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Week in Review

What most American pundits don’t seem to fully comprehend when talking about the Eurozone crisis is that Germans are far from unified on the question of what they should be doing. As we wrote in one of this week’s essays,

Germans face the real prospect that they will have to choose between the two pillars of their postwar identity: European Germany and sound money Germany may not be able to coexist. For Germany to fulfill its destiny to unify Europe, it may have to give up its commitment to sound money. And if it wants to hold onto a money that works like the Deutsche mark, it may have to limit its European ambitions.

Europeans as a whole seem to be torn themselves: a Pew poll this week suggested they like Germany and the EU, but are losing faith in the Eurozone and Greece. George Soros, a man who knows much of Europe and finance, thinks the euro may muddle through, albeit with less than ideal consequences for everyone.

But with each passing week, the deepening of the crisis could make the wishes of the various European actors irrelevant. As Spain’s troubles continued to fester, Greek contagion started to affect Ireland (the “good kid” among the PIIGS), and the European Commission warned François Hollande that France’s fiscal health may be worse than the numbers indicate. The only bright spot this week was the news that Italy may be decoupling from Spain.

Via Meadia found itself spending much of last week in St. Petersburg (one of the most enchanting cities you’ve never seen), just as a Russian solution to the Syrian crisis was being floated by the Obama Administration. It struck us that this was some spectacularly wishful thinking on the part of our policymakers who don’t even seem to grasp where Russia is coming from on this issue. The policymakers dismiss Russia’s actions as mere obstructionism (though that often though not always is what’s afoot). It turns out, there’s a pessimistic case to be made that genocidal chaos would be unleashed in a post-Assad Syria, with catastrophic consequences for Christians and other religious minorities in the country. As we wrote in another essay this week, “To understand Russia’s view is not to accept it as gospel, but to fail to understand it is to build Middle East policy on hopes and illusions.”

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta embarked on his first important trip abroad—to China. Before his meetings in China, however, he participated in a security summit with leaders from India, Vietnam and Singapore, where he gave a detailed exposition of America’s emerging Asian strategy, a “rebalancing” which by 2020 will see 60 percent of US naval forces concentrated in the area. Offical Chinese reaction was muted, despite the fact that the significance of these moves (and others like them) is not lost on them. Instead, they moved forward in strengthening ties with Pakistan, a country increasingly dissatisfied with its relationship with the United States.

Other stories we hit this week:

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  • Luke Lea

    China is the gift that keeps on giving. My latest readings are a couple of books”Chinese Characteristics” and “A Daughter of Han.” They were both written by American missionaries almost a century ago and they are both available on line. Together with Spence’s “The Story of Woman Wang” and “Treason by the Book” we get a good feeling for the continuities in Chinese culture and civilization. The question I come away with is, “How can such a nice people be so cruel to each other?” They devour one another both figuratively (see Lu Xun’s famous short story, “Diary of a Mad Man’) and literally (where cannibalism is a recurrent phenomena in times of famine, families trading babies for purposes of food — see Wei Jingsheng’s autobiographical essay).

    The answer I think is culture. A culture of male chauvinism and misrule, of corruption and exploitatiion, going all the way back to the very beginning of China’s history.

    I called it a culture and a civilization above but I am having second thoughts about the word “civilization.” There is nothing civilized about Chinese culture and institutions unless you believe in art-for-arts sake. It is a barbarous tradition which the people themselves would like to escape but they don’t know how. Lu Xun writes about it in the second volume of his selected works, which you can purchase used on Abebooks.

    My latest thought is that the road to a liberal democracy in runs through a recurrence of one man rule. A committee of corrupt party bosses cannot pull it off. China needs a benevolent dictator to break with tradition, sort of like that guy Lee who brought Singapore around. Taiwan also offers some guidance.

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