Friday, March 7, 2014


The celebrated Richard Fernandez has an insightful column today at PJ Media:

Medea Benjamin was manhandled in Cairo today. “Help,” she Tweeted. “They Broke My Arm. Egypt Police”. They didn’t know who Medea Benjamin was or they didn’t care. Democracy Now reports:
U.S. peace activist Medea Benjamin was detained Monday at Cairo’s airport by Egyptian police without explanation. She says she was questioned, held overnight in an airport prison cell and then violently handcuffed by Egyptian officials, who dislocated her shoulder and broke her arm. She was then put on a plane and deported to Turkey, where she is now seeking medical treatment. We speak to her by telephone from the airport medical facility. Benjamin had intended to meet up with international delegates before traveling to Gaza for a women’s conference.

Whatever happened to that long ago line “you can’t do this to me. I’m an American”? Maybe times have changed.

Please read the whole thing before continuing on here.

Fernandez has long been one of the Right's most astute and valued commentators upon international events. He sees clearly that our pullback -- in terms of armed force; in terms of economic dynamism; in terms of border control; and otherwise -- has been noted and correctly evaluated by the more aggressive powers of the world. But more to the point, underlying his insights is the unspoken foundation of relations among nation-states, once made explicit by Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister of the British Empire:

"We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual and these interests it is our duty to follow."

Indeed. It's a point I've made elsewhere:

The States of Earth exist in an anarchic relation to one another. Each has its own regional code of law, which might differ markedly from all the others. Despite several thrusts at the matter over the centuries, there is no "super-State" to enforce a uniform code of law over them all. More, they view one another as competitors in many different areas; their populations and institutions are often in sharp economic competition with one another. Thus, they are often at odds. They resolve important disputes among them through negotiation or warfare.

...and one that the Kumbaya/anti-military/peace-at-any-price types and their plaster saint Barack Hussein Obama are firmly resolved to ignore.

The odd part is that within the sphere of domestic politics, the Left understands the primacy of power very well. Their doctrinal gospeler put it thus:

Alinsky Rule #1: “Power isn't only what you have, it's what the enemy thinks you have."

And a very significant component of that aggregate is your enemy's perception of your will, or lack thereof, to use it.

There's been a lot of nattering from the Left about the "unacceptability" of invading "a sovereign nation" in our enlightened age. Seems to me that we did that -- twice -- back in the early Oughts. No one thought twice about it back least, no one worth listening to. But then, we in the Right mostly grasp something else the Left is resolved to ignore, which I've written about more than once:

One of the key concepts in international political discourse is sovereignty: the attribute a State possesses when it is effectively unchallenged within its boundaries, and is conceded by other States to be legitimate in that position. At one time, we spoke of "sovereigns" -- kings -- who were literally the personal possessors of the power of their States. Today the concept is more diffuse, extending to the government as a distributed entity rather than to an absolute monarch.

Sovereignty is less a thing possessed by right than a thing conceded. The concession is important, for a State is unlikely to be able to hold its own against any and all opposition. A sufficiently large, sufficiently well motivated coalition of other States could bring it down. So State A's sovereignty depends more on the indulgence of other States, for whatever reasons, than on its claims to legitimacy.

Now and then that becomes rather obvious. The Taliban claimed sovereignty over Afghanistan, but America decided otherwise. Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist dictatorship claimed sovereignty over Iraq, but once again, America decided otherwise.

Similarly, Ukraine claimed to be sovereign over the Crimea, but Vladimir Putin has decided otherwise. Unless an armed force should arise capable of repelling his troops and restoring the Ukrainian government to control of that region, and unless that force acts to do so, Putin's notions about sovereignty over the Crimea will hold the field.

When John Randolph wrote that "You may cover whole skins of parchment with limitations, but power alone can limit power," he was speaking of the Constitutional separation of powers within the federal edifice. Yet his observation is even more pertinent to international relations -- and once again, the Left is firmly resolved to ignore it.

In Foundation and Empire, the second volume of Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy, a lone individual and the enforcers of a future State have a most instructive clash:

    A dark giant, in lieutenant's uniform, followed them; dark of skin, hair, and scowl.
    The dark man spoke with the dangerous softness that meant he had little need of shouting to enforce his whims. He said, "Are you the man who notified us?"
    The guard was still holding his wrenched hand, and with a pain-distorted face mumbled, "I claim the reward, your mightiness, and I acuse that man --"
    "You'll get your reward," said the lieutenant, without looking at him. He motioned to his men. "Take him."
    Toran felt the clown tearing at his robe with a maddened grip.
    He raised his voice and kept it from shaking. "I'm sorry, lieutenant, but this man is mine."
    The soldiers took the statement without blinking. One raised his whip casually, but the lieutenant's snapped order brought it down.
    His dark mightiness swung forward and planted his square body before Toran. "Who are you?"
    And the answer rang out: "A citizen of the Foundation."
    It worked -- with the crowd, at any rate. The pent-up silence whine broke into an intense hum. the Mule's name might excite fear, but it was, after all, a new name, and scarcely stuck as deeply in the vitals as the old one of the Foundation -- that had destroyed the Empire -- and the fear of which ruled a quadrant of the galaxy with ruthless despotism.
    The lieutenant kept face. He said, "Are you aware of the identity of the man behind you?"
    "I have been told that he's a runaway from the court of your leader, but my only sure knowledge is that he is a friend of mine. You'll need firm proof of his identity to take him."
    There were high-pitched sighs from the crowd, but the lieutenant let it pass. "Have you your papers of Foundation citizenship with you?"
    "At my ship."
    "You realize that your actions are illegal? I can have you shot."
    "Undoubtedly. But then you would have shot a Foundation citizen, and it is quite likely that your body would be sent to the Foundation -- quartered -- as part compensation. It's been done by other warlords."
    The lieutenant licked his lips. It was true.

Dr. Asimov was no hawk. Yet it's clear that he understood.

The margin of international dominance that once applied to the United States of America -- formed of unequaled economic and military might and asserted by heads of state who knew both their duties and the tools at hand -- no longer exists. Barack Hussein Obama has labored diligently to dissipate it.

Governor Jindal was corect. It's high time, and well past, that we revisit our assessment of Obama -- indeed, of any and all persons allied to him -- as "a smart man."

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