Fast links

newsThese items have caught my fancy over the last week or so.

A good Economist article on the moral dimensions (or lack there of, as many Western writer increasingly look at it) South Africa’s foreign policy. It is more intelligent than the one authored by a certain Kurchick in 2007, to which I responded, as it recognizes the importance that national interests and identity politics plays in the formation of foreign policy, even for Africans.

David Brooks explains why the Republicans will move further to the right in coming years, and will suffer at the polls for it.

The value of “talking” is making itself apparent to some of those for whom it has hitherto remained opaque.

For Iran’s leaders, the only state of affairs worse than poor relations with the United States may be improved relations. The Shiite Muslim clerics who rule the country came to power after ousting Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a U.S.-backed autocrat, in their 1979 Islamic revolution. Opposition to the United States, long vilified as the “great Satan” here in Friday sermons, remains one of the main pillars of Iranian politics.

[. . .]

“People who put on a mask of friendship, but with the objective of betrayal, and who enter from the angle of negotiations without preconditions, are more dangerous,” Hossein Taeb, deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Wednesday, according to the semiofficial Mehr News Agency. “The power holders in the new American government are trying to regain their lost influence with a tactical change in their foreign diplomacy. They are shifting from a hard conflict to a soft attack,” Taeb said.

The pitiful thing is that over last year or more few commentators brought up such an argument, including those obsessed with the idea of regime change for regime change’s sake.

A conference of Algerian activists, academics, intellectuals and so on and so forth, put together a declaration on the necessity for political change in Algeria. Barack Obama was not the keynote speaker. Nevertheless, Brahim Younessi believes that “change is inevitable” in Algeria.

L’Express considers the risks of a third term for Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Andrew Sullivan, rather pretentiously, on why he blogs.

China is building an aircraft carrier.

Imagine that a hydrogen bomb fell in your tomato field.

To reiterate what I and others have been stressing for a long time:

China and India’s explosive rise today has disturbing similarities to the rapid growth of Germany, Japan, and the United States in the years leading to World War I. At that time, everyone paid a terrible price because the global system failed to reconcile its old and new powers. China’s and India’s huge scale will make those historic problems of the twentieth century seem comparatively trivial. Moreover, the old problem of making room for rising powers will be hugely complicated by an impending ecological crisis. We are unlikely simply to “grow” out of our economic conflicts.

[ . . .]

For both America and Europe, however, too much success in the twentieth century has become a danger for the twenty-first. Both are trapped in unproductive nostalgia. America’s continuing anxious pursuit of hegemony threatens its national prosperity and crowds its liberty. We should recognize the lingering unipolar view for what it is: a facile doctrine that masks a too ardent taste for domination. Purging America’s political imagination of its unipolar bias is an urgent task for liberals and conservatives alike.

How Europe Could Save the World,” by David P. Calleo, in World Policy Journal, Fall 2008, Vol. 25, pgs. 7, 11.

A European Obama? Eventually, maybe.

“In Europe there is still a long way to go,” said Cem Özdemir, who is about to make history in Germany as the first politician of Turkish descent to take the reins of a political party (he’ll be co-leader of the Greens). “The message is that it’s time to move on in Europe. We have to give up seeing every political figure from an ethnic minority as an ambassador of the country of his forefathers”.

Time to scrap the baby talk and get back to reality: “Obama cannot expect a peaceful term in office“.

Let us enjoy the moment. Nothing has improved yet, but to ensure that things will improve, Obama will need more than his own good intentions. He will also need the good will of people who could not abide him until now.

The best intentions often yield the most onerous circumstances with the most modest results.


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