William Pfaff is the author of The Irony of Manifest Destiny, published in June 2010 by Walker and Company (New York) -- his tenth and culminating work on international politics and the American destiny. He describes the neglected sources and unforeseen consequences of the tragedy towards which the nation's current effort to remake the world to fit America's measure is leading. His previous books and his articles in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and his syndicated newspaper column, featured for a quarter century in the globally read International Herald Tribune, have made him one of America's most respected and internationally influential interpreters of world affairs.   [Read more...]
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The Worst Mess since the 1930's

Paris, April 9, 2014 – An international disorder unmatched since the interwar 1930s has been created by the drama of Ukraine and the Russians, combined with the inherent self-destructive forces of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the developing civil war over theological as well as political issues inside the Islamic states, and the serious risk of collapse in the European Union.

At least no ideological dictatorships are on the march, nor is any new millenarian totalitarianism apparent, only confusion, incompetence, and intellectual and moral disorder. But these are bad enough, in an over-armed world.

Only one man seems to have a clear ambition. Vladimir Putin wishes to return position and power to Russia, and so far has shown the clear-headedness to deal with those who oppose him.

His is not an ignoble ambition, if the prospective subjects of his Eurasian economic bloc are willing to have it happen, and see advantage in it. Beyond Crimea, this is by no means assured, and eastern Ukraine may prove a stubborn obstacle to the reunion of the Russian-speaking peoples who live on Russia’s western and Baltic frontiers, if that is what President Putin wants.

It might be accomplished diplomatically, which is what he has suggested that he wants –thus Russia’s proposal for referenda in contested areas and negotiations with Western supporters of a new Ukrainian government, possessing a new electoral mandate. But it may not be possible that way, and the quality of the diplomacy thus far displayed by Brussels – by both EU and NATO – and by the United States has amounted to little more than bellicosity and unenforceable threats.

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