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View Full Version : Hegemony is, like, so over


Bloggingheads
02-14-2008, 09:13 PM

bjkeefe
02-14-2008, 10:36 PM
Good stuff.

(I heard Fred on Fresh Air, too, but they edited out the ringing phones. Babies.)

It is amazing that even when one tries to give every consideration possible to the Bush Administration, any discussion of the past seven years quickly reveals just how much of a disaster it has been.

I hope Fred is wrong about how tough it's going to be to re-burnish our image on the world stage, but I'm afraid he's right. And that's assuming the American people aren't dumb enough to elect John McCain.

Wonderment
02-14-2008, 10:45 PM
Bob and Fred agonize over the future of US global policy, but no big revelations here -- just two very smart guys gnashing their teeth over the execrable idiocies of the Bush administration.

Bottom line: We need to get rid of the deranged Republican administration and hope for the best with the Democrats.

The damage inflicted on the country and the world by Bush is immense. We can't afford a nanosecond of Republican continuity in power.

Famous Last Words (and wishful thinking) from Bob on McCain:

"Maybe when he's president he'll stop doing that. Some people grow into the job..."

edhesq
02-14-2008, 10:58 PM
When exactly did the conduct of foreign policy among nation states all of a sudden become a popularity contest? Or does that only apply to the US as the lone superpower? I'd say all countries have their arrogances, and the only difference with the US is with respect to its global reach and power.

Instead, you guys want to adopt the foreign policy personae of the tragic prom queen who is susceptible to an eating disorder because of her poor self-image brought on by the attention and jealousy of her peers. As if to cement the teenage parallel of your argument you insert the slang word "like" into the title of this diavolg.

This silly new obsession with "image" is the ultimate international psyche-out. A UN "prison game" for the uninitiated. Why should our "allies" actually devote national resources to alliances and defense if all they have to do is look askance at the US to get us to do what they want?

Maybe you guys should resign your jobs, as they say in politics, so that you can spend less time with your kids?

Baltimoron
02-14-2008, 11:05 PM
"Maybe when he's president he'll stop doing that. Some people grow into the job..."

I'm not quoting this as a McCain acolyte, but to underscore how important advisers, who become Cabinet, department, and agency heads, are important. Aside from Holbrooke in a Clinton administration, who will be the next President's advisers? Are we finally done with the 70s? Can we move beyond the Nixon and Ford administrations (whence Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Wolfowitz came)? The GOP will probably draw from the Reagan and Bush I administrations, and the Dems from the Clinton administration. Is there joy in any of this?

Bloggin' Noggin
02-14-2008, 11:56 PM
This was fun -- a sane Kaplan! Even before the half-way point of the diavlog I had purchased the Audible.com version of the book. This was before I reached the point in the diavlog where Bob encouraged the Amazon.com method of purchasing the book. But it wouldn't have made much difference anyway I was ready for a new Audiobook, but not for a new print book and the purchase couldn't have arrived instantaneously (since I don't yet have a Kindle). I understand that Amazon is buying Audible, so eventually it will all work out. But Fred is at least a few cents better off for having done BHtv.

Sgt Schultz
02-15-2008, 12:03 AM
No American can ever be unembarrassed until America is well thought of by every living German. Especially the really old ones.
Only then will we have regained the world.
Cuz y'know how loved we've always been until lately.

Namazu
02-15-2008, 01:20 AM
Exhibit A: "Freedom is a gift from God." If you really believe this, you might do something crazy like declare independence from Great Britain!

Exhibit B: The Bushies don't crank out memoirs as quickly as the Clintonistas, but wouldn't you rather wait to see what Cheney and Rumsfeld say before caricaturing their motivations?

Exhibit C: Oh, the great sympathy of the Europeans we squandered! I suppose that explains why they aren't living up to their most basic commitments to NATO in Afghanistan.

Exhibit D: If only Iraq II could have been like Kosovo or Iraq I, then issues would be tissues. You cannot be serious!

Exhibit E: Terrorism as a law-enforcement/intelligence vs. war: this confuses aspiration with doctrine: c.f. East Africa or any number of places our military is effectively doing a bit of all three.

Exhibit F: "We've created more terrorists, haven't we?" This is gibberish, even by the standards of social science or journalism.

Exhibit G: Bob's token gambit. Has Bob actually asked any genuine foreigners whether they care if we have a black President? I could hook him up with some phone numbers.

Exhibit H: North Korea claims its nuclear plan is in response to the Iraq invasion. And Fred and Bob lap it up uncritically.

Exhibit I: Bob's adviser-in-shining-armor gambit. Notice how quickly he perked up at the idea that a serious person (Dennis Ross) may be whispering in his empty vessel's ear?

Exhibit J: Is the surge working? Yeah, I think it's close to official as of Wednesday's Iraqi parliament meeting. Sorry we couldn't get that to you a little sooner, guys.

This diavlog oozes intellectual laziness. Since when do journalists qualify as domain experts? Could you please bump him for Dennis Ross instead of inviting him back? Bob: WAKE UP!!

Glaurunge
02-15-2008, 03:52 AM
A) I don't think the point being stressed is that democracy is a bad thing: the point was that, despite what Bush thinks, it doesn't just naturally gush forth from societies like an uncorked bottle of campaign. How long after Athens was defeated in the Peloponnesian war before democracy took root again? Seems to me that democracy is generally the exception rather than the rule.

B) To use a cliche, actions speak louder than words, and it's not like this crew is known for its honestly. When dealing with Bush, Cheney et al. one pretty much has to assume a high degree of duplicitousness. Rephrasing your part A, "shouldn't the American founders waited until George III published his memoirs before caricaturing his motivations"?

C) Which commitments exactly is NATO failing to fulfill? Are you talking about promises they already made or just ones Bush wants them to make? If it's the latter then we have a perfect example of the kind of FU attitude Bob and Fred talked about. Though I suppose if we weren't enmeshed in Iraq for five years, their assistance wouldn't be as critical as it is now that Afghanistan is slipping sideways.

D) Seems you pretty callously gloss over the 1 million Iraqi dead, 4 million Iraqi refugees and 4,000 American troops dead that resulted (in part) by ignoring the lessons of those conflicts.

E) Well the whole notion of a "war on terrorism" is pretty juvenile.

F) "Gibberish"? There's an indigenous Iraqi organization called "al-Qaeda in Iraq" that arose post invasion. You may have heard of it.

G) Bob's assessment was pretty reasonable speculation.

H) Is that any better than "lapping up" anything Bush says? You just have to ask yourself what any rational actor would do in a situation like this. If al-Qaeda told Mexico they were next on the hit list after 9/11, you don't think the Mexican government would take some precautionary steps? Also, don't forget Bush's abrogation of the nuclear agreement with North Korea, worked out under Clinton. It's another example of the FU attitude that contributed to the resumption of North Korea's nuclear program.

I) I agree with Bob and Fred. It would be great for the US to take the Israel/Palestine conflict seriously. Heck, it would be great if America took any interest at all in facilitating a settlement. And just who is the "empty vessel" you refer to? Do you mean intellectually empty? A great thing about Obama is that he almost certainly knows the difference between Shia and Suni Islam; a distinction Bush didn't pick up on until a year after invading Iraq. Talk about an empty vessel. Can we at least agree that having a full time envoy like Ross is preferable to a part time one?

J) The same was said three years ago when Iraq held elections. Then Six months later we were supposed to be in "the last throws of the insurgency." And don't forget the euphoria when Zarqawi was killed. But this one meeting marks the turning point? I haven't been keeping up like I should, but are half the cabinet members still boycotting the government? Moreover, what's going to happen when the surge has finished receding? Are the 2 million external refugees going to return and destabilize Iraq along its most sensitive fault lines? Because that's what the American military is afraid of, and it's why they're actually discouraging refugees from returning. You seriously underestimate just how precariously fragile the situation in Iraq is.

Yeah, that Fred Kaplan guy was a real bafoon. What bloggingheads really needs is a soaring intellect along the lines of Bill O'reily or Sean Hannity.

Eastwest
02-15-2008, 10:37 AM
Another fine and intelligent discussion with a savvy observer of the big picture.

(Although there are links above and right for the Fresh Air interview, perhaps listen as well to the WNYC interview on this page: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/episodes/2008/02/07)

Some of the comments by the BHTV parasite-bloggers are a bit embarrassing. But what are you going to do? The reality is: "any-idiot-can-type" and the policy is "anyone-at-all-can-post." Consequence: anyone at all can distract from intelligent discussion so long as they aren't strictly ignored. Oh well.

Hope FK returns again. Thanks BW.

EW

piscivorous
02-15-2008, 10:40 AM
There is so much material, in this diavlog, to work with it I am finding it difficult to know where to begin. Should I applaud Mr. Kaplan for trying to put the meme that the neocons were the reason we invaded Iraq, that President Bush is in fact the Decider in Chief as well as the Commander in Chief, that the promotion and spread of democracy was integral to the reasoning behind invading Iraq or that Secretary Rumsfeld was in many ways correct and those are the ones I recall off the top of my head. I have trouble understanding how Mr. Kaplan can attack, dispute and raze so may of the memes, touted by the left side of this BB, and yet still come to the same conclusions that those that use these memes as reasons for their opinions. I think I will have to parse this diavlog carefully to provide the relevant links.

edhesq
02-15-2008, 10:42 AM
piscivorous,

Good point. I've always found Kaplan's analysis useful, his conclusions largely incongruous.

bjkeefe
02-15-2008, 11:13 AM
pisc, namazu, et al:

Ignoring for the moment the minor quibbles you might have with Kaplan's assessment, let me ask you this big picture question: Do you honestly believe the US is better off now, in a foreign policy sense, than we were seven years and one month ago?

If yes, please explain how.

If no, how much do you think is the fault of the current administration, and how much do you think can be written off to circumstances out of its control? I suspect you will raise the "unprovoked attack" of 9/11 here, so I'll ask this, too: How smart were the policies that were implemented in response to that event?

piscivorous
02-15-2008, 11:27 AM
I would have to agree that his analysis is astute, in many instances, but his conclusions tend to be based on his great depth and understanding of psychology and the insights this expertise gives him in declaring definitively that this was the motivations and real reasons why. Or perhaps his conclusion are based more on his personal and political biases and the analysis is really irrelevant as he knows the inner workings of these peoples minds.

piscivorous
02-15-2008, 11:51 AM
Yes I do. The election of Nicolas Sarkozy who is in the process of moving France in our direction not insisting that we move towards Frances previous posturing. The election of Angela Merkel who is in the process of moving Germany, not as definitively as President Sarkozy of France but none the less not insisting that we move towards Germany previous posturing. Getting China to sign on to the 6 party talks effectively hamstring North Korea as the Chinese don't like to be embarrassed, the increasing number of countries joining in the anti-ballistic missile initiative, the nuclear sharing agreement treaty between India and the US, NATOs current, yet ineffective, involvement in Afghanistan, getting President Musharraf to accept the return of Benazir Bhutto, unfortunately now deceased thanks to peace loving Islamic fanatics, the realization of the big 3 that talking to Iran is useless and the only solution might be the big stick one, the public recognition by Russia that hey maybe the Iranians are actually pursuing a nuclear weapons program after all when you look at their continuing enrichment program and emphasis on intercontinental ballistic missiles just to name a few.

bjkeefe
02-15-2008, 01:39 PM
pisc:

Hard to believe you're serious. By the way, you've ignored the fact that we're stuck in two wars.

piscivorous
02-15-2008, 01:47 PM
Well dispute the arguments instead of questioning my "seriousness" and "stuck" is your descriptor; nothing more than opinion, like Mr. Kaplan's and no better than his underlying "motivational" reasoning for things.

bjkeefe
02-15-2008, 01:55 PM
pisc:

I'm sorry. I can't debate you on this. Your worldview is orthogonal to mine.

I was mostly just curious if you'd budge from your relentless cheerleading. I didn't think you would, but I did have my hopes.

ed fielding
02-15-2008, 02:23 PM
(I dunno, fisheater)
This divilog is a gem & joins the top of my list of enlightenments tracing our current circumstances.
The play of (what I accept as) trustworthy judgments, in a context of personable wit and humour— really, a huge treat.

Gotta ad the idea of Obama sitting down with warring parties and making peace carefully, intelligently and justly is one I find credible, compelling, even essential if any hope of justice and peace is to be entertained.

piscivorous
02-15-2008, 02:23 PM
pisc, namazu, et al:

Ignoring for the moment the minor quibbles you might have with Kaplan's assessment, let me ask you this big picture question: Do you honestly believe the US is better off now, in a foreign policy sense, than we were seven years and one month ago?

If yes, please explain how.

f no, how much do you think is the fault of the current administration, and how much do you think can be written off to circumstances out of its control? I suspect you will raise the "unprovoked attack" of 9/11 here, so I'll ask this, too: How smart were the policies that were implemented in response to that event?


To which I answered yes and provided you with numerous, but not comprehensive, examples of why I don't believe that our foreign relations are anywhere near as bad as the screaming left makes it out to be. Your response
pisc:

I'm sorry. I can't debate you on this. Your worldview is orthogonal to mine.

I was mostly just curious if you'd budge from your relentless cheerleading. I didn't think you would, but I did have my hopes. I have no doubt that our worldviews are orthogonal, but if listing specific examples is cheerleading than how can any conversation proceed. I have not put any time or effort into answering the second question you posed but I am quite sure that it would garner a similar response.

piscivorous
02-15-2008, 02:39 PM
(I dunno, fisheater)
This divilog is a gem & joins the top of my list of enlightenments tracing our current circumstances.
The play of (what I accept as) trustworthy judgments, in a context of personable wit and humour— really, a huge treat.

Gotta ad the idea of Obama sitting down with warring parties and making peace carefully, intelligently and justly is one I find credible, compelling, even essential if any hope of justice and peace is to be entertained. I agree that this was a very interesting diavlog, and for all I know Mr. Kaplan may have enough insight and inside knowledge that he can actually divine the motivations that drove the actors to make the decisions that they made. My general take on someone stating their insights into the motivations of others is fraught with danger and often no more than projection. Negotiating "peace for our time" sounds wonderful but it didn't work so well as an expression in 1938 and as Mr. Kaplan so adroitly pointed out the nature of international politics has not really changed, since the fall of the Soviet Union, nor for that matter the nature of the human animal. This is as true a statement as you can make whether it be considered post the Soviet fall or prior to WWII.

bjkeefe
02-15-2008, 02:43 PM
pisc:

... how can any conversation proceed.

Exactly my point.

piscivorous
02-15-2008, 02:47 PM
So you believe that talks between two sides with orthogonal positions are useless and should not be perused.

Exactly my point.

Wonderment
02-15-2008, 03:44 PM
...for all I know Mr. Kaplan may have enough insight and inside knowledge that he can actually divine the motivations that drove the actors to make the decisions that they made....

I don't think he's claiming to know -- exhaustively -- all the motivations that led to the Iraq holocaust. But he gives a good overview of what was in play.

There are some acts of human behavior in warfare that are forever shrouded in mystery. Call it radical evil.

Perhaps it always emerges in mass conflicts. It's easier to see in your enemies, of course: Bin Laden, Hitler, etc.

Here, for lack of a better term, we can call it the Cheney Factor -- an emergent property of inhumanity, insensitivity, sadism, fanaticism, deceit and profound injustice that festers in wars of aggression.

It will haunt us for generations.

piscivorous
02-15-2008, 03:51 PM
It will haunt us for generations. Personally I sleep well when I sleep and while some may decry it from the bell towers for generations I doubt that giving some 50 million people the chance to better their and their children's future will "haunt us for generations."

Podger
02-15-2008, 11:27 PM
Enjoyed the dialogue. And Kudos to Fred if that was an intentional Lebowski quote!

-Podger (http://www.podger.net)

Namazu
02-16-2008, 10:16 AM
Do you honestly believe the US is better off now, in a foreign policy sense, than we were seven years and one month ago?
Brendan: your honest question deserves an honest answer, but it's complicated, and as the saying goes, "history is not a repeated experiment." In assessing the effects of policy, we have to say "compared to what?"

This isn't comprehensive, but here are some thoughts off the top of my head:

-Whatever our progress in Iraq, we are truly stuck in the sense that we have no responsible way of substantially and quickly reducing our financial commitment. In any case, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Unknown guarantee that the region will be a substantial drain on us for a long time. This was a war of choice, and I don't think we'll really know whether any of the hoped-for benefits to the region accrue for years if not decades. To note that our military spending as a % of GDP is still historically high is not to minimize the opportunity costs in money and intellectual energy to the problems we face at home. One thing I'd ask you to think about is what kind of real or virtual nuclear arms race we might be having between Saddam and Iran.

-Israel/Palestine is worse: Bush blew the opportunity to call Hamas' bluff. I've had tea with Palestinians in parts of the country I'd have difficulty traveling to now: the current state of affairs is tragic and was not entirely unavoidable.

-I have a huge concern about Saudi Arabia, which is run by irredeemable sociopaths, on whom unfortunately we (actually, our allies) depend. Maybe flex fuels (c.f. Robert Zubrin) will allow us to crack the cartel, but I'm afraid they've got us right where they want us for now. It's possible that our enlightened engagement with the Emirates and their economic boom will help "encourager les autres." Hard and soft power are at play here: we cannot afford to return to protectionism and we need to continue to keep the small wars in places like Yemen small. There are success stories, but they're not front page (except on the business page).

-Africa is a lot better than it could have been, and maybe better than could have been hoped for. C.f. Pew Research and Robert Kaplan's primary reporting, for example.

-My sense is that we're doing OK with China, and by OK I mean a glide path to not having a big conflict some day--i.e., fantastic. Again, hard and soft power contribute: our military alliances with Japan and India are stronger than ever, and we are deeply engaged on an economic level.

-Elsewhere in Asia-Pacific (Phillipines, Indonesia, Thailand), we have been making better friends through the exercise of soft power, mainly delivered by the hard guys.

-In Latin America, our legacy policies force us to tread very carefully, and it's hard to know what to take credit for. On balance, I think the region is turning towards us economically, from whence the rest will follow. If oil drops to $70 and stays there for a year, it will be game over for Chavez and any remnants of the socialist revolutionary dream. We can still screw this up by not negotiating trade agreements.

-Russia is really of little direct importance to us now, and I think the sooner we start acting that way and let it become the problem of the Europeans, the better.

-I think we're about as well positioned in our alliances to combat terrorism as we can be, and I don't think our 6+ years without major incident here are an accident. I don't know enough about Pakistan to say whether we can do any better than the current leadership and maintain stability, but there will eventually be a price to pay if we can't find an S.O.B. that merits more of his own people's trust.

-I worry about blowback: there's a price to be paid for being everyone's uncle. I'd love to see us out of the hair of the poor Okinawans and everyone else, and I hope I live long enough to see it.

-N.

bjkeefe
02-16-2008, 12:37 PM
Namazu:

In assessing the effects of policy, we have to say "compared to what?"

Compared to "seven years and one month ago."

But you pretty much answered that. Thanks for the thoughtful reply. No time right now to react in detail.

Wonderment
02-16-2008, 04:34 PM
This was a war of choice, and I don't think we'll really know whether any of the hoped-for benefits to the region accrue for years if not decades.

This is a war of choice.

We can choose not to wage it.

One thing I'd ask you to think about is what kind of real or virtual nuclear arms race we might be having between Saddam and Iran.

One thing I'd ask you to think about is how this would have felt (yesterday) if it was your mother and five siblngs:

Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency said two US helicopters had opened fire on a house in al-Howeija area, western Kirkuk, claiming eight lives. The dead included a woman and five children, VOI said.

You_had_me_at_hello
02-19-2008, 05:02 PM
OK, this is clearly unrelated to the content of this
excellent episode, and properly inappropriate to boot.

But . . . Robert Wright is SMOKIN' HOT!

You_had_me_at_hello
02-19-2008, 05:55 PM
Hi again,

I ACCIDENTLY hit the "Submit" button for the post above. Would the "Management" please remove it. Thanks.

bjkeefe
02-19-2008, 06:27 PM
You_Had:

You can delete your own posts. I can tell you wright now that there's no way management will delete that one for you.