Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Pax Americana as midwife for ... Whatever Comes Next

See a very interesting article, Mirage of Empire, in the New York Review of Books, where John Gray, Emeritus Professor at the London School of Economics, reviews two books that promote the notion of an America as Imperium:

--Imperial Grunts: On the Ground with the American Military from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq and Beyond,  by Robert D. Kaplan and

--The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World's Government in the 21st Century, by Michael Mandelbaum.

Kaplan is one of the most profoundly weird thinkers of our time. I find him to be bizarrely attracted to really, really bad ideas. Like this idea that America has any business modeling its “Pax Americana” after any imperial periods from the human past.

Let there be no doubt, this is exactly what was preached by Leo Strauss, that ungrateful wretch of a fugitive from devastated Europe, who had the nerve to lecture at happy, progressive, pragmatic and successful America, that we really oughta copy all the wretched philosophical errors that had made his home continent a debacle and a festering sore. Of course today’s neocon adventurists ate it up, especially the platonist rationalizations about “philosopher kings” who needn’t answer to those they rule, have no need for accountability, and who are duty bound to lie like mad, whenever the mood strikes them. Again, read about a guy named Alcibiades.

9781586484583_p0_v1_s260x420And yet, as usual, I take a position that does not fit either left or right. Just because the neocons are flipping loony for wanting anything like a traditional “empire”, so is the left for refusing to recognize that we are still in an imperial age... and the for the near-term, anything other than some kind of Pax Americana is simply unthinkable. The alternatives are simply unthinkable. In his review, Gray rightfully points out many flaws in the notion of an American Imperium that is at all comparable to those of Britain and Rome.

But he does no better than Kaplan and Mandelbaum at addressing the key role of Pax Americana as midwife for Whatever Comes Next. (WCN)

We have maybe a decade, at best. The technological and military superiority that America now clutches desperately can be hoarded, it can be squandered, it can be thrown around in “imperial” bluster...

...influence to help design WCN... a version that will remain forever loose, according to American tastes, rather than a bureaucratic “world government” in the EU style.

A WCN in which individuals have standing, instead of the present “international order” in which only states and corporations have any voice at all. A WCN which can safeguard the Earth and our children, without becoming a bossy nanny, from which there is no escape. Even now, despite the quasi-deliberate way that the Bushites have torched esteem for the US, all over the world, America still has the influence to help guide WCN in the right directions. But will it?
..or it can be carefully spent, using force judiciously to maintain peace while using

Not while the left refuses to recognize a duty. Or while the right is obsessed with adolescent thumping.

==On Accountability and Government==

And finally, the following gem about accountability and human nature:

“Government ought to be all outside and no inside . . . Everybody knows that corruption thrives in secret places, and avoids public places, and we believe it a fair presumption that secrecy means impropriety."
           - Woodrow Wilson

If we could create a panel of all of our past presidents and put them on TV, I bet most would be fuming right now,especially Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ike. But two of them would be giddy and happy. James Buchanan and Warren G. Harding. Can any of you guess why?

Come on. It’s easy.

==Miscellaneous Items ==

Your phone records are for sale Chicago Sun-Times January 5, 2006
 The Chicago Police Department is warning officers their cell phone records are available to anyone -- for a price. Dozens of online services are selling lists of cell phone calls, raising security concerns among law enforcement and privacy experts. To test the service, the FBI paid Locatecell.com $160 to buy the records for an agent's cell...

 Data Mining 101: Finding Subversives with Amazon Wishlists applefritter Jan. 4, 2006
An individual with access to the Internet can develop a fairly sophisticated profile of hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens by using data mining of free and publicly available resources, such as Amazon.com's vast database of wishlists, as programmer Tom Owad has proved. He extracted names and cities for readers of "dangerous books" to show...

'Robot agents' to help settle disputes The Register Jan. 6, 2006
The e-Dispute system provides fast online arbitration, mediation and conciliation services to help organizations quickly resolve disputes. e-Dispute's online collaboration tools include video, audio, live-chat, e-forum, text and transcript capabilities with full case management, fact assessment, analysis, and weighted issue/interesting...


skribe said...

“Government ought to be all outside and no inside . . .Everybody knows that corruption thrives in secret places, and avoids public places, and we believe it a fair presumption that secrecy means impropriety."
- Woodrow Wilson

Interesting and praiseworthy but unfortunately idealistically unworkable. I can think of two cases where I would prefer my government to be selectively secretive (at least not divulging all and sundry to any that want it): some security issues and residents data (particularly regarding the health system). I'm sure others can think of more. Nice blog btw.

Anonymous said...

Because Harding and Buchanan were our most gloriously corrupt presidents, straight takin' bribes and livin' the thug life!

Kevin said...

Buchanan and Harding are happy because they may get out of last place.
I greatly appreciate your comments about WCN.
I will post a comment about what to look for and support on the left that would enable the left to mature into supporting a humane WCN.

Anonymous said...

I was just reading about the EU proposing new regulations on the Internet, instead of letting the U.S. stay in control. Links:



The United States and Europe clashed here Thursday in one of their sharpest public disagreements in months, after European Union negotiators proposed stripping the Americans of their effective control of the Internet.

The European decision to back the rest of the world in demanding the creation of a new international body to govern the Internet clearly caught the Americans off balance and left them largely isolated at talks designed to come up with a new way of regulating the digital traffic of the 21st century.

I notice that the major supporters of EU control are Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China.

My first reaction to the EU would be: "Go build you own Internet!" Apparently, however, multiple internets are not in everyone's best interests.

But if the EU did seize control of the Internet, I could see us putting up another one, and letting people choose which one they want to use. Or even some pirate internets popping up in it's place.

Rob Perkins said...

I dunno. The EU probably *should* build its own Internet... based on IPv6, just as it's built its own superior grade of wireless telephone system and its own superior internetwork of railroads.

(You can travel farther, I think, in *one* car of a EuroCity train in much more comfort than you can in any U.S. airline seat, with the possible exception of the New York to L.A. lines, for example).

The Euros are simply very, very, very good at the disparate interconnection class of problem. And computer networks are the kinds of things that practically call out for the sort of pedantic technical rulemaking that it appears the E.U. is best at in other realms.

So, I'd say put the European railroad engineers and the computer engineer sons and daughters of EU bureaucrats in the same room, and I imagine you'd have a rock-solid design for a next generation Internet!

(Heaven only knows: the features present on the GSM networks here in the U.S. are far superior to the closed-system corporate networks of any legacy U.S. telephone company. Hello Verizon! Unlock the features on your phones!)

Having it based on IPv6 would mean, of course, that it would not run out of addresses and would happily interconnect with whatever they shame private corporations in the United States into building. Just as they've shamed Verizon and AT&T into building better mobile phone networks.

David Brin said...

I quite agree that many Americans, especially on the right, tend to overly disparage Europeans... at our peril. By conflating the genuinely worrisome EU traits with others that are chimeras -- nursed in order to maintain a sense of American superiority -- these people do us a terrible disservice in trying to be PRACTICAL about guiding Whatever Comes Next (WCN).

The Internet imbroglio is a good example.

Worst possibility... the Euros get away with their drive to "internationalize" the internet under a single bureaucracy. That is Europism at its worst. It is enthusiastically supported by every tyranny on Earth, who will then be free to use IP protocols to control content seen by their citizens.

Above all, int eh present "international legal order" (which too many American lefties do not ever examine), individual human beings have no legal standing, to petition, file suit or seek redress. Only states and corporations have standing... a horrific precedent for WCN that America could fight... if the right wing weren't monomaniacally obsessed with avoiding any thinking about WCN.

Instead, you have fundamentalist monsters who assume the world will end withina sdecade or two... and neocon monsters who actually believe we can have a true American Imperium, akin to Rome... and kleptocrat monsters who want to defer law forever, so they can steal indefinitely... and traditional American xenophobes who despise furriners and like nothing better than for everybody else to be demonstrating against the USA.

Result? NOBODY within the US is discussing WCN... at all! Not left or right. When it should be our top priority. Restoring some of America's inherent trust and influence, so that we can spend the remaining years of Pax Americana guiding the creating of a WCN that will BOTH end the ages of chaos and empires forever... AND ensure a stable safe era for free individual human beings to keep bullies off their backs.

But I did not finish a thought... the POSITIVE side of European competence, as alluded-to by Rob.

Indeed, they are very very good at certain things. Today, the Ikonos images we can all download are a competitive force helping push against the current US Administration's drive toward secrecy. If they build a parallel internet, more power to em!

ABove all, they have mastered a process called Accession that will lead to World Government, if America boots its own opportunity to guide WCN. The WG that will arise out of accession will begin when the Bahamas and Uruguay apply for membership in the EU... and suddenly, the "E" will change from "European" to "Earth".

People blink when I say this. They say "Brin, you're crazy!"

But not one of them has ever come up with a scenario that could even remotely stand a chance of PREVENTING this from happening, as a natural flow of events. The EUY is very very good at this process...

... and there are far worse possibilities than for a planet Earth to be run in the ecumenically good natured fashion of the EU.

As an American, I think there are also BETTER wasys. I wish the USA were showing itself to be a leader, in helping to guide better outcomes. But frenetic and insipid myopia seems to be the curse of empire.

Anonymous said...

It's struck me as funny that the U.S. doesn't seem to be interested in the accession of countries into the U.S.

Then again, as long as their "furriners", we don't have to treat them as human beings. Nor do we have to pour tax dollars into building their infrastructure. And we'd have to give their workers the same minimum wage and benefits that "true Americans" recieve (which are still much, much better than most of the world, even if not as lavish as the European standard). And we'd have to protect them with our millitary, no matter how inconvenient it might by.

Schlumy Boteach (sic?) wrote an editorial in Ha'aretz a few years ago recommending that Israel join the U.S. He pointed out the economic benefits, the millitary benefits (having the most powerful army, navy and air force in the world backing you up in the middle east could make a lot of would-be agressors back off), and that it would force America to intervene in the Israel/Palestine situation and find a resolution. I've also seen other editorials from Australian and Canadian papers suggesting why their respective countries or provinces should join the U.S.

Not to mention, we have a little protectorate of 3 million people to our immediate south which we've given little encouragement to join, which is probably why their statehood referendums have failed repeatedly, even though being a state would be to Puerto Rico's benefit...

David Brin said...

Many quirky things.

If Puerto Rico wants to be a state, that's fine by me, but only if they vote to join by at least a 3/4 margin and include in the referendum an undying pledge never, ever, to try to back out or secede.

We went through that in 1861. I don't want to do it again. No way do I want PR to join if it is by 51% and with people saying "we'll give it a try and see if it works out..."

Tony Fisk said...

(Rob, in listing the EU achievements, you forgot Galileo: the EU's alternative GPS. Oh yes, and they recently rejected the call for software patents, despite some skulduggery)

The notion of a World Government has an allure: a comforting vision of an end to conflict that ushers in an era of constructive prosperity.

I have felt this allure myself, but am now rather distrustful of any one power base: the current contenders all have aspects of the pyramid about them.

Personally, I'd prefer the presence of two or more blocs who can compete (or even cooperate) at a sub-lethal level, and apply CITOKATE on each other. Hopefully, they would be too busy looking at each other to concentrate on reigning in everyman.

(and meanwhile, perhaps WCN can bubble up around us)

Following on from David's assertion that the War On Terror was won on flight 93 with the phrase 'let's roll' (with a followup action on the mobiles of NYers), who's for redefining WOT to mean the 'War on Tyranny'?

After all, tyranny covers both the mindset that allows only one way of thinking, and the ruler who allows only one form of loyalty.

Off topic: the problem in miniature?

Man oh man, the sliced bread people appear to be getting flamed into charcoal over their selection of 21 'original' ideas. The comments I've seen are overwhelmingly negative.

skribe said...

I've also seen other editorials from Australian and Canadian papers suggesting why their respective countries or provinces should join the U.S.

I'd like to know what Aussie papers you've been reading. I've yet to see even one that mentions this concept in any other way than as an ironic barb aimed at the federal government and their close relations to the US government. Even the idea of NZ becoming a new state in the Commonwealth is treated with considerable derision - on both sides of the Tasman - and that is far likelier than us joining the Union.

As for world government I say bah humbug. Democracy crumbles the more people you add. The only sort of world government I'd support is one that acted as a neutral arbiter that is respected by all sides. Problem then is how is it chosen, and who watches the watchmen?

Anonymous said...

Truth to be told, I've been looking for "whatever comes next" since I was a kid watching "Voltron" and "The new Earth Government dedicated towards peace" (Granted, I never figured out why they were all English speaking caucasians, but there you go) and examples such as Star Trek's Federation, Babylon 5's "U.N. in space" and Star Wars' "New Republic." (Note sound of DB screaming in rage.)

For years I had hoped that the U.N. would grow wisely (perhaps I was being ethnocentric, thinking, "as their was a U.S.A, so should their be a united Earthgov.")

I don't know enough about how the E.U. works to agree or disagree with DB's statements on an Earth Union, however, for years I'd hoping that something like NATO wuld turn into the "United Democracries.)

Tony Fisk said...

I agree with skribe, Nicq. Trade agreements of dubious benefit to one side, anyone suggesting that Australia join the Union must be seeking to be part of the comedy festival! As for the kiwis, having withdrawn from ANZUS, I think they're rather savouring their independence.

(heh! There's an outside contender for UG: Maurai Federation, anyone?)

Anonymous said...

Bill L., Escondido, CA

Re: the Internet - it seems wide open the way it is now, with expansive freedom of expression (for better or worse). The developers of a reliable, predictable railroad system may not be the ones to improve the freewheeling Internet.

Re: European ideas - we've been using their great ideas for years...via immigrants. While the "American Melting Pot" seems to be adding fewer ingredients today (but that's a difficult assessment in the myopia of the moment), we still attract individuals from everywhere looking for better opportunities. That being said, I agree that we should not reject successful ideas based on the country of origin.

Finally, Re: WCN - the world's perspective has formed in the context of Cold War and post-Colonial divisions. Even though our victory is certainly the best outcome for individuals everywhere, some of our conduct during the conflict left much distrust and resentment. Becoming "Democracy's Midwife" would be a worthy goal, so that all individuals and populations get to choose their own destiny.

However, I don't think the world trusts us, or any "power" to do that. We (the US) spent centuries getting to our current democracy (and had abolish slavery and give women the vote along the way), and nurtured a citizenry of "rugged individuals". Other countries have much deeper cultural/ethnic/religious heritages, and so cherish other values. At a simpler level, democracy often displaces the current rulers, who tend to like their current positions and resist displacement.

Our efforts in Iraq, for a current example, illustrates this. While I acknowledge missteps and various forms of exploitation in the situation, I think we really are trying to bring democracy to the country. And Saddam did: conduct ethnic cleansing, torture and murder his citizens, develop and use weapons of mass destruction (poison gas on Iran and the Kurds), attack Kuwait and Iran (and launch SCUDs at Israel, a non-combatant in the Persian Gulf war), refuse for 12 years to comply with multiple UN directives (and used the Oil for Food program to his own benefit, while Iraqi's suffered), create two of the worst manmade environmental disasters in history (oil well fires and draining vast marshes), and promote terrorism by paying "life insurance" to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. At the same time, Iraq has a fairly educated population and valuable natural resources that could combine to quickly make it an economically viable country. But, the rest of the world didn't think this tyranny needed to be rectified, quite yet. So, when the US intervenes, and perseveres to actually enfranchising all Iraqis (men AND women, all ethnicities), there still isn't a groundswell of support for the effort.
Any other thoughts on what WCN could be?

Rob Perkins said...

Properly speaking I wasn't listing Euro achievements, I was listing Euro competencies. Their 1.5 millenia of relatively common tradition, combined with their newfound peace (Germany and France, at *peace*? Think about that in terms of the last two thousand years. That's big big stuff.), makes them perfect infrastructure builders. They know how to make stuff last and work in a way (in my opinion) Americans are just beginning to learn.

It has little to do with what content flies over the built infrastructure; it can be as freewheeling as desired. (Tim Berners-Lee is British)

And, if I had my druthers, I'd choose an American hegemony, to be sure, but given only a choice between Euro hegemony and Chinese hegemony...

But then again, I speak German!

reason said...

I'm wondering why DB is so against secession. It seems Americans are all for it as long as it is Eastern Europe.-) I would have thought that if things go on as they are, some people might seriously consider reversing the outcome of the civil war. Voluntarily.

Right sizing Government is difficult, but there is a need a need for international law of some limited sort and some sort of enforcement arrangement. Stopping power flowing to the center (subsidiarity) is however the big problem.

jbmoore said...

If history serves me right, the European diplomats have been earning their pay long before this country even existed. Ben Franklin was an exceptional diplomat and an exception. He not only got lots of foreign aid from the French, but he probably got King Louie to bankrupt his own government to pay for the foreign aid to our fledging nation when it was just 12 rebellious colonies.

British diplomats have gotten concessions from other countries just with bluff and deceit. Our diplomats seem to be buffoons compared to them at times. I am sure that this is an illusion. The career diplomats probably know what to do, but are overruled by higher ups. This was one theme of "Imperial Hubris". There are CIA and State Department experts on Afghanistan and the Middle East. They started their careers 20 years ago helping Muslims fight against another "Evil Empire" when the USSR invaded Afghanistan. So, why was the CIA claiming that it didn't have many experts on Afghanistan after 9/11?

As far as secrecy in government goes, wasn't the U.S. Constitution drafted in complete secrecy? I agree that the Right is pretty much reacting by Knee Jerk Reflex and the Left seems comatose or brain dead. A Pax Americana is pretty much unworkable because for it to be workable would mean that we be as ruthless and practical as the Romans - pretty much kill or scatter every one of our enemies no matter the cost. The Romans recognized that peace does come when all your enemies' armies are dead literally. However, they were the only superpower of their day having destroyed Carthage and they didn't have to worry about nuclear weapons. I am disregarding terrorists because the damage they do is insignificant compared to what organized states do to one another and themselves.

skribe said...

So, when the US intervenes, and perseveres to actually enfranchising all Iraqis (men AND women, all ethnicities), there still isn't a groundswell of support for the effort.

The Iraqis aren't enfranchised yet. We have to leave and be long gone before that can happen. It's not enough for the Iraqis to learn how to vote. They have to learn how to lose a vote.

Anonymous said...

Let me preface my comments by saying that I am an American who has been living in Europe (Germany) for the last 6 ½ years.

I don’t know when Rob was last in Europe, but they no longer have the slightest idea how to run a railroad. Every year, the prices go up and the service goes down. The current motto of the Deutsche Bahn appears to be you can’t get there from here and the now former head of the DB declared that only a fool would take the train when he could fly. Connections and service between the major population centers are still good, but the commuter stretches are suffering arterial bleeding in terms of stops and trains. And the cars (except on the big expensive lines between the major cities) are unupholstered, un-air conditioned, loud and uncomfortable. 20 years ago, I frequently took the train from San Diego to LA and back. Gimme Amtrak any time.

The power networks are showing similar strains. Just before Christmas an ice storm crippled most of North Rhine-Westphalia because the towers were all over 60 years old. They have no clue how to go about maintaining the networks they have. (Terry Pratchett fans should be thinking of Going Postal here.) Yeah, they got the cell phone network right. The three different systems here in Germany interact quite well (though it’s a lot cheaper calling within one than between; also true of the land lines). And they came up with the novel concept that you shouldn’t have to pay when somebody calls you. Still, Germany has been unable to implement a simple automated toll system for trucks. As for Galileo, we’ll have to wait and see. They got one satellite in orbit. Who knows how well it will actually work.

Now (our) DB is right that Europe does have ideas to offer and there are things they do right. We ignore them at our peril (as they do with the US. Believe me, most European politicians are just as disapproving of the US as Americans are of Europeans).

But Accession is not one of the things they do right. The recent introduction of new states to the EU has launched a massive reconsideration of the whole process and a lot of people are concerned. The Eurocrats in Brussels have no problems with everything, but the national governments are not happy. Most are worried that the recent acceptance of several Eastern European countries will either cause economic problems similar to those caused by German reunification or result in a massive job drain to the cheaper new countries. Many are very worried about the probable introduction of Bulgaria, Romania, and the less stable bits of the former Yugoslavia, to say nothing of Turkey’s desire to join.

Meanwhile, the core of the EU is showing signs of cracks in the foundation. The rejection of the new European constitution in France and the Netherlands is just the most visible symptom. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the one-size-fits-all economic policies may be helping out the smaller countries, but they are screwing the economies of the big countries that have traditionally formed the backbone of the European economy. Italy is seriously considering dropping the Euro, while Denmark, Sweden, and the UK refuse to use it in the first place. In Brussels, they can’t figure how to balance power between the big and small countries (hint: the US came up with a workable solution over 200 years ago).

Up to now, the average person in the street has paid little attention to the government in Brussels, being too isolated from it to take it seriously. But every new edict raises eyebrows and turns some major portion of the economy on its head. The farmers near where I live are wondering how they are going to make a living after the recent rules changes, and in Sweden they have declared that new rules can only be interpreted to mean that every cow must have a mattress in its stall. People are starting to take notice that there is no accountability in Brussels and they are expressing extreme satisfaction when their governments simply roll over and accept the next edict. They are demanding accountability from the national governments and, hopefully, they will begin to demand it of Brussels as well.

Right now, the EU is a shaky equilibrium. The accession of more countries without making some serious changes will result in its collapse back to the looser EEC form (at best) or complete disintegration (potentially at worst). But that is exactly the road they appear to be on.

So, yeah, the Euros can do some things right, largely based on a greater focus on community (a bit too great for this American’s taste, not enough sense of the individual), but Accession ain’t one of ‘em.

“Brin, you’re crazy!” ;)

David Brin said...

I am not against secession as a matter of fundamental principle. I oppose it because Americans have to act AS IF it is a matter of principle. Pragmatically, we still cannot open that can of worms. It is only 140 years since Appomatox.

As for Europe finally being at peace, you have all heard what I said about that. They were too cynical and resigned and fatalistic (“The Balkans will always be like that!”) to get their act together in the 90s during the collapse of Yugoslavia. It took Bill Clinton & Wesley Clark to take on the utopian goal of ending that mess, once and for all. And at a cost of ZERO american lives lost, and within 6 months, our intervention resulted in a Europe at peace for the 1st time in 4,000 years.

Hence, I am NOT opposed to our surface reasons for being in Iraq. Saddam had to go. I just feel justified in questioning whether the cynical and venally corrupt imbecilles who propped him up and adored him, then LEFT him in charge - to torment the Iraqi people another 12 years - have any standing telling us how “spreading democracy” ought to be done. Judging by the efficiency of these two track records, who should we trust with this mission?

Oh, jbMoore, our diplomats aren’t always buffoons. WE nursemaided the EU into existence. We handled the main part of the Cold War pretty darn well. I already mentioned the Balkans. Our problem is that American often hate fancy pants diplomats, just as a matter of cowboy-think.

The Constitution was deliberated in secret. I concede. But that was a DRAFTING process. The people thereupon debated every aspect of it openly and all votes for or against ratification were public record. Accountability remained.

Demetrios, I still use the SandDiego-LA Amtrak. It’s a delight. Luxurious and convenient. Except when (often!) people throw themselves in front of trains and we are stuck for hours while specialists do their slow CSI thing. The problem with trains in the US is that they are so patchy and seldom connect through to airports.

The Euro constitution was doomed precisely because it tried to be specific. The whole reason the EC became the EU in the first place was because points of contention could be left vague and worked out slowly, the way new accession members will be worked in slowly. (Remember when people in the core EC felt twitchy about those slovenly Irish and Spanish they would have as parasites on their backs, forever? The question is not whether this process can go on and on... it can... but the right rate of absorption digestion.)

No, the EU will never be a nation. It should not try to be. It is something else entirely. A confederation that works. And a worthy model for WCN... though I pray America wakes up in time to compete with that model, offering some better ideas.

(A side point... no one on Earth could be happier than I am about the booming Irish economy! No more wretched icky self pitying movies about economic angst and unemployment! Please! I want them rich and guilt-ridden!)

And no, you haven’t answered the scenario. What happens when a fairly rich and un-burdensome little non-European country like the Bahamas applies to join?

Rob Perkins said...

I left Europe in late 1990, shortly after unification. (A German history professor once pointed out that it wasn't "reunification" that happened in '90; Germany to that point had never been unified except at the point of a knife.) This would have been before DB tried to absorb the DDR's Reichsbahn into its system.

My experience with the trains was primarily from the Swiss system, but I recall at the time that they were building in infrastructure changes to all the systems in Europe. The Swiss called it "Bahn 2000".

That's an example of the kind of far-reaching thinking that governments do there, planning for ten and twenty years, instead of the paltry three or five that seem to be the norm for "long range" planning in the U.S.

And consider, too, that you point out that service is slow and noisy at the spokes of Germany's rail system, but the fact that you can get from Hof to Friedrichshafen, or Weil-am-Rhein to Darmstadt at all without resorting to a car, well, you just can't do that in the U.S.

(I live in the Pacific Northwest, and have ridden the Amtrak line from L.A. to Portland, the Coast Starlight, and the Cascades from Portland to Seattle. it's dreamy stuff and not at all expensive! But it *doesn't go anyplace else at any price!*)

Again, this wasn't about what they're getting wrong. This is about their culture and competencies. Euros are far more capable of sitting down, drafting a tax and a plan, and beginning execution on stuff where the results might not appear for 20 years. We Americans (especially American corporations) can barely think past the next three months.

Anonymous said...

Throwing yourself in front of a train is a popular way to commit suicide here, too. Especially in the Duesseldorf-Ruhr region. It makes commuting by train an even worse nightmare. It used to be the only delay on the SD-LA run was the pause north of Oceanside when they made a sweep for illegals and then pulled them all off the train.

It may be possible to go from “Hof to Friedrichshafen, or Weil-am-Rhein to Darmstadt” without a car (though I wouldn’t count on it and you may have to go way out of your way), but it is neither fast nor convenient nor cheap. Two examples: until we moved to rural Lower Saxony, we lived in a bedroom community of Duesseldorf and my wife worked in the Ruhrgebiet. Commute with the train: minimum hour and a half and at least 3 changeovers. With the car: 40 minutes tops if there was an accident. Last October, we went on vacation and flew out of Hannover. We could have either stayed at my sister-in-laws over night and taken a train right to the airport or drive there and leave the car in long-term parking. Driving was slightly longer due to fog and an accident blocking traffic, but even with gas and parking it was cheaper than taking the train.

No, this isn’t about what they do wrong, but the truth is the Euros no longer do long-term thinking. Of all the memes they could have picked up from the US, the one that seems to be winning is the corporate greedhead-suck it dry and use it up-get what you can out of it now approach.

The EU constitution isn’t dead. It may very well be enacted over the heads of and against the will of the citizens of Europe. Neither the French nor Dutch votes were binding on their governments. Indeed, only Ireland and Denmark have held or will hold binding plebiscites. (The Danes have to hold one, but they keep putting it off because they know it will lose.)

Perhaps I didn’t really address the scenario of what happens when a prosperous non-European nation wants to join, but that’s because I don’t find it likely. I think the EU will choke on Eastern Europe first. Brussels isn’t willing to go slow and give each new accession group time to assimilate before bringing in the next batch. If they go for another major accession of the Balkans anytime in the next 10 years (and the current plan is something like 5), it will be too much for the big 4 (Germany, France, Italy, UK) all of which are having problems getting their economies to move.

Other potential problems are Turkey and the Ukraine. Turkey is already the subject of massive debate over human rights, a bad economy, and potential terrorism problems. The Ukraine wanting in will put Russia’s back up big time and the EU will back away as fast as they can, undermining a lot of their credibility.

What happens when a fairly rich and un-burdensome little non-European country like the Bahamas applies to join? Ok, let’s play what if, even if it is unlikely. (What’s in it for the Bahamas, anyway?) Theoretically, EU membership is only open to European countries. That’s one of the things used as an argument against Turkey, that the tiny bit of the country that is in Europe doesn’t count. Of course, when you can rule by bureaucratic fiat, the rules are meaningless. So, Yeah, it’s possible that such a country would be accepted. But it would have to be prosperous, fully westernized, and have no potential internal problems (i.e. AIDS epidemic, disaffected minority group, drug trafficking, etc.). That leaves out Africa, almost all of Asia, most of South America, Central America, and about half of the Caribbean. Frankly, I don’t see Japan, Canada, or Australia as likely candidates for EU membership.

But thinking about the Bahamas or Canada brought to mind another potential model for WCN (and a reason why they wouldn’t want to join the EU anyway): the Commonwealth. Here’s an organization that no one ever thinks of, but that mostly works. It doesn’t necessarily do too well in resolving conflicts between members (i.e. India-Pakistan), but it does give them a forum for discussion and largely leaves its members alone as far as their internal workings go. It’s a hugely disparate group bound together only by the facts that they were once colored pink on the map and that they understand cricket. It bears closer examination.

M. Simon said...

You asked folks to leave comments on your drug war thesis.

Try these:

Is Addiction Real?

Love is a drug

Addiction or Self Medication?


Big Mac Heroin Attack

This is very good on the genetics of addiction.
Genetic Discrimination

A test for PTSD

PTSD Pot Alcohol & Substance Abuse

Police and PTSD

Bust Pork, Not Drugs

DEA Pain FAQ [pdf]

skribe said...

But thinking about the Bahamas or Canada brought to mind another potential model for WCN (and a reason why they wouldn’t want to join the EU anyway): the Commonwealth. Here’s an organization that no one ever thinks of, but that mostly works.

It mostly works because it doesn't actually do anything except hold the equivalent of a members-only Olympic games and CHOGM, which is an all-expenses paid junket gab-fest for the leaders. There are no defence treaties or economic agreements attached to membership. In fact its only purpose comes in the form of a declaration to promote democracy and good government. Ironically it is called the Harare Declaration, because Zimbabwe is such a sterling example of democracy and good government. But why pick on a tin-pot dictator when the list of failures is so long? Fiji is about to explode again. The Solomon Islands was only averted from civil war by the presence of Aussie and Kiwi troops - still there. Papua New Guinea is close to the edge as well - until recently Aussie cops patrolled. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa. You wanna tell us why the Commonwealth is a model for anything but what not to do?

As for your comments about cricket: heathen scum =).

M. Simon said...

BTW if you look at the numbers and consider the run up to the war it was the Euros and Russians who did the most to prop up Saddam.

And then consider who was most supportive of the Oil for Palaces scam.

Our support for Iraq has not been a factor since 1990.

Before that it was limited to keeping Iraq in the Iraq/Iran war. A totally cynical manuver to bleed both countries.

Even had America been Iraqs biggest supporter, is it not good to recognize mistakes and fix them?

M. Simon said...

The War on Terror has morphed into a war on tyranny.

Congress so stated in the last half of '05.

Keep your eye on our government. Some times they will do the right thing when no one is looking.

As to trains: America vs Europe. Population density. Subsidies. Working around the train schedule vs making your own. Trains as people movers survive only due to subsidies. In America trains as freight movers are profitable. Profit is a sign of health. Gvmt subsidies are a sign of ilth.

M. Simon said...

Five year plans went out with the Soviets.

The Euros have a better way. Twenty year plans.

I think the American way in an era of fast changes has a lot of merit. Six month plans.

Short run it looks very inefficient. Long run it does a better job of adapting. i.e the American way is more organic.

We all know the Soviets based their economy around eliminating the ineffiencies of no plan. It didn't work out so well for them.

The bottom 20% in America have an income equal to that of the average Spainiard. Or Swede. on a purchasing power parity basis.

The 80/20 rule is most evident in all natural population. The top 20% get 80% of the resources. Which in an economy which is increasing is a good idea. Those best able to increase the profits (surplus) get the most resources. In the end we all benefit.

My #2 son is a student at Rockefeller University (The University of Chicago). He is on full scholarship. We are using Rockefeller money to improve our son's life prospects.

Look at what Gates is doing with his accumulations.

It takes time, but trickle down works.

Anonymous said...

@ skribe
Somehow I had the idea that there was a bit more to the Commonwealth than a weaker version of the UN. They do claim to run a numbe of development programs, but I know what those are like. Anyway, one can also learn from negative examples.

(And I know everything you really need to know about cricket from an Indian friend: it's about food. The actual playing is incidental.)

@ M.Simon re:economic plans
Six month planning is more flexible and certainly a better idea than rigid long-term plans. The problem in the US is that most corporate leaders no longer worry about the effects the plans for this half-year have on the plans for the next half-year. There is a tendency to maximize immediate profit without concern for what that does on a company's ability to continue to earn. Zero long-term thinking (3 years is about the max).

Anonymous said...


You got a plug from Instapundit today re: the Transparent Society.

Here's the link:




skribe said...

They do claim to run a numbe of development programs

They are generally done by the more prosperous member nations rather than the Commonwealth itself. If you imagine The Commonwealth as a rich gentleman's club and the development programs as a few of the members employing the down-and-out sons of some of the staff on their cotton ranches you wouldn't be too far from the truth.

Strange as it may seem from my comments I actually like being a member of this club. It's family. But I don't want the structure used as a basis for WCN. The Commonwealth is the last remnant of a dead age. It's fun to look back and reminisce but it's hardly the way forward.

one can also learn from negative examples

There are so many better ones to learn from. The UN for instance. It had greater goals and loftier ideals than the Commonwealth.

I know everything you really need to know about cricket from an Indian friend: it's about food. The actual playing is incidental.

Remind me to tell you about dropbears some time =).

Anonymous said...

Instapundit mentioned Transparent Society today and linked to its Amazon listing.

David Brin said...


On the subject of Europe, a necessary bit of CITOKATE vs smug American assumptions would be a slim book calledWhy Europe will Run The 21st Century by Mark Leonard (no, not Spock’s dad.) The author utterly leaves out certain crucial factors, such as demographic collapse and cynical thinking, which will hamper the EU and prevent it from “running” anything. But he does savagely refute some commonly held assumptions, such as the number of EU bureaucrats who are meddling, over there.

In fact, the Eu bureaucracy is stunningly small and efficient. They farm most operations down to the national level, in a fashion that more resembles VISA (the credit card company) than anything we call “government.” Have a look.

M. Simon, While I respect your attempt to prop up the neocons’ position, many of your statements simply do not hold water.

* Saddam was VIGOROUSLY supported by the Bush cadre... till he betrayed them in Kuwait. To then say that he was not “propped up” in 91, when we had him on the ropes, is disingenuous. He was lifted back onto his feet, dusted off, handed back his army, and told to go ahead, return to stomping on the necks of his people. After Bush Sr went on radio urging the Shiites to rise up because “we’re on our way!” We MIGHT have been greeted with flowers then. Today, only loathing for that betrayal.

* The utter, damnable hypocrisy of the right wing outrage over the “Oil for Food” program is utterly appalling. MOST of the greedy hands that stole from that program - other than Saddam himself - were oil companies and associates -- close associates -- of the present cadre running the vastly MORE corrupt oil industry in Iraq today. Producing far less oil (beneficial to the r-oil house) at far higher levels of graft, with far less going to infrastructure or the iraqi people. Where are the indignant auditors, now that it is EXXON and Haliburton, instead of Kofi Annan “getting a little”?

* you said: “ Even had America been Iraqs biggest supporter, is it not good to recognize mistakes and fix them?”

Yes, I part with the kneejerk liberal reaction to the war, vigorously! I have long maintained that we were honor bound to rescue the iraqis from the horrific betrayal that Bush inc inflicted upon them, in 1991. That betrayal was one of the worst stains on our country’s honor in its history, and we had to do something about it... but does that mean that THIS pack of cynical and immoral imbeciles, who created the situation, should lecture us smugly about HOW it must be done? Haven’t they done it in the worst possible way, maximizing our costs and waste and suffering and the divisive effects (“culture war”) on this great nation?

When the only people to benefit from an intervention are the leader’s own cadre of pals, does it take a genius to find things suspicious? I mean, what qualifies these guys? Rumsefeld was the guy who supervised our final humiliation in Vietnam! That’s like putting Pee Wee Herman in charge of your day care facility.

* “The War on Terror has morphed into a war on tyranny.”

What a load! Sorry, but we are propping up horrific dictatorships today, while stifling openness across the board, while packaging southern Iraq in a neat bow for Iran.

Again, must we listen to lectures about freedom-spreading and nation-building from guys who, in 2000, were screaming at the modest (but mostly efficient and successful) Clinton-era efforts, decrying “the naive and discredited utopian notion of so-called nation building.”
Again, what credibility do such people deserve? Especially since “fighting tyranny” is their desperate FALLBACK rationalization! (You yourself use the word “morphed.”)

* “Keep your eye on our government. Some times they will do the right thing when no one is looking.”

Ex-squeeze me?????? That is exactly the time when this government is absolutely and 100% guaranteed to always do exactly the wrong thing. Only when we insist on looking is there a smidgen of a chance that accountability will force decent action.

Finally, you talk to us about govt subsidies? This Congress has granted more no-bid sweetheart contracts in any one of the last five years than were let during the entire Clinton Administration.

Even George Will admits that this Congress has NO other interests except a pork feeding frenzy, as the greedy half of the aristocracy has found they can get richer simply by demanding govt subsidized “rents” (an economic term that means you drink earnings you do not earn through innovative or competitive goods and services.) The smart half of the aristocracy... the half who mostly earned their wealth... is starting to get livid.

I do hope we can keep the conversation about WCN. It’s a fascinating concept, given that fifty future generations may live under it.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much of the Iraqi corruption would be affected if every registered voter there was awarded 100 or 1000 shares in some kind of mutual fund combining all the companies with interest in the oil in Iraq...

(It *is* a right-wing mantra to bring all the people into the "ownership society" after all. Well, time to fish or cut bait. Step up to the line. Make the "Iraqi" people more interested in trading instead of shooting, and see where that leads...)

David Brin said...

Actually, this was the theory when Soviet state enterprises were privatised. For various reasons, the shares that were evenly divided among Russian citizens nearly all wound up in a few hands, very swiftly.

Rob Perkins said...

I didn't know about that. I suppose one control on such a thing would be to prohibit the sale of the shares for a period of years.

Or, in deference to my lack of geopolitical cleverness, simply use Russia as an example of how to do such things the wrong way.

Anonymous said...

Bill L., Escondido, CA

While I agree viscerally with your view that we should have continued right into downtown Baghdad in 1991, that would have exceeded the authorization of various UN Security Council Resolutions from 660 - 678. Under the UN guidance, the goal of military action was to return Iraq to its "positions as of 01 Aug 1991," and restore Kuwaiti autonomy. Overthrowing the Iraqi regime wasn't "permitted", and I remember reports about other Arab nations voicing opposition to extending the war further (though I can't understand what they expected to gain from keeping Saddam in power, after they helped defeat him).
As for how the Shiites in Southern Iraq were treated - I agree completely with your outrage. No wonder it's so hard for us to gain the trust of nascent movements.

As for a different WCN idea, let's create free market imperatives that "value" the entire lifetime cost of a product. The creation and acquisition costs are well recognized, but the use and disposal expenses are usually ignored or greatly undervalued. If you borrow money from a bank, you pay interest. If you borrow resources from the environment (landfill, pollution dilution, fixed carbon [wood]), you should pay for the loan. The trade in CO2 credits starts to get at one of the expenses of fossil fuel, and butterfly farms in Costa Rica try to make the tropical forests more valuable as forests than they would be as lumber and farmland.
Transitioning the world economy to this principle would be a huge step toward sustainable living. Of course, the wealthy nations would take a big hit, but it would also encourage developing countries to progress economically while implementing environmentally balanced production methods, and could muffle complaints from Business about foreign market inequities from labor costs and safety regulations. China's air and water pollution problems show that they didn't learn much from LA's smog or Cleveland's "burning river" experiences.
And, as long as we're reaching for a 50 generation goal, how about keeping the size of those generations under control? World population growth is expected to go from 6.5 billion today to 9.2 billion by 2050. And, most of that growth will occur in regions least able to support it. It's hard to criticize expanded childhood immunization programs and efforts to eradicate malaria (responsible by itself for 10% of deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa, mostly among the young), but what is the plan to expand those economies to support larger and faster growing populations? Unfortunately, this issue has tremendous historical baggage, due to vile and reprehensible programs and attitudes of the past (and they'll hopefully remain there). China's plan is accomplishing its goal, but with unintended consequences. And, if we wait long enough, Nature will solve the problem for us.

Anonymous said...

Bill L., Escondido, CA
Typo correction - it should have been Iraqi position 01 Aug 1990.

David Brin said...

Bill, I appreiate your arguments about 1991: ”While I agree viscerally with your view that we should have continued right into downtown Baghdad in 1991, that would have exceeded the authorization of various UN Security Council Resolutions.”

Yes, yes. These are the two standard catch phrases, used to excuse Bush inc from the Great Betrayal.

Alas, neither of them wash the stain of the Betrayal, even a little.

1. Nobody, and certainly not Gen. Schwarzkopf, was talking about “marching to Baghdad”... even though we then had a far better force to do it than in 2003. Indeed, there were dozens of alternative options:

For example: taking the Iraqi divisions that we had already captured... those LEAST loyal to Saddam, because he had put them in the front lines. SUppose we purged them of Baathists, then sent THEM marching to Baghdad. With even a sliver of US air support, they could have toppled Saddam in four days. Make no mistake, we know how to do this. Only, instead we did the opposite. We gingerly handed unarmed prisoners back over to the Republican Guard at the exact pace they prescribed. Som,etimes even delaying when they said “we cannot digest more, right now. They might get out of control.”

Right, helping the Republican Guard stay in control. We fought for that.

2. Baghdad, Schmadhdad. WIthin 12 hours, the 7th corps could have rescued the Shiites of Basra, Karbala and Najaf, and been greeeted with wild gratitude. Not only would that have saved half a MILLION people from slaughter, it would have denied Saddam any access to oil! His Sunni generals would then have had to off the pig.

Instead, we consigned the Shiites to 12 YEARS of hell. Is it any wonder they hate us, and are now looking to Iran? The net effect of all this pain will be to make Iran more powerful. Way to go, Rumnmy!

3. UN resolutions? This is the part I love. the neocons, turning to UN Resolutions in order to weasel out of the Betrayal. (I use the word weasel on them, Bill, not you. I still have hopes for you! ;-)

I mean, are these the same guys who declare utter contempt for the UN? Who pick and choose which resolutions to ignore? The same guys who sent a screeching maniac to be our UN “diplomat”? Who invaded Iraq in 2003 without even the same level of endorsement they had in 91?

Dig it. Macarthur used his discretionary power, as UN force commander, to extend the meaning of resolutions in Korea. Bush inc is now extending the meaning of tepid Congressional resolutions, from 2001, to cover discretionary suspension of habeus corpus, renditions, torture, suspension of Congressional laws and rules against domestic spying.

And yet, we are to believe that in 1991 Bush Sr And Cheney primly hewed to the letter of resolutions 660 and 678, in anguish, telling the people of Basra “Really, we’d love to save you. We know you are rebelling, and dying, because we asked you to. But it’s those darn UN guys, again. We just haven’t got the authority...”

Um... so what authority did they have to ask the people of Basra to rise up, in the first place? Promising that “We’re on our way!” Is it even possible to wrap the brain around this contorted “UN authority” excuse, without twisting into a pretzel? All in order to avoid facing the obvious fact? That they stopped the war and committed Betrayal, simply on orders from the r-oil house.

Bill, please. These men are horrors. They have no sense of honor or shame. Or (and this is key) any competence! Any at all. They do not deserve the loyalty of good people like you.

And now they are trying to use “Swift Boat” tactics to attack the military record of Rep. Murtagh. There is no shame. No shame at all.

Bill, on other matters, sustainability MUST be incorporated into the market costs of goods and services. Ideally in some imaginative way that pragmatically does it with minimum bureaucracy or interference in actual market forces. I believe one way to do this may be to equip every manufactured product with a SASE or self-addressed stamped envelope... or an RFI tag... that guarantees postage to mail the good back to the factory they came from, for disposal. Of course, most manufacturers would buy their way out of this requirement with offsets, that would then raised the price of the goods to match the sustainability quotient. Future generations would benefit, instead of being parasitized by us.

Bill, note the good news. 9.5 billion people, in 2050 is a lot less than the 13 to 15 billion that many had predicted, a while back.

Anonymous said...

"I believe one way to do this may be to equip every manufactured product with a SASE or self-addressed stamped envelope... or an RFI tag... that guarantees postage to mail the good back to the factory they came from, for disposal."

Innerestingly, this notion is Bruce Sterling's new obsession: Use RFID tags to establish a history for manufactured objects. His new book on the subject is more interesting than his last few novels . . .


Anonymous said...

In fact, the Eu bureaucracy is stunningly small and efficient. They farm most operations down to the national level, in a fashion that more resembles VISA (the credit card company) than anything we call “government.”

Say what? They achieve this "efficiency" by pasing edicts and expecting the member nations to implement and pay for them. No consideration of costs, no accountability, often no thought as to how the latest order fits in with or contradicts previous ones. There are several tens of thousands of rules regarding the dimensions and composition of everyday products and components of products to the point of ridiculousness.

The real problem here, as with any federalized bureaucracy, is that one size does not fit all. Some of the latest agricultural edicts have cut the legs out from under half of German farmers, austensibly to benefit some other EU members, but mostly for the benefit of some non-member nations. Meanwhile, Dutch cows are no longer allowed outside, because farmers can't afford to dig up their fields and isolate them from the groundwater. Reason: rules out of Brussels regarding keeping livestock within a certain distance of waterways. An impossibility in the Netherlands.

This is a lesson that needs to be learned in the US too. What works in New York City isn't likely to work in rural Mississippi. It may not even work in Chicago or LA. What works in rural Mississippi probably won't work in rural Alaska either. The conditions are too different.

Mind you, I'm all for the devolution of power. Let state and local governments make most of the decisions. They have a better idea of what things are like on site and are more likely to have some idea how to address those problems.

What the EU has is not devolution of power, but the devolution of implementation. It's a false efficiency that is putting an ever greater strain on the economies of member nations and one that, if things continue in a linear fashion, will crack the EU apart like an overripe melon.

Tony Fisk said...

Bill: the even better news is that 9.5-10 billion is the forecast *maximum* population, with a gradual decline thereafter. (Yes, I know it's more a question of consumption per capita rather than just raw population, but it will be a milestone if we can get to 2050 in one piece)

Sir Humphrey: 'Minister, you don't make departmental policy. I do!'

Leaving quibbles about accountability and the allure of the trough to one side (just for a moment), long term planning is what hereditary 'aristos' (and/or career civil servants) are in a position to do well. Governments are shorter lived, and so focus on what to do until (and about) the next election.

I have speculated before on having a continual election process (eg one state a month). Not only would this keep the majority of the hour on its toes (holding 51% of the vote would be more problematic), it would ensure that at least some congress members wouldn't be fixated on a date in November every four years.

Go ahead, kick it! I'm no expert on american politics, and WCN is unlikely to be from a federation whose states can't even agree on railway gauges!

I had thought of the phrase "War on Tyranny" as broadening the scope of WOT to include government.
Any government, including the guys in the rear view mirror.
I hadn't realised that the US govt had already appropriated the term to divert attention from their singular lack of success in the original framing of WOT.

Quoth M. Simon:
Keep your eye on our government. Some times they will do the right thing when no one is looking.
(If I may add some irony of my own?;-)

The logic of the second sentence reminds me of the plight of Schrodinger's cat:
- don't look, and it could be they're doing a heckuva job (I know this for they tell me so themselves!)
- look, and the poor buggers develop stage fright!

I'll look, as advised: it gives me more to grumble at!

You can find more about drop bears and other Australian survival tactics here
(BTW: 'jagulars' do it, too. Furthermore, I can recall Attenborough, in one his nature series, speculating on the ambush tactics of the (extinct) marsupial lion. I'd like to know how his adviser kept a straight face!)

Anonymous said...

The real problem here, as with any federalized bureaucracy, is that one size does not fit all.

Every time I say that, someone here calls me an idiot.

Anonymous said...

to demetriosk

"Say what? They achieve this "efficiency" by pasing edicts and expecting the member nations to implement and pay for them."

well who else is going to?

"No consideration of costs,"

I dont belive this is true

"no accountability,"

accountable to memeber govenments (commisioners) or electors MEPs

"often no thought as to how the latest order fits in with or contradicts previous ones."

conjecture and contradictory to the next statement:

"There are several tens of thousands of rules regarding the dimensions and composition of everyday products and components of products"

When you bring nations together in a free trade zone you have to work at removing barriers to trade, that means standardising things between governments which means making sure everyone agrees exactly what is allowed or not allowed:

This is to PREVENT any member government being able to establish protectionist strategies based on technical restrictions, and enable companies to sell the same product in all memberstates promoting free trade.

"to the point of ridiculousness."

Generaly the ridiculousness argument is either brought up by people who dont understand the reason or people who DO understand the reason but object to the EU adn want to turn others against it too

"The real problem here, as with any federalized bureaucracy, is that one size does not fit all. "

You know from here on in i pretty much agree with waht you say except the last paragraph -( in that i think the alternatives are worse and without the EU we would already be back at our usual state of cooperation between european states circa 1914-18, 39-45 etc)

I prety much think paraphrasing churchill its a terrible system the only thing worse being the alternatives

Anonymous said...

"two books that promote the notion of an America as Imperium:"

One note of correction:

Mandelbaum's book, The Case for Goliath, does not actualy paint that picture of America. While he argues that we provde the services of a government over a wide swatch of the world (almost the entire thing), we do not behave as an empire in any honest sense of the word. Read the opening chapter or two of his book for more on that.

Anonymous said...

Bah. I am using a laptop now, so I make dumb typos. My apologies --

*actually, not 'actualy'
*swath, not 'swatch'

Anonymous said...

There was a third alternative, back in '91, and one I had fully expected the Bush I administration to take (he was a former CIA Director, after all) - airdropping cases and cases of M-16s (or, to maintain deniability, AK-47s) and ammunition to support the insurgents in the south. Maybe a few mortars or RPGs, too, just to make sure they had the capability of taking out any leftover Republican Guard armor that survived the First Gulf War. They would have at least stood a fighting chance against Saddam's thugs. Instead, to my dismay and horror, they were left to twist slowly in the wind, while Bush I and his cronies hid behind the directives of a UN that they had already publically dismissed (think back as far as the Reagan administration - the Gipper wasn't exactly down with the UN, himself).

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous

Obviously you’re a big fan of the EU in whatever form and I can’t deny that it has played a role in keeping Europe stable and at (relative) peace in the last half century. But its earlier, looser versions the EC and EEC did that too and with a lot less bureaucracy and damage to member states.

You ask who else will implement and pay for the edicts out of Brussels, if not the member states. True, Brussels has no means of direct enforcement and that is better so. But it creates a certain detachment from reality when you can just wave your hand and say, “Make it so,” without having to worry about how.

You say that the Eurocrats are accountable to the member states (commissioners) and the electors (MEPs). This is really only a pseudo-accountability. Most electors have no real idea what the EU does or what its most recent decisions may have been. They don’t notice the impact of its decisions because there is little that is direct. MEP candidates are picked (at least in Germany) by party functionaries and the electors vote only for a given party. When they vote at all. Voter turnout for MEP elections are somewhat lower than those for US elections.

The reasons for the European norms are clear to me and nto without validity. Unfortunately, as with most bureaucracies, the reason FOR doing something has long given way to simply DOING the thing. The norms are constantly being revised and expanded simply for the sake of fiddling with them. Does it really matter what color some part that will never see the light of day is? Or a basic computer cabinet? A lot of things in the norms would be handled by the market and can even stifle innovation, thanks to the long approval process.

Generaly the ridiculousness argument is either brought up by people who dont understand the reason or people who DO understand the reason but object to the EU adn want to turn others against it too

Would that include the one EU minister who recently declared that they had gone overboard and wants to trim the number of norms by some 18,000? Most western European countries have a party that gets it, that have the modernism meme. In Germany, that is the FDP (also known as the Liberals). These similarly minded parties form a large minority in the Euro-parliament (around 10%, plus or minus) and they are trying very hard, but with not a lot of success, to limit the overall size of the EU government.

The sad fact is that the EU is showing serious signs of strain, many of them brought about by elitist governance or a lack of consideration for consequences of actions. (OK, show me any government that doesn’t have that problem.) Britain, Denmark, and Sweden all refuse to switch to the Euro. And desptie what critics say, this is not just a matter of national pride; there are serious economic arguments against it. Italy is asking very seriously if they ought to drop out of the Euro themselves. The economies of the big four are moribund, thanks largely to one-size-fits-all economic policies mandated out of Brussels, and the people in those countries want action.

And most of all, the process of accession will only work if the EU takes the time to properly assimilate new members before the next round. But they won’t and they aren’t. Plans are already in the works for the next round and the round after that. The EU is in serious danger of choking on its own ambition.

Anonymous said...

Transcript of Al Gore's speech to the American Constitution Society:


Non-pdf transcript: