3 March 2017

I am back from my vacation in the Virgin Islands.  It was a glorious two weeks in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  It was also a two-week break from the hysteria that infects American politics. I made the decision to ignore the news in order to gain a sense of perspective on the shouting and cynicism which seemed to be taking over political discourse.  I returned on the day that the US Attorney General was accused of lying to a Senate committee–how quickly my distance evaporated.  But I appreciated the time to reflect on what the US is currently going through:  away from all the noise, I regained a sense that there are institutions that are structured to protect our rights and felt assured that these institutions will ultimately reassert their responsibilities.  It will just take some time.

One of the essays I read was the retirement speech of Daniel Fried, a long-standing Foreign Service officer who had dedicated his life to protecting American interests abroad.  His speech is an elegant statement of the best aspirations of American diplomacy.  I, like others, could point out the times the US has failed to live up to those aspirations.  But the commitment of the US to those aspirations definitely sets it apart for most other countries and Fried’s speech gave me hope that the US should never stop to try to realize those aspirations.

We often refer to “soft” power in international relations.  That type of power is cultural and a state can exert a great deal of influence if people in other states have respect or affection for its music, literature, and its arts broadly defined.  Many young people in China love South Korean music, television, and food, and South Korean profits tremendously from its soft power exports to China.  Over the last few months, however, China has clamped down on these exports in order to express its displeasure over the South Korean decision to deploy an anti-missile system designed primarily to offer protection from a North Korean attack. China is well aware that the system could also be used to counter Chinese missiles as well, reducing China’s ability to influence South Korea.

India is both the top source of migrants in the world as well as the top destination for migrants from other countries.  More than half of all Indian migrants end up in three countries: the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and the United States.  Many of India’s migrants come from the non-Hindu populations of the country, suggesting that religious intolerance may be one source of the desire to leave the country.  But the overwhelming reason for migration out of India seems to be the desire to find better economic opportunities.

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Posted March 3, 2017 by vferraro1971

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