Long Live the State / The State is Dead

Two books from late 2014 make the case for why the State is in its final throes–but what a good ride it had. In a structural take on international relations, as compared to the theoretical view of power espoused by Moses Naim, Charles Maier looks backward in Leviathan 2.0: Inventing Modern Statehood and John Mickelthwait and Adrian Woodridge wonder about the future in The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State.

As Maier chronicles in his gripping account, the modern state wrapped itself in legal authority, harnessed technology, established markets, acquired wealth, and launched violent campaigns of territorial expansion. By the 1970s, the modern state had vanquished all the major alternative forms of political organization: a remarkable world-historical moment.

Micklethwait and Wooldridge cover some of the same ground. But the two editors of The Economist are more interested in the state’s future than in its past — and they are worried. In this clever and sharply argued book, they warn that the liberal democracies of the West have grown too big, a development they describe in evocative terms: “bloat,” “elephantiasis,” “omnipresent nanny,” the “supersizing” of the state. The unchecked growth of government, they claim, contributes to all the ills of today’s Western democracies: frayed social safety nets, demographic imbalances, fiscal crises, legislative gridlock, influence peddling, toxic partisanship. Micklethwait and Wooldridge argue that to fix those problems and fend off the challenge posed by the updated models of authoritarianism put in practice by the Chinese and others, Western democracy must be reinvented.

via Leviathan 2.0; The Fourth Revolution | Foreign Affairs.

Maier draws on history to show how how what we consider modern aspects of the state, “territorial integrity, highly developed governing structures, and technological prowess” are “historical anomalies–as Ethan Epstein writes in National Journal.

Not that this is new. Parag Khanna has been making this case in the literate press for some time, with the rise of NGOs coming to the scene most forcefully in the 1990s–now non-state actors in the media (bloggers), intelligence (Snowden), even terrorism (Bin Laden) are top of the list material for concern.

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How the Euro Crisis, Iranian Nuclear Deal and Ukraine are Connected

Good insight from Stratfor on how three seemingly unrelated events intersect:

Germany needs a deal with Russia to be able to manage an existential crisis for the eurozone; Russia needs a deal with the United States to limit U.S. encroachment on its sphere of influence; and the United States needs a deal with Iran to refocus its attention on Russia. No conflict is divorced from the other, though each may be of a different scale. Germany and Russia can find ways to settle their differences, as can Iran and the United States. But a prolonged eurozone crisis cannot be avoided, nor can a deep Russian mistrust of U.S. intentions for its periphery.

Both issues bring the United States back to Eurasia. A distracted Germany will compel the United States to go beyond NATO boundaries to encircle Russia. Rest assured, Russia — even under severe economic stress — will find the means to respond.

via The Intersection of Three Crises | Stratfor.

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The Legacy of Neoconservativism, Leo Strauss and US foreign policy

How do myth making, policy, and the Univeristy of Chicago contribute to diplomacy and international affairs via the political philosopher Leo Strauss? We revisit the neoconservative legacy thanks to a new book by Robert Howse (Cambridge UP):

Since liberalism, with its ethical relativism and its glorification of public opinion, has permanently undermined the ancient truths of philosophy and religion, as Nietzsche realized, there is nothing standing between modernity and the abyss of nihilism. Thus, in order to cohere, modern societies require “noble lies” or political myths. At the very least, they demand a diabolical enemy capable of uniting citizens in a shared antipathy. As Strauss declared in The City and Man: “The good city is not possible without a fundamental falsehood; it cannot exist in the element of truth.” Also: “Untrue stories are needed not only for little children but also for the grown-up citizens of the good city [and] it is probably best if they are imbued with these stories from the earliest possible moment.”

via Leo Strauss, Peacenik? – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Strauss incorporate Machiavelli’s approach to human nature as well as “Thucydides’ ambivalence concerning the moral costs of unbridles imperial expansion” according to Richard Wolin, writing in the Chronicle Review. He also had something to say about Hugo Grotius and Immanuel Kant.

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Changing European Demographics in 4 CityLab Maps





















Europe’s population is shifting to the Northwest. The GDP in its more easterly nations seems to be booming, while the countryside and many smaller cities continue to empty at the expense of the great conurbations. And while Europe’s southern nations continue to suffer under austerity, cities around the Mediterranean are nonetheless among the fastest growing in terms of population. These are just some of the key demographic shifts outlined in a recent report [PDF] from Bloomberg Philanthropies and LSE Cities. While the report focuses overall on the 155 submissions made to last year’s first ever Europe-based Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge, its data provides a fascinating snapshot of a continent on the move.

via 4 Maps Crucial to Understanding Europe’s Population Shift – CityLab.

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Sometimes Ambassadors Resign

It doesn’t happen very often, but when a foreign service officer disagrees fundamentally with US policy, the option of last resort is to resign.

Ambassador Robert E. White, a noted Latin Americanist, passed away in January 2015. His career was devoted to the principles of human rights and democracy–at a very high personal cost.

“I was fired by the Nixon White House for opposing politicization of the Peace Corps, reprimanded by Henry Kissinger for speaking out on human rights, and finally, definitely dismissed by Alexander Haig for opposing a military solution in El Salvador,” Mr. White recalled.

Via NYT Obit

His early diplomatic posts were located in Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Later, he served with the Peace Corp and the OAS before becoming ambassador to Paraguay and then, notably, to El Salvador.

He continued to call himself a diplomat and a democrat, drawing on the “quotient of idealism”, as he called the force that led him into the foreign service.

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Sundance Festival | Diplomacy Edition

What to see (and watch for) at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival:

The Visit | How would the UN responds to alien contact? (Sounds like a crisis committee at UPMUNC)


Most Likely to Succeed | What the US education system needs to do to produce graduates with 21st century skills.


Best of Enemies | Wm F. Buckley v Gore Vidal in a 1968 televised rhetorical death match.


Chuck Norris vs. Communism | Kitschy bootleg VHS tapes in Romania become a symbol of freedom.

Experimenter | The story of Stanley Milgram’s Yale experiments involving electric shocks to understand obedience to authority.


Grossman on a “New Diplomacy”

What does the “new” diplomacy look like? Maybe a little bit like the old one–but better. Marc Grossman lays out some of his useful insights in a Foreign Service Journal article, reprinted by the Belfer Center at Harvard:

It is not a coincidence that the search for foreign policy paradigms after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has led some observers back to the work of Reinhold Niebuhr. As Andrew Bacevich maintains in his introduction to a 2008 reissue of Niebuhr’s The Irony of American History, Niebuhr’s admonitions are hard for us to hear, especially warnings about “the persistent sin of American exceptionalism; the indecipherability of history; the false allure of simple solutions; and, finally, the imperative of appreciating the limits of power.”

A Diplomacy for the 21st Century: Back to the Future? – Harvard – Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Listicle on Art of Conversation

Diplomacy is all about the people. And talking. This should help:

1. Break the awkward silence with one of these five questions. (Fast Company)

2. Learn how to avoid being dominated in conversation. (Wall Street Journal)

3. Here are 10 tips for being a great conversationalist — like steer for positive topics. (Lifehack)

4. Discover how to develop a small talk style that’s 100% you. (Psychology Today)

5. Using science can improve your speaking skills with the neurochemistry of positive conversations. (Harvard Business Review)

6. For the shy folk, take a look at the seven ways to speak up at work. (Fortune)

7. It turns out, to thrive at work you need conversation. (Forbes)

8. Politics and religion are well-known taboo topics; these three are less obvious but equally dangerous. (Metro)

9. These three simple steps will make you a better conversationalist. (Inc.)

10. Remember, good conversation is just as much listening as talking — so find out if you talk too much. (Wall Street Journal)

via Mashable | 10 tips for becoming a better conversationalist.


A “Serious” UN Meeting on anti-Semitism

Call this one a “win” for Israel at the UN (Samantha Power did), a venue that has rarely been favorable to the Jewish State:

The General Assembly has never before held a meeting devoted to anti-Semitism. An Israeli diplomat said Thursday that Israel was prompted to push for one in October after a spate of attacks in Europe, and that it was particularly troubled when the United Nations made no mention of anti-Semitism in condemning the attack on the Jewish Museum.

The United States pushed for the session too, which the American ambassador, Samantha Power, called an important step in an organization that she said had often been “a venue for the de-legitimization of Israel.”

via Modest Victory for Israel in Quest for International Meeting on Anti-Semitism – NYTimes.com.

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Does the ICC Matter?

Some argue that the fuss over Palestine’s efforts to join the Internaitonal Criminal Court show how relevant the institution still is. The move “could open the door to possible investigation and prosecution of war crimes in the Palestinian Territories” according to Marina Barakatt of the American Society of International Law.

But the ICC has proven to be slow-moving and frequently ineffective–as driven by its Security Council member state masters:

Neither China nor Russia nor the United States has signed the treaty that created the court, but as veto-wielding members of the Security Council, all three can exert influence, chiefly by protecting their allies from its reach.

Only recently, the court was dismissed as ineffective, or even irrelevant. It was ambitiously designed to try the gravest offenses: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. But the tribunal, based in The Hague, has been hamstrung from the start. It does not have the power to arrest those it indicts, nor to force defiant government authorities to cooperate. It can initiate cases against countries that have signed up — 123 states as of April 1, when the Palestinian accession to the court starts — or if the Security Council refers cases to the tribunal.

via Is the War Crimes Court Still Relevant? – NYTimes.com.

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