Small is beautiful and enduring. And it may be nature’s way of making us fuller and more complete and connected human beings. And this time, as goes Europe, so perhaps will go America.
Let's end an economically and politically irritating and exhaustive week in official Washington on a cautiously optimistic note. There is a legitimate possibility of major diplomatic achievements involving the U.S. and Iran coming into view after fairly productive discussions this week in Geneva.
There will be a difficult road to success. As the week ends in Washington, there are proposals circulating at the White House and State Department which, if implemented, would begin with early-stage economic benefits to Iran alongside early-stage Iranian actions that to address the concerns of the U.S. and our allies.
Twenty-four percent of the vote share would be won by the French National Front if European Parliament elections were to be held this year, the Financial Times reports. In 2009, the party got 6.34 percent of the vote. Twenty-seven seats would be won by the Dutch Party of Freedom in the 150-seat Netherlands parliament, up from six in 2008. Possibly most significant, 19.1 percent of the vote share was won by The Finns Party in 2011. In the 2007 election, it won just 4.1 percent of the vote. The Finns once successfully fought off Stalin and the Soviets. Today they fight to return to themselves.
Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap died last week, said to be 102. He might have ranked as the fourth most important person in the world in the mid-'60s behind, in this order: Mao, Ho Chi Minh and John Lennon. Giap ran the war against the Americans in Vietnam. Probably no one remembers. But Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) remembers. His world began then, and it brought us Mick Jagger, Bill Clinton, the Dalai Lama, President Obama and Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats. It began in January 1968, in what came to be called the Tet Offensive. The Tet Offensive was important because at that moment, Giap won the war in Vietnam. We, the Americans, lost the war. McCain, the only soldier from that war who America remembers with grace, makes the statement in an op-ed Monday in The Wall Street Journal. It is vastly important, because I have never heard a soldier say so before.
It is good that President Obama announced Friday he has spoken by telephone with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are right to test the recent diplomatic overtures by the new president of Iran, who is far more reasonable than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rouhani has a long track record of, and his recent campaign proposed, international and domestic pragmatism that would improve Iran's external relations and contribute to improving the Iranian economy. Obviously, what Rouhani says about his policies will be proven or disproven by events.
Obviously, and correctly, there are skeptics in the United States and Europe who are not convinced by words and will only be convinced by actions. This is what diplomacy should be: negotiating with adversaries as well as friends, testing words by deeds, seeking progress that is in the mutual interests of the parties negotiating.
From here, it is hard to get a grip on what is going on in Israel reading just The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz. One gets a picture of a secular state much like New York in temperament. But it is a sensibility more suggestive of Tel Aviv than Jerusalem.
It may be suggested today that Jerusalem is rising in relevance to secular Jews in Tel Aviv, and that is shifting sands in Israel. It may be said that Jerusalem is rising today to greater relevance to Tel Aviv than New York is to Tel Aviv, that Israel is finding its own center. What we hear here in the U.S. is fairly filtered by those here who love and mean well for Israel and wish to speak on behalf of Israel. But something is happening in Israel that should be recognized. Recently, Harvard’s famed attorney Alan Dershowitz came to that shocking realization when he was challenged by a crowd supporting Caroline Glick, a very popular columnist in Israel.
“Be excellent to one another!” — Bill, from "Bill &Ted's Excellent Adventure," 1989
If Bill and Ted head out again across time and the universe, Bill might today bid us, “Be exceptional to one another!” As we live in an age again in which the imagination leads instead to banality, possibly the well of creativity has dried up. So we tell ourselves, and everyone else, that we are “exceptional,” compared, say, to Singapore. They may be the wealthiest and best organized people in the world but they are not exceptional. Only we are. It is why we should not listen to Russia or China and especially Vladimir Putin; they, and especially Putin, are totally not exceptional. It is generally a conservative thing, as being “excellent” was a Reagan-era buzz word (“leadership and excellence”). It was repeated endlessly in the day.
Had the Syria vote in Congress occurred on Monday, when members had returned from recess, it would probably have narrowly passed the Senate, certainly been defeated in the House and definitely been a disaster for the worldwide credibility and deterrent capability for the U.S. and all nations opposing the criminal use of chemical weapons.
What a difference a day makes!
There are two key points regarding the Russian proposal for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to an international authority:
In prelude to that cultural movement which became the Tea Party, there was much talk of the U.N., the World Court and varied enterprises that had evolved from like-minded urban dwellers across Europe and America. We had little regard, because we felt no sovereign instincts outside our own borders.
Our moral intuition about things beyond our turf was an abstraction. It is for everyone. But as rumors of invasion grew, and neocons in D.C. talked openly of randomly invading various countries in the Middle East, even with already psychologically embedded mainstream media, how could they be held back? What could be done?
We could not have cared less about the U.N.’s condemnation, but how could we stop those who were planning death abroad from our own turf? In 2003 the first claims were made in Vermont and New Hampshire that we had the constitutional and moral right as states not to participate after a Rhodes Scholar with lifelong distinguished government service in Russia and Vietnam claimed in The New Yorker that the invasion of Iraq was likely against international law. But what could we do? Could we not just throw them in jail? Could we not today?
In my latest column, I suggested that the coming vote in Congress is one of the great moral and security moments of our time. I praised and criticized various Democrats and Republicans.
Now I focus on one Republican in particular, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), whose performance this week was shameless; and to a lesser degree, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), whose hypocrisy in talking tough for two years and then voting against military action was a sad sight to behold.
Not long ago, Paul, who never served in the military, chastised Secretary of State John Kerry, a decorated war hero, for not remembering what combat is like. Is there any shame left in Republican presidential wannabes?