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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dr Pangloss Reports

[note: Talleyrand does not endorse the following opinion]

Dr Pangloss ventures the bold suggestion that not all in the world is as terrible as it looks.

1. The democratic upheaval in the Middle East is occurring at the moment of Europe’s eclipse. Therefore few people in either region suffer from the illusion that the liberalisation of these countries will draw them closer to Europe, or that Europe serves as any kind of beacon. This is not 1989 all over again, and reformers in the Middle East and North Africa will be spared the deep disappointment that surely would have come if anyone had his focus on a European light at the end of the tunnel. Self-reliance, however ugly it can seem at times, is a healthy thing.

2. The normalisation of diplomatic and economic relations is proceeding, however gradually, in East Asia at a moment of U.S. weakness and alongside the  American presidency of a man predisposed to the appearance of passive humility. Imagine if this had taken place a decade ago, before September 11th, when tough talk about the Chinese ‘peer competitor’ was all the rage? A no-brainer, as Americans (or Taiwanese, as the case may be) like to say. At the very least, the Chinese now are trying harder to sound constructive. Not so a decade ago.

3. The long and inevitable American retreat from global dominance is taking place as gracefully as it possibly can do in the circumstances. It began in the 1970s, enjoyed a sweet Indian summer in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and now proceeds along its predictable course. Unlike the Soviet empire, it has not suffered a dramatic collapse and, so long as most of the rest of the world plays along and gradually assumes greater responsibility for the globe’s peace and prosperity, will it continue with retrocession, to everyone’s long-term benefit. ‘We’re only meant to rule this place so it can learn to rule itself' has never made more sense.

All this no doubt is premised on there not being:

1. A full blown military crisis with Iran.

2. A full collapse of the Euro.

3. A full blown civil war in Syria that draws in Lebanon and Jordan.

4. A full blown crisis with Pakistan and/or North Korea.

5. A full break between Israel and its long suffering American patron.

Dr Pangloss doesn’t think any of those things will happen.

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