Pundit Wire

Believing is Seeing

IMG-20140909-01939 September 10, President Obama rolled out his new anti-IS intentions.  Meanwhile two high-octane intellects separately discussed their appraisals of Obama’s foreign policy.  I won’t say “tautology,” but each made perfect sense in its own framework, each might have frayed if confronted with the other.  I would say, “It would have been fascinating to have them in the same room,” but I am not into reality TV.

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The news summer from hell and the end of optimism

globe By this point in the summer, a sane person could reasonably conclude that the world is going nuts.  Spiraling out of control, descending into darkness, making optimism a delusional last recourse – that kind of feeling.

“What fresh hell is this?” – the question Dorothy Parker asked when her doorbell rang – now applies to the news.  If you’re staying informed, you’re licking the razor.  Unfortunately, not following what’s happening in the world isn’t really an option.  These horrors seize our lizard brains; we’re hard-wired to pay attention to danger.

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Remembering Todman

todman The August 17 Washington Post carries a fine obit on Terence A. Todman, deceased August 13. No quibbles with Emily Langer’s synthesis of this remarkable man, my first boss in 1986 in the Foreign Service.  Just a few footnotes to add:

I was Ambassador Todman’s press officer the day he gave his fateful news conference in Copenhagen, denying that his future posting would be South Africa…

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Turning 50: The tragedy of Tonkin Gulf

Tonkin Gulf They came in from the west: three North Vietnamese patrol boats, halting five miles from the USS Maddox. The Maddox fired first. One Vietnamese boat launched a torpedo. Then the boats raced away, strafed by U.S. jets. One boat sank.

So, at least on the first day there was a battle. A few nights later President Lyndon Johnson was on TV, describing two attacks, reassuring Americans we “seek no wider war,” and asking Congress for the power to take “all necessary measures” against “open aggression on the high seas against the United States of America.” A year later, we had almost 200,000 troops in Vietnam.

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Ukraine/Russia: Self-indulgent Speechwriting Pretending to be Policy

Russia Ukraine Let’s hop back to 7 July 2009. President Obama is addressing New Economic School students in Moscow, his first major speech to a Russian audience since his election. Vice President Biden will soon be in Ukraine to spell out the new Administration’s policies there too.

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Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Is West ‘Provoking’ Russia?

russiaFascinating question: if X responds badly to your action and cites your action as a reason for behaving badly, how far are you responsible for what X does?

Three scenarios…

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Gas Exports and Liberty

DSCF1077 On my last visit to Budapest about a year ago, I was treated to a dramatic illustration of the power that Vladimir Putin’s Russia exercises over its former satellites through their dependency on imports of Russian natural gas.

Near Hungary’s parliament building is a park called Liberty Square. The park was created to honor the Hungarian patriots who died in an unsuccessful rising against Habsburg rule in 1848-49. But the park also has two other monuments to Hungary’s liberators.

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Vladimir Putin, Crimea and ‘Double Standards’

putin On 18 March Russia’s President Vladimir Putin delivered a major speech to Russia’s political elite aimed at explaining Russia’s policy towards Crimea and Ukraine. Plenty of commentators have analysed it (and attacked it mercilessly) on points of substance. See for example this brisk piece for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty…

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