Friedman and Bruni

The Moustache of Wisdom ponders “Walls, Borders, a Dome and Refugees” and tells us that the fallout of collapsing countries continues to spill into our orderly world, and just isolating ourselves won’t change that.  Mr. Bruni, in “The Spirit and Promise of Detroit,” says we’re all invested in this city, a reflection of our neglect and a referendum on our resilience.  Here’s TMOW:

After Donald Trump proposed building a high wall all along the U.S.-Mexico border, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, not to be out-trumped, basically said, I see your wall and raise you one, stating that it was “legitimate” to consider building a wall along the 5,525-mile U.S.-Canada border as well.

Well, I see both your walls — and raise you a dome.

That’s right. I think we shouldn’t just put high walls on both borders, but also a retractable dome over the whole country and, for good measure, let’s mine our harbors, too — as Lindsey Graham jokingly suggested, criticizing his wall-obsessed fellow Republican presidential contenders.

I know, Walker’s proposal is crazy. But, alas, the fears that he and Trump are playing on with this wall theme are not crazy: Some very big tectonic plates are moving, and people feel it under their feet. The world is being redivided into regions of “order” and “disorder,” and for the first time in a long time, we don’t have an answer for all the people flocking to get out of the world of disorder and into the world of order.

But being surrounded by two oceans and friendly democracies in Mexico and Canada, the U.S. is actually less affected by this new era. (The net migration flow from Mexico to the U.S. is now zero.) In fact, we should keep enhancing our economic integration with both our neighbors in ways that can make all three nations more stable and thriving.

It is why, when it comes to our borders, I favor only high walls with big gates — yes, control the borders but with more efficient gates that enhance investment, common standards, trade, tourism and economic opportunity in all three countries. Nothing would make us more secure. When it comes to our neighbors, Trump and Walker are making Americans both afraid and dumb, purely for political gain.

But if either man were running for office in Europe today, his position on walls everywhere would be getting a big hearing, as masses of refugees from the African and Middle Eastern worlds of disorder try to walk, swim, sail, drive, bus and rail their way into Europe’s world of order.

And this is just the beginning. That is because the three largest forces on the planet — Mother Nature (climate change, biodiversity loss and population growth in developing countries), Moore’s law (the steady doubling in the power of microchips and, more broadly, of technology) and the market (globalization tying the world ever more tightly together) — are all in simultaneous, rapid acceleration.

This combination is stressing strong countries and blowing up weak ones. And the ones disintegrating first are those that are the most artificial: their borders are mostly straight lines that correspond to no ethnic, tribal or religious realities and their leaders, rather than creating citizens with equal rights, wasted the last 60 years by plundering their national resources. So when their iron fists come off (in Libya and Iraq with our help), there is nothing to hold these unnatural polygons together.

Since World War II, U.S. foreign policy has focused on integrating more countries into a democratic, free-market world community built on the rule of law while seeking to deter those states that resist from destabilizing the rest. This is what we know how to do.

But, argues Michael Mandelbaum, author of the forthcoming “Mission Failure: America and the World in the Post-Cold War Era”: “There is nothing in our experience that has prepared us for what is going on now: the meltdown of an increasing number of states all at the same time in a globalized world. And what if China starts failing in a globalized world?”

Historically we’ve counted on empires, like the Ottomans, colonial powers, like Britain and France, and autocratic strongmen, such as kings and colonels, to hold artificial states together and provide order in these regions. But we’re now in a post-imperial, post-colonial and, soon, I believe, post-authoritarian world, in which no one will be able to control these disorderly regions with an iron fist while the world of order goes about its business as best it can with occasional reminders of the nasty disarray on its frontiers.

Your heart aches for the Syrian refugees flocking to Europe. And Germany’s generosity in absorbing so many is amazing. We have a special obligation to Libyan and Iraqi refugees. But, with so many countries melting down, just absorbing more and more refugees is not sustainable.

If we’re honest, we have only two ways to halt this refugee flood, and we don’t want to choose either: build a wall and isolate these regions of disorder, or occupy them with boots on the ground, crush the bad guys and build a new order based on real citizenship, a vast project that would take two generations. We fool ourselves that there is a sustainable, easy third way: just keep taking more refugees or create “no-fly zones” here or there.

Will the ends, will the means. And right now no one wants to will the means, because all you win is a bill. So the world of disorder keeps spilling over into the world of order. And beware: The market, Mother Nature and Moore’s law are just revving their engines. You haven’t seen this play before, which is why we have some hard new thinking and hard choices ahead.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni, writing from Detroit:

I’m a glutton, always will be, so you’ll have to forgive me for beginning with food — and for tasting hope, or something like it, in a peanut butter cookie.

I bought the cookie at Sister Pie, a bakeshop that opened earlier this year in a resurgent neighborhood here. Sister Pie is unusual, and not just because it makes scones with cauliflower and puts rosemary in its shortbread.

Even more noteworthy is its location: a stone’s throw from dozens of the deserted houses and decrepit lots for which Detroit is notorious. Sister Pie shouldn’t be here. That was my first thought when I walked through the door last week to find the kind of hipster crowd and funky scene that I’m accustomed to in Brooklyn, where the shop’s owner, Lisa Ludwinski, lived for six years.

My second thought was that Sister Pie is exactly where it belongs, in a city whose future hinges on a new generation of entrepreneurs, the risks they take and the ingenuity they muster. The top of my cookie glittered darkly with paprika. I beamed. And what coursed through me as I ate it and then another wasn’t just pleasure but gratitude and elation.

I lived in Detroit in the early 1990s, in my 20s, so perhaps I feel an investment bigger than it would otherwise be. But we’re all tied to this city and reflected in it, because it’s so central to the American narrative, so emblematic of our triumphs and humiliations, such a referendum on what we’re capable of, in terms of neglect and in terms of salvation.

If New York is a measure of our financial might and Los Angeles a yardstick for our imagination, Detroit is a gauge of our soul.

“It’s one of the cities in the United States that the whole world looks at,” said Dennis Archer Jr. when I asked him about the stakes of its latest bid for rebirth.

Archer’s father was Detroit’s mayor from 1994 through 2001. His corrupt successor, Kwame Kilpatrick, ended up behind bars, and shortly before Kilpatrick’s reign ended, the recession hit. Detroit reeled. In 2013 it became the largest American city ever to file for bankruptcy.

And since then? There are all these shoots of growth, all these glimmers of promise. Archer and I sat in Central Kitchen + Bar, a dashing month-old restaurant on Cadillac Square downtown. He’s one of its owners, and Cadillac Square bustles in a way that it didn’t years ago, when I routinely passed through it.

He directed my gaze to a nearby diner who happened to be wearing a T-shirt that said “Detroit -Vs- Everybody.” It’s a popular logo on clothing from a local company, and it’s a distillation of the way many Detroiters feel.

“We’re taking on a lot of negativity and some bad circumstances that weren’t entirely our doing,” Archer explained, alluding to the travails of the auto industry and the racial prejudice that contributed to the city’s population decline.

“But we’re resilient. We’re going to win.”

By “we” he was referring to all of the businesspeople who insist on seeing opportunity in the blight, including Dan Gilbert, the Quicken Loans chairman, who famously purchased a big chunk of downtown and has been rehabilitating it.

But Archer was talking as well about a stubborn civic spirit that’s personified by Terrence Berg, a federal judge, and his wife, Anita Sevier, an urban planner.

When they moved to the Detroit area in 1989, they were dismayed by the white-black divide between suburbs and city. A white couple, they chose to live in Detroit itself, and over the ensuing years they happily stayed put.

One evening last March, two men approached Berg on his front porch, demanded to be let into the house and, when he refused, shot him in the knee. He endured three surgeries and has put in hundreds of hours of physical therapy so far.

Through it all, he and Sevier have been adamant that the shooting doesn’t, and shouldn’t, define Detroit. Right after it happened, Sevier pointedly told The Detroit Free Press: “This is not a reason to hate Detroit.”

The couple used the media attention that came their way to advocate for better education and more jobs for Detroiters. When I visited them on Friday, Berg said, “I grew up in this area, and there’s a certain underdog quality that you feel about Detroit that makes you love it in a way that you want it to succeed.

“There’s a certain rooting,” he added. “You root for Detroit.”

The next day I took a run along a stretch of Detroit riverfront more prettily landscaped and painstakingly maintained than I’d ever seen it. I had to work off the wages of Sister Pie.

I spotted a poster: “America’s Great Comeback City.” Yes, I thought. Please. If we can rebuild Detroit, we can rebuild anything.



One Response to “Friedman and Bruni”

  1. Benjamin Wiffenpoof Says:

    It’s not intellectually healthy if not facitous to tie together the current mobilization of science into the principle of Moore’s Law of which it is not a law of science more than that of marketing science. But speaking of candidates and popular science you must have heard Palin’s new understanding of climate change. Yes the principle is right but human’s footprint is unrelated. I’m sure she is being literal since her explanation is abundantly uneducated and misinformed. As for Trump he explained according to CNN that our military is not only unprepared (for what?), but is running with the red check light on the dashboard. He based this on a 60 Minutes telecast of some bare wires.

    But as the leaders of the western world prepare speeches for Humanitarian of the Year awards has it come to anyone’s attention that some of the refugees were and continue to be supporters of Assad? And speaking of allies we include the monarchy of Jordan which politicos of Lebanon do we invite? Will we admit Hezbollah runs Lebanon? I am sure that the costs to house and feed not to mention integrate and educate the new Muslim populations of Europe will be on every budget agenda for the next decade or three. It was interesting to see reports of Gulf sheiks whose wealth is unparalleled in the Middle East unwilling to allow refugees in because as I recall CNN reported they do not comprehend refugee status. I wish we could simply enlist their foundations which have made the signs visible at all the big tennis matches available. Everytime I see Fly Emirates I think is this some kind of trick to torture me and dispose of my body in mid flight? But hey we are pretending there is a difference between ISIS and Wahabi, Assad and ISIS and Egypt. Why can’t we pretend the wealthy Americans who spend their leisure in Dubai are just willing to look the other way and turn the cheek? Why not I say. And speaking of space to house two families in the Vatican how ’bout those Germans. They have six million spaces to fill. They ought to love the new group of non Aryans to hate. As for the Jews of Europe. Now would be the opportune time to pack up because to the casual observer born again AntiSemites of Syria will not be your friend. Don’t u just love a refugee who demands entrance? Demand and protests? Doesn’t that remind u of Ellis Island?Sure it does.

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