The most remarkable parts of former FBI Director James Comey’s memoir aren’t the ones on President Trump. After all, we knew most of that already, Fareed writes in his Washington Post column. Instead, it’s the discussion of the legal disputes in the Bush administration – and that should give us some cause for optimism right now.

“What is striking about these episodes is not only that Comey and [Robert] Mueller were subordinates who owed their jobs to Bush, but also that they were Republicans. Yet the two of them have consistently put their obligations to the law and the country above personal loyalty and partisan politics.”

“One of the oft-repeated criticisms of America is that it has too many lawyers. Maybe, but one of the country’s great strengths is its legal culture. As I’ve written before, Alexis de Tocqueville worried that without a class of patriotic and selfless aristocrats, the United States could fall prey to demagogues and populists. But he took comfort in the fact that, as he put it, American aristocracy can be found ‘at the bar or on the bench.’”

“Comey’s memoir reveals that America does indeed have a deep state. It is one of law and lawyers. And we should be deeply grateful for it.”

Get Ready for the “Axis of Autocracy”?

It’s still far from a full military alliance, but ties between the armed forces of China and Russia underscore the growing tendency of America’s rivals to work together, writes Hal Brands for Bloomberg View. As the US-led liberal order comes under increasing strain, the timing could barely be worse.

“Most visibly, the two countries have conducted combined naval exercises in the South China and Baltic Seas and in the Sea of Japan, areas in which Chinese and Russian tensions with Washington are particularly sharp. Altogether, cooperation between Moscow and Beijing is more significant than at any time since the Mao-Khrushchev split more than half a century ago,” Brands writes.

“These alliances are all the more noteworthy for the fact that America’s rivals are not, by any means, natural partners. Russia and China continue to compete for influence in Central Asia and elsewhere; the growth of Chinese power may ultimately pose as much of a threat to Russia — a country with which it shares a long land border — as it does to anyone else. One would also expect to see some inevitable tensions between Iran, which is bidding to become the dominant power within the Middle East, and Russia, which is increasingly throwing its weight around in the region.

“Yet if the cooperation between US rivals has rightly been described as more opportunistic than systematic, it is striking that these countries are finding more and more occasions when working together appears to be in their interests.”

The Trump Whisperer Comes to Washington

French President Emmanuel Macron heads to Washington next week for the first state visit of the Trump administration. But France’s rise as an alternative to Britain and Germany is about more than Macron’s personal rapport with Donald Trump, writes Celia Belin in Foreign Affairs.

“The two presidents have developed a real personal connection, sharing similarities in their accession to power—two outsiders vanquishing the political establishment, two disruptive personalities who relish transgression—and in their direct, blunt talk,” Belin writes.

Meanwhile, in a “complete reversal of fortune from 15 years ago, France is now celebrated in Washington as a reliable military ally, able and willing to intervene to defend its security interests and those of its allies. This image overhaul is the result of a long effort on the part of three French presidents to repair relations with their American ally. After the hyperbolic debates over Iraq, President Jacques Chirac toned down the rhetoric and cooperated with the Bush administration, refraining from engaging in ‘told-you-so’ arguments,” Belin writes.

“At a time when US military experts lament Western Europe’s continued disarmament, they see France as upholding its share of responsibilities. In the Trump administration, which holds generals in great respect as well as in key civilian positions, generals’ positive views of France matter.”

China Is Cracking Down on Small Pleasures. That Could be Dangerous

China’s censors have gone into overdrive as they clamp down on “lowbrow” online content. That could upset the delicate trade off that has helped keep the Communist Party in power, The Economistwrites.

“Censors are…paying more attention to content they regard as ‘lowbrow’: material deemed licentious, sexist or likely to encourage what the party regards as immoral behavior,” The Economist says. “Cultural commissars are becoming quicker to suppress anything they regard as non-mainstream, from hip-hop music to tattoos. The national football team recently took to the field with their ink hidden under bandages.”

“In the past ten months officials have also been clamping down on gossip. Some portals have replaced their feeds offering news about celebrities with alternatives directing users to patriotic fare.”

But The Economist argues that the Party is taking a risk with all this. “In the decade or two before [President Xi Jinping] took over, people were given wider leeway to amuse themselves as they wished as long as they avoided politics. Officials may have reckoned that such an approach would reinforce stability by giving people less reason to resent the party. Mr. Xi, by contrast, is trying to revive the party as an enforcer of morality and taste. By stamping on citizens’ small pleasures he could irritate many people who had previously shown no interest in politics.”

Trump’s Middle East Pie in the Sky

report this week suggesting President Trump is trying to encourage Arab allies to contribute money and troops to help stabilize Syria is pie in the sky, writes Max Boot in The Washington Post. America’s role in the region is indispensable.

“The Saudis and Emiratis are bogged down in Yemen and so bereft of effective troops that they have to rely on foreign mercenaries even to fight next door. The Egyptian military has its hands full battling a growing Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula — and trying to contain the chaos of neighboring Libya,” Boot writes.

“The American contingent is not only calling in devastating airstrikes on the enemy — whether Islamic State fighters or Russian mercenaries — but also helping the Syrian Democratic Forces to establish a functioning state. The Arabs may conceivably contribute but only if the United States remains in the lead. There is no deus ex machina: Either America keeps its own troops in Syria or it risks a revival of the Islamic State and an expansion of Iranian power. Our allies won’t do our job for us.”

The Latest Victim of the Post-Truth Disease

A claim by a rock musician that Syria’s White Helmets are a “fake organization” was applauded by the same “pro-Russia voices on the far left and far right” that have downplayed Bashar al-Assad’s atrocities. It’s just the latest example of how dangerous the post-truth disease has become, writes Jonathan Freedland for The Guardian.

“Remember, these voices are not simply saying western air strikes were the wrong response to the killings in Douma. They are saying there were no killings in Douma. Or there were, but they didn’t involve chemical weapons. Or they did, but rebel groups were responsible. Or the whole thing was staged by Britain. The line changes with dizzying frequency,” Freedland writes.

“The point is, whether it’s Comey or Syria, we are now in an era when the argument is no longer over our response to events, but the very existence of those events. It was the same story after the mass school shooting at Parkland, Florida, in February. A loud chorus of rightists was not content merely to denounce proposed gun control measures: they claimed the massacre had not happened at all, and that all those grieving parents and teenagers were ‘crisis actors.’

“These are symptoms of a post-truth disease that’s come to be known as ‘tribal epistemology,’ in which the truth or falsity of a statement depends on whether the person making it is deemed one of us or one of them.”

Courtesy: Fareed’s Global Briefing

 

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