Sunday, February 23, 2014

Springtime in Kiev, or Just Another Winter Storm. By Walter Russell Mead.

Springtime in Kiev, or Just Another Winter Storm. By Walter Russell Mead. The American Interest, February 22, 2014.

Five Lessons for Kiev from the Arab Spring. By Juan Cole.

5 Lessons for Kiev from the Arab Spring. By Juan Cole. History News Network, February 23, 2014. Also at Informed Comment.

Yulia Tymoshenko Is Freed as Ukraine Leader Flees. By Andrew Higgins and Andrew E. Kramer. New York Times, February 22, 2014.

A new day in Ukraine: Political uncertainty sweeps divided nation. By Phil Black, Steve Almasy, and Victoria Butenko. CNN, February 23, 2014.

Tymoshenko returns to Kiev after president’s impeachment. Video. Reuters, February 22, 2014. YouTube.

Tymoshenko: “Their blood will not beforgotten.” Video. Reuters, February 22, 2014. YouTube.


The dramatic overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Saturday, as he fled the presidential palace and it was occupied by extreme nationalists, recalls events in the Middle East in 2011.
The crisis in the Ukraine was provoked last fall when Yanukovych reconsidered earlier moves toward integration with Europe. He is from the east of the country, which has many ethnic Russians and which is economically, culturally and historically deeply entwined with Russia. The offer by Russian President Vladimir Putin of $15 billion in aid helped to make Yanukovych’s mind up.
In my view U.S. aggressiveness in the past twenty-three years is part of the problem here. The U.S. insisted on expanding NATO by absorbing former Warsaw Pact members and humiliating Russia. The rise of Putin is in part a reaction against that humiliation. Russia is reasserting itself as a great power, carving out spheres of influence in the old nineteenth-century way. Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Syria are in those spheres of influence. In the nineteenth century, wars often were caused by one country not respecting another’s proclaimed spheres of influence.
Both liberal and right-wing youth in the west of Ukraine as well as in the southern capital of Kyiv (Kiev) were upset by the turn away from Europe. They hope for Ukraine to become a member of the European Union and entertain hopes that this step would improve their economic prospects. (Given the sad economic state of Spain, Greece and other EU members, including persistent unemployment of a quarter or more of the youth, this conviction is a little difficult to understand). The more extreme nationalists are reacting against what they see as Russian dominance (a mirror image of right-wing Greek politics, which is anti-liberal and anti-EU).
Yanukovych was forced to give up the enhanced powers he had grabbed for himself and to restore the 2004 constitution. Parliament immediately acted with its renewed powers, and impeached Yanukovych. Street politics did the rest.
The country is now in turmoil. Formerly jailed opposition leader Tymoshenko has been freed from a seven-year jail sentence (she ran against Yanukovych in 2010 and when she lost he imprisoned her). She had played a role in the Orange Revolution a decade ago, but has high negatives and some charge she is corrupt. She has announced she will run for president in elections now scheduled for May.
Here are some parallels to the Arab upheavals of 2011 and suggestions for how Ukraine can avoid another failure in transitioning to democracy:
#1. It is good that the Ukraine military has declared neutrality. In Libya and Syria military intervention turned peaceful protests into a civil war. In contrast, in Tunisia, the military declared neutrality, which contributed to that country’s peaceful transition.
#2. Geographical divisions such as those in the Ukraine can be deadly to political progress. The grievances of the easterners in Libya have affected oil production. Likewise, in Yemen some of the post-revolution violence and protests have come from southerners unhappy at northern dominance. Despite their victory on Saturday, the western forces would be wise to seek a compromise with the east rather than simply attempting to dictate to the latter.
#3. The economy is key. People want employment and they want predictable currency rates for imports. Despite the severe economic problems in the European Union and in the U.S., the latter two must step up to help in a serious way or a limping Ukrainian economy could provoke further turmoil. Whereas in Tunisia modest growth was restored in 2012 and 2013, in Egypt a declining pound harmed citizens dependent on imported goods (including food, since Egypt can no longer feed itself). In Tunisia there was a successful transition to new elections. In Egypt, a vast popular movement challenged the elected president and then the military moved against him. Differing economic performance is part of the reason.
#4. Political compromise is necessary. Allies of Yanukovych may wish to run in the May elections. They should be allowed to (I’m assuming that since parliament impeached Yanukovych he won’t be eligible to complete his term or run for a new one.) Tunisia’s elite hammered out and abided by difficult compromises.
#5. Extremists can play spoiler. The Ansar al-Sharia in Libya and other extremist groups have made it difficult for that country to move smoothly toward a new Brazil. The equivalent group in Tunisia, by assassinating two left wing politicians, roiled politics in 2013.
It turns out that it is easier to get rid of a government you don’t like than to actively acquire a government you do like.

The Two Ukraines: Strategic Consequences. By Walid Phares.

The Two Ukraines: Strategic Consequences. By Walid Phares. History News Network, February 22, 2014. Also at

Will Ukraine Break Apart? By Masha Lipman. The New Yorker, February 20, 2014.

Is It Time for Ukraine to Split Up? By Brian Whitmore. NJBR, February 21, 2014.


The world is now experiencing the reality of two Ukraines rising out of this former Soviet Republic. The main overarching question to be considered from the Kremlin to the White House is about the strategic consequences. How will these two entities coexist, who will become their allies, how will this divide affect regional alliances and international politics? Another series of perhaps even more dramatic questions may also arise regarding the distribution of power between these two entities—as it pertains to Moscow’s position, possible intervention and reaction to what it may consider a Western advance into its southern flank. It may be too early for daily observers and political analysts focusing on the tactical considerations to weigh in. There is an endless number of situations that may go awry and clashes to calm down—not to mention the rising tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine, but on the global scale, in a historic perspective, the dice have been irreversibly rolled: the two peoples forming the Ukrainian nation have now separated on the ground after the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych from his presidential palace in Kiev. Two authorities have been declared within the country, one declared by the parliament and the other by eastern local governments in the provinces. After months and weeks of confrontation in Kiev’s downtown, a violent outburst between the demonstrators and the police forces led to a long-brewing explosion. The clashes showed the depth of disagreement, but they did not create it. European mediations and road maps were not expected to succeed since the issue was not about a new election or even about corruption. Such political crises are omnipresent within all countries experiencing transition, but the problem in Ukraine was one on a greater scale.
Historically, from before, during and even after the end of the Cold War, there were two cultural views in the country that became Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Western Ukraine, a land of farmers and Catholics, has been looking toward Europe—where other former Eastern bloc members Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic ended up after the Cold War. Eastern Ukraine, closer to Russia, industrial and mostly Orthodox, has been looking toward Moscow as their historical ally. These were, in fact, two nations contained in one set of borders, a phenomenon experienced by dozens of official nation-states around the world, such as in Czechoslovakia, Georgia, former Yugoslavia and Cyprus. Some of these bi-national states can manage the internal differences as relative successes of institutionalized liberal democracies, such as in Canada and Belgium. Others descend into violence and chaos—as in Syria, Lebanon and Sudan. Czechoslovakia underwent the swiftest separation in the history of the world between its two “peoples.” But Ukraine’s politicians, dismissing the fact that their constituencies were culturally divided, vied for two decades for “all of Ukraine.” Both sides claimed the entire country as part of their universal views. Governments and oppositions succeeded in power, but the deeper issue of identity was never addressed. Each camp accused the other of corruption, un-patriotism and violence, and both sides felt they represented the “true values of the country.” But it was a country of two peoples, a matter Ukrainian politicians and many of their intellectuals refused to admit.
The 2014 urban explosion in Kiev and across the country unleashed the profound realities, rocketing them to the surface. The president represented the “Eastern side” of Ukraine, and the opposition and its bloc in parliament represented the “Western side” of the same country. The deepening clashes in the capital ignited the underlying cultural differences into political action. Within days, the towns and villages along the Polish borders declared their rejection of Kiev’s government. And after the capital fell into the hands of the protesters, backed by their lawmakers, the provinces in the East gathered under one leadership to reject the new government. Ukraine is now two—regardless of how events develop from here.
The geopolitical consequences, hard to discern in the fog of confrontations to come, are nevertheless projectable. The Europe Union will move to link up with and absorb Western Ukraine. It may be slow and gradual, but it will eventually happen. Millions of skilled workers in those provinces are needed by Europe’s economies. Russia will cast its strategic umbrella over Eastern Ukraine and notify the West that any further advance into their core ally will be a crossing of a red line, prompting Moscow’s direct intervention. Western Ukraine will become a partner of European countries, and some will welcome them warmly, such as Poland and the UK.  Others, such as France, will be more cautious partners, fearing Ukraine’s Russian sympathies. Eastern Ukraine will find itself a direct ally of Russia and will insure to the latter greater facilities on the Black Sea. In fact, the core strategic interest Moscow has in Ukraine—with or without President Putin—are the seaports of the Black Sea, the only operational bases for Russia’s southern fleet throughout the year. If these ports fall under Western Ukraine, Russia will consider it as a casus belli, and Russia may move militarily on the ground. If these ports remain under Eastern Ukraine’s Kharkov’s control, the balance of power may be seen as maintained.
The battle for Ukraine could have an impact on many strategic levels in the Middle East and other regions. In Syria, Assad’s regime will lose meaningful Russian logistical support if Crimea goes west. Iran’s Ayatollahs would also feel the impact if Russia emerges weaker from the confrontation. The impact could be felt as far as Venezuela and the Pacific depending on how Ukraine’s domestic strife evolves or resolves. The hope now is that Washington will play smart cards and transform the dividends of the outcome into gains for freedoms around the world. The last few steps in U.S. foreign policy, however, have not been encouraging.

Wikimedia Commons.

The Outdated Business Model of Diversity, Inc. By Victor Davis Hanson.

The Outdated Business Model of Diversity, Inc. By Victor Davis Hanson. National Review Online, February 20, 2014.


In today’s divided society, universities would be wise to stress unity and academic rigor.
Diversity has become corporatized on American campuses, with scores of bureaucrats and administrators accentuating different pedigrees and ancestries. That’s odd, because diversity  no longer means “variety” or “points of difference,” in the way it used to be defined.
Instead, diversity has become an industry synonymous with orthodoxy and intolerance, especially in its homogeneity of political thought.
When campuses sloganeer “celebrate diversity,” that does not mean they encourage all sorts of political views. If it did, faculties and student groups would better reflect the U.S.’s political realities and might fall roughly into two equal groups: liberal and conservative.
Do colleges routinely invite graduation speakers who are skeptical of man-made global warming, and have reservations about present abortion laws, gay marriage, or illegal immigration — if only for the sake of ensuring diverse views?
Nor does diversity mean consistently ensuring that institutions should reflect “what America looks like.”
If it did, all sorts of problems could follow. As we see in the NBA and NFL, for example, many of our institutions do not always reflect the proportional racial and ethnic makeup of America. Do we really want all institutions to weigh diversity rather than merit so that coveted spots reflect the race and gender percentages of American society?
Does anyone care that for decades the diverse state of California’s three most powerful elected officials have been most undiverse? Representative Nancy Pelosi, Senator Barbara Boxer, and Senator Dianne Feinstein are all mature women, quite liberal, very wealthy, married to rich professionals or entrepreneurs, and all once lived within commuting distance of each other in the Bay Area.
Is the University of California, Berkeley, ethnically diverse? If it were, Asian students might have to be turned away, given that the percentage of Asian students at UC Berkeley is about three times as great as the percentage of Asian residents in California’s general population.
Gender disparity is absolutely stunning on American campuses. Women now earn about 61 percent of all associate degrees and 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees. With such disproportionate gender representation, do we need outreach offices on campus to weigh maleness in admissions? Should college presidents investigate whether the campus has become an insidiously hostile place for men?
Diversity, Inc. is also based on a number of other shaky fundamental assumptions. Race, gender, and politics are supposed to count far more in a diverse society than other key differences. Yet in a multiracial nation in which the president of the United States and almost half the Supreme Court are not white males, class considerations that transcend race and gender often provide greater privilege.
Is the daughter of Hillary Clinton in greater need of affirmative action or diversity initiatives than the children of the Oklahoma diaspora who settled in Bakersfield? So-called “white privilege” might certainly describe the elite networks of insider contacts who promote the scions of Al Gore, Chris Matthews, or Warren Buffett. But how about the son of an unemployed Appalachian coal miner? Not so much.
If ethnic, rather than class, pedigrees provide an edge, how do we ascertain them in today’s melting-pot culture? Does the one-quarter Latino student, the recent arrival from Jamaica, or the fourth-generation Japanese American deserve special consideration as “diverse”? And if so, over whom? The Punjabi American? The Arab American? The gay rich kid? The coal miner’s daughter? Or the generic American who chooses not to broadcast his profile?
Does Diversity, Inc. rely on genetic testing, family documents, general appearance, accented names, trilled pronunciation, or just personal assurance to pass judgment on who should be advantaged in any measurement of diversity?
In such an illiberal, tribally obsessed, and ideologically based value system, it is not hard to see why and how careerists such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and activist Ward Churchill were able to fabricate helpful Native American ancestries.
Diversity came into vogue after affirmative action became unworkable in the 1980s. Given the multiplicity of ethnicities, huge influxes of new immigrants, and a growing rate of intermarriage, it became almost impossible to adjudicate historical grievances and dole out legal remedies. So just creating “diversity” — without much worry over how to define it — avoided the contradictions.
But diversity is not only incoherent; it is ironic. On a zero-sum campus short of resources, the industry of diversity and related “studies” classes that focus on gender or racial differences and grievances crowd out exactly the sort of disciplines that provide the skills — mastery of languages, literature, science, engineering, business, and math — that best prep graduates for a shot at well-compensated careers.
Red/blue state divides have never been more acrimonious. The number of foreign-born citizens is at a record high. The global status of the United States has never been shakier. To meet all these existential challenges, American institutions — the university especially — would be wise to stress unity and academic rigor.
People in the Balkans, Rwanda, and Iraq certainly championed their ethnic differences in lieu of embracing concord and ethnically and religiously blind meritocracy.
Tragically, these are also examples of where the logic of privileging differences, and dividing and judging people by the way they look and what they believe, ultimately ends up.

Yesterday’s Man: An Imagined Dialogue Between Warren Christopher and Hafez al-Assad. By Thomas L. Friedman.

Yesterday’s Man. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, March 19, 1995.

Yesterday’s Man: The Sequel. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, March 22, 1995.

Revised and expanded version in The Lexus and the Olive Tree. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. Pp. 271-275.

Andrew Klavan’s One-State Solution: Give the Middle East to the Jews.

Andrew Klavan’s One-State Solution: Give the Middle East to the Jews. Video. PJ Media, June 2, 2011. YouTube.