Sunday, August 31, 2014

Deep Racial Divide Remains Under Obama: Note for a lecture, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States Unied."

Deep Racial Divide Remains Under Obama

America’s racial divide not only remains but has deepened in some ways over the last six years, despite hopes President Obama’s election would usher in a “post-racial” America.

The shooting of an unarmed black man and resulting rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, is only the latest racial flashpoint in Obama’s tenure, which has featured tense, racially-charged debates over issues like the arrest of a black Harvard professor and Obama friend in front of his house and the resulting “beer summit,” the expansion of voter ID laws, and the killing of Trayvon Martin.

“We’re nowhere near a post-racial society,” says Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown sociology professor who has written several books on race in America.

Blacks and whites still see a number of issues in dramatically different ways, most notably in policing. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center not only showed a vast gulf between black and white perceptions of the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown and its aftermath, but even that blacks were paying much more attention to the news in Ferguson than whites.

Huge disparities remain between whites and blacks, who tend to earn less money, graduate from college at lower rates and are more likely to be unemployed. Politics too remains a major divide, as the president, like past Democratic candidates, won more than 90 percent of the black vote and less than 40 percent of support among whites in 2012. Only two of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate are black and only one of the nation’s 50 governors.

“We did a survey in 2009 that showed increased optimism among blacks about race relations. There was a sense that things were improving,” said Carroll Doherty, Pew’s director of political research. “That has kind of receded over time. African-Americans are still supportive of Obama, but the sense of black progress that you saw early in Obama’s term has leveled off if not receded.

It’s about time we start addressing the underlying issues of race and racism that continue to exist between and among black and white America

The racial dynamics of America are, of course, much more complicated than a generation ago. The nation’s 54 million Latinos, while not as large a force in voting, actually outnumber its 42 million blacks. There is a growing population of Asian-Americans and bi-racial Americans.

Whites are only 63 percent of the country’s residents, compared to 80 percent in 1980.

And America has changed in the last generation markedly, going from a country that created huge barriers to prevent African-Americans from voting to one where a higher percentage of blacks voted than whites in 2012.

“To dismiss the magnitude of this progress, to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed -- that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years,” Obama said in a speech last year at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

But Ferguson has suggested that the black-white divide in particular endures in some communities.

“Not really surprised by differing perceptions of Ferguson. It is an extension of how both groups see law enforcement. Because many black citizens have witnessed interactions like the one Mike Brown had with police officers, they are simply more suspicious, and rightfully, than their white counterparts,” said Mark Anthony Neal, a Duke university professor of African and African-American Studies.

Obama of course never claimed he would heal America’s racial divide, and it would be impossible to expect one person to do so. He has acknowledged the inspiring speech he gave in 2004 about bringing people of all races into unity has not become a reality during his tenure.

“My speech in Boston was an aspirational speech,” he told The New Yorker earlier this year. “It was not a description of our politics. It was a description of what I saw in the American people.”

“There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president,” he added. “Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president.”

Obama has tried to be a unifying figure in terms of race. He annoyed some of his black supporters when he told Black Enterprise in 2012, “I'm not the president of black America. I'm the president of the United States of America,” when he was asked about the plight of black businesses during his administration. He often suggests, as he did to The New Yorker, his race both has benefits and costs.

At the same time, Obama has tried to address some specific challenges blacks face. For example, his administration has urged schools to stop expelling or suspending students who misbehave, as African-American boys are those most likely to be removed from the classroom. That initiative is part of “My Brother’s Keeper,” a comprehensive program Obama has started that is designed to combine both private and government resources to focus on problems that specifically affect young black and Hispanic boys.

And Obama’s administration has been notable for its diversity, placing the first black heads in departments like Justice and Homeland Security.

Obama has “put into motion a set of criminal justice reforms that will have their greatest effect on communities of color and most notably the African-American community,” Wade Henderson, president and chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said in an interview earlier this year. “I consider that a major, major step forward.”

Many black citizens have witnessed interactions like the one Mike Brown had with police officers, they are simply more suspicious, and rightfully, than their white counterparts

But black leaders and intellectuals are increasingly questioning if Obama’s approach is effective.

“My Brother's Keeper is lacking because it leaves out women and girls of color. It's not racial justice if it leaves out half the race,” said Paul Butler, a Georgetown law professor who specializes in civil rights issues. He added, “And MBK is too focused on fixing black men, but Ferguson demonstrates it's the keepers, like the police, who need fixing, not black men.”

Questions about race in America are much deeper than what happens in Washington or to elites like the president. The rise of figures like Obama in politics and even entertainers like Oprah Winfrey suggest a level of progress that has not reached other African-Americans.

The Urban Institute, a non-partisan think tank, estimates that the recession exacerbated a huge wealth gap that already existed. From 2004 to 2010, whites lost 1 percent of their wealth, while blacks lost 23 percent and Hispanics lost 25 percent, according to the institute. The average white family has about six times the wealth of the average black or Hispanic one.

The black poverty rate is about 25 percent, compared to 11 percent for whites.

With the racial divide still so obvious, key figures in both parties are increasingly looking beyond Obama and acknowledging race in frank ways that the president often avoids.

In the wake of the Ferguson shooting, both Hillary Clinton and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican likely to run for president, suggested blacks were right to be skeptical of the American policing system.

“We cannot ignore the inequities that persist in our justice system, inequities that undermine our most deeply held values of fairness and equality, “ Clinton said in a speech last week.

She added, “Imagine what we would feel and what we would do if white drivers were three times as likely to be searched by police during a traffic stop as black drivers instead of the other way around, if white offenders received prison sentences 10 percent longer than black offenders for the same crimes, if a third of all white men -- just look at this room and take one third -- went to prison during their lifetime. Imagine that. That is the reality in the lives of so many of our fellow Americans and so many of the communities in which they live.”

A group of civil rights leaders and other progressives are now circulating a petition urging the Obama administration to create a “police czar” who would monitor local law enforcement agencies across the country.

“It’s about time we start addressing the underlying issues of race and racism that continue to exist between and among black and white America,” said Michael Steele, former head of the Republican National Committee.

Others say it may be time to retire the term and aspiration of a “post-racial” society. The goal should not be that race is ignored, but that racial discrimination is eliminated and diversity is prized.

“That shouldn’t even be our aim, said Dyson, referring to the post-racial notion. We should try instead for a post-racist society, where equality and justice are at the center of our concern.”

First published August 31st 2014, 5:01 pm

Putin - President of Dagestan?

All-Russian Youth Forum "Seliger-2014": Vladimir Putin visits the 10th All-Russian Youth Forum "Seliger-2014". Under the current session "Generation Znany" forum gathered graduate students and young teachers of history, political science, sociology, philosophy and economics from the Russian regions -

Meeting with members of the forum "Seliger-2014"
August 29, 2014 Tver region, Seliger
President discussed with the forum participants topical issues of political and economic life of the country, and international problems.

Among the exchanges:

[A participant in the forum] Теперь перейду к третьей части своего вопроса. Это предложение. Владимир Владимирович, Вам осталось несколько лет в качестве Президента.

В.ПУТИН: Спасибо за доверие!

Г.ИБРАГИМОВ: У меня предложение к Вам, Владимир Владимирович. Не рассмотрите ли Вы возможность возглавить Республику Дагестан после своего президентского срока?

В.ПУТИН: Спасибо.

Г.ИБРАГИМОВ: Я надеюсь, мы выйдем в республики-доноры вместе с Вами, и я даже готов возглавить Вашу предвыборную кампанию. Но если так случится…

В.ПУТИН: Спасибо. Я не знаю, удастся ли мне справиться с московской бюрократией.

Putin on Crimea

All-Russian Youth Forum "Seliger-2014": Vladimir Putin visits the 10th All-Russian Youth Forum "Seliger-2014". Under the current session "Generation Znany" forum gathered graduate students and young teachers of history, political science, sociology, philosophy and economics from the Russian regions -

Meeting with members of the forum "Seliger-2014"
August 29, 2014 Tver region, Seliger
President discussed with the forum participants topical issues of political and economic life of the country, and international problems.

Among the exchanges:

ВОПРОС: Здравствуйте, Владимир Владимирович!

Меня зовут Кирилл, Таврический национальный университет, Симферополь.

У меня несколько вопросов на самом деле. Первый – немного, наверное, абстрактный. На данный момент западное сообщество считает Крым всё-таки «серой землёй», до сих пор не признало его как часть России. И с этим связано очень большое количество бытовых трудностей в сфере бизнеса и так далее.

Вот мне хотелось бы узнать: может быть, есть какие-то прогнозы по поводу того, когда может свершиться полное признание? Или чем мы как жители или местное правительство может помочь ускорить этот процесс?

В.ПУТИН: Что касается Крыма, то мы много об этом говорили, и я думаю, что если выбирать между тем, что происходит на Донбассе, и тем, как люди в Крыму живут, то любой здравомыслящий человек выбрал бы сегодняшнее состояние Крыма. Я уже не говорю о душевном порыве, который крымчане испытывали и до сих пор испытывают при воссоединении с Россией, за что мы, кстати говоря, очень благодарны крымчанам, потому что они продемонстрировали, что такое патриотизм.

Но это не значит, что нет бытовых вопросов. Проблема, связанная с признанием, – думаю, что это будет решаться долго и нудно. И для меня это странно, потому что действительно то, что произошло с Сербией, с Косово, это говорит о том, что когда есть политическая воля и желание, то очень легко признаются те решения, которые в Косово произошли или произошли в Крыму.

Напомню, само Косово объявило о своей государственной самостоятельности в результате принятия решения парламентом, и всё. Там никакого даже референдума не было. А в Крыму у вас что произошло, что вы сделали? Вы приняли: а) решение парламента о независимости, а потом на базе проведённого референдума приняли решение о присоединении к России. Это гораздо более демократический способ определения своей судьбы. Кто может отказать народу в праве на самоопределение?

И когда я со своими западными коллегами на этот счёт дискутирую, ответа на это нет, поверьте мне, нет ответа, да и быть не может, потому что мы поступили не только в полном соответствии с международным правом, кстати говоря, с Уставом Организации Объединённых Наций, где прямо записано право на самоопределение, причём это отфиксировано как цель Организации Объединённых Наций. Это первое.

Второе. Мы основывали всё, что мы сделали, на воле народа, на воле людей, которые в Крыму проживают. Но действительно в этой связи возник целый ряд бытовых проблем, технических, экономических, финансовых. Наша задача в том, чтобы их минимизировать, свести к нулю, а затем и создать на территории Крыма субъекты Федерации опережающего развития. Можем ли мы это сделать? Конечно, можем.

Вы знаете, что сейчас уже принято решение о том, что в социальной сфере, в сфере заработных плат бюджетников, пенсионного обеспечения жители, которые проживают в Крыму, должны быть на общероссийском уровне. Это касается и социальных пособий, в том числе, я уже об этом говорил, получения материнского капитала.

Раньше у нас было так, что люди, которые становятся гражданами России, получают всё, что положено гражданам России вне зависимости от того, где они раньше жили и что они раньше получали. Но это речь шла о единицах людей, здесь речь идёт о миллионах, тем не менее Правительство Российской Федерации приняло решение, что мы ничего в этом плане не меняем, и все крымчане, которые имеют право на материнский капитал, будут его получать.

Мы будем развивать финансовую сферу, как бы кому нравилось или не нравилось, будем поощрять финансовые учреждения, там работать, будем создавать новые рабочие места. И я уверен, просто абсолютно убеждён в том, что Крым станет не дотационной территорией, а станет субъектом, который будет генерировать необходимый доход для собственного развития и будет вкладывать соответствующие ресурсы в федеральный бюджет.

И потом Крым, безусловно, вернётся к своей функции всероссийской здравницы. Вот по очень многим направлениям будем двигаться. Я уже говорил об этом, в Крыму недавно разработана программа объёмом 700 миллиардов рублей. Безусловно, всё будем реализовывать. Может быть, даже ещё и побольше, имея в виду, что культура Крыма нуждается в прямой поддержке из федерального бюджета.

Это уже не только для самого Крыма – для всей страны, потому что Крым неотъемлемо связан с историей Российской Федерации, я имею в виду и художников, и писателей, которые там жили, и государственных деятелей. Всё это подчёркивает не только неотъемлемую связь Крыма с Россией, но и Крыму придаёт определённый статус. И в этом направлении будем двигаться обязательно.

Putin: Germany (not China?) part of BRIC?

All-Russian Youth Forum "Seliger-2014": Vladimir Putin visits the 10th All-Russian Youth Forum "Seliger-2014". Under the current session "Generation Znany" forum gathered graduate students and young teachers of history, political science, sociology, philosophy and economics from the Russian regions -

Meeting with members of the forum "Seliger-2014"
August 29, 2014 Tver region, Seliger
President discussed with the forum participants topical issues of political and economic life of the country, and international problems.

Among the exchanges:


Вот на авансцену мировой политики выходят такие государства, как Индия с более чем миллиардным населением; я бы сказал, что и Федеративная Республика Германия – это уже не та страна, которая вышла из Второй мировой войны и несла весь груз трагедии, которую Гитлер навязал немецкому народу.

Сегодня кто-то пытается ещё сохранить на немцах печать вины за всё, что Гитлером было сделано. Мы не должны забывать о том, что произошло, и делать выводы, но немецкий народ не должен нести ответственность за то, что Гитлер наворотил, понимаете, на тысячу лет вперёд, потому что попытка возложить на него ответственность после Первой мировой войны привела ко Второй на самом деле.

Поэтому и Федеративная Республика Германия, и Бразилия, которая вышла на авансцену мировой политики очень уверенно, Индия, о которой я сказал, другие страны претендуют, некоторые африканские страны, ЮАР претендует на то, чтобы получить достойное место в числе постоянных членов Совета Безопасности. Нам, я считаю, нужно идти к реформированию при двух обязательных условиях.

Putin on Kazhahstan

All-Russian Youth Forum "Seliger-2014": Vladimir Putin visits the 10th All-Russian Youth Forum "Seliger-2014". Under the current session "Generation Znany" forum gathered graduate students and young teachers of history, political science, sociology, philosophy and economics from the Russian regions -

Meeting with members of the forum "Seliger-2014"
August 29, 2014 Tver region, Seliger
President discussed with the forum participants topical issues of political and economic life of the country, and international problems.

Among the exchanges:

А.САЗОНОВА: Добрый день, Владимир Владимирович!
Меня зовут Сазонова Анна, я и мои коллеги представляем РУДН, университет дружбы народов.
В.ПУТИН: Имени Патриса Лумумбы?
А.САЗОНОВА: Да, бывший, сейчас он по-другому называется.
Сегодня не смолкают разговоры по поводу национализма на Украине. Но нас беспокоит и другая ситуация, связанная с ростом националистических настроений в Казахстане, в частности на юге страны. На наш взгляд, сдерживающим фактором данного явления является действующий Президент господин Назарбаев. Также существуют трудности с адекватным восприятием российской политической риторики казахами. В частности, можем это видеть в интернете, в деятельности общественных организаций и при личном общении. Вопрос: стоит ли нам ожидать развития украинского сценария в случае, если господин Назарбаев покинет пост Президента? Есть ли стратегия по работе в данном направлении? У нас есть предложения, хотели бы присоединиться, если, конечно, это возможно. И каковы перспективы евразийской интеграции?
И немного от меня: Вы очень хорошо выглядите, Вам очень идёт кардиган.
Спасибо большое.
В.ПУТИН: Вот это кардиган называется? (Смех.) Хорошо, спасибо за комплимент.
Я хочу сказать по поводу Казахстана. Казахстан – это наиболее близкий нам стратегический союзник и партнёр. Во-первых, Президент Назарбаев жив, здоров, слава Богу, и никуда пока не собирается, но, естественно, как человек очень опытный, мудрый руководитель, он всегда думает о будущем своей страны.
Что касается отдельных высказываний в интернете, каких-то дискуссий с гражданами Казахстана, то это вполне естественно, что там могут быть высказаны самые разные точки зрения, люди разные. Эта, конечно, страна по населению в 10 раз меньше, чем Россия,  там, сколько, 15 миллионов, но всё-таки это большая страна, по европейским меркам. Но я убеждён в том, что подавляющее большинство граждан Казахстана выступают за развитие отношений с Россией, мы это видим и  знаем.
Вот вы знаете, что Назарбаев очень грамотный руководитель, я думаю, что на постсоветском пространстве он, может быть, самый грамотный, он бы никогда не пошёл против воли своего народа. Он это тонко чувствует, он тонко чувствует, чего народ ждёт. И всё, что сделано за последнее время, благодаря, конечно, в значительной степени его организаторскому таланту, его политическому опыту, это всё находится в струе интересов Казахстана как государства.
Я уже говорил, что он совершил совершенно уникальную вещь: он же создал государство на территории, на которой государства не было никогда. У казахов не было государственности никогда – он её создал. В этом смысле он для постсоветского пространства уникальный человек и для Казахстана тоже. Но, повторяю, дело не только в нём – дело в настроениях общества, большинства, подавляющего большинства общества.
И вот то, что мы сейчас делаем по строительству Таможенного союза, Единого экономического пространства и Евразийского союза, а это, кстати, его идея – Евразийский союз, я должен это признать, это не я придумал, это он придумал, и мы помогаем, то есть мы включились все в эту работу и её доводим до логического завершения, – это основано и на значительном… Философы знают, вот эта евразийская идея, как она развивалась, кем она поддерживалась в России самой. И казахи её подхватили, они исходят из того, что это выгодно для них, выгодно для развития экономики, выгодно для того, чтобы оставаться на пространствах так называемого большого русского мира, который является частью мировой цивилизации, выгодно с точки зрения развития промышленности, передовых технологий и так далее. Я убеждён, что так оно и будет на среднесрочную и на долгосрочную историческую перспективу.

Putin on history textbooks

All-Russian Youth Forum "Seliger-2014": Vladimir Putin visits the 10th All-Russian Youth Forum "Seliger-2014". Under the current session "Generation Znany" forum gathered graduate students and young teachers of history, political science, sociology, philosophy and economics from the Russian regions -

Meeting with members of the forum "Seliger-2014"
August 29, 2014 Tver region, Seliger
President discussed with the forum participants topical issues of political and economic life of the country, and international problems.

Among the exchanges:

П.САДОВНИКОВ: Владимир Владимирович, здравствуйте! Меня зовут Садовников Павел, я аспирант-историк Российского университета дружбы народов.

Вам недавно представили концепцию единого учебника истории, но мы, молодые историки, вот авторы перед Вами, решили пойти дальше и создали учебник для школы «История России (2014–2045)». Если Вы позволите, наши авторы дадут Вам эту концепцию, чтобы Вы с ней ознакомились, можно?

В.ПУТИН: Конечно.

П.САДОВНИКОВ: Эта концепция была создана Центром исторической экспертизы и государственного прогнозирования, который был открыт у нас недавно в РУДН. Почему мы пошли на такой рискованный шаг и даже немного дерзкий? Если мы не будем знать контуры будущего – мы не будем знать, к чему мы будем стремиться, каким вызовам и угрозам противостоять и что делать сейчас.

Владимир Владимирович, так получилось, у меня сегодня День рождения. Для меня будет самым большим подарком, если Вы лично ознакомитесь с этой концепцией и поддержите наш проект и наш Центр.

Спасибо Вам большое.

В.ПУТИН: Мы, во-первых, поздравляем Вас с Днём рождения. Сколько Вам лет исполнилось?

П.САДОВНИКОВ: 25, четверть.

В.ПУТИН: Четверть как раз, юбилей. Как будете отмечать?

П.САДОВНИКОВ: Я уже отметил. Я Вам дал свой учебник, и я очень рад этому.

В.ПУТИН: Честно не отвечает, уклоняется от прямого ответа, ладно.

Я, естественно, не читал, поэтому мне трудно сделать пока какие-то выводы. Портрет хороший, но это необязательно. Конечно, нужно посмотреть, что там внутри, по содержанию надо посмотреть, я не готов ответить. Введение, заключение – всё есть.

На самом деле, мне кажется, что мы с вами знаем: Карамзин, Соловьёв и так далее – это фундаментальные исследования. Но здесь всё очень коротенько и кратко, но такие вещи тоже нужны, я говорю сейчас без всякой иронии. Нужна такая квинтэссенция нашей тысячелетней истории.

Разумеется, вопрос, насколько талантливо это сделано. Я не могу сделать выводы, просто подержав книжечку в руках, даже если она с моим портретом, но я исхожу из того, что вы люди молодые, талантливые, потому что неталантливые люди не стали бы этим заниматься, вы знаете, моё глубокое убеждение.

История – один из самых любимых мною предметов, и мне кажется, что историей могут заниматься только увлечённые, полностью погружённые туда люди, во всяком случае сделать её своей профессией могут только вот такие фанатики в известном смысле. Я с удовольствием посмотрю.

У нас, как вы знаете, большие дискуссии были по поводу того, что хорошо для молодых людей, для школьников, что плохо; хорошо ли иметь единую концепцию. Я свою позицию высказал, могу ещё раз повторить: я считаю, что единая концепция преподавания истории и учебника нужна. Это не значит, что преподаватели, тем более люди молодые, увлекающиеся наверняка различными историческими теориями, самостоятельно анализирующие и первоисточники, и последующие документы, что у них нет собственного мнения, они не имеют право интерпретировать как-то по-своему те или другие исторические события и давать им свои оценки. Наоборот, это предполагает такую творческую работу и самим, и с аудиторией, и со школьниками, но это не исключает того, что у нас должна быть какая-то каноническая версия, используя которую, талантливые преподаватели могли бы доносить до ученика свою точку зрения.

Самое главное – научить ученика самостоятельно мыслить и самому оценивать те или другие события, не навязывая эту свою точку зрения и не навязывая даже то, что изложено в учебнике. На мой взгляд, это самая главная задача преподавателя – научить ученика самостоятельно работать и думать. Я обязательно ознакомлюсь с вашей работой.

Chef in chief Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin speaks on "the culinary arts"

All-Russian Youth Forum "Seliger-2014": Vladimir Putin visits the 10th All-Russian Youth Forum "Seliger-2014". Under the current session "Generation Znany" forum gathered graduate students and young teachers of history, political science, sociology, philosophy and economics from the Russian regions -

Meeting with members of the forum "Seliger-2014"
August 29, 2014 Tver region, Seliger
President discussed with the forum participants topical issues of political and economic life of the country, and international problems.

Among the exchanges:
D.DOZBOROV: City Volgodonsk, Rostov region, Denis Dozborov. In particular, about judo and sambo, where I wanted to start. Since 2010, in the city of Volgodonsk in the morning, realizing our project, all children do exercises. It would be desirable in principle to the whole of Russia did it in the morning before the training process.
But it's not that. The fact is that today the third gym class, it was introduced as an innovative, as I understand it, and we are now preparing with the city Department of Education to enter the third gym class sambo and judo for boys and girls - let's say, yoga, fitness, sports dancing, cooking, nutrition in general. To have direction ...

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Of all the arts, for us the most important is the culinary arts, and here of all sports cooking - the best sport.
( Laughter. ) [in Russian-language  transcript: Из всех искусств для нас важнейшим является кулинарное искусство, а здесь из всех видов спорта кулинария – самый лучший спорт. (Смех.)]

Image from, with caption: Advertisement poster for the 2004 rebranding relaunch of the Putin Poutine ! fast food chain, popular particularly in the eastern provinces of Canada. After the 2004 relaunch, the chain renamed itself to Uncle Volodya's, to capitalize on the popularity of the company's CEO and mascot, Uncle Volodya Poutine (civilian birth name Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin).

The Putin family emigrated to Canada from the Soviet Union in the late 1950s and settled down in Quebec. They eventually started doing business with their own little restaurant. While struggling at first, they took a liking to the increasingly popular, locally invented recipes - among them poutine - and decided to experiment with hybridizing them with traditional Russian recipes or ingredients. The restaurant's unique approach helped it to quickly build up a good reputation throughout all of Montreál [JB note: I am not responsible for this misplaced accent], leading to the eventual opening of a chain of local restaurants. Utilising the lucky resemblance of their surname to the name of the Canadian fries-based dish, the Putins christened the chain Putin Poutine (the ! was added in the 1980s, as part of an effort to make the chain's branding "more hip"). In the following decades, the growing company expanded throughout the entire province of Quebec, and then into the maritimes and even Ontario. Despite the economic slump the company experienced in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the 2004 rebranding seems to have done the trick. As the optimistic slogan of the rebranding campaign promised, the characteristic "oh so Russian flavour... on very Quebecois poutine !" has been preserved and further improved. Uncle Volodya's is now as popular as ever...

Is Owning Overrated? The Rental Economy Rises: Note for a lecture, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

Claire Cain Miller, "Is Owning Overrated? The Rental Economy Rises," New York Times

Things that you can now rent instead of buying: a power drill, a song, a tent, an office for an hour, a Prada handbag, a wedding dress, a painting, a dog, your neighbor’s car, a drone.

This new way of consuming — call it the Netflix economy — is being built by web start-ups that either rent items themselves or serve as middlemen, connecting people who want something with people who own it. They are a growing corner of the broader sharing economy, in which people rent out rooms in their homes on Airbnb or drive people in their cars with Uber or Lyft. Soon, tech entrepreneurs and investors say, we’ll be able to rent much of what we always thought we must own.

It is no coincidence that many of these companies — like Rent the Runway for designer dresses and Getaround for private cars — were born during the financial crisis, when people needed new ways to save money, as well as new ways to make it. The ones that have survived and grown during the recovery could herald a cultural shift away from the overconsumption that has driven so much of American culture — not to mention American debt.

The sharing economy is being built by start-ups, including Rent the Runway, which rents out designer fashions. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times
“It’s very counterintuitive from the old individualistic American culture, where what people aspire to has been increasing amounts of privacy, gated communities, owning your own,” said Juliet Schor, a sociology professor at Boston College who is studying the sharing economy for a MacArthur Foundation research project. “So it is a real twist on where values, sensibilities and culture have been.”

Then again, it might just be a new way to fuel conspicuous consumption, albeit in a more financially responsible and potentially less wasteful way. In other words, for some it is less about saving the planet than being seen in the latest, unaffordable Versace gown.

Either way, the entrepreneurs say the rental economy is part of a growing, post-recession movement to value experiences over possessions. Anticipating a new belonging can bring more happiness than actually owning it, studies have shown, and everyone knows how quickly the glow of a new purchase wears off.

“Our value set has changed as a younger generation,” said Jennifer Hyman, co-founder and chief executive of Rent the Runway. “We are now in a state of mind where we want to acquire more experiences. The 1990s ‘MTV Cribs’ show-off-how-much-money-you-have generation is over.” (The customer who rents that $1,895 Versace gown for $80 might disagree.)

Even as the economy improves, there is evidence that people might have a chastened approach to discretionary spending. Though overall consumer spending has returned to pre-crisis levels, it has been rising at a disappointing rate, and the biggest increases are coming from necessities like food and transportation as opposed to small luxuries like apparel and entertainment.

Before the recession and before she was a senator, Elizabeth Warren was a professor at Harvard Law School, and she found that Americans were winding up in debt and without nest eggs not because of spending on clothes, gadgets or restaurants but because of spending on the basics of middle-class life, like homes and cars.

So could the answer be to forgo ownership of everything else?

In many ways, renting is just a continuation of what people have always done — borrowing a cup of sugar or a pick-up truck from a neighbor. The difference is that technology has made borrowing possible at a broader scale, and between strangers. Social networking profiles and rating systems offer a level of trust and verification, and mobile phones equipped with GPS take much of the work out of pairing people. Examples are TurningArt for renting artwork, Pley for renting Legos and LiquidSpace for renting an office by the hour.

Still, the services raise questions for consumers — mainly around trust. What happens if someone stains the dress being rented, crashes the car or loses the dog? (The companies have different ways to deal with the risks, including insurance policies, contracts and fees.)

Rent the Runway, which was started in 2009, said that so far this year, new customers and orders were more than double those of last year. Last month, it expanded beyond fancy dresses to accessories like bags and jewelry, which customers can rent for as long as they desire. Ms. Hyman said this service competes with fast-fashion retailers like Zara, from which people buy things to wear for just a few months.

The idea works best for “fallow assets,” or expensive items that people rarely use, said Aileen Lee, founder of the venture capital firm Cowboy Ventures, who is on the board of Rent the Runway. That is why the company rents cocktail dresses but not jeans.

As for how much this trend will change consumer culture, consider this: People who rent items often end up buying them. Maybe in this economy, people just need a little hand-holding before making big splurges. And particularly for things that wear out, Ms. Schor said, buying might even be the most ecological and economical choice.

When Whites Just Don’t Get It: After Ferguson, Race Deserves More Attention, Not Less: Note for a lecture, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the Unied States United."

Nicholas Kristof, "When Whites Just Don’t Get It: After Ferguson, Race Deserves More Attention, Not Less," New York Times

MANY white Americans say they are fed up with the coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. A plurality of whites in a recent Pew survey said that the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.
Bill O’Reilly of Fox News reflected that weariness, saying: “All you hear is grievance, grievance, grievance, money, money, money.”
Indeed, a 2011 study by scholars at Harvard and Tufts found that whites, on average, believed that anti-white racism was a bigger problem than anti-black racism.
Yes, you read that right!
So let me push back at what I see as smug white delusion. Here are a few reasons race relations deserve more attention, not less:
• The net worth of the average black household in the United States is $6,314, compared with $110,500 for the average white household, according to 2011 census data. The gap has worsened in the last decade, and the United States now has a greater wealth gap by race than South Africa did during apartheid. (Whites in America on average own almost 18 times as much as blacks; in South Africa in 1970, the ratio was about 15 times.)
• The black-white income gap is roughly 40 percent greater today than it was in 1967.
• A black boy born today in the United States has a life expectancy five years shorter than that of a white boy.
• Black students are significantly less likely to attend schools offering advanced math and science courses than white students. They are three times as likely to be suspended and expelled, setting them up for educational failure.
• Because of the catastrophic experiment in mass incarceration, black men in their 20s without a high school diploma are more likely to be incarcerated today than employed, according to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Nearly 70 percent of middle-aged black men who never graduated from high school have been imprisoned.
All these constitute not a black problem or a white problem, but an American problem. When so much talent is underemployed and overincarcerated, the entire country suffers.
Some straight people have gradually changed their attitudes toward gays after realizing that their friends — or children — were gay.Researchers have found that male judges are more sympathetic to women’s rights when they have daughters. Yet because of the de facto segregation of America, whites are unlikely to have many black friends: A study from the Public Religion Research Institute suggests that in a network of 100 friends, a white person, on average, has one black friend.
That’s unfortunate, because friends open our eyes. I was shaken after a well-known black woman told me about looking out her front window and seeing that police officers had her teenage son down on the ground after he had stepped out of their upscale house because they thought he was a prowler. “Thank God he didn’t run,” she said.
One black friend tells me that he freaked out when his white fiancée purchased an item in a store and promptly threw the receipt away. “What are you doing?” he protested to her. He is a highly successful and well-educated professional but would never dream of tossing a receipt for fear of being accused of shoplifting.
Some readers will protest that the stereotype is rooted in reality: Young black men are disproportionately likely to be criminals.
That’s true — and complicated. “There’s nothing more painful to me,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson once said, “than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery — then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”
All this should be part of the national conversation on race, as well, and prompt a drive to help young black men end up in jobs and stable families rather than in crime or jail. We have policies with a robust record of creating opportunity: home visitation programs likeNurse-Family Partnership; early education initiatives like Educare and Head Start; programs for troubled adolescents like Youth Villages; anti-gang and anti-crime initiatives likeBecoming a Man; efforts to prevent teen pregnancies like the Carrera curriculum; job training like Career Academies; and job incentives like the earned-income tax credit.
The best escalator to opportunity may be education, but that escalator is broken for black boys growing up in neighborhoods with broken schools. We fail those boys before they fail us.
So a starting point is for those of us in white America to wipe away any self-satisfaction about racial progress. Yes, the progress is real, but so are the challenges. The gaps demand a wrenching, soul-searching excavation of our national soul, and the first step is to acknowledge that the central race challenge in America today is not the suffering of whites.

Diplomat and Warrior: Richard Holbrooke

Diplomat and Warrior: Richard Holbrooke, the Arlington Cemetery and Lost American Resolve
AUG. 30, 2014

Roger Cohen, New York Times

ON Sept. 8, 2011, Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, wrote to the secretary of the Army requesting that an exception to policy be granted to allow Richard C. Holbrooke to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Holbrooke had collapsed in her office nine months earlier. He died soon after while serving in the most thankless of his many assignments, as President Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Few diplomats throughout history have made as deep and sustained an impact upon the course of war and peace than Richard did, and few civilian leaders have consistently provided more support to the U.S. military,” Clinton wrote in her appeal. “Indeed, his nearly fifty-year career in public service was inextricably intertwined with our military, and, more than once, Richard found himself on the front lines, the living embodiment of ‘one mission, one team.’ ” Arlington Cemetery is reserved for active or retired members of the Armed Forces and their families, but several exceptions have been made over the course of its history in cases of what are deemed to be exceptional civilian service benefiting the military — and sometimes for other reasons.

Clinton, in a two-page letter made available to me, went on to describe Holbrooke’s long diplomatic career — as a young foreign service officer in Vietnam; at the Paris Peace talks that led to the end of that conflict; as ambassador to Germany at a time of post-Cold War military transformation; as the diplomat who “brokered the historic Dayton Accords that brought the bloody war in the Balkans to a close”; and finally in “the most complex and vexing foreign and military policy challenge of our day” in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

That last assignment was particularly “vexing” because Obama and Holbrooke never got along. The “no drama” president had little patience for high-drama Holbrooke. There was no significant place in the president’s young, tight-knit foreign policy team for this man of vast experience and sweeping insights. Holbrooke had backed Clinton during the 2008 Democratic Party primaries; his loyalty was questioned. In an extraordinary put-down, Obama took several staffers with him to Afghanistan in March, 2010, but not Holbrooke, his supposed point man.

In hindsight, this clash offered indications of how Obama’s hesitant foreign policy, forged in that narrow White House circle, would evolve. The president has just declared that “We don’t have a strategy yet.” He was talking about possible military action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (a comment later narrowed by his spokesman to apply to military strikes against ISIS in Syria). The comment, however construed, should not have been uttered. It conveys indecision even if intended to convey methodical caution. It suggests weakness.

The remark was of a piece with others about hitting singles and doubles but rarely more as American president, and running a no-stupid-stuff foreign policy, and various riffs on the limits of American power in a tough world. There is merit to prudence after a season of American rashness. But the appearance of feckless incoherence from the White House is very dangerous — as the eruptions in the Middle East and Ukraine have underscored.

Holbrooke was a passionate believer in American power and its capacity for good. He acknowledged American failings but would never talk down the transformative power of a nation that is also an idea. Realism, even fierce realism, could never efface idealism about America’s ability to spread freedom. It is a pity Obama shunned him. More experienced, battle-hardened voices might have helped the president.

Adm. Michael Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told me he was a strong supporter of the idea that Arlington be Holbrooke’s resting place. “I felt very strongly about it because Richard spent so much time with the military through so many conflicts,” he said. “He was deserving.” But Mullen, who also wrote on Holbrooke’s behalf, believed that only a White House intervention could change McHugh’s decision — and knew that would not be forthcoming. The White House did not respond to emails seeking comment.

My own view of Holbrooke was etched by watching him bring the war in Bosnia to an end — a remarkable achievement involving the full panoply of American power, diplomatic and military. Through skill and conviction at the service of clear strategy, the impossible was achieved at Dayton. Not another shot was fired in anger.

Clinton wrote that Holbrooke was a “great warrior for peace.” As an emblem of service and resolve that America sorely needs today, he was worth an Arlington exception.

On Holbrooke, also see John Brown, "Richard Holbrooke's Public Diplomacy: The Case of the US Cultural Center in Belgrade"; "Richard Holbrooke: Able and Insufferable"; Strategic Communications and the Graveyard of Empires."

Football is America's war game

Football is America's war game: What exactly have we become that makes football the American game?


Sharelines: Football is beautiful, and as American as shock and awe; How would Plato analyze the NFL? Violence as a feedback loop.

The NFL will be visiting London this year. Three regular-season games are set for Wembley Stadium, where the NFL has touched down annually since 2007. It's not surprising that the NFL wants to expand into new territories. Under the logic of capitalism, nothing stays still: You expand or you decline — there is no other possibility.

But will the NFL expand with real success into England or Europe, or much of anywhere else? Could American football ever become what soccer (football for everyone else) is, a truly international game?

I doubt it. I think football is a deeply American game, that it reflects our national identity and national values and that its export is a dubious proposition. The game is played in Canada, to be sure. But I think it's possible that Canadians are absorbed in the game roughly to the extent that they are absorbed in the values and worldview of their neighbor to the south.

"Baseball is what we were," wrote Mary McGrory, longtime Washington Post columnist. "Football is what we have become."

What exactly have we become that makes football the American game?

The best answers are sometimes the simplest. Football is a warlike game and we are now a warlike nation. Our love for football is a love, however self-aware, of ourselves as a fighting and (we hope) victorious people.

Until the end of World War II, it was possible for us Americans to think of ourselves as warlike only by accident. Europe had pulled us into the First World War — there were a great number of Americans who wished us to stay out. And when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, we had no choice but to fight. The soldiers who returned from the war by and large believed that the United States was now finished with conflict, at least for a long time to come. The U.S. was a peace-loving nation and it had earned the right to peace.

But then came Korea, Vietnam, three wars in the Middle East and no end of flare-ups around the world. One may think that our military engagements have been justified. One may think they have been necessary. But it is no longer really possible to think that America is a deeply peaceful, or even a peace-loving nation.

Football is generals (coaches) and captains (quarterbacks) and the enlisted guys who play on the line. Football is about destruction.

That kind of thinking smacks of the era when the national game truly was baseball. That game is skill-based, nonviolent and leisurely. Grunting effort has almost no part in baseball: It's about subtle prowess, well deployed. You can win a baseball game without hating your opponents: In fact, too much passion will probably undermine your skills. But in football, as skilled as its players are, you had best hate your opponent, or at least simulate some hatred for the space of 60 minutes of play.

Football is urban, tough and based to a large degree on the capacity to overwhelm the other team with sheer force. Football is a tank attack, a sky-borne assault, a charge into the trenches for hand-to-hand fighting. Football is following orders and sticking to the strategy; it's about acting as a unit and taking hits for the group. Football is generals (coaches) and captains (quarterbacks) and the enlisted guys who play on the line.

Football is about destruction. Sure, you win by getting more points than the other team, but to get more points, you generally have to slam the life out of your opponents. You try to do away with their skill players — by violence. Knock out the first-string quarterback and chances are you will win.

It is beautiful, to be sure. The wide receiver competes with the ballet dancer in grace and style. The runner recalls the flashing leopard, the tiger on the move. It's lovely to watch. War can be beautiful too, one understands. The bombs create a memorable light; the crack of rifles is its own music.

The rise of football over baseball is about a change in America's self-image. We've been ready to fight always (ask the Indian tribes or the Spanish who controlled much of the Southwest), but we haven't been ready to admit it. Now it's harder to escape the truth.

When people are willing to get publicly enthusiastic about football, they are showing a willingness to get enthusiastic about struggle and strife — maybe even about war, if they feel it is necessary. Granted, almost all games are sublimations of war. But no game is as close to war without slipping over to war as football is.

Aristotle thought that the purpose of a violent spectacle was to purge dangerous feelings from the audience. Tragedy discharged the excess of pity and fear that built up in individuals. They left the theater feeling clean. But Plato says something different. Plato fears that we become what we behold. See violence enacted on a stage and your capacity for violence will increase. To Plato, football would feed a national capacity for violent action and be fed by it in turn.

From this point of view, football and war could enter a mutually energizing relation with each other: the more football, the more war; the more war, the more football. If the modern world is truly a place where a nation must be ready to fight constantly in order to survive, then perhaps football serves a general good. But whether the only way to thrive as a nation and a people is through the capacity for warfare, one can certainly doubt.

The poet William Blake looked forward to a day when the wars of swords would be over and when men and women would hash out their differences through argument and imagination, through what he called the arts of mental fight.

May that day come soon.

Mark Edmundson, an English professor at the University of Virginia, is the author of the just published book "Why Football Matters: My Education in the Game."

See also John Brown, "The Washington Concussions."

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Separated at birth? Dubya/Vova

Some of Putin's facial expressions/tics remind me of George W. Bush 
(you only need to endure the initial seconds of each video):

Boris Akunin speaks ...

From; via AM on Facebook

Во субботу, день ненастный (Отвечаю на вопросы)

Естественно, много вопросов о том, как я оцениваю последние события на юго-востоке Украины и о том, что, по моему мнению, будет со всеми нами дальше.
     Отвечу разом. И в комментах повторяться, а также углубляться в детали не буду.
     Я хожу сейчас по московским улицам, смотрю на людей, слышу обрывки разговоров (дача, первое сентября), и накатывает жуть. Не видят, не хотят знать, не задумываются.
     Люди не виноваты. У них своя жизнь, свои обычные заботы. Но слепота, безмыслие и равнодушие в такие моменты истории дорого обходятся.
     Мою страну ждут тяжелые испытания. Наверное, даже более тяжелые, чем те, через которые проходит сейчас Украина.
     Вот как я оцениваю последние и непоследние события. И вы не представляете, как мне хотелось бы ошибиться.

ГШ, почему вы не эмигрируете? Что вам здесь нравится, или важно для вас, или полезно - что держит? Что вызывает у вас потребность, пусть бы и номинально (или не номинально), оставаться частью того, что называется "Россия"? Как вы писали, раздумья по поводу уехать есть или были.

     Как говорится, в жизни имеет смысл отвечать только на трудные вопросы, остальные являются риторическими. Поэтому вытаскиваю сюда из «Почтового ящика» этот царапающий вопрос.
     Сегодня многие люди моего круга и образа мыслей думают и говорят об эмиграции. Они готовы бороться с правящим режимом за лучшую (в нашем представлении) жизнь, но не готовы бороться с восемьдесят-сколькими-там процентами соотечественников, которым этот режим, судя по всему, нравится. Общее настроение в моей среде такое: «Ну и сидите с вашим Путиным. Когда поумнеете – звоните». Кто-то готовится к эмиграции географической, кто-то – к экзистенциальной, тем более что советский опыт «кухонной микросреды для своих» еще не забылся.
     Теперь лично про себя.
     «Держит» меня в России многое. Многое важно, многое нравится. У каждого из нас ведь своя Россия, правда? Если вы читали мои книжки и видели мои рекомендационные списки для чтения, то вы мою Россию себе представляете.
     С путинской же Россией у меня нет точек соприкосновения, мне чуждо в ней всё. И находиться здесь в период всеобщего помутнения рассудка мне стало тяжело. Поэтому эмигрировать я, конечно, не намерен, но основную часть времени, пожалуй, начну проводить за пределами. Трезвому с пьяными в одном доме неуютно. Буду периодически навещать - смотреть, не заканчивается ли запой.
     А «частью того, что называется Россия» я останусь, в этом смысле экспатриация уж точно невозможна. И Россия, которая является частью меня, тоже никуда не денется.

А теперь – дискотека:

Весь мир отмечает сейчас 100-летие начала 1-ой мировой войны. При написании романа-кино "Смерть на брудершафт" Вы основательно изучили историю этой войны и наверняка задумывались о том, чем могла бы она окончиться для России (а в общем-то и для всего остального мира), если б не большевистский переворот и не последующий Брестский мир: участие России в Версале в качестве державы-победительницы и т.д., и т.п. Не поделитесь ли с нами своими мыслями на эту тему? 

     После ужасного немецкого наступления 1915 года, когда Россия лишилась почти всей регулярной армии, военная победа на Восточном фронте стала невозможна – это надо хорошо понимать. (Знаменитое Брусиловское наступление 1916 года, если посмотреть цифры, стоило нам не меньших потерь, чем австрийцам, и в стратегическом плане мало что дало).
     Монархия привела военную и экономическую систему страны к почти полному коллапсу. Однако Временное правительство вполне могло, не переходя в наступление (как сделал пиарщик Керенский летом семнадцатого), держать фронт и понемногу отступать. Ведь в это время в войну уже включилась Америка, войска и техника которой должны были прибыть на театр военных действий весной-летом 1918 года.
     Если бы не большевистский переворот, немцы, возможно, доползли бы и до Петрограда, но войну проиграли бы, причем на несколько месяцев раньше. Россия оказалась бы среди версальских победителей.
     Много трофеев она, впрочем, не получила бы, потому что добычу дербанят не по заслугам, а пропорционально мощи. Мощь же России была бы подорвана. Нам достались бы какие-нибудь крохи, как слабой Италии. Никаких проливов Россия, разумеется, не получила бы.
    Уцелела бы демократическая республика во главе с Учредительным собранием? Очень маловероятно.
     Думаю, все равно произошла бы ультралевая революция – или ультраправый военный переворот. ХХ век никто не отменил бы, а для ослабленных стран другой альтернативы у него, кажется, предусмотрено не было.  Что хуже, ультралевая диктатура или  ультраправая – вопрос спорный.
     В общем, по большому счету, ехали бы примерно по тем же ухабам.
     Все сие, разумеется, моя субъективная реконструкция. Многие не согласятся.

Григорий Шалвович, как Вы относитесь к современной западной демократической системе (в первую очередь, к выборности)? Вам не кажется, что такая система изжила себя, поскольку:
- любой человек, вне зависимости от интеллекта (Дж.Буш-мл., например), личных и моральных качеств, имея достаточный финансовый (а, значит, и организационный, и - мультимедийный) ресурс может одержать победу;
- большинство может быть неправо;
- нынешняя демократия - это "власть демократов". То есть даже в реально демократических странах (например, в Швеции - кстати, почему-то монархии в наше время - наиболее демократические!) в политику идут дети политиков (ага, через молодежные партийные организации), и многие из них даже не представляют себе, что такое реальная жизнь. /…/
Нужна ли какая-то другая система?
Какова может быть альтернатива существующей системе?

   Ну, давайте пофантазируем. Наверное, меритократия эффективнее демократии. В прекрасном будущем в высшие органы принятия решений будут попадать только люди, обладающие для этого оптимальными интеллектуальными и нравственными качествами. Рассчитывать эти качества будет какая-нибудь высокоточная компьютерная система на основании тысячи разных тестов. 
   Впрочем, в грядущие времена, видимо, всякий род занятий будет подсказываться каждому человеку в соответствии с его потенциалом. Ты только родился, а тебя уже протестировали и выдают рекомендацию: деточка, быть тебе прозектором. Или, не знаю, космическим мусорщиком.  Или балериной.
   Впрочем тогда, наверное, и идеальные семейные пары тоже будут подбираться не по любви, а по соответствию. Решил человек жениться. Загружает свой комплект данных в базу, через минуту ему выскакивает: «Ваша половина живет в Зимбабве, адрес такой-то. При знакомстве дарить абрикосовую пастилу и синие розы». 
   Пока же, увы, людям придется повиноваться  бесхитростному сердцу в вопросах любви и хитрым пиартехнологам в вопросах политики.  

Henry Kissinger on the Assembly of a New World Order


Henry Kissinger on the Assembly of a New World Order, Wall Street Journal

The concept that has underpinned the modern geopolitical era is in crisis

Updated Aug. 29, 2014 12:04 p.m. ET
The concept of order that has underpinned the modern era is in crisis, writes Henry Kissinger. Above, a pro-Russian fighter stands guard at a checkpoint close to Donetsk, Ukraine in July. European Pressphoto Agency
Libya is in civil war, fundamentalist armies are building a self-declared caliphate across Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan's young democracy is on the verge of paralysis. To these troubles are added a resurgence of tensions with Russia and a relationship with China divided between pledges of cooperation and public recrimination. The concept of order that has underpinned the modern era is in crisis.
The search for world order has long been defined almost exclusively by the concepts of Western societies. In the decades following World War II, the U.S.—strengthened in its economy and national confidence—began to take up the torch of international leadership and added a new dimension. A nation founded explicitly on an idea of free and representative governance, the U.S. identified its own rise with the spread of liberty and democracy and credited these forces with an ability to achieve just and lasting peace. The traditional European approach to order had viewed peoples and states as inherently competitive; to constrain the effects of their clashing ambitions, it relied on a balance of power and a concert of enlightened statesmen. The prevalent American view considered people inherently reasonable and inclined toward peaceful compromise and common sense; the spread of democracy was therefore the overarching goal for international order. Free markets would uplift individuals, enrich societies and substitute economic interdependence for traditional international rivalries.
In the Middle East, religious militias violate borders at will. Getty Images
This effort to establish world order has in many ways come to fruition. A plethora of independent sovereign states govern most of the world's territory. The spread of democracy and participatory governance has become a shared aspiration if not a universal reality; global communications and financial networks operate in real time.
The years from perhaps 1948 to the turn of the century marked a brief moment in human history when one could speak of an incipient global world order composed of an amalgam of American idealism and traditional European concepts of statehood and balance of power. But vast regions of the world have never shared and only acquiesced in the Western concept of order. These reservations are now becoming explicit, for example, in the Ukraine crisis and the South China Sea. The order established and proclaimed by the West stands at a turning point.
First, the nature of the state itself—the basic formal unit of international life—has been subjected to a multitude of pressures. Europe has set out to transcend the state and craft a foreign policy based primarily on the principles of soft power. But it is doubtful that claims to legitimacy separated from a concept of strategy can sustain a world order. And Europe has not yet given itself attributes of statehood, tempting a vacuum of authority internally and an imbalance of power along its borders. At the same time, parts of the Middle East have dissolved into sectarian and ethnic components in conflict with each other; religious militias and the powers backing them violate borders and sovereignty at will, producing the phenomenon of failed states not controlling their own territory.
The challenge in Asia is the opposite of Europe's: Balance-of-power principles prevail unrelated to an agreed concept of legitimacy, driving some disagreements to the edge of confrontation.
The clash between the international economy and the political institutions that ostensibly govern it also weakens the sense of common purpose necessary for world order. The economic system has become global, while the political structure of the world remains based on the nation-state. Economic globalization, in its essence, ignores national frontiers. Foreign policy affirms them, even as it seeks to reconcile conflicting national aims or ideals of world order.
This dynamic has produced decades of sustained economic growth punctuated by periodic financial crises of seemingly escalating intensity: in Latin America in the 1980s; in Asia in 1997; in Russia in 1998; in the U.S. in 2001 and again starting in 2007; in Europe after 2010. The winners have few reservations about the system. But the losers—such as those stuck in structural misdesigns, as has been the case with the European Union's southern tier—seek their remedies by solutions that negate, or at least obstruct, the functioning of the global economic system.
The international order thus faces a paradox: Its prosperity is dependent on the success of globalization, but the process produces a political reaction that often works counter to its aspirations.
A third failing of the current world order, such as it exists, is the absence of an effective mechanism for the great powers to consult and possibly cooperate on the most consequential issues. This may seem an odd criticism in light of the many multilateral forums that exist—more by far than at any other time in history. Yet the nature and frequency of these meetings work against the elaboration of long-range strategy. This process permits little beyond, at best, a discussion of pending tactical issues and, at worst, a new form of summitry as "social media" event. A contemporary structure of international rules and norms, if it is to prove relevant, cannot merely be affirmed by joint declarations; it must be fostered as a matter of common conviction.
The penalty for failing will be not so much a major war between states (though in some regions this remains possible) as an evolution into spheres of influence identified with particular domestic structures and forms of governance. At its edges, each sphere would be tempted to test its strength against other entities deemed illegitimate. A struggle between regions could be even more debilitating than the struggle between nations has been.
The contemporary quest for world order will require a coherent strategy to establish a concept of order within the various regions and to relate these regional orders to one another. These goals are not necessarily self-reconciling: The triumph of a radical movement might bring order to one region while setting the stage for turmoil in and with all others. The domination of a region by one country militarily, even if it brings the appearance of order, could produce a crisis for the rest of the world.
A world order of states affirming individual dignity and participatory governance, and cooperating internationally in accordance with agreed-upon rules, can be our hope and should be our inspiration. But progress toward it will need to be sustained through a series of intermediary stages.
To play a responsible role in the evolution of a 21st-century world order, the U.S. must be prepared to answer a number of questions for itself: What do we seek to prevent, no matter how it happens, and if necessary alone? What do we seek to achieve, even if not supported by any multilateral effort? What do we seek to achieve, or prevent,only if supported by an alliance? What should we not engage in, even if urged on by a multilateral group or an alliance? What is the nature of the values that we seek to advance? And how much does the application of these values depend on circumstance?
For the U.S., this will require thinking on two seemingly contradictory levels. The celebration of universal principles needs to be paired with recognition of the reality of other regions' histories, cultures and views of their security. Even as the lessons of challenging decades are examined, the affirmation of America's exceptional nature must be sustained. History offers no respite to countries that set aside their sense of identity in favor of a seemingly less arduous course. But nor does it assure success for the most elevated convictions in the absence of a comprehensive geopolitical strategy.
— Dr. Kissinger served as national security adviser and secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford. Adapted from his book "World Order," to be published Sept. 9 by the Penguin Press.