Updated: 5/16/2006; 3:19:52 PM.

Current events
Post-9-11 events and analyses


daily link  Friday, February 25, 2005


The Intimate Planet: Skype brings live conversations with strangers from around the world to John Perry Barlow.  He gets calls from a Vietnamese and a Chinese student practicing English, an Australian joking around; unmediated, no government minders, no commercial message (at least for now).  The free arrival of random voices, like meeting strangers on a train, carries a shock.  Like the first exposures to email and the web, the world comes even closer.  11:02:29 PM  permalink  

'My way' has a history: Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, recalls German reunification and other cases where US policy pursued "maximalist" goals.  David Brooks calls it a "soft-power gift [of] America [to] tendency to imagine new worlds," and sees recent democratic action in the mid-East as a current example. But Sestanovich puts in more power-politics terms.  Referring to Rice's memoirs of the Bush 41 years, Rice "considered single-mindedness as the key to diplomatic success: a government that "knows what it wants" can usually get it. ..

Washington favored unification and wanted to achieve it as quickly as possible. In particular, American officials hoped for the rapid dismantlement of the East German state - a prospect America's allies viewed with horror. .. In the end, Bush and his advisers made no real adjustments to conciliate worried allies. ..

The Bush administration believed what most recent administrations have believed: America's allies were shortsighted and confused, and not tough-minded enough to achieve lasting success on a large scale. This was President Ronald Reagan's view when he scrapped détente. It was President Bill Clinton's view when he abandoned the policy of "containing" genocide in the Balkans. And it was Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's view when she explained what she meant in calling the United States an "indispensable" nation: "We see further than other countries into the future. "

Many Europeans might describe such ideas as arrogant or pernicious. But American maximalism needs to be understood for at least two reasons.

First, it is America's tradition. Even the first Bush administration, for all its reputed pragmatism, reached for big solutions that cut against the grain of events. When it acted more cautiously - like the "Chicken Kiev" speech warning Ukrainians not to seek independence and the muddled end of the Gulf war - the results were less favorable. Rice and her colleagues, who learned maximalism early, may need a new approach, but they won't find it in a mythical past of multilateral consensus-building.

More important, over the past-quarter century, maximalism has worked: One of its clearest results is the post-cold-war emergence of a stable and unified Europe. Iraq may illustrate the hazards of a maximalist approach. But anyone who wants to frame an alternative, not least the allied leaders whom Rice will meet this week, must begin by reckoning with this record of success."

  10:24:10 PM  permalink  

China's Quiet Rise Casts Wide Shadow: "China has emerged as an active and decisive leader in East Asia, transforming economic and diplomatic relationships across an area long dominated by the United States.  The shift in status, increasingly clear over the past year, has changed the way Chinese officials view their country's international role as well as the way other Asians look to Beijing for cues. In many ways, China has started to act like a traditional big power, tending to its regional interests and pulling smaller neighbors along in its wake. ..

China has taken the lead in organizing an East Asian summit conference for next November that, according to Chinese and other observers, will formalize Chinese regional leadership in several aspects.  A senior Chinese diplomat said it had not been decided whether the United States will be invited to attend and, if so, in what capacity. That the question of U.S. participation is even on the table dramatizes the shift in Asia's diplomatic landscape. ..

China's new face has been most apparent in its dealings with the ASEAN countries, mainly because of the economic equation. At China's initiative, for instance, ASEAN countries and China in December agreed to create a free-trade zone by 2010, which would further integrate neighboring countries into China's orbit.

Trade between China and the 10 ASEAN countries has increased about 20 percent a year since 1990, and the pace has picked up in the last several years. Bilateral trade hit $78.2 billion in 2003, up 42.8 percent from the previous year. Chinese and ASEAN officials said the figure was about $100 billion and rising by the end of 2004. ..

During the days of war and Japanese dominance, for instance, allied forces fought to prevent Tokyo from constructing a railroad from southern China through Vietnam, Laos and down to Singapore as a conduit for oil supplies. Now, Tao remarked, China has announced plans to build just such a railway. "

  10:08:30 PM  permalink  

Bush Gets Stoned by the World Media: "President Bush all but admits to illicit drug use for the first time.  Overseas it's the stuff of headlines. At home, the U.S. press has generally downplayed the story. The divergent coverage of Bush's apparent drug use is a textbook study in the difference between the international online media and their American counterparts. On the issue of youthful illicit drug use, most U.S. news editors -- liberal, conservative or other -- defer to Bush in a way that their foreign counterparts do not.

The New York Times broke the Bush marijuana story Friday in a front-page report on Doug Wead, a Christian activist who has published a book based in part on conversations with Bush that Wead secretly recorded in 1998 and 1999. On Wead's tapes, whose authenticity the White House does not dispute, Bush came close to admitting he had smoked marijuana and avoided answering a question about whether he had used cocaine.

"I wouldn't answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried," Bush said.  On a question about cocaine, Bush said he would reply, "Rather than saying no ... I think it's time for someone to draw the line and look people in the eye and say, you know, 'I'm not going to participate in ugly rumors about me and blame my opponents,' and hold the line. Stand up for a system that will not allow this kind of crap to go on,'" according to a transcript excerpt posted on ABC's "Good Morning America" Web site.

Since Bush has never acknowledged using drugs, the international media played up the marijuana angle. .. In contrast, most of the traditional leaders of American journalism -- the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the TV networks -- made no mention of drugs in their headlines .. the news was not "pot" but the "past," a word choice that signaled that the accompanying news story was not really new."

  10:01:51 PM  permalink  

 
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Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 5/16/2006; 3:19:52 PM.