Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year

. . . and a cold dose of reality from Prof. Walter Russell Mead over at The American Interest.  His jumping off point is the rejection of Russia sanctions by the leading candidate in the French presidential election, given that the existing sanction scheme "is a sham—a fake policy that allows Westerners to feel better about themselves while doing nothing serious about Russia’s attack on the post-1990 settlement in Eastern Europe."

Mead then goes on to make a larger point:
The past 25 years of world politics have rested on a series of polite fictions, agreed-upon conventions and hypocritical pretenses: That we had a policy to end the North Korean nuclear drive (ditto for Iran); That Europe was becoming a great post-historical power based on the mighty engine of the euro; That the two-state solution was just a settlement freeze away; That international institutions and civil society were replacing national governments at the center of world politics; That immigration was a no-brainer; That the progress toward free trade was inexorable; That democracy was irresistibly on the march; and so on. Americans and Europeans believed that the world would look more and more like we wanted it to without us doing any heavy lifting.

Those are all very comforting ideas, but sadly none of them are true. In the next few years we are going to have to face some less pleasant choices based on hard truths rather than comfy illusions. Having the kind of world we really want—safe, prosperous, democratic—is not fully achievable no matter what we do. And having a tolerable world involves working harder, spending more, and putting more skin in the game than we want. A different kind of statesmanship, harder-edged and less sentimental, is going to be needed.
Fasten your seatbelts. 

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