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Okay, so if you're going to use a buzzword like "realpolitik" you need to at least use it correctly. "Realpolitik" does not mean "method to his madness" it means "do what works." The essay touches on "booming economy and stock market", "no new foreign wars", "a significant degree of progress with China and Mexico", a "needed reset" with China and "the prospect of peace on the Korean peninsula." Now granted - I'm not a penny-ante talking head at a third rate think tank but apparently I could be.
- "booming economy and stock market" - the guy let the Republicans pass the tax cut they wanted while also failing to scrap Obamacare. Lo and behold, the investor class has poured into equities. And now they're ripping out..
- "no new foreign wars" - we're now standing on our own with Iran (the EU is now configuring a competitor to SWIFT so they can deal with Iran without using US banking networks) and Saudi Arabia is murdering American correspondents in Turkish embassies. Not bloody bad for 20 months on the job. Meanwhile Trump railed for troop withdrawal from Syria in March and dropped all mention of it in April. That, for sure, is "realpolitik" - " politics or diplomacy based primarily on considerations of given circumstances and factors, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral and ethical premises".
- "A significant degree of progress with China and Mexico" - we had NAFTA, now we have USMCA. The principle differences are that US dairy farmers can now sell milk powder to Canada and US automakers can protect 75% of automotive content from tariffs instead of 62%. But put a pin in that - and remember that Trump promised to "terminate" NAFTA, not renegotiate powdered milk.
- "a needed reset on the China relationship" - Yeah, China is now dealing directly with Iran, Harley Davidson is shifting production to Thailand and India and Ford is laying off 12% of its workforce having lost a billion dollars but hey at least we have
- "the prospect of peace on the Korean peninsula." See, thing is, we've had peace on the Korean peninsula since 1958. What we've also had is a dictatorial regime whose prison camps make Auschwitz look humanitarian that is propped up entirely by an internal cult of personality shunned by the rest of the world. The goal has always been an end to the North Korean regime, not "peace on the Korean peninsula." Said regime, by the way, has given up zero weapons and that internal cult of personality is now the object of "love" from the leader of the free world.
So where does that put us?
In 2017, I hosted a podcast with George Friedman, who described the post-World War II system as a “freak” and predicted that the world is returning to “a more normal structure in which the nation-state is dominant, international trade is intense but managed by states for their own benefit, and where this idea that the nation-state is obsolete goes away.”
I pay George Friedman every month to hear what he has to say and allow me to assert with no quaver in my voice that when George Friedman says "a more normal structure in which the nation-state is dominant" he's describing a VERY BAD THING. The United States has grown to be the world economic leader through soft power and influence and "a more normal structure" is one of trade disputes and frequent warfare. When George Friedman talks about a return to normalcy he's talking about shit like this:
Realpolitik emerged in mid-19th century Europe from the collision of the Enlightenment with state formation and power politics. The concept, Bew argues, was an early attempt at answering the conundrum of how to achieve liberal enlightened goals in a world that does not follow liberal enlightened rules.
Publicist, journalist and liberal political reformer Von Rochau coined the term in 1853 and added a second volume in 1869 that further refined his earlier arguments. Rochau, exiled in Paris until the 1848 uprising, returned during the revolution and became a well-known figure in the national liberal party. As the liberal gains of the 1848 revolutions fell victim to coercive governments or were swallowed by powerful social forces such as class, religion and nationalism, Rochau—according to Bew—began to think hard about how the work that had begun with such enthusiasm had failed to yield any lasting results.
He said that the great achievement of the Enlightenment had been to show that might is not necessarily right. The mistake liberals made was to assume that the law of the strong had suddenly evaporated simply because it had been shown to be unjust. Rochau wrote that "to bring down the walls of Jericho, the Realpolitiker knows the simple pickaxe is more useful than the mightiest trumpet". Rochau's concept was seized upon by German thinkers in the mid and late 19th century and became associated with Otto von Bismarck's statecraft in unifying Germany in the mid 19th century. By 1890, usage of the word Realpolitik was widespread, yet increasingly detached from its original meaning.
As originally coined, "realpolitik" meant "why we lose even though we hold the moral high ground." As used now, "realpolitik" means "doing what works despite moral or ethical constraints." In realpolitik, locking children in cages is supposed to keep people from daring the border, not increase their attempts.
What kind of asshole views dismay at the demise of The American Project as "smugness?"