UP-FRONT GLOBAL POLITICS NUGGET!!
It's been a while, but Friedman actually has some very interesting propositions he's put forward. An extended excerpt is in order.
Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There. (Thomas Friedman) from the New York Times
"What we have today is the combination of an older game and a newer game. The biggest geopolitical divide in the world today “is between those countries who want their states to be powerful and those countries who want their people to be prosperous,” argues Michael Mandelbaum, professor of foreign policy at Johns Hopkins. ... But there is also now a third and growing category of countries, which can’t project power or build prosperity. They constitute the world of “disorder.” They are actually power and prosperity sinks because they are consumed in internal fights over primal questions ... the states that are more focused on building prosperity are trying to avoid getting too involved in the world of disorder. Though ready to help mitigate humanitarian tragedies there, they know that when you “win” one of these countries in today’s geopolitical game, all you win is a bill."
Read the whole column. This understandable reluctance on the part of the US, western Europeans and others is a critical weakness in standoffs with countries operating from the traditional "power politics" framework (such as China, Russia et al.). As in the lead up to World War II (where western powers were more concerned about recovering from the Great Depression and were incapable of rousing themselves in the face of Japanese and German aggression) will we see a similar pattern of handwringing as China asserts influence in the Pacific and Russia meddles in the Ukraine and elsewhere? My suspicion is that both China and Russia have concluded that this is the case. You will see US hawks try to use these developments to challenge Obama's proposed defense cuts. And yet, I am not convinced that throwing more money at the US military will make any difference here. As a precondition to doing anything, in the US and western Europe and elsewhere, average people need to care about what's happening In Eastern Europe and in the Pacific, and stop tolerating the escalating domestic politicization of foreign policy (more Benghazi anyone?). What I see emerging now is a growing convergence of interest for Russia and China where they tag team each other in keeping the western alliance distracted -- as each in turn asserts new claims and makes more provocative hegemonic moves.
Latest case in point: the already mentioned Ukraine:
Ukraine: Pro-Russia Gunmen Seize Government Buildings In Crimea from the Associated Press
"Dozens of heavily armed gunmen seized control of local government buildings in Ukraine's Crimea region early Thursday and raised the Russian flag, mirroring the three-month protest movement that drove Ukraine's pro-Russian president into hiding last week. The moves escalated tensions in Ukraine, whose population is divided in loyalties between Russia and the West."
Can Ukraine Avoid Partition? (Daniel Hannan) from the Daily Telegraph [of the UK]
Hannan's analysis and maps are definitely worth looking over here as the situation in Ukraine seems to be deteriorating.
"Alexander Solzhenitsyn grumpily accepted that western Ukrainians, after the horrors of the Soviet era, had been permanently alienated from Mother Russia; but he insisted that the frontiers were arbitrarily drawn under Lenin. If Ukrainians claimed independence on grounds of having a separate national identity, he argued, they must extend their own logic to the Russian-speakers east of the Dnieper."
Spotlight on Crimea (Eric Lohr, Anya Schmemann) from the National Interest
"Crimea, a majority-Russian-speaking peninsula in the south of Ukraine on the Black Sea coast, could become the next flashpoint in the Ukrainian crisis. History is a big part of the problem."
Rising Tensions in the Pacific (David Ignatius) from Real Clear World
"It is a sign of the times that delegates here talked openly about the danger of war in the Pacific. That's a big change from the tone of similar gatherings just a few years ago, when Chinese officials often tried to reassure foreign experts that a rising China wasn't on a collision course with the U.S. or regional powers. Now, in the East and South China seas, the collision seems all too possible."
In my view, the policies of Putin and the new generation of Chinese leaders in the last ten years have dramatically increased the chances of another big war. I hope I am wrong.
Poll: It’s Time to Normalize Relations With Cuba (Charlie Cooke) from the National Journal
"In all but possibly a handful of congressional districts in Florida and New Jersey—if even there—this is a nothing-burger issue. Few voters would have any problem with it. Like the missile silos in North Dakota, our policy toward Cuba is a Cold War relic that has long since passed its time. A new bipartisan national survey points to strong and broad-based support for a major change in U.S. policy toward Cuba, even among Republicans."
Americans Know There’s No GOP ‘Alternative’ to Obamacare (Greg Sargent) from the Washington Post
"Obamacare is a disaster for Democrats, and a certain winner for Republicans. That’s what we keep hearing, anyway. So why does it look as if the percentage of Americans who favor repeal may have actually shrunk since its rollout problems began? That’s what the February tracking poll for the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests."
Republicans Too Focused on Health-Care Law, Some in GOP Warn (Karen Tumulty) from the Washington Post
"The Republicans’ “fixation on repealing the ACA comes at their own peril, as the political landscape around the Affordable Care Act has shifted in Democrats’ favor,” Kelly Ward, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, wrote in a memo that the House
Democrats’ campaign organization blasted to its e-mail list Wednesday."
Holds Lose Their Power in Senate (Niels Lesniewski) from Roll Call
"In a post-nuclear Senate, holds on nominees aren’t what they used to be. And Republicans’ newfound powerlessness to stop President Barack Obama’s picks is starting to get to the GOP."
Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas’ Ban on Same-Sex Marriage from the New York Times
"A federal judge in Texas struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage on Wednesday, ruling that the laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman violated the United States Constitution and handing gay-rights advocates a major legal victory in one of the nation’s biggest and most conservative states."
Judge: Final Order Requiring Ky. to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages Expected Thursday from the Lexington Herald-Leader
"A federal judge said Wednesday afternoon that he would issue a final order within 24 hours requiring Kentucky to immediately recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the state. In response, lawyers for the attorney general's office told U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II at a hearing that the state would "very promptly" decide whether to appeal the order."
No Country for Old Mores (Charles Blow) from the New York Times
"The Arizona bill, which has been copied by Republicans in several other states, would have allowed businesses to deny services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers on religious grounds. ... History doesn’t look kindly on those who stand against equality. Yet, that’s where conservatives have chosen to stand, much to my dismay and their detriment. The pace of Americans’ changing attitudes has been breathtakingly swift and shows no signs of abating."
Cruz Angers GOP Colleagues - Again (Ted Barrett and Dana Bash) from CNN
"Several Republican senators said Wednesday they were surprised and angered after a news report revealed that their GOP colleague, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, made a recent fundraising appeal for a tea party group that is trying to defeat GOP incumbents it doesn't believe are conservative enough."
Why I Left the GOP (Jeremiah Goulka) from Salon [from 2012]
"I grew up in a rich, Republican household, but after Katrina and Iraq, I realized my priorities were out of order."
I Lost My Dad to Fox News: How a Generation was Captured by Thrashing Hysteria (Edwin Lyngar) from Salon
"Old white people are drowning in despair and rage. Here's how my father lost his mind -- thanks to his cable diet."
The Mammoth Cometh (Nathaniel Rich) from the New York Times
"Bringing extinct animals back to life is really happening — and it’s going to be very, very cool. Unless it ends up being very, very bad."
BRITISH MONARCHY NUGGET!!
Giving Richard III a Reburial Fit for a Medieval King (Sean Coughlan) from the BBC
"The first glimpse of how Richard III could be reburied has been revealed, with the service to be shaped by the scholarly detective work of an Oxford University academic."