Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"War on Peace" Ronan Farrow

When I first came across the book "War on Peace" by Ronan Farrow I was drawn by its subtitle, "The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence"  which suggest it is the type of book that I look for --  political, on foreign policy, and presumably smart.  But I have a general rule, I don't buy political books by people not, or haven't been in government.  It's my way of avoiding people like me,  opinionated but removed.

Well,  after just a little research I came to understand that the author,  Ronan Farrow, had indeed been a part of government, and that he served in the State Department under Richard Holbrooke.  Which satisfied my vetting process.   ( The only deviations to this rule of avoiding outsider's opinion/rants in recent memory was when I bought two books partial to Donald Trump, as  he just came into office, I thought it would be fair to read what was expected of him, and how he operates from people who new him better than me.)

The title, "War on Peace", established a cynical tone to the book, perhaps his views were similar to mine as it pertains to all the previous political "wars," such as on poverty,  drugs, Christmas, or men.  So why not have a war on peace as well?  I knew I felt the bond when I saw that the last section was labeled  "Present at the Destruction."  The same play on words, but this time an echo of Dean Acheson's legendary book, "Present at the Creation"  which is a personal account of the dawn of the post WWII era from one of the architects of a peace that has lasted in the Western and First World for 70 years.

A quick run down of its sections and chapters suggested it was going to be a really valuable book, chalk full of particulars that would support Farrow's argument,  and it did not disappoint.   Afghanistan, Africa, the Middle East, Latin and South America all set locations of specific cause and effects due to America's own meddling in foreign affairs and subsequently our waning meddling in foreign affairs.

As diplomacy would have it, we've made with many a strange bed fellows, including a war lord in Afghanistan whose high ranking government palace now includes real grass so that his pets can graze on it indoors, and unfortunately both sides of a few civil wars.

Yes, sometimes we found ourselves fighting our own selves, if millions and billions in aid serve to represent our interest in diverse and remote conflicts throughout the world.

But evidently all that is going away,  according to the text, due to State Department budget cuts and a general devaluing of the role of diplomacy and state craft in the United States.  But if you think this book is a Trojan horse to merely slam Donald Trump, you would be mistaken.   While you don't expect much praise thrown toward our current President in an account like this,  you may not of expected the history that previous Presidents have done to undermine our achievements, institutions, and abilities to date either.

The Generals that serve the Trump Administration today may be an amplification of the usual representation of military in  previous administrations, but the trend toward deferring to the military in matters of peace has been gaining momentum for about 20 years, and so it may not be so shocking after all. 

Except that it is.

According to the account,  the U.S. diplomatic corp has been sliding backward for so long, and by so much, that we are playing second and third stringers against the world,  and that our position will and has suffered.

This is an area of great interest to me on a personal level,  I read on matters of state on a regular basis.  I have autobiographies written by many former Secretaries of State including more than a handful by Kissinger,  Acheson, and James Baker.   Farrow sprinkles advice and wisdom from Rice, Kerry, Christopher, and more -- he claims to have spoken to every living former Secretary of State, and I believe they all have been quoted here.  That's why I know I can accept this book as an honest attempt to expose the scene behind the curtain of international relations as they exist today.  Its not good, but keep your eye on the military, because the State Department has been in decline and nature abhors a vacuum.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.

1 Corinthians 15:33

Sunday, May 13, 2018

House Cleaning

The House Cleaning Episode.

I've been learning a lot of new words lately, sometimes I feel like I'm back in school, but this time I'm more appreciative, rather thirsty, and liberal, lol.

I've come across the term 'tribe' so often in recent weeks, that it has taken root in my psyche and crowded out 'party' in my vernacular.   As it should.

'Post Truth' is another one,  but you may want to find your own tribe endorsed meaning of it.  For me,  I want nothing to do with it.   I understand honestly is tough in politics,  but to assign validity based on affiliation to tribe?  pfft.  I'm non-aligned and I'm much maligned.

Who do I side with?  Anyone with a smart idea I'll listen to, then we'll see.   The arc of progress lays flat sans new ideas.  When in 1992 I was listening to Pat Buchanan and thinking these are some great new ideas,  even then they weren't.  So I understand how it happens to be caught up, and thinking how avant garde I am.

North Korea makes me text-less.   Speechless for the oral conversationalist in me.  I wouldn't be house cleaning though, without sharing a thought or two on perhaps the most abrupt change in international relations since Hitler double crossed  Stalin. (Shout out to Swede, R.I.P)

Sometimes it takes a village,  this time it took a whole mountain.   Which leads me to acknowledge and then question the credit Donald Trump rightly deserves.   Hey, I am fully committed to giving the devil his due, and him being there as fact alone still assigns him credit, as long as the attitude of NK and Kim hold fast to their promises. 

Trump does deserve credit for playing the strongman bit to the nth degree.   How ever it may be argued that no U.S. President needs much acting to pull of a strong man role,  Trump did differentiate himself from his predecessors.

But right now, its a lot of pats on the back for nothing lasting yet.  Let's all be patient,  the Kim's have reneged before,  Hitler turned on Stalin, and that mountain collapsed.

Quote of the era(as declared by me):

 Michael V. Hayden in the book "The Assault on Intelligence"

"We noted to one another that Russia really wasn't fighting ISIS  in Syria; that American alliances were a national competitive advantage, which Russia and China, which didn't have any friends that mattered much, actually envied; that defending Latvia or Estonia wasn't just a matter of their having paid their bills; that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was really an alignment of twelve nations bordering the Pacific (non of them named China) in an American-facing rules-based order, not a rip-off of American workers."