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 :  China's Fate
on 2014/10/1 16:30:00 (247 reads)

Paris, October 1, 2014 --The surprising strength of the "umbrella" protests now taking place in Hong Kong presents a crucial test for the ruling Communist Party. Its leadership professes confidence in the future but behind the scenes the country is approaching the brink of the unresolved crisis that threatens the nature of its political system.

The Chinese Communist government may be said to confront three current challenges. The first is easiest and comes from the island entities and states in southern Chinese waters who challenge China’s claim to complete sovereignty in the region, comparing its rivals there with the minor states and monarchies that in the past recognized the supremacy of the Middle Kingdom and paid tribute to it.

In the long term China’s leaders assume that such a relationship with its China Sea neighbors can eventually be restored, and this seems not unlikely. Vietnam, which seceded from China in the 10th century AD, would seem the most likely to maintain its independence.

The second threat is a great rival state of its own rank capable of challenging its government and imposing its own sovereignty or dynasty. I would think that China has only faced such a challenge from peoples on its periphery in a time of troubles, imposing themselves upon a dynastic rule no longer capable of defending itself, as from Manchuria or descending from Central Asia. The obvious recent case was that of the Manchus, who ruled from the 17th to 20th centuries.

Today such a “great rival state” is the United States, a threat because of its immense military and economic strength and its Pacific deployment by way of bases and major allies. But it is difficult to see any reason for a war of aggression. Even with success it is hard to see what advantage an aggressor would achieve -- only the burdens of a military occupation which inevitably would be limited in scope, if possibly lengthy. In the end it would undoubtedly fail because of what might be called the civilizational incompatibility between China and the United States. In the case of Japan this cultural incompatibility does not exist, but it seems improbable that Japan in the future — because of the differences in population and geographical size — would ever again enjoy the immense power advantage over China that it did in the 1930s and 1940s.

Columns : More on ISIS
on 2014/9/24 14:50:00 (732 reads)

Paris, September 24, 2014 -- The Mideast horrors grow. Latest are the Syrian Kurds, in unthought-of numbers, in flight to Turkey, where there already are more than a million refugees from Syria. As if the region were not already thick with refugees from the terrorism practiced by one side or another. But in the next 24 hours there was a reversal, with Kurdish peshmergas heading back across the border to fight the ISIS forces.

Harboring the refugees, getting aid and shelter to them, is a worthier and more urgent cause than airstrikes on ISIS, deserved as these strikes are. Cutting off the heads of aid workers and journalists is nothing in comparison with the degradation and dehumanization being inflicted on the pathetic people of the Middle East by all sides.

The Congress tells President Barack Obama to do something — while reluctant itself to do anything but excoriate the president and party rivals. Let them declare war if they want war. The president says that the United States will halt and “destroy” the Islamic State, which makes the Congress feel more righteous because it sounds like the declaration of war they have yet to supply.

But the number of nations signing up with John Kerry to “support” war on the ground while the United States “leads” from Washington is modest, and Congress is largely uninterested in declaring another war with elections awaiting them in a few weeks.

Columns : Hysteria over ISIS
on 2014/9/17 13:40:00 (1477 reads)

            Paris, September 17, 2014 – A hollow laugh might be permitted at the alliance now announced  as the result of Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest journey through the Middle East, this time to construct an alliance to counterattack the latest Arab menace to America, ISIS.          
President Barack Obama and his travel-weary Sancho Panza, John Kerry, are assembling a coalition “of the willing” to deal with the self-proclaimed new Islamic Caliphate and its singularly bloodthirsty leader, again self-appointed, the Emir Abou Bakr al–Baghdadi. 
Mr. Kerry came to Paris following his journey with a list of nations ready to contribute  “as appropriate.”   American officials say some but not all on the list would be willing to conduct military action itself.  France says it will join in the bombing, but Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, who already has engaged non-combat aerial assistance, is reluctant to join in what the military are disposed to call  “kinetic”  action, meaning high explosives.  Australia, in no noticeable danger, nevertheless is sending not only aircraft but some ground troops.

To date, Iran is the only country in the region actually fighting against ISIS on both fronts, the one in Syria defending Bashar Assad’s government, which Iran has supported since the beginning of the uprising in Syria, and the other front in Iraq opposing the Sunni ISIS.  On the face of it, this suggests that a strategic alliance of Iran with the United States might benefit both.

Columns : Doing Stupid Stuff in the Ukraine
on 2014/9/10 14:30:00 (3243 reads)

Paris, September 10, 2014 --It seems evident that Barack Obama today still does not understand how much he owes to President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine. If he did, and if the cease-fire and negotiation terms Mr. Poroshenko has signed with the country’s pro-Russian insurgents in the Southeast of his country and their friends in Moscow continue to hold, he would thank the Ukrainian president for an invaluable gift of peace to Americans and NATO, as well as to his own countrymen.

President Obama said not long ago that his foreign policy principle was “not doing stupid stuff.” At about the same time his State Department and CIA were conspicuously guiding and supporting a coup d’état in Ukraine that was the exact contradiction to the Obama policy statement. The Ukrainian Parliament’s first post-coup act was to pass a resolution outlawing the use of the Russian language in Ukraine, which is the native language of more than a fifth of the population of a country that has always been intimately involved in the history, religion and culture of the Russian nation. Nothing could have been more stupid.

The result of that coup has been a civil struggle inside Ukraine, pitting a significant fraction of Ukraine’s Russian-speakers, semi-clandestinely backed by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, against the nation’s majority.

The Obama administration instantly reacted with a full-blast Cold War propaganda campaign identifying this uprising of Russian-language militants as an Hitlerian invasion of Ukraine which must immediately be repulsed by the patriots of Ukraine, backed by NATO, the United States, and the European Union (itself implicated in the February coup, and even having its own candidate to replace the totally disreputable but properly elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych — who had grabbed the last plane out of Kiev).

The American Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Victoria Nuland, was on the scene in Kiev to witness the coup, and — for God’s sake! — pass out cookies to the militants who had been organized to carry out this violent uprising. Everyone now knows of her phone call to the American ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, in which she dismissed with an obscenity the European Union and its candidate, and identified the (successful) American candidate to lead the post-revolt government.

Columns : Is Germany driving France to the brink?
on 2014/8/27 14:20:00 (1183 reads)

Paris, August 27, 2014 -- Shades of France's notorious Third Republic ! The latest French government has been summarily dismissed after only six painful months. It was certainly time for a change. President François Hollande's poll ratings have plumbed new depths at 17 percent, while Prime Minister Manuel Valls had lost 9 percentage points in one month, down to 36 percent. With his usual indecision, the President told Mr. Valls to go back and form a new government to carry on the same policies – the third in the space of one year -- but excluding the trouble-makers who provoked this crisis.

The principal culprit is ex-Economics Minister Arnaud Montebourg, who during the weekend proclaimed unresolvable differences with the president's economic policies and explicitly blamed Germany for France's “descent into hell.”

Mr. Montebourg wants changes that seem gathering support in many places, including even Washington and the American university (thanks to the Nobel Prize economists Joseph Stiglitz and the indefatigable Paul Krugman). The appeal is powerful to the beleaguered countries of southern Europe, and recently at the IMF in Washington, and even for European Central Bank chairman, Mario Draghi last weekend at Jackson Hole. The message is: Stop the austerity in Europe, or at least apply some flexibility, before it is too late.

The latest French statistics have been awful. Income tax came in at 10 billion euros less than last year, despite painful and unpopular tax increases. Growth was 0 percent in the last trimester, and France's promise to the EU to bring the annual deficit down to 4 percent were officially broken. Even German growth was a surprising minus 0.2 percent for the last trimester. Yet one of President Hollande's most recent policy decisions was to promise 50 billion euros in budget cuts next year.

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