Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The chaotic state of play here and abroad, with minor decent exceptions.

As submitted to John Menadue's blog yesterday (image added here):

Both domestic and international affairs are in a state of nastiness and chaos. Ironically Trump’s presence is creating a new love-in between the alliance chiefs in the US and Australia and popular support for them. All in the face of the disaster that is US policy in many places.
With tiny candles of hope on hills: at the UN with the nuclear weapons ban treaty and in South Korea, where people who really understand threat are defiantly being decent.

Two very recent issues here in Australia:
·      The assorted musings on whether WA Greens candidate Mr Steele-John will take up the seat in the Senate vacated by Scott Ludlam, with Michelle Grattan, sympathetic to his personal dilemma as a young person with disabilities,  noting Katharine Murphy’s essay observation that “the environment parliamentarians work in is a pressure cooker, the tone of national affairs is reflexively hostile, trolling and takedowns set the tone of the day, and protagonists are being rewarded for their efficiency at treachery rather than the substance of their contributions”. Which seems an adequate description also of the seething state of folly in international relations;
·      The arrival of Australia as not before, as a frequent news item in Washington for example just now as Julie Bishop comes to the fore, seen as an icon of decency among women in response to the trumpian slur delivered to the Macrons and in her commitment to the US alliance in troubled times… a burgeoning, fear-manipulated cling-to for Australian minds. Who would have imagined that trumpery would strengthen the alliance. We have been infested of course, by the stay-the-course heavies of the US establishment led by VP Pence, Senator McCain, intelligence chief Jim Clapper and the neo-kissingerist pawn-playing real-world-avoidant Jake Sullivan who might have held the keys of too many things under Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile in the US, former presidents George W Bush and W Clinton at one event and Vice President Pence at another event have spoken of the importance of humility in leadership.
How cute. There is nothing such, no humility, never has been, in US world leadership, not now, not with them in office. US leadership is, of course, not working, though as the saying might go ‘you can tell that to Julie Bishop’, the Pencian grey nemesis of the Australian right.
A thoughtful piece inthe New York Times has set out in detail how the US intervention has given Iraq as a gift to Iran, with Iran now consolidating its road to the Mediterranean via Syria. How good or bad that may be for the wider world is another matter, the point first is that intervention in Iraq, at one time the single greatest error of strategic judgment in Australia’s history, shuffles forward to assume the same status for the US, putting Vietnam in the shade, the latter now a problem that has kinda solved itself in a way the Middle East can’t.
Perhaps the most poisonous news of the week is of the UAE’s role in hacking government web sites in Qatar, broadcasting lies and precipitating the current divide among Gulf emirates … and between the President and Secretary of State of the US. A matter brought on by Trump’s folie de grandeur in Saudi Arabia, now made the more sickening by his boasting to a Christian conference in the US that he’d made very clear to them he wasn’t going to Saudi, betcha bottom brain cell, unless they wrote the cheque, bought the weapons package. Can none of these people see beyond their own mirrors?
There is scant evidence of either humility or vision in international affairs. There has been a majorescalation in the civilian body count in US operations in the Middle East sinceTrump (and Mattis) took over.
From a story in The Atlantic in praise of Moon Jae-in
But far away, beneath the vision of the Big Strategists, the new Moon Jae-in administration in South Korea, with its weird sense of decent purpose in a crazy world, has proposed military talks at Panmunjom to discuss with the North “stopping all hostile activities that raise military tension.” This doubtless will get wider public attention when the DPRK issues a likely initial raspberry.
The necessary steps for the Korean question are akin to what is needed as regards the new UN treaty banning nuclear weapons. Someone commented on that treaty at the New York Times today:
“Unrealistic. Unenforceable. Unproductive.
“If they wanted to create a new norm against using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, they would have needed buy-in by the major powers.”
To which I responded:
“Silence does not lead to new norms. Submission and silence in the face of bullying does not stop bullies. Alliance of opponents to bullying is the only way to start. Bullies are not prompt to join such alliances. But such alliances are a beginning. And important.”

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