that it could declare ‘victory’ in being able, at least ostensibly, to defend itself – has
But also like Indochina and Afghanistan
(and Chechnia, for that matter), Syria is a hard, messy place, and not much celebrated for gratitude or absolution.
Monday, November 6, 2017
Too Much Zeal
The stirring moves
in Saudi in the past several days suggest haste and poor planning. It is hard to believe they will succeed in their aim. What
if they do not? A reversal, most likely, perhaps in the form of a coup. How much and how far the violence would spread should
worry many people now.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
In anticipation of Theresa May's upcoming speech in Florence,
Talleyrand would recall another speech there about Europe that became rather famous -- by Roy Jenkins, nearly forty years
'I believe that a new, more compelling
and rewarding but still arduous approach is necessary.
We must also change the metaphor. Let us think of a long-jumper. He starts with a rapid succession of steps, lengthens
his stride, increases his momentum, and then makes his leap'
Bonne chance, Madame May.
Sunday, September 3, 2017
North Korea's regime now claims to have tested a hydrogen
weapon. It has recently tested more missiles than it has in a long time. Yet, the consensus among the world's experts is still,
after some two decades, that the North Koreans are extortionists who can be alternately browbeaten or bought off, and
the status quo ante will resume.
knows very little about these odd people. But he has asked a number of times -- eg here and here -- for evidence of the inner thoughts of the North Koreans. What if they are not extortionists but have some other aim besides
'regime survival'? Or, what if their definition of extortion is not the same as others'?
Governments that do not wish to fear the worst from North Korea need to determine
a collective aim and then determine what each is prepared to do to achieve it. Even then, it may too late to impose a unified
front against this menace of a regime, and succeed. But if there is to be any aim achieved that is not exclusively North Korea's,
then certainly it will follow from a policy that is not based upon wishful thinking or upon any other speculation over what
Kim Jong Un wants and will do, but upon what his adversaries want and need in this region.
The foregoing is not rocket science [sic]. It is, going by recent comments
of senior American, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and South Korean officials, not unfamilar. The question now is not whether
or not it is being acted upon. One way or another, there will probably not be an undramatic denouement to this crisis. The
question is whether its nature, scale, and scope will be decided by North Korea or by its adversaries -- in unison, or not.
Friday, September 1, 2017
Well, perhaps not perfidious,
but certainly odd. After three rounds of negotiations and more than a year since their bizarre vote to leave the European
Union, the UK is still pretending to whistle in the wind about 'Brexit'. Somebody, soon, needs to re-educate the British on the basics of diplomacy, starting with the definition
of 'demandeur'. The British people have a good deal at stake, however much their government has been unserious, or worse.