Category Archives: France

This Time It’s Different

I noted in an earlier blog post that it’s quite evident to me that what is being called the French 9/11 will be a major geopolitical event that will shape how the next 10 years will play out. Here’s 3 possibilities of how these attacks in Paris could impact politics in the United States.

Fear Mongering is Back
Just kidding, it never went away. Fear, as a political and social and cultural phenomenon has always been a guiding light in American politics. However, we now have a newer half-generation of Americans who basically have not experience a terrorist attack conducted by an armed-group with long-term goals and plans. I streamed Morning Joe this morning, on MSNBC, and maaaaaannn….it’s like 9/11 never happened and good ‘ol American amnesia came back and everyone forgot just how we got to this place in the first place. Joe Scarborough was being all manic about Obama not calling Muslim terrorists….muslims. Obama, not long ago, said: “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.” Whether you agree with this or not, if you don’t understand why Obama would say this then you don’t understand realpolitk, or even, domestic politics. It’s a tactic Joe; he’s not saying those words to you and to the media; this does not mean the Obama Administration does not understand the current situation. It does. President George W. Bush had similar remarks saying we are at war against evil, not Islam and not Muslims. Nonetheless, pundits are freaking out and telling everyone that we are in a Clash of Civilizations. This is not a clash of civilizations; this is a war where ISIS is targeting countries that are currently engaged in military attacks That’s kind of a big difference. This is not to say that ISIS isn’t engaged in what they think is a clash of civilizations; they, for all intents and purposes, do think that is what’s going on. It’s not.

This Changes the 2016 U.S. Pres Race; & It Helps Republican Chances
No really; look out for Mitt Romney getting into the race and winning the GOP nomination if he does get in. Regardless, foreign policy will now be a focus in 2016 in a way that wasn’t quite anticipated. In times when Americans are scared, they vote Republican. Americans think that Republicans tackle national security issues better; moreover, this is classic political psychology. Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist, has written about this and studied this extensively:

“People vote Republican because Republicans offer “moral clarity”—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.”

Whether its fear or a more ostensibly sanguine notion of clarity and group think, if we aren’t careful, we will let this brutalize us and make us more xenophobic and jingoistic. To reiterate, an America reminded of 9/11 and potential terrorist attacks is one that easily gives up rights. Due diligence is heeded; we must not buy into demagoguery when we need actual leadership and an actual strategy. This brings me to my final point.

Finally, this could actually push Obama to reiterate our strategy in the Middle East and regarding our position in the world, more generally.
Political scientist Ian Bremmer in his recent book Superpower: Three Choices For America’s Role in the World (2015) argues that the U.S. needs to choose a strategy and he lays out three distinct options. First, what Bremmer calls Independent America is one where we should nation build but that building should be done here; this isn’t isolationist so much as it’s a reaction to real foreign policy failure and real economic needs here at home. The second choice, Moneyball America, is basically the idea of crafting a strategy that is closer to what international affairs experts call Realism; a realist should ask: what is the alternative to the status-quo? Finally, the third possible strategy is titled Indispensable America. The anarchic world order needs a hegemonic force to help maintain the rule of law and the spread of democratic values and systems. You can’t choose all three; Bremmer wrote this book for the next president and urges them to choose a strategy and to stick with it.

Obama, today at the G-20 event in Antalya, Turkey, sounds like Obama of ‘ol. Obama articulated what amounts to a Realist understanding and a realist strategy with shades of idealism: we still must not work with Assad, argues Obama. The attacks of Paris could force the next presidential candidates to construct a strategy that deals with the reality of ISIS and the reality of the Middle East. Governments often govern from crisis to crisis; this tragic event could help focus the upcoming debates in a way that definitely is overdue: who are we?

What role will America take in this battle against ISIS? Will the U.S.A. accept refugees and migrants from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia? Is America going to abandon the Middle East and “pivot” to China? All of these questions, and so many more, are important are are surely going to be asked, in some capacity at least, now after Paris.

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France, Europe, and the Future

Some thoughts on #Paris and its implications for the world.

The worst has yet to come, says political analysts and spokesmen for ISIS alike. You can count on the fact that this is true.

The Schengen Agreement in Europe is in jeopardy; reading the words of European leaders after last night’s Paris attack, and you clearly get the feeling that this will be a turning point for geopolitics. Many of our borders will likely become more militarized. War is in the air. “France will be merciless towards these barbarians from ISIL,” remarked French President Hollande last night. Echos of George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11/2001. Orban and Hungary have already acted draconian and nationalistic regarding refugees and this event will surely rally more support for policies based on fear, worst possible outcomes, and xenophobia and intolerance. [Just look at how quickly U.S. politicians, on Twitter, used this event for domestic political purposes.] Now with reports that one of the commandos was from Syria and did migrate recently, expect horribleness all around. With so many places destabilized and on the brink of failing, such as Libya and Syria, there is now an even bigger incentive to make sure that Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, for example, do not become weakened. This means realpolitik and the stifling of any dissent: expect the U.S. to supply Saudi Arabia and Egypt with all of the weapons, intel, and support they need because the alternatives are unthinkable. In fact, if Saudi Arabia starts seeing signs of civil war, then we can start being scared about World War III. I’m serious: you do not want that country to have a power vacuum.

Political scientist Benjamin Barber wrote a prescient and gloomy book called Jihad vs McWorld released just prior to 9/11 actually, that rings in my mind after a night like last night. As observers have pointed out, these attackers targeted dense population cities rimmed with 21st century highlights and activities – globalized and cosmopolitan. There is a war against modernity and ISIS is proud of that war. France will remain a key target; especially factoring in Frances’ involvement in Mali, recently, and historically as a colonizing force as well. Jihad experts expect Italy to also be a likely target in the near future. Many people see ISIS as a new phenomenon when it’s been in the making for a long time. There is a war on modernity and its adherents are True Believers who welcome the apocalypse. (This is also a war on women; other Muslims; children; the West; each other; sex; lust; humanity; etc.)

This will likely go down as “the 9/11 of France” which has all kinds of implications. Observers thought the Charlie Hebdo attacks would be the spark that changed France; it was only the beginning. This time it feels different because…it is. One thing is certain: this event will have a geopolitical impact in a time of overwhelming crisis and in a time when leadership is desperately needed. Our institutions are not suited and built for the challenges of the 21st century. Until they are, expect chaos, anarchy, and contingent actions without strategy. Fear changes people, countries, and policies, to be sure. The War on Terror has entered a dangerous and potentially catastrophic period. Keep to this space for more frequent updates, analysis, and insights from someone who reads way to much about all of this for his own good. I’ll be more frequent – perhaps weekly – with these updates to flesh out what I have said here and to illuminate the bigger picture for folks who don’t stay abreast in all things national security and war.