Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Realigning Europe and Recalibrating its Center; the Piper will be Paid: Speeches by the Polish and Ukrainian Presidents to the Ukrainian Parliament

 

Pix Credit HERE

 

One of the great ramifications of the proxy war being undertaken in physical form on the territory of Ukraine looks to potentially significantly dynamic power relationships both within Europe, between Europe and their American partners (a marriage that has had its dramatic moments since 1945 but which appears incapable of either equal relations or separation)." One of its potentially more important consequences is on the realignment of relations among states on the Eastern peripheries of Europe  and beyond the western territorial limits of Russia. 

Polish President Andrzej Duda became the first foreign leader to speak to the Ukrainian parliament in person since the war began. Duda stressed his support for Ukraine's bid to join the EU, and said that any territorial concessions to Russia would be a blow for the entire Western world." So it was reported in DW on 22 May 2022. The speech by the Polish President, along with that of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, of course, were richer than  that bare reporting.  And also far more important. Their quick translation into English (like many others) suggests the self-conscious projection of the speeches to different audiences, the messages for which are embedded in different parts of the speeches.

While it appears that the 'bigger fish' in first tier states and their governing cliques (both within and just beyond government) continue to angle for the Prussian solution --a second partitioning of Ukraine (the first of course by default in the conquest of Crimea)--those that have been the subject of these machinations appear to have other ideas.  They have made good their intentions and their resolve in blood, and treasure (recalling the US Declaration of Independence: "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor") as a reproach to the world. That calculus has shifted, of course. The nature of hedging on the parts of the Europeans, the Chinese and the Americans is now plainly visible in the form of the way in which they manifest their contributions to and participation in the non-direct military operations around the  physical fighting (including logistics, support, and targeted projections of power in social, cultural, and economic space). Nonetheless, the fundamental calculus of partition remains unchanged, though now it appears to be shifting toward a smaller partition in the Ukrainian East (and of course Crimea) perhaps to be papered over with some ridiculously absurd conceptual pyrotechnics that will fool fool no one and create future problems for all. 

Yet Poland, along with the Czechs and Slovaks, have now joined with Ukraine to resist.  And they are resisting in quite interesting ways.  The most profound, of course, is the indication of the development of an anti-Franco/German front. This front will target concepts, and politics, as well as the actual management of the war against the Russians. It will become politically dangerous for the current crop of Angela Merkel era ruling intellectuals and influencers along with their allies in the old Carolingian heartland if Ukrainian entry into Europe shifts the balance of the European ideological center. It is to them that some key passages in the Polish Presidential speech were directed ("Unfortunately, also in Europe in recent days, now and then, one has been hearing disconcerting voices suggesting that Ukraine should give in to Putin’s demands. . . As Poland, we have long warned Europe about the imperial inclinations of Russia and Putin. . . Our warnings were downplayed. We were accused of Russophobia." (Duda Speech)).

What that center will look like may be gleaned from the speeches of the Polish and Ukrainian Presidents.  There is more to the speeches, of course--beyond the expressions of common destiny, solidarity and mutual support.  Equally interesting, and resonating with the attempt at Franco-German reconciliation after the 1950s, was the acknowledgement of past grievances and the efforts to overcome them.  

"Enemies on many occasions tried to play us off against each other, to turn us against one another. Also today they attempt to do so by scaring Poles with Ukrainians, and Ukrainians – with Poles. To this end, they exploit painful strains from our mutual past, from our history. But they will not achieve their goal! We have come to know such methods too well. We know that tensions in the Polish–Ukrainian relations serve foreign interests only. And act to our detriment: Poles’ and Ukrainians’ alike." (Duda Speech)

Success on that front, even more than on the battlefield, may increase the likelihood of permanently detaching Ukraine from its Russian past and more solidly aligning Ukraine westward.  It is a pity that this is not better nurtured up the chain of power in the liberal democratic camp. 

Pix Credit HERE
In that respect the quite pointed references to Polish President Lech Kaczyński, killed in 2010 when the plane carrying him and a host of leading officials of Poland crashed in Russia under circumstances that remain unclear after an investigation headed by Mr. Putin. The Polish President had been on his way to to commemorate the Katyn massacre. He had not been a great friend of Russia. As President Duda noted, "The late President Lech Kaczyński spoke about the threat from Russia on many occasions. My professor, my teacher, my president and a great friend of Ukraine. I had a chance to closely follow his struggles for Ukraine and Georgia to be admitted to the North Atlantic Alliance. . . If President Lech Kaczynski had been listened to back then, the aggression of 2014 probably would not have happened, there would not be the current war, there would not have been the massive destruction and human suffering. History would have turned out differently." (Duda Speech). The pointed reference was echoed by President Zelenskyy in his remarks ("Ukraine is already doing this. On the very frontline. It defends not just itself but the whole of Europe. Poles know this, appreciate, respect and help Ukraine - not out of courtesy, but as brothers and allies who remember Lech Kaczyński's words about who could be next. This does not mean fear. This means readiness to face the enemy and repel him."(Zelenskyy Speech)).

Irrespective of the West's failure to grasp the dynamic changes in the East of Europe, the emerging Slavic bloc that may emerge may upend settled political expectations for a long time to come. And ironically enough, given the more flexible posture of the Americans, this bloc may solidify the US-EU partnership, with Washington at the center. "Kyiv is a place from which one can clearly see that we need more America in Europe, equally in military and economic terms." (Duda Speech). And this from President Zelenskyy:

Poland is one of the leaders not only in supporting our state, but also in defending and promoting the sanctions that are absolutely necessary to force Russia into peace. The absolute majority of Poles support the embargo on energy resources from Russia. This is just one manifestation - but how important it is - of our common vision of the political front in this war. I believe that Poland's leadership will help establish at the European level what our nations already understand. The unity of our nations must remain constant. Neither now nor in the future does anyone have the right to break this unity. Neither our politicians, nor hostile agents, nor even members of the jury at Eurovision. The Ukrainian and Polish nations gave each other 12 points - today and forever. (Zelenskyy Speech)

These ought not to be taken as mere  temporary expressions of mutual support in crisis.  They point to a larger and slower realignment. Europe will be unlikely to resist it effectively; the United States may (reluctantly) be driven by it (through its projection in American mass politics).  For Russia and its Chinese partner, that would suggest that their gamble might not have produced the desired result. Their counter-move will be worth watching, and better, anticipating by those at the front lines of this contest.

The text of the speeches of Polish President Duda and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy follow below (in English). President Duda's speech may also be accessed in English on the official website of the Polish President HERE.

Monday, May 23, 2022

US-China Decoupling Gathering Strength-- Border Control for Taboo Goods and Re-Directing Global Supply Chains

 

Pix Credit HERE

 

The decoupling of the two great market drivers of global production is proceeding apace.  It is now well enough advanced that even the relatively official presses in the West are beginning to take notice.  The Wall Street Journal reported (at long last) the slow moving journey of even the stubbornest of the great American drivers of global production (Apple, Inc) that both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump-Joe Biden meant what they said about decoupling and about dual circulation economies. The move is important in two respects.  First with respect to the action by Apple to re-structure its global production to align with markets decoupling; and second focusing on  the decision by the editorial staff of the Wall Street Journal to run the story in a prominent place. Strategically, the action and its announcement in press organs also emphasizes a larger policy trajectory to align defense and production objectives along the new borderlands of post-global empire, while retaining  a more well managed connection between them. The reporting makes this clear enough.

Apple Inc. has told some of its contract manufacturers that it wants to boost production outside China, citing Beijing’s strict anti-Covid policy among other reasons, people involved in the discussions said. India and Vietnam, already sites for a small portion of Apple’s global production, are among the countries getting a closer look from the company as alternatives to China, the people said. * * *   Any move by Apple, the largest U.S. company by market capitalization, to emphasize production outside China could influence the thinking of other Western companies that have been considering how to reduce dependence on China for manufacturing or key materials. Such consideration has stepped up this year after Beijing refrained from criticizing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and carried out lockdowns in some cities to fight Covid-19.  * * * China’s travel restrictions have meant that Apple has curtailed sending executives and engineers into the country over the past two years, making it hard to check production sites in person. Power outages last year also dented China’s reputation for reliability. (Apple Looks to Boost Production Outside China)

One speaks here of dual circulation strategies in the context of two decoupling imperial cores. The Chinese dual circulation policy will acquire teeth, even if understood from the perspective of protecting Chinese economic security against the Liberal Democratic West and meeting the ideological challenge of the principal contradiction at this stage of Chinese historical development  (see eg here, and here). The American project (allied if not entirely aligned with that of the EU) of targeted sanctions, based on security, human rights and sustainability and political-trade objectives will ensure effectively an American version of a dual circulation economy (eg here, and here) despite the skepticism of the influence-chattering classes (eg here) many of whom appear to belief that it is still 2002. 

It is important to emphasize that the policies on both ends emphasize DUAL circulation.  Decoupling ought not to be understood as simpleminded detachment. Rather, decoupling might better be conceptualized as a series of concentric trade (and dynamic) rings. At the core of these rings are the great post-global drivers and consumers of production and their 'inner circle' partners. This core of production and consumption (economic but also cultural production) would be insulated from targeted projections of power from outside. Beyond the core there is a strong trade sector (well managed and subject to intensified surveillance) between the cores. These have been organized for public consumption as either a Belt and Road Initiative or an America First/Brussels Effect structure, through which systems of economic reward-dependency may be organized and protected. One does not speak here about territory or direct control, but of management and mutually beneficial relations along chains of production and consumption (nicely captured by the Chinese discursive 'win-win strategy)  The WSJ story hints at this system. Thus, for example, Apple might continue to rely on another great multinational, Foxconn (Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd., HQ'ed in Taiwan) with strong ties and production capability within and outside of China) for production, but shift the site of that production from Foxconn's Mainland plants to those say in India (see image above).

At the same time, elements of those parts of the state apparatus that drives policy appear to be pushing for more effective use of borders to ensure that taboo goods. The drive is important for the effective implementation of detachment, as these tend to underscore and embody the fundamental  ideological dividing lines between Socialist and liberal democratic production. Its manifestation is built around the implementation of policies of identification of taboo objects of production and the suppression of domestic markets for its consumption. Decoupling, then, is to be manifested at borders.  Among the thought leaders at the official level is the Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC; more here). CECC forms an important element of the emerging US two thrust strategy that complements and mirror the Chinese dual circulation policy (See, The US Two Thrust Strategy Against Chinese Interests on the Anniversary of the Tiananmen Incident: Targeted Sanctions from the Biden Administration; Discursive Projections from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC); see also here).The current focus, and template, is centered around the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. UFLPA "establishes a rebuttable presumption that the importation of any goods, wares, articles, and merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur [SAR], or produced by certain entities, is prohibited . . .  and that such goods . . . are not entitled to entry to the United States." (US Customs and Border Protection Act Information Website). 

CECC recently has lobbied for more stringent enforcement of UFLPA:

Pix Credit and Report here
[The Co-Chairs] released a letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Homeland Security Subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee requesting expanded funding for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to vigorously enforce the import restrictions required by [UFPA]. The Chairs were also joined on the request letter by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ), the CECC’s ranking members. “We championed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act because of the appalling evidence of widespread forced labor in the [Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region], as well as elsewhere in China via coercive labor transfers, and our conviction that U.S. consumers should never be unwittingly complicit in supporting slavery,” said the bipartisan group of CECC Commissioners. “Enactment of this law sent a resounding signal of the U.S. commitment to address the activities that fund genocide, protect U.S. consumers, and defend human rights. Fully funding the CBP request will support the bipartisan, bicameral vision of the U.S. Congress.”

Pix Credit and Timeline HERE
In both cases, the dual circulation (two thrust) policy appears in more visible form.  On the private side, these take the form of more pragmatic judgments about dividing operations and then strengthening supply chains within Chinese and US trade areas in accordance with their respective logic.  At the same time, both public  and private actors will continue to re-constitute trade between the two economic cores, but now more intensely managed through sanctions regimes, national security protocols, product inspection, IP, markets integrity structures, and other regimes that will serve--not as  traditional trade barriers--but as the new porous but managed borders between competing economic cores.  On the one side is the protection of the territorial integrity and economic-political model of Chinese Marxist-Leninism and its spokes through the developing world.  On the other, the post 1945 markets driven and human rights based liberal order with its center in Anglo-European-Japanese convergence and interlinkages. 

For both, a primary objective is the protection of their core institutionalized economic engines (private in the liberal democratic camp and state owned in the Marxist Leninist camp) against interference by the other. For rest of the 'greater' states, each faces both a choice of main patron, and the task of developing  strategies of accommodation that permits survival at worst and development at best.

The full CECC Co-Chairs Letter follows below.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Biden Administration's Cuba Policy Mini Reset

Pix Credit Here

 

 

To the great wailing of those opposed, On 17 May 2022 the Biden Administration announced what amounted to a mini reset of The US's Cuba policy. In many respects it returns the US to something like the US position immediately before Mr. Trump changed it early in his Administration.  Yet in most matters that count, little has changed. The fundamental policy of the United States remains regime change--from a  Marxist Leninist to a liberal democratic, markets driven economic-political model. The tactics revert to something like late-Obama era approaches--emphasizing direct aid to the Cuban population (including aid, facilitation of entrepreneurs, and remittances), facilitation of so-called people to people exchanges, flooding Cuba with Americans, and emphasizing family reunification as the preferred migratory policy (reinstating the Cuba Family Reunification Parole Program), expanding consular services, and continuation to add to the usual layers of the generalized Cuban embargo a set of targeted sanctions to punish what the US will judge to be bad acts by the Cuban state apparatus (including for example, governmental responses to the popular protests of July 2021). And explained by officials at a Background Press Call (18 May 2022),  "the President’s direction has been to find ways to hold the regime accountable and to support the Cuban people. And that’s been what has informed this policy outcome."

Nonetheless, the idea is not qiute to return to the heady days of the Obama administration's Cuba policy:

The announcement, however, fell short of previous polices enacted by the Obama administration. Individual "people-to-people" travel will not be reinstated, for example. A senior administration official said the U.S. also would not remove entities from the Cuba Restricted List, the list of Cuban government- and military-aligned companies that U.S. companies are blocked from doing business with. (Biden eases restrictions on Cuban travel and remittances)

The text of the Background Press Call follows.  

Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Crossover Podcast (Thursday 19 May 2022): Ricardo Komotar and Larry Catá Backer Discuss the End of Roe v. Wade and the Turbulence Left in its Wake

 


 

It was a great privilege to have been invited onto the Crossover Podcast hosted by Ricardo Komotar.  The topic of our discussion was the possible end of the constitutional protection (such as it is) of a woman's autonomy with respect to issues around pregnancy and (especially) its termination which was announced in an irregular way through the the leak of the draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. My initial thoughts on the questions I was asked to consider in preparation for the conversation might  be accessed HERE). 

The  entire conversation may be accessed HERE

_______

I take this opportunity to VERY briefly sketch seven issues around which our conversation was woven.

1. IDEA OF ROE (rights as a political concept) Vs the JURISPRUDENCE OF ROE (debate over state regulatory policy) [long term strategic consequences of reframing the Debate (evident from the early 1990s—Calvo and Rosenstone 1989 Pilot Study].  

--This was the essence of the move from centering rights based discourse in Roe, to the discourse of state authority in Casey (1992) and its "undue burden test." --With rights detached from governance it was then possible to detach the political conversation around fundamental rights from the jurisprudence of institutional integrity and the allocation of power.
--Revert to federalism and reasonable basis approach (slip op. 65- et seq);
--Detached from rights discourse and attached to a discussion of federalism; it was easier to avoid the bother of a jurisprudence of right and replace it with that of institutional allocation of power with its infinitely forgiving so-called "reasonable basis" standard of review of the  validity assertions of power(slip op. 66).
2. Dormant Commerce clause and extraterritorial reach of state bans?
--Burden on interstate commerce versus protectionism versus public policy—
Will likely affect advertising and actors entering BAN state to facilitate travel to NO BAN states.
--1st Amendment Implications: Commercial Speech jurisprudence
--Had been some writing about using Dormant Commerce dastards to attack targeted regulation of abortion provider rules (TRAPs).
3. Right to Travel and state control of terminations 

--Here one enters the world of state barriers to national coherence and coordination targeting activities between people of different states, one of which makes available what the orther bans

--conspiracy, complicity, aiding; private attorney general provisions and the like
--The BATTLE OF THE STATES is already emerging  (from Bloomberg 4 May 2022):
Missouri S.B. 8, Missouri state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R) introduced a proposal in December to allow private citizens to sue anyone who performs an abortion or helps a pregnant person obtain one, even if the procedure takes place outside Missouri.

2005 untested Missouri law: the state passed a law that created a civil cause of action against anyone who helps a minor get an abortion without parental consent or a judge’s permission, even if the abortion takes place in another state that doesn’t require it. Narrowed to state terminations by local Supreme court

California, S.B. 1142, which would provide funding for out-of-state residents who may travel there for an abortion, is scheduled for a May 9 hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee. California lawmakers are also considering a measure to shield those who help a pregnant person travel to the Golden State for an abortion from getting sued.

Connecticut lawmakers passed a bill (H.B. 5414) to shield providers and anyone who travels to the state for an abortion from lawsuits or out-of-state investigations and prosecutions. The law would allow anyone sued by a state that bans abortion to countersue in Connecticut for damages and attorneys’ fees.
4. Religion Clauses: Mostly Free Exercise but perhaps Establishment
--Federal Law protections would include exceptions for Free Exercise under Federal RFRA and Religion Clause standards
--State BANS subject to State RFRA (Irony here is that most state RFRAs are in states likely to BAN terminations).
--Do the bans favor one religion over another and thus violate Establishment Clause (to the extent that I t is driven by privileging one Religion’s views).
--All sorts of subsidiary issues with ambiguity in the jurisprudence ((1) what/where is religious belief under RFRA and under Constitution (need not be the same thing); (2) what is the nature of strict scrutiny applied (how to value state interest); (3)to what extent must the state protect religious practices and belief in the face of a purportedly secular statute; etc; (4) neutrality and general applicability issues (Alito ironically has been a strong advocate of broad protection of religions easily finding lack of neutrality or general applicability).

5. Authority in Constitutional Interpretation
--What is left of STARE DECISIS? Slip op. 35-65 

--The end effectively of stability; or the weakening of the embrace of notions of Supreme Court opinions with legislative effect (Cooper v. Aaron)
--Resurrection of Ed Meese’s argument that it is a shred authority (Tulane Law Review 1986).
--What is the role of interpretation: find the right answer (Precedent weakened (Dobbs)) or the plausible answer (precedent strengthened (Casey)).
--Judicial SUPREMACY: One has to obey Supreme Court Precedent (inferior courts certainly burt maybe also everyone else (Cooper v. Aaron) BUT NOT THE COURT ITSELF. That may affect the dynamics of constitutional litigation
--The NEW STARE DECISIS: TEST FACTORS(slip op. 6):
-“wrong from the start”
-“reasoning exceptionally weak”
-“decision has damaging consequences”
-“fails to produce a national settlement of the issue”
--What is left of the regulatory nature of constitutional interpretation? The better practice now appears to be to refuse to recognize interpretations with which one disagrees and demand reconsideration--over and over--until the conditions for abandonment of the initial (wrong) interpretation occurs. 

--No way out of the resulting jurisprudence trap

6. What is left of Substantive Due Process
--Dobbs draft suggests Roe is a special case; but Dobbs also says one has to get precedent “right”—so not clear what shifting majorities may seek to entertain in the coming years (contraception, Same sex marriage; decriminalization of certain sexual acts, etc.; adultery and fornication laws).
--Dobbs slip op at 5: “any such right must be ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ AND ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty’” citing Washington v. Glucksberg
--The history and traditional test at the forefront: “we must guard against the natural human tendency to confuse what that Amendment protects without own ardent views about the liberty that Americans should enjoy” Dobbs slip op. at 13. 

--Strategic history and semiotic meaning making: (1) where does history start? (2) whose history? Through what lens is it interpreted? Is history the history of opinion or facts of everyday life? Etc. One gets a sense of that from the dismissive tropes used to counter arguments made that history might have an alternative meaning (slip op. 25-30).

-Thus the question for every case: what history?: Dobbs relies on the official history of acts and governmental measures stretching back several hundred years; it ignores history going back to the foundations of Western culture (Rome); and it ignores the social history of abortion and the role of women in giving the effect. The art of instrumentalizing history strategically has been  a weak underbelly of jurisprudence in the US (lawyers make bad historians but better ideological philologists or semioticians) 
--The status of rights embedded in other rights slip op. 30- 32 is rejected. Abortion unique; though that is likely to be tested in subsequent cases.

7. NEXT UP The CONVERSE OF ROE
--Strategies to invert Roe to develop a constitutional protection for life beginning at conception.
--The next big target: the 20th century adminbistrative state and the narrowing of federal authority

8. THE LEAK:

--A court that styles itself a political instrument cannot be surprised if politics creeps into not just its jurisprudence but also its working style.

--CROWDSOURCING JURISPRUDENCE cannot be far off; the Amicus brief as an elitist tool for those with clout--populism in jurisprudence that is more overtly political requires direct connection to the masses; tech makes that now possible.

There were many more questions than answers; and substantial concern about the state of the judicial project and its interposition within the framework of American government--not because it is bad or good, but because it appears now  affect the stability and prosperity of the nation in important ways. Nonetheless, though rich, our conversation was just the start of a very complicated conversation that will touch on virtually every aspect of American life--pulling on the string of Roe v. Wade is an invitation to unravel the bulk of the fabric of American institutional life crafted since the first third of the last century.  There are those who relish this prospect; many don't--whatever their view of the relationship between women, the state, and the state of their reproductive choices. 

As I finished reading the draft opinion in Dobbs, and no doubt as I will finish each of the several concurring and dissenting opinions that this draft will produce, I could not help but return to what for many may be a higher source of insight--to Job 38:2-4 (KJV):


2Who is this that darkeneth counsel
By words without knowledge?
3Gird up now thy loins like a man;
For I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.

4Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Declare, if thou hast understanding.

 We now seem to be in an age where the temptation to make such declarations appears irresistible.


 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Crossover Podcast (Thursday 19 May 2022): Speaking About the Supreme Court Leak, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, and the End of Roe-Casey

 


 I was delighted to be asked to chat with the marvelous Ricardo Kometar about the leak of the draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization for his excellent podcast: The Crossover Podcast.

Both Dobbs and its leak provide a fascinating glimpse at the tremendous transformations occurring at the heart of the liberal democratic constitutionalist machinery so finely developed and cared for by elites since the early part of the 20th century. The Dobbs leak is particularly significant with respect to (1) the substance of the opinion, overturning the Roe-Casey-Whole Women's Health line of cases that had provided some sort protection of a woman's right-power-authority to terminate a pregnancy, even though that protection had been always disputed at the edges; and (2) the leak itself, for what it tells us about the state of institutional decrepitude, both as to the event itself and as to the enormous infatuation cultivated among the masses by those with the power to do so. Together they remind us of the problem that the Supreme Court has represented within our constitutional system almost from the first decades of the Republic (my take here, here, and here).   That last sentiment, of course, is heresy in some quarters, one that was thought to have been stamped out among the ruling collectives with the end of the 2nd World War and the rise of the techno-bureaucratic administrator classes in both business and government. But the heresy is fickle--where the court has pleased its most intimate stakeholders (elite lawyers, academics, and the administrative.-bureaucratic apparatus and its retainers) the functioning of the court and its pronouncements were treated as almost divinely inspired (considered here).  When there was disagreement then the court became horned devils propounding error that would undo the Republic. With the former the narrative of the indispensability of a vigorous court with broad interpretative authority was advanced; with the later, the narrative of erroneous and corrupted officials (in this case judges stepping pout of their role) was advanced. 

Pix Credit: The Puzzling Search for Perfect Randomness
Everyone, or at least anyone worth acknowledging, has been or professed to be passionate about embracing a narrative, emphasized by the named author of Dobbs, that the search for the "right" answer is both a duty of the judge and the apex principle on which constitutional interpretation rests. Justice Alito instructs his readers (Dobbs draft slip op 35-36) "But when it comes to the interpretation of the Constitution—the 'great charter of our liberties,' which was meant 'to endure through a long lapse of ages,' [Martin v. Hunter's Lessee] —we place a high value on having the matter 'settled right.'” That is a dangerous and misguided proposition at variance with the constitutional traditions of the Republic and a respect for the role of the judge  operating within and not above law.  I have never much believed in this principle, nor its narrative, nor its supposition that the Common law and it ideology on which the character and role of this Republic's judges were derived, was ever much preoccupied with perfection. There are "just answers", or "answers that comport with a reasonable reading of text or intent  or the reasoning of prior generations of judges," or "fair answers," or "ideologically driven answers," or even "answers that build collective meaning into words", or "answers that are faithful to a specific perspective of values." But semiotics reminds us that one can never give the correct answer even when one strives for the just one within the constraints of text and tradition.  It is no surprise, then, that what becomes most in cases like Dobbs is not its jurisprudence but its psychology; and text serves merely as the memorialization of an enforced change in communal meaning making in the serve of something other than text itself. What is "right" then becomes something more intimately connected to the imposition of a "right meaning" rather than a "right answer" in a context in which meaning is not itself malleable.

I wrote a short essay about this once:

Americans have been obsessed about the mechanics of perfectibility. Perfectibility is built into the constitutive documents of the American Republic. The expression of that perfection is Law, and Government provides the means. The mechanics of perfectibility lies in philosophy and theology. Through these mechanics Americans can discern the spirit of perfection - as God or as the genius of the American community made manifest. The essay considers these notions in the context of two cases, Swift v. Tyson (1842) and Erie Railroad Co. v. Tomkins (1938), which provide both the antipodes of American conceptions of the sources and hierarchy of law, and also suggest the mechanics of a mandatory perfectibility in American. But the judge is not the only intermediary between perfection and its expression in law. The essay suggests the way the political branches also seek the role of privileged (and uniquely privileged) intermediaries between the people and perfection. The essay ends with a consideration of the value of the theology of faith and reason in the elaboration of American jurisprudence. ('The mechanics of perfection : Philosophy, theology, and the foundations of american law' (Francis J. Mootz & William S. Boyd (eds.), On Philosophy in American Law. Cambridge University Press. pp. 44 (2009).

Plausibility made more sense than perfection (the endless search for the 'right-true-correct' answer) as foundational interpretive doctrine--but the narrative of perfection has been an infection that has been hard to isolate much less cure. Certainly that is what the late Romans thought in the opening of the first book of the Institutes. . . but who reads this old stuff now anyway. . . . Dutifully, that is mindful of a duty to a constructed normative system of right and wrong intimately connected to the judge (and therefore the state), Dobbs takes plausibility off the table--at least as far as five justices are currently concerned--and for the result in this case at least. What is right is the satisfaction of (finally) proving those old justices wrong. At the very least they have taken that off the table when it suits five of them.  And that, indeed, the zealotry of the search for "right" distorts as well as inflates the role of the judge well beyond what it is capable of legitimately containing. It is no wonder then, that people worry about the extent to which virtually every other law of the constitution, built on the now weaker reed of judicial gloss, is also on the chopping block. That chopping block can be brought out at any time--either now or later when the current crop of judges is replaced by another.--perpetuating a state of insecurity in the stability of constitutional gloss.  For this group of justices sex based rules appear high on the agenda, but then so does the reconstruction of a 19th century federal state and the undoing of the 1930s judicial revolution in federal power and the construction of the American administrative state. Fair enough I suppose; nonetheless, for the Republic quite disruptive. For people who believe in the therapeutic qualities of constant states of revolution in society and politics, this may be their day; while it lasts. And with it an interesting wrinkle on theories of continuous revolution once the province of Marxist-Leninist theorists and now in a liberal democratic judicial variation. 

Curiously also off the table--the question around the presumption that the state owns or controls the bodies, minds and souls of the individuals subject to its Republic. In that sense Dobbs merely redirected the source of that power (in states rather than in the General Government) in this case. In all of this, of course, the fundamental question of the extent of public (state) power as parens patriae appears both avoidable and assumed--in the sense that the courts confirm yet again the migration of the power of life and death from the head of family in the Roman Republican and Imperial Eras, to the contemporary American government and its apparatus in this century--and over every aspect of life. This applies as much with respect to the discretionary authority over the bodies of women and their pregnancies, as it does in quite different respect to the parens patriae authority of private economic and social collectives who purchase and consume labor.  Like heroin, once absorbed into the body politic it is hard to find a cure either for the nonsense that the text of the Federal Constitution is made up of "perfect" answers to virtually every problem or that it is to the state alone to determine whether or to what extent an individual may be herself. The jurisprudential methadone available to relieve but not cure this addiction is hardly satisfying.  That would require the return of the search for perfection to a fractured society society; this is something less than acceptable to a nation trying to cobble itself together by some sort of enforced nudging toward an ideal state defined (and redefined) from time to time by those with the power to do so. American Leninism does not consist of a revolutionary party but rather a therapeutic master element willing to assert control in the service of the social, political, and economic ideal. All of these elements are nicely present in Dobbs.

One can surmise from this background baseline that the conversation may be interesting. We will chat about many aspects of the case beyond the technicalities that fascinate lawyers and tend to frustrate the rest of the population. The case is certainly important for its legal ramifications--from its attack on substantive due process and the constitutionalization of human rights, to the reconstitution of federalism, to the diminution of the value of Supreme Court opinions and its precedent (not by inferiors outside the court but by the court in its at least 5-4 majesty from time to time). Nonetheless, cleverness provides its own punishment. Dobbs even in draft form may be one of those jurisprudential moments when the cleverest weaving of multiple strands of jurisprudence can produce a null set or suggest that cloth be purchased elsewhere. In this case in the construction of a broad protection under the Black Letter of the Free Exercise Clause of the 1st Amendment, and of the power of markets and transport. 

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Nonetheless, this collective of justices are not entirely to blame for the state of or more specifically the presumptions of contemporary federal constitutional jurisprudence that can turn rights on and off like a faucet; in this case a leaky faucet.  The judiciary believed they had the power to pronounce a constitutional right in notions of liberty; they now believe they can un-pronoounce it; and they draw on the history of judicial reconsideration of what regrettable decisions (in hindsight mostly) that had to be undone. Nor can they be blamed for being socialized to believe that they have an outsize role in the management of the state. It is only natural given the willingness of the rest of the state apparatus, and the people, to so willingly concede that possibility. The result: the justices must be understood as prisoners of the institutional cultures that generations of judges, elite lawyers and academics, elected officials and societal leaders found convenient through which to build on discursive tropes that they eventually believed (considered here). It was, indeed, a long time coming, woven strand by strand over the course of a century in which societal collectives and the elected branches increasingly found it possible to avoid their duty, and certainly their responsibility to the nation, sloughing it off on the judges who then perhaps out of necessity or perhaps out of pride, took up the challenge. And yet it bears remembering that our courts are much like bitcoin, or most national currencies--they value is wholly a function of what people believe they are worth. And here Dobbs suggests the courts are of two minds.  On the one hand, among themselves,  they believe they are worth very little outside the law of the case: their precedent has as much value as future judges in other cases are willing to give them. On the other hand, with respect to the rest of us, we are meant to take as  inspired--by something-- whatever manifests itself as opinion and at least with respect to inferior courts, be bound by it.  Governmental official resist this narrative when it suits them (for example during the leadership of President Reagan, see here); but are more than happy to use them when convenient.  As for the people, well, they will do what they can, and in the process judicial glosses will become more diminished as a stabilizing source of social solidarity and more valuables a stick to beat political opponents--at least in the realm of judicialized constitutional law glossing (can one use the term law anymore?) with a normative dimension. 

Pix Credit: El Sultán
And thus we speak about the judges the way that in another time and place we might have considered the politics, for a time at least, of the Ottoman Imperial harem (there is a curiously relevant television series built around the legendary Roxanna--Hurrem Sultan playing recently). And we speak about the role of the court in the ordering and protection of our political system; and as the censors of foundational moral-political values. We speak of the courts as the arbiters of division of authority in our political system and all through the process of determining disputes among individual litigants--which have been transformed into contests by collectives for their share of power over others within a Republic much changed from 1798, or 1868, or 1937, or even 1989.  That may or may not be a good-bad-virtuous-evil-necessary etc. thing. The courts, however, have played their role in this very long term transformation.   The abortion of Roe-Casey-Whole Women's Health is just one blip in a very long and complicated road. 

A short list of the questions we may discuss follows

Sunday, May 15, 2022

习近平用青春的智慧和汗水打拼出一个更加美好的中国 [Xi Jinping, Use the wisdom and sweat of youth to work hard to create a better China] Through the Lens of 毛泽东青年运动的方向 (4 May 1939) [Mao Zedong, On the Orientaiton of the Youth Movement)]


Pix Credit HERE

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Senior levels of the central authorities have been focusing a substantial amount of energy--and sharing that expenditure publicly--on the education and expectations of youth, and on the responsibilities of socialist leading forces respecting their education and acculturation. Recently, for example the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference under the leadership of Wang Yang undertook a review of the education of Hong Kong and Macao youth as an integral part of the great Patriotic campaign that was given a new and accelerated direction after the protests of 2019-202 (“进一步提升爱国爱港爱澳力量能力建设” [Further enhance the capacity building of patriotism and love of country for Hong Kong and Macau]) .

The issue of the education of youth, however--and especially in the context of its alignment with ongoing great national patriotic campaigns aligned with the naturalization of the premises that patriotism and the Four Cardinal Principles (四项基本原则--upholding the: (1) Socialist path; (2) peoples' democratic dictatorship; (3) leadership of the Communist Party of China; and (4) Marxism and Mao Zedong Thought) as developed through its contemporary expression as New Era Theory--is also of great significance throughout China (see my Essays on Contemporary China: Heartland, Periphery, and Silk Roads (2021). The theme of much of these efforts may revolve around the insight: Knowledge Must be Correctly Cultivated! Considering 《中小学生课外读物进校园管理办法》in the context of the ongoing great patriotic campaigns. Education, and the proper socialization of youth, is not merely a matter for educational institutions--it is also an inherently political task, the responsibility of which ought to fall on the Party's mass organizations established and operated to those ends. The Communist Youth League has always been at the forefront of those institutional collective efforts. 

It is with this in mind that one can better appreciate the recent reporting of, and the direction to study and implement, Xi Jinping's speech at the celebration of the centenary of the founding of the Communist Youth League of China, Use the wisdom and the sweat of youth to work hard to create a better China (14 May 2022) [用青春的智慧和汗水打拼出一个更加美好的中国] published in the People's Daily by a PD commentator (for the official view for English language readers from the Hong Kong Press see here ("Chinese President Xi Jinping has told members of the Communist Youth League to dare to struggle and 'actively' unify around the Communist Party. '[You] must take the lead in daring to – and being good at – struggle, confront difficulties in the face and overcome hardships,' he said during an event in Beijing marking the youth league’s centenary on Tuesday. 'Members of the league should treat political training seriously and actively seek political progress and unify around the party,” he said. “[You] must strive to be members of the Communist Party.'")). As usual, the summary presents a condensed version of the key principles that are to be advanced.  One that was interesting was 自我革命 (self-revolution, self-criticism,  or the mechanics of personal transformation in Chinese Leninism). It was a topic that has been recently emphasized again, for example by Xi Jinping at the Second Plenary Session of the Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China as reported by Zhang Shihai (张士海 Dean of the School of Marxism, Shandong University) in "Why self-revolution is the second answer to overcoming the historical cyclical pattern" [自我革命何以成为跳出历史周期率的第二个答案] for Communist Party News (21 Jan. 2022).

The courage to self-revolution is a distinctive mark of the proletarian party that distinguishes it from other parties, and it is also an inevitable requirement for the proletarian party to realize its historical mission. Marx and Engels pointed out that what distinguishes the proletarian revolution from any other revolution is that it "often criticizes itself". It is reflected in the proletarian party, manifested as self-purification, self-improvement, self-innovation, and self-improvement in the process of stirring up the turbulent and promoting the Qing Dynasty, reforming the old and making new ones, and then maintaining its vitality forever. [勇于自我革命是无产阶级政党区别于其他政党的鲜明标识,也是无产阶级政党实现其历史使命的必然要求。马克思恩格斯指出,无产阶级革命与其他任何革命不同的地方,就在于它“经常自己批判自己”。体现在无产阶级政党身上,表现为在激浊扬清、革故鼎新中自我净化、自我完善、自我革新、自我提高,进而永葆生机活力。] (Why self-revolution is the second answer to overcoming the historical cyclical pattern)

  Of course, the concept is as old of institutionalized Leninism, and deeply embedded in the discourse, if not the practice of European state Leninism since the days of Stalin.  It acquired something of a new dimension when given Chinese characteristics by Mao Zedong, and then later contemporary manifestations in various forms under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and now Xi Jinping. It has begun to take a form as much as discourse as praxis, and as much as patriotism as it once did as a mechanism for the disciplining of democratic centralism. That is what makes this form of socialist political-collective self actualization so interesting as it is repurposed for the New Era within the framework of Leninist verticalities. 

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But Use the wisdom and the sweat of youth to work hard to create a better China suggests a more comprehensive framework of youth mass organizations as an education center that is essential to and detached from the formal educational structures. Political education is embedded in but also situated outside, the structures and institutions of formal education.  It is an essentially social and political task for which educational institutions are not entirely capable of managing. But it also reaches back for the language and sensibilities of the Communist Party of China in its revolutionary period--except that the central contradiction has shifted from class struggle to more equitable distribution of socialist production and its expansion to social and cultural production. 

That gaze back to the roots of revolutionary organization, by an institutionalized vanguard now well within its 3rd Era as a Governing rather than as a Revolutionary Party, brings one back to the late 1930s and the critical work of Mao Zedong. In this case one time travels back to Mao Zedong, The Orientation of the Youth Movement (speech was delivered by Comrade Mao Tse-tung at a mass meeting of youth in Yenan to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the May 4th Movement (4 May 1939) [青年运动的方向]. One noteworthy passage connects Mao in 1939, to Xi in 2022, connected by the notion of self.criticism as a revolutionary-educational tactic at the heart of the work of youth mass organizations:

Pix Credit South China Morning Post
How should we judge whether a youth is a revolutionary? How can we tell? There can only be one criterion, namely, whether or not he is willing to integrate himself with the broad masses of workers and peasants and does so in practice. If he is willing to do so and actually does so, he is a revolutionary; otherwise he is a non-revolutionary or a counter-revolutionary. If today he integrates himself with the masses of workers and peasants, then today he is a revolutionary; if tomorrow he ceases to do so or turns round to oppress the common people, then he becomes a non-revolutionary or a counter-revolutionary. Some young people talk glibly about their belief in the Three People's Principles or in Marxism, but this does not prove anything. . . . So when we assess a person and judge whether he is a true or false adherent of the Three People's Principles, whether he is a true or false Marxist, we need only find out how he stands in relation to the broad masses of workers and peasants, and then we shall know him for what he is. This is the only criterion, there is no other. (The Orientation of the Youth Movement )

For Mao, the critical orientation was unity with workers and peasants as a function of the central contradiction of the historical era in which he served the state and party. In the New Era that orientation shifts to align with the current central or principal contradiction and expressed in the great patriotic campaigns which are in turn built around principles of stability and prosperity.  It has roots going back, in its current form, to the 爱国主义教育 (Patriotic Education Campaign) of the Era of Reform and Opening Up, and now re-instituted in line with the objectives of the New Era (eg here). 

 

Pix Credit: Xi Encourages Youth to Forge Ahead in a New Journey Toward National Rejuvenaiton
While the conceptual and discursive structures of these projects are well developed, it is as unclear now as it was during the revolutionary period, whether the well conceptualized program will produce the desired results.  Certainly a significant element of youth will be receptive.  The critical question though, is whether a critical mass of youth can be moved at least in the 'right' direction. That, however, can only be guided by theory.  As Xi Jinping as noted--and as expressed by the core of the contemporary principle contradiction-- in the absence of a failure to realize the "Chinese Dream" or some aspects of it (with reference to the principal contradiction of the New Era: the "contradiction between the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life and unbalanced and insufficient development"), the ideological campaigns will be far more challenging.  It is at that juncture, of course, that education, political, and economic policy converge, with policies of social and cultural management.  And in that comprehensive ecology, it is likely that self learning ratings based systems of punishments and rewards for all key social actors (especially those responsible for ensuring that the mass of Chinese people  attain a better life) will likely be necessary.  It is there--not in the self-revolution of youth, but in the accountability and assessment of the senior leadership-- that the future of the CPC and its system lies. That, at any rate, is what its Basic Line and its leadership have suggested now for many years. While foreign disruption is always a factor, it is becoming clear in Marxist-Leninist as well as in liberal democratic systems, that the internal resilience of a system, and the coherence of its ideologies and basic working styles producing effective enough alignments between what is offered and what is delivered, on which future viability is determined. It is the fear that such alignments are not effective that serve as the foundations of revolutionary transformation--in Marxist Leninist and in liberal democratic regimes.

The People's Daily Reporting,  "Use the wisdom and sweat of youth to work hard to create a better China ——On studying and implementing the important speech of General Secretary Xi Jinping at the celebration of the centenary of the founding of the Communist Youth League of China" (14 May 2022 [用青春的智慧和汗水打拼出一个更加美好的中国——论学习贯彻习近平总书记在庆祝中国共产主义青年团成立一百周年大会上重要讲话] follows below in the original Chinese and a crude English translation.  Also included is the English language text of Mao Zedong, The Orientation of the Youth Movement (speech was delivered by Comrade Mao Tse-tung at a mass meeting of youth in Yenan to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the May 4th Movement (4 May 1939)).

 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

“进一步提升爱国爱港爱澳力量能力建设” [Further enhance the capacity building of patriotism and love of country for Hong Kong and Macau]

 

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Wang Yang [汪洋], a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, and Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference chaired a bi-weekly meeting of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference at which it was reported (13 May 2022) that the topic of discussion was “进一步提升爱国爱港爱澳力量能力建设” [Further enhance the capacity building of patriotism and love of country for Hong Kong and Macau].

There is little by way of surprise in terms of policy and implementation by the central authorities of the New Era version of the One Country Two Systems principle. Its peculiar interest was its timing, coming close to the time of the elections held under the new system for Hong Kong, one that has been widely criticized in  the liberal democratic camp (eg here) but which accords well with the continued efforts to more intimately align Hong Kong governance with core principles of Socialist Democracy and Socialist democratic working styles.  Yet that effort, one that helped fuel the protests in 2019 and the legislative interventions of the United States thereafter, is precisely the ongoing "problem" of Hong Kong.  And that was precisely the point of the meeting of the CPPCC National Committee, but pointed in the opposite direction ("The election followed major changes to Hong Kong's electoral laws last year to ensure that only "patriots" loyal to Beijing can hold office. The legislature was also reorganized to all but eliminate opposition voices." Here).  

This is a political line that can be traced back to 1984 and the fundamental approach of the Chinese authorities toward Hing Kong:
Some requirements or qualifications should be established with regard to the administration of Hong Kong affairs by the people of Hong Kong. It must be required that patriots form the main body of administrators, that is, of the future government of the Hong Kong special region. Of course it should include other Chinese, too, as well as foreigners invited to serve as advisers. What is a patriot? A patriot is one who respects the Chinese nation, sincerely supports the motherland’s resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong and wishes not to impair Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. Those who meet these requirements are patriots, whether they believe in capitalism or feudalism or even slavery. We don’t demand that they be in favour of China’s socialist system; we only ask them to love the motherland and Hong Kong. (Deng Xiaoping, "One Country Two Systems" (Summation of separate talks with members of a Hong Kong industrial and commercial delegation and with Sze-yuen Chung and other prominent Hong Kong figures) 22-23 June 1984).

The reporting of the event, in the original Chinese and in a crude English translation follows.  The most interesting parts include the continued heavy emphasis on the re-education of the young. The effects not just on the curriculum., but on pedagogy and on the behavior of faculty will likely become a subject of greater scrutiny.  It is an area ripe for social credit mechanisms.  The other focuses on the creation of incentive programs to reward people who are deemed to be working toward the protection and expansion of the Hong Kong and Macao patriotic front.  Here we have very traditional wine in new bottles--but one in which the older generations will be dealt with and the younger generations cultivated and properly trained so that their orientation will be quite different from that of their parents and more aligned with the expectations of the Mainland. And to that, it is worth considering another old vantage in a new bottle: Mao Zedong, The Orientation of the Youth Movement (speech was delivered by Comrade Mao Tse-tung at a mass meeting of youth in Yenan to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the May 4th Movement (4 May 1939)).

Friday, May 13, 2022

Finlandization for Ukraine? An Old Idea in a NATO Bottle

 

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Those in the know have for years spoken of ways to maintain an uneasy peace at the borderlands of the peripheries of Europe through the construction of a set of neutral zones (in the form of states) the task of which would be to cede their foreign policy sovereignty in the name of the sort of peace that is guaranteed by the separation of empires.   There are all kinds of lessons that are meant to be drawn from the oceans empire of the Americans (or the UK or Japan) when contrasted to the irritation of empires sharing a common border (Russia and the German Reich; the Soviet Union and China.

And then there is Finland.  Since the prior invasion of Ukraine by Russia in 2014 (one met with significantly less drama in the international community than the invasion of 2022), those people mindful of the prerogatives of ideologically reactionary and territoriality based empire have suggested for Ukraine, the model of Finland.

The concept and idea of Finlandization, the focus of much heated debate during the Cold War, has once again appeared in the discourse of international politics in the context of the Ukraine crisis. Eminent political figures, such as Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, offered ‘the Finnish model’ as a solution to the Ukraine crisis, both for Ukraine domestically and in the sense of solving disruptions in East-West relations more generally. (Tapio Juntunen, "Helsinki Syndrome: The Parachronistic Renaissance of Finlandization in International Politics" New Perspectives 25:55 (2017) arguing "that the analogy is based on an overgeneralised historical lesson that relies on a mythological re-appropriation of the original process of Finlandization during the Cold War (ibid., 57); based on a fuzzy deployment to serve as (1) an ideal type; (2) a pejorative rhetorical tool; (3)  a revisionist conceptualization of historical politics; and (4) as an emancipatory model (ibid., at 58).

This is something quite easy to advocate from the seat of another Empire over which one might have had some influence at some point, and with respect to the influence projecting organs of society one might still have premiere entree. And so it was (Brzezinski, Zbigniew (2014), ‘Russia Needs a “Finland Option” for Ukraine’, Financial Times, 23/02/2014; Ignatius, David (2014), ‘A Finland Model for Ukraine?’, Washington Post, 20/05/2014; and Kissinger, Henry (2014), ‘To Settle the Ukraine Crisis, Start at the End’, Washington Post, 05/03/2014.

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The idea is appealing not just from the perspective of 20th century leading experts who once helped shape the posture of a transitioning empire (the US), but also it is quite appealing to the leadership of emerging post global empires (China) as well as throwbacks (Russia) in the form of what the Chinese leadership describe not as Finlandization of appropriate territories, but as the novel application of the protean concept of indivisible security (Indivisible Security and Hierarchies of Sovereign Autonomy; Full text: President Xi's keynote speech, "Joining Hands to Meet Challenges and Cooperation to Create the Future," delivered at the opening ceremony of BFA annual conference 2022 (Official Translation)). And of course the numerous apologists whose role in the first third of the 21st century is to run around the world beating themselves in expiation of their own sins and that of the place that spawned them. Here the threat is generated from the Americans and the solution is a sort Mexico--the Finland of North America ("And basically, Lavrov’s proposals could plausibly be interpreted as saying: Let’s turn Ukraine into Mexico. Well, that was an option that could have been pursued. Instead, the U.S. preferred to do what I just described as inconceivable for Mexico." Chomsky text here April 2022); but no Cuba. . . . .

All of this, of course, acquires a far more interesting perspective after the start of the 2022 Russian invasion.  It seems that contrary to the rules of etiquette for smallish countries on the borderlands of empire, some model well behaved states may start reacting when the empire on their doorstep appears to break the tacit agreement that produced  neutrality.  That is, that much of the discussion of the "Finland" or "Mexico" object is a function not just of the requirements placed on the weaker state, but also the responsibility for good behavior imposed on the imperial giant. In this case, the giant misbehaved in a grossly public way (for less public lapses eg here).  It misbehaved in ways that (not withstanding the inter-familial misbehavior of the Soviets in 1956 and 1968 that night be distinguished because those occurred within an empire rather than on its periphery) raised the logical doubt that the Russians would not keep to their part of the bargain (reminding on of the famous insight of the Athenian representatives to the Melians about the amorality of imperial ambition and strategy (Thucydides Melian Dialogue)). 

It should come as no surprise, then, except to those still inhabiting the 20th century and its tropes, or those who view any crisis as another means of undermining the liberal democratic core,  that Finland might react. In the process Finland has provided an ironic evolution of the notion that once pejoratively bore its name.

Finland’s leaders said Thursday they’re in favor of rapidly applying for NATO membership, paving the way for a historic expansion of the alliance that could deal a serious blow to Russia as its military struggles with its war in Ukraine. The annoucement by President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin means that Finland is all but certain to join the Western military alliance, though a few steps remain before the application process can begin. Neighboring Sweden is expected to decide on seeking NATO membership in coming days. (Finland’s leaders call for NATO membership ‘without delay’)

This updated Finlandization suggests as well the path that Russia has now made possible because it was just too impatient and too brutal, and too reactionary, to utilize post global techniques of dependency to manage Ukraine.  But perhaps for Russia, after all, the old ways are best.  And it may be a sign of the times that they are calculating that the old ways, if they are successfully will again become the new ways.  It is unclear--I suspect there is less thinking than calculation--a recipe for error; buy not our kitchen. And indeed, it is the heirs of empires long gone that seem to have taken the news hardest--whether within NATO (for domestic reasons: "President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday it was not possible for NATO-member Turkey to support plans by Sweden and Finland to join the pact given that the Nordic countries were "home to many terrorist organisations;" here) or from the expected target ("Russia would have to "rebalance the situation" with its own measures were Sweden and Finland to join NATO;" here).

The Russian Foreign Ministry Statement follows below in the original and in a crude translation into English. The statement is quite interesting for its perspective: Finland was doing well enough as a nbeutral zone--and indeed had even been permitted to chart, more or less, their own political course, as long as they remained, more or less, an empty vessel. "But why should Finland turn its territory into a frontier of military confrontation with the Russian Federation, while losing independence in making its own decisions, history will judge." (Russian Foreign Ministry Statement ("Но зачем Финляндии превращать свою территорию в рубеж военного противостояния с Российской Федерацией, лишаясь при этом самостоятельности в принятии собственных решений, рассудит история."). Why indeed? Yet the Russians need only have looked to their south and west for the answer--that, indeed, the entire periphery around Russia had effectively already been turning into a "frontier of military confrontation." And that is the problem: Beyond internal campaigns--Georgia, Moldova, Syria, and meddling in post-Soviet Central Asia before the much more aggressive and comprehensive action in Ukraine appeared to make it clear that whatever the Finns may have thought of the arrangement, the Russians increasingly viewed neutral zones as spaces created for their use and through which they could project their own power.  Both Russia and China have played the "encirclement" card effectively in the Western press and among sympathetic members of the elites embedded within the camps of their political competitors, China with the Trans Pacific Partnership (see, e.g., here) and Russia  with respect to meddling with the states once part of the Soviet Empire, itself in part a product of negotiation with the worst elements of Fascism (with which Russia found it convenient to partner when it suited them). 

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For Ukraine, of course, the Finnish model remains appealing, perhaps more so now. Post-global Finlandization reminds one that neutrality in the shadow of empire  imposes duties and responsibilities of all sides.  It also suggests that in an age of tech based warfare and of autonomous private actors--the difference between big and small may have shrunk.  Yet the fundamental lesson for Ukraine is clear--'Be like Finland'.  On the peripheries of  post-global spaces in which Russia has a territorial interest there appears to be little choice now, especially as against the renewal of ancient Russian raiding practices along its frontiers and in those spaces.

The real issue for Russia, though,will remain unresolved. That issue points to the post-global challenge for all second tier states, and especially difficult for those states that were once at the heart of pre-modern and modern territorial empires now fallen--Tsarist, Ottoman, Iranian Imperial etc. And it is this: how does one reconcile a second order status dependent on the apex power (for Russia increasingly China) and at the same time be able to project power onto dependent states of their own.  That, of course, is the essence of post.-global empire, now being structured (despite the inability of the chattering and related classes to see it; see here, here, and here).