Occasionally a public opinion survey surfaces that signals a seismic event. That is the case with a new report from the Pew Research Center that measures the widening tremors of a political earthquake now shaking Europe.
(Reuters) – Happy Europe Day!
If you don’t know May 9 is Europe Day, then you find yourself in good company with a majority of Europeans. Even in the most buoyant time, this holiday – marking the Schumann Declaration, presented by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman in 1950, that launched the European Coal and Steel Community – doesn’t come with the transcontinental fireworks of America’s July 4.
It does, however, provide occasion to reflect on the growing perils to Europe, and the enormous risks they pose to both the United States and the global future. For all the talk of Europe’s fiscal deficits, or the “democracy deficit” that leaves European Union institutions lacking accountability and legitimacy, the most dangerous deficit is one of Europeans.
Happy Europe Day!
If you don’t know May 9 is Europe Day, then you find yourself in good company with a majority of Europeans. Even in the most buoyant time, this holiday – marking the Schuman Schuman Declaration, presented by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman in 1950, that launched the European Coal and Steel Community – doesn’t come with the transcontinental fireworks of America’s July 4.
Amid the buzz in Washington about new North Korean nuclear threats, President Barack Obama late last week summoned 15 of America’s top financial leaders to the White House to discuss what his administration considers to be threats that are more pervasive, more persistent and less manageable ‑ cyber risks.
“The president scared the hell out of all of us, and we’re not easy to frighten,” said one member of the group, which included Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd C. Blankfein, JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon and Bank of America’s Brian T. Moynihan. “This isn’t like the nuclear threat, where it was really governments facing down governments. The American financial sector is a new battleground, and we’re going to have to invest millions of shareholders’ dollars to protect ourselves from what are essentially national actors.”
I have covered far happier times for the Vatican. I reported on John Paul II’s pilgrimage through his native Poland some three decades ago, and I have been thinking about this while watching the Catholic Church’s 115 cardinal electors pray for divine inspiration on this historic day in Rome’s Sistine Chapel.
The cardinals will need every ounce of God’s help to determine who among them has the leadership and managerial wherewithal to both fix their scandal-ridden church and inspire a needy world. They can take some solace from the 1978 papal conclave held after John Paul I’s sudden death following just 33 days in office.
This week marks the 80th anniversary of the German Reichstag fire of February 27, 1933. That arson blaze ignited one of history’s ugliest stories of a fragile democracy gone tragically bad — and its generational consequences.
Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazis, elected Germany’s dominant party six months earlier, had exploited the fire – which he claimed was set by a half-blind, disabled, Dutch communist bricklayer – to transform Germany into a militarized dictatorship. This set in motion the Third Reich, World War II, the Holocaust, the destruction of Europe and the deaths of 60 million people, 2.5 percent of the global population.
President Barack Obama devoted just one sentence in last week’s State of the Union address to call for a new transatlantic trade and investment deal. However, if negotiated with sufficient ambition and presidential engagement, it is Obama’s best chance yet at leaving a positive foreign policy legacy.
The other global issues Obama catalogued in his speech were largely about avoiding the worst: North Korea, cyber threats, Iran, Syria and other Middle Eastern upheavals. Achieving what Obama called “a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” however, has all the makings of grand strategy.
Munich – For America’s friends and allies, who will welcome Vice President Joe Biden to the annual Munich Security Conference this weekend, President Obama’s second inaugural address was notable for its single-minded focus on U.S. domestic issues even as global challenges proliferate. It was the clearest sign yet that Obama intends to build his historic legacy at home.
No one quibbles with Obama’s conviction that America’s global role can best be sustained through a period of “nation-building at home.” The problem is the world is unlikely to hit the pause button as America gets itself off the fiscal cliff, reforms its immigration system, modernizes its infrastructure, fixes its education system and focuses on other long-neglected home chores.
President Barack Obama has been commander-in-chief for four years, but the world only now will see the full flower of Obama foreign policy unfold. It likely will have less to do with any grand ambition to shape an increasingly dangerous world, and instead will be focused on avoiding new wars as he focuses on what he has called “nation building” at home.
In the past week, the president has provided important clues about how he views his historic legacy through nominating a national security team that more closely reflects his own personal preferences and through the underlying message he sent last Friday to visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The two men agreed most U.S.-led combat operations in Afghanistan would end this spring, signaling an accelerated end to the second war Obama inherited from President George W. Bush.
Read between the lines of the U.S. intelligence community’s quadrennial global trends report, a document released this week that has significant influence on White House thinking, and the message to President Obama is clear.
First, the United States is at a far more crucial juncture of human history than most Americans realize – reminiscent of 1815, 1918, 1945 and 1989. Second, the United States has something that is unprecedented among the world’s great powers, a second chance to shape the international economic and political system.