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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Columns : Memorial Mass
on 2015/6/8 19:10:00 (617 reads)

A Memorial Mass will be held for William Pfaff on June 16 at 5pm in Paris, at the Thomas d'Aquin church, 3 place Thomas d'Aquin, Paris 75007.

Columns : William Pfaff - Obituary
on 2015/5/4 10:30:00 (2092 reads)

William Pfaff sadly passed away last Thursday 30 April in Paris. The NYT published an obituary which resumes his life and career. It can be found at the following link: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/02/business/media/william-pfaff-critic-of-american-foreign-policy-dies-at-86.html?smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0

Columns : Leave Well Enough Alone in Ukraine
on 2015/3/4 14:20:00 (2527 reads)

Paris, March 2, 2015 – What has the past year of war inside Ukraine been about? The night of the coup or putsch in Kiev, a member of the Ukrainian parliament called for a law prohibiting the use of the Russian language in Ukraine – a supremely stupid act, quickly repudiated by his fellows. But was this what the Ukrainian-language majority sought, and for which it had obtained the support of the United States government? Certainly not.

On the other hand, was the war the debut of a Russian offensive, as Washington claimed, meant to produce the annexation to modern Russia Crimea and other territories that once belonged to Imperial Russia at the height of its extent and power? A certain number of people in Washington think that this is what Vladimir Putin intended, even though this would seem a large and extraordinarily dangerous undertaking in the face of NATO opposition.

A Russian acquaintance of mine has argued that the American-promoted coup was meant to provide for Russia the example of a liberal and pro-Western government, inspiring an eventual new democratic “Maidian” uprising by the Russian people, deposing Mr. Putin and led – why not? – by the late Boris Nemsov.

The immense demonstration inspired in Moscow by Mr. Nemsov’s murder suggest that he would have been a plausible candidate to lead such an uprising, but the opinion mostly expressed in Moscow now is that he had lost favor. But then, when since the revolutionary events of 1917-18. have the people changed the course of Russian events? And that was not a popular movement by the “masses” but a violent seizure of power by a revolutionary cabal of intellectuals.

The fear in the countries on Russia’s margins today is of a conspiracy developed among the minority of Russian loyalists in one or another of the Baltic states, possibly with the assistance of those little green men who appeared in Crimea and the Russian-speaking East of Ukraine to assist in overturning Ukrainian institutions and installing new pro-Russian authorities.

Columns : The Gleam of Opportunity in the Mideast
on 2013/9/18 12:30:00 (7065 reads)

Paris, September 18, 2013 – The Washington debates about the Syrian chemical weapons, and whether there is an Obama “Plan B” by which the United States may yet bomb Syria, seem deaf to what really happened last week.

Russia delivered Syria, its ally, to international negotiations concerning those weapons and their renunciation. This has possibly opened the door to some way to resolve the Syrian civil war. Moscow is now responsible for what its client, Syria, does. All the more is President Putin required to deliver a cooperative President Bashar al-Assad if Moscow continues to insist that the United States renounce military action, even if Syria fails to fulfill the obligations it has accepted.

This means Syria must produce the list of locations where its chemical weapons are stored so that the United Nations and the inspectors of the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons can locate, seize and neutralize Syria’s stocks of chemical munitions. If Mr. Assad fails to do so, Russia is responsible, and must take action to ensure that Syria does fulfill the responsibilities it accepted when it signed the international convention banning chemical weapons.

Syria has subjected itself to international law in this matter. That is highly significant. Washington doesn’t seem to understand the importance of President Assad’s submission to international law. The U.S. has itself has become so indifferent, and even so defiant of international law, that it fails to grasp that the rest of the world wants to see the Assad government submit to international law – and the United States (and Israel) do so as well.

The American administration, however, is acting as though Syria has surrendered to the personal demands of John Kerry and Barack Obama, and is accountable to Washington, and not to international law or the UN, or even to its Russian ally and guarantor.

Washington is acting as if the United States has the right to administer punishment if Syria fails to do what Washington wants. What right? Not a legal right, without a Security Council resolution. To attack on its own, as regional hegemon? That’s the way Washington has been behaving in the Middle East. The results have not been a great success.

Columns : Asia and Isolationism
on 2013/5/30 17:00:00 (8088 reads)

May 29, 2013, Paris – When the Barack Obama administration announced that American foreign policy would “pivot” from Europe and the Middle East towards Asia, some European commentators interpreted the announcement as a return to that isolationism which characterized the United States from its foundation to the two world wars. This interpretation made little sense. If anything, the decision was the result of the notion that China was America’s new rival, and even might become an enemy in the future.

Why this should be so is rarely explained other than by China’s efforts to provide itself with military measures enabling it to project power in a perimeter that includes Guam, an American possession and base, and to a number of countries which are allied, or of interest, to the United States. But China’s rearmament would appear to be elementary prudence – as well as prideful display.

China certainly is no military threat to the continental United States, or to its security, economy, or major national interests. The principal relationship between the two countries is that China is the largest foreign holder of the United States’ external debt. As is well known, for China to call in that debt would hurt China more than it would the United States. China’s disputes with neighboring states in the South China Sea do not directly concern the United States, although Washington has a general interest in the preservation of peaceful relationships throughout the region.

The significance of the shift of Washington’s attention from Europe to the Pacific is overrated, since Europe is much richer and more important to the American economy than is China or any other Far Eastern nation, Japan probably excepted. America and Europe are united by civilization – a civilization that also extends to the Islamic countries. Abraham is the common ancestor of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The United States could in fact do well with a movement in the direction of isolationism. It was a happier and better country when it gave its primary attention to its own affairs. The belief in the exceptional nature and destiny of the United States, of religious origin in the country’s first thirteen colonies, held it aloof for many years from what Woodrow Wilson would in 1916 call the “jealousies and rivalries of the complicated politics of Europe.” Today it is immersed in the jealousies and rivalries – and conflicts and blood-letting – of the Middle East, with, on the whole, little that is constructive to show for it, and much death and horror for which it is responsible.

But Barack Obama’s May 23rd address to the National Defense University in Washington demonstrated that the American commitment to Middle East intervention, and the perpetuation of what by now seems unhappily well established as the perpetual war on terror, has not been shaken.

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His books