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.
A survey by the Charles Koch Institute and the Center for the National Interest is being touted as showing Americans want “restraint” in their foreign policy. According to the write up, 52 percent believe that U.S. foreign policy has made America less safe over the past 15 years, and twice as many want the U.S. to pull troops out of Europe compared to those who want to increase troop levels. (60 percent chose to keep troop levels the same or had no opinion.) Daniel DePetris a fellow at Defense Priorities, an organization that advocates for a “more prudent, restrained foreign policy that assesses the world as it exists,” writes this means “Americans want restraint.”
His view is supported by a growing trend towards anti-interventionist sentiment amongst Americans over the years, illustrated in Donald Trump’s campaign promises to renegotiate trade deals and demand changes to America’s defense treaty obligations with his allies, and playing down the threat of Russia—even to the point of denying that Russia hacked into the DNC’s and Hillary Clinton’s servers (while saying on the trail that Russia should hack Hillary’s server).
There’s one narrative about Barack Obama’s presidency that he intervened in too many countries—causing Libya to become destabilized, fueling war in Syria, and inflaming relations with Russia.
On the other hand, there’s another opposite narrative about Obama that Obama wasn’t interventionist enough. By staying out of Syria, ignoring ISIS until it was too late, and failing to see the threat of Russia (remember he would have more “flexibility” in dealing with Russia after his reelection, he told Dmitry Medvedev), he projected “weakness” and emboldened America’s enemies.
Donald Trump buys into both narratives. Even as Trump has put Article 5 defense of NATO allies into question, he has also called for “bombing the shit” out of ISIS in Syria and invading to steal Iraq and Syria’s oil. Barack Obama smartly didn’t send large numbers of ground troops to Syria or Iraq to get stuck in another quagmire. Trump has said about sending troops, “We really have no choice. … I would listen to the generals, but I’m hearing numbers of 20,000 to 30,000.”
The lesson in Iraq should be that wars in unstable Middle Eastern countries are rarely quick and easy. Trump has apparently not learned that lesson. Instead, he appears to buy into into the argument that Obama was “weak” for either not overthrowing Assad or not taking on ISIS with a ground war.
A related lesson should be to not overreact to terrorist attacks. For all the attention to ISIS, there have been no attacks directed by ISIS in the United States and only five attacks inspired by ISIS between October 2015 and July 2016, resulting in 53 of the more than 16,000 murder that occur in the country every year. The amount of Americans who would be killed directly in battle and indirectly as a result of massive American war in Syria could easily exceed the number killed by terrorism each year by many factors.
On the other hand, Trump takes the critique of Iraq and applies a broad “anti-interventionist” messages to parts of the world that are comparatively safe—namely Europe and Northeast Asia. Because Russia isn’t invading Poland, we should pull back from NATO. But America’s commitment to NATO hasn’t cost the U.S. anywhere near as much as its previous attempts to bomb the shit out of the Middle East and destroy terrorism have. NATO expansion, I have argued, unnecessarily lead to Russia feeling antagonized, and NATO countries could contribute more, but that implies reforms, not scraping the project. Trump’s plan amounts to pulling down your umbrella in a rainstorm because you’re not getting wet.
The American public is fickle and poll questions are not made for capturing nuance. Politicians will use any kind of argument they can think of to hit the other party; hence Republican House Majority Leader Paul Ryan praising Obama’s Russia sanctions while slamming him for doing too little, too late—while ignoring that his party’s leader wants even less to be done. The solution, then, isn’t a false choice between “intervention” and “restraint” but a smarter foreign policy. Trump, as it stands, espouses the wrong answers for both sides of the equation.
Ross Douthat once earlier pointed out, this Europe bound flow will never stop unless the structural problem of Africa as a continent are solved. Problems like exploding population, conflicts, industrial stagnation, social tribalism and exploitation of finite natural resources. Question is how will that be solved, by another intervention, or by creating buffer zones between Europe and Africa/Middle East? Who will police these buffer zones? What about genuine high educated migrants facing racial attacks, as a backlash by native population, who don’t differentiate between an illegal migrant and a research scholar with a valid visa who might actually be beneficial for the host society? Why would someone even want to take the legal route anymore, if all laws and borders break down anyway?
I write about some other questions, amidst what one might arguably call, a European disintegration.
Former Republican Speaker of the House and shortlist finalist for Donald Trump’s VP selection Newt Gingrich said on CBS News this week that NATO allies “ought to worry about our [U.S.] commitment.”
This came after Trump said he would consider only defending a NATO ally from Russian incursion “if they fulfill their obligations to us.” Trump has often accused American allies of not paying their fair share. In many cases, he has used made-up numbers to make his argument. For example, he said of South Korea, “They don’t pay us.”
In this case, Trump didn’t set out specifics about NATO, but many NATO countries have come under criticism for spending well below the target of 2% of GDP on defense. Only five of the 28 members meet the goal. Those countries are the U.S., Greece, the UK, Estonia and (since 2015) Poland.
Asked specifically about whether the U.S. would defend Estonia, which borders Russia, from an attack, Gingrich said,
“Estonia is in the suburbs of St. Petersburg. The Russians aren’t gonna necessarily come across the border militarily. The Russians are gonna do what they did in Ukraine. I’m not sure I would risk a nuclear war over some place which is the suburbs of St. Petersburg. I think we have to think about what does this stuff mean.”
However unpleasant and undesired the British popular decision to leave is, the post-referendum analyses only confirm the long held EU-wide trends.
In the light of the decades of survey reports shelved in the EU archives, the outcome should not have caught anyone by surprise. The fact that it did, indicates the lack of attention to public opinion expressed by the means of surveys and polls. Local and national experience could have been similarly utilized to avoid repeating the common miscalculation in national strategies which do not address the faltering public interest in politics. The Union has been investing in Eurobarometer surveys for over four decades without actually delivering the message to national governments; and sadly, also without actively committing itself to solving identified problems. Worse, in line with the knowledge collected through polls, misinformed public involvement sprinkled with a pinch of frustration normally has catastrophic longer-term repercussions. The British referendum, power of Robert Fico´s faction stretching over the third consecutive term and penetration of the Slovakian decision-making structures by far-right neonazi party, all illustrate the dark side of neglect of public opinion and subsequent misinformed participation in major decisions.
If sufficient attention had been paid to polls, it would have been clear that on the European scale, most people feel insufficiently informed about what happens in the Union. Low EP election turnouts confirm the survey´s conclusion; lack of knowledge and information on processes and impact on an individual and the country results in one of the two possible scenarios. The first is a neutral attitude towards the Union and related lack of interest in participation due to the uncertainty regarding the individual´s role. The second scenario is the opposition to integration based on circumscribed or misrepresented information and the lack of more in-detail knowledge on internal functioning. The general trend then goes as follows: the more interested the one is in developments unfolding in politics, the more positive attitude towards the Union he harbours. The higher the education he acquired, the more supportive of the EU and further integration he is. This relates not only to better information regarding overall benefits the Union offers to its member states, but more specifically to a personal gain from skills in the larger market. Full-timers are generally more optimistic about the integration prospects. Further, the older the individual is, the less enthusiastic about the whole European project he is likely to be. Local and national political elites influence public opinion and the attitude towards the European Union tends to reflect the one held towards national government.
Finally, media should responsibly fill in the knowledge gap; however, the record of fulfilling the function is rather vague.
Post Brexit, this is the question on everyone’s lips: Is racism on the rise in UK? Certainly, people will be more aware of it and are eagerly looking for any evidence to support their fears. Extremists play on fear. They weaponize it. Which is why we should not allow any far right cynical agitation, to actually agitate us. Ukip and Farage did not win Brexit. Boris Johnson, Gisela Stuart and Andrea Leadsom did. I believe that with Brexit, we can we fight rising Euro Neo-fascism head on.
The far right has been in the ascendant in the European Union for many years. It has been facilitated by EU open boarders and compounded by the refugee crisis. A vote to Remain would not have stopped this. Brexit, however, just might. It makes Farage and Ukip redundant.
Many liberals however do not see this opportunity, they are having too much fun indulging their hysteria. They consistently dismiss Brexit voters as ignorant peasants. It’s precisely this attitude which has been their undoing.
The danger in their refusal to listen to the issues of grass roots, working class voters is the danger that when people see themselves being labelled racist and xenophobic (when they aren’t) is that they then believe the racists and the xenophobes are the only ones who will listen to them. And very often, for political ends, they are.
The Brexit vote is almost here! Brits vote on June 23 on the decidedly less sexy-sounding issue of the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, aka #Brexit (it needs a hashtag). Over the past half year, we at Bombs and Dollars have written a lot about Brexit, EU politics, and Euroscepticism in general. Here are six must-read articles to understand the issues at hand in the vote.
“The EU is a vile organisation, and I loathe a superstate, which throws its weight around, has blatant disregard for nation and borders and national interests, and is a Byzantine unelected technocracy, and I despise it as a Realist, a democrat and as a free market proponent. But the question that plagued me for so long is what after? I will be stable in my position, as an educated urban metropolitan elite. But do I want to live in a country ruled by the likes of Nigel Farage and Jayda Fransen? Where “expert” is a reviled word? Do I want break up of a union which has guaranteed the longest peace of our times?
The answer is No.”
Read full article
Brexit campaigners make a strong case for why Britain would be better off on its own. The problem is their claims are not accurate.
As Daniela Zordova writes, EU countries and their citizens still have a big say in what the EU does. Major treaties need to be approved by countries, and integration proceeds at the behest of the countries.
“The European Union is not a state. It might become one in the distant future but the recent developments suggest that even if the Union is heading that direction, it will take longer than predicted and desired by its Founding Fathers. The European Union does not have the powers of the state. Its Member States voluntarily conferred competences to the Union through the medium of the treaties. The power the Union enjoys has thus been delegated to it by means of the legal process, in contrast to unwritten social contract governing the relations between the state and citizens. Member States retain their sovereignty and the Union can only exercise its feeble enforcement power in case of non-compliance with laws in areas under its competence.”
Foreign leaders from around the Western world are trying to convince Britain to stay. From the embarrassing, like foreign legislatures reading poems, to the irrelevant, like Dutch newspapers carrying anti-Brexit covers, it is questionable how much of an impact many of those actions will have.
U.S. President Barack Obama decided to get into the act, too, urging Britain to stay. While Maitra said Obama had made some good points, at the end of the day, it might not be taken kindly by many Brits; “it is unbelievable to think any country, or even the British PM urging Americans to sign and ratify UNCLOS, or form a borderless union with Mexico and Canada, or join AIIB led by China. Not going to happen. Ever.”
Read full article.
Sumantra Maitra says, following the assassination of Labour MP Jo Cox, “Never since the early 1980s, had it been so toxic.”
And: “For far too long, British white nationalists has been regarded as stupid idiots who can’t spell or construct a single English sentence, but not anymore. They are a threat, just as much as ultra nationalism across Europe and US, and they need to be identified and dealt with firmly, with extreme prejudice, if necessary.”
Brexit and the art of deception : Why Jacob Rees-Mogg is wrong
The chances of the Great Britain leaving the European Union have never been as high as in the aftermath of the decision to hold a referendum. Preceding the involvement of public opinion in the issue, had been the great political power game of threatening the EU with the aim of extracting concessions on questions of British concern.
With the D-day just behind the corner, campaigning activity is apparently gaining momentum. Particularly striking is Jacob Rees-Mogg´s speech on Brexit; much less for the theatrical glimpse of pain on his face when he speaks about the catastrophe of common policies and 1973 tragedy of British membership, than for the way the knowledge of procedures and overall functioning of the Union can be precisely twisted and manipulated to serve specific ends. People deserve to have a say in politics producing outputs with a direct impact on population, however, their decision should be well-informed and grounded on facts. The European Union is a complex entity characterized by even more composite structures and procedures; thus complicating the full understanding by citizens. Speeches should help fill in the knowledge gaps, however, deceptive and misleading quotes as the one delivered by Rt Hon Rees-Mogg only enhance masses´ misunderstanding about the Union. The repercussions for the final decision might be severe. Here’s why.
“Greece belongs to Greeks!”
Shouts rang out at a demonstration held by far-right Greeks protesting against refugees last weekend in Piraeus, a port city south of Greek capital Athens. More troubling was the chant, “Knife into the heart of every antifascist!” That chant would be taken into action with fists and clubs.
In Greece there are still over 50,000 refugees and migrants are trapped by the closed borders, with over 4,000 having waited in the port of Piraeus for over 2 months. The Greek far-right sees increasing numbers of refugees as an opportunity for gatherings and pushes the agenda “Against the Islamisation of Europe.” Similar anti-migrant gatherings are being organised all over the Greece lately.
“We are many hundreds here today and this is just a beginning. Our heroes who were fighting against Islam once are the ones leading us,” spokeperson for Greek parliamentary neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn Ilias Kasidiaris stated from an improvised stage, where the slogan “Stop Islam” was written.
Just an hour before Greek rightists reportedly carried out an attack, led by Golden Dawn MPs Yiannis Lagos and Ilias Kasidiaris. They attacked the group of anti-fascists who gathered to protest a Golden Dawn rally. Among those attacked were also journalists, including
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Big week, as I mentioned before, with a couple of major publications coming, other than my regular columns.
To start with, the biggest one till date, my essay on War on the Rocks, where I write a Neo-Realist critique of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s latest revisionist history lesson. And was then called a Neo-Con for some reason, in the comments. But that’s another issue.
The second big one was my guest post at the official blog of the University of Nottingham, Dept of Politics and IR, where I talk about a foreign policy course for Philippines and how it should balance between China and US.
Other than that, here are my weekly columns.
Page 1 of 3
Mitch Blatt in The National Interest on North Korea
March 26, 2017
Healthcare fail puts the lie to Trump’s power narrative
March 24, 2017
Why Korea’s election might not change North Korean policy
March 21, 2017
John Lee on Korea’s election, North Korea, and why South Korea isn’t “ethnically pure”
March 21, 2017
Trump’s North Korea policy causes Trump to withdraw campaign pledges
March 18, 2017
Trump, China and trade war : two short op-eds
March 11, 2017
The implications of Park’s removal from office for Korea
March 10, 2017
How cutthroat corporate culture imposed on politics dooms the Trump administration
February 23, 2017
Your weekend long reads, Sweden, Migrants, Trump and Russia
February 20, 2017
Free Speech: No, CPAC disinviting Milo Yiannopoulos is not an attack on free speech
February 20, 2017