Booklist | ‘The Tyranny of Experts’ by William Easterly

History gets forgotten. Experts ruin everything.  Racism and colonialism were the frame. And the poor are global losers in the “war on poverty” being waged by big institutions, states, and “donor communities.”  Welcome back, William Easterly–whose latest book makes the case for bottom-up governance, openness and democracy.

The author’s persistent emphasis on liberty, and his touting of the “Invisible Hand” might tempt some readers to write him off as a doctrinaire conservative, an inclination that might be encouraged by Easterly’s frequent citation of intellectual favorites of the right like Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek. It’s the odd conservative, however, who would read history like Easterly, who blames much of the failure of development as a Western movement, and a great deal of misery in Africa specifically on the twin legacies of imperialism and racism. He brandishes this claim of racism liberally but not gratuitously; his point being that paternalism and a belief in the incapacity of others is an unexamined foundation of development ideology. “Locating the formative years of development between 1919 and 1949 highlights a critical point,” Easterly writes: “Development ideas took shape before there was even the most minimal respect in the West for the rights of individuals in the Rest.” Western racism, he asserts, spared no one, but in Africa it was at the very heart of the concept of development.

via ‘The Tyranny of Experts,’ by William Easterly – NYTimes.com.

For Obama, Ukraine and Syria Trump Asia

What ails US foreign policy?  Some of it may come from the historical circumstances and  cards that have been dealt.  (Disasters in South Korea, the Philippines, and Japan and Malaysia also play a role.) But Obama’s Asia trip seems to not draw attention to the “pivot,” as Will Inboden points out:

Across the board America’s bilateral relations with the great powers are at their lowest points since Obama took office in 2009. Our European allies find us unpersuasive, our Asian allies find us unreliable, and Russia and China find us irresolute and inconsistent.

Russia’s ongoing aggression in Ukraine has also thrown into sharp relief America’s diminished standing in the eyes of our European allies. Not only has Germany resisted our pleas for more effective sanctions, it turns out German firms may have played an instrumental role in training and equipping the Russian special forces now infiltrating Ukraine. France, suffering from a depressed economy and weak leader in President François Hollande, brazenly moves forward with plans to sell two helicopter carriers to Russia. The U.S.-British relationship is moribund, as the United Kingdom focuses on internal complications such as Scottish secessionism while finding the Obama administration an uncertain partner in addressing European challenges.

via When Asian Leaders Look at Obama, They See Ukraine and Syria.

Booklist | ‘Asia’s Cauldron,’ by Robert D. Kaplan

Is US dominance in Asia ending?  Are the declinists right? Going into the next century China is well-positioned in its own neighborhood to “Finlandize” Southeast Asia, according to the steeley-eyed strategist, Robert D. Kaplan.

It is realism that keeps Kaplan’s book so refreshingly free of the breathless “oh my God it’s worse than you think” prose style that mars so much Western writing on the rise of China. In its place, however, realism encourages a Thucydidean detachment that some readers will find even more alarming. But that, Kaplan says, is the way it has to be, because the struggle over the South China Sea is going to be detached and unemotional. America’s struggle with the Soviet Union raised great moral issues and fired the passions of all involved; but it has proved hard to invest the South China Sea with the same philosophical freight as the Berlin Wall, despite the best efforts of some. (While writing a column for a newspaper — not this one — a few months ago, I was firmly informed that the editor wanted “less history, more scary stuff about China.”) “The fact is,” Kaplan observes, “East Asia is all about trade and business.”

via ‘Asia’s Cauldron,’ by Robert D. Kaplan – NYTimes.com.

Naval power is the national focus across Asia as “the center of military power” moves to this region.  Looking into this major global change in power is helpfully served up in a “non-moralistic stance on quesitons of power and diplomacy“–and that is what makes this book worth reading.

Is War Inevitable? John Horgan argues for The End of War.

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: A McSweeney’s Books Preview: An Excerpt from John Horgan’s The End of War.

Can a scientific approach to understanding conflict accurately conclude that we are not destined to perpetual war?

A survey I carried out for the show “RadioLab” was typical. I approached a score of pedestrians on the streets of Hoboken, where I teach, and asked them if humans would ever stop fighting wars. I got three tentative Yeses and seventeen immediate, adamant Nos. “No,” replied Mark, a sixty-year-old dentist, “because of greed, and one-upmanship, and the hierarchy of power, in which everybody wants more.” War “is a universal law of life,” agreed Patel, a twenty-four-year-old computer scientist. “To get something, you have to fight for something.”

Young people seem especially fatalistic. I teach a course called “War and Human Nature” at my university. One assignment requires my students to ask ten or more classmates: “Will humans ever stop fighting wars, once and for all? Why or why not?” More than 90 percent of the four hundred or so respondents said “no.” The justifications were diverse: “We’re naturally evil” was especially common. “People are always going to hate and try to destroy ‘inferiors.’” “Monkeys fight with each other and because humans are animals too, we follow that pattern.” “Men are power crazy and women are not in power.” “People would just get bored with no war.

via McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: A McSweeney’s Books Preview: An Excerpt from John Horgan’s The End of War..

Could it be that male dominance is the problem?  Would a world run by women solve this problem?  Horgan isn’t optimistic on this solution.

Is this approach a pie-in-the-sky, peacenik pipe dream?  Isn’t war part of human nature? David Barash writes in the Chronicle’s Brainstorm blog the following:

The End of War is neither unrealistic nor unadulterated Pollyanna; Horgan looks hard at a variety of explanations for war, concluding that to some extent it has become a nasty meme, a cultural tradition, and a self-fulfilling prophecy. “We kill and torture,” he suggests, “because we’re sheep, not psychopathic wolves.” He gives ample attention to the “bad barrel” theory recently elaborated by Philip Zimbardo of Stanford Prison Experiment fame, along with homage to Stanley Milgram (“obedience to authority”) and the hopeful aspects of the justly renowned Robber’s Cave Experiment, conducted by Muzafer Sherif.

via Brainstorm | Blogs | The Chronicle of Higher Education

Kudos for Horgan for taking this important discussion not only to media channels for consideration–but also to online audiences through Reddit.

Conference | The Future of Diplomacy with Diplomatic Courier and UN Foundation

Learn more about how digital diplomacy is evolving as an important mode of public interaction, persuasion, and engagement in person (D.C.) or online:

This half-day summit will explore the nexus between technology and social media and how they are changing modern diplomacy. These agents of change are acting as constructive disrupters by modernizing systems and by bringing new voices into old ones. The summit will bring together public diplomacy experts, leaders in policy and influencers in global partnerships to discuss best practices and offer engaging insight into the future of diplomacy and global issues. Follow @diplocourier and @DigiDiplomats, and #DiplomacySM and #DigitalDiplomacy on Twitter.

22 April, 8:00am to 12:00pm

Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center Rotunda

1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20004

via Digital Diplomacy Coalition • The Future of Diplomacy Join the Diplomatic….

Can Diplomacy Trump Aggression in Ukraine?

@RUNet Memes

Yesterday an emergency Security Council meeting provided the stage for more talk on Ukraine. Steven Pifer still thinks a Russian military intervention to be unlikely–but it does seem to be  clear that Putin is interested in more than Crimea. And the U.S. seems to understand that Putin is living a carefully developed fiction--one entirely of his own creation.

The U.S. take on events over the weekend:

This was no peaceful spring weekend for Ukraine.  Coordinated, well-armed Russian-backed militants attacked government buildings in a professional operation in six cities in eastern regions.  Many of the attackers were carrying Russian-origin weapons and outfitted in bulletproof vests and camouflage uniforms with insignia removed.

Observers on the ground saw that the events were carefully planned and orchestrated.  In Kharkiv, as pro-Russian groups neared pro-Ukrainian protesters, women, children, and medics moved away, leaving only well-armed young men to approach the pro-Ukrainian protestors.  These people were looking for a fight.  The pro-Russian “demonstration” was in fact a bloody attack on peaceful, pro-unity demonstrators.

The attacks occurred simultaneously in multiple locations.  These were not grass-roots political protests.  These armed “demonstrators” took over government administration buildings and security headquarters, seized weapons, forced local officials to abandon their offices, and attacked communications towers.

via Ukraine: Choosing Diplomacy Over Aggression | DipNote.

Writing in the Guardian, Ian Black lays out five possible scenarios, including a Ukrainian use of force, Russian intervention, US/EU Sanctions, NATO intervention, as well as diplomacy (which didn’t work in the Crimean situation).

The Onion | Ambassador Stages Coup at UN, Issues Long List of Non-Binding Resolutions

Someone at The Onion was paying attention during Intro to International Relations 110.  Brilliant.

Ambassador Stages Coup At UN, Issues Long List of Non-Binding Resolutions

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