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 : Leave Well Enough Alone in Ukraine
on 2015/3/4 14:20:00 (545 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.

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Columns : Outrage at Israel is not Anti-Semitism
on 2015/2/25 14:20:00 (1791 reads)

Paris, February 25, 2015 — A fundamental theme of Israeli propaganda — and virtually its sole theme under the governments of Benjamin Netanyahu — has been that anti-Semitism is responsible for the growing criticism of or hostility toward Israel and its policies expressed in Europe and the United States (especially among college students and teachers, and liberal intellectuals generally).

Netanyahu has beaten this drum constantly in his campaign for his own and the Likud Party’s re-election in the parliamentary election that will take place in mid-March.

This is a fallacy. Much of what he calls anti-Semitism is merely justified outrage at Israel, and not only that of Muslims. Israel’s repression of the Palestinians whose land it occupies, and its brutal treatment of its enemies and their families, as in Gaza recently, and its unwillingness to settle the hatred its policies have engendered in its region have — certainly since the beginning of the Netanyahu era — steadily and inexorably increased enemies for his country everywhere.

Netanyahu has made dramatic statements that European Jews — in particular French, Belgian, and (because of recent terrorist incidents) Danish and other Scandinavian Jews — are in danger where they live and must flee to Israel, the true homeland and the guardian of all the world’s Jews.

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Columns : Compulsion to Dominate
on 2015/2/18 14:20:00 (1579 reads)

Paris, February 18, 2015 – Egypt has just joined the war against ISIL (the Islamic State in the Levant, as it calls itself), or Daech as it is called in Arabic. Its air force has attacked the jihadist army in retribution for the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christian Copts held in Libya, whom they described as “Crusaders.”

As usual, jihad polemics were ignorant. Coptic Christianity goes back to the earliest Christian conversions in Egypt, centuries before the Crusades, its adherents mostly members of the original population of Egypt. They were Christians long before Egypt’s incorporation into the Arab Rashidun Caliphate in the seventh century.

This is one more instance of the sheer ignorance influential in driving events in the Middle East in modern times. The United States’ invasion of Iraq under George W. Bush was conceived as a crusade by many evangelical American Protestant churches, and so seen by many others in the U.S. (and at the time, called a crusade by President Bush himself). It has so been seen in the Islamic countries themselves.

Among the results of America’s modern crusades has been the retaliatory murderous attacks by jihadists against the ancient Christian churches founded in Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine in Apostolic times, following the death of Christ – all of them taken as agents of the modern Americans. How many American churchmen know?

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Columns : Real and Present Danger
on 2015/2/11 14:10:00 (1460 reads)

Paris, February 11. 2015 -- Last Friday six major European newspapers, including The Guardian in Britain, Le Monde in France, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and others in Spain, Italy and Poland published six-page “Europa” special sections devoted to arguing that Europe is surrounded by military threats posed by Muslim jihadists and by the Russia of Vladimir Putin.

The emphasis was on the latter – the danger to Europe of Russian aggression.

Publication coincided with the annual Munich Conference on Strategy. The newspaper supplement included a special interview with U.S Vice President Joseph Biden – who is all for rearming Ukraine with “defensive” weapons to match Russia’s heavy arms and defeat President Putin’s supposed ambition to change the frontiers of Europe’s states. The pro-arming Ukraine camp would seem to have wealthy backers.

Zbignew Brzezinski was also interviewed, finding troublesome parallels today with the situation of Europe, and especially the Baltic states, in 1938-39, but also cautioning both Russia and the NATO countries that what is going on now risks war between the United States and Russia, warning the latter that Ukraine’s turn to the West is an act of self-determination and is not a threat to Russia so long as both sides understand the lesson taught by Finland’s Cold War experience of maintaining a well-armed neutral position between the two sides.

“Finlandization” is not the proposal made by Russia in a letter sent by Vladimir Putin to the other expected participants in the meeting set to be held in Minsk today (February 11), Angela Merkel, Francois Holland of France, and Ukrainian President, Petro Porochenko. Russia, according to the letter, will readily accept “the territorial integrity” of Ukraine provided that a similar recognition is granted by Ukraine (and the West, presumably) to an independent pro-Russian political region, as voted by the Russophone residents of Donbass, on the Russian-Ukrianian border last November. There must be an agreed tampon zone defining this self-governing region. This would resemble the status of the Russian-speaking and Russian–dominated territories of Transnistrie on Moldavia’s border (formerly Romanian) and the autonomous territory of Abkazie which Georgia foolishly and unsuccessfully tried to seize in 2008, but lost to Russia’s control. Crimea’s possession by Russia would be permanent.

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Columns : Zero gain in Ukraine
on 2015/2/4 14:20:00 (1180 reads)

PARIS — On a weekend when the United States augmented its program of financial aid to beleaguered Ukraine, President Barack Obama himself conceded to the American TV audience (those not watching Super Bowl preparations) that the official U.S. narrative concerning the war in Ukraine is not true.

Secretary of State John Kerry has since arrived in Kiev, bearing with him presidential authorization of another billion dollars in American loan guarantees to Ukraine and congressional support for this augmented aid to Kiev. Many in Congress would like the sum to be bigger yet. As it is, the U.S., the International Monetary Fund and the European Union have thus far committed a total of $27 billion assistance to Ukraine to get it to and through the “emergency” presidential election in the country scheduled for May.

NATO wants increased military assistance to the Ukrainian army, which thus far has not proven a very effective opponent for the Russophone East Ukrainian seccessionist rebel forces and the trans-frontier Russian “volunteers” bolstering them.

Since the conflict broke out a year ago, the official American story (reinforced by its European Union allies, although not always with enthusiasm) has been that it was instigated by Russian President Vladimir Putin to block Ukraine from creating a democratic government, whose existence and example on the border of Russia might inspire the Russian people to themselves reject authoritarian government and overthrow Putin’s “kleptocracy” — to quote New York Times commentator Thomas Friedman, who describes Putin as “the Thug.”

The Russian president, according to Hillary Clinton a year ago, is emulating Hitler by invading and seizing lands with ethnic Russian populations to provide additional “living space” (in Germany’s case) for the homeland (an expression Bush-II America picked up from prewar Germany). But even Friedman found Clinton’s comparison overdone at the time, although he now finds merit in it.

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