Celebrating the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy was an obligatory ritual for two generations of American statesmen. As the decades passed however, mention of it and of “our European allies” has come with decreasing conviction and increasing embarrassment. Few dispute that, today, the alliance’s formalities are a pretense likelier to get its members into trouble than to pull anyone out of it. Civilizational changes have emptied it of substance. Readjusting American strategy to take account of those changes makes far more sense than talking about “revitalizing” or “rebuilding” an alliance on bases that no longer exist.
As Vladimir Putin was taking over Crimea, I noted in this column that his strategy – using Russian special forces masquerading as and mixed with local sympathizers to take over key institutions, threatening full-scale war by asserting the Ukrainian government’s illegitimacy while massing troops on the border – depended for its success on his opponents fearing to confront him. Only after both the Ukrainians and the West put up no resistance did regular troops march in.
By bold paramilitary action, Vladimir Putin is seizing full power over eastern Ukraine. At the same time his empty threat of outright invasion is leading the Ukrainian government—supported by Barack Obama as a rope supports a hanging man—to agree to a “federative structure” for the country.
The current Liberty Law Talk is with Nicholas Johnson on his new book Negroes and the Gun. Paul Rahe pens a compelling review essay in our Books section this week on Mark Blitz's Divine Law and Political Philosophy in Plato’s Laws: [Blitz] thinks Plato’s Laws may be a better guide to the manner in which reason and revelation can to good effect interact (at least where revelation takes the form of law) than the various works dedicated to that subject by Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, and the leading figures of the 18th century Enlightenment. David Henderson and Jeffrey Rogers Hummel: The Inevitability of a…
Edmund Burke studies: Bruce Frohnen makes an appearance in our feature review this week and takes a new book on Edmund Burke to task: In a rather facile first chapter, “Burke in Brief: A ‘Philosophical’ Primer,” Maciag goes further, dismissing Burke as a political philosopher by asserting that “whatever ‘philosophy’ Burke expounded was extracted by others from his pamphlets, letters, and orations, which were produced in the heat of political battle.” Minimizing Burke’s explicitly philosophical and aesthetic works, Maciag also eschews engagement with the substantial literature on the philosophical underpinnings of prudence and the commitment to tradition (one need only mention…
Russia offers asylum to Edward Snowden, who publicized the extent of the U.S. government’s domestic espionage, thereby presuming to teach America a lesson about civil liberties. Iran demands that the U.S. government secure justice for Trayvon Martin, (whose death a jury ruled to have resulted from self defense), thereby presuming to teach us about tolerance of minorities. The ludicrous character of these gratuitous demarches highlights the contempt for America from which they flow.
In international affairs, contempt is highly dangerous. The sense that a nation may be outraged without serious consequence has always been the sine qua non of war.
Who wins and loses in Syria’s civil war is not in our interest and is beyond our control. Because that has been obvious since that war started two years ago, the American people’s consensus has been that the US government should steer clear of it. Now the Obama Administration seems to have decided to help the rebels, conveying its decision to the public indirectly and framing it in generalities: ending the slaughter and asserting America’s role in the region. But since its intervention cannot decide the struggle, it can only diminish America’s influence.