Emergency?

There is a debate this afternoon about whether the president’s speech tonight should be aired by the broadcast networks (the cable channels will carry it). I believe there is a more important topic for discussion. If the president uses the speech tonight to declare a state of emergency, go and immediately read this.

Polish Politics

Gdansk, Poland

Want to share what I think is an insightful article on the current state of politics in Poland in The American Interest. It’s by Gazeta Wyborcza columnist Katarzyna Wężyk. Read it here.

Here are some quotes:

Polish “Neo-authoritarianism … accepts democratic elections. But … only as a way to give the majority a mandate to govern unencumbered by minority rights.”

“We ‘normal’ people have to stick together, the pitch goes, form an impenetrable front against dangerous outside forces, and not let our unity be eroded by pity for the undeserving.”

“Polish neo-authoritarianism is … based on shared hostility toward the elites and the weak—women, refugees, those with ‘pathology’ (that is, the poorest, people with alcohol or drug problems, broken families)—and bound by the sense that “normal” people have a right to dominate these groups.

The figure of a refugee— the ultimate Other, so different as to be barely recognizable as human and thus dangerous—was significant in ensuring a PiS (Law and Justice Party) victory. (PiS leader Jarosław) Kaczyński warned during the campaign that migrants carry ‘all sorts of parasites and protozoa, which, while not dangerous in the organisms of these people, could be dangerous here.’”

“Law and Justice gave its supporters … a kind of empowerment, albeit an empowerment that comes from the ability to humiliate, belittle, and bully others, and then to feel justified in so doing. It offers a surface narrative of regaining dignity, acquiring national pride, and restoring justice; but its underside exudes darker undertones of punishment, exclusion, and contempt.”

Warsaw, Poland and the Vistula River

Basic Geography for Politicians


The Three Baltic States


The Balkans

Le Monde reported last week (here’s an English report) that when Baltic leaders Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania, Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia and Raimonds Vējonis of Latvia met at the White House with Donald Trump on April 3rd of this year, the president chastised the leaders “for starting wars in the 1990s that lead to the break-up of Yugoslavia.”

It’s not unreasonable for lay people to confuse the Baltics and Balkans. Both regions are made up of small countries at the periphery of Europe. But one might hope that the American president had been briefed (forget about his reading on his own) a little more closely. Especially since one of his potential briefers, his wife, was born in Yugoslavia.

Maps from Wikimedia Commons.

Weekend Reading

This is how it looked here on the farm in late October a few years back. We’re not there yet, but it’s close. Wile E. Coyote has run past the cliff’s edge but has yet to fall. The leaves are set to change, summoning up traffic jams of flatland gawkers, but just now we’re in silent suspension, hanging in the air, waiting for the start of the race to autumn.

I see this morning that larger news organizations have picked up the article I found yesterday in a little website called TheLocal.se. It’s a feel good story. If you skipped over it then, go back and check it out.

That discussion of the post-Cold War world that’s been missing for years is suddenly wide open, so it’s mostly political theory in this weekend’s reading, kind of academic. If you’re deep in an absorbing novel, permission to skip over this week’s list. But given the roiling unease in the Western democracies, the state of our political systems is worth some thought.

The unapologetic American interventionist Robert Kagan has published one of his periodic little books, this one called The Jungle Grows Back, and to support it, here is Kagan’s The World America Made – and Trump Wants to Unmake in Politico. (The American president not falling into any of the academy’s self-defined niches adds a little spice to all the arguments here).

Graham Allison says Kagan’s world was never thus in The Myth of the Liberal Order from Historical Accident to Conventional Wisdom in an ungated article at Foreign Affairs (and Allison has been around just about since the creation of the post WWII order).

David Frum and Stephen M. Walt separately suggest the implausible this week. Frum writes that The Rebublican Party Needs to Embrace Liberalism in The Atlantic, and Walt chimes in with Socialists and Libertarians Need an Alliance Against the Establishment at ForeignPolicy.com.

There’s lots more, across the spectrum. See Peter Beinart’s call for a new Democratic foreign policy (hint: rehabilitate Finlandization), Hal Brands in Bloomberg and Daniel Larison in The American Conservative (who’s not buying Kagan). That ought to get you started.

In case you’re not enamored with political theory, here’s one more thing, completely different. Check out Norwegian Knut Arne Gjertsen’s blog. He has been to the gorgeous Faroe Islands and come back with a bunch of photos and fun tales.

And I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my book Out in the Cold, about the Faroese village of Saksun.

See you next week.

 

Shock and Awe

President Trump called the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership the worst arrangement ever concocted by mankind anywhere, pretty much. In his words, it would have been “a continuing rape of our country.”

He similarly criticized NAFTA, savaged Mexico and Canada and tore at the United States’ relationship with both close allies. He was particularly vocal in his anger at the Canadian dairy industry “Because in Canada, some very unfair things have happened to our dairy farmers,” Trump has said.

Thank goodness our savior is making American great again. The Negotiator in Chief has wielded his magic wand and voilà! A miracle! In an article headlined USMCA deal seen as win for Canada’s Trudeau, the Trump-friendly Washington Examiner reveals the awesome might of Trump the Negotiator:

“The move is expected to allow U.S. producers to gain 3.6 percent of the Canadian (dairy) market, up from the 3.25 percent that had previously been negotiated under the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, which Trump pulled the U.S. out of.”

That’ll show ’em.