“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The greatest difference in views between Americans and Europeans involves the economy: 49% of Americans say global economic engagement is bad for their country, but 32% of Europeans view such involvement negatively.

Europeans Face the World Divided

Many question national influence and obligations to allies, but share desire for greater EU role in global affairs

In the wake of prolonged economic stagnation, a massive influx of refugees, terrorist attacks and a strategic challenge posed by Russia, many Europeans are weary – and perhaps wary – of foreign entanglements, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Views of their respective countries’ place in the world vary widely, but few see the past decade as a time of growing national importance. And across the continent publics are divided: Many favor looking inward to focus on domestic issues, while others question whether commitments to allies should take precedence over national interests.
Yet Europeans have not completely turned their backs on the world. Although deeply critical of how the European Union has handled the refugee crisis, the economy and Russia, they acknowledge the Brussels-based institution’s rising international prominence and want it to take a more active role in world affairs. Involvement in the international economy is also widely supported and Europeans generally feel an obligation to help developing nations.
Some nations' influence seen in declineIn seven of 10 EU nations, half or more of the public believes that their country should deal with its own problems and let other nations fend for themselves as best they can. In five countries, roughly half or more believe that in foreign policy their government should follow its own national interests, even when its allies strongly disagree. Notably, those who believe their government should first focus on national problems are far more likely to favor pursuing national interests regardless of the opinion of the country’s international partners.
Waning international confidence afflicts a number of European societies. Only the Germans and the Poles believe their countries play a more important role as a world leader today compared to a decade ago. And pluralities of Greeks, Italians, Spanish and French say their countries are less prominent today, not more.
Broad support for a more active EUAt the same time, Europeans are quite clear that they want the EU to play a more active international role in the future. A median of 74% across the 10 countries surveyed in Europe support Brussels being more globally engaged. Notably, in Greece, Italy, Spain and France majorities or pluralities believe their nations have lost global influence, and in each of these nations more than three-quarters favor the EU taking on more responsibility around the world.
These are among the key findings from a new survey by Pew Research Center, conducted in 10 EU nations and the United States among 11,494 respondents from April 4 to May 12, 2016. The EU portion of this survey covers countries that account for 80% of the member nations’ combined population and 82% of the EU-28 gross domestic product.
Views of global engagement divide along ideological and party lines in many of the surveyed publics. In most countries people on the right of the political spectrum are much more likely than those on the left to say their nation should focus on domestic problems, not help others. And in six of the 10 countries polled people on the right are more likely than those on the left to believe that their government should pursue national interests in foreign policy even if allies strongly disagree.
Those on political right more likely to favor focusing on domestic issues
This ideological division manifests itself in the views of supporters of right- and left-wing parties. Fully 85% of Euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) adherents favor focusing on national problems and letting others fend for themselves. Just 39% of Labour Party supporters agree. In France, 83% of those who identify with the right-wing National Front are inward looking, compared with 48% of Socialist Party supporters. In Germany, 65% of those who have a favorable view of the Euroskeptic Alternative for Germany take a nation-first stance. Meanwhile, 32% of Germans who identify with the Social Democratic Party hold this view.

Similarly, 85% of UKIP supporters, but just 39% of Labour adherents believe the British government should follow national interests in international affairs even if UK allies strongly disagree. Fully 68% of National Front supporters in France say Paris should pursue national interests in foreign policy irrespective of the opinion of France’s allies. Only 46% of ruling Socialist Party adherents agree.
“France First” or “Britain First” sentiment does not mean Europeans are unmindful of international challenges. Overwhelming majorities voice the view that the Islamic militant group in Iraq and Syria known as ISIS poses a major threat to their countries. Yet there is little support for boosting national defense spending (a median of just 33% across the 10 EU countries are in favor) and a reluctance (a median of only 41%) to use overwhelming military force to defeat terrorism.

Nor are all Europeans increasingly isolationist in any traditional sense of the word. The Germans and the Swedes in particular are outward looking and committed to multilateralism to a degree not found in France, Greece, Hungary, Italy or Poland. Nation-first sentiment is largely unchanged in the countries where this question on whether to deal with a country’s own problems or help other countries deal with their problems was also asked six years ago. Europeans have a sense of obligation to help those in developing nations: In seven of 10 countries half or more of the public supports increasing foreign aid. Similarly, in seven of 10 nations half or more voice the view that global economic engagement is a good thing for their nation.

Europeans agree on top threats

Among eight potential threats asked about in the survey, Europeans clearly see ISIS as the top danger to their countries. Roughly seven-in-ten or more in every country surveyed say that ISIS is a major threat, with the greatest concern coming from the Spanish (93%) and French (91%). (Deadly terrorist attacks hit the major European capitals of Paris and Brussels just months before this survey was conducted.) Europeans are also troubled by global climate change. More than half in all 10 countries polled say that climate change is a major menace, with 89% of Spanish and 84% of Greeks saying this. Many Europeans also say global economic instability and cyberattacks are major problems.
Right more worried than left about refugee threatOn the issue of refugees from countries such as Iraq and Syria, there are sharp divides. In Poland, Hungary, Greece and Italy people are much more concerned about the refugee crisis as a threat compared with publics in the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden. But there is also a divide within nations by political ideology. In eight European countries, those on the political right are more likely than those on the left to express concern about the refugee problem. This is most evident in France, where 61% on the right say the large number of refugees leaving the Middle East is a major threat to France, compared with only 29% who say this on the left.

Mixed views on promoting human rights, some support for foreign aid

On balance, Europeans favor increasing foreign aid to developing countriesOn the role of human rights in making foreign policy, opinions vary considerably across the 10 nations surveyed. More than half of those polled in Spain, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands say human rights should be a top foreign policy priority. In contrast, Hungarians, Greeks, Poles and Italians tend to believe that while human rights are important, many other foreign policy goals matter more. Public opinion is roughly divided on this issue in the UK and France. In most nations, people on the political left put a greater emphasis on the importance of human rights than people on the political right.
Europeans tend to favor increasing foreign aid to developing countries. Half or more express this view in seven nations. The exceptions are Greece (69% oppose), Hungary (65%) and the UK (51%). And support for increasing foreign aid is higher on the ideological left in five of the 10 nations.

There is even greater support for increasing domestic companies’ investment in developing nations (a median of 76% across the 10 nations back this idea) and importing more goods from developing countries (a median of 64%).

The German-French divide

Germans more supportive of global engagement than the FrenchMore than a half century after the signing of the Élysée Treaty that called for a common stance between France and what was then West Germany on a range of issues, a profound gulf exists in how the German and French people see their respective places in the world. Germans are confident about their nation’s role on the international stage. They are outward looking and committed to multilateralism and engagement in the world economy. The French are downbeat about France’s stature, inward looking and wary of globalization and cooperation with their allies.

majority of Germans think their country plays a greater role in the world today than it did a decade ago. But a plurality of French believe France has lost prominence on the world stage. More than half of Germans assert that their country should help other nations deal with their problems. A majority of French say their country should deal with its own problems first and let other countries fend for themselves. Roughly two-thirds of Germans believe that Berlin should take into consideration the interests of its allies, even if it means making compromises. But about half of French say that in foreign policy Paris should follow national interests, even if its allies strongly disagree. Half of Germans hold a favorable opinion of the EU, yet only 38% of the French agree. And seven-in-ten Germans say their involvement in the global economy is good for Germany, while just 51% of French say the same about France.

UK ambivalence

The June 23 British vote on whether to remain in or leave the European Union, known as Brexit, is just the latest example of long-running British ambivalence about membership in the Brussels-based institution. Many British voice a wariness of global engagement that belies the UK’s history as a major player on the world stage.
Roughly half the British (52%) believe that the UK should deal with its own problems and let other nations deal with their own problems as best they can. And a similar proportion (54%) says the UK should follow its own national interests even when its allies strongly disagree. Regardless of whether Brexit is approved, 65% of the British public believes that some EU powers should be returned to the British government. Some of this global circumspection may reflect the fact that four-in-ten British think the UK plays a less important part in the world today than it did a decade ago, compared with two-in-ten who believe it plays a more important role.
Younger, older Brits divided on global engagementThere is a prominent generational divide among the British on many of these issues. Nearly six-in-ten (59%) of older British – ages 50 and above – believe the UK should focus on dealing with its own problems. Just 42% of younger British (ages 18 to 34) agree. And 56% of older British believe that the UK should follow its own national interests even when its allies disagree, while only 46% of younger British concur. More than seven-in-ten of older British (73%) want to bring some EU powers back to London, but only 51% of younger British express that desire. And 47% of those ages 50 and older think the UK plays less of a role in world affairs today, while just 34% of those ages 18 to 34 hold this downbeat view.

Both sides of the Atlantic turn inward

In how they see their country’s place in the world, people on both sides of the Atlantic tend to be inward looking, and many question their country’s importance in world affairs. Americans, however, are much more pessimistic about the benefits of global economic engagement. (For an in-depth look at how Americans view their place in the world, see this recent Pew Research Center survey.)
European and American views on global engagementA median of 56% across the 10 EU nations surveyed and 57% of Americans believe their country should deal with its own problems and let other nations deal with theirs as best they can. But while this nation-first sentiment has seen little change in recent years in Europe, it has grown by 11 percentage points since 2010 in the U.S. The Greeks, Hungarians, Italians, Poles and French are all more inward looking than the Americans. The Swedes, Germans and Spanish are far less so.
In the U.S., 46% voice the view that their country is less important today than it was a decade ago. Among Europeans, a median of 37% share this view. But European opinions vary widely: While 62% of Germans see their country as more important, only 19% of Italians and 17% of Greeks are more confident in their homeland.

The greatest difference in views between Americans and Europeans involves the economy: 49% of Americans say global economic engagement is bad for their country, but 32% of Europeans view such involvement negatively. Only the Greeks see international economic engagement as a worse thing than Americans do.


  1. The idea of a common European military headquarters has been revived by the head of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, shortly after the UK’s citizens voted in favor of Brexit.

    “We need more cooperation in the European defense policy,” Elmar Brok told Die Welt.

    The new armed forces could be modeled after the Franco-German model, making European foreign policy much more effective, Brok believes.

    “We need a common (military) headquarters and a coalition (of EU countries) acting in accordance with the permanent structural cooperation of the EU Treaty. From such a group an EU army could eventually emerge,” said Brok.

    A united EU armed force would “strengthen the role of Europeans in [global] security and defense policy, make Europe fulfill better its responsibilities in the world and would also achieve more synergies in defense spending,” the MEP said.


  2. IRAQ

    A senior Iraqi commander declared that the city of Fallujah was "fully liberated" from Islamic State group militants on Sunday, after a more than monthlong military operation.

    Iraqi troops have entered the northwestern al-Julan neighborhood, the last area of Fallujah to remain under IS control, the head of the counterterrorism forces in the operation, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, told The Associated Press.

    Al-Saadi said the operation, which began in late May, "is done and the city is fully liberated." The Iraqi army was backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and paramilitary troops, mostly Shiite militias.

    "From the center of al-Julan neighborhood, we congratulate the Iraqi people and the commander in chief...and declare that the Fallujah fight is over," he told Iraqi state TV, flanked by military officers and soldiers. Some of the soldiers were shooting in the air, chanting and waving the Iraqi flag.

    He added that troops will start working on removing bombs from the city's streets and buildings.

    The announcement comes more than a week after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory inFallujah after Iraqi forces advanced into the city center and took control of a government complex. While al-Abadi pledged the remaining pockets of IS fighters would be cleared out within hours, fierce clashes on the city's northern and western edges persisted for days.

    The operation has fueled an exodus of thousands of families, overwhelming camps for the displaced run by the government and aid groups.

    According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, more than 85,000 people have fled Fallujah and the surrounding area since the offensive began. Like other aid agencies, the UNHCR warned of the dire conditions in the camps, where temperatures are well over 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit) and shelter is limited, calling for more funds to meet the mounting needs of the displaced.

    Fallujah has been under the control of Islamic State militants since January 2014.


    Intel Vets Call ‘Dissent Memo’ on Syria ‘Reckless’

    A group of U.S. intelligence veterans urges President Obama to resist the “reckless” call for a wider Syrian war from 51 State Department officials in a recent “dissent memo.”

    MEMORANDUM FOR: Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

    FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

    Subject: Beware Foggy Bottom Dissent

    Dissent and disagreement within the foreign policy and national security bureaucracy only comes to the public’s attention when there are deep and fundamental differences of opinion about the execution and objectives of a U.S. policy. Instances of dissent emerged during the war in Vietnam and have reappeared periodically, e.g., during the Contra War in Central America in the 1980s and the Cold War with the Soviets. We can now add Syria to this list.

    National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice briefs President Barack Obama on foreign policy developments during Obama's summer break on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, on Aug. 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
    National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice briefs President Barack Obama on foreign policy developments during Obama’s summer break on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, on Aug. 12, 2013.

    The latest media buzz came with the leak that 51 “State Department Diplomats” signed a dissent letter advocating direct U.S. bombing as a tool to force Syria into submission to our government’s dictates. U.S. Foreign Service Officers are a unique collection of highly educated people, who take great pride in having passed the Foreign Service Exam. Yet even among such “bright people,” some succumb to the forces of careerism and the pressures to politicize intelligence.


    1. {...}

      Unfortunately the dissent signers are calling for America to threaten, and if our bluff is called, commit acts of overt, aggressive war against the forces of a sovereign nation on its own territory. One whose supporters include Russia, the world’s other big nuclear power.

      The line of thought — that it is America’s right and duty to employ large-scale death to enforce its leaders’ will on other peoples — adheres to the noxious notion that the U.S.A. enjoys uniquely privileged standing as the “sole indispensable country in the world.” If this was ever an arguably legitimate position, that time is long gone — and today demonstrably blinds its adherents to common sense.

      Such thinking is not new. Theodore Roosevelt popularized it as we went to war to annex Spanish territories in the Philippines and Caribbean — at the cost of over half a million indigenous lives — more than a century ago. We saw it, in spades, with the “Best and the Brightest” — those responsible for destroying Vietnam. Three million Vietnamese people died in that war (according to former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara), and another two million or so in its Indochina spin-offs. After this slaughter and the deaths of scores of thousands of its own troops, the U.S. endured a complete and humiliating defeat, one affecting its foreign policy and domestic politics to this day. Their bright successors supported the attack on Iraq in 2003, the catalyst for an outbreak of violence that has brought death reaching into the millions — again — in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and other neighboring locales we’ll eventually read about. This aggression has created millions more traumatized refugees.

      The memo, a draft of which was provided to The New York Times (and Wall Street Journal), presumably by one of the State Department employees who authored it, claims American policy has been “overwhelmed” by the unrelenting violence in Syria and calls for “a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process.” Furthermore, per the NYT:

      “In the memo, the State Department officials wrote that the Assad government’s continuing violations of the partial cease-fire, officially known as a cessation of hostilities, will doom efforts to broker a political settlement because Mr. Assad will feel no pressure to negotiate with the moderate opposition or other factions fighting him. The government’s barrel bombing of civilians, it said, is the ‘root cause of the instability that continues to grip Syria and the broader region.’

      “The memo acknowledged that military action would have risks, not the least of which would be increased tension with Russia, which intervened in the war on Mr. Assad’s behalf last fall. Russia subsequently helped negotiate the cease-fire. Those tensions increased on Thursday when, according to a senior Pentagon official, Russia conducted airstrikes in southern Syria against American-backed forces fighting the Islamic State.”

    2. .

      What the State Department dissenters are calling for in Syria is a humanitarian intervention that is neither wise nor legitimate under international law.

      The experience of US interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya contain lessons that the neocons and liberal hawks refuse to recognize. The US has done enough damage in Syria already and now the 'dissenters' at State want to take it to the next level.

      The principle of 'responsibility to protect' (R2P) was adopted by all the nations of the UN; however, it requires any action under that principle requires Security Council approval. Viewing the application of the principle in Libya Russia denounces it as just an excuse for regime change and has vowed it will block any future use of the principle for military action. There is little chance they would approve intervention in Syria.

      Of course, the US by its past actions has proven it has little regard for international law unless it can be used to justify its own actions. We have steadfastly contended that US laws our primary concern. But even here we would have a hard time justifying action against another state.

      The principle of humanitarian intervention must have some basis that can be sold to the public. But even though most of the sheeple are credulous Obama might have a hard time with this one. He has used the AUMF from 2001 in its broadest sense to justify his military interventions, but its hard to see how he could credibly do that in Syria since all the designated terrorists in Syria including those most associated with 911 are on the other side.

      It is hard to see intervention in Syria against the Assad regime as anything other than a major mistake with a questionable legal basis.


      I saw the Anthony Bourdain show Parts Unknown last night. Bourdain was in Beirut and was talking to some Syrian refugees there. One was a young woman who was forced to leave in fear of her life who was scared because her visa would only last another four months and she feared she would be killed if forced back. She had supported the initial popular uprising against Assad.

      Bourdain asked her 'knowing what you know now would you have supported the uprising against Assad, that is, in a choice between freedom or order which would you choose?' the young woman said, 'in a choice between giving up my freedom or dying I would choose to live.'

      Sometimes this stuff just comes down to the basics.


  4. OOrah


    June 25, 2016 8:10 AM

    Three former U.S. envoys to Afghanistan called on the Obama administration this week not to cut U.S. troop levels in that country next year, even as the White House indicated that it remains committed to doing just that.

    Dan Feldman, James Dobbins and Marc Grossman all served as U.S. special representatives to Afghanistan and Pakistan between 2011 and 2015 and remain influential voices in Washington foreign policy circles. Along with 10 other former senior diplomats and military commanders who served in Afghanistan, they sent an open letter to President Barack Obama this month, urging him to drop plans to halve the number of American troops in Afghanistan.

    Currently there are 9,800 American troops serving on Afghanistan, but their number is due to be reduced to 5,500 in 2017.


    BELGRADE – The United States apparently has big plans for Kosovo and the Balkans in general, political analyst Petr Iskenderov told Radio Sputnik. These include increasing Washington’s political influence and military presence in the territory that was carved out of Serbia following NATO’s military intervention.

    If accurate, this assessment should come as no surprise. NATO recently welcomed its 29th member, the small Balkan country of Montenegro, at a time when the alliance has become increasingly active on its eastern and southern flanks, citing a non-existent threat from Russia as one of the reasons.

    “NATO, particularly the United States, wants to place Kosovo at the center of its military and political plans due to the territory’s prime location,” the senior analyst at the Institute of Slavic Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences explained.

    Should these plans be carried out, Kosovo could become one of the nodes in Washington’s massive missile shield in Europe that Moscow has described as a threat to its security. An element of this system has recently come online in Romania. Another Aegis Ashore base will become operation by 2018 in Poland.

    The United States “is not only interested in maintaining its military and political presence in the central Balkans,” Iskenderov added. “Washington also wants to turn this territory into a springboard to develop its military infrastructure [in the region]. For instance, the US could deploy its radars or a missile defense system there.”

    In addition to Washington’s Kosovo ambitions, the self-proclaimed republic also has to deal with growing radical sentiments.

    More than 300 people of the land’s predominantly Muslim 1.8 million population have joined radical groups fighting in Iraq and Syria. This figure might not seem as much, but this is the highest ratio of any European country. Approximately 120 fighters are reported to have already returned to Kosovo.



    Hillary Clinton says that Donald Trump "will take our country down a truly dangerous path" if elected president but her own belligerence belies her claim and in fact a Clinton presidency would make America a less safe place, Ivan Eland wrote in National Interest on Friday.
    Earlier this month Hilary Clinton made a major foreign policy address in which she criticized Trump's statement in April that Japan and South Korea should have their own nuclear armaments rather relying on the US because it is costing too much money.

    "I would rather have them not arm, but I'm not going to continue to lose this tremendous amount of money. And frankly, the case could be made that let them protect themselves against North Korea. They'd probably wipe them out pretty quick," Trump said.

    "If they fight, you know what, that'd be a terrible thing. Terrible…. But if they do, they do."

    In response, Hillary Clinton said that Trump is "not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes – because it's not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin."

    In the National Interest, Eland points out that despite criticism from Clinton, Japan and South Korea, Trump's foreign policy idea actually makes more sense.

    ”Clinton and much of the US foreign policy elite, Republican and Democrat alike, obsess about Trump saying what should be obvious. It would not be a catastrophe if Japan and South Korea—stable, democratic societies and good world citizens—were able to deter aggression, if need be, even with nuclear weapons.”