President Obama will be in India for a three-day visit starting Sunday, searching for that elusive foreign policy triumph to consolidate his presidential legacy. This is not the first time that New Delhi has come to the rescue of a president who lost his sheen.
It's worth remembering, with the centenniary of World War I just past, that economic collapse and social disruption are more likely to sow the seeds of extremism and conflict than to make the world safe for democracy.
While avowed critics of social engineering at home, most conservatives believe the U.S. government can remake foreign societies abroad. It's a dangerous delusion. In pursuit of their interventionist fantasies, they are prepared to waste scarce financial resources, entangle the U.S. in foreign quarrels, and risk war with nuclear-armed powers.
NATO was critical to the shaping of the "new Europe" two decades earlier after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Similar and new challenges have emerged where once again NATO may be a defining factor in the future of Europe as well as the Euro-Atlantic family.
On weekends, impromptu rallies may elicit the occasional interest of passers-by. At one point, I came upon a group of nationalists in Maidan square flanked by Ukrainian blue and yellow banners and a rather sinister-looking bunch of men in sunglasses.
When you become a Northern Californian -- a true Northern Californian -- you can develop a penchant for -- how do I put this? -- spiritual things.
Articles about the war in Ukraine invariably cite the over 4,800 casualties and one million displaced persons reported by the UN. That number, as horrible as it is, is just a small percentage of the humanitarian suffering that continues to unfold on the ground.
The overwhelming majority of eastern Ukrainians currently trapped in brutal winter conditions between separatist thugs and the Ukrainian army aren't Ku Klux Klan members, or fat cat bigots who delight in oppressing their ethnic Ukrainian neighbors. They are coal miners and steelworkers and children and pensioners. They are people who've watched their lives be shelled into oblivion by both Kiev's army and paramilitary brigades and Putin's warlords, and who are now isolated in what Amnesty and the UN describe as an unfolding humanitarian crisis. Painting them as a bunch of backward anti-Western hicks is neither progressive, nor tolerant, nor liberal, nor accurate.
The impact of the Facebook-assisted mobilization should not be underestimated. Had the government not feared further popular unrest, Nalvany might be going to prison for the next decade, with his brother spending up to eight years there with him.
While many hawkish observers in Washington demanded a more overt and energetic response from the Obama administration, the past six months can only be seen as vindication of President Obama's diplomacy toward Russia and proof of the abject failure of the shortsighted and domestically driven foreign policy of Vladimir Putin.
It is curious and a bit tragic that as President Obama courageously and wisely acts to temper 50 years of hostility toward Cuba, the U.S., in conjunction with the European Union, is cranking up hostility toward Russia with punitive measures for its adventurism in the Ukraine.
In 2014, Vladimir Putin discovered his inner Trotsky. For what Russia's president is now offering Ukraine is a perverse twist on the formula Trotsky proclaimed during the peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk in 1918: "No war, no peace."
Beneath wonky geopolitical chatter, Ukraine's independent left -- which must be distinguished from the old guard communist left -- is pushing its own political agenda. How can such forces overcome right-wing nationalism, particularly in the midst of deadly military conflict in the country's eastern regions?
Ordinary citizens remain calm because of the simple fact that they typically do not know the full picture -- nor do they try to know it. It is easier to live that way. Just the same, it is time to wake up and recognize what is happening. This is no Hollywood blockbuster unfolding outside our windows, but a force majeure of international proportions. True, it is not the first that the world has experienced, but knowing what hardships previous conflicts have brought to mankind should motivate us to try to prevent any more from occurring.
Only a fool offers longer term predictions about the Middle East. I offer the following shorter term predictions about the Middle East for 2015.
The United States could eventually overcome Jim Crow laws because Washington was stronger than the Deep South. As long as Russia supports the Donbas Deep South -- and that is likely to be for a long time -- Ukraine will be too weak to grant it autonomy or to absorb it.