Middle-Aged Men More Right-Wing, Iran Hawk Pompeo Sworn In

Mike Pompeo’s confirmation does not bode well for the Iran deal.

Lyman Stone writes in The American Interest that in both Germany and the United States (and I imagine in other Western democracies too, but I only know for sure about the Netherlands), men are more likely to vote for the far right than women. Middle-aged men in particular.

Stone volunteers various explanations:

  • Changes in the global economy have systematically disfavored historically male-dominated industries.
  • Men are more likely to take a protective or defensive view of nationhood.
  • Men are pulled toward more radical politics of many varieties and just happen to be ticked off at their former political home.

Stone also finds that support for Germany’s Alternative was lower in those parts of the former East Germany that were Prussian before communism and highest in Saxony, a state with a long history of radical politics.

“Radicalism, the appeal of revolutionary protest politics, is less about coherent policy platforms,” he argues, “and more about the appeal of mob, tribe and movement.”

Mike Pompeo sworn in as secretary of state

Former CIA director Mike Pompeo has been sworn in as American secretary of state after being confirmed by the Senate on Thursday.

The upside is that, unlike his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, Pompeo appears to have President Donald Trump’s trust, which means he can be an effective envoy.

The downsides:

  • Pompeo opposes the Iran nuclear deal and has called for regime change in Tehran. Trump’s new national security advisor, John Bolton, shares both views. That makes it more likely Trump will withdraw from the 2015 agreement, which could cause a rift in transatlantic relations (European allies support the deal), convince Iran to restart its nuclear program and make it harder to negotiate a similar agreement with North Korea.
  • Pompeo hypes the threat of radical Islamic and calls those who disagree with his far-right views apologists for terrorism.

Meanwhile, Trump’s nominee to lead the Veterans Administration, his doctor, Ronny Jackson, has withdrawn amid scandal. “Only the best people,” remember?

Americans, work less!

Elizabeth Bruenig argues in The Washington Post that Americans spend too much time working and don’t take leisure seriously.

Any European who has lived in the United States can attest to that.

[W]e should focus more of our political energies on making sure that American workers have the dignity of rest, the freedom to enjoy their lives outside of labor and independence from the whims of their employers.

It’s not just about quality of life; this is an economic issue. Studies have found that working more than fifty hours per week — one in two Americans does — is bad for productivity. Not to mention your health.

Thoughts on World Order

I’m about halfway through Henry Kissinger’s World Order. Two insights stand out for me:

  1. Power needs to be paired with legitimacy. It used to be that the United States had both. Now it’s shedding legitimacy. Europe, strong on legitimacy, still struggles with the power element in international relations.
  2. The value of ambiguity. It was a desire for clarity, pursued in the mistaken belief that this would be more ethical, that led to the firm alliances which turned a small Balkan crisis into World War I. Today, China and the United States are partners as well as competitors. That is a good thing. The challenge is finding the right balance between the two, not picking one or the other.

Another lesson from World War I (not original to Kissinger, but it never hurts to repeat this): In the absence of strategy, tactics prevail.