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 : Hysteria over ISIS
on 2014/9/17 13:40:00 (994 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 (2957 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 (1021 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.

Columns : End the Israeli-American Alliance
on 2014/8/20 12:40:00 (2137 reads)

Paris, August 20, 2014 – Nearly every intelligent witness to the nearly seven decades of Israel’s alliance with the United States and Western Europe now understands that the affair needs to end.

In 1948 and the years that immediately followed, the alliance was the salvation of Israel and an obligation upon Western Europe. This was because of what had been done to Europe’s Jews during the war, and not only by the Nazis.

The Arab nations’ attempt to destroy the UN creation of a Jewish national home at the expense of the Palestinians was also widely understood, and granted a certain international sympathy, but in 1948 the Arab states carried little political weight against the array of West European states and the United States, at a moment when the cold war was beginning.

To American politicians, and European ones also, the electoral support of mobilized Jewish national communities was a force of consequence as well. The race between American and Soviet governments to be the first to recognize the new state was won by proclamation by Harry Truman, but Moscow was the first to grant formal diplomatic recognition to the new state of Israel, which it perceived as a possible ally in the Middle East.

Popular sympathy for Israel was widest among liberals in the United States and the European Left – which today is no longer the case. Anti-Semitism was still a force of consequence: America before and during the Second World War had done little for Europe’s persecuted Jews.

Columns : Barack Obama's Policy Confusions
on 2014/8/13 16:10:00 (1229 reads)

Paris, August 13, 2014 – President Barack Obama, in the interview given last weekend to The New York Times’s Thomas Friedman (published in the International Edition on Monday), provided illumination on his foreign policy thinking, at this moment of fraught drama in both Iraq and Ukraine, but the counsels concerning the two didn’t match.

The President made it clear that he does not intend to take the United States more deeply into the Middle East (again!) unless the authorities there “agree to an inclusive policy of no victor/no vanquished.” He is not willing to provide an air force for one or another of the factions contending for power in Iraq, Mr. Friedman reported, although the air intervention now taking place has -- so far -- been to protect the Kurd, Christian, and Yazidi minorities that have been under assault by the self-proclaimed Muslim Caliphate, new name for the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”

Yet in Ukraine the United States is allied with and presumably counseling Ukrainian government forces that seem definitely set on vanquishing what remains of the pro-Russian separatists that currently hold Donetsk near the Russian border. Moreover, silence still surrounds the American and European Union roles in instigating last February’s government coup in Kiev, responsible for Russia’s retaliatory annexation of Crimea, and the uprising among the Russian-speaking community in eastern Ukraine that continues today.

At the same time NATO insists that Russia has again moved a considerable number of troops to near the Ukraine border where the Russians say they are prepared to conduct a delivery of “humanitarian” goods, supervised by representatives of the International Red Cross. NATO claims this really may be a disguised invasion to reinforce the separatists now under government siege in and around the city of Donetsk, and has implied that any border crossing could mean war.

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