12 March 2018   Leave a comment

On this day in 1947, US President Truman announced what would come to be known as the Truman Doctrine.  The Truman Doctrine announced US support for democracies all over the planet.  It was triggered by the belief that the Soviet Union was growing stronger and becoming more attractive to polities in Europe and in the newly decolonized states.  The US was told by the British that they could no longer guarantee the security of the eastern Mediterranean and there were scattered uprisings in Turkey and Greece that were interpreted as Soviet-inspired.  At that point in time, the defense of the emerging liberal international order, set up by President Roosevelt, was confined to the institutions created in 1944–the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions (the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and what we now call the World Trade Organization).  Truman, stimulated by the fear of Soviet power, decided that the US needed to defend those institutions militarily.  At that moment, the Cold War crystallized and would endure until the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.


The Pew Research Center  conducted a public opinion survey in 35 countries and found that in countries where people did not have a strong affiliation with a political party support for democracy was low.  Competing political parties formed the bedrock of representative democracy and robust competition among parties was a key index of the health of a democracy.  The finding is depressingly consistent with elections in liberal democracies since the Great Recession of 2008-09.  Many of these elections were determined, not by support for a political party, but rather for those who claimed to be outside the mainstream of political parties.  The erosion of these democracies blurs the distinction between liberal and illiberal states and it seems right now that illiberalism is becoming far more common.


One thing to watch carefully as a Trump-Kim summit is being considered is the reaction of China.  The Chinese have historically supported North Korea and most certainly do not wish to see it disappear.  But relations between China and North Korea have been difficult in recent years as Kim has forged a path for North Korea without consideration for Chinese concerns in East Asia.  It would be very difficult to reconcile US and Chinese regional and hegemonic objectives in such a summit and the Chinese do not wish to be excluded from such an important meeting.  At this point I doubt that the meeting will even be held, but the Chinese can probably be counted on to throw obstacles in the path of such a planned summit.  The South Koreans are making every effort to keep the Chinese in the loop because they are acutely aware of Chinese sensitivities on the matter.

Posted March 12, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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