Stephen Eric Bronner*



Donald Trump’s presidency and the legitimacy of American elections have both been compromised by Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Apparent hacking in 21 states by Russian nationals (using diplomatic cover), and what was reported as attempted interference by the former Soviet Union in French and German elections, facilitates the vision of a broad strategy with the goal of subverting Western democratic processes. Coupled with Russia’s increasing military involvement in Syria, the still potentially explosive conflict in Ukraine, deep-seated fears are reinforcing the emergence of a new cold-war mentality in the United States.


Whether the actual misconduct of Trump’s team has been exaggerated or not, which has been suggested by some legitimate publications, post-communist anti-communism now increasingly serves as a point of reference for foreign policy. That is not only the case for neo-conservative Republicans fearful of an erratic Trump such as Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain., who demand a more “muscular” foreign policy. It is also true for liberal hawks, such as Hillary Clinton and Senator Chuck Schumer. The Democratic Party’s preoccupation with leveling tougher sanctions against Russia, and taking a hard line on Putin’s policies in


Ukraine and the Middle East, is intimately connected with exploiting the scandals of the Trump administration, denying the party’s stunning electoral defeat in 2016, and creating the enemy that the national security state needs.


Russia is no longer the country of Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost just as the United States is no longer the country of Obama. Putin is not some innocent enmeshed in the media uproar over hacking and alleged attempts to buy political influence. That response is disingenuous. The idea that Russia would never attempt a cyber-attack on American electoral institutions is as absurd as the idea that the United States would not (or has not) done exactly the same thing in Iran and elsewhere. There is also a way in which the American and Russian presidents are mirror images of one another. The presidents of both states seem intent upon uncovering non-existent conspiracies, attacking “fake news,” aligning with genocidal dictators, and pursuing the dream of making their country “great again.”


Character bleeds into politics. Untrammeled egoism is the tie that binds Trump and Putin and there is danger in what Freud termed “the narcissism of small differences.” Each believes that he can outwit the other yet exhibits a peculiar form of comradeship combined with neurotic feelings of inferiority that fuel potentially catastrophic forms of competition between them. Their relationship is strangely reminiscent of that between the two fascist leaders, Hynkel and Napoloni, in Charlie Chaplin’s unsurpassable The Great Dictator (1940). Indeed, Trump and Putin both identify national interests with their own.


Meaningful foreign policy initiatives call for breaking that supposed connection. Russia is neither a “friend” nor an “enemy.” The choice is not simply between Trump and his critics. There is another alternative. American foreign policy should treat Russia in a professional rather than an ad hoc emotional manner: coldly on some matters (electoral intervention anywhere), warily on others (Ukraine and Crimea), and with the prospect of cooperation on still others (Afghanistan and Syria, Iran, and the fight against ISIS).


The Manichean idea of being “friends” or “enemies” is not only simplistic, and an old song for a new time, but obscures the need for nuance in judging conflicts of interest. Neither the United States nor Russia currently has much to recommend it with regard to respect for human rights or national self-determination. Those are the concerns that should guide progressive judgments not blind allegiance to one side or the other. Meaningful foreign policy initiatives require nuance and nuance requires distinctions. Not photo-ops but sustained negotiations on developing a differentiated agenda are necessary. Since the election of Donald Trump, however, we have witnessed much of the former and little of the latter. That is what needs to change.



*Stephen Eric Bronner is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University. His most recent works are The Bigot: Why Prejudice Persists (Yale University Press) and The Bitter Taste of Hope: Ideals, Ideologies and Interests in the Age of Obama (SUNY Press).







How Asian-American Actors Can Go Mainstream



By Aldous Davidson (4/27/2016)

Recently the New York Times published an article, which you can read here, highlighting the lack of Asian American representation on screen, pinpointing racism and not economics as the driving force behind the casting decisions in our industry. So we’ve identified the problem, but what about a solution? Don’t worry, I have a plan! There is a blueprint!

In the 1990s, African Americans in Hollywood were experiencing the same issues but something changed: The 1990s were flooded with urban-centric “street/hood” movies that brought the African American actor into the mainstream. Just to name a few: Boyz n the Hood, Menace II Society, Friday, Fresh, Juice, South Central, New Jack City, Dead Presidents, CB4, Don’t Be a Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, Set It Off, New Jersey Drive, etc. and these are just the ones that made it to the big screen. These films thrust stars such as Larenz Tate, Cuba Gooding Jr., Omar Epps, Chris Tucker, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, into the mainstream, and at the same time, gave rappers such as Ice-T, Ice Cube and Tupac Shakur credence as actors, not just musical acts. Behind the camera, stars emerged as well. These films launched the directing careers of John Singleton, the Hughes Brothers, Mario Van Peebles, and Ernest R. Dickerson, among others. These days, the likes of Omar Epps, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Ice Cube don’t need the urban “street/hood” film to act. They are offered all sorts of roles in all sorts of settings, and the directors I named went on to direct films such as 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Book of Eli, and From Hell: none of them “street/hood”.

So what does this tell us? America wasn’t keen on accepting the African American actor and director on a large scale until they were given something they were comfortable with; something their limited, entertainment-viewing minds would accept. Maybe we as Asian American entertainers and filmmakers can learn from this.

So, I offer a challenge! A call to arms! A drastic move to spur a revolution that will do for the Asian American actor and filmmaker what the “street/hood” film did for our African American counterparts. Let’s give the American viewing public something they’re comfortable with: the Martial Arts film! For one year, let us make nothing but Martial Arts Westerns, Martial Arts Romantic Comedies, Martial Arts Sci-Fi, Martial Arts Dramas, Martial Arts Horror, Martial Arts Biography, Martial Arts Action Adventure, etc. Flood the market with hundreds and hundreds of these martial arts films, and of these hundreds, certainly a percentage will go mainstream, thus creating a large number of Asian American stars both in front of and behind the camera. Then when the year is over and our Asian American actor and directors are household names, we never make a martial arts film again. Instead, we do what Ice Cube and Cuba Gooding Jr and Omar Epps and the Hughes Brothers did: we star in films as doctors, suburban fathers, and athletes; none of whom know the first thing about karate. We start directing apocalyptic sci-fi epics and big budget action race car films, none of which contain one spinning roundhouse kick. If all goes according to plan, the transition should be effortless and in no time, America will have accepted the Asian American actor and director into the mainstream without even knowing what hit them.

Are you with me in this call to arms? It worked before. It just might be crazy enough to work again.


The Need for a National Energy Policy by Lawrence Klaus


NEP presentation 091115A


Final NEP white paper 010115(1)