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

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

ANDREW SHENG , XIAO GENG

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.

Beating the Americans at Their Own Game


During the Cold War, the U.S. military relied on technological superiority to “offset” the Soviet Union’s advantages in time, space, and force size. Our military-technical edge allowed the U.S. Joint Force to adopt force postures and operational concepts that largely compensated for the Soviet military’s numerical conventional advantage without needing to match it man-for-man or tank-for-tank. After the Cold War ended, this same military-technical advantage provided the U.S. military a decisive conventional overmatch against regional adversaries for over two decades.

Chinese technological capabilities are growing as rapidly as its economic power. The Soviets were never able to match, much less overcome, America’s technological superiority. The same may not be true for China.

Now, however, the “rogue” regional powers that have preoccupied U.S. attention for so long have been replaced by two great powers with substantially greater capabilities. A resurgent and revanchist Russia and a rising, increasingly more powerful China are taking aggressive actions that threaten regional security and stability and challenge the existing international order. Without question, of these two great-power competitors, China poses the greater challenge over the long term. Since about 1885, the United States never has faced a competitor or even group of competitors with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) larger than its own. China surpassed the United States in purchasing power parity in 2014 and is on track to have the world’s largest GDP in absolute terms by 2030. In comparison, our Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union, was hobbled by unsustainable economic contradictions that ultimately crumbled under pressure. At the height of its power, its GDP was roughly 40 percent the size of the United States’.1

24 June 2019

America Can Face Down a Fragile Iran

Reuel Marc Gerecht 

In the U.S. and Europe, much of the mainstream media has swallowed a narrative about Donald Trump and Iran. While Iran is an aggressive authoritarian state, the story goes, it is nonetheless a victim of American belligerence. Tehran was adhering to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, negotiated by the Obama administration, when the truculent Mr. Trump abruptly abandoned the accord. For more than a year, according to the narrative, the mullahs have shown patience by continuing to abide by the agreement, even with the resurrection of punishing American sanctions.

Iranian patience has run out, critics complain, because of the Trump administration’s recent announcement that it will try to drive the Islamic Republic’s oil exports to zero. Tehran’s “hard-liners” now have the upper hand. Washington’s economic warfare, the narrative goes, may provoke the clerical regime into a military conflict. And if war comes, the mullahs are ready to trap America in another Middle Eastern quagmire.

23 June 2019

Are Academics Pursuing a Cult of the Irrelevant?

by Michael Lind

Michael Desch offers an illuminating survey of the century-long relationship between practitioners of U.S. foreign policy and the professors who study it.

Michael C. Desch, Cult of the Irrelevant: The Waning Influence of Social Science on National Security (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019), 351 pp., $35.00.

IN APRIL 2008, Robert M. Gates, secretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration, asserted that the national security community “must once again embrace eggheads and ideas.” Why this hope, often expressed before, was likely to be disappointed again is the subject of Michael Desch’s illuminating survey of the century-long relationship between practitioners of U.S. foreign policy and the professors who study it.

Desch, a professor of international relations at Notre Dame and founding director of the Notre Dame International Security Center, explains that “from the beginning of the twentieth century, there has been a tension between the two objectives of the evolving research university system. Science and practical application were in tension generally, but the social sciences experienced it particularly acutely.” In relating the history of debates about the interaction between the making and the study of foreign policy, Desch narrates the larger story of American political science, whose birth as an independent scholarly discipline can be dated to the founding of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in 1904. Desch observes that a majority of the early members of the APSA were not academics and that its early presidents like Frank Goodnow and Woodrow Wilson were progressives committed to using social science to promote social reform. But public-spirited scholars like Charles Beard, president of the APSA in 1926, were already losing out by the 1920s to the likes of University of Chicago’s William Fielding Ogburn, who opined that the scholar had “to give up social action and dedicated [himself] to science.”

22 June 2019

Are We Ready For a Rare Earths Trade War?

Jeffrey Wilson

Rare earth minerals have emerged as the latest front in the escalating US-China trade war. Nearly a decade after the Chinese government controversially suspended rare earth exports to Japan during the 2010 Senkaku dispute, similar threats are now being made if the bilateral trade dispute with the US deepens.

How prepared is the global economy for another deployment of the so-called “rare earths weapon”?

Rare earths are an ideal instrument for economic coercion. They are an essential input into a wide range of high-technology products, across the electronics, petrochemical, renewable energy and defence sectors. As there are few economically-feasible substitutes for their use, any suspension to rare earth value chains would have a disastrous impact on an economy’s technological ecosystem.

China also possesses an extraordinary degree of market power. While not strictly a “monopolist”, in 2017 it produced an estimated 79% of the world’s rare earth oxides. By comparison, OPEC – a longstanding and sometimes-feared energy cartel – accounts for only 41% of global oil output. Outsized market power gives the Chinese government considerable scope to use rare earths as leverage in diplomatic disputes.

20 June 2019

Iran: America’s Latest Drive For War – OpEd

By Ryan McMaken*

This week, two oil tankers exploded in the Persian Gulf, reportedly as a result of a limpet mine attack. Neither tanker flew a US flag. One was Panama-flagged, and the other was Marshall Islands-flagged. No one was killed.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo immediately accused the Iranian regime of being responsible for the attack. Pompeo told reporters that the accusation was “based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping.”

It’s unclear yet what course of action the administration will opt for in coming days. But, it’s likely to include calls for new sanctions at the very least. But it may also include calls for invasions, bombings, and yet another US-involved war.

Needless to say, we’ve all seen this movie before, and we know how it works: the US government claims that something a foreign country has done poses a grave threat both to the international order and to the United States directly. Or we may be told the foreign regime in question is perpetrating horrific human rights violations against its own people. The US then insists it must launch new airstrikes, enact new economic sanctions, or even orchestrate a new invasion and occupation of a foreign country.

American Foreign Policy Adrift

By Brett McGurk

In a May 11 speech at the Claremont Institute in Beverly Hills, entitled “A Foreign Policy from the Founding,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo quoted John Quincy Adams to explain how Donald Trump’s foreign policy is grounded in a “realism” that eluded his predecessors, particularly George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Adams, then Secretary of State, wrote in 1821 that America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.”

According to Pompeo, Trump’s foreign policy is grounded in this prudent tradition of the United States’ founding generation, with an emphasis on “realism, restraint, and respect.” Trump, Pompeo said, “has no aspiration to use force to spread the American model.” Instead, he aims to lead by example. “The unsurpassed attractiveness of the American experiment is something I market every day,” Pompeo said, describing his role as America’s top diplomat. He then quoted George Washington, who predicted that the United States’ democracy might ultimately inspire “the applause, the affection, and the adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.”

18 June 2019

Why America Needs a New Way of War

By Chris Dougherty

For the first time in decades, it is possible to imagine the United States fighting—and possibly losing—a large-scale war with a great power. For generations of Americans accustomed to U.S. military superiority and its ability to deter major wars, the idea of armed conflict between great powers may seem highly improbable. The idea that the United States—with the most expensive armed forces in the world by a wide margin—might lose such a war would seem absolutely preposterous. Nevertheless, the possibility of war and U.S. defeat are real and growing.

Given that U.S. armed forces’ last major conventional combat operations were the massively lopsided victories against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1991 and 2003, many Americans might be wondering how this could come to pass. This report makes the case that one salient issue is that the American way of war—the implicit and explicit mental framework for U.S. military strategy and operations—that coalesced after the Gulf War is no longer valid.

Why America Needs a New Way of War

By Chris Dougherty

For the first time in decades, it is possible to imagine the United States fighting—and possibly losing—a large-scale war with a great power. For generations of Americans accustomed to U.S. military superiority and its ability to deter major wars, the idea of armed conflict between great powers may seem highly improbable. The idea that the United States—with the most expensive armed forces in the world by a wide margin—might lose such a war would seem absolutely preposterous. Nevertheless, the possibility of war and U.S. defeat are real and growing.

Given that U.S. armed forces’ last major conventional combat operations were the massively lopsided victories against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1991 and 2003, many Americans might be wondering how this could come to pass. This report makes the case that one salient issue is that the American way of war—the implicit and explicit mental framework for U.S. military strategy and operations—that coalesced after the Gulf War is no longer valid.

17 June 2019

The UTC-Raytheon deal highlights the changing nature of war


With a deep voice and physique of a former American-football player, Greg Hayes, boss of United Technologies Corp (utc), does not seem like the soft sort. But the ego is delicate. As he told Schumpeter in February while explaining his decision to carve utc, a conglomerate dating back to the 1920s, into three parts, it was hard for him emotionally to accept that he may end up in charge of a smaller slice of the pie. Shed no tears, though. As he said those words, he was probably plotting a megamerger that could make him one of America’s biggest military-industrialists.

On June 9th utc, which is big in jet engines, and Raytheon, a prominent missile-maker, said they would join together to create America’s second-largest aerospace and defence company after Boeing, with a combined market value of $166bn. utc shareholders will get 57% of the combined company, to be called Raytheon Technologies. The merger reflects two trends sweeping America: the reshaping of defence because of fears about China and the streamlining of industry because of shareholder activism.

14 June 2019

A Persistent Crisis in Central America


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. 

Britain and America are Paying for Their Nationalist Ways

by Paul R. Pillar

London and Washington are engulfed in political turmoil and awash with economic problems.

Current political strife in the United Kingdom and the United States has been providing a study in political pathology, partly involving parallels between the two countries and partly involving contrasts. A breakdown of party disciplinein one case and blind partisanship in the other—opposite phenomena in most respects—have inflicted damage in each country, given the differences in the political system in each. A further question concerns the costs and false promises of narrow, primitive nationalism in both countries. Specifically, when will the economic costs of such nationalism have significant political effects, in which country will such effects be seen first, and how bad will the economic story have to get in either place before the political story changes?

In Britain it’s all about Brexit, of course. Theresa May, having defined her premiership (perhaps unavoidably, given the hand she was dealt) in terms of delivering Brexit, and having failed to deliver because of the inherently unachievable nature of what the Brexiteers had promised, is on the way out. Current betting says that a Brexiteer will succeed May. Friends of Britain should be dismayed that the front-runner is prominent Brexiteer Boris Johnson, whose political strength is based primarily on shallow charisma and who performed dismally as foreign secretary. Also dismaying is that a no-deal Brexit, in which the UK would simply crash out of the European Union without a new trade agreement, has become a significant possibility. If a no-deal Brexit were to occur, the economic consequences would be severe in Britain (and less extreme, but still negative, on the European continent).