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Thought Experiment: NATO Distorts American Strategic Interest

In Aesop’s fable the Lion, the Bear and the Fox, the lion and the bear fight over a deer until both are too tired to continue, the fox, having seen their fatigue and lacerations runs off with the deer in its jaws. America, being the Lion, is reengaging in its global power struggle through NATO with Russia, the Bear. The deer in this scenario is a strategic interest or something akin to a superpower status. For the sake of argument, the Fox can be China. America too busy with Russia means it cannot pay attention to a greater threat of China who economically and demographically is far more likely to supersede it than Russia – which is both geopolitically vulnerable and demographically weak. In this sense NATO drags America to engage against Russia over Ukraine and it complicates a possible convergence of interests with Russia in combatting radical Islamic terrorism. In sum there are few direct strategic interests in combatting Russia.

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Good luck, Mr. President

Despite all the anger and frustration, the Trump victory is not the end of the world. Every American president is part of an institutional structure, his power checked and balanced by other branches of government and institutions of the state. This should lead to some degree of moderation.

Yes, nationalist populism is dangerous in that it corrodes political culture and, ultimately, this institutional structure as well. It also threatens the liberal order both within and between states, as evidenced by this polarizing and often disgraceful presidential election campaign. Not only in this sense a more optimistic political project such as Clinton's would have been preferable, something this ECONOMIST essay also argued for. At least the popular vote indicates that such pragmatic and rational incrementalism still has majority support in America.

Trump promises to give the losers of globalization a voice and democratic representation - a good thing if it can lead to a reform of transnational capitalism and the political institutions that manage it at home. I fear, however, that it will only lead to more polarization, more radicalism, and more dysfunction. The candidate's campaign promised change, hate and fear. But it is the new president's duty to bring about renewal without disruption and breakdown. A tall order under the best of circumstances. Good luck, Mr. President.