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 : Germany and Greece -- the Coming Clash
on 2015/1/28 14:50:00 (442 reads)

Paris, January 28, 2015 – The European Union can see a ribbon of dawn light upon the horizon. Years of trudging through an economic slough of despond, guarded by German warders, have left the states of the European Union’s south near to despair. This is true of France – a rich center of high-tech industry before the Wall Street-induced crash. It now must depend more heavily upon its luxury and fashion sector to keep the German-indoctrinated International Troika appeased, stern supervisors from the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission, who speak only the language of Austerity, itself a dialect of German. François Hollande, France’s president, is unable to speak Austerity, as he has painfully demonstrated since his election.

This nonetheless has been the common language of the modern international economy, but is under attack now by the new interpretation of wealth accumulation and finance of France’s Thomas Piketty and the neo-Keynesian views of the latest generation of economists, led by the indefatigable Nobel laureate and columnist Paul Krugman.

The Italian head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, has just departed from the bank’s previous monetarist orthodoxy by issuing a near-three-trillion-dollar quantitative easing package, to general outrage in Germany. The Greeks, who have just elected a new government, are outraged that the Germans should be outraged, as to a lesser extent is the EU’s belt of Mediterranean members, the main victims of austerity.

As any politically sophisticated Greek will happily tell you, whatever modern Greece’s notorious failures and corruption in fiscal matters, and the irresponsibility and tax evasion of Greece’s business and social elite, Germany in modern times has been far and away the greatest burden upon the taxpayers of other countries – not least by twice destroying by war much of Europe’s industry, cultural inheritance, and social structure in the twentieth century.

Columns : Murders in Paris and Lessons Learned
on 2015/1/21 14:50:00 (867 reads)

PARIS, January21, 2015 -- — This month’s murders in Paris have caused an upheaval in how the non-Muslim world views its Muslim citizens in Europe and the United States. This presents a bigger and more urgent problem than what the Muslims think about us, even when they kill us.

Their presence is the source of the crisis that both the immigrants and European society now experience, which is religious and cultural, and for that reason ultimately political and powerfully resistant to resolution. Not only for individuals, but for whole communities.

The Europeans had been glad to recruit post-1945 laborers but thought they would go “home” when Europe was ready to dispense with them. However, the immigrants had found their new home, uncomfortable as it may have been, in Europe. Thus has the crisis slowly developed.

Britain treated immigrants according to the imperial and colonial precedents, dealing with the communities they formed as their members’ own affair so long as British law was observed, officialdom dealing with the immigrants by way of the community or religious leadership that existed or naturally developed. Britain accommodated immigrants in exceptional ways, sometimes supporting Muslim or Sikh religious schools (as well as permitting Sikh policemen to wear turbans!). The result was that quasi-ghettos developed, like overseas colonies, with Islamic banks and even official tribunals where Sharia law is applied in civil litigation.

Columns : France Defies the Jihadists
on 2015/1/14 14:40:00 (1602 reads)

Paris, January 14, 2015 -- The recent excitement in Paris produced an occasion of great surprise to an American observer, certainly to one who witnessed the transformation fear exacted from America’s governing elite by the 9/11 attacks in 2001. In France, the jihad killings last week produced a colossal reaction that was not one of fear at all.

The cheese-eating surrender monkeys, of Americans’ past condescension, turned out by the hundreds of thousands Wednesday afternoon in Paris’s Place de la Republique and rendezvous points in dozens of cities and towns across the country to shout their defiance of jihadists, murderers, and to make it clear what should be done to the whole lot of them when caught.

They applauded the thousands of policemen who suddenly appeared in the streets, barricading roads and exit/entries to Paris, and poking into the contents of cars, Metros, trains, concierge’s lodges, apartment lobbies, and the parcels, briefcases, and purses of anyone who looked funny.

The demonstrators bore homemade posters declaring “We are all Charlie” — a surprisingly silly tribute to a scurrilous comic paper, relic of the sixties, which no one except giggling students reads any more, one of whose practices has been to publish obscene caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed (among other dignitaries), in a country with a larger Muslim population than any other member of the European Union.

Sunday, a gigantic crowd (more than three million in Paris alone) immobilized Paris boulevards, led by the President accompanied by foreign prime ministers, heads of state and eminent representatives of forty-four countries (excluding the United States, but including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who used the occasion to urge French Jews to move to Israel).

Columns : America and the Tar Baby
on 2015/1/7 15:40:00 (927 reads)

Paris, January 7, 2015 -- Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby live on in the recollections of elderly Americans and the literary record of the United States, but those creations of Joel Chandler Harris are unlikely to be found in print today because they belong to an age when slavery was part of American remembered experience, and Harris’s Uncle Remus, the old slave telling children his tales of animal adventures did not offend.

The sinister Br’er Fox and the wily Br’er Rabbit are in fact classical figures of folklore, traceable back to African legend and surviving into the twenty-first century under other names in animated Hollywood cartoons.

The Tar Baby is exactly what he is called: a lump of tar roughly shaped and crudely dressed by Br’er Fox to resemble a baby and attract the attention of passers-by, who if they touch it find themselves stuck to it, and unable to unstick themselves from its gluey grasp until becoming the prey of the hungry fox. Uncle Remus’s rabbit escapes by tricking the fox into throwing him into a briar patch, where he easily escapes, having been born amidst the briars.

All of which may be taken to remind present-day Americans of Afghanistan and the Middle East, the latter a well-known and profitable tar-patch. The New York Times provides another editorial this week warning against the briars of endemic corruption offered American and United Nations officials by Afghanistan’s new government.

This tells of the new Afghan government’s President Ashraf Ghani’s recent demand that the United Nations Development Program hand over management of its multi-million dollar Law and Order Trust Fund that pays the salaries and pensions of Afghanistan’s police agencies. The inspector-general of American reconstruction funding has already complained of suspected fraud and swindle at Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry.

Columns : Israel's Isolation
on 2014/12/24 14:40:00 (1715 reads)

Paris, December 24, 2014 – For more than a half-century, since the United Nations partitioned the British Mandated state of Palestine so as to create a National Home for the Jewish People, in a part of what had until the First World War been the Ottoman Empire, the land of Palestine has been dominated by the Zionist founders of what became Israel.

Nearly all the Arab states in 1947-48 fought the partition as an act of aggression, but were brilliantly and conclusively defeated by the improvised military defenders of the new Zionist state. By that victory, Israel seemingly established its permanent place not only in what formerly had been Palestine but within the whole of the Middle East, supported by the United States. This position of permanence seemed guaranteed by America’s support and that of the majority of the Western European nations. The Israelis were soon to confirm it themselves with their military triumphs over two Palestinian popular uprisings, and defeat of renewed Arab efforts to expel the Israeli settlers by wars in 1956, 1967, and 1973-74.

A new Israeli attack on Lebanon in 1982 to expel forces of the Palestinian Liberation Organization to other Arab states was successful, but the aftermath – an effort permanently to occupy south Lebanon by mercenaries acting for Israel -- failed because of Hezbollah guerrilla operations against the Israeli occupation forces and against targets in Israel itself. The Israeli army completely evacuated Lebanon in 2000.

That was Israel’s first defeat, and it turned the tables in the Arab-Israeli conflict, strikingly enough through acts of hubris by the Israelis themselves. These introduced a new phase into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which it was not the Arabs who seemed permanently thwarted, the losers in each of the European and American-sponsored diplomatic undertakings meant to define and install a two-state solution. These invariably ended in impasse, always because of Washington’s insistence that the ultimate settlement terms be convenient to Israel, serving the growing appetite of its right-wing governments to seize and occupy Palestinian lands.

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