Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts

24 December 2019

Who are America’s allies and are they paying their fair share of defense?

Lindsey Ford and James Goldgeier

The Vitals

The word “ally” has been in the news a lot in recent months. Members of Congress have criticized President Trump for abandoning our Kurdish “allies” in Northern Syria and complained that the president was undermining our “ally” Ukraine. Meanwhile, President Trump reiterated his belief that “our allies take advantage of us far greater than our enemies,” and in advance of the December NATO Leaders Meeting, the United States announced cutbacks in its support for common funding at the headquarters. Americans have frequently been told that allies matter, but what exactly does it mean to be a U.S. “ally”? And why are relationships deemed so vital to American security frequently so contentious?

America’s alliances in Asia and Europe have formed the backbone of what has become known as the “liberal international order.” Over the past 70 years, this order has helped protect American interests and values.

Not every country that is referred to as an “ally” meets the formal definition of a country that America has said it is willing to defend in case of attack.

The question of how to create “fair” burden-sharing arrangements has been a long-standing issue in U.S. alliances, but on balance, the United States has reaped enormous benefits from these relationships. 

25 November 2019

Evo Morales’s Chaotic Departure Won’t Define His Legacy

In the wake of Evo Morales’s departure from office earlier this month after nearly 14 years as president of Bolivia, the country is in political chaos. More than 30 people have died as a result of ongoing unrest, and protests over the weekend led to food shortages in some cities. Interim President Jeanine Áñez has promised new elections, but the timeline remains unclear.

Morales’s exit, amid pressure from the military and mass protests, was a mess, and the country faces an uncertain political future. But Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, won’t be remembered primarily for his abrupt resignation, the turmoil that followed, or even for the democratic backsliding that marked the latter years of his presidency. His legacy will be the transformation of Bolivian society through the enfranchisement of the country’s indigenous population.

Morales’s national political career was born in the mid-1980s amid the contention generated by the long U.S.-led crackdown on drugs in Bolivia, during which he served as the paramount leader of coca grower unions in the Chapare region, where the majority of Bolivian coca is grown. Coca has been a traditional crop among the indigenous people of the Andes for centuries. Chewed or brewed as tea, it is a mild stimulant, ubiquitous in Bolivia. But it can be refined into cocaine—the international trade in which much of the country’s crop ultimately winds up. The Chapare was ground zero for decades of low-intensity war between coca growers and both Bolivian and U.S. law enforcement.

24 November 2019

The Crisis in Bolivia Roils a Rapidly Changing Latin America

Frida Ghitis

When Bolivia’s Evo Morales resigned the presidency under pressure from the military and left the country amid widespread protests on Nov. 12, taking political asylum in Mexico, it sent shockwaves across Latin America. Morales’ fall comes at a time of ferment in the region—and what looks increasingly like a hinge moment in Latin American history.

Whether Morales was the victim of a coup or the perpetrator of an assault against democracy, rightfully deposed, remains the subject of heated debate. That continuing controversy is part of the push-and-pull of the tensions roiling Latin America, where the political tide appears to be changing, but no one is exactly sure in what direction. ...

23 November 2019

After the End of the 'Pink Tide,' What’s Next for South America?

Earlier this year, it seemed as if the “pink tide” of leftist governments that swept across Latin America in the early 2000s had all but retreated. The wave of conservative governments that replaced them owed their rise in part to the region’s economic difficulties following the end of the commodities boom of the first decade of the 21st century. But they also took advantage of the failure by many of the leftist leaders to translate that economic boom into sustainable advances for the lower and middle classes. The election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil last year, after a campaign spent vilifying women as well as marginalized and indigenous communities, was a particular blow to the region’s progressives.

More recently, the South American left has shown signs of a revival. Argentina’s center-left Peronist candidate, Alberto Fernandez, ousted the market-friendly incumbent, Mauricio Macri, in that country’s October presidential election. Macri had won office in 2015 pledging to remedy the economic missteps of his Peronist predecessor, but his austerity measures and heavy borrowing triggered an economic crisis that cost him the presidency. And massive protests in Ecuador and Chile forced the governments in those countries to backtrack on austerity measures, calling into question in the case of Chile the country’s longstanding neoliberal economic model.

20 November 2019

America's Allies Are More Important Than AI Or Cyber In A War

by Nathaniel L. Moir

Technology cannot overcome human judgment and relationships.

Google’s recent “Quantum Breakthrough” is great for American science but irrelevant for foreseeable conflict. It is ironic that “quantum supremacy” emerged in late October while America conceded its small but stabilizing position in Syria. The Syria decision is understandably construed as unwise because it relieves pressure on ISIS, forfeits a presence now occupied by Russia, and it provides Iran a corridor to Hezbollah in Lebanon. As it currently stands, the U.S. may possess the most advanced computing power known to humankind. Still, none of it ensures commitment to allies, such as Kurds forsaken by the United States, let alone the formation of wise foreign policy elsewhere. Quantum supremacy, A.I., and other technological advancements will not compensate for commitments and partnerships we abandon. 

The dissonance between advancing technology and retreating political commitments to allies should buzz between the ears. The problem is also embodied by the fact that, while the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) poses over a dozen essential and enduring questions on A.I.'s future, the most basic components of warfare -- political rationale for operations and partnered cooperation -- are kicked to the curb. How can we square the circle when the problem is more like a parallelogram? 

16 November 2019

This is How America's National Debt Could Grow by $7 Trillion

by Rachel Greszler

Tacking as much as $6.7 trillion onto our national debt to cover broken pension promises would raise the average household’s debt burden by $52,000, to $230,000.

On Oct. 31, the national debt hit $23 trillion. That’s equivalent to a credit card bill of $178,000 for every household in America.

This marks an enormous increase. Even after adjusting for inflation, it’s a jump of $60,000 over just 10 years for the average household.

In other words, even after accounting for inflation, the U.S. added more debt per household over the past 10 years than it did over its first 200 years.

Low interest rates today make our debt seemingly manageable, but the higher America’s debt grows, the more likely it is that rates could suddenly spike, sending terrible shocks throughout the economy.

In Chile, Protests Show No Signs of Dying Down

With Chile's protests poised to enter their fifth week, the prospects for a timely and tidy resolution are dim. Already, the sustained demonstrations in Santiago and other cities have led to at least 20 deaths, cost the economy an estimated $1.5 billion and forced the government to cancel the mid-November Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit at the last minute. Following the spread of demonstrations into Santiago's wealthier neighborhoods earlier this week, President Sebastian Pinera unveiled a carrot-and-stick approach on Nov. 7: While announcing plans to enhance the government's ability to monitor and punish violent protesters, he also heralded the beginning of "citizen dialogues" next week.

But government concessions and efforts at dialogue will be hard-pressed to resolve the factors fueling the protests for two reasons: the deep-seated nature of the grievances and the fragmented nature of the groups voicing them. And for businesses operating in Chile, that will mean continued disruption to operations and transportation in urban areas, as well as the threat of more arson and looting.

12 November 2019

America’s Original Identity Politics

By Charles King

“You know what I am?” U.S. President Donald J. Trump said at a rally in October 2018. “I’m a nationalist.” Rich Lowry’s The Case for Nationalism can be seen as a way of working through, and defending, what the president meant. As the editor of National Review, the prominent conservative magazine, Lowry is an intellectual gatekeeper on the American right. He was one of the speakers at the National Conservatism conference in July 2019, an event that brought together such thinkers as J. D. Vance and Patrick Deneen, with keynotes by the billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel and the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, along with a notorious intervention on the perils of immigration by University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax. 

Lowry’s central claim is that Americans are, and have been from their country’s founding, a nation and not a community of universal ideas. Although intellectuals and left-wing pundits are openly hostile to expressions of national sentiment, the United States has a unique national tradition that is today obscured by fissiparous identity politics. If Americans reacquaint themselves with their true national heritage, they will be better equipped to overcome dangerous tribalism, protect their borders, and make their country great again. To the degree that the United States has a global role, it should be as “vindicator of the prerogatives of other democratic nation-states”—in other words, a defender of the idea that a world of culturally defined nations is humanity’s state of nature.

23 September 2019

The American Working Man Still Isn’t Working

By Jason Furman

The United States is in the midst of its longest-ever economic recovery. It has been a slow climb out of the depths of the 2008–9 financial crisis, but the upward trend is now in its 11th year. American workers have seen 107 consecutive months of job growth, more than double the previous record, and the unemployment rate will soon reach its lowest level in over 50 years. However, there is one important economic indicator that still hasn’t rebounded to pre-crisis levels: the employment rate among prime-age men—that is, men between the ages of 25 and 54.

On the eve of the recession at the end of 2007, 12.8 percent of prime-age men didn’t have jobs. Now that figure stands at 13.7 percent. The headline unemployment rate for this group has fallen—from four percent to 3.1 percent—but only because many of these men have simply given up looking for work. When they stopped actively searching for jobs, they no longer qualified as “unemployed.” Instead, the government labeled them as “out of the labor force,” a designation that lowers the unemployment rate but is no less harmful to the economy.

11 September 2019

Does America have a moral imperative to stay in Afghanistan forever?

Damon Linker

After 18 years of waging war in Afghanistan, the Trump administration is attempting to pull back. But critics have responded with outrage. What's the point of trying to reach a deal with the execrable Taliban? How can we contemplate abandoning the Afghan government when the country could be plunged into civil war or worse?

The implication of these objections is clear: Eighteen years has been insufficient. The U.S. should be willing to guarantee Afghan security and stability — including playing Whack-a-Mole with Taliban insurgents — with no end in sight. Anything less than such an open-ended commitment is tantamount to a surrender — and surrendering to America's enemies should be considered unacceptable, no matter the cost in blood and treasure.

There's just one problem with this line of reasoning: It's based entirely on a single false premise, one that has helped to justify every American military intervention since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

To understand it, let's start with Afghanistan. If we define American interests narrowly, to involve defending the American homeland from attack and the country's most vital strategic relationships with its allies and trading partners from interference by rivals and adversaries, the case for staying in Afghanistan is incredibly weak. The country is poor, feeble, on the other side of the planet, and no longer serving as a base of operations for terrorists with the capacity to launch international attacks. Even with significantly fewer troops in the country, the U.S. military will retain the capacity to strike quickly and decisively against any terrorist groups with international ambitions that seek to re-establish themselves.

3 September 2019

A Persistent Crisis in Central America

Violence and corruption in Central America, particularly in the Northern Triangle countries, is causing a wave of outward migration. The Trump administration's response to the problem could make it worse. Meanwhile, newly elected reformist leaders in El Salvador and Panama face opposition from entrenched interests that benefit from the status quo. Explore WPR's extensive coverage of the Central America crisis.

For years, Central America has contended with the violence and corruption stemming from organized crime and the drug trade. Now the countries of the region also find themselves in U.S. President Donald Trump’s line of fire, due to the many desperate Central Americans who make their way across Mexico to seek asylum at the United States’ southern border. 

The steady stream of outward migration is driven by ongoing turmoil, particularly in Nicaragua and in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The three Northern Triangle countries rank among the most violent in the world, a legacy of the civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, which destabilized security structures and flooded the region with guns. In that context, gangs—often brought back home by deportees from the U.S.—have proliferated, and along with them the drug trade and corruption, fueling increasing lawlessness. Popular unrest has done little to produce political solutions, leading many of the most vulnerable to flee. 

13 August 2019

The Enduring American Presence in the Middle East

By Daniel Benaim And Michael Wahid Hanna 
Judging by the headlines, the last two years of U.S. Middle East policy seem to be marked by a whiplash-inducing series of radical shifts. U.S. President Donald Trump ran on opposition to a foreign policy of “intervention and chaos,” then ramped up U.S. airstrikes from Somalia to Syria. He announced a complete pullout of U.S. troops from eastern Syria in December, declaring, “They’re all coming back and they’re coming back now,” only to reverse himself and then trumpet additional military deployments to the region to counter Iran six months later. He has simultaneously decried his predecessor’s overinvestment in the Middle East and his weakness there. 

These conflicting signals have allowed wildly different interpretations of the Trump administration’s posture in the Middle East. Focusing on one announcement leads to warnings of a new war; focusing on others allows for proclamations of a “post-American era” in the Middle East. Yet most Middle East watchers seem to agree that something fundamental about America’s presence in the region is changing. 

9 August 2019

How Fishing Boats Have Become Warships

by Markos Kounalakis

Deep-sea fishing charters are a staple of most American coastal marinas—from Miami to the San Francisco Bay. Boats loaded with fuel and fun rock their way out on gentle waves to open waters and ocean sunsets. Summer freedom at its finest.

Now, imagine if the million registered floating funhouses in Florida and the million plus in California were suddenly impressed into the U.S. Navy to run offensive operations ramming ships or sent on snooping day-sails. If you can picture this, then you have a sense of other countries’ new hybrid navies. Around the world, fishing boats have become the new warships.

Fighting on the high seas and in ports of call is always treacherous, but the dangers just got worse. Battling against navy ships and subs trying to sink fleets, stake out seas, or show force now also means that every trawler, research vessel, fishing boat, and dinghy is also a potential combatant.

12 July 2019

A New Americanism

By Jill Lepore 

In 1986, the Pulitzer Prize–winning, bowtie-wearing Stanford historian Carl Degler delivered something other than the usual pipe-smoking, scotch-on-the-rocks, after-dinner disquisition that had plagued the evening program of the annual meeting of the American Historical Association for nearly all of its centurylong history. Instead, Degler, a gentle and quietly heroic man, accused his colleagues of nothing short of dereliction of duty: appalled by nationalism, they had abandoned the study of the nation.

“We can write history that implicitly denies or ignores the nation-state, but it would be a history that flew in the face of what people who live in a nation-state require and demand,” Degler said that night in Chicago. He issued a warning: “If we historians fail to provide a nationally defined history, others less critical and less informed will take over the job for us.”

3 July 2019

What the Right Gets Wrong About Socialism

By Erlend Kvitrud

As Scandinavia shows, it does feature plenty of public ownership—but also a thriving economy.

Global inequality is surging at an unprecedented pace. According to Oxfam, the world’s 26 richest people currently have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion—down from 61 people in 2016. As the rich get richer, sea levels are rising, tribalism is flourishing, and liberal democracies are regressing. Even some of the wealthiest nations are plagued by job insecurity, debt, and stagnant wages. Ordinary people across the political spectrum are increasingly concerned that the system is rigged against them. Trust in public institutions is near an all-time low.

In response to these conditions, democratic socialism is enjoying a revival in the United States. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-described socialist, is currently polling ahead of and raising more money than all the other Democratic presidential candidates except former Vice President Joe Biden. His town hall appearance on Fox News was the most watched such event of the campaign season so far. With this surge of interest has come a renewed debate, often centered on historical and international comparisons, about what socialism actually means and whether it can succeed. Sanders’s efforts to distinguish himself from Sen. Elizabeth Warren—a progressive, policy-oriented candidate who has emerged as a close competitor, and who advocates for “responsible capitalism” rather than democratic socialism—has only deepened that interest. Earlier this month, he delivered a speech presenting his vision of democratic socialism, and during Thursday night’s Democratic primary debate, he sparred with former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper over the viability of a socialist in the race against incumbent President Donald Trump.

2 July 2019

Changing the Way America Goes to War

by Michael J. Mazarr

The risk of war with Iran is now clearly imminent. An American president has reportedly ordered attacks on Iran—which could trigger massive escalation—only to walk them back. This intensifying confrontation has been compared to the path to war with Iraq in 2002–2003, with ultimatums, demands for essential changes in behavior, and regional military posturing.

But there is a much more profound message the two cases send about American democracy today: The process of national deliberation for “wars of choice” is fatally flawed.

On the surface, the road to war with Iraq seemed to reflect intense debate: Eighteen months of public discussion, a congressional resolution, United Nations sessions, presidential speeches. But this apparent activity hid ruinous limitations in the scope and rigor of the national dialogue.

Inside government, the debate over war was narrow and incomplete. I spent a decade researching the process, and my interviews confirmed a stunning fact: The Bush administration never convened a single Cabinet session to discuss whether going to war was actually a good idea.

28 June 2019

Ending America’s Endless War

Bernie Sanders

The United States has been at war for too long. Even today, we seem to be preparing for a new war with Iran, which would be the worst yet. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump ordered thousands of additional U.S. troops to the Middle East to confront Tehran and its proxies. And we recently learned that the Pentagon had presented the White House with plansto send tens of thousands more.

I am very concerned that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the Trump administration’s moves against Iran, and Iran’s moves in response, could put us in direct conflict.

We should all understand that a war with Iran would be many times worse than the Iraq war. U.S. military leaders and security experts have repeatedly told us that. If the United States were to attack Iran, Tehran could use its proxies to retaliate against U.S. troops and partners in Iraq, Syria, Israel, and the Persian Gulf area. The result would be the further, unimaginable destabilization of the Middle East, with wars that go on year after year and likely cost trillions of dollars.

Corporate America in the Crossfire


HONG KONG – American multinationals may like the idea of forcing China to alter the policies and practices – from subsidies for state-owned enterprises to the requirement that foreign firms share proprietary technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market – that place them at a competitive disadvantage. But, as US President Donald Trump’s trade war continues to escalate, it is worth asking: What price are these companies really willing to pay?

The post-World War II world order has been undergirded by three overlapping networks of global exchange – trade, investment and finance, and information – which US multinationals have played a leading role in developing. In 2017, global trade in goods and services was worth $46 trillion, or 57% of world GDP. Annual turnover in global foreign exchange was 22 times larger, partly owing to lower transaction costs.

Lately, however, it is flows of data and information that are skyrocketing. According to research by the McKinsey Global Institute, by 2016, digital flows were having a larger impact on GDP growth than trade in goods. Such flows include information and ideas in their own right, as well as digital components of cross-border transactions involving goods, services, or finance.

26 June 2019

US blacklists 5 Chinese tech firms

The five blacklisted organizations placed on the so-called Entity List includes supercomputer maker Sugon, which is heavily dependent on U.S. suppliers.

The United States is blacklisting five Chinese organizations involved in supercomputing with military-related applications, citing national security as justification for denying its Asian geopolitical rival access to critical U.S. technology.

The move by the U.S. Commerce Department could complicate talks next week between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, aimed at de-escalating a trade dispute between the world’s two biggest economies.

The five blacklisted organizations placed on the so-called Entity List includes supercomputer maker Sugon, which is heavily dependent on U.S. suppliers, including chipmakers Intel, Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices.

Infographic Of The Day: In One Chart - A Decade Of The U.S. Trade Deficit With China

Since 2010, the United States and China have had the world's largest economies by GDP. But one interesting difference is that the U.S. is the world's biggest importer while China is the world's biggest exporter. The U.S. is currently China's biggest trade partner, but recent talks about tariffs have highlighted the imbalance of imports and exports between the two countries. As economic tensions continue to rise, here is a look at how the trade deficit between the U.S. and China has changed over the past ten years.