Macron’s German Challenge, What America Should Attempt in Syria

French president Emmanuel Macron gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 17
French president Emmanuel Macron gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 17 (European Parliament)

Eric Maurice writes in EUobserver that French president Emmanuel Macron’s biggest challenges comes from Berlin, where Angela Merkel and her conservative party are skeptical of plans to create a European Monetary Fund and establish a European deposit insurance scheme to protect savers:

Although the two plans were initiated by the EU before Macron took them, their rejection would signal a clear rebuttal of the French president’s more ambitious proposals for the longer term.

Merkel hasn’t ruled out a European Monetary Fund, but — like the Dutch and other deficit hawks in the north of Europe — she wants it to be an “intergovernmental”, as opposed to an EU-led, institution.

Germany isn’t in favor of creating a eurozone budget and finance minister either.

I predicted in September that these would be the most difficult items on Macron’s wishlist, but other things are still doable: harmonizing corporate tax rates and asylum procedures, creating an EU military intervention force, reforming the Common Agricultural Policy. Read more “Macron’s German Challenge, What America Should Attempt in Syria”

Americans Want Voting Reform, Analysis of Trump’s Attack on Syria

An old-fashioned lever voting machine used in New York City, New York, November 4, 2008
An old-fashioned lever voting machine used in New York City, New York, November 4, 2008 (Caren Litherland)

A Voice Of the People poll has found (PDF) majority support in the United States for introducing ranked-choice voting.

Also known as instant runoff, it would allow Americans to vote for third-party candidates without wasting their votes. Maine is the first state to consider it.

Another way to break up the Democratic-Republican duopoly would be to consolidate congressional districts.

I would support either. The two-party system has polarized Americans. We see in Europe that multiparty democracies are better at managing tensions. Read more “Americans Want Voting Reform, Analysis of Trump’s Attack on Syria”

Please Don’t Worry About World War III

An American EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush on deployment in the Mediterranean Sea, June 9, 2017
An American EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush on deployment in the Mediterranean Sea, June 9, 2017 (USN/Matt Matlage)

It’s been a while.

As balances become clearer, life is better sorted and all that jazz, I find myself pulled, like the United States in the Middle East, back to the fray. Read more “Please Don’t Worry About World War III”

Everything You Need to Know About the Airstrikes in Syria

EA-18G Growler jet
An American EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush on deployment in the Mediterranean Sea, June 9, 2017 (USN/Matt Matlage)

Britain, France and the United States attacked three targets in Syria last night in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack by Bashar al-Assad:

  1. A scientific research center in the Damascus area.
  2. A chemical weapons storage site west of Homs, which Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said was “the primary location of Syrian sarin … production equipment.”
  3. A chemical weapons equipment storage facility and command post close to the second target.

American defense secretary James Mattis called Friday’s attack a “one-time shot” and emphasized that the strikes weren’t aimed at Assad’s protector, Russia.

President Donald Trump, however, singled out Iran and Russia for their support of Assad.

“What kind of nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?” he asked. “We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.” Read more “Everything You Need to Know About the Airstrikes in Syria”

Italy’s Democrats Split, EU Victory for Macron, Doubts About Syria Strikes

Rome Italy
Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II in Rome, Italy (iStock/Spooh)

Italy’s Democrats are split on whether to negotiate with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

At a party meeting on Tuesday, former ministers Dario Franceschini and Andrea Orlando argued for coalition talks.

The alternative, a Five Star government with the xenophobic (Northern) League, would make Italy look “like Hungary,” Franceschini said.

However, centrists loyal to the outgoing leader, Matteo Renzi, reject a deal.

Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio has said it is time to “bury the hatchet”. His talks with the League have not been going well. But the Five Stars still call for overturning Renzi’s signature labor reforms, which made it easier for firms to fire and hire workers. Read more “Italy’s Democrats Split, EU Victory for Macron, Doubts About Syria Strikes”

Orbán’s Rebellion, Liberal Democracy and Trump’s War in Syria

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán and Russian president Vladimir Putin answer questions from reporters in Moscow, February 17, 2016
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán and Russian president Vladimir Putin answer questions from reporters in Moscow, February 17, 2016 (Facebook/Viktor Orbán)

Hungary’s Viktor Orbán is likely to win reelection on Sunday. The Washington Post has a good story about the rebellion the EU faces in Central Europe. For more on the political trends Orbán embodies, read:

  • Jan-Werner Müller: We are doing Orbán a great favor by accepting him as any kind of democrat. It is democracy itself — and not just liberalism — that is under attack in his country.
  • Tom Nuttall: Orbán’s depiction of himself as an illiberal democrat is largely window-dressing. Were his pollsters to discover that voters were no longer animated by immigration, he would manufacture a different foe. Orbán’s ideologues assemble theoretical scaffolding to justify the channelling of state resources to favored businessmen under the rubric of “economic patriotism”. The EU harbors not an illiberal democracy, but a semi-autocratic kleptocracy in which loyalty offers the quickest route to riches.
  • Dani Rodrik: Liberal democracy is being undermined by a tendency to emphasize “liberal” at the expense of “democracy.” The European Union represents the apogee of this tendency: the delegation of policy to technocratic bodies.
  • Philip Stephens: The West misread the collapse of Soviet communism. It was not, after all, the end of history. Happy assumptions about the permanent hegemony of laissez-faire capitalism and the historical inevitability of liberal democracy were rooted in a hubris that invited nemesis. For all that, the end of the Cold War did produce a big idea. Now, as we are daily reminded by Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, it is being swapped for a very bad idea. Read more “Orbán’s Rebellion, Liberal Democracy and Trump’s War in Syria”

Trump Gives Putin What He Wants, Pulls Support from Syrian Rebels

Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Emmanuel Macron of France inspect an honor guard in Paris, July 13
Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Emmanuel Macron of France inspect an honor guard in Paris, July 13 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

Donald Trump has given Vladimir Putin a win in Syria by withdrawing America’s support from the rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad.

The Washington Post reports that Trump made his decision a month ago, before he met Putin at the G20 in Hamburg.

Russia and the United States seemed on the verge of a confrontation at the time. America had shot down a regime fighter jet that was attacking its allies in Syria. Russia responded by suspending a military hotline with the United States.

It supports Assad, calling him a bulwark against terrorism. Read more “Trump Gives Putin What He Wants, Pulls Support from Syrian Rebels”

Chemical Weapons in Syria Would Cross “Red Line”: Macron

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Emmanuel Macron of France meet outside the Palace of Versailles, May 29
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Emmanuel Macron of France meet outside the Palace of Versailles, May 29 (Elysée)

France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, has warned that his country could strike unilaterally if more poison gas is used in the Syrian conflict.

“If chemical weapons are used on the ground and we know how to find out their provenance, France will launch strikes to destroy the chemical weapons stocks,” he told European newspapers this week.

Macron came to power last month by defeating the Russia-friendly Marine Le Pen in the presidential election. He won a parliamentary majority this month. Read more “Chemical Weapons in Syria Would Cross “Red Line”: Macron”

Why America and Russia Are Closer to Confrontation in Syria

American sailors direct an EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Atlantic Ocean, November 16, 2015
American sailors direct an EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Atlantic Ocean, November 16, 2015 (USN/L.A. Preston)

Russia has suspended a military hotline it maintained with the United States to avoid clashes in Syria and warned that it may shoot down any “flying objects” west of the River Euphrates.

The escalation comes after an American fighter jet shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday that was attacking rebel ground forces supported by the United States in the vicinity of the Tabqa Dam. Read more “Why America and Russia Are Closer to Confrontation in Syria”

Bashar Assad’s Big Push to Recover His Eastern Border

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria enters a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, October 21, 2015
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria enters a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, October 21, 2015 (Kremlin)

Bashar al-Assad hadn’t had control of his Iraqi frontier for years. It’s a major headache; it’s allowed Sunni rebels to supply themselves from Anbar, a favorable route for Gulf states hoping to keep the war going.

It’s also allowed the Islamic State to slide supplies from its shrinking Iraqi domains to its shrunken Syrian ones.

The Islamic State famously demolished the literal border wall between the two countries. That was right after they blitzed across it to capture Mosul in June 2014.

Now Assad’s Iranian and Iraqi allies are hoping to rebuild the border and thereby secure the regime they’ve fought so hard to preserve. Read more “Bashar Assad’s Big Push to Recover His Eastern Border”