NATO, the EU and Russia

by Henry Farrell on August 21, 2008

“Clive Crook”: has a post riffing on two columns by Thomas Friedman and David Ignatius which seems to me to get things wrong (or at the least, my interpretation of the relevant history is rather different).

Friedman concentrates on the error of Nato expansion, and the consequent humiliation of Russia, which has now come back to bite us. … The risks of humiliating Russia after the Wall came down were perhaps given too little weight. The dilemma was certainly understood by advocates of Nato enlargement, and there were attempts at outreach through various forms of partnership between Russia and and the alliance, though perhaps this seemed like adding insult to injury. But bear two other points in mind. One, Nato was not enlarged all the way, out of concern for Russia’s reaction: Ukraine and Georgia have been sort of promised membership, but with no timetable. Two, the question was, what were we to say to Poland, Hungary, and then-Czechoslovakia, desperate for release from Russo-Soviet imperium and for the protection of the West? Remember also that the success of their post-socialist transition to market economics was very much in doubt. This was a finely balanced argument.

The real mistake, to my mind, was in taking too long to admit the Eastern Europeans to the European Union–and that in turn owed everything to the fact (a grave mistake in its own right) that the EU had deepened its political integration too fast and too far. A shallower economic union, rather than a United States of Europe in progress, would have been able to embrace Poland and the others more eagerly. As it was, the only fast-acting institutional support for the East European reformers was Nato, a military alliance explicitly created to confront the Soviet Union, and implicitly still aimed at Russia. Friedman accuses the Clinton and Bush foreign-policy teams of “rank short-sightedness” in all this. He makes a good point, but the error was not as clear-cut as he says.

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Dark Knight

by John Holbo on August 21, 2008

Man, what if McCain gets elected? (Also, I listened to a Jonah Goldberg bloggingheads thing and it was terrible.) Oh, but I a had great idea for a superhero duo. There’s a terrible accident – a tornado rips through a trailer park – and this is, for some strange reason, the origin story for Double-wide (he’s a bruiser type) and Airstream (his sexy, flying partner). They fight crime in a small town in Georgia. Who should their arch-enemy be?

Right. The Dark Knight. My Valve colleague, Bill B., points me to David Bordwell grousing about superhero films, and generally saying smart things. Oddly enough, given my love of superheroes, I agree almost right down the line. Oh, I enjoyed Dark Knight well enough. But the ending was dumb, the Harvey Dent subplot handled clumsily. The only reason it made sense to me that he was Two-Face was that he was clearly named Harvey Dent and had half his face melted off. Other than that, I didn’t see the resemblance. Ledger’s Joker was, as all sensitive souls agree, vastly entertaining. I would have watched him read the phonebook. Well, for a few minutes anyway. But, while I doubt anyone else would have been better for the role, I don’t actually think it was such a tremendously impressive outing. it isn’t that hard to prance around in clown make-up, barking mad. Insane clowns could be the new Rain Man prestige role. Oh, it takes physical presence and a certain bone structure and face-to-lip ratio. I’m glad someone finally decided to put Frank Miller’s joker up there on the screen. And, of course, the Dark Knight is Miller’s, too.

Everyone knows that. But certain things follow which, it seems to me, have not been noted. First, the praise of Nolan has been a bit off-target. [click to continue…]