Thursday, April 24, 2008

THE STATE OF EDUCATION IN THE US

Ruminations thereon . . .

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Peace in Iraq

David Brooks broadens our understanding of this topic in today's New York Times. Here are the first several paragraphs:

The U.S. brought no shortage of misconceptions into Iraq, but surely the longest lasting has been what you might call: Founding Fatherism. This is the belief that peace will come to the country when the nation’s political elites gather at a convention hall and make a series of grand compromises involving power-sharing and a new constitution.

The Bush administration has been pushing the Iraqis to make this sort of grand compromise for years — to little effect. The Democrats happily declare that there has been no political progress in Iraq because this grand compromise is the only kind of political progress they can conceive of.

As Philip Carl Salzman argues in “Culture and Conflict in the Middle East” (brilliantly reviewed by Stanley Kurtz in The Weekly Standard), many Middle Eastern societies are tribal. The most salient structure is the local lineage group. National leaders do not make giant sacrifices on behalf of the nation because their higher loyalty is to the sect or clan. Order is achieved not by the top-down imposition of abstract law. Instead, order is achieved through fluid balance of power agreements between local groups.

In a society like this, political progress takes different forms. It’s not top down. It’s bottom up. And this is exactly the sort of progress we are seeing in Iraq. While the Green Zone politicians have taken advantage of the surge by trying to entrench their own power, things are happening at the grass-roots.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

THE AUSTRALIAN PM

I hadn't been expecting to write about Australia. Still, I found this description of the new Prime Minister's foreign policy to be interesting. He seems to me to be on the right track for the decades ahead.

An excerpt:

It would be easy to ridicule [Prime Minister Rudd's foreign policy] ambition and it would be wrong. The European portion of Rudd's world tour takes him deep into the second leg of his now famous foreign policy tripod. The American part of the journey represented the first leg of the tripod: the US alliance.
Here Rudd made profoundly important commitments to the US alliance as central to Australian foreign policy, to a view of the US as "overwhelmingly a force for good" in the world, and displayed a warmth to Republican and Democratic leaders alike, which underlined the bipartisan quality of the alliance in both the US and Australia.

Now, in Europe, he displays the second leg of his policy tripod, his commitment to multilateralism and the institutions of global governance.

Next week, in China, we'll get the third leg: deep engagement with Asia.
IRAQ

I have to admit that the information coming out of Iraq, regarding the fighting with al-Sadr, has been ambiguous. We'll have to stay tuned.

I will note, on the plus side, however, that Sunnis had been waiting for some time for this al-Maliki to confront the Shiite militias.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A FEW CAMPAIGN-RELATED ARTICLES

Krauthammer writes an excellent piece called "The Fabulist vs. The Saint" that highlights Hillary's lies and Barack's "free pass" from the media.

Dick Morris highlights the low expectations of the electorate that Hillary Clinton has evinced. This is something that I've been thinking about for a while, expressed rather clearly here by Morris.

And finally, here's an older Hillary Clinton piece from the late Michael Kelley.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

YAY!

I was happy to see specific ideas about expanding NATO in Foreign Affairs magazine. Frequent readers will recognize the resonance of this idea with my refrains about the collective challenges faced by the world's democracies.

A couple of quotes [emph. mine]:

#1
Clearly, NATO is changing. But is it changing enough? If the point of the alliance is no longer territorial defense but bringing together countries with similar values and interests to combat global problems, then NATO no longer needs to have an exclusively transatlantic character. Other democratic countries share NATO's values and many common interests -- including Australia, Brazil, Japan, India, New Zealand, South Africa, and South Korea -- and all of them can greatly contribute to NATO's efforts by providing additional military forces or logistical support to respond to global threats and needs. NATO operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan have benefited greatly from contributions made by non-NATO members. Australia, Japan, and South Korea have sent substantial numbers of troops to Iraq in support of efforts by NATO members to stabilize the country. Together with other non-NATO democracies, such as Brazil, India, and South Africa, they have also contributed significantly to peacekeeping operations around the globe.

#2
Creating a global NATO is not about saving the alliance from obsolescence. The issue is not whether NATO goes out of area or out of business. The issue is how the world's premier international military organization should adapt to the demands of the times in a way that advances the interests not just of the transatlantic community but of a global community of democracies dependent on global stability. Global threats cannot be tackled by a regional organization. NATO has worked well in the past because its founding treaty demands that members be committed both to the political and economic principles underpinning democracy and to the common security challenges faced by the alliance. It would be foolish not to welcome into the alliance other countries that can make the same commitments and help confront new global challenges.