International Affairs

International Affairs

Time for UN Security Council action on Syria

Syria’s downing of a Turkish fighter jet at last opens the door to the U.N. Security Council, which is charged with upholding international peace and security, to consider legitimate collective action against Damascus.

The flight of thousands of Syrian refugees into neighboring countries had already turned the Syrian conflict into a matter for the U.N., but Russia and China had blocked moves to impose sanctions, citing Syrian sovereignty.

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President Obama, a complete failure in the economic sphere

In the modern world, democracy as a form of government has had very limited success outside of the Anglo-Saxon sphere. The French Revolution led to the dictatorship of Napoleon. The Weimar Republic of post-World War I Germany led to Hitler. It is hard to think of a democracy in Latin America that lasted more than a generation. In Asia, other than the countries encompassed in the Anglo-Saxon sphere of influence such as Japan, Singapore and India, democracy is all but non-existent. In Africa, democracy has inevitably led to dictatorship. In the Islamic world, one would be hard-pressed to find a country that has been a consistent democracy.

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'Mister Marshmallow' does it again

Amid all the drama of the elections in Cairo and Greece over the weekend, another huge electoral shake-up produced an absolute majority for the French Socialist Party of newly elected President Francois Hollande.

So the second biggest economy in the eurozone is going to be run by Socialists. Although the French party is more of a social-democrat variety, Hollande is still a taxer and spender. His first act after being elected last month was to lower — yes, you got that right — the pension age to 60, partially reversing a reform by his conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.

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Wanted — credible threat of force on Syria

Kofi Annan, the international envoy for Syria, is shocked by the latest massacre in Syria, which bears all the hallmarks of a war crime. Shocked!

So what can we expect now from the international community after the U.N. Security Council condemned the horrific execution of more than 100 civilians, including women and children, in the Syrian town of Houla by government forces and allied militias last Friday and Saturday?

Unfortunately, I doubt that the killings will provide the “tipping point” invoked by Annan after he met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad yesterday in Damascus.

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End of the eurozone?

The voters of Europe have spoken: They are not prepared to endure austerity measures to achieve financial responsibility and stability.

This has set the stage for breakup of the eurozone. The only way to finance the stimulus that French President-elect Francois Hollande is proposing is to increase taxes or borrow. Neither option is practical. His proposal to raise taxes to 75 percent on the wealthy will create a mass exodus of high-earning Frenchmen to lower-tax jurisdictions outside of France. It is highly unlikely that the credit markets will lend the French government enough money to stimulate its economy at economic rates.

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After French vote, will Europe switch course?

The French are not a modest bunch. So it wasn’t a surprise last night when the victorious candidate in the French presidential election, the Socialist Francois Hollande, said that his victory represented “a new hope for the world.”

The way Hollande sees it, Europe should chart a different course than the tough budget-cutting austerity packages that have cut the tax base in the U.K. by increasing unemployment and driven Greece into the arms of the neo-fascists.

If Europe switches course, the debate about economic stimulus will intensify here and could affect the election campaign. Already there have been signs of nervousness in the Obama administration about the effects of the massive cuts by the Cameron coalition in the U.K.

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France finds its soul

One hundred years ago France, the center of the world for the previous thousand years, suddenly experienced the darkest harbingers. The new big screen brought forth a golem, Yeats saw a rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem, the Irish poets were dreaming of rivers flowing with blood, but 1912 saw the most prescient and darkly foreboding specter. Marcel Duchamp had a shattered cryptic vision of a nude woman descending a circular staircase in 1912, as if France and all of Christendom was about to lose all form and descend beneath the waves into the collective unconscious. It was a perfect Zen observation of what was ahead for Europe, its feminine spirit shattered and descending into the maelstrom. The death of Europe would surely follow, and surely it did. But today, France might be seen as ascending the stairs.

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If Mitt Romney or Ron Paul were president, Osama bin Laden would probably be alive

The two remaining Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, share this problem: Neither one believes in taking personal responsibility for his actions. Romney had attacked the very notion of the United States focusing so much effort on finding and killing Osama bin Laden. Romney also attacked President Obama's vow to kill bin Laden in Pakistan (a vow Obama fulfilled). Paul has moved so far to the isolationist viewpoint that he would significantly dismantle America's military and counterterrorist capabilities. If either of them were president today, Osama bin Laden would probably be alive and planning attacks against us.

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A French Spring and a new enlightenment for jobs and justice

The increasingly likely victory of Francois Hollande in the French presidential election would be the shot for economic justice and jobs that will be heard around the world. It would be the repudiation by one of the world's leading nations of the unjust economics of the 1 percent that is championed by Sarkozy in France, Merkel in Germany, Cameron in Britain and Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and George W. Bush in the United States. A Hollande victory would bring a French Spring.

Hollande leading France would end what I called "Midnight in Paris" after his triumph in the first round of voting, and begin a new French Spring that would elevate France to a rejuvenated position of world leadership. It would end the right's Euro hegemony dominated by the conservative economics of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and would reject the "government of the banks" and the "government of the 1 percent" that created and continues the financial catastrophe of our times.

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The return of France

If the socialist candidate wins the election in France next week, as The Washington Post’s David Ignatius says he is likely to do, it will shift the paradigm of Europe. It will change everything. Specifically, it could shift leadership in Europe from Germany to France. Or more likely, it could begin a power contention between France and Germany; a struggle for the soul of Europe. Because now that France has challenged austerity it brings respect, acceptance and leadership to the countries that have in the recent brief history complained. That would be Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, which France can begin to assert European leadership to. France brings status and a legitimate program of opposition to these countries by the repudiation of Sarko and the election of Socialist leader Francois Hollande, not only to France but to these other countries. While Germany would retain leadership of others. Until now, a few of us Euro deniers referred to the EU as Greater Germany. Now two realms emerge: Greater Germany and Greater France.

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