Friday, March 28, 2014

Fareed Zakaria is Wrong, Again

My Facebook Timeline this morning included a link to this editorial from Fareed
Zakaria, extolled by a man whose judgment I normally trust.  In this case, they both have it wrong. 

Zakaria's point here is that Obama is playing a subtle and sophisticated game, while Putin glories in some replay of 19th century Realpolitik.  Ever ready to dazzle us with his research (or someone's for that matter), Zakaria goes through an impressive accounting designed to show exactly why what Putin is up to is not in keeping with modern niceties.  By characterizing Putin's actions as "19th Century", they are de-legitimized in the eyes of the elite, and President Obama is shown as a modern, wise man of statecraft applying the new thinking of the new order to this retrograde problem.

At no point does Zakaria stumble onto the obvious answer as to why there was such a precipitous decline in border changing conflicts.  He just accepts it as the way it is, sort of a by-product of modernity.  Not proved.

The security arrangements of the Cold War, with two world powers exercising considerable control over their respective blocs, are what kept these forces in check, forces which had dominated geopolitics and warfare for centuries.  Upon the fall of the Soviet Union, US world leadership as the "hyperpower" served to similarly frustrate these never far from the surface historical tendencies.   The Balkan crises in the 90's though, should stand as firm testament to the fact that such conflict had NOT been eradicated and was not somehow ahistorical.

Zakaria's has one quote that tees my point up nicely:  "This is not an academic debate. The best way to deal with Russia’s aggression in Crimea is not to present it as routine and national interest-based foreign policy that will be countered by Washington in a contest between two great powers. It is to point out, as Obama did eloquently this week in Brussels, that Russia is grossly endangering a global order that has benefited the entire world. (my emphasis)".  What Zakaria, and Secretary Kerry, and President Obama keep missing is that America's choice to decline is also grossly endangering the global order.  We cannot separate out from the statistics Zakaria cites the direct, lasting, and essential impact that a globally engaged and powerful United States of America had on producing them.  American weakness--whether that shown by the Bush Administration as the economy collapsed around it in 2008 re: Russia v. Georgia--or that which has been a central feature of the Obama Administration since it took office--must also share in the blame.

The center-left tendency these days to laud the President for his actions since Putin began his mischief fails to account for the impact of his policies and leadership in the years before. 

No, Putin is not a man of the 19th Century.  This is a misreading.  History took a break after World War II, and we make a great mistake if we believe that the sixty years since represent anything else. 


Mudge said...

Mr. Zakaria's professional obligation is NOT to provide analyses of US foreign policy. No, his job, and that of the legions of others employed in the New American Pravda, is to illustrate to the unenlightened masses just how remarkable and inspirational the Emperor's attire truly is.

"The Hammer" said...

I'm sure Putin is impressed. Western elites think he's a, that's heavy man.
What's is it about our effete ruling class? They run around convinced of their our brilliance and are absolutely dumbfounded when they are confronted with the real world. Guys like Putin and the jihadists count on the weakness of people like Obama and those punks in Europe.
That's the trouble with liberals, they have thought so hard trying to understand others they can no longer understand themselves. They would rather commit national suicide than be thought of as some sort of retrograde, archaic leader ignorant of the "new" way of doing things. Well Bismarck lives, nothing changes in Realpolitik, just the methods.

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