Thomas L. Friedman | China and Russia Are Giving Authoritarianism a Bad Name – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The last decade looked like a good one for authoritarian regimes and a challenging one for democratic ones. Cybertools, drones, facial recognition technology and social networks seemed to make efficient authoritarians even more efficient and democracies increasingly ungovernable.

The West lost self-confidence — and both Russian and Chinese leaders rubbed it in, putting out the word that these chaotic democratic systems were a spent force.

And then a totally unexpected thing happened: Russia and China each overreached.

Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and, to his surprise, invited an indirect war with NATO and the West. China insisted that it was smart enough to have its own local solution to a pandemic, leaving millions of Chinese underprotected or unprotected and, in effect, inviting a war with one of Mother Nature’s most contagious viruses — the Omicron mutation of SARS-CoV-2. It’s now led China to lock down all of Shanghai and parts of 44 other cities — some 370 million people.”

Charles A. Kupchan | Putin’s War in Ukraine Is a Watershed. Time for America to Get Real. – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/11/opinion/ukraine-war-realist-strategy.html

Mr. Kupchan is a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“During his recent speech in Warsaw, President Biden said that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” only to clarify a few days later that he was merely expressing outrage, not announcing a new U.S. policy aimed at toppling Russia’s leader. The episode, interpreted by many as a dangerous gaffe, underscored the tension in U.S. foreign policy between idealism and realism.

Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine should provoke moral outrage in all of us, and, at least in principle, it warrants his removal from office. But Mr. Putin could well remain the leader of a major power into the next decade, and Washington will need to deal with him.

This friction between lofty goals and realpolitik is nothing new. The United States has since the founding era been an idealist power operating in a realist world — and has on balance succeeded in bending the arc of history toward justice. But geopolitical exigency at times takes precedence over ideals, with America playing power politics when it needs to.

During the Cold War, Washington promoted stability by tolerating a Soviet sphere of influence and cozying up to unsavory regimes willing to fight Communism. In contrast, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, America operated under conditions of geopolitical slack; great-power rivalry was muted, enabling Washington to put front and center its effort to promote democracy and expand a liberal, rules-based international order.”

Thomas L. Friedman | Xi, Putin and Trump: The Strongmen Follies – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The last five years have been a master class in comparative politics, because something happened that we’d never seen before at the same time: The world’s three most powerful leaders — Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump — each took drastic steps to hold onto power beyond their designated terms of office. One failed. Two succeeded. And therein lies a tale that says so much about our world today.

Trump failed for one very simple reason: American institutions, laws and norms forced him to cede power at the end of his four years — barely — despite both his efforts to discredit the electoral results and his unleashing of supporters to intimidate lawmakers into overturning his loss at the polls.

Putin and Xi fared better — so far. Unencumbered by institutions and democratic norms, they installed new laws to make themselves, effectively, presidents for life.

Pity their nations.”.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT  

These comments, so critical of Thomas Friedman’s brilliant essay, remind me of a remark by the young woman, Greta Thunberg, “Blah, blah, blah.” The multiple comments against the fascist and white supremacist tendencies in the new Republican party, are perhaps correct, but do not do justice to Friedman, who wasn’t writing this week about the sins and catastrophe which is the new Trumpist Republican party. Friedman’s ending was admirable. It included: “The fact that Putin apparently took that limitless friendship as a green light to invade Ukraine has clearly left Xi flummoxed and floundering. China is a big importer of oil, corn and wheat from Russia and Ukraine, so the Russian invasion has nudged up its costs for these and other food imports, while also helping to drive down China’s stock market (though it is bouncing back). It has also forced China to appear indifferent to Russia’s savaging of Ukraine, straining Beijing’s relations with the European Union, China’s biggest trading partner. I wonder how many officials in Beijing are now muttering: “If this is what happens when you have a president for life. …” ” Thank you Thomas Friedman, for your incisive observations. My fellow commenters, let me remind you, the objects of your attacks, these op-ed writers, are limited to about 800 words, so they address a topic, and not all topics. Often, the best comments, negative or positive, respond to the topic at hand. David blogs right here, in comments, and at InconvenientNews.net.

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EDT commented 4 hours ago

EDT
New York4h ago

@David Lindsay Jr. I agree and appreciate your critique but don’t hold out hope that the commenters you are addressing will read and reflect. It is unfortunate as you note that comment sections get clogged up with folks who just want to vent against the columnist or something but don’t have much to say about the article being commented on. Also echo your appreciation of Tom Friedman’s excellent piece

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Ezra Klein | Fareed Zakaria Has a Better Way to Handle Russia — and China – The New York Times

“I think that is the place to end. So always our final question, what are three books you’d recommend to the audience?

Fareed Zakaria

I think the book that I remember best, when I got my Ph.D. in international relations, is a book by Kenneth Waltz, called “Man, the State and War.” And it’s the most elegant exposition of the kind of realpolitik point of view, about why living in a world without a world government makes countries have to fend for themselves.

The most articulate expression of the liberal international order is “A World Safe for Democracy” — by John Ikenberry — “Liberal Internationalism and the Crisis of Global Order.” And the book that taught me a lot about Russia, George Kennan, probably the greatest diplomat of the 20th century for America, greatest just in being a literary scholar, an amazingly profound, insightful guy — spoke Russian fluently, among many other languages — he wrote memoirs that won the Pulitzer Prize.

So think about a diplomat whose memoirs won the Pulitzer Prize. And the first volume of those memoirs is basically, 1925 to about 1945. And it’s a fascinating story about what diplomacy was like in those times, what Russia was like, what it meant for the United States to be trying to shape events, when it was not the dominant superpower in the world. And it’s beautifully written. So that’s the third.”

Paul Krugman | Trump’s Trade War With China Was a Failure – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/15/opinion/china-trade-war-trump.html

“Do you remember Donald Trump’s trade war? You can be forgiven for having forgotten all about it, given everything that has happened since; it sounds trivial compared with his effort to stay in power by overturning a fair election. Even in terms of policy while in office, it was far less important than his pandemic denial, and probably less important than his tax cuts or his sabotage of health care.

But the trade war was uniquely Trumpian. His other policy actions were standard-issue Republicanism, but the rest of his party didn’t share his obsession with trade deficits; indeed, he probably wouldn’t have been able to do much on that front except for the fact that U.S. law gives presidents enormous discretion when setting tariffs. Only Trump really considered trade deficits an important issue; and he, er, trumpeted what he called a “historic trade deal” under which China agreed to buy an additional $200 billion in U.S. goods and services by the end of 2021.

Now, Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, who has been the go-to source on the trade war from the beginning, has a final assessment of that deal. And it turns out to have been a complete flop: “China bought none of the additional $200 billion of exports Trump’s deal had promised.”

So Trump was a chump; the Chinese took him to the cleaners. But if you want to do a post-mortem on the trade war, Trump’s haplessness in dealing with foreign leaders is actually a minor part of the story. Far more important is the fact that the shocks we’ve been experiencing since the pandemic began make the Trumpian view of trade look even more economically foolish than it did when he took office.”

As Waste Rises in Senegal, So Does Plastic Recycling – The New York Times

“DAKAR, Senegal — A crowd of people holding curved metal spikes jumped on trash spilling out of a dump truck in Senegal’s biggest landfill, hacking at the garbage to find valuable plastic.

Nearby, sleeves rolled up, suds up to their elbows, women washed plastic jerrycans in rainbow colors, cut into pieces. Around them, piles of broken toys, plastic mayonnaise jars and hundreds of discarded synthetic wigs stretched as far as the eye could see, all ready to be sold and recycled.

Plastic waste is exploding in Senegal, as in many countries, as populations and incomes grow and with them, demand for packaged, mass-produced products.”

Maha Shivratri: The Night of Shiva

“Maha Shivratri, the night of the worship of Lord Shiva, occurs on the 14th night of the new moon during the dark half of the month of Phalguna. It falls on a moonless February night, when Hindus offer special prayer to the lord of destruction. Shivratri (In Sanskrit, ‘ratri’ = night) is the night when he is said to have performed the Tandava Nritya — the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction. The festival is observed for one day and one night only.

Origin of Shivratri

According to the Puranas, during the great mythical churning of the ocean called Samudra Manthan, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean. The gods and the demons were terrified, as it could destroy the entire world. When they ran to Shiva for help, he, in order to protect the world, drank the deadly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This turned his throat blue, and because of this he came to be known as ‘Nilkantha’, the blue-throated one. Shivratri celebrates this event by which Shiva saved the world.”

Source: Maha Shivratri: The Night of Shiva

Bret Stephens | America’s Crumbling Global Position – The New York Times

“A “complex, coordinated and deliberate attack,” was how John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, on Monday described a recent drone assault on a U.S. military outpost in Syria that helps train local allies to fight ISIS. It was carried out with as many as five Iranian drones, launched by Iranian proxies, and conducted with Iran’s aid and blessing.

We’ll see if there’s any kind of U.S. response. The Biden administration is still desperate to get Iran back to the negotiating table to sign a nuclear deal that would free up billions of dollars in funding that Tehran can use to conduct more such attacks.

Also on Monday, The Times’s David Sanger reported that a Russian intelligence agency, the S.V.R., is once again engaged in a campaign “to pierce thousands of U.S. government, corporate and think-tank computer networks,” according to Microsoft cybersecurity experts. This comes just a few months after President Biden personally warned Vladimir Putin against renewing such attacks — while also going easy on the penalties the U.S. imposed for previous intrusions.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment;
Dear Bret, I have become a fan of yours, for many reasons, but this is one of your weakest pieces ever. If any of your points are correct and true, you didn’t convince me, since you covered too much, too poorly. On Afghanistan, I suggest you study the op-ed today by Thomas L Friedman. I think the L stands for smart. I haven’t fact checked his piece, and I don’t know if you are allowed to, but it the whole mid east is moving in interesting directions since we left Afghanistan somewhat abruptly, then bravo for Joe Biden and his team. Maybe we still have to wait for the month, after the month after the month.
I know some things about China through my book on Vietnam, and you are so off base from my view there. The Chinese are running jets towards Taiwan to distract their population from the bankruptcy of one of their biggest real estate and construction companies, and numerous other problems. You really sound like chicken little, and should also read Socrates in these comments. What you miss most, the elephant, is that Biden pulled out of Afghanistan, which was draining us dry, so he would have the power to stand up to China, and if necessary, prepare for war with them. I heard a rumor the other day, that chicken little was also a chicken hawk.
And, where in your analysis, was the climate crisis. I recommend the amazing video in the Times today about Greta Thunberg, and why she has hope.
David Lindsay wrote “The Tay Son Rebellion,” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Sylvie Kauffmann | Why France Is Angry About the U.S.’s Submarine Deal – The New York Times

Ms. Kauffmann, the editorial director of Le Monde, writes extensively about European and international politics.

“PARIS — Make no mistake. This is a crisis, not a spat.

The new partnership announced last week between the United States, Britain and Australia, in which Australia would be endowed with nuclear-powered submarines, has left the French angry and in shock. And not just because of the loss of their own deal, signed in 2016, to provide Australia with submarines.

French officials say they have been stonewalled and duped by close allies, who negotiated behind their backs. The sense of betrayal is so acute that President Emmanuel Macron has uncharacteristically opted to keep silent on the issue, delegating the expression of a very public rage to his otherwise quiet foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian. Asked on public television whether President Biden’s behavior was reminiscent of his predecessor’s, Mr. Le Drian replied, “Without the tweets.” “

U.N. General Assembly: China to limit coal plant production – The New York Times

“President Xi Jinping of China told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that his country would stop promoting the growth of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel overseas, in a major step to address climate change: China, he said, “will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad.”

Mr. Xi’s announcement, in prerecorded remarks, was a surprise move designed to lift his country’s standing on global efforts to rein in global greenhouse emissions.

China currently produces the largest share of emissions. It is by far the biggest producer of coal domestically, and by far the largest financier of coal-fired power plants abroad, with an enormous 40 gigawatts of coal power planned.”