Author: Maitra (Page 1 of 12)

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Let’s be careful about France…

Predictably, pro EU, managerial Emmanuel Macron and far right Marine Le Pen moved on to the second round of French elections. In a historic result, none of the major parties, the Socialists, as well as the Republicans went to the second round, in what could be a historic first since the second world war. The socialist candidate of President Hollande’s party got only 6 percent votes, as his votes were divided between Macron and far left candidate Melenchon, who was another outsider, who won around 19 percent votes, similar to what the center right republican candidate Fillon got. Both Fillon and the Socialist candidate Hammon promptly endorsed Macron, and pointed out that far right is the biggest threat to French unity. The far left candidate, Melenchon, refused to endorse anyone.

Macron’s policies, are as most of the readers already know, fairly centrist and neoliberal. Contrary to what the media is trying to portray him as, he is as establishment as it gets. He is an investment banker by profession, and believes in reforming the market which includes controversial statements like changing French work hours as well as French taxation and French retirement plans. Macron is pro EU, extremely managerial, and pro immigration. The country is fairly divided, with almost half supporting Macron, and the top right half supporting Le Pen.

Le Pen is of course on her traditional right wing nationalist populist rhetoric. She is trying to market herself as an independent resigning from her party, but no one is buying it. She wants to “kill” the EU, cut off immigration, ban the Islamic Burqa and Mosques and forge a more nationalistic path for France. In fact the flurry of support for Macron from the republicans and the socialists only help Le Pen bolster the claim that she’s the only true outsider here in the race. While Macron wants to shape the race as one between centrism and populism; Le Pen is shaping it as one between patriots and globalists. She aims to kill Macron’s reputation as an outside who started his own party barely three months back, instead she wants to paint Macron as an open border globalist stooge in hands of Brussels and Berlin, who is all for globalization and open borders. Infact, if one combines the v
ote of far right Le Pen, and far left Eurosceptic Melenchon, the total count goes to 46 percent of the vote. 

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To continue growth, keep out of conflict

When the Soviet Union was there, a field called Kremlinology was prevalent in the West. It was the study of the secretive Kremlin to understand and fathom what was happening behind the iron curtain. Things such as chair placement, who sits next to whom, etc was supposed to give an idea on how Soviet economy is supposed to perform. It was pseudoscientic, and most of it was of course threat inflated guesswork. Obviously sitting arrangements might give a hint of who within the Kremlin walls are falling out of fashion or not, but in no way can it give any hint about the overall direction of the country. Naturally the Kremlinologists couldn’t for the love of God, predict anything about Soviet economy, and couldn’t foresee the primary reason behind Soviet collapse.

In recent days, something similar is back in vogue. There is a steady stream of prediction about Chinese economy. As recently as in Davos forum last year it was predicted that Chinese economy was in for a hard landing. It wasn’t. China’s economy actually grew 6.9 percent in the first quarter from a year, which was slightly better than expected, as well as predicted. 

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Quick early take on the Xi-Trump meeting

Compromises and grand bargain time ahead

 

The State Department briefing on North Korea was a diplomatic equivalent of a mic drop, the thing when hip hop artists do when they drop their microphone after a particularly pithy innuendo laden verbiage. That’s what I am told, I am obviously too old for hip hop. Anyway, after North Korea launched another missile, the state department said in a statement by Secretary Rex Tillerson, that they don’t have anything more to say. “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.” Short, pithy, ominous. Nothing like this have been seen in a diplomatic communique before, which are mostly long drawn, and vague. This means that the time for talk is up.

Almost within hours, President Donald Trump in an exclusive interview with Financial Times stated the often-pronounced charge, that it’s time push comes to the proverbial shove with regards to North Korea. “China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.” Trump said in the interview. But this is clear, Trump is readying himself, and US for a grand bargain with China. And in politics, every offer of bargain, implicitly comes with a threat of noncompliance. “Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.” This time, the threat is real. The time for talks is over, at least from the US side.

This is a huge change. Forget everything that one can read in op-eds in newspapers, about how the upcoming meeting is a clash of differing values, ideologies etc, about how everything will be hinged on the personal chemistry of the leaders. Nothing like that will matter in the long run. The visit of President Xi to US is considered to be a power politics, as old as the 18th century. This is international relations at its earliest form, this is the language of realpolitik, at its peak and prime, at its most raw.

Let’s simplify the situation then.

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Trump, China and trade war : two short op-eds

Trump declares (trade) war…for now

Donald Trump’s inauguration marked a change in the world order, the free market liberal order that continued from 1945 in the West, and spread across the world around 1989. Here’s the transcript of the entire speech. But here are my quick three takeaways. The speech means, firstly, Trump is planning a 1930s-type national nation building project. Secondly, and inevitably, there’s now all possibility of a devastating trade war. And thirdly, Islamists are now the prime target of the administration.

The speech highlighted the new American credo of manufacturing in US, with American workers, and American infrastructure getting priority. It is unclear how he can do it, however, as if he imposes legal procedures on manufacturing outside US, his own company which outsources to China, will also suffer. The world is not stuck in the 1930s, and one cannot change the direction of capital flow or alter the comparative advantages. The center of gravity of economy moved to the East, and one can only adapt so far.

Trump’s inauguration statement was straightforward and refreshingly neutral in tone. In a certain way, it was without all the ridiculous and optimistic and hopeful balderdash we seem to have expect from American inaugurations. This was like a whistle for a firing squad. The world is now without leadership, and every power for its own. If you’re a strong power, then be stronger, if you’re weak, choose a side. Simple as that.

Researchers who deal with grand strategy often tries to find historical patterns in foreign policy. 

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Your weekend long reads, Sweden, Migrants, Trump and Russia

Some of you must remember Swedish foreign minister trolling Donald Trump’s all male lineup during a signature of a bill cutting random funding to NGOs providing abortion worldwide. That act alone doesn’t tell us anything, it might be very well a part of America First and cutting additional expenditure. Boy, the reaction was swift. The Dutch started a fund to compensate the American funding cut, prompting the question, what were they waiting for so long? Also, shouldn’t they be spending the money in NATO? But never mind. Let’s stick to Sweden. When the Swedish FM penned an opus in Guardian, named “What Donald Trump could learn from the Feminist government of Sweden“, punching questions like, “The question remains: who should decide over a woman’s body, if not herself?” (Or Iranian mullahs maybe), irony died laughing clearly. In other news, Swedish Secretariat of Gender Studies, an organisation as notorious as the Soviet politburo in their promotion of unscientific dogma, called for an academic boycott of US. I personally think the yanks dodged a bullet there. The Swedish gender research is a laughing stock in mainstream academic community, and is essentially unverifiable, unfalsifiable dross anyway.

My critique on the myth of Sweden’s Feminist foreign policy as well as my book review of Professor Tom Nichols’ “The Death of Expertise” is out in Quillette. Read them here.

Also, my first piece for “The Conversation” on threat inflating Russia came out recently. I try to provide some realism and nuance amidst the ongoing hysteria.

 

 

 

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Will Trump change US-Russia relation?

I was interviewed by Radio Sputnik, Moscow, yesterday. 

The audio clip is not very good, but I am attaching it here

The transcript is below.

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Chin-Nat Study (1)

New research suggests that conflict with China is not inevitable

Extraordinary research came out yesterday in International Security Journal, which concludes that

  1. Nationalism declining in China.
  2. China views, any potential Great power conflict from geopolitical and not ideological lens.

Here’s the paper.

And some data set.

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New long essays…on Trump, Russia, Berkeley, and the new world order

For those of us old enough, late Gen-Xers and early Millennials, and influenced by mid-90s Grunge, the riots in Berkeley which forced the University of Berkeley to cancel Milo’s talk comes as no surprise. We, from a generation whose defining trait was indifference and calm unflappable belief in the forces of structure over agency, always wondered what it felt like to be constantly radical, hyper, to have the relentless altruistic idea of value and virtue promotion, of the self imposed burden and crusading revolutionary world changing zeal. It constantly felt like Big Lebowski trying to reason with Shaun King. In fact the latest riot was therefore so inevitable that it barely needs mentioning; the inevitable outrage of a pampered generation of middle class pretend revolutionaries, so ideologically inflexible, so detached from working class sensibilities, so mollycoddled to believe in inherent malleable, ever expanding rights like tampon tax, rather than calm quiet resilience; cheered on by Hollywood millionaires, some of the tweets are borderline treasonous. Everything that happened since Trump won was and remains a bourgeoisie rebellion, and here’s a word of caution from someone pushing mid thirties with a growing Homer Simpson tummy; it is going to end brutally. We’ve seen it all before, us, and the generations before us.

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Ridiculous couple of weeks, with all the protest and violence, and worst of all, the hyperbole, but here are a few essays by yours truly.

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Book Review: “Black Wind White Snow”

My review of Charles Clover’s “Black Wind White Snow”.

For International Affairs Chatham House.

 

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President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Few Recent Essays by yours truly

A lot changed in one year. Almost a pole switched, and the global order reversed, since September 2015 to Trump’s inauguration. A lot happened in between, questioning out essential assumptions about everything we know.

How did we get here? What changed? What went wrong, and how to explain the change?

From February 2017, I am starting to teach a course called “M11006 Problems in Global Politics” and I will be quite busy. But I took some time off, to write a few long essays about issues around us.

I like to see myself as a chronicler of time; a political realist, equally hated from the right and the left, and that gives me immense pleasure. True neutrality is something to be cherished, and strive for constantly. From the ashes of our civilisation, sometime in distant future, maybe there will remain some iconoclastic viewpoints, a few of them mine hopefully.

In that spirit, here are a few selected long essays from last couple of weeks. 

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