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Curt  ·  link  ·  parent  ·  post: Framing Putin

To my eyes, a good analysis and contribution.

A useful summary of realities in Ukraine and the Crimea that some might find useful: (The passing reference to gas reserves in the Azov and Black Seas is, perhaps, worthy of a careful note by the "follow the money" crowd.)

The general question remains: under what circumstances can the will of a regional majority to secede -- trump the will of the state to maintain union? And how are such questions to be resolved short of civil war?

Curt  ·  link  ·  parent  ·  post: Burning Down the House

A nice concept, as long as you remember to burn YOUR house if you're cold -- and not mine. There seems to be a great deal of confusion on this point.

Curt  ·  link  ·  parent  ·  post: Yeltsin Nostalgia

As an American that is well left of center on most issues, I have a question. Why do I find that so much of what Mr. Putin has to say seems to make such good sense -- at least where his views on Western geopolitics is concerned? His New York Times op-ed, for example, struck me as astute.

If we are at the opening of a new Cold War, it seems to me it owes as much to U.S. bad behavior during the last twenty years as it does to any Russian intransigence or longing for a restoration of Soviet prestige.

Appreciate your insights.

Curt  ·  link  ·  parent  ·  post: Berlin Graffiti Gaze

Equating graffiti with "street art" overlooks the simple fact that most of it is totally devoid of anything like skill, talent, or imagination. In short, it's an act of vandalism with no redeeming value, artistic or otherwise. Call it an act of spray-paint rape committed against our public spaces.

If you're "BORED," get the word tatooed on your forehead -- and spare my park.

Curt  ·  link  ·  parent  ·  post: The Not-So-Great War

All of the studies of how WWI came about seem to share one thing in common: they insist that people were in control of events, and that the causes of the war are to be found in human motivations, frailties, and miscalculations. Man is at the helm, steering the great ship of history from one reef to another -- or marching from folly to folly in an endless human-led parade.

But all of this strikes me as a desperate attempt to maintain the illusion that Man is somehow in control of events, for good or ill as the case may be. We do not want to accept that our "systems" can in fact take over, leaving us powerless to do anything more potent than offering up an existentialist's "no."

We do not want to resign ourselves to being merely an effect, impotent (especially as individuals) to play the role of a cause.

Curt  ·  link  ·  parent  ·  post: Robert Gates’ War

So we'd both like to see Guantanamo closed -- but still have no answer to WHAT we would have the executive branch in particular DO to make that happen. Same for repealing the Bush tax cuts. To the GOP, that cut would equate to a tax INCREASE, which of course is Satanic and a one-way ticket on the Hell Express.

I don't think two more choruses of Kumbaya around the old campfire at a weekly White House weenie roast is going to do the trick there. I could, of course, be wrong. Please note that -I- don't have any ideas about what the executive branch should do either though -- short of staying engaged and not throwing in the towel.

As for the system changing drastically in the not too distant future -- same question again: to WHAT, exactly? No shortage of dangerous possibilities in that direction! Better to try to resurrect constructive conservatism -- if it's not too late. And that, I think, is something rational American conservatives AND progressives can agree on.

Curt  ·  link  ·  parent  ·  post: Now is Not Forever

Capitalist Realism in the U.S. meets the Internet in the recent "net neutrality" decision of the federal appeals court -- leading to reports like "Major cable providers already have pledged not to do the kinds of things the rules were designed to ban."

Do you believe that?

Right. Me either.

In a decade, the internet in the U.S. will look nothing like it does today as the broadband suppliers invent new "business models" designed to optimize profitability at the expense of free access.

Curt  ·  link  ·  parent  ·  post: Robert Gates’ War

Sorry, but I find your "we can't even try because..." to be very unsatisfactory.

We can't even try WHAT, exactly?

Perhaps a move to a specific would be helpful. What would you have the executive branch try (legislatively or otherwise) with respect to, say, closing Guantanamo Bay? Invite more Republican congresspersons to lunch? Play another round of golf with Speaker Boehner?

Government by RSVP doesn't sound like much of a solution to a system failure to me. Which is not to say that public apathy, as you suggest, is not the root cause of the problem -- in which case, the young face a very bleak future indeed.

Curt  ·  link  ·  parent  ·  post: Robert Gates’ War

I can't help wondering what "outside the normalized script" you would have the Obama administration do that would have some chance of being passed by the legislative branch?

Our "true disappointment," if not our serious alarm, should be reserved for the ineffectiveness of our entire system of government in this century. The debate between big government and small goes on endlessly -- while nobody seems interested in achieving GOOD government at any scale.

Curt  ·  link  ·  parent  ·  post: Robert Gates’ War

"Personally, my favorite is his apt description of the overactive eagerness to go to war that has defined the Obama years:..."

This statement is indicative of Secretary Gates' interior political conflict. The eagerness for war during the Obama years has been nothing compared to that expressed so vividly by Bush/Cheney in the course of their years -- which was productive of not just one, but TWO discretionary wars.

I can't help wonder is Gates was whispering this bit of wisdom about war as a last resort into Mr. Cheney's ear in the weeks leading up to the first administration of "shock and awe" to the people of Iraq.

Somehow, I don't think so.

Curt  ·  link  ·  parent  ·  post: Learning From Syria

The notion that "it was Iraq that set the stage for the current events in Syria" seems far too glib in its willingness to dismiss the last century (at least) of Middle East history. Which is not to say that Iraq wasn't just one more example of a disastrous and misguided Western intervention in that history.

But the deeper flaw with this analysis, I think, lies in its failure to acknowledge the economic, demographic, social, political and religious forces that nurture oppressive regimes in the Middle East in the first place. And those, in turn are at the root of "revolutions" and civil wars.

It seems unlikely to me that a regional security council -- made up of entities that are preoccupied with their own bounty of internal problems and injustices -- are in a very good position to mount constructive interventions. They would, however, be in an ideal position to prolong a conflict and maximize the blood-letting.

One option that is (in my view critically) missing here is: strict, consistent NONintervention in civil wars. Over time, this would moderate what seems to have become the expectation that a third party will step in and somehow magically resolve ancient problems and hatreds.

Some conflicts are simply beyond our understanding, much less our ability to end. A hundred years after the Great War, we are still mystified by how and why it happened. We have not become wiser since 1914.

Let's recognize that sometimes the best we can do is aid the displaced, provide a venue to allow belligerent parties to negotiate for themselves once they have exhausted their will to war, and do what we can to contain their war until it burns itself out.

It's not my intent to canonize Zizek -- only to observe that he has a legitimate point -- and one that thoughtful people in South Africa make themselves. Haroon Bhorat (U. of Cape Town) writes "Using the national poverty line of $43 per month (in current prices), 47 percent of South Africans remain poor. In 1994, this figure was 45.6 percent. More jarring, the country’s unemployment rate is 25.4 percent, while the Gini coefficient, which measures inequality, is at 0.69, marking the country as one of the most unequal in the world."

The Gini coefficient is, I suspect, the primary source of the Zizek I quoted.

The fact that there are countries in Africa that are poorer in per capita GDP terms, and/or have a higher Gini index, doesn't seem to me to negate Zizek's grain of truth. The struggle for equity in South Africa is, to paraphrase an old S.A. veteran, not at the end, or even the beginning of the end -- but perhaps is at the end of the beginning.