International Affairs

International Affairs

Message to Mitt: Cultural superiority versus cultural inferiority is not the American way

Mitt Romney's latest opining about wealth, as he concludes his gaffe-laden visit to Europe, betrays a lack of understanding about American tradition and world affairs. I would note that Romney has not only opined about Israeli culture versus Palestinian culture. He has made the same argument about American culture versus Mexican culture (this will not be a big hit in Latin America or with Hispanic voters). Romney has made the same argument about the culture of Chile versus the culture of Ecuador. Who will Romney insult next?

Mitt Romney acts as though he is a member of the House of Lords, or a royal family, with some inherent superiority of one group or class versus another. In this world Romney appears to envision himself in the privileged class along with whomever he’s pandering to at the given moment he offers his opinions.


Romney, the ‘special relationship,’ and the Mau Mau

I am dismayed by the Mitt Romney campaign “gaffe” about the U.K.-U.S. “special relationship” as the Republican contender for the presidency arrives in London in time for the Olympics.

Unfortunately, comments from an anonymous Romney adviser in London’s Daily Telegraph have set off another pointless round of soul-searching by the ever-paranoid Brits about their ranking as top dog in the relationship with Washington.

The Telegraph quoted the unnamed adviser as saying, "We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and [Romney] feels that the special relationship is special." But the adviser went further, adding, "The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have."


Pass the Magnitsky bill

The Magnitsky bill, named after a lawyer for a U.K.-based investment fund who died an agonizing death in a Russian prison after being denied medical treatment, is wending its way slowly through Congress.

It would establish a blacklist of Russians allegedly involved in Sergei Magnitsky’s shocking death in 2009, presumably including Russian law enforcement officials, tax ministry officials and judges, as well as intelligence officers and Russians linked to organized crime, who would notably be denied U.S. visas. Magnitsky, a lawyer for the equity fund Hermitage Capital, uncovered an embezzlement scandal totaling $230 million by Russian tax and interior ministry officials, and was then imprisoned on charges of tax evasion and fraud for his pains.


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.


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.


'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.


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.


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.


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.


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.