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Total number of comments: 6 (since 2013-11-28 16:44:15)

Michael C.

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  • A New Yalta? Can France Craft an alliance of Putin & Obama against Daesh/ISIL?
    • A New Yalta or a new Paris Peace?

      The Yalta analogy is a bad one. Although it captures the ambiguities of an alliance with Russia today, it is a poor fit for the reality of the situation in the Middle East. The total defeat of Hitler allowed for a postwar settlement of sorts, one that was never ratified by treaty, but entailed Europe’s partition into American and Soviet spheres of influence. Although imperfect by many measures, it had the merit of stabilizing international relations in Europe. That in turn both brought an end to Europe’s self-destructive wars and created the space for the creation of the European Union, which, however maligned today, is a major advance over what preceded it.

      Although Daesch might approach Hitler’s Germany in its evil, it is otherwise dissimilar. It does not dominate the region; it lacks resources and capabilities comparable to Nazi Germany; and defeating it will not open the door to the stabilization of the region. The underlying problem is that the settlement imposed upon the Middle East after World War One has been unraveled, a process that began with the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In Iraq, Daesch has fed on Sunni Arab discontent after they lost their dominant position in the old regime and then became an aggrieved minority in the new one. In Syria, by contrast, Sunnis are a majority oppressed by a dictatorship, whose base (to the extent it still exists) is in a religious minority. Daesch can no doubt be defeated by a new “Yalta” coalition, but this will hardly resolve these underlying problems that destabilize the region.

      What we need to strive for in the present conjuncture is less a new Yalta than the foundations of a new Paris Peace. The fight against Daesch is bringing together almost all the region’s major powers as well as the key outsiders with influence in the region. Israel, Iran, and Turkey can join with the US, Russia, and the EU in alliance against Daesch. To be sure they all seek something different from its defeat, but this convergence of interests can be the foundation for a new diplomacy aimed at a comprehensive settlement to the region’s problems. Such a settlement can’t be like that of World War Two, which was based on the total defeat of Nazi Germany. Nor, I think, should we want a similar settlement. It is often forgotten that World War Two ended with the completion of the work of ethic cleaning of East Central Europe begun by the Nazis as millions of people were moved, mostly against their will, to create more ethnically homogeneous nation states.

      There is no total victory to be won here. It must involve compromise. What now makes that compromise potentially possible is precisely a new recognition on the part of the US that total victory is unattainable. The Bush Administration thought it could impose its will, but its failure has brought about a new recognition of the limits of US military power that might make the US more willing to seek diplomatic solutions. Might recognition of comparative US weakness embolden others to take uncompromising stands? Perhaps, but US weakness is only relative to the fantasy world of “shock and awe”; the US remains strong enough to twist arms in pursuit of a settlement. If the Iranian nuclear deal goes well, Iran might conclude that it can benefit from compromise and international cooperation.

      What would have to be the foundation of such a settlement? Quickly:
      1. Inviolability of the national borders that emerge from it and commitments not to subvert the internal stability of other countries.
      2. Religious and ethnic minority rights, probably requiring decentralized governments.
      3. A two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
      4. A significant UN presence to keep the peace.

      Is this a utopia? Perhaps, but if it is never put on the table as an option, we will never know if something along these lines is possible.

  • Top Ten Climate Change Threats being ignored by your Television News
    • Most Americans don't know where half of the places mentioned in your top 10 list are. So, it is hardly surprising that television news ignore these stories and just about everything else beyond the borders of the USA.

  • Ret'd. CIA Official Alleges Bush White House Used Agency to "Get" Cole
    • What about the bit in NY Times article suggesting that you were denied an appointment at Yale because of campaigning by conservative critics? Any truth to it? How far did you get in the process before you were turned down?

  • Egyptian Protests Swell in Response to Ghonim
    • The NY Times reports "On Monday, a diverse group of American specialists on Egypt and the Middle East wrote to Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton expressing concern that the United States “may acquiesce to an inadequate and possibly fraudulent transitional process in Egypt.” Who are these people and what more did they say? I googled the quote and found no references to this other than by the NY Times.

  • Repression Fails as Thousands Demand Mubarak Departure
    • Regarding John Stewart not challenging Shafiq's apology, the more that The Daily Show gains in prominence, the more cautious and deferential Stewart becomes. Another case in point, recently T. Boone Pickens told Stewart that Fracking has no adverse environmental effects, and Stewart let it go, saying nothing. For what its worth, I think Colbert is much more subversive than Stewart as his Jonathan Swift "Modest Proposal" style irony hardly spares anyone.

  • Mubarak Defies a Humiliated America, Emulating Netanyahu
    • It would be interesting to compare what is not happening in Egypt to 1989 in Eastern Europe. Of course, there are many differences, but recent events leave me wondering whether we are not witnessing the collapse of America's informal empire in the Middle East. May the dominoes fall!

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