55 (Author at Cato Institute) https://www.cato.org/ en Dancing with Dictators: Trump’s Human Rights Policy https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/dancing-dictators-trumps-human-rights-policy Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried out a&nbsp;new joke at a&nbsp;DC comedy club’s open mike night. Said Pompeo: “Whether it’s freedom for the people of Hong Kong, human rights for the Rohingya, all across the world, @realDonaldTrump has understood that it’s important for America to be a&nbsp;true beacon for freedom and liberty and human rights around the globe.”</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Unfortunately, Jamal Khashoggi wasn’t in the audience and available to comment. But the joke did generate uproarious laughter in the U.S. capital and around the world. Even the president, who only a&nbsp;few days before acknowledged that he refused to sanction Chinese officials over brutal repression of the Uyghurs in order to protect his trade deal, had a&nbsp;good laugh.</p> <p>Pompeo is an obnoxious partisan and foolish uber‐​hawk, but is not normally known for purveying fantasy. Yet having played a&nbsp;major role in implementing U.S. foreign policy—for instance, his lips, no less than President Donald Trump’s, have been firmly attached to the Saudi crown prince’s derriere—he is well aware that the president is not just uninterested in foreign repression but actually prefers the company of brutes, thugs, dictators, killers, and aggressors.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Pompeo’s recent claims about caring could only generate laughter, since they were widely recognized as false. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Consider just a&nbsp;few of the officials the president has waxed eloquent in describing as friends: Mohammed bin Salman, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong‐​un, Vladimir Putin, Rodrigo Duterte, Abdel Fattah al‐​Sisi, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. One suspects that it would take only one summit for the president to be spouting effusive praise of Raoul Castro, Nicolas Maduro, and Ali Khamenei, despite their past foreign policy differences. Indeed, Trump might even have gotten along with Muammar Gaddafi and Osama bin Laden had they not prematurely journeyed across the river Styx.</p> <p>Human rights never was going to fare well in an administration dominated by a&nbsp;transactional view of foreign policy. After all, tyrants, not victims, typically have favors to trade. There isn’t much those jailed in Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea, Russia, Philippines, Egypt, Turkey, and elsewhere have to offer.</p> <p>But the issue is difficult even for presidents who actually are concerned about the well‐​being of others. President Jimmy Carter elevated the issue, yet he went to Tehran where he toasted the Shah’s dedication to democracy, a&nbsp;major laugh‐​line for the many critics arrested and tortured by Savak, the Iranian dictator’s secret police. President Ronald Reagan gave wonderful speeches promoting liberty but supported decidedly illiberal insurgents in Afghanistan, Africa, and Central America. He also did not hesitate working with dictators, such as South Korea’s Chun Doo‐​hwan.</p> <p>Nevertheless, human rights matters. Saving lives and expanding freedom should be of concern to anyone of good will. It is possible for Americans to do good in the world. They should do so in government when possible—and consistent with their fundamental duty to protect America and advance its interests.<br> The core of foreign policy, its vital end, is to serve the American people, who create, sustain, and rely upon the national government. Uncle Sam is their agent, not a&nbsp;global crusader entitled to squander lives and wealth in a&nbsp;global game of Risk.</p> <p>Nevertheless, not every means is appropriate for advancing perceived American interests. War, conquest, and oppression are inherently suspect tools. So is support for countries engaging in war, conquest, and oppression. There sometimes are hard choices, but they usually are rare and temporary, last resorts necessary to achieve essential objectives.</p> <p>Unfortunately, the end of the Cold War has resulted in not just hubris but moral blindness. Military intervention has become just another policy option, often the default for a&nbsp;government which has lost the ability to negotiate and persuade. It is difficult to imagine what objective could justify the Iraq debacle, with thousands of American dead, tens of thousands of American wounded, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead, millions of Iraqis displaced, destruction of indigenous religious minorities, and creation of al‐​Qaeda in Iraq and its successor, the Islamic State. Similarly, what possibly could warrant supporting one of the world’s most oppressive states, Saudi Arabia, in its aggressive war against Yemen for selfish geopolitical purposes, which caused a&nbsp;humanitarian catastrophe? Yet successive presidents have made Americans complicit with murder and mayhem.</p> <p>Another offense against morality and decency is supporting tyrants. The Trump administration seems almost enthusiastic when given the opportunity to empower and promote vile oppressors. For instance, it appears that no crime by the Saudis would lessen administration support; rather, harming the domestic shale oil industry finally drew a&nbsp;presidential rebuke. Only when Turkey imprisoned an evangelical American pastor championed by Trump’s domestic political allies did the administration utter the words human rights to Erdogan.</p> <p>Slaughtering drug users and sellers was no concern in dealing with Manila.</p> <p>Of course, tolerating an ally’s flaws sometimes might be necessary when American security is threatened and there really is a&nbsp;lesser of two evils, such as military‐​dominated South Korea facing off against the totalitarian Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The greatest, and perhaps toughest, instance was allying with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany. Both regimes were evil but the latter was more aggressive and dangerous. However, involvement in such cases should require an overriding justification. Thankfully, these trade‐​offs are much diminished without a&nbsp;Cold War.</p> <p>For instance, tensions with Russia, a&nbsp;minimal threat compared to the Soviet Union, cannot justify arming Turkey and tolerating the behavior of its wannabe dictator. There is no Middle Eastern danger that warrants overlooking Israel’s oppressive colonial occupation policy toward the Palestinians. Even easier: there is no cause to arm the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as it brutalizes its citizens, threatens its neighbors, and destabilizes its region. On almost every measure Riyadh is worse than Iran, the usual bugaboo used to justify every intervention and compromise with oppression made by Washington in the Mideast.</p> <p>Tougher is deciding how the U.S. should try to promote human rights. Americans first should get their own house in order. Claiming to be “a city on a&nbsp;hill” while failing in major ways—think of pre‐​Civil Rights America, with African‐​Americans segregated, abused, and oppressed. Hypocrisy also is destructive. The Trump administration explicitly decided to use human rights as a&nbsp;weapon against opponents while saying nothing about friends. Such cynicism—for instance, waxing eloquent about Iranian violations of human life and dignity while dancing with the Saudi royals—exposed the policy as pure cynicism.</p> <p>Prudence also is a&nbsp;limiting factor. The Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China were the most murderous states in modern human history, resulting in tens of millions of deaths (though Nazi Germany represented a&nbsp;unique evil, bent on genocide of the Jewish people). However, the only way to end their brutal oppression would have been world war and nuclear conflict, which would have caused far more death, destruction, and chaos. Imagine trying to defeat, conquer, occupy, and rebuild those two nations.</p> <p>Economic sanctions have become the solution du jour, especially for Congress, filled with 535 wannabe secretaries of state. However, truly effective penalties—like those imposed on Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela, do more to impoverish, starve, and kill average folks than regime elites. It has always been so. Saddam Hussein still lived in luxury despite sanctions against Iraq. Cuban dissidents complained to me when I&nbsp;visited that the U.S. embargo was a&nbsp;convenient excuse for regime failures. I&nbsp;met opposition activists in Yugoslavia who told me that allied sanctions left their supporters penniless while enabling the government to profit from smuggling.</p> <p>Most important, governments are reluctant to fold under pressure on issues viewed as vital, such as regime preservation. It is notable that in no case so far has the Trump administration succeeded in changing any nation’s policy as a&nbsp;result of sanctions. Not one, even after constantly toughening “maximum pressure” regimes. The policy has been a&nbsp;complete bust.</p> <p>Yet lesser measures are almost frivolous, mostly designed to make legislators appear concerned. For instance, the latest legislation targeting China over both the imprisonment of Uyghurs and crackdown in Hong Kong directs the president to sanction Chinese officials, such as Xinjiang’s provincial chief, for their role. Does anyone imagine Beijing changing its policy because America denies a&nbsp;tourist visa to a&nbsp;high‐​ranking apparatchik? Seriously? While there is nothing wrong with singling out individual offenders, no one should believe that doing so will change anything.</p> <p>Which leaves the unsatisfactory reality that there usually isn’t a&nbsp;lot the U.S. can do. The president can and should use his or her bully pulpit to promote liberty, life, and dignity. Washington should engage other governments over their abuses and crimes and push for the release and rehabilitation of victims. So should activists—publicize and shame the horrors that are so common around the world. Creating even imperfect international mechanisms, such as the UN Human Rights Council and Cold War era Helsinki Declaration, can be helpful. Washington cannot base foreign policy on human rights but should follow a&nbsp;consistent and energetic strategy to use whatever opportunities develop to do good internationally.</p> <p>As part of such an effort the potential impact of naming and shaming should never be underestimated.</p> <p>Pompeo’s recent claim could only generate laughter since it was widely recognized as false, even ridiculous. In contrast, Ronald Reagan’s challenge to the Evil Empire and call on Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall were recognized as reflecting a&nbsp;deeply held if imperfect commitment to human life, liberty and dignity.</p> <p>Obviously, such rhetoric did not end the Cold War. But it helped give hope to oppressed peoples and encourage a&nbsp;Soviet leader who had a&nbsp;humane core, Mikhail Gorbachev. Then Gorbachev led the way in dismantling the mammoth system of state oppression, perhaps the greatest single act of liberation in human history. Future presidents should take a&nbsp;similar approach.</p> </div> Fri, 03 Jul 2020 09:33:23 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/dancing-dictators-trumps-human-rights-policy Doug Bandow participates in the webinar, “The Longest Forever War: The Korean War At 70,” hosted by the Center for the National Interest https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/doug-bandow-participates-webinar-longest-forever-war-korean-war-70 Tue, 30 Jun 2020 10:14:38 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/doug-bandow-participates-webinar-longest-forever-war-korean-war-70 Doug Bandow discusses North Korea stepping down its aggression on South Korea on Arirang News https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/doug-bandow-discusses-north-korea-stepping-down-its-aggression-south Mon, 29 Jun 2020 12:10:03 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/doug-bandow-discusses-north-korea-stepping-down-its-aggression-south Back to the Future: U.S. Negotiates With War Advocates and Criminals of Old https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/back-future-us-negotiates-war-advocates-criminals-old Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The last couple of weeks brought momentous news from the Balkans. The Serb politician who began his career as chief propagandist to Yugoslavia’s authoritarian leader throughout the Balkan wars enjoyed a&nbsp;big election victory. The Kosovo politician who served as one of the top insurgent commanders who helped win that nation’s independence was indicted for war crimes. The Trump administration’s effort to bring them together to resolve their nations’ differences collapsed.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>At the president’s behest, his jack‐​of‐​all‐​trades aide Richard Grenell had hoped to clinch a&nbsp;stunning peace deal by inviting Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovar President Hashim Thaci to meet at the White House last Saturday. But Grenell was embarrassed and frustrated. In contrast, the Europeans could barely suppress their glee after Grenell left them on the sidelines.</p> <p>Kosovo is one of many international issues dominated by ethnically based interest groups. In 1998 and 1999 Albanian‐​Americans organized to push Washington to support the burgeoning insurgency in Kosovo, an autonomous territory within Serbia. The U.S. had no reason to get involved, since the bloody consequences were limited though tragic and had no meaningful security consequences for America.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>But at least the Trump administration is not treating Serbia in the ugly way its predecessors (and NATO) went out of their way to do. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Even the moral equities were complex. Kosovo’s history recorded abuse by both ethnic groups, since Albanians predominated locally and Serbs nationally. In the late 1990s, the Yugoslav military was playing rough, but insurgencies rarely are pleasant affairs. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) killed ethnic Serbs and Albanians with equal enthusiasm, especially the latter when accused of collaboration. U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard observed that the KLA was “without any questions, a&nbsp;terrorist group.”</p> <p>The lack of security relevance, however, made the Balkans of interest to the Clinton administration,&nbsp;<a href="https://original.antiwar.com/doug-bandow/2020/06/25/remember-americas-great-kosovo-ally-never-mind-the-war-crimes/" target="_blank">going back to the initial violent breakup of Yugoslavia</a>, which was far more complicated than the morality play often assumed, with brutality, murder, and mayhem all around. It seemed the less strategically important, the greater the administration’s desire to act. Led by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who had expressed her belief that there was no reason for America to possess such a “superb military” unless it was used, and used promiscuously, Washington’s determined social engineers decamped for the French town of Rambouillet. There they tried to force the fast‐​diminishing country of Yugoslavia, which already had lost Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia, to accept NATO administration of Kosovo and effective occupation of the rest of the country, with freedom of movement and from prosecution guaranteed for allied personnel. When Belgrade refused, off to war went the Clintonistas.</p> <p>The first consequence was to trigger a&nbsp;Serb plan to drive hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians from their homes. It was a&nbsp;terrible crime, yet it was actually a&nbsp;response to NATO’s unprovoked attack on Yugoslavia. Belgrade badly miscalculated: other atrocity stories generated by the KLA and circulated by NATO were quickly disproved. But the mass ethnic cleansing retrospectively seemed to justify the very intervention that sparked the crime.</p> <p>Even then the Clinton administration was unwilling to risk public displeasure by introducing ground troops, so it just bombed and bombed and bombed — for 78&nbsp;days — until Belgrade finally agreed to the occupation of Kosovo, though not the rest of the country. American commander Wesley Clarke was barely prevented from starting World War III by his British deputy, who refused to block Russian forces racing to Kosovo to secure a&nbsp;place in the occupation.</p> <p><a href="https://spectator.org/42092_kosovo-year-later/" target="_blank">Events only went downhill from there</a>. Ethnic Albanians kicked out a&nbsp;quarter of a&nbsp;million ethnic Serbs, Roma, and other ethnic and religious minorities. The Kosovo government gained a&nbsp;reputation for corruption, criminality, and violence. The U.S. and Europe promoted faux negotiations, with the outcome preset as Kosovo’s independence. Pristina eventually dropped all pretense and claimed nationhood, but Serbia, Russia, several members of the European Union, and others refused to recognize the new state, which remains barred from both the United Nations and EU.</p> <p>Kosovo’s politics has been dominated by former leaders of the KLA. Hashim Thaci, whose KLA&nbsp;<em>nom de guerre</em>&nbsp;was “the Snake,” became the first prime minister of the new nation in 2008. As coalitions changed he later held positions as foreign minister and deputy premier. In 2016, he was elected Kosovo’s president. Many KLA fighters, including Thaci, were accused of criminal behavior during the war. Nevertheless, the U.S. and Europe, though not Serbia, largely ignored the charges, working with those who dominated Pristina’s politics.</p> <p>Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who oversaw the campaign against the KLA, was subsequently defeated for reelection and then extradited to the Hague for trial for crimes against humanity (he died of a&nbsp;heart attack during the proceedings). Serbian politics remained on the nationalist side, as successive governments rejected Kosovo’s independence and remained close to Russia. Nevertheless, hope for economic gain and eventual entry into the European Union led to intermittent negotiations and occasional agreements as well as unsurprising spats with Kosovo.</p> <p>The dominant political figure in Serbia today is the surprising Vucic. He served as Minister of Information under Milosevic, went into opposition as a&nbsp;hardline nationalist after the latter’s ouster, but in 2008 shifted parties and ideologies, becoming a&nbsp;moderate, populist conservative, pro‐​EU and economic reform. He entered government in 2012 as minister of defense and deputy prime minister. Two years later, he was premier. In 2017, he was elected president.</p> <p>He has come under sharp criticism for trending close to the authoritarian line, especially with press restrictions. He has remained close to Moscow and recently embraced China for its coronavirus aid. Yet he proclaimed his commitment to the EU and is widely viewed as an opportunist willing to make any deal that he believes to be politically advantageous.</p> <p>While Thaci and Vucic came to dominate their respective countries, the EU devoted much time and effort to browbeating Serbia to accept the loss of what was viewed as the cradle of Serbian history. But EU bureaucrats who thought everything could be compromised for money underestimated the power of nationalist passion and cultural identification. Although no Serb could seriously imagine a&nbsp;return of Kosovo to Serbian rule, resistance to abandoning the claim, as well as the thousands of ethnic Serbs who remained in Kosovo but desired to stay with Serbia, remained strong. Vucic insisted that “In reply to a&nbsp;possible offer to recognize Kosovo and that Kosovo enters the UN, and we receive nothing in return, except EU membership, our answer would be ‘no.’ ”</p> <p>Enter Richard Grenell, the just‐​retired ambassador to Germany. Although an atypical and controversial diplomat, President Donald Trump made him special envoy to the Balkans last fall. Grenell cheerfully jumped into Pristina’s unique political snakepit, in April orchestrating the downfall of the prime minister, who refused to end Kosovar trade sanctions against Belgrade. The deposed Albin Kurti called the maneuver “a parliamentary coup d’état” and claimed that “It is the first time now that we have an American envoy, he has the same identical stance with Serbia.”</p> <p>The Europeans naturally were livid at Grenell’s involvement, even though they had had no meaningful success in resolving the impasse. The typical Brussels Eurocrat is happy to negotiate everything and compromise anything, but not when Serbia was concerned. EU diplomats hosted meetings and encouraged talks, but proved powerless to get Serbs to abandon an emotional if hopeless claim to historic territory.</p> <p>Yet all was not lost. Thaci and Vucic began talking about possible territorial swaps. Residents of the largely Serb enclave of Mitrovica in Kosovo’s north desired to remain in Serbia. Those living in the largely Albanian Presevo Valley in Serbia’s south would prefer to be in Kosovo. A&nbsp;trade, euphemistically called “border correction,” could satisfy both sides. The State Department shifted position to endorse the idea in 2018.</p> <p>The idea horrified the European establishment, which decried opening up border changes. Eurocrats who run the EU are the ultimate social engineers and complained since they favor federal, multi‐​ethnic states, irrespective of residents’ wishes. Paddy Ashdown, who played dictatorial colonial governor in Bosnia after the 1995 Dayton Accord forced the warring parties to stay together, asserted, “Sustainable peace can only come when we learn to live in multi‐​ethnic communities, rather than re‐​drawing borders to create mono‐​ethnic ones.” That’s beautiful in theory but long experience demonstrates that it is foolish — and sometimes deadly — to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.</p> <p>Also frantic were leaders of nations facing their own separatist movements, such as Spain (think Basques and Catalans). Nevertheless, the American and European governments had opened up the boundary issue when they dismembered Serbia, which required multiple and monumental territorial shifts. Allowing everyone but Serbian ethnic minorities to change their governments reflected obvious bias.</p> <p>Kurti accused Grenell of favoring the move. The latter claimed not to have talked about the issue, which seemed unlikely if he was serious about forging a&nbsp;compromise. To advance an agreement he had scheduled a&nbsp;meeting at the White House between Thaci and Vucic for Saturday June 27. Grenell said only economic issues would be on the agenda, to build trust. Of course, side discussions could easily occur even if the topic was not formally on the agenda. Moreover, he said broader peace talks were planned for later in the year. To be successful any negotiations would have to reach the fundamental issues of identity and nationhood.</p> <p>Buoyed by his big election victory a&nbsp;couple weeks ago, Vucic could withstand any popular antagonism toward trading away the Serbian claim to Kosovo. Especially if he gained the return of Mitrovica, which would be an obvious nationalist achievement.</p> <p>Thaci also looked like someone who could deliver. He was one of the people without whom Kosovo would not be independent. He enjoyed popular support and combat credibility, which could deflect complaints for compromising with Serbia. Having gotten his hands dirty in the past, he probably could help muscle any agreement through parliament.</p> <p>But a&nbsp;funny thing happened on the way to the White House show. Last week Thaci and nine other Kosovars were indicted by a&nbsp;special prosecutor in the Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was charged with involvement in upwards of 100 murders. (So was a&nbsp;former parliamentary speaker.) Despite Thaci’s vociferous denials, his responsibility would surprise no one. After the announcement he headed back to Kosovo. The new prime minister, Avdullah Hoti, was expected to act as substitute, but he would have been at sea in the negotiations and without the political clout necessary to defend the result. He also decided against attending.</p> <p>So Grenell canceled the gathering. He hasn’t given up. And he has a&nbsp;potentially powerful selling point: if Trump loses, the Biden administration is likely to start afresh. Moreover, the usual foreign service officers who would reemerge in a&nbsp;Biden administration would be more likely to defer to the EU, as in the past. In which case chances of a&nbsp;deal would diminish.</p> <p>But the way forward is unclear. Kosovar politics could become chaotic. Thaci is likely to be preoccupied and reluctant to take a&nbsp;potentially controversial position when he needs solid support at home. If he is extradited, Kosovars might focus their ire on outside actors, including Serbia and the EU, and be less willing to consider compromise.</p> <p>The path for Vucic would seem to be clearer, with the recent renewal of his popular mandate. But the magnitude of his victory — his party won three‐​quarters of the seats in parliament — reflects an opposition boycott to protest his anti‐​democratic practices. Moreover, it might not be as easy for him to sell a&nbsp;deal with an accused war criminal. The charges are not new but have been officially validated.</p> <p>Further roiling the waters, Vucic recently added to his sometime tilt toward Moscow a&nbsp;kowtow to Beijing. He might prefer to keep his options open and maintain his leverage, since he has few fans in the EU other than Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. Making a&nbsp;deal and fully committing to the EU might not be his best move at the moment.</p> <p>In fact, Brussels and Washington will be very interested to see in what direction he decides to move. Vucic is no dictator, but as a&nbsp;strongman in a&nbsp;recent democracy with weak civil institutions he has undermined the liberal political order. Which left the group Freedom House to make an almost schizophrenic assessment:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>The Republic of Serbia is a&nbsp;parliamentary democracy with competitive multiparty elections, but in recent years the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has steadily eroded political rights and civil liberties, putting pressure on independent media, the political opposition, and civil society organizations. Despite these trends, the country has continued to move toward membership in the European Union.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Concern over possible abuse of his authority for political advantage, though legitimate, isn’t likely to have great effect. Although it is theoretically easier for the EU to punish a&nbsp;non‐​member, simply cutting aid and blocking entry, the organization has less reason to prioritize a&nbsp;state which cannot directly influence the organization. And with other Balkan states entering the EU, leaving out Serbia might create even more regional trouble.</p> <p>Moreover, the Trump administration, at least, cares naught about human rights when friendly states are involved. The EU treats such concerns more seriously but has achieved little in the more important cases of Hungary and Poland. Vucic’s machinations appear modest in comparison: He is no poster boy for tyranny. An organization made up of sovereign governments cannot easily discipline sovereign governments, especially when the perceived abuses are moderate and indirect.</p> <p>Also at issue is Russian and Chinese influence in Belgrade. Indeed, the International and Security Affairs Centre figured that Serbia’s agreement with EU foreign policy positions has dropped sharply since 2012. Yet several nations, including Greece and Italy, differ sharply with Brussels over important questions such as policy toward Moscow. Even Germany dissents from the U.S. line, which Congress attempted to enforce by sanctioning the Nordstream 2&nbsp;natural gas pipeline with Russia, raising Berlin’s ire.</p> <p>Attempting to redirect Belgrade’s perspective won’t be easy — and probably isn’t worth the effort. Moscow’s role is historic: It was the Russian Empire that backed Serbia when Austro‐​Hungary issued its famous ultimatum in July 1914. Moscow backed Serbia in the early 1990s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/dougbandow/2017/01/24/bungled-intervention-in-kosovo-risks-unraveling-a-new-deal-needed-for-peace/#6d336d5d1b16" target="_blank">when the U.S. and Europe largely ignored attacks</a>&nbsp;on ethnic Serbs during Yugoslavia’s breakup. The allies continued their bias after occupying Kosovo,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/delivering-serbs-wolves">doing little to stop the ethnic cleansing of the Serb minority</a>.</p> <p>Since then Russia has defended Serbia and blocked Kosovo from international forums. More recently the Putin government sent COVID-19 aid, including biological war specialists to help disinfect hospitals. To emphasize the continuing bilateral relationship Vucic traveled to Moscow in June to attend the pandemic‐​delayed World War II victory parade. After meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Vucic said that any deal would require Russia’s consent.</p> <p>Indeed, for years successive Serbian governments found a&nbsp;dramatic way to ensure that memories of the West’s perfidy when Serbia was attacked by NATO would not disappear. The Serbian government placed the bombed‐​out Ministry of Defense building, which I&nbsp;jogged by years ago when visiting Belgrade, on its list of protected cultural monuments. The reconstruction process began only in 2015, 16&nbsp;years after it was wrecked, and proposals to either repair or replace the damaged structure remained controversial. The Association of Serbian Architects advocated the ruined building’s preservation as a “monument of suffering and brutality of NATO force.” Even today, after the country’s shift westward, not all Serbs believe President George W. Bush’s claim, made as Kosovo prepared to declare independence, that “the Serbian people can know they have a&nbsp;friend in America.” (At the time demonstrators responded negatively by attacking the U.S. embassy and setting it afire.)</p> <p>Nevertheless, Belgrade still has far greater economic dealings with the rest of Europe and military relations with NATO than either with Russia. Moreover, Jelena Milic of the Center for Euro‐​Atlantic Studies&nbsp;<a href="https://thediplomat.com/2020/04/china-is-not-replacing-the-west-in-serbia/" target="_blank">contended</a>&nbsp;that even the growing relationship with the PRC “is less about China and more about counterbalancing Russia, which is force‐​feeding Serbia weapons sales and various other forms of military cooperation.”</p> <p>The attraction to Beijing is more recent but more intense, given the toll taken by COVID-19. The People’s Republic of China backed Yugoslavia during the war and shared in Serbians’ suffering when the U.S. inadvertently bombed the Chinese embassy. The PRC, highly sensitive to separatism and “splittism” of any sort, also opposed Kosovo’s independence. Indeed, argued Milic earlier this year:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>The cooperative relationship between Serbia and China in recent years is at least partially an outgrowth of the Kosovo dispute. Belgrade appreciates and seeks to expand relations with virtually all countries that have not recognized Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Unsurprisingly, China is Serbia’s most important economic partner from Asia; imports from China lag behind only those from Germany and Italy. The Pupin Bridge over the Danube, financed and built by Beijing, and that nation’s first large infrastructure project in Europe, is informally known as the “Chinese bridge.” Prime Minister Li Keqiang attended the opening ceremony. In 2016, China purchased a&nbsp;failing steel plant, preserving jobs otherwise destined to disappear. The same year the two countries announced a&nbsp;strategic partnership and in 2017 made travel visa free.</p> <p>This year the PRC provided assistance — a&nbsp;medical team and test kits — to fight the coronavirus. With Europe originally less helpful, Vucic dismissed “European solidarity” as a “nonexistent … fairy tale on paper” while lauding the Chinese as “the only ones who can help us in this difficult situation.” On the Chinese personnel’s arrival in Belgrade, Vucic kissed a&nbsp;Chinese flag and exclaimed, “Thank you very much to my brother, President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people.” Assistance did ultimately come from the EU and other European nations but received far less attention. A&nbsp;military exercise is planned with Chinese forces later this year.</p> <p>Yet Belgrade is not alone in playing with others. Italy welcomed Chinese investment and workers, which is one reason COVID-19 hit its industrial north so hard, and Chinese medical assistance. Early sentiment trended sharply against the EU, though that may ebb as the health crisis continues to ease and the EU approves relief spending. Moreover, continental hostility toward the PRC has risen, especially after the delivery of defective medical equipment and pressure to toe Beijing’s line.</p> <p>Nevertheless, Serbia’s economic ties with the continent remain far stronger, and EU membership would link Belgrade more tightly to its neighbors and the rest of Europe. Vucic said he does not plan on choosing among competing powers, explaining that “As far as we are concerned, we are on the European path. We are not giving up on that.” Indeed, last week while expressing his appreciation for “the efforts of Richard Grenell to find economic solutions between us and Pristina,” Vucic emphasized that “we are completely committed to the EU‐​led political dialogue.”</p> <p>The best way to enhance Western influence would be to resolve the Kosovo standoff with a&nbsp;meaningful concession to Serbia. Vucic noted that we “unequivocally get that support for the integrity of Serbia from China and Russia and, on the other hand, we have very good economic cooperation and cooperation in all other areas.” Remove Kosovo and much of the East’s appeal would fade. Argued Milic:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>The solution to Kosovo lies in Europe and the United States. Belgrade understands this well. Serbia is not seeking to replace the West as its principal partner and, despite the current rhetoric and public expressions of gratitude, no amount of Chinese aid to fight coronavirus is going to change that.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The Balkans long has spread instability throughout Europe. The Clinton administration should have stayed out of the geopolitical mess created by Yugoslavia’s implosion, insisting that European nations again act like the serious actors they once were and address the problem. The Bush administration should not have pushed to dismantle Serbia while pretending to be Belgrade’s friend. The Obama administration should not have joined with the EU to demand that Serbia surrender what it always defended, its territorial integrity. Yet Brussels and Washington treated Belgrade’s, but not Pristina’s, refusal to surrender as “intransigence.”</p> <p>But the past will not be undone. The Trump administration deserves credit for making a&nbsp;serious attempt to stabilize at least one small part of the region, given the EU’s continuing failure. Although the latest effort just went bust, the administration shouldn’t give up. It still might succeed where the Obama administration failed dismally.</p> </div> Sun, 28 Jun 2020 09:31:09 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/back-future-us-negotiates-war-advocates-criminals-old We Should Celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Korean War by Leaving https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/we-should-celebrate-70th-anniversary-korean-war-leaving Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Barely five years after World War II ended, the Korean War began. On June 25, 1950, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea launched a&nbsp;full‐​scale invasion of the South, drawing in both the U.S. and China. The conflict ended essentially where it started, with an armistice. American troops still remain on station against the now nuclear North.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Until recently, U.S. involvement in a&nbsp;second Korean War would have meant horrendous conventional combat, but the damage would have been limited to forces on the Korean peninsula and nearby. Today, however, America’s homeland could be targeted by a&nbsp;nuclear attack. Nothing at stake is worth that risk. With the Republic of Korea capable of defending itself, Washington should formally end the conflict, drop its security guarantee, and bring home its forces.</p> <p>As Japan surrendered in World War II, the allies viewed Korea’s status almost as an afterthought. Moscow and Washington split the Korean peninsula into occupation zones divided by the 38th Parallel. Two separate nations quickly evolved, threatening each other with war. But only the Soviet Union armed its protégé with heavy weapons. After securing support from Moscow and Beijing, the DPRK’s Kim Il‐​sung launched an invasion of the South.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>With the Republic of Korea capable of defending itself, Washington should formally end the conflict, drop its security guarantee, and bring home its forces. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The Truman administration won United Nations support, since the Soviets were then boycotting the Security Council—to protest the continued membership of Chiang Kai-shek’s government—and rushed U.S. troops to the ROK’s rescue. However, as allied forces neared the Yalu River and North Korea’s complete defeat loomed, the People’s Republic of China intervened, creating what U.S. commander Douglas MacArthur called “an entirely new war.” The battle lines soon settled near the original border and a&nbsp;couple years of static combat ensued. An armistice was signed in July 1953.</p> <p>However, American forces remained to protect a&nbsp;devastated country ruled by the aging, irascible, unpopular, and authoritarian Syngman Rhee. He was ousted by a&nbsp;popular uprising that eventually led to a&nbsp;military takeover and Park Chung-hee’s ascension to the presidency. In the 1960s, Park oversaw the South’s economic takeoff, during which the ROK raced past the DPRK, removing an important justification for America’s continued presence on the peninsula.</p> <p>After Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, China moderated its hostility toward Washington. Democracy came to South Korea in 1987. The Cold War ended as the 1980s closed; the Soviet Union formally dissolved in 1991, after which Russia, and then China, recognized Seoul. The case for a&nbsp;continuing American military presence on the peninsula dissipated, but Washington kept its forces in the ROK to advance its status as the world’s “unipower.”</p> <p>Today America’s presence looks ever more anachronistic. South Korea enjoys more than 50 times the GDP and has twice the population of North Korea. The South has one of the world’s largest economies and is known for its technological prowess. It is internationally engaged and respected. So why can’t it defend itself from the impoverished, backward, and isolated North?</p> <p>Of course, many South Koreans want to keep their defense subsidy. Being protected by the world’s sole superpower has obvious advantages. However, there are costs as well for the South: Washington does not treat its allies as equals, only as minor partners. The U.S. often finds it difficult to take no for an answer. Still, at only a&nbsp;modest sacrifice of its sovereignty, Seoul spent less on the military and devoted more to economic development, which proved highly profitable over the years.</p> <p>America’s interest in turning the ROK into a&nbsp;defense dependent is less clear. Members of Washington’s foreign policy elite generally believe the U.S. should run the international system. Infantilizing allies enhances Washington’s dominance even while increasing the costs and risks faced by Americans, especially those serving in the military. Those who extoll the U.S.-South Korea alliance celebrate a&nbsp;system in which Washington, not Seoul, takes the lead in dealing with North Korea, decides on sending “the armada,” as President Trump called it, off the North’s coast, chooses to ban commerce with Pyongyang, and maintains operational control of the South Korean military in wartime.</p> <p>And Washington, not Seoul, decides when South Korea will go to war to support other American objectives. At least, Washington imagines that it gets to make that decision. Only here is the alliance perhaps ready to break down. Americans routinely speak of the relationship having dual uses. That is, it defends against the North and other regional threats, which in practice means containing China.</p> <p>However, South Korean officials seem unlikely to allow the U.S. to drag their nation into a&nbsp;war with China, turning it into a&nbsp;military target of a&nbsp;country with a&nbsp;very long memory, to back American objectives of little if any importance to the ROK. Which means anything other than defense of the South from a&nbsp;North Korean or Chinese attack.</p> <p>Seoul has long been wary of U.S. aggressiveness. President Kim Young‐​sam claimed to have blocked Clinton administration plans to attack the North’s nuclear facilities. Roh Moo‐​hyun publicly insisted that his government’s approval was necessary for Washington to employ facilities in the South. Even a&nbsp;future conservative South Korean administration is unlikely to allow the U.S. to use ROK bases in a&nbsp;conflict with China over Taiwan or other East Asia‐​Pacific contingencies.</p> <p>If not, then Washington is defending South Korea for nothing.</p> <p>Some Americans imagine the military cost to be negligible, since Seoul contributes toward American basing costs. That issue, of course, is currently tied up in a&nbsp;bitter dispute over the so‐​called Special Measures Agreement. However, the main expense of the Korean commitment is not deploying units in the ROK but raising additional units for use to defend the South if necessary. Every additional security guarantee requires a&nbsp;larger military. Adding permanent force structure—men and materiel—is not cheap. If Washington didn’t promise to protect much of the known world in both Asia and Europe, it could rely on a&nbsp;much smaller military to protect America.</p> <p>The U.S. is blessed with oceans east and west and pacific neighbors north and south. America’s missiles, navy, and air force ensure that no other nation can reach the U.S. without facing devastating retaliation. In fact, deterrence is relatively cheap. Power projection is far more costly. For this reason the bulk of the Pentagon’s efforts perversely are devoted to protecting other nations not essential to U.S. security, such as South Korea.</p> <p>The ROK mattered during the Cold War: America faced a&nbsp;hegemonic threat, the Soviet Union, for a&nbsp;time allied with the newly created PRC. With a&nbsp;global contest for influence, even smaller conflicts could have outsize consequences.</p> <p>That was then, however. Today the Korean peninsula has no particular security significance for America: a&nbsp;war would be disruptive and destabilizing, but of far greater concern to surrounding states. It would be a&nbsp;humanitarian tragedy, but not that much different than terrible conflicts involving the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Liberia, Syria, and Sudan in recent decades. In none of them did Washington see any reason to intervene militarily. Most important, the ROK is well able to defend itself. Whatever its importance, there is no need for Washington to protect the South.</p> <p>That was the case even before the North began developing nuclear weapons. Today Pyongyang is commonly estimated to possess 20 to 30 nuclear weapons and enough fissile material to make another 20 to 30 bombs. The DPRK almost certainly could hit American units stationed in South Korea and throughout the region, including on Guam and Okinawa. North Korea also has been developing ICBMs capable of targeting cities in the continental U.S. If it is successful, America’s defense commitment to the ROK will become prohibitively expensive. For nothing at stake in Korea is worth risking one or several U.S. cities.</p> <p>And they would be in danger even in an initially conventional conflict. In 1950 American and South Korean units pursued the broken North Korean military toward the Yalu river, the border with China. Defeat seemed imminent, at which point the PRC intervened. Today Beijing almost certainly would not save the Kim dynasty. However, if faced with defeat Pyongyang would have an incentive to threaten nuclear war unless Washington pulled back. Of course, America could respond with ruinous retaliation. But since conventional defeat also would mean the end of the regime, it would have little to lose. A&nbsp;credible threat of nuclear war could save the regime without triggering nuclear war.</p> <p>Which necessitates that the U.S. avoid involvement in any future Korean conflict. The South should develop a&nbsp;conventional deterrent capability and consider creating its own nuclear arsenal. The Park government began researching nuclear weapons in the 1960s, before abandoning the program under pressure from Washington. However, this time the U.S. should leave the decision with Seoul. Proliferation is not a&nbsp;good solution, but it still might be the best option. And it would offer another important benefit: helping to restrain China as well. Surely an independent ROK nuclear deterrent is better than having Americans promising to risk nuclear war on South Korea’s behalf.</p> <p>The Korean War was a&nbsp;tragedy but perhaps an inevitable outgrowth of the Cold War. Today the ROK has won the competition between the two Korean states. Threats remain, but ones which Seoul is able to confront.</p> <p>Washington should mark the anniversary of the Korean War by opening discussions with the South over returning defense responsibility to South Korea. America’s defense commitment is an anachronism. Equally important, the U.S. faces extraordinary challenges at home: it is time for Washington policymakers to focus attention and resources on meeting Americans’ needs.</p> </div> Thu, 25 Jun 2020 09:13:35 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/we-should-celebrate-70th-anniversary-korean-war-leaving Lenin Rises in Germany: Time for the Good Guys to Take Down a Few Statues https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/lenin-rises-germany-time-good-guys-take-down-few-statues Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Tearing down statues has become the latest nihilistic pleasure in America. Never mind legal process, property ownership, and democratic decision. Unthinking mobs with little knowledge and less judgment wander America’s streets claiming the mandate of heaven to violently impose wokedom upon the rest of us.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The assault on Confederate figures goes without saying, even though most Northerners were equally racist and Abraham Lincoln originally intended to preserve slavery, calling out the troops only to invade the southern states and maintain the union, irrespective of the human cost. The idea that people, like Robert E. Lee,&nbsp;<a href="https://spectator.org/time-to-retire-marse-robert-not-because-his-statue-is-racist-but-because-virginia-has-changed/" target="_blank">could genuinely feel loyalty to their states that trumped nationalism, and abhor the willingness of Washington to use military force to subjugate people</a>&nbsp;seeking to change their political system, is well beyond the thought processes of the typical statue Stalinist.</p> <p>Of course, the Founders were next. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington have suffered humiliating falls. They were slaveowners, like so many others at the time. Never mind their accomplishments, however. Which included forming a&nbsp;nation and writing a&nbsp;Constitution that set the stage for eliminating slavery, something they understood to be necessary but also viewed as politically unattainable at the time.&nbsp;<a href="https://spectator.org/systemic-ignorance-racism-tearing-down-ulysses-s-grant-statue/" target="_blank">Even Ulysses S. Grant became a&nbsp;target.</a>&nbsp;One suspects that many of the happy destroyers thought he was a&nbsp;Confederate. After all, another uniform, another horse, another Civil War figure. What’s the difference? Why should it matter that he was&nbsp;<em>the North’s</em>&nbsp;commanding general, who did more than anyone else to end Southern military resistance? And, anyway, he was not perfect, as are today’s many social justice mobsters and poseurs.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>New statue follows the old communist script: tear down history to rebuild it in your own image. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Perfection is demanded by the Left’s roving gangs. This leaves a&nbsp;target‐​rich environment. Let me suggest some new targets. Without question, anything commemorating the sanctimonious, racist, anti‐​civil libertarian and warmonger Woodrow Wilson should be destroyed. (<a href="https://spectator.org/how-woodrow-wilsons-vanity-destroyed-the-old-world/" target="_blank">I would be happy to assist in this endeavor, with great pleasure!</a>)</p> <p>So should the woke army destroy any statues of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who did little to combat segregation, imprisoned Japanese‐​Americans, turned away Jewish refugees before World War II, did nothing to interfere with Nazi Germany’s death camps, and enjoyed a&nbsp;political romance with Joseph Stalin, one of history’s greatest mass murderers. Then there is Lyndon Johnson, corrupt and power‐​mad, who sent tens of thousands of Americans to their deaths in Vietnam. Almost any southern Democratic politician elected before, oh, 1970. And even Barack Obama. He didn’t believe in gay marriage until the popular majority shifted. No profile in courage was he!</p> <p>But the German city of Gelsenkirchen is in even more desperate need of someone to tear down a&nbsp;statue. Last Saturday the Marxist‐​Leninist Party of Germany, or MLPD,&nbsp;<a href="https://peoplesworld.org/article/racist-statues-fall-everywhere-as-new-lenin-statue-rises-in-germany/" target="_blank">erected</a>&nbsp;a&nbsp;monument to Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin, the man most responsible for the Bolshevik Revolution, Soviet Union, and ensuing parade of horrors. “The time for monuments to racists, anti‐​Semites fascists, anti‐​communists, and other relics of the past has clearly passed,” declared Gabi Fechtner, the slightly deranged “chair” of the MLPD. (No word on what the party’s “table” and “lamp” think about Lenin!) Lenin, she explained, “was an ahead‐​of‐​his‐​time thinker of world‐​historical importance, an early fighter for freedom and democracy.”</p> <p>Gelsenkirchen is located in what was West Germany, so Fechtner can’t blame East German indoctrination for her hilarious views. (Lenin fought for freedom and democracy? On what planet? In which solar system?) And, at age 43, she was old enough to view the joyful response of her brethren in the east to the fall of the Berlin Wall, allowing them to escape their national prison. (Maybe she was angry that a&nbsp;bunch of them later moved west and crowded her town.) Or perhaps Germany’s educational system is simply overrated. Or Fechtner is a&nbsp;slow learner. Very slow.</p> <p>The MLPD defends not just Marx and Lenin but also Mao and Stalin. While the party insists that it doesn’t endorse everything about them — mass murder involving tens of millions of people is a&nbsp;bit much even for a&nbsp;committed commie ideologue today to stomach! — the MLPD still relies on their teachings. Maybe the party’s identification with mass killers is why it has been less than wildly successful. It averages 0.1 percent of the vote in national Bundestag elections. In the last European Parliament contest, the MLPD got 0.05 percent. It has elected a&nbsp;few members to city councils. Its biggest victory: taking three of 38 seats in Neukirchen‐​Vluyn with an impressive 7.5 percent of ballots cast.</p> <p>But perhaps the Lenin statue will trigger a&nbsp;new revolution. It is the first one to Lenin to be erected in western Germany, which was the front line facing the Red Army throughout the Cold War. Next up will be a&nbsp;statue of Marx, said Fechtner. At least he was simply a&nbsp;nitwit intellectual without the slightest idea how his ridiculous ideas would play out. (You didn’t know how much of a&nbsp;nitwit?&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Intellectuals-Marx-Tolstoy-Sartre-Chomsky/dp/0061253170" target="_blank">Read Paul Johnson’s&nbsp;<em>The Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky</em></a>.)</p> <p>If the MLPD is serious, how about a&nbsp;statue of Stalin? Museums and parks throughout Eastern Europe have more than a&nbsp;few available, presumably for sale. And the Chinese Communist Party is still producing Mao idols, before which the Chinese people are expected to genuflect. No doubt, Beijing could spare a&nbsp;couple for the MLPD, perhaps gratis as long as accompanied by a&nbsp;plaque praising the genius and greatness of&nbsp;<a href="https://spectator.org/xi-jinping-wants-to-become-the-new-mao-china/" target="_blank">Chinese President and CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping</a>.</p> <p>Alas, not everyone was happy with the MLPD’s loving gesture for the Bolshevik paragon. The district council in Gelsenkirchen‐​West passed a&nbsp;resolution in March stating the obvious: “Lenin stands for violence, repression, terrorism and horrific human suffering.” Germany, however, apparently in contrast with America, is a&nbsp;country in which law prevails, property is respected, and mobs are not tolerated.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.rferl.org/a/germany-marxists-lenin-statue-germany/30681737.html" target="_blank">Explained</a>&nbsp;the city council’s spokesman, Martin Schulmann, “only a&nbsp;very few people around the Marxist Party want [the statue], no one else.” But “we have no choice but to accept the court’s rulings, since the piece of land where the statue is due to be installed is privately owned.”</p> <p>None of this is surprising.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.euronews.com/2020/06/20/statue-of-lenin-calmly-erected-in-west-germany" target="_blank">Reported</a>&nbsp;Euronews: “In decades of experience addressing the country’s Nazi and communist pasts, ‘things have always been done properly, it all seems very German’ with official applications to local authorities and orderly dismantling of monuments, said Urte Evert, head of Berlin’s Spandau Citadel museum where many old statues are on display.”</p> <p>So the Lenin statue, produced more than six decades ago in Czechoslovakia, which had been communized courtesy of occupying Soviet troops after World War II, was erected. It was even purchased in the most capitalistic fashion — with a&nbsp;bid of $18,000 on eBay.&nbsp;<em>Deutsche‐​Welle</em>&nbsp;reported that the celebration of Lenin, whom it politely described as the “controversial Soviet leader,” was accompanied by music, flag‐​waving, and, of course, speeches. Appropriately enough, Lenin was covered with a&nbsp;red cloth before the unveiling.</p> <p>Apparently Fechtner noticed the spate of statue‐​hate elsewhere and said the faithful commies had reinforced Lenin: “I won’t say exactly how but it has been very firmly fastened in place.” But there presumably is nothing that a&nbsp;couple of blowtorches and a&nbsp;bulldozer could not handle.</p> <p>It is worth remembering the real Lenin —&nbsp;<a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/dougbandow/2014/11/24/bury-lenins-body-and-the-rest-of-communism-in-red-square-he-lies-in-state-mocking-humanity-3/#156df2e98aed" target="_blank">still at rest in his celebrated Moscow tomb</a>, with&nbsp;<a href="https://spectator.org/who-gets-buried-at-the-kremlin-time-for-a-post-revolutionary-purge/" target="_blank">many other unworthies, including Stalin</a>, buried nearby at the Kremlin. After the USSR collapsed, there was serious discussion about burying Lenin and closing his tomb. Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first democratically elected president, dropped the honor guard from the mausoleum but with fading health and political capital was unwilling to face down the mythologists who opposed dismantling communism’s most holy site.</p> <p>Lenin is one of history’s most important and consequential individuals. Without him there probably would have been no Bolshevik Revolution. There were other talented, intelligent, and determined revolutionaries. But he was unique. He had drive, charisma, and appeal, which is why Wilhelmine Germany recognized that he was an early weapon of mass destruction, worth transporting in a&nbsp;sealed train to Russia to spread the virus of radical revolution. And he did, with devastating effect.</p> <p>He also ruthlessly acquired and manipulated power. When leading Bolsheviks opposed Germany’s harsh peace terms in the Treaty of Brest‐​Litovsk, he was almost alone in forcing the revolutionary regime’s acceptance. He understood that the people desperately wanted peace and would oust the Bolsheviks if the latter failed to deliver. And all that mattered was holding on to power. He also drove the communists to victory in the brutal civil war that ensued. Others, including Stalin and especially Leon Trotsky, played important roles. But it was Lenin who would allow nothing to divert the communist party from its essential task in consolidating its control.</p> <p>He died at only 53&nbsp;in 1924. But what a&nbsp;legacy! The Bolshevik Revolution. Slaughter of the Czarist royal family. Brutal triumph over the Whites in the civil war. Bloody suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion against communist repression. Empowering Joseph Stalin, leading to pervasive party purges, mass starvation of Ukraine, the Hitler–Stalin pact, and conquest of Central and Eastern Europe. And an intense Cold War, filled with hot conflicts, Third World dictatorships and revolutionary movements, and superpower confrontations. Creation of murderous communist regimes in China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and elsewhere. The Berlin Wall. And the Evil Empire, as Ronald Reagan called the Soviet system at its zenith.</p> <p>Some modern communists, who, unlike Fechtner’s MLPD, have airbrushed Stalin from their ranks of communist heroes, claim that Lenin was a&nbsp;poor, misunderstood humanitarian whose utopian promise was perverted by his unprincipled successors. Yet Lenin drove the Bolshevik revolution by ousting, arresting, and suppressing all opposition, even liberal and elected. He wasted no time on “freedom and democracy,” contra Fechtner’s claim, enforcing Bolshevik rule, crushing dissent even within the party, establishing the Cheka secret police, which later morphed into the monstrously murderous NKVD and only slightly more discrete and polite KGB, and leading the victorious side in one of the world’s most horrific civil wars. He likely ordered the murder of the deposed Czar and royal family, including children and servants.</p> <p>Other than that, Lenin was a&nbsp;real sweetie, loved his family, and adored pets.</p> <p>It is worth emphasizing that Lenin was responsible for Stalin’s rise, choosing the latter to run the party. Before strokes disabled and ultimately killed him, Lenin dictated a&nbsp;testament suggesting Stalin’s removal, but mostly for being coarse and rude, including to Lenin’s wife, not for abusing power, or demonstrating murderous ambition, or threatening “freedom and democracy.” Even amid his criticism Lenin praised Stalin as an “outstanding leader” alongside Trotsky. In practice, Lenin was not bothered by terror as a&nbsp;revolutionary weapon. And he shed no tears for the victims.</p> <p>What did Lenin’s Soviet Union ultimately become? The late social scientist R. J. Rummel described how the communist leader’s beloved Cheka, since renamed, operated: “murder and arrest quotas did not work well. Where to find the ‘enemies of the people’ they were to shoot was a&nbsp;particularly acute problem for the local NKVD, which had been diligent in uncovering ‘plots.’ They had to resort to shooting those arrested for the most minor civil crimes, those previously arrested and released, and even mothers and wives who appeared at NKVD headquarters for information about their arrested loved ones.” A&nbsp;believer in freedom and democracy, indeed!</p> <p>Fechtner and her handful of fellow party members are free to enjoy their delusions. There was a&nbsp;time when many others were taken in by communism’s false promise. “I have seen the future and it works,” declared journalist Lincoln Steffens in 1919. After seven decades of brutal, bloody, oppressive experience, the band of true believers dwindled. By the time the Berlin Wall fell, the few real communists left were in academia — and working in Burlington Mayor Bernie Sanders’ office. They certainly weren’t in the Soviet Union or the desolate provinces of its far‐​flung empire. And, thankfully, there aren’t many in Germany today, as evidenced by the MLPD’s dismal vote totals.</p> <p>Nevertheless, Lenin’s statue now stands in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. It is calling out to the world to be disrespected, painted, vandalized, and torn down. Who is with me? A&nbsp;field trip to Gelsenkirchen? A&nbsp;weekend of sight‐​seeing highlighted by a&nbsp;bulldozer joy ride and fireworks finale featuring a&nbsp;couple of blowtorches? It’s time for the rest of us to do something to really promote “freedom and democracy,” which Lenin did so much to destroy.</p> </div> Wed, 24 Jun 2020 08:27:57 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/lenin-rises-germany-time-good-guys-take-down-few-statues Doug Bandow discusses John Bolton’s book and North Korea on Arirang News https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/doug-bandow-discusses-john-boltons-book-north-korea-arirang-news Tue, 23 Jun 2020 11:03:49 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/doug-bandow-discusses-john-boltons-book-north-korea-arirang-news The Media Do Not Deserve a Government Bailout https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/media-do-not-deserve-government-bailout Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Traditional journalism has been imploding throughout the internet age.&nbsp;The coronavirus catastrophe threatens to deliver the financial coup de grace.&nbsp;Businesses that are closed don’t buy ads. Shuttered newsstands and stores kill street sales. Reduced income means fewer discretionary purchases. Papers and magazines that have been desperately searching for a&nbsp;sustainable economic model might use the global pandemic as an opportunity to downsize and reorganize. Instead, some American journalists are looking to the government for help.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Publishers want guaranteed ad buys. <em>The NewsGuild</em>, a&nbsp;journalists’ union, called for a&nbsp;range of public subsidies tailored to its members’ financial and ideological interests. Such proposals would destroy media independence, undermine media accountability, and reinforce ingrained partisan bias, thus undermining democracy itself.</p> <p>Last year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government provided $675 million Canadian (about $600 million U.S.) in subsidies to private publications. (See Bandow’s “A government bailout of newspapers threatens free speech and morality” in the Winter 2019 issue of&nbsp;<em>Religion &amp;&nbsp;Liberty—</em>Ed.) Criticism of the measure was especially strong from the opposition Conservative Party, a&nbsp;frequent target of media ire.</p> <p>No similar idea was broached in the U.S., though a&nbsp;decade ago there were proposals to make it easier for media firms to become nonprofits. The principle of journalistic independence, backed by the First Amendment, remained strong. National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service were not seen as threats. They are editorially independent and deliver quality fare but, like the rest of the mainstream media, they are not objective. That should raise widespread concern, since those with disfavored views are essentially paying to be criticized.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Putting journalists on a&nbsp;federal dole is dangerous for liberty and democracy. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Unfortunately, COVID-19’s brutal impact has created a&nbsp;sense of desperation among journalists. Some fear that coronavirus just might be the media “extinction‐​level event” that Matt DeRienzo, then‐​executive director of LION Publishers, warned of in 2017.</p> <p>This has the Fourth Estate looking to politicians for salvation. “There is no market option here,” Victor Pickard of the University of Pennsylvania argued. He advocated going “bigger and bolder for the long‐​term,” which naturally meant “the government will have to intervene.” He proposed creating a&nbsp;special fund to pay for local news coverage in areas where nothing he deems acceptable exists.&nbsp;<em>HuffPost</em>’s Travis Waldron termed this industry slush fund “a public option for news.” Pickard insisted that “our democracy depends on it.” He said, “It’s either that, or we’re just going to write off entire communities across the states as having absolutely no access to any news or information whatsoever.”</p> <p>Yet that clearly is not the case. Waldron pointed out that “nonprofit journalism has been a&nbsp;particular success story,” citing the&nbsp;<em>Texas Tribune</em>&nbsp;as an example. He added, “a growing number of hyperlocal and regional outlets have popped up, too.” Pickard still might neither like the alternative sources nor believe them to be adequate, but the people themselves decided against the kind of media sources that he favors.</p> <p>However, journalists appear more than willing to belly up to the federal trough. The News Media Alliance, National Association of Broadcasters, National Newspaper Association, and America’s Newspapers issued a&nbsp;collective call for public assistance. Their first request was that Washington ensure the eligibility of local organizations under the Paycheck Protection Program. While it is reasonable that the media do not want to be treated differently, it also makes journalism dependent on federal funding.</p> <p>Indeed, dubious political conditions could be imposed here. A&nbsp;group of Democratic senators called for a&nbsp;new stimulus bill to be “tailored to benefit aid recipients who make a&nbsp;long‐​term commitment to high quality local news.” What does that mean? How would it be measured? Who would decide whether the conditions are met?</p> <p>Far more problematic, however, is the group’s desire that Uncle Sam turn advertising into a&nbsp;media dole. The newsies selflessly observed that “Congress can ensure that the people have the information they need most by directing current U.S. government advertising campaigns (such as those promoting the Census) to local news and media outlets, and providing the Department of Health and Human Services, the Small Business Administration and other relevant agencies with an additional $5 to $10 billion for direct funding for local media advertising.” Such an indirect subsidy would have the advantage of not really looking like a&nbsp;subsidy.</p> <p>However, these groups are pikers compared to the NewsGuild, a&nbsp;media union that is part of the Communications Workers of America. In a&nbsp;recent press release, NG lamented the fact that “declining advertising revenue, leveraged corporate consolidations, and asset‐​stripping by vulture capitalists have put this industry under financial duress.” Now the viral crisis “is triggering business slowdowns and further eroding advertising revenues.” So, the union’s executive council called “for federal, state, provincial, and local governments to provide public funds to sustain news operations.” Although the demand is couched in terms of responding to the coronavirus, the desire is for a&nbsp;permanent financial commitment: “Public stimulus funds are quite possibly the only way to ensure long‐​term viability for these vital news‐​gathering operations.”</p> <p>The idea of journalists finding and keeping an audience would no longer apply if the NewsGuild got its way. Uncle Sam would guarantee publications’ survival and workers’ jobs:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>The federal government should establish a&nbsp;publicly‐​financed fund to support newsrooms and media workers to prevent layoffs.</p> <p>Such a&nbsp;fund would also serve to promote journalism in news deserts in all 50 states and territories to supplement or fund additional positions in private‐​sector news organization, but not be used to replace existing employees. This fund would also support independent reporting in partnership with other news organizations.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>That’s not all. The news union also insisted on: creating “an indefinite program of no‐​interest loans for the creation of news start‐​ups, including nonprofits and employee‐​owned co‐​ops” from the Small Business Administration, “making tax‐​deductible the cost of subscriptions for any news product,” creating undefined “incentives for local ownership,” and “establishing a&nbsp;nationwide advertising purchasing program to promote the public health, participation in the federal census and other topics of national interest.” Is that all?</p> <p>The union justifies its proposal by claiming that “reliable local, regional and national journalism is an essential service.” But that is not what the NewsGuild wants Washington to fund. Instead, the plan would offer a&nbsp;massive subsidy for everyone in the mainstream media, reinforcing its ingrained biases. And the plan would underwrite start‐​ups seemingly irrespective of merit. Unlike the rest of the economy, journalism enterprises would no longer face a&nbsp;market test. As in Canada, the media enterprise, which generally (though not entirely) leans left, would force its targets to pay their tormentors.</p> <p>Such a&nbsp;system could not help but encourage the use of press coverage as a&nbsp;political pay‐​off to the legislators most instrumental in ensuring the media’s continued funding. After all, it would not behoove any publication dining at the federal trough to criticize those who assure it remains full. Even modest shifts in coverage could undermine the fairness of elections.</p> <p>Nor would the NewsGuild’s proposal do anything to promote quality. Rather, it assumes every existing publication is an “essential service” providing “accurate, reliable” information. Of course, every publication believes that about itself. And at least a&nbsp;few people dispute that about every publication. The bailout is incumbent protection for the media.</p> <p>NG is determined to take care of number one, namely itself and its members. The union would be empowered help choose one‐​quarter of company board members. Any aid recipient would be “prohibited for five years from engaging in mergers and acquisition activity or leveraged buyouts that result in job losses or pay reductions.” For a&nbsp;similar period of time, firms could not use “public money for executive bonuses, dividends or stock buybacks,” stock options, or golden parachutes. Executive pay could not be more than double the editor-in-chief’s earnings.</p> <p>Moreover, there would be “no layoffs, no furloughs, no buyouts or pay cuts” since it is “essential that we invest in and retain journalists and other media workers.” Most important, any firm collecting a&nbsp;federal check “must not interfere” with (read: oppose) a&nbsp;union organizing campaign. The requirements here would be quite detailed: no hiring of consultants, no mandatory meetings on unionization, mandatory acceptance of signed cards rather than employee elections, compulsory arbitration over first contracts, and no abrogation of bargaining agreements for a&nbsp;period of time.</p> <p>Finally, the NewsGuild’s proposal ostentatiously flags its political nature. Recipients would have to “remain independent from partisan influence.” That sounds fair, but who gets to decide if a&nbsp;news source is partisan?</p> <p>Moreover, there is the usual “diversity” boilerplate, with the demand that “any employer taking public funds should be required to implement plans intended to advance diversity across their staff and report their annual diversity statistics.” It doesn’t take a&nbsp;genius to realize that those collected statistics likely would turn the exercise into a&nbsp;quota system. And who would get to decide whether plans had been implemented satisfactorily?</p> <p>Thoughtful journalists have criticized such proposals to turn journalism into essentially a&nbsp;federally‐​subsidized public utility. Freelancer Jen Gerson complained to&nbsp;<em>HuffPost</em>&nbsp;that “in a&nbsp;time where we’re shoring up our credibility and making sure people have faith that they can trust the information coming from us, taking a&nbsp;media bailout is absolutely fatal to those efforts.”</p> <p>Even politicians sympathetic to the idea of government subsidies remain wary. “We cannot do anything that would in any way undermine the integrity and independence of the media, and I&nbsp;worry that if there is government assistance, in terms of money, you begin to blur those lines,” allowed U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who introduced legislation to allow joint rate‐​setting for advertising. John Stanton, co‐​founder of the Save Journalism Project, warned that any case approved by Congress would likely “come with a&nbsp;lot of weird, terrible strings.”</p> <p>Waldron talks up the idea of a&nbsp;special fund “overseen by independent actors and accountable to local communities and journalists themselves.” However, the ideological and political biases of such parties should be obvious. Even if the system were not corrupt per se, it almost certainly would be ideologically biased. That might not bother those who end up in control and receive the funds, but those of us paying the bills could rightly complain.</p> <p>I rue the collapse of traditional journalism, especially the dead‐​tree publications which I&nbsp;once eagerly consumed. However, putting journalists on a&nbsp;federal dole is dangerous for liberty and democracy. At some point Congress must say no to new industry subsidies. This is that point.</p> </div> Tue, 23 Jun 2020 09:38:19 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/media-do-not-deserve-government-bailout Doug Bandow participates in the webinar, “Turmoil in the Eastern Mediterranean: How Far Will Turkey Go?,” hosted by the American Hellenic Institute https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/doug-bandow-participates-webinar-turmoil-eastern-mediterranean-how Mon, 22 Jun 2020 12:37:37 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/doug-bandow-participates-webinar-turmoil-eastern-mediterranean-how Destroying Syria: Congress Declares “I’m from Washington and I’m Here To Impoverish You” https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/destroying-syria-congress-declares-im-washington-im-here-impoverish-you Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Another round of sanctions, the ironically named Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, has taken effect in Syria. Through the magic of secondary sanctions, Washington will forbid everyone on earth from dealing with the Syrian regime. Even before the penalties took effect, noted the&nbsp;<em>Washington Post</em>: “they have already contributed to the collapse of Syria’s long‐​troubled economy.”</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Thus, the law will further impoverish the Syrian people and hurt them more than their government. However, no one in Washington appears to care that national reconstruction will be further impeded. All that matters is claiming to care.</p> <p>Sanctions have become the U.S. government’s “go to” policy. Whatever the problem, Washington seems to respond by launching or intensifying economic war. And American policymakers are determined to conscript the entire world in their favorite crusades, using secondary and financial penalties to dissuade others from dealing with Uncle Sam’s enemy du jour.</p> <p>The policy might make sense if Washington targeted only issues of vital importance to America, directed sanctions at nations posing a&nbsp;genuine threat to the US or the international order, and acted when success seemed likely. Instead, US officials presume that they possess heaven’s mandate to dictate most every issue, however minor, to the rest of the world. Moreover, the likelihood of success is irrelevant. Policymakers concentrate on feeling good about themselves, attacking most any people or government with which they disagree for whatever reason.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Washington should stop its cruel attempt to force regime change by impoverishing an already desperate population. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Last year Congress, at the instigation of Senators Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson, went after longtime American ally Germany for joining with Russia to build the Nordstream 2&nbsp;natural gas pipeline. Cruz and Johnson said they didn’t like Berlin being dependent on Moscow for its energy so they threatened to destroy any European company involved in the project. The pipeline will now proceed without Europe’s participation. Cynical Europeans figured the legislators were actually acting to promote domestic natural gas interests. Perhaps so, though no one should underestimate the arrogance of US legislators who really believe they know best for the rest of the world.</p> <p>So far the Trump administration, sometimes pushed by Congress, has dramatically ratcheted up US sanctions against Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela. In every case America’s economic aggression has failed. No nation has yet changed policy in response to Washington’s escalation in economic hostilities.</p> <p>The administration has been reduced to begging other governments to surrender‐​as when President Donald Trump promised Tehran a&nbsp;better deal if it acted before the election, a&nbsp;particularly embarrassing act of groveling. Or the administration has simply claimed that the harsher penalties themselves were the success, even if they achieved nothing but increased hardship for the relevant population. So far that has been the case in Syria.</p> <p>At least the administration’s campaign against Iran was no surprise. Candidate Trump stated his perverse determination to overturn the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Tehran. Originally that seemed to be rooted in his desire to reverse everything done by President Barack Obama. It was evident that Trump did not understand the nuclear accord‐​for instance, he apparently believed that Washington was giving Tehran American funds, even though the cash was merely the release of Iranian monies that had been frozen.</p> <p>Moreover, soon after taking office it was evident that he had been captured by the Saudi and Israeli governments and adopted their agendas, including for the US to war against Iran. Whether he acted out of a&nbsp;desire for current political advantage or future personal enrichment (from the Saudis after he leaves office), as claimed by some, is unknown. The result has been to make the Middle East far more volatile and dangerous.</p> <p>But why the continual escalation of economic war in Syria after the president claimed he wanted to stop America’s participation in “endless wars”?</p> <p>The Middle East doesn’t matter much any more. Its oil dominance has diminished and America’s energy vulnerability has fallen. Israel is a&nbsp;nuclear‐​armed regional superpower well able to defend itself. The region is ever unstable and every recent American intervention has made it more dangerous. Thus, Washington’s default position should be military disengagement and more limited, thoughtful, and nuanced diplomatic involvement.</p> <p>Alas, that is the farthest objective from the Trump administration. The US is still deeply enmeshed in Syria. Why?</p> <p>The Syrian Arab Republic is an artifact of World War I&nbsp;and long was a&nbsp;French protectorate. For nearly six decades it has been ruled by the Baath Party, which created a&nbsp;secular dictatorship. The al‐​Assad family has been in power since 1971. During the same period Damascus was allied with Moscow, first as the Soviet Union and more recently as Russia.</p> <p>The adversarial result didn’t matter much to America. Washington had more extensive and enduring relationships with more Middle Eastern nations than the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War. Syria never threatened America and lost repeated military encounters with Israel. Eventually Damascus gave up on the latter: in 2007 Israel destroyed a&nbsp;suspected nuclear reactor without triggering Syrian retaliation.</p> <p>When the Arab Spring sparked protests in Syria, Washington did most everything wrong. First, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaimed President Bashar al‐​Assad to be a “reformer,” a&nbsp;bizarre characterization for someone who had managed the family dictatorship for the previous decade. Then she decided that he should be overthrown, discouraging both his government and the opposition from negotiating, since both sides presumed that Washington would accept nothing less than his ouster.</p> <p>Although US officials were convinced Syria was overrun with moderates ready to take power, members of Syria’s religious minorities were more skeptical of the good intentions of those who pushed for Assad’s overthrow. When I&nbsp;visited Syria, one Alawite told me that even the early protesters shouted such slogans as “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the grave.” That did not inspire confidence in following Iraq and allowing Islamic extremists to take control, which ended badly for all concerned.</p> <p>The US went through a&nbsp;highly bureaucratic process of finding, vetting, and arming supposed “moderates,” without much success. One half billion‐​dollar program produced fewer than three score fighters, most of whom were promptly captured or eliminated. Many troops trained and armed by Washington defected or surrendered, along with their U.S.-supplied weapons, to more radical forces, including the al‐​Nusra Front, the local al‐​Qaeda affiliate. The Obama administration’s simultaneous backing for the Free Syrian Army and war against the Islamic State encouraged the Assad government to target the former and avoid the latter. All the while, noted the&nbsp;<em>Wall Street Journal</em>, “human rights advocates say that tens of thousands of [US] airstrikes have killed far more noncombatants than the coalition admits.”</p> <p>In contrast to Russia’s simple objective of preserving the Assad regime, American policymakers set a&nbsp;gaggle of conflicting goals. Oust Assad, who opposed ISIS, which the US also hoped to defeat. Treat Turkey as an ally, even though the Erdogan government allowed the Islamic State easy access to Syria in the early years; indeed, regime allies and Erdogan family members were accused of trading with ISIS. Work with Syrian Kurdish forces against the Islamic State, even though the former were viewed by Ankara as a&nbsp;grievous security threat, allied with Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Oust Russia and Iran, both allied with Syria and actively opposing Islamic fundamentalists, including the Islamic State. Look away as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates went AWOL in the ISIS campaign to launch a&nbsp;bloody, aggressive war against Yemen, which created a&nbsp;new humanitarian crisis and sectarian conflict.</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, the result was disastrous failure. The only objective achieved was the defeat of the Islamic State. The Assad regime survives, Moscow and Tehran remain, Turkey has ethnically cleansed many of the Kurds and retains influence over the only opposition territory, around the City of Idlib, which is largely controlled by Jabhat Fatah al‐​Sham, al-Nusra’s new name. These fighters remain the ideological successors to 9/11. Heck’uva a&nbsp;result for almost a&nbsp;decade of effort by Washington!</p> <p>Yet the US remains entangled, illegally occupying Syrian territory and oilfields. A&nbsp;few hundred military personnel are supposed to convince Russia to leave, Iran to give up on Syria, al‐​Assad to quit, the Islamic State not to return, and Ankara to be nice to the Kurds. US forces risk clashes with Syrian troops, who belong there, Iranian and Russian forces, who have been invited there, and Turkish soldiers, which Washington allowed there. No one is holding their breath that even one of the administration’s objectives, let alone all of them, is going to be achieved. The best characterization of US policy is that it is stupid and possibly mad.</p> <p>Despite Washington’s continuing troop presence, the Pentagon’s Lead Inspector General admitted: “Iranian‐​backed forces continue supporting pro‐​regime operations across Syria, including the Syrian regime’s offensive in Idlib this quarter. The DIA reported … that Iran has leveraged its critical manpower, financial, and materiel aid for the Syrian regime not only to secure the survival of the Iranian‐​friendly regime but also to support its broader strategic goals, including maintaining a&nbsp;long‐​term presence in Syria, protecting Shia shrines and population centers, and preserving its ability to supply Hezbollah.”</p> <p>Now the US is again intensifying sanctions. No doubt, Assad shares responsibility for his country’s economic travails. However, US policymakers have done as much as possible to hurt the Syrian people. Who will suffer again from the latest round of penalties.</p> <p>Basma Alloush, Syrian humanitarian activist and Alex Simon of Synaps’ Syria Program warned: “without robust safeguards and a&nbsp;far more coherent overall US policy, we fear the Caesar Act risks falling into a&nbsp;trap, hurting the very civilians it aims to protect while largely failing to affect the Syrian government itself.” Julien Barnes‐​Dacey of the European Council on Foreign Relations voiced similar concerns: “My fear is that Caesar will achieve the exact opposite of its stated goals, fueling the worst impulses of the Syrian regime and wider conflict. The US self‐​declared maximum pressure campaign aims to bring the regime to its knees and force its backers to concede defeat but the regime knows how to brutally hold onto power and it’s clear that its key backers aren’t for moving.”</p> <p>Bashar al‐​Assad refused to quit even when insurgents controlled Damascus suburbs just a&nbsp;few minutes outside of the city center. So the fact that his people face more intense economic hardship is unlikely to cause him to flee into exile. It is striking how little official Washington cares about those actually targeted by its measures. As Madeleine Albright declared when asked about the human cost of sanctions on Iraq, “We think the price is worth it.” The price is always paid by others. In this case the Syrian people. So Washington always thinks the price is worth it, irrespective of the poor likelihood of success.</p> <p>The best case, from the administration’s viewpoint, is increased hardship, chaos, renewed civil war, and regime change. Such a&nbsp;process could be long and bloody. It could lead to the revival of ISIS and other jihadist groups. It could lead to murder and ethnic cleansing of Christians, Alawites, and other minorities. No wonder Damascus called the Caesar Act “economic terrorism.” But no matter. If al‐​Assad ultimately is swept away, US policymakers will celebrate, complimenting each other for their statesmanship, leadership, and vision.</p> <p>Of course, there is no reason to assume that victory would be followed by the ascension to power of a&nbsp;Syrian Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, prepared to lead a&nbsp;liberal revolution into the sunset. Especially given the dominant role of jihadists in the insurgency and current presence of Iranian and Russian forces as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah: more likely, the outcome would be something very different. Again and again the US has demonstrated its inability to predict let alone control events even after it blows up a&nbsp;government or country.</p> <p>The most likely outcome of the latest US initiative is greater poverty among Syrians and greater repression by the regime to ensure its survival. No one will be better off, least of all the Syrian people. But their welfare really does not matter when formulating American policy. As Albright made clear, “We think the price is worth it.” And that is all that matters.</p> <p>Syria is an extraordinary human tragedy, one which US policy exacerbated almost a&nbsp;decade ago when a&nbsp;negotiated solution seemed possible. Instead of pretending that American micro‐​management and social engineering are likely to succeed, finally!, this time, Washington should admit that not every Mideast disaster is America’s problem to resolve. Let other governments try for a&nbsp;change.</p> <p>A good start would be for the US to bring home its troops from and end its sanctions on Syria. Washington should stop its cruel attempt to force regime change by impoverishing an already desperate population. The price is not worth it, contra Albright and those who think like her. As the president put it with his usual eloquence, it is time for America to “Get the hell out of Syria.”</p> </div> Mon, 22 Jun 2020 08:30:43 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/destroying-syria-congress-declares-im-washington-im-here-impoverish-you Doug Bandow discusses North Korea’s latest threats to the U.S. on Arirang News https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/doug-bandow-discusses-north-koreas-latest-threats-us-arirang-news Sun, 21 Jun 2020 11:56:56 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/doug-bandow-discusses-north-koreas-latest-threats-us-arirang-news America Should Stop Defending the Philippines Like It Was a Vital Interest https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/america-should-stop-defending-philippines-it-was-vital-interest Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>After threatening to divorce America and rush into China’s arms, the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte, as coarse, myopic, and impulsive as President Donald Trump, reconsidered. Predictably but unfortunately, he decided that the onetime U.S. conquest and dependent should remain on America’s defense dole. Washington is still expected to go to war to protect not only the recognized archipelago, but also any disputed territories claimed by other states, most notably China.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Washington should say no thanks. The Philippines always has been a&nbsp;geopolitical booby prize. It is time for Manila to do its own defending.</p> <p>The US gained its independence during the age of empires. Americans created what Thomas Jefferson called an Empire of Liberty, overspreading the North American continent while killing and displacing native peoples along the way. However, the early Americans eschewed “salt water imperialism,” that is, conquering foreign peoples. That principle was sorely tested by proposals to annex all of Mexico after the latter’s defeat in 1848-“like the Sabine virgins, she will soon learn to love her ravisher,” argued imperialist‐​minded James Gordon Bennett of the&nbsp;<em>New York Herald</em>. But Washington ended up sated with merely half of Mexico, its lesser‐​populated northern possessions.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>The US should give Manila notice that it is time to renegotiate the defense treaty into a&nbsp;looser pact allowing military cooperation when in both nations’ interests. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The Civil War awakened the latent American military giant. As the 20th Century approached American presumptions and ambitions burgeoned. Business imagined profiting from the supposedly illimitable markets of Asia. The Philippines was an obvious way station toward the commercial conquest of China, which attracted American attention even then. Indiana Sen. Albert Beveridge was one of the most persistent apostles of imperialism. In a&nbsp;speech entitled “<a href="https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/mod/1898beveridge.asp" target="_blank">The March of the Flag</a>” he denounced those who opposed seizing Pacific territories: “Hawaii and the Philippines not contiguous! The oceans make them contiguous.”</p> <p>The sensationalist Yellow Press, most dramatically Joseph Pulitzer, whose name adorns today’s most prestigious journalistic award, and William Randolph Hearst, helped turn this vision into a&nbsp;military reality. They were early creators and propagators of “fake news,” demonizing admittedly harsh Spanish rule in Spain. Indefatigable imperialist and racist Theodore Roosevelt, who served as assistant secretary of the navy, pushed America toward the conflict. In 1898 Congress declared war on Madrid in the name of liberating the Cuban people.</p> <p>However, the imperialist lobby saw the Philippines as within America’s grasp as well. Spain’s forces there were quickly defeated, but the Filipinos, already organized and fighting for their freedom, refused to accept new colonial masters from America. Washington was determined to rule, leading to three years of increasingly bitter irregular combat. US soldiers compared the campaign to fighting, and often exterminating, American Indians. The military was unable to hide its manifold war crimes as 200,000 or more Filipino civilians died. In some majority‐​Muslim territories, such as on Mindanao, opposition never fully disappeared‐​and fighting continues today.</p> <p>The US finally granted the Philippines independence in 1946, after its liberation from wartime Japanese occupation. The country suffered through poverty, inefficiency, and corruption. Incompetent democracy gave way to dictatorship which eventually shifted back to a&nbsp;succession of ineffective democratic governments. Through it all the US was committed to protect the Philippines by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. However, that commitment faded once America lost Clark Airfield and Subic Bay, returned in 1991 and 1992, respectively. A&nbsp;volcano ruined the former while domestic political opposition closed the latter.</p> <p>Military relations revived with the 1998 negotiation of a&nbsp;Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that enabled US personnel to visit and act in the Philippines. In 2002 the US sent special operations forces to advise the Philippine military in combat operations against Islamist insurgents. In 2003 the US labeled Manila a&nbsp;major non‐​NATO ally, a&nbsp;comical honorific given the state of the Filipino military. Over the years the US participated in military exercises with and provided arms and training to Filipino forces.</p> <p>In 2014 the two governments penned the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation. The pact provided for the transfer of military equipment and provision of financial grants. However, the Obama administration pushed for more, sending surveillance aircraft through Filipino airspace, initiating military exercises, and adding other military activities. “The US and Philippine governments have always found ways to liberally interpret the provisions of the existing agreements,” opined security consultant Jose Antonio Custodio, who accused Washington of “an obvious bending” of the agreement.</p> <p>The Obama administration also continued to affirm the misnamed “mutual” (Manila’s sole apparent role was to be helpless) defense pact. Alas, the result could be war with China at Manila’s behest. The Philippine government is ever ready to borrow the US military to confront the PRC in their multiple territorial disputes.</p> <p>The best publicized controversy is Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal to Filipinos and Huangyan Dao to Chinese), a&nbsp;roughly 60‐​square‐​mile group of rocks and reefs, worthless except for the water and resource authority that goes with territorial control. It was administered by the Philippines until 2012, when the PRC sent naval vessels to oust Filipino fishing ships. America’s sensible refusal to intervene then led to the charge of being an “unreliable ally”-from a&nbsp;country unwilling to invest in a&nbsp;military capable of defending its claims. (Also at issue is the appropriately named Mischief Reef, occupied by China in 1995. China has augmented the atoll, within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone, with an artificial island and airfield.)</p> <p>Bilateral relations became less stable after Duterte, who makes Trump look civil and rational, assumed the Philippine presidency in June 2016. Relations with the US immediately tanked. The Obama administration criticized his lawless violence against drug users and sellers; he responded by calling President Barack Obama “a son of a&nbsp;whore.” Duterte, probably the most overtly anti‐​American president ever elected in the Philippines, criticized US military operations alongside the Filipino military in Mindanao and harkened back to America’s initial, murderous counterinsurgency campaign against the indigenous independence movement.</p> <p>Duterte briefly declared his nation’s “separation” from America and proclaimed himself an acolyte of Xi Jinping, visiting China in search of investment dollars. However, most Filipinos, especially those in the country’s security establishment, strongly favored the US and remained highly suspicious of Beijing. And Duterte returned from China with little more than empty promises. The People’s Republic of China would have liked to pull Manila away from America but the PRC would not accept the Philippines’ territorial claims, even rejecting a&nbsp;ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Manila’s favor. China continued to occupy Scarborough Shoal, giving the Duterte government little in return.</p> <p>Although his Chinese gambit failed, Duterte’s relationship with the US even after Obama’s departure varied from uncomfortable to hostile. That did not stop the Trump administration from embracing Manila, however, promising to “back the Philippines” against China in any naval confrontation.</p> <p>Indeed, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who appears to be permanently at odds with the president’s occasional desire to disentangle the US from potential foreign conflicts, announced: “Any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations.” Pompeo was responding to Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who, concerned about Washington’s sometimes ambiguous pronouncements on its view of Filipino disputed territories, demanded clarification. Indeed, Lorenzana threatened to terminate the bilateral defense relationship unless Washington affirmed its willingness to send Americans to defend, and perhaps die in the process, Filipino land of no importance to the US</p> <p>The right response would have been to tell Lorenzana to go pound sand. Instead, Pompeo made America look like the supplicant. Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. affected generosity in accepting America’s word. He said he interpreted US policy as “we have your back.”</p> <p>That was then, however. In February the old Duterte was back, complaining that Americans were rude and took their weapons home after they visited. But what most bothered Duterte was Washington’s revocation of a&nbsp;visa for Ronald dela Rosa, who served as police chief under the Filipino president and was responsible for the murder of drug dealers and users. Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo pointed to “a series of legislative and executive actions by the US government that bordered on assaulting our sovereignty and disrespecting our judicial system.”</p> <p>So Duterte announced the end of the VFA, which governed US military personnel on the islands and working with the Filipino military. The pact would expire six months hence, after which Americans would be sent home and future military cooperation would be limited. Any future event or activity would require individual negotiation over the terms of America’s presence.</p> <p>The defense treaty would remain formally in force, but Washington would not likely rush troops where they are not welcome. Warned the RAND Corporation’s Derek Grossman: “By not having the ability for US troops to move freely into the Philippines, to operate there and to move military equipment into the Philippines makes it much more difficult for the US to make good on its obligations under the mutual defense treaty.” Filipino Senator Panfilo Lacson predicted that killing the VFA would reduce the defense agreement “to a&nbsp;mere paper treaty as far as the US is concerned.”</p> <p>What of the Chinese who the Philippine president no longer seemed so eager to engage? “They do not mean harm,” he announced, as long as “we do not also do something that is harmful to them.” As for America, Duterte insisted that he would neither “entertain any initiative coming from the US government to salvage” the VFA nor accept a&nbsp;summit invitation from Trump‐​which had not been extended.</p> <p>Four months on, however, Locsin said that all was forgotten if not forgiven “in light of political and other developments in the region.” Probably meaning that China’s XI did not offer boatloads of cash to buttress the weak Philippines economy. Duterte suspended his notification for six months, halting the pact’s expiration. If he gets irritated again, he could allow the countdown to proceed. Alas, Washington maintains its supplicant attitude. Said the embassy in Manila: “Our longstanding alliance has benefited both countries, and we look forward to continued close security and defense cooperation with the Philippines.” It would have been hard to genuflect much lower to Duterte.</p> <p>Why should the US make military guarantees to such a&nbsp;nation and government?</p> <p>There always have been costs and risks to the commitment, but they were modest in the past. The dangers have risen dramatically as China’s government, under XI Jinping, has become more aggressive and the Philippines government, under Duterte, has become more erratic. Last June, a&nbsp;Chinese naval ship hit and sank a&nbsp;Filipino fishing boat: China said the waters were territorial seas while the Philippines claimed the area was its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Perhaps recognizing his military weakness‐​the navy’s flagship is an American Coast Guard cast‐​off constructed decades ago‐​Duterte uncharacteristically leveled with his people: “A shooting war is a&nbsp;grief and misery multiplier. War leaves widows and orphans in its wake. I&nbsp;am not ready or inclined to accept the occurrence of more destruction, more widows and more orphans should war‐​even at a&nbsp;limited scale‐​break out.”</p> <p>Alas, he could only contain his bluster so long. He soon called on Washington to launch a&nbsp;crusade against the PRC: “I’m calling now, America. I&nbsp;am invoking the RP-US pact, and I&nbsp;would like America to gather their Seventh Fleet in front of China. I’m asking them now.” Perhaps he recently watched the movie&nbsp;<em>Dr. Strangelove</em>&nbsp;since he appeared to channel Maj. T.J. Kong, ready to sit atop an American bomb on its way down onto the Chinese aggressors: “When they enter the South China Sea, I&nbsp;will enter. I&nbsp;will ride with the American who goes there first. Then I&nbsp;will tell the Americans, ‘Okay, let’s bomb everything’.”</p> <p>Thankfully, the US rejected Duterte’s invitation to war, despite Pompeo’s ill‐​considered promises. But serious risks remain. American Ambassador Sung Kim later said that the defense treaty covered “any armed attack,” including by any “government‐​sanctioned Chinese militia,” even in disputed areas. The good news is that the defense pact does not itself trigger war. Rather, Washington promised to “meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes,” meaning with a&nbsp;congressional declaration of war. Alas, recent presidents have tended to dispense with such legal niceties.</p> <p>The time for such one‐​sided “mutual” defense treaties has passed. The original security guarantee for the Philippines reflected fear of a&nbsp;Japanese military revival‐​which Manila now desires‐​and the emergence of the Soviet Union as a&nbsp;global threat. However, Russia has essentially written off Asia and especially the Pacific militarily. Today it is the People’s Republic of China which worries the US and China’s neighbors, including the Philippines. At least sometimes, anyway, depending on Duterte’s mood.</p> <p>However, Beijing is a&nbsp;dubious substitute threat for the U.S.S.R. The former is ideologically bankrupt, more fascist than communist. Its military ambitions are regional rather than global and pose no direct threat to the US, whether the latter’s people, territory, or liberties. China is determined to confront Washington’s seeming assumption that the Monroe Doctrine applies to Asia and America is entitled to intervene militarily against China in the latter’s neighborhood. No doubt it is convenient for the US to treat the Asia‐​Pacific as an American sphere of interest, but over the long‐​term that policy is unsustainable at any reasonable cost, given how much more it costs to project power than to deter intervention.</p> <p>What if China’s increased assertiveness becomes dangerously aggressive? The PRC’s territorial ambitions so far seem concentrated on areas that are historically or plausibly Chinese‐​Hong Kong and Taiwan most obviously, as well as nearby islands. There is no indication of plans to conquer neighboring lands to create a&nbsp;vast, new, and expanded empire. Even without American involvement such regional hegemony would be difficult for Beijing, which is surrounded by nations with which it has been at war during that last 75&nbsp;years: India, Japan, Korea, Russia, and Vietnam. Other important states also hope to limit Chinese influence, such as Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.</p> <p>Manila may be weaker than the others, but the Philippine people always resisted foreign occupiers, including Americans, Japanese, and Spaniards. Filipinos should make clear that they would meet any threat from China with similar vigor. Moreover, the Philippine government should expand defense ties with nearby states.</p> <p>For instance, Manila took an important step forward in recent years by encouraging Tokyo’s growing role. India also is playing a&nbsp;larger naval role in Southeast Asia and nearby waters. Indonesia and Vietnam are confronting similarly expansive Chinese territorial claims. Canberra has taken a&nbsp;sharper tone toward Beijing of late, targeting the PRC’s attempt to influence domestic Australian politics and criticizing Beijing’s role in spreading the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>In extremis, Washington could backstop the Philippines’ survival, which is not threatened and is not likely to come under attack. However, the archipelago is of little security significance to America. Washington desires to have bases everywhere, but Manila is unlikely to allow the US to use Filipino territory against Beijing unless the Philippines is under threat. Even a&nbsp;Philippine president better disposed toward America than Duterte would not want to make his nation into a&nbsp;permanent enemy of China.</p> <p>The US might prefer that Manila rather than Beijing control fisheries and energy deposits, but that is only a&nbsp;peripheral interest. More important is America’s commitment to navigational freedom. However, the Philippines plays only a&nbsp;modest role in that regard. As a&nbsp;practical matter, the PRC isn’t likely to interfere with navigation in peacetime, irrespective of sovereignty claims. In wartime all that would matter is naval superiority, which would be difficult for America to maintain so close to the Chinese mainland. The Pentagon is spending heavily to counter China’s growing anti‐​access/​area‐​denial capabilities, but Beijing will always have the advantage in the Asia‐​Pacific.</p> <p>The Philippines is a&nbsp;dubious partner. The US should stop treating allies like Facebook Friends, collecting as many as possibility irrespective of their relevance or value. The Duterte presidency is the perfect opportunity to start treating the Philippines like a&nbsp;mature state capable of protecting itself. After all, as Duterte’s office explained when justifying his decision to end the VFA, he “believes that our country cannot forever rely on other countries for the defense of the state.” America should adopt the same position.</p> <p>Trump seems to understand. He is ordering home some US troops from Germany and might do the same in Korea. Asked about Duterte’s original decision, Trump answered: “I really don’t mind, if they would like to do that, that’s fine.” After all, he noted: “We’ll save a&nbsp;lot of money.” Even more important, the US might save lives as well.</p> <p>The US should give Manila notice that it is time to renegotiate the defense treaty into a&nbsp;looser pact allowing military cooperation when in both nations’ interests. No more faux mutuality with America expected to automatically defend the Philippines, including all its disputed territories, and against China. Let Filipinos upgrade their military, develop regional allies, and accept responsibility for their own future.</p> </div> Wed, 17 Jun 2020 09:43:51 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/america-should-stop-defending-philippines-it-was-vital-interest South Korea Shouldn’t Endorse North Korea’s Explosive Bullying https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/south-korea-shouldnt-endorse-north-koreas-explosive-bullying Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Dictators are notoriously touchy when it comes to criticism. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is no exception. Expressing anything less than extreme admiration of the supreme leader risks a&nbsp;lengthy prison stay. The latest spat with South Korea has produced a&nbsp;literally explosive reaction from North Korea, which <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/16/asia/north-korea-explosion-intl-hnk/index.html">blew up</a> the inter‐​Korean liaison office in the village of Kaesong, on the northern side of the border.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>North Korea has very clearly signaled that talking is futile and that it’s back to bullying to get what it wants—and Seoul is only encouraging it. Now the South Korean government is preparing to do Pyongyang’s dirty work by forbidding private groups from sending political tracts to North Korea. This cowardly decision sacrifices citizens’ basic rights and encourages North Korea to make additional demands.</p> <p>Seoul’s policy toward North Korea was unremittingly hostile and counterproductive for a&nbsp;long time, changing significantly only with former President Kim Dae-jung’s visit to Pyongyang in 2000. Travel to the North was mostly prohibited, increasing the allure of North Korea to some. The Republic of Korea would have done better to send its domestic critics on holiday to Pyongyang. There’s nothing quite like seeing the other side close up.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Seoul is acting as Kim Jong Un’s enforcer in banning private groups from leafleting North Korea. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The government of President Moon Jae‐​in has tried a&nbsp;very different approach, following on the earlier Sunshine Policy of the 1990s and 2000s, and ties between the two Koreas improved dramatically in 2018. However, the relationship cratered along with last year’s Hanoi summit. North Korea now alternates between ignoring and insulting South Korea.</p> <p>In contrast, South Korea remains silent. In the past, it matched the North’s tactics, using high‐​powered speakers to broadcast propaganda and K‐​pop music across the Demilitarized Zone. But in 2018 Seoul unplugged its propaganda operations to promote detente with North Korea.</p> <p>Private groups did not halt their activities, however. One of their favorite techniques was to send leaflets by balloon into the North. It is impossible to know how many are read and what impact they have. Still, angry complaints from Pyongyang suggest that the regime is unnerved by uncensored information seeping into North Korea.</p> <p>That also was evident on June 4, when Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister, who is de facto head of the North’s propaganda efforts, issued <a href="https://kcnawatch.org/newstream/1591219896-544350772/kim-yo-jong-rebukes-s-korean-authorities-for-conniving-at-anti-dprk-hostile-act-of-defectors-from-north/?t=1591283787169">a&nbsp;statement through the Korean Central News Agency</a> demanding that Seoul halt leaflet campaigns and threatening countermeasures should it not comply. She called critics “rubbish‐​like mongrel dogs” and “human scum little short of wild animals,” and demanded that South Korea “take care of the consequences of evil conduct.”</p> <p>In her statement, Kim Yo Jong blamed the South: “If they truly value the north‐​south agreements and have a&nbsp;will to thoroughly implement them, they should clear their house of rubbish, before thoughtlessly blowing the ‘supporting’ bugle.” Moreover, she threatened, “the south Korean authorities will be forced to pay a&nbsp;dear price if they let this situation go on while making sort of excuses.”</p> <p>She said the North might initiate the “complete withdrawal” from joint projects, including Kaesong Industrial Park, close the inter‐​Korean liaison office, and drop “the north‐​south agreement in military field which is hardly of any value.” The next day Pyongyang said it was ending its participation in the liaison office: “The nonstop disposal of dirty rubbish from the South side has exhausted us so much as to come to a&nbsp;clearer conclusion that enemies are enemies after all,” a&nbsp;spokesman declared.</p> <p>Finally, on June 9&nbsp;the North cut connections between the two Koreas, severing “the East and West Seas communication lines between the militaries of the north and the south, the inter‐​Korean trial communication line and the hotline.” North Korea explained that “this measure is the first step of the determination to completely shut down all contact means with south Korea and get rid of unnecessary things.” More missives have followed, along with the explosive closure of the (empty) liaison office on Tuesday.</p> <p>North Korea has played the game skillfully, ratcheting up pressure on a&nbsp;skittish South Korean government. Panic appears to have afflicted South Korean officials.</p> <p>After the two Koreas signed&nbsp;the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification on the Korean Peninsula&nbsp;at the first summit between Moon and Kim Jong Un, the Moon administration ordered South Korean groups to halt their propaganda activities. However, the Seoul government did little to enforce its edict—admittedly no easy task, since activists easily evaded the police when launching balloons.</p> <p>More than two years passed without Pyongyang taking much notice. But after Kim’s outburst the spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, Yoh Sang‐​key, complained that the balloon launches “led to the creation of tension in the border area” and, less convincingly, “are risking the life and property of citizens of the border area” and therefore should be banned. Just hours after her statement the ministry said legislation was being prepared to outlaw the practice. The ruling party’s large National Assembly majority should guarantee passage of the measure.</p> <p>The next day a&nbsp;group of mayors of border cities complained that activists “threaten the life and property of the border area residents” and urged the Moon government to take “strong measures” to halt the practice. That included arranging “fundamental solutions as soon as possible, such as preparing legislation to include such measures that can punish those who break such measures.” The same day police blocked a&nbsp;Christian nongovernmental organization from launching bottles filled with Bibles, food, and vitamins by sea toward North Korea.</p> <p>The North contends that the 2018 pact bars such activities. However, Pyongyang has no grounds to complain: North Korea has flagrantly ignored its commitments and treated the South with flamboyant disdain. Kim Yo Jong’s rant provided an excellent opportunity for Moon to insist on reciprocity.</p> <p>That probably would have triggered another outburst, but the point would have been made. No doubt, South Korea’s craven response reflected its fear that relations would deteriorate further. However, there is little reason to believe that the leaflet issue would have any meaningful impact on bilateral relations.</p> <p>Over the past year or so the North has demonstrated ever greater hostility to South Korea. The former downgraded its involvement in the liaison office, resumed short‐​range missile tests, demanded the removal of buildings at the Kumgang resort, and criticized Seoul for multiple reasons, big and small. Kim apparently has decided that Seoul is powerless to move forward with economic cooperation because of U.S. and U.N. sanctions. Thus, the contretemps about the leaflets is more symptom than cause, merely the latest cudgel used by North Korea to bash Seoul. For Pyongyang, alleged South Korean perfidy and faithfulness are useful explanations for the breakdown of the North‐​South relationship.</p> <p>Unfortunately, Seoul’s decision to grovel will not improve relations. In fact, a&nbsp;statement attributed to the United Front Department dismissed South Koreans who believed Kim Yo Jong’s earlier remarks indicated a&nbsp;desire to restart talks, calling it a “pipe dream that the north seems to hope for dialogue and negotiations.” Even if the South follows Pyongyang’s orders, Seoul will remain a&nbsp;hopelessly besotted yet perennially frustrated suitor. </p> <p>The hasty move to outlaw leafletting has several negative consequences. The Moon government sacrificed its dignity and its citizens’ freedom, no small matters. Moreover, Seoul abandoned its leverage, which Pyongyang revealed to be substantial. The North fears propaganda directed at its citizens. Instead of shutting down such activities, the South should encourage them. Then Seoul could indicate that it would be happy to discuss the issue—once the other side restores a&nbsp;bilateral dialogue.</p> <p>Worse, the alacrity with which the South genuflected invited further bullying, as today’s destruction showed. What next will North Korea assert interferes with relations—which it has no apparent intention of improving? Is there anything the Moon government will not sacrifice to satisfy Pyongyang? It would be surprising if the Kims do not test South Korea again, and soon. The Moon government has vindicated opposition claims that it is far too eager to engage the North.</p> <p>In contrast, a&nbsp;tougher response would have punished the Kim regime for its arrogant behavior. The fact that the supreme leader’s sister took the lead on the issue might have reflected domestic concerns, perhaps an attempt to demonstrate toughness in order to burnish her leadership credentials. Seoul could have demonstrated that the North’s attempt at intimidation failed and the Moon government won’t be a&nbsp;willing political prop for the Kims.</p> <p>Indeed, the South should publicize the incident to counteract past media treatment of Kim Yo Jong as a&nbsp;glamorous celebrity. Her snarling attack befits an unreconstructed apparatchik, not a&nbsp;putative reformer ready to lead her country into a&nbsp;new era. The Moon government should criticize&nbsp;actions and rhetoric from Pyongyang so inconsistent with those of Kim Jong Un two years ago.</p> <p>Engagement with North Korea remains the best approach for South Korea (and the United States), but that does not mean submissively kowtowing when the North’s leaders return to a&nbsp;policy of insults and intimidation. Seoul enjoys a&nbsp;position of strength and should respond accordingly. Unless the other side becomes a&nbsp;better negotiating partner, the South should allow the balloons to keep flying.</p> </div> Tue, 16 Jun 2020 08:44:14 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/south-korea-shouldnt-endorse-north-koreas-explosive-bullying Is North Korea Planning to Disrupt the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election? https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/north-korea-planning-disrupt-2020-us-presidential-election Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Two years ago, the improbable became the new reality when Kim Jong‐​un and Donald Trump&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/singapore-summit-two-where-did-north-korea-and-america-go-wrong-162689" target="_blank">met in Singapore</a>. The dramatic opening was hobbled by the president’s lack of diplomatic acumen and his aides’ unrealistic demand that&nbsp;North Korea&nbsp;disarm before receiving any benefit for doing so. Still, opportunities never before seen seemed to beckon.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Today the possibilities appear to be closing rapidly. The U.S. went all‐​or‐​nothing at&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/hanoi-summit-%E2%80%93-we-asked-80-experts-what-happens-next-us-north-korea-relation-46902">the Hanoi summit</a>&nbsp;a&nbsp;year ago and got … nothing. Talks deadlocked. Pyongyang dismissed the Republic of Korea as a&nbsp;factor, since Washington refused to relax sanctions to allow joint economic projects to proceed.</p> <p>As the new year dawned Kim promised to unveil a&nbsp;new strategic weapon. Since then the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said it plans to strengthen its nuclear deterrent. Short‐​range missile testing has accelerated. Plans for a&nbsp;long‐​range test or even a&nbsp;nuclear test as well&nbsp;<a href="https://www.19fortyfive.com/2020/06/north-korea-threatens-to-build-up-a-more-reliable-force-that-could-mean-an-icbm-test/" target="_blank">may be afoot</a>.</p> <p>As the two‐​year anniversary approached, North Korea’s hardline foreign minister, Ri Son‐​gwon publicly doubted there was a&nbsp;good reason to maintain the relationship between the two leaders. He complained that since the Singapore summit “Even a&nbsp;slim ray of optimism for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula has faded away into a&nbsp;dark nightmare.” In the last couple weeks, the North cut all communication channels with the South, shuttered the liaison office,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.19fortyfive.com/2020/06/north-koreas-kim-yo-jong-lashes-out-at-south-korea-a-warning-or-just-noise/" target="_blank">called</a>&nbsp;the ROK an enemy, and, more ominously, said it was turning to the military for the next step.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Tensions seem to be rising fast on the Korean Peninsula. What needs to happen to avoid another 2017‐​style showdown? </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>All of which suggests that Pyongyang plans on making a&nbsp;dramatic entrance into America’s presidential campaign.</p> <p>So far, the administration appears ill‐​prepared in the extreme to deal with another Korea crisis. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nknews.org/2020/05/north-korea-must-give-up-nuclear-weapons-to-build-great-economy-says-obrien/" target="_blank">said</a>&nbsp;the North had “to give up their nuclear program” if “they want to have a&nbsp;great economy.” Kim has already decided against making that choice. As prospects for the future darkened, Washington promised unspecified flexibility, which offered nothing specific or of value that would be worth changing the DPRK’s approach.</p> <p>What to do?</p> <p>First, Trump and presumptive Democratic Party presidential candidate&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/tag/joe-biden" target="_blank">Joe Biden</a>&nbsp;should informally agree not to react to DPRK provocations during the campaign. The North wants to get attention. Which is the best reason not to give Pyongyang what it wants. Rewarding extreme behavior only guarantees a&nbsp;repeat in the future.</p> <p>Second, U.S. policymakers should recognize that peace is better than war. Any American military&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/8-million-people-could-die-nuclear-war-north-korea-23329" target="_blank">attack</a>&nbsp;would create a&nbsp;very high risk of triggering full‐​scale conflict. Doing so is not worth the risk. Depending on the DPRK’s nuclear capabilities and reach, hundreds of thousands or millions could die in any war. Washington’s essential objective should be to prevent, not trigger, such an attack.</p> <p>Third, Washington should adopt a&nbsp;policy to reflect the fact that North Korea is a&nbsp;nuclear power. It possesses nuclear materials, has tested nuclear weapons, and has developed multiple means of delivery. This means the likelihood of genuine denuclearization is at best zero and probably quite a&nbsp;bit less.</p> <p>The only nuclear power to give up its weapons was&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/why-south-africa-built-nuclear-weapons-and-then-gave-them-89111" target="_blank">South Africa</a>, and its circumstances were unique. Denuclearizing North Korea was never going to be easy. Alas, the Obama and Trump administrations confirmed the skepticism with which any government in Pyongyang should greet an American proposal. The former helped take out Muammar Khadafy after he yielded his missile and nuclear programs, while the latter tore up the agreement with Iran after the latter took steps to make future weapons development more difficult.</p> <p>Fourth, while the next U.S. administration might formally maintain the fantasy of denuclearization, it should prepare an arms control program, with discrete proposals to limit and restrain the North’s advances in ways consistent with denuclearization, if Pyongyang ever demonstrates its willingness to move down that path.</p> <p>Fifth, sanctions have value only as part of a&nbsp;serious diplomatic program with realistic off‐​ramps and serious carrots as well as sticks. The Trump administration’s approach of give us everything and then we will be nice to you, trust us!, is dead. Sanctions are especially unhelpful when the U.S. ignores the roadmap signaled by the other side. In the Singapore agreement, substantively thin though it was, Kim indicated his desire for establishing better bilateral relations and creating a&nbsp;regional peace regime. The U.S. has encouraged neither, instead preserving its counterproductive policy of complete isolation and maximum pressure.</p> <p>Sixth, Washington should recognize that engagement is even more necessary for a&nbsp;threatening nuclear North Korea than a&nbsp;weak conventional one. The possibilities for miscommunication and misjudgment remain high yet the stakes are growing. The U.S. should push for better relations and more contact. The ban on travel to and from the North should be dropped. Official liaison offices should be established. Contacts should be regularized. Diplomatic discussions should be seen as good sense, not a&nbsp;reward.</p> <p>Seventh, America should empower Seoul. The DPRK is an existential issue for South Korea. The former is relevant to America only because the U.S. has chosen to put itself at risk by placing military personnel within harm’s way. The North will not attack America unless the two are at war and defeat for the DPRK seems certain. So Washington should relax sanctions and allow the ROK to set policy and test approaches. The U.S. has failed. It is time for a&nbsp;new strategy.</p> <p>Eighth, the administration should use the deadlock over the special measures agreement as the trigger for beginning to withdraw American military forces from the South. With more than 50 times the North’s GDP and twice its population, the ROK does not need conventional military support. The South should take over responsibility for its own security.</p> <p>And contra common claims, the U.S. presence provides no “dual‐​use” advantages. No South Korean president is going to turn his or her country into a&nbsp;target by allowing American forces to operate from ROK soil against the People’s Republic of China in any contingency other than a&nbsp;Chinese attack on the South, which is plausible only if Seoul joined Washington in attacking the PRC. Nor would a&nbsp;U.S. army division have any serious value in such a&nbsp;war.</p> <p>Once the election is over the winner should develop a&nbsp;serious diplomatic initiative that sets realistic objectives and offers the North significant benefits that would justify limiting nuclear and missile developments. The U.S. won’t know if Kim is prepared to say yes until it asks him.</p> <p>We are approaching the 70th&nbsp;anniversary of the start of the Korean War. No one should want a&nbsp;repeat. In 2017 President Trump took America uncomfortably close to a&nbsp;Korean Armageddon before opening up diplomatic opportunities in 2018. This time the next president should skip the war scare and move straight to the peace initiative.</p> </div> Mon, 15 Jun 2020 09:29:46 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/north-korea-planning-disrupt-2020-us-presidential-election Washington Complains: China Is Doing What We Always Do! https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/washington-complains-china-doing-what-we-always-do Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>In a&nbsp;new official strategy of confrontation against the People’s Republic of China, the Trump administration has announced its intention “to compel Beijing to cease or reduce actions harmful to the United States’ vital, national interests and those of our allies and partners.”</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Explains the strategy paper:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>Given Beijing’s increasing use of economic leverage to extract political concessions from or exact retribution against other countries, the United States judges that Beijing will attempt to convert [One Belt One Road] projects into undue political influence and military access. Beijing uses a&nbsp;combination of threat and inducement to pressure governments, elites, corporations, think tanks, and others—often in an opaque manner—to toe the CCP line and censor free expression. Beijing has restricted trade and tourism with Australia, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Norway, the Philippines, and others, and has detained Canadian citizens, in an effort to interfere in these countries’ internal political and judicial processes.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>All true. But which government pioneered the use of economic resources to reward and punish other nations? Hint: it was not China.</p> <p>The U.S. has long used foreign aid as walking around money for the secretary of state. Countries with American bases have always gotten more cash, as have nations that have made peace with American allies, such as Egypt and Jordan.</p> <p>In contrast, governments that have crossed Washington have lost money. In 1956, the Eisenhower administration punished Egypt’s Nasser government by revoking its offer to finance the Aswan High Dam. In 1990, Secretary of State James Baker told Yemen’s UN ambassador, “that was the most expensive no vote you ever cast,” after he voted against the UN Security Council resolution authorizing war against Iraq.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Beijing is using threats and aid to pressure other governments to toe the line. Wherever did they get that from? </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Washington has also used trade barriers to reward and punish other states. The U.S. embargoed Cuba six decades ago, and has since applied secondary sanctions that have hit other nations as well. The use of financial sanctions has become&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theamericanconservative.com/state-of-the-union/sanction-happy-trump-slaps-some-on-u-s-war-crime-investigators/" target="_blank">Washington’s modus operandi</a>.</p> <p>Indeed, the Trump administration has dramatically escalated economic warfare, applying “maximum pressure” to Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela, hitting Cuba, Russia, and Syria with multiple new penalties, threatening to sanction Europeans if they try to avoid Iranian restrictions, and targeting Germany’s Nordstream 2&nbsp;natural gas pipeline to Russia. The White House treats sanctions as the default response to governments that resist Washington’s dictates.</p> <p>All of these measures were imposed “in an effort to interfere in [other] countries’ internal political and judicial processes.” In fact, despite Washington’s fervent objections to Russian election meddling in 2016, the U.S. has intervened in more than 80 democratic elections in other nations, including the 1986 presidential contest&nbsp;<em>in Russia</em>.</p> <p>Yet although America remains number one, China’s economic clout is significant, including with important countries such as South Korea. Indeed, without any sense of irony, Matthew Ha of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies recently expressed concern that China was thwarting&nbsp;U.S. pressure&nbsp;on Seoul&nbsp;to follow Washington’s policies. For instance, Beijing “launched an economic warfare campaign that&nbsp;cost&nbsp;South Korean companies operating in China at least $15.6 billion in losses” because the Republic of Korea deployed the THAAD missile defense system.</p> <p>Complained Ha: “To placate China, Seoul eventually&nbsp;agreed&nbsp;not to deploy further THAAD systems, not to join a&nbsp;U.S.-led regional missile defense architecture, and not to form a&nbsp;trilateral U.S.-Japan-ROK alliance.” Moreover, claimed Ha, “due in part to concerns over Chinese retaliation, Seoul has not completely&nbsp;divested&nbsp;its telecommunications infrastructure from the Chinese company Huawei.” Further, “China’s hand is also evident in Seoul’s aversion to the U.S.-and Japan‐​led ‘Free and Open Indo‐​Pacific’ (FOIP) initiative,” instead favoring its own policy directed at Southeast Asia.</p> <p>If all this is due to a $15.6 billion hit, then Washington should take lessons. The Trump administration has caused economic damage to many countries, yet its wrecking‐​ball sanctions have so far failed&nbsp;<em>in every case</em>: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela all have refused to give into U.S. demands.</p> <p>The president has been reduced to begging Tehran to negotiate, promising a&nbsp;better deal if it surrenders before November 3&nbsp;to help his reelection prospects. Iran and Venezuela ridiculed Washington’s threats to interdict Tehran’s tankers. The communists still rule Cuba. Despite two summits, North Korea’s Kim Jong‐​un is strengthening his country’s nuclear deterrent. No one believes that Russia will give up Crimea.</p> <p>No doubt, South Korea worries about China’s clout, since the Chinese trade more with them than America and Japan combined. But Beijing is also a&nbsp;good excuse to resist U.S. demands seen as unreasonable, especially given that the current president is Moon Jae‐​in, a&nbsp;man of the left who has no natural affinity for President Trump.</p> <p>China sees THAAD as part of a&nbsp;U.S.-directed containment system. And South Korea is not the only ally less than enthused by the administration’s demand to displace Huawei. These issues are about more than money. China will always be South Korea’s neighbor and has a&nbsp;long memory. The U.S.’s national government effectively bankrupt and beset with manifold other challenges, is not likely to stick around Korea forever.</p> <p>The point is, contra Washington’s delusions, South Korean officials do not believe that taking part in an anti‐​China campaign serves&nbsp;South Korea’s interests. Ha writes: “Beijing’s sway over this key U.S. ally is especially risky amid growing Chinese aggression and competition with the United States. Most recently, Beijing&nbsp;pushed&nbsp;Seoul to bless China’s new national security law designed to crack down on pro‐​democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Seeking to avoid conflict, Seoul took a&nbsp;neutral position, thereby undermining the protesters and revealing an alarming inability to support the liberal democratic values that underpin the ROK-U.S. alliance.”</p> <p>What evidence does Ha have that Seoul wanted to join the complaint? Most of America’s European allies and Asian friends took similarly cautious positions. Even Tokyo ostentatiously refused to join America’s statement on Hong Kong,&nbsp;though the former now says it wants to take the lead on the issue at the next G-7 meeting, to uncertain effect.</p> <p>Moreover, the U.S. routinely sacrifices other people’s democratic aspirations and human rights for policy ends. Without shame, the administration is assisting the brutally totalitarian and aggressive Saudi dictatorship as it slaughters Yemeni civilians and denies its own people political and religious liberty. Washington stands by as the Egyptian and Bahraini dictatorships brutally crush democracy activists and protesters.</p> <p>Yet Ha demands action to push—or is that force?—South Korea onto the battlefield against China. He writes: “If its China strategy is to succeed, the Trump administration must counter Beijing’s attempts to undermine U.S. alliances.” Which requires that Washington “assuage ROK concerns about Chinese coercion by committing to proportionately punish China for any attempted coercion and to provide South Korea with immediate economic support to cope with Beijing’s retaliation.”</p> <p>So Washington, the world’s chief proponent of economic warfare, is going to sanction another country because it organizes a&nbsp;boycott, cuts investment, or restricts trade to another country? And Washington, with a&nbsp;skyrocketing national debt, is going to create a&nbsp;new dole for wealthy countries like South Korea? Imagine the long line of claimants that will develop demanding compensation for following America! But what if Washington’s friends still balk at following U.S. dictates? Will America then sanction them, making them pay for their perfidy?</p> <p>This bizarre strategy is doomed to fail. Despite Washington’s presumption that it speaks for the world, its allies often disagree. Seoul currently disputes American policy toward North Korea. Unsurprisingly, South Korean policymakers want to preserve peaceful, stable relations with both the U.S. and China.</p> <p>“If we antagonize China,” observed Moon Chung‐​in, an adviser to South Korea’s president, “China can pose a&nbsp;military threat to us. Plus, China can support North Korea. Then, we will really have a&nbsp;new Cold War on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia.” Of course, some Americans don’t care about the possibility of war “over there,” as Senator Lindsey Graham famously put it. South Koreans understandably see it very differently.</p> <p>When I&nbsp;ask South Korean diplomats whether they are prepared to allow the U.S. military to use their bases against China in a&nbsp;war over Taiwan, they blanch. There ain’t no way their country is going to be turned into a&nbsp;battleground and made an enemy of the Chinese at Washington’s command.</p> <p>Washington has enough problems dealing with China without creating a&nbsp;new battleground with little practical benefit to America. The U.S. already is running a&nbsp;trade war, seeking to force compensation for the COVID-19 outbreak, and threatening Chinese concerns with sanctions tied to Iran and North Korea.</p> <p>America will be sorely disappointed if it believes it can convince—or compel with money and threats—its allies into following whatever policies it promulgates. Joining an American campaign against China looks suicidal to Seoul. Demanding that South Korea choose between Washington and Beijing could wreck the alliance. Right now, hubris poses a&nbsp;bigger threat than China to U.S. foreign policy.</p> </div> Fri, 12 Jun 2020 13:50:22 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/washington-complains-china-doing-what-we-always-do Terrible Twos? Taking Stock of U.S.-North Korea Relations Two Years after Singapore https://www.cato.org/multimedia/events/terrible-twos-taking-stock-us-north-korea-relations-two-years-after-singapore Victor Cha, Suzanne DiMaggio, David Kang, Doug Bandow <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> Donald Trump and Kim Jong‐​un made history on June 12, 2018, when they met in Singapore for the first U.S.-North Korea leadership summit. This remarkable and controversial moment followed a&nbsp;year of increasingly hostile rhetoric and actions that risked bringing the two countries to blows. At the time, the Singapore summit provided a&nbsp;glimmer of hope for a&nbsp;new era of U.S.-North Korea diplomatic engagement, made all the more dramatic by the tumultuous year that preceded it. The past two years have deflated hopes for the future. The next two U.S.-North Korea summits produced no real progress on denuclearization or more‐​modest nuclear risk reduction. After some initial gains in late 2018, inter‐​Korean diplomacy also deadlocked as Kim refused to acknowledge Moon Jae-in’s calls to work together on a&nbsp;peace regime. Late last year, Kim seemed to accept the fact that economic sanctions would not be lifted and signaled a&nbsp;shift toward prolonged struggle against the United States. He even hinted at a&nbsp;demonstration of a “new strategic weapon” in the near future. But then 2020 happened. The first six months of this year saw numerous shocks and events that could have a&nbsp;significant impact on U.S.-North Korea relations. The COVID-19 pandemic, rumors of Kim’s failing health, and South Korean legislative elections are bound to affect nuclear diplomacy. </div> Fri, 12 Jun 2020 11:19:57 -0400 Victor Cha, Suzanne DiMaggio, David Kang, Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/multimedia/events/terrible-twos-taking-stock-us-north-korea-relations-two-years-after-singapore How We Miss Ronald Reagan, America’s Optimistic Advocate of Freedom https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/how-we-miss-ronald-reagan-americas-optimistic-advocate-freedom Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>On June 5, 2004, Ronald Wilson Reagan died. Had he never been elected president he still would have been content with his full life. He survived an alcoholic father, saved scores of lives as a&nbsp;lifeguard, demonstrated his mental agility and wit as a&nbsp;baseball announcer, served as a&nbsp;union president, battled communist infiltration of Hollywood, proved to be a&nbsp;telegenic master of the increasingly important medium of television, served as governor of the nation’s largest state, wrote columns and delivered radio addresses, became king of the rubber‐​chicken speaker circuit, and motivated millions of people to get active in politics and fight for America’s heritage of individual liberty and limited government.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>That’s not a&nbsp;bad legacy. And it is one that attracted me. As a&nbsp;student at Florida State University I&nbsp;was active in local and campus politics and supported Reagan’s insurgent campaign against President Gerald Ford. It was a&nbsp;depressing exercise, until Reagan finally won a&nbsp;primary, seven contests in, taking North Carolina. His next victory was a&nbsp;blowout in Texas. A&nbsp;couple days later he won in Georgia and Indiana. I&nbsp;saved the newspaper with the banner headline, “It’s Reagan, Reagan, Reagan.”</p> <p>That wasn’t enough to win him the nomination, but it did set him up for the 1980 race after Ford lost in the fall. But I&nbsp;wasn’t thinking that far ahead. I&nbsp;was a&nbsp;complete political outsider, without the slightest connection to anyone, and, more important, headed off to Stanford Law School in fall 1976. I&nbsp;proudly put a “Don’t Blame Me — I&nbsp;Voted for Reagan” sticker on my car, occasionally triggering an obscene gesture as I&nbsp;drove by. I&nbsp;figured my focus would be surviving life as a&nbsp;One L.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>There is no substitute for resting government on popular consent and basing the economy on choices made by a&nbsp;free people in the marketplace. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>But I&nbsp;soon got into politics. I&nbsp;ended up as a&nbsp;student senator and regular columnist of the&nbsp;<em>Stanford Daily</em> — as well as founder and president of the campus pro‐​life group, president of the Conservative Student Union, and editor of its quarterly paper, the&nbsp;<em>Arena</em>. And some conservative friends and I&nbsp;launched a&nbsp;coup against the squishy College Republican chapter leadership, which added another presidency to my résumé. I&nbsp;also volunteered for the local county Republican committee and individual candidates, most notably S. I. Hayakawa, who was elected a&nbsp;couple months after I&nbsp;started at Stanford. It became evident that my primary interests were politics and policy, not law. And I&nbsp;gained more than a&nbsp;little notoriety among my classmates, since law school was a&nbsp;small community that leaned left.</p> <p>In fact, I&nbsp;had decided that I&nbsp;wanted to do something other than law but wasn’t sure what. I&nbsp;switched all my classes to pass/​fail, started writing for political magazines and major newspapers, and began looking for alternatives to traditional legal practice. Still, I&nbsp;figured I&nbsp;likely would be stuck with law as a&nbsp;career. At the start of my third year in fall 1978 I&nbsp;was unenthusiastically interviewing for legal jobs and finding it difficult to convince anyone why they should hire me.</p> <p>Then I&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cato.org/blog/martin-anderson-renaissance-idea-man-liberty" target="_blank">met</a>&nbsp;<a href="https://spectator.org/death-of-a-great-reaganite/" target="_blank">Martin Anderson</a>. I’d picked up a&nbsp;research job starting in September with Hoover Institution Fellow Darrell Trent, who later became Deputy Secretary of Transportation under Reagan. I&nbsp;walked into his office for a&nbsp;meeting and found his friend, Martin Anderson, another Hoover Fellow, who had served in the Nixon administration, there as well. I&nbsp;thought it was happenstance, but Anderson later told me that he had been following my articles in the&nbsp;<em>Stanford Daily</em>&nbsp;and told Trent he wanted to meet me. I&nbsp;like to tell students that my opportunity in a&nbsp;presidential campaign and the White House occurred because I&nbsp;wrote op‐​eds in a&nbsp;student newspaper. However improbable that might seem, it happened to be true.</p> <p>Out of that meeting came an invitation to a&nbsp;reception for Reagan when he spoke on campus, freelance assignments to ghost‐​write articles and radio scripts for him, and, in the spring of 1979, an offer to join the presidential campaign after I&nbsp;graduated. If you like politics, there is nothing like a&nbsp;presidential campaign, especially a&nbsp;winning run. My first trip was with Anderson and Reagan in a&nbsp;small plane up to Sacramento as the campaign took shape. I&nbsp;made the visit to New York City (my first!) when he formally announced his candidacy.&nbsp;<a href="https://spectator.org/how-reagan-won-the-presidency-in-new-hampshire/" target="_blank">I&nbsp;followed him as he tramped up and down</a>&nbsp;the small state of New Hampshire. And I&nbsp;was on many campaign swings all over the United States. I&nbsp;attended the convention in Detroit, where his triumph over a&nbsp;dozen other Republican contenders was formalized and celebrated.</p> <p>Exhausted but exhilarated, I&nbsp;made the last campaign trip, which brought us back to Los Angeles after the final rally in San Diego on the night before the election. And I&nbsp;celebrated at the victory party at the Century Plaza Hotel on the evening of November 4. Exit polls told us we were going to win big. The GOP capture of the Senate was an unexpected bonus. The mood was giddy, triumphant, and euphoric. Not bad for a&nbsp;22‐​year‐​old who two years before was helping politicians at the county level. Off I&nbsp;went to Washington, working in the transition and then in the White House.</p> <p>Of course, no one noticed my arrival. It was Ronald Reagan’s journey that shook up the nation’s capital. Truth be told, he had few friends there. The Nixon debacle and Ford disappointment left the Republican Party in disarray. Democrats had controlled both houses of Congress for a&nbsp;quarter century. Long‐​suffering GOP legislators were defeated mentally before the legislative process even began and largely subservient afterward. The permanent government — bureaucrats, journalists, lobbyists, pundits — rigorously defended its influence and prerogatives and the behemoth agencies upon which it feasted.</p> <p>Washington, D.C., hadn’t much liked Jimmy Carter, who claimed the outsider label. But at least he was a&nbsp;Democrat and kowtowed to the party’s most important nostrums. In contrast, Reagan challenged the imperial city’s self‐​serving conventional wisdoms. He eschewed the polite falsehoods that characterized American political discourse. And he knew how to talk to American voters, especially blue‐​collar workers, who often felt ignored by Republican candidates. His campaign also triggered the migration of many religious traditionalists, particularly evangelicals, into the GOP.</p> <p>Reagan’s journey was a&nbsp;long one, especially in terms of worlds traversed. He first ran for office in 1966, just two years after the destruction of Barry Goldwater and congressional wipe‐​out. Reagan had to defeat a&nbsp;GOP liberal for the nomination. Two‐​term Gov. Pat Brown imagined Reagan to be the weaker candidate and hoped the washed‐​up actor would win. Brown soon realized his mistake. As election day approached, the desperate incumbent ran an ad in which he told an elementary school audience, “Remember, it was an actor who shot Lincoln.” Really. Reagan won by a&nbsp;million votes and was easily reelected in 1970.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the larger political climate looked dismal if not hopeless: Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic Congress inaugurated the “Great Society.” The Vietnam War came to a&nbsp;hopeless end. President Richard Nixon, a&nbsp;Republican partisan rather than conservative ideologue, cheerfully created new bureaucracies, hiked social benefits, and imposed wage and price controls. He then self‐​destructed in the Watergate scandal, dragging down scores of Republican congressmen in 1974. Accidental, unelected Gerry Ford lost to Carter in 1976. The former’s vice president was Nelson Rockefeller, a&nbsp;modern liberal’s liberal who had governed New York state as if he was a&nbsp;Democrat. He was so detested by GOP activists nationwide that Ford dumped him at the nominating convention.</p> <p>The Cold War raged, with pessimistic Americans worried about U.S. geopolitical losses and Soviet weapons advances. Carter compounded economic and energy problems, essentially nationalizing the flow of gasoline to every community in America, with predictably disastrous results. Stagflation hit hard, as Americans suffered through what was supposed to be economically impossible: low growth&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;high inflation. Carter seemed to blame the American people, sparking talk about a&nbsp;malaise afflicting the country. He proved to be hopelessly naïve in confronting the Soviet Union, expressing shock that Moscow had lied to him about its plan to invade Afghanistan. Imagine, dreary apparatchiks who maneuvered their way into the leadership of the land of murder, dictatorship, show trials, purges, terror, and unremitting repression had the temerity to lie to the American president!</p> <p>Who among us would have stepped forward at such a&nbsp;time and predicted a&nbsp;new renaissance for America?</p> <p>Reagan’s continuing success only increased hatred of him. After all, he was considered a&nbsp;lightweight by the liberal elite who believed it was indecent for anyone to doubt the efficacy of the ever‐​expanding state. Sanctimonious, pompous, and vain Clark Clifford called Reagan “an amiable dunce.” In fact, the joke was on Clifford, one of those Washingtonians who thinks he is the indispensable man — until he ends up in a&nbsp;cemetery filled with once indispensable men. Reagan was perfectly happy to have his opponents underestimate him. Who remembers Pat Brown today?</p> <p>Admittedly, Reagan was not a&nbsp;fervent policy nerd who focused on detail, like Bill Clinton. But Reagan realized that he “had people” who could flesh out legislation. He possessed and articulated a&nbsp;larger vision of where he wanted to move America. One way he helped detail that vision, contra the Left’s caricature of him, was by reading. For instance, visitors to Reagan’s ranch, now owned by the Young America’s Foundation (YAF), can see the well‐​worn books lining his walls, including by free‐​market economists such as Milton Friedman and F. A. Hayek.</p> <p>Moreover, he read while traveling during the campaign. A&nbsp;number of times he’d hand me an article and ask if I’d seen it. He knew how to put that knowledge to good use. He could be a&nbsp;fearsome debater. He dismantled Bobby Kennedy when they clashed over the Vietnam War. Reagan fearlessly sparred with his friend William F. Buckley Jr. over the Panama Canal. I&nbsp;agreed with Buckley — it should revert to Panama — but thought Reagan held his own against probably the leading intellectual on the right. In fall 1980, Reagan didn’t hesitate to debate John Anderson, the renegade Republican congressman running as an independent. The “amiable dunce” proved to be anything but.</p> <p>Surely his record also proved that. History offered brutal and complete vindication for him. Look forward a&nbsp;decade after his election and what do you spy? The U.S. enjoying strong economic growth and low inflation. A&nbsp;substantially reformed tax code, reducing income tax rates based on envy. Democrats having lost their third straight presidential election. The Berlin Wall down and one‐​time Eastern European satellites set free. Vietnam wanting a&nbsp;relationship with Washington. The Soviet Union staggering toward collapse. Maoism as well as Mao Zedong dead and buried in China, with free markets on the rise. Morning in America.</p> <p>Of course, Reagan made mistakes. Intervening in Lebanon may be his greatest blunder, along with the Iran‐​Contra affair. And he was not responsible for all the good news. But he never claimed to be. He recognized the contributions of others. His ego was secure.</p> <p>Indeed, he knew he could succeed only with the support of the American people. He believed in freedom and in them. He understood their curiosity, drive, self‐​reliance, ambition, and ingenuity. He recognized how the U.S. helped bring out the best in its citizens, even pulling the world’s most creative and productive people to America. When he addressed Americans, he spoke from the heart.</p> <p>His greatest moments tended to be when he instinctively stood by principle against the ever cautious, even fearful federal bureaucracy appalled by the radicalism of someone who dared to praise freedom, criticize totalitarianism, and affirm principle. Consider his speech before Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate in 1987. Peter Robinson, who drafted the remarks,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2007/summer/berlin.html" target="_blank">told the story</a>&nbsp;of the bureaucratic firestorm ignited when the draft text urging the Soviets to take down the deadly barrier was circulated to the State Department.</p> <p>The wall now has been gone longer than it was up. In June 1987, however, few people in or out of Germany imagined that it would ever disappear. And certainly not soon. Reagan was warned that he would look naïve. The Russians would be offended. And so on. He didn’t care.</p> <p>For 26&nbsp;years the wall had stood&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/spirit-1989" target="_blank">as the ultimate symbol of man’s inhumanity to man</a>. The communist regime actually created the crime of&nbsp;<em>republikflucht</em>, or republic flight, fleeing the so‐​called German Democratic Republic. Hundreds of East Germans were murdered and thousands were imprisoned simply because they sought freedom.</p> <p>Ida Siekmann, a&nbsp;58‐​year‐​old, was the first to die when she jumped from her building to the bordering road in West Berlin on August 22, 1961, nine days after the first version of the wall was erected. Two days later&nbsp;a&nbsp;24‐​year‐​old tailor, Guenter Litfin, was the first to be killed, shot while attempting to swim the River Spree. Among the cruelest executions occurred a&nbsp;year later, on August 17, 1962, when East German border agents shot 18‐​year‐​old Peter Fechter, a&nbsp;bricklayer, as he tried to climb the wall. They left him to bleed out in full view of residents on both sides. He was the 27th&nbsp;Berliner killed while seeking freedom, a&nbsp;grim scorecard that grew year by year.</p> <p>On February 6, 1989, almost two years after Reagan’s speech — and shortly after he left office — 20‐​year‐​old Chris Gueffroy became the last East German to be murdered while seeking to escape the East German open door prison. He was shot 10 times: apparently border guards could never be sure that their work was done. A&nbsp;month later 32‐​year‐​old Winfried Freudenberg became the last person to die trying to cross the wall. He was an electrical engineer whose homemade balloon crashed.</p> <p>For most Washington policymakers, the Berlin Wall was an issue. For Reagan it something much more significant, a&nbsp;fundamental assault on human life, dignity, and liberty. On that beautiful day in Berlin on June 12, 1987, Reagan declared,</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>Behind me stands a&nbsp;wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a&nbsp;vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe.… Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a&nbsp;German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a&nbsp;Berliner, forced to look upon a&nbsp;scar.… As long as this gate is closed, as long as this scar of a&nbsp;wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind.…</p> <p>General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate.</p> <p>Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate!</p> <p>Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>In fact, Reagan’s most important achievement might have been getting Gorbachev right. Some of his aides viewed Gorbachev with distrust, and right‐​wing activists called Reagan an appeaser and dupe for negotiating with the Soviet leader. But Reagan recognized a&nbsp;humane core within the general secretary. Reagan alone could not peacefully end the Cold War. Someone had to keep the Red Army in its barracks, lest reforms end up like Hungary in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968. Gorbachev was that person. He might have been a&nbsp;reform communist who hoped to save the system, but that was impossible once he foreclosed force as an option. And for that he deserves credit alongside Reagan. Together, they ended communist rule over hundreds of millions of people. November 9, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall fell, remains the symbolic end of the most monstrous, extensive, oppressive, and deadly social system ever concocted by man.</p> <p>Today the People’s Republic of China appears to be on the march. But Reagan would remind us of America’s many inherent strengths. Authoritarian governments can do some things well. And democracies can be messy and inconsistent. Still, there is no substitute for resting government on popular consent and basing the economy on choices made by a&nbsp;free people in the marketplace. The PRC will find that over the long term, free access to information and the opportunity to speak and debate are vital to creating and sustaining a&nbsp;great and modern nation. Tyranny there will ultimately fail, as it did in the Soviet Union.</p> <p>On November 5, 1994, Reagan released his famous letter to the American people announcing his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, the cruel disease that has robbed so many people of their memories and personalities. The loss for Reagan was particularly poignant, since he lost the ability to appreciate the world that he did so much to help shape. By the end he could not see how right he had been.</p> <p>Nevertheless, Reagan never lost his faith in the United States. As he told a&nbsp;population that followed his leadership when the challenges facing America appeared to be so dire, “I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I&nbsp;know that for America there will always be a&nbsp;bright dawn ahead.”</p> <p>We should remember that today, in the midst of so many trials, which seem paradoxically old and new at once. Reagan believed in himself, but even more so in America. We were grateful when he infused the nation with his optimism 40&nbsp;years ago. We should remember that optimism as we address equal if not greater challenges today. RIP Ronald Reagan, America’s good and faithful servant during a&nbsp;time of great need.</p> </div> Tue, 09 Jun 2020 09:33:46 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/how-we-miss-ronald-reagan-americas-optimistic-advocate-freedom Time to Pull the Troops From NATO: What Good Is an Alliance Full of Cheap‐​Riders? https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/time-pull-troops-nato-what-good-alliance-full-cheap-riders Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>President Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to remove 9,500 U.S troops from Germany by September. He also set a&nbsp;firm cap of 25,000, instead of allowing the number to swell to 52,000 as units rotate through or deploy for training.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>It is a&nbsp;good start. But why did it take him more than three years to act on his criticism of allied cheap‐​riding on America? And what about the other 25,000 American military personnel in Germany?</p> <p>Even after the US economy shut down and federal finances cratered, Washington’s foreign policy elite were seeking to add new international duties for Uncle Sam. America and China are teetering on a&nbsp;new cold war, which could turn hot in the Taiwan Strait or elsewhere in the Asia‐​Pacific. Thus, it is said, Washington must bolster its military alliances, security guarantees, and naval deployments.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>The president’s flaws are many and manifest. However, he sometimes gets policy right. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Members of the Blob, as Washington’s foreign policy establishment has been called, continue to ferociously oppose the slightest withdrawal from the Middle East. America must fix Syria by confronting the Assad government, ISIS, other Islamist radicals, Turkey, Russia, and Iran. The US certainly cannot leave Iraq, irrespective of the wish of Iraqis. And America’s 18‐​year war in Afghanistan, in the heart of Central Asia surrounded by Iran, India, Pakistan, Russia, and China, should be accepted as the start of a&nbsp;beautiful permanent commitment. As the Eagles declared in their famous song Hotel California, Washington can never leave‐​from anywhere.</p> <p>Finally, the US must increase troop deployments, naval dispositions, and financial assistance not only to NATO members, but alliance wannabe joiners Georgia and Ukraine. Forget the supposedly frontline states of the Baltics and Poland. America must bolster the southern front lest Russia solidify its dominance in the Black Sea and add a&nbsp;base in Syria and another in Libya, analysts warned at a&nbsp;recent forum organized by the Center for European Policy Analysis. Just another step or two and the Mediterranean Sea could become Moscow’s Mare Nostrum, like for the old Roman Empire. Russia then might seek control the Atlantic and perhaps even invade Washington, D.C., following in Britain’s footsteps a&nbsp;couple centuries ago. Or something like that.</p> <p>The attempt to constantly ensnare America in other nations’ conflicts is foolish, even reckless. First, the US has never been more secure. Its geographic position remains unassailable: large oceans east and west, pacific neighbors north and south. No power threatens to breach that perimeter. America’s navy deploys 11 carrier groups, compared to two carriers by China and one by Russia. The US air force easily secures American airspace, or at least would do so if much of it wasn’t deployed overseas. Only nuclear‐​tipped missiles pose a&nbsp;serious threat, but America’s arsenal vastly outranges that of every country other than Russia, and the latter would be annihilated in return if it struck the US</p> <p>Terrorism remains an ugly threat, but mostly against Americans overseas. And it is largely self‐​inflicted, the consequence of Washington’s promiscuous foreign intervention: bombing, invading, and occupying other states, such as Iraq; taking sides in bitter conflicts of no concern to the US, such as Lebanon’s civil war; supporting brutal dictatorships as in Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia; and backing nations which occupy and oppress minority populations, most notably Israel. Alas, Washington continues to unnecessarily create additional enemies every day.</p> <p>Americans should not be surprised if some day angry Yemenis use terrorist methods to strike back against the US, which sold and serviced aircraft used by Saudi Arabia to wreck Yemeni cities, provided munitions dropped by Saudi warplanes on Yemeni weddings, funerals, apartments, and hospitals, refueled planes on their missions to slaughter Yemeni civilians, and offered intelligence to aid Riyadh’s air force in selecting targets. Put bluntly, the Obama and Trump administrations invited retaliation against the American people by aiding true terrorists against the Yemeni people.</p> <p>Second, Washington has turned a&nbsp;means, alliances, into an end. Instead of using such relationships as a&nbsp;mechanism to improve US security, policymakers routinely sacrifice Americans’ safety and prosperity to continually expand security guarantees, leaving tripwires for war around the globe.</p> <p>In doing so the Pentagon has turned itself into a&nbsp;welfare agency, underwriting the defense of prosperous, populous states that could protect themselves. Some of these are military nonentities, such as Montenegro and North Macedonia, modern versions of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, made famous by&nbsp;<em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mouse_That_Roared" target="_blank">The Mouse That Roared</a></em>. Worst of all, the US increasingly allies, sometimes formally, sometimes informally, with countries that bring more military liabilities than assets. Georgia, Ukraine, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia are the most obvious cases today. All four could drag America into conflicts, the first three with nuclear‐​armed powers.</p> <p>Third, Washington engages in never‐​ending social engineering that rarely succeeds and would be of little value to Americans even if it did work. Three successive administration have spent almost 18&nbsp;years trying to turn Afghanistan into a&nbsp;liberal Western‐​style democracy. Worse was blowing up Iraq in expectation that contending ethnic, religious, and political groups would join together singing Kumbaya as they helped America battle Iran. President Barack Obama, a&nbsp;paladin of modern liberalism, ensured Libya’s destruction in the belief that something good would happen. He also imagined that Washington’s ivory tower warriors could fix Syria‐​simultaneously oust Bashar al‐​Assad, vanquish the Islamic State, empower “moderate” insurgents, pacify Turkey, oust Iran and Russia, protect Syrian Kurds, and foster democracy. Trump added the theft of Syrian oil as an American objective. Rarely have international plans been more chimerical, complicated, and costly.</p> <p>The US is constantly expanding its defense obligations even as its financial health worsens. The federal government currently is borrowing record amounts‐​likely more than $4 trillion this year and $2 trillion next year‐​yet continues to subsidize the defense of populous, prosperous industrialized nation, rebuild failed states, bind together fake countries, hunt down other nations’ enemies, and sacrifice American lives and wealth to play international social engineer. The waste and hubris are bipartisan. Despite marginal differences among liberals and conservatives and Democrats and Republicans, the vast majority of Blob members work assiduously to ensure that the US spends as much as possible, devotes as many resources as possible, deploys as many soldiers as possible, and fights as many wars as possible, all in the name of protecting America despite almost always having the opposite effect.</p> <p>Washington needs to start scaling back its outlandish ambitions, rediscovering humility and prudence. A&nbsp;good starting point, as the president apparently believes, is Europe.</p> <p>Foreign policy determines military requirements and force structure. All should change along with circumstances. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization made sense as a&nbsp;temporary shield behind which Europe could revive economically and reconstruct politically. While it doesn’t appear that the Soviet Union ever seriously contemplated launching the Red Army on a&nbsp;march to the Atlantic Ocean, it would have been foolish to take the risk.</p> <p>However, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the alliance’s supreme commander before becoming president, warned against permanent US deployments lest the continent become dependent on America. And he was right. Europe soon rebuilt and sped past the Soviet Empire, as even East German cities still sported evidence of World War II decades after the bombs stopped falling. Nevertheless, at the height of the Cold War the rising West Europeans continued to pass the bill for their defense to Washington. Their governments routinely promised to spend more and then reneged on their commitments. But the US still paid. The lesson was well‐​learned by Europe.</p> <p>And so it went after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. One might think that the disappearance of the enemy would lead to rethinking military alliances. Not at all! As predicted by public choice economists, who have explored the survival incentives of public institutions, NATO aficionados were desperate to preserve the alliance. So they proposed taking on duties such as promoting student exchanges and battling illicit drug use. Eventually they agreed on intervening in “out‐​of‐​area” activities, which&nbsp;<em>increased</em>&nbsp;America’s military role. The Europeans insisted that they couldn’t defend themselves. They certainly couldn’t project significant power beyond their own borders</p> <p>For instance, in launching an aggressive war against Serbia in 1999 Washington took the lead, since it was estimated to possess about 85 percent of the alliance’s practical firepower. When aiding Libyan rebels in ousting Muammar Khadafy, European militaries ran out of missiles and had to ask the Pentagon for resupply. Russia’s aggressive moves on Ukraine in 2014 led to a&nbsp;cacophony of shocked whining from Europe, causing Congress to vote even more money for the counterproductive multi‐​billion dollar “European Reassurance Initiative,” later renamed the “European Deterrence Initiative,” which told the Europeans that no matter how little they did Washington would always do more.</p> <p>Yet successive American defense secretaries, secretaries of state, and presidents wondered why European governments ignored pleas that the continent increase its military efforts. Trump has taken credit for a&nbsp;recent modest bump in allied military expenditures, after years of cuts, but the uptick began in 2015, after Moscow’s assault on Ukraine, and peaked in 2017. No one believes that this trend will continue.</p> <p>The transatlantic alliance currently has 30 members. NATO essentially stands for North America and The Others. The other 29 members, Canada and 28 European countries, can be divided into five categories.</p> <p>There are big countries that maintain serious militaries. That group is made up of only the United Kingdom and France. Even so the latter doesn’t hit NATO’s two percent of GDP benchmark. There also are big countries that have “other priorities.” Germany continues to creep upward, to 1.38 percent of GDP, but Berlin has constantly pushed forward its date for hitting the two percent level, now set for 2030,&nbsp;<em>three elections from now</em>. With the public opposed to higher outlays‐​and barely a&nbsp;third favoring aid for NATO allies in a&nbsp;war with Russia!-a Martian invasion is more likely than German spending at two percent of GDP. Italy and Spain, also with large economies, don’t even make a&nbsp;pretense of effort and came in at 1.22 and .92 percent, respectively.</p> <p>Then there are little states that don’t matter, irrespective of what they spend. The newest members are North Macedonia and Montenegro. Plus several others, such as Luxembourg, Albania, Slovenia. There are two governments that hate each other more than any outside threat, Greece and Turkey. Indeed, the former long has broken the two percent barrier, and continued to do so throughout its debilitating Euro crisis,&nbsp;<em>in order to be ready to fight its fellow member, not Russia.</em></p> <p>Finally, there are front‐​line states that do more to badger America to defend them than to bolster their own defenses. The Baltics and Poland all barely crawl across the two percent line. In fact, Poland just made it last year. They take great satisfaction in doing so, but if their claims of potential Russian aggression are serious their behavior is inexplicable. Presumably their independence is worth more than just two cents on the dollar. While the Baltics are relatively small and beyond easy NATO defense, they, along with Poland, could focus on territorial defense, thereby making themselves indigestible if Moscow wanted an easy meal.</p> <p>Thankfully, the latter seems very unlikely. Military action against any of them would risk full‐​scale war while promising few benefits, other than possession of a&nbsp;wrecked and divided land. Moreover, so far Vladimir Putin has shown little interest in grabbing contested territory, taking only Crimea, which was historically part of Russia, did not have a&nbsp;separate identity, contained a&nbsp;majority of Russian speakers, welcomed Moscow’s annexation, and possessed Sevastopol naval base. Otherwise Putin appears to have primarily used “frozen conflicts” with Georgia and Ukraine to keep them out of NATO.</p> <p>Indeed, the lack of a&nbsp;serious threat probably is the most important reason the Europeans spend so little on the military. What do they need deployable, capable, and ready armed forces for? If a&nbsp;revived Red Army ain’t going to end up on their doorstop, then why waste the money on lots of soldiers and bombs? Especially when Washington officials are constantly reassuring Europeans that America will be there no matter what. European policymakers would be fools to do more, at least more than necessary to quiet American whining, complaining, demanding, crying, and urging Europeans to do more. It’s embarrassing for them to watch representatives of the world’s most powerful nation abase themselves so completely and regularly‐​and ineffectively.</p> <p>This Kabuki Theater seems likely to keep repeating itself, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Steve Erlanger of the&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;reported: “even in the European Union’ pre‐​virus negotiations over the next seven‐​year budget, more contentious than usual because of the gap created by Brexit, military spending was gutted.” Individual members, especially those hit hardest, such as Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom, will be even less inclined to devote additional resources to the military. What was always a&nbsp;very tough sell has become impossible. Worried Jamie Shea of Chatham House: “The danger now is that the upward trend will go downwards.” Nicole Koenig of the Jacques Delors Centre was blunter: “There will be less defense spending.”</p> <p>Washington certainly cannot pick up the slack.</p> <p>Germany is the best place to start withdrawing US troops. First, the Federal Republic hosts America’s biggest European garrison, even though it no longer is the “front line” with Russia. (Italy, United Kingdom, Spain, and Belgium follow with deployments above 1000. Smaller detachments are scattered about the continent.)</p> <p>Second, Berlin sanctimoniously pretends to be devoted to military revival. Declared Defense Minister Annegret Kramp‐​Karrenbauer: “Germany, for one, remains committed to NATO’s capabilities according to its size and economic strength‐​today, tomorrow and a&nbsp;decade from now.” Third, Germany has the continent’s greatest economic strength and military potential but falls both woefully and dramatically short.</p> <p>Fourth, the deficiencies are woefully, ostentatiously outrageous. They would be comical if the burden of such shortcomings was not ultimately borne by America. Last year the Atlantic Council’s Jorge Benitez called the German military’s readiness “abysmal.” The Bundestag Military Commissioner, Hans‐​Peter Bartels, concluded that “There is neither enough personnel nor materiel, and often one confronts shortage upon shortage.”</p> <p>Analysts cited inadequate numbers or availability of aircraft, helicopters, ships, and submarines. The military lacked sufficient recruits, winter clothing, radios, and spare parts. Defense &amp;&nbsp;Security Monitor warned that: “These conditions render German contributions to security missions under an EU- or NATO‐​led mandate less than optimal, as its troop deployments lack proper logistical support and effective firepower capability.”</p> <p>That Berlin fails to adequately provide for its force is properly its decision, not that of America.&nbsp;<em>As long as Germany does not expect Washington to meet Germany’s defense needs if something goes wrong.</em>&nbsp;Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Berlin recently returned to America, made the same point in a&nbsp;slightly different fashion: “It is actually offensive to assume that the US taxpayer must continue to pay to have 50,000-plus Americans in Germany, but the Germans get to spend their surplus on domestic programs.”</p> <p>Grenell would have Berlin spend more. The better approach would be for Washington to return responsibility for Germany’s defense to Germany. Tensions in the relationship would ease dramatically if the US did not constantly browbeat its allies to do what American policymakers believe would be best. Instead, Washington should announce what it plans to do, and let friendly states plan accordingly. Which would make the president’s decision a&nbsp;positive one.</p> <p>German policymakers finally might be learning an important lesson from Trump. Bundestag member and ruling party spokesman on international affairs Johann David Wadephul said: “It’s yet another wake‐​up call for us Europeans to take our fate into our own hands.”</p> <p>Of course, kvetching in Washington began immediately. Reported the&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>: “some former officials said they hoped Mr. Trump would reconsider. Several said that, if enforced, the troop cut would further undermine an Atlantic alliance that Mr. Trump has badly shaken, and was a&nbsp;gift to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who has been eager to see a&nbsp;diminished American military presence on the continent.”</p> <p>There is one certainty in dealing with the Blob. Washington must never, ever, do less overseas. It doesn’t matter what or where the problem is. The answer is more.</p> <p>But circumstances should matter. Despite the mutual efforts of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, for completely different reasons, to turn Vladimir Putin into a&nbsp;new bugaboo, Russia poses no serious threat to America. Moscow has regressed to a&nbsp;pre‐​1914 great power, concerned about border security and international respect, determined to be consulted on issues of great moment. But there no longer is an ideological or global struggle. No where is there a&nbsp;conflict over vital issues: neither Crimea’s status nor Syria’s future is of more than peripheral relevance to American security.</p> <p>Putin’s intervention in Ukraine, though brutal and unwarranted, is fundamentally conservative and defensive, guarding against America’s attempt to extend the Monroe Doctrine to Europe. Imagine if the Soviet Union had supported a&nbsp;coup in Mexico against the elected, pro‐​American president, pressured the new government to sign an exclusive economic agreement with Comecon, the communist trading cartel, and invited Mexico City to join NATO. Few in Washington would have let diplomatic niceties get in the way of speedily “solving” the problem. America has far more reason to improve its relationship with Russia than to maintain a&nbsp;mini‐​Cold War over an issue best left to Europe.</p> <p>America’s allies possess roughly ten times the GDP of Russia. Italy alone has a&nbsp;larger economy. The continent’s population is more than three times as large. Even today Europe spends more than Moscow on the military. Continental coordination remains inadequate, but necessity for doing better would create a&nbsp;powerful incentive to reform if the US announced a&nbsp;withdrawal schedule. The departing 9,500 should merely be a&nbsp;down payment. The rest in Germany and Europe should be brought home quickly and steadily.</p> <p>A US departure‐​followed by demobilization of troops made unnecessary by reducing a&nbsp;major military commitment‐​would benefit the American people, reducing military outlays and risks. Nor would this mean “isolationism.” The US would still be involved in Europe economically, socially, culturally, and politically. Moreover, Washington should refashion its military role, perhaps becoming an associate member of a&nbsp;reformed NATO, to facilitate cooperation to advance shared interests. No longer could either side use the alliance to drag the other into foolish, unnecessary conflicts, such as Afghanistan and Libya. Such a&nbsp;process need not happen overnight, but the US should set a&nbsp;certain end point for its security guarantees and military deployments.</p> <p>The president’s flaws are many and manifest. However, he sometimes gets policy right. As in the case of American defense welfare for Europe. The time for talk should be over. The time for action is now.</p> </div> Mon, 08 Jun 2020 09:40:36 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/time-pull-troops-nato-what-good-alliance-full-cheap-riders Can We Finally Stop Trying to Police the World? https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/can-we-finally-stop-trying-police-world Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>America’s cities are aflame. The federal treasury is empty. The electorate is angry. The world is intractable. China is on the march.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Can we finally agree that Uncle Sam should stop playing GloboCop?</p> <p>The role never made sense. The Constitution sets the “common defense” as a&nbsp;vital job for the federal government. It is Washington’s most important duty since no state government can adequately fulfill that role. But the Founders meant the national authorities were supposed to defend Americans. Not the rest of the world.</p> <p>The U.S. was spoiled when the Cold War ended. With the Soviet Union’s collapse, Washington stood at the global summit, as if all the world’s dominions had been placed at its feet by Satan himself. America was the “unipower,” it was said, the sole superpower, the essential nation, the hyperpower, and the country that saw further, and therefore was dutybound to run the world, engage in social engineering everywhere, and treat the entire globe as America’s, and alone America’s, sphere of interest.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Americans need to refocus on essentials. It’s time to stop playing GloboCop. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>It didn’t work out well. Washington got dragged into the Balkans, deciding that the murder and ethnic cleansing of Croats, Bosnians, and Kosovars was bad, but that of Serbs didn’t count. Relentless extension of NATO, and especially the push to include Georgia and Ukraine, inflamed Russian hostility and paranoia. The illegal dismantlement of Serbia encouraged Moscow to return the favor in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Crimea. Needless but malicious meddling in the Middle East and South Asia generated terrorist blowback, the natural price paid for swatting multiple hornets’ nests.</p> <p>Hubris conquered good sense when Uncle Sam wasted two decades fighting in the Middle East. Retaliation after 9/11 turned into nation‐​building in Afghanistan. Washington officials spoke often of the importance of stability as they destroyed Iraq and Libya and aided the loathsome, terrorist‐​friendly regime in Saudi Arabia as it wrecked its impoverished neighbor Yemen. Afflicted by a&nbsp;madness reflecting a&nbsp;career spent in Washington, policymakers insisted that America resolve the Syrian civil war — by sorting out the Assad regime, Islamic State, al‐​Qaeda, supposed moderate insurgents, Alawites, Christians, and other Syrian religious minorities, Russia, Iran, Syrian Kurds, Turks, and Israel. This policy was boundless hubris and folly, yet it continues with U.S. military personnel occupying Syrian territory and oil fields with neither intelligent purpose nor legal warrant — from U.S. or international law.</p> <p>Even President Donald Trump, so skeptical of “endless wars,” has seemingly found it impossible to disengage. His biggest problem was filling his administration with neoconservatives and establishment hawks, who didn’t realize that most of the world was not worth fighting over. And because of his fixation on Iran, a&nbsp;weak regime that does not seriously threaten the U.S. or Israel, a&nbsp;regional superpower with nuclear weapons, he effectively turned his administration’s policy over to the Saudi royals. Alas, their regime is more lawless, repressive, corrupt, dissolute, and dangerous even than that of the Iranian mullahs.</p> <p>Despite claims by discredited ivory tower wannabe warriors, U.S. foreign policy is anything but “isolationist.” Washington is expected to solve almost every problem on Earth. Make South Korea and Japan like each other. Get rid of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro. Bring peace to the Israelis and the Palestinians. Force the Iranians to behave. Convince Iraqis to become like Americans. Sort out Lebanon, divided among Shiites, Christians, Sunnis, Druze, and everyone else. Do something about India and China. Suppress the Taliban. Promote human rights in countries where Washington dislikes the government (Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, China) and ignore human rights violations in countries where the administration likes the government (Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Central Asian countries). Save Hong Kong from its possessive, avaricious overlords in Beijing. Ad infinitum.</p> <p>Unfortunately, an expansive foreign policy is expensive. The “endless wars” have cost America more than $6 trillion. For what? To wreck societies, destroy minority religious communities, release virulent ideologies, and entangle U.S. troops in nations and conflicts of little interest or relevance to America. If one didn’t know better, one would assume that George W. Bush and Barack Obama were Chinese or Russian plants, ordered to divert Washington’s resources and attentions to the most ridiculous, foolish, and impossible conflicts on Earth.</p> <p>There is little doubt that Moscow and Beijing are the big winners every time American troops are dispatched to some mindless conflict in a&nbsp;country that most Americans have never heard of, have no idea where it is located, and can’t conceive of why anyone in Washington would think it was worth sacrificing U.S. lives and wealth. Hostile regimes care more about judgment than credibility and would be far more impressed — and worried — if American policymakers set priorities and focused on serious issues rather than dissipated lives and resources on interests of at most peripheral importance, if that.</p> <p>The People’s Republic of China long has posed a&nbsp;challenge to America. The problem was not engagement; the PRC is a&nbsp;much better place today than it was in 1976, when Mao Zedong died. And Western contact — economic, cultural, and political — is a&nbsp;major reason why for years Chinese authoritarianism remained somewhat loose, allowing bits of autonomy, criticism, debate, and independent thought. Democracy did not develop, but liberty was the more important principle for a&nbsp;complicated society of 1.4 billion people to imbibe.</p> <p>Alas, people matter. Evil, determined, and competent individuals can do enormous damage. China began moving rapidly in reverse after Xi Jinping ascended the top of the Chinese political system in 2012. He is becoming the new Mao Zedong, dedicated to strengthening his and the party’s control. The regime is employing every plausible lever of power to eradicate the slightest independent thought, whether regarding politics, religion, history, or culture. One must return to the Cultural Revolution to find a&nbsp;similar state demand for groupthink. The contretemps in Hong Kong is important because it involves the extension of the PRC’s growing internal controls to an area that heretofore has been generally free. Taiwan faces the threat of a&nbsp;similar fate, though its legal and political status remains independent.</p> <p>It should be evident that Beijing poses the most important, and only serious, international challenge to America. Even so, China remains relatively poor with important weaknesses: it is rapidly aging, set to become old before it is rich. State interference in the economy is legion and hampers growth. Totalitarian controls over people’s creativity will limit innovation.</p> <p>Moreover, the PRC’s totalitarian future is not set; Xi will not rule forever and has amassed a&nbsp;legion of enemies and critics. The country dramatically liberalized after Mao Zedong’s death. It might do so again after Xi leaves the scene. In any case, any war, cold or hot, would be a&nbsp;disaster for both countries. The heaviest lifting in the event of conflict should be by Washington’s friends and allies in East Asia, who are at greatest risk.</p> <p>As Beijing has come into view as America’s No. 1&nbsp;foreign policy priority, it should be equally obvious that the U.S. no longer can do everything. Indeed, the federal government is essentially bankrupt. Uncle Sam was set to borrow a&nbsp;trillion dollars this year — before COVID-19 swept the land. With the economy shut tax revenues are down and social spending is up. Add to that two bailout bills so far. The CBO figures on red ink of $3.7 trillion this year and $2.1 trillion next year. That may be overly optimistic. Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute warns that this year’s deficit could be as much as $4.2 trillion. And that’s before a&nbsp;third bailout bill, which is likely next month.</p> <p>Cutting domestic discretionary spending won’t balance the budget. Not even close. The big boulders are interest, which can’t be cut without repudiating the debt, Social Security, and Medicare, which the elderly will defend to their last breath; Medicaid, which is tough to cut since it already delivers poor quality care; and the Pentagon. Try convincing America’s seniors that “their” welfare programs should be slashed so Washington can continue to defend prosperous European states, which have 10 times Russia’s GDP; Japan, with the world’s third largest economy; and South Korea, which enjoys a&nbsp;50–1 advantage over the North. You’ll be chased out of every nursing home and assisted living facility across the country.</p> <p>It is time to say adios to the Middle Eastern/​South Asian “endless wars,” which have killed thousands of Americans, wounded tens of thousands, killed hundreds of thousands of foreigners, displaced millions of people, and wasted more than $6 trillion. The region no longer is vital to America, if it ever was. The Saudis and others should be told to fend for themselves for a&nbsp;change. Afghanistan is a&nbsp;tragedy, but it should no longer be America’s tragedy. No sane American can imagine that the arrogant fools who have run U.S. foreign policy so badly are capable of fixing Syria or Iraq.</p> <p>The Europeans, too, should be told to address the security threats facing them rather than supinely seek to guilt Washington into stepping in. Even the United Kingdom barely scrapes past the promised 2&nbsp;percent level on defense. France falls below. The Baltic States, which claim to worry most about the Russian threat, feel satisfied at 2&nbsp;percent, even though they could do much more to make themselves indigestible by Moscow.</p> <p>Worse, after years of promising greater effort, Germany still spends only around 1.3 percent of GDP on the military. No one believes that level is ever going to hit 2&nbsp;percent, as promised, if the U.S. constantly steps in. Yet the readiness of the German military barely rises above joke status. Spain and Italy, both with sizable economies, barely bother to maintain militaries. Greece is mostly interested in preparing for war against Turkey, which is sliding toward both Islamism and dictatorship and cannot be trusted. The Europeans are entitled to spend what they’d like on their armed forces, but they should not ask America to act if they can’t be bothered to even make an effort.</p> <p>Washington should focus its attention on the Pacific. That requires adjusting its commitments. South Korea can defend itself from the North. Japan already has a&nbsp;capable military — er, “self‐​defense force,” since the constitution technically bans armed forces — and can do more, much more, to ensure that Beijing never tries to go from assertive to aggressive. The U.S. has reason to support the independence of the Philippines, but not its territorial claims when it makes little effort to field the sort of capable military necessary to defend its possessions. India should be encouraged to deepen its naval involvement. The best policy for America is to ensure that the PRC’s neighbors are all well‐​armed, enhancing their anti‐​access/​area denial capabilities, just as China is attempting to do against America.</p> <p>Finally, the U.S. should reconsider one of the most sacred of cows maintained by the State Department: nonproliferation. Instead of putting American cities at risk to protect allied states of varying interest to the U.S., Washington should consider standing aside if Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan want to develop deterrent capabilities. Today nonproliferation is a&nbsp;lot like gun control, ensuring that only the bad guys — in this case China, North Korea, and Russia — are armed. Better that friendly democratic countries were better armed. Then even Xi’s totalitarian state is unlikely to run rampant throughout the region.</p> <p>Much is wrong in the U.S. and around the world. Americans need to refocus on essentials. It’s time to stop playing GloboCop. The price, in lives, money, and attention, has been too high. And other priorities are more important. Today our attention should be at home, addressing challenges that seem to grow by the day.</p> </div> Mon, 08 Jun 2020 09:27:17 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/can-we-finally-stop-trying-police-world Washington and China Both Would Lose in a New Cold War https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/washington-china-both-would-lose-new-cold-war Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Relations between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China were deteriorating even before the emergence of COVID-19. Beijing’s mistakes that allowed the spread of the disease overseas triggered widespread anger in America, and President Donald Trump’s incompetent response to the health crisis caused him to look for scapegoats, with the PRC at the top of his list.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>As a&nbsp;result, Washington and Beijing appear headed toward a&nbsp;new cold war—with the risk of their competition heating up in the South China Sea. Such a&nbsp;course would benefit no one—certainly not Americans.</p> <p>Currently, despite the near hysteria that has erupted in Washington, there is no justification for the palpable sense of panic over the PRC. America remains more powerful, much richer, and more influential. Beijing currently poses no serious threat to American security, prosperity, or liberties.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>China is a&nbsp;much more elusive and serious competitor and adversary than the Soviet Union. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>China’s economic achievements over the last four decades have been prodigious. They have also been beneficial to Westerners, who have gained greatly from the boost to global productivity. Moreover, the escape of hundreds of millions of Chinese from immiserating poverty is undoubtedly a&nbsp;human good. However, the PRC remains a&nbsp;middle‐​income nation with extraordinary wealth gaps and a&nbsp;countryside that remains far behind the urban centers seen and enjoyed by most Westerners.</p> <p>Despite present difficulties, China will continue to grow, but its future is by no means certain. The population is rapidly aging. The Chinese Communist Party is increasing its interference in the economy. Inefficient state enterprises, bad bank loans, and serious property bubbles threaten future prosperity. Tougher censorship will limit people’s access to information and hamper innovation.</p> <p>Michael Beckley of Tufts University explained the PRC’s difficult reality: “China’s economic growth over the past three decades has been spectacular, even miraculous. Yet the veneer of double‐​digit growth rates has masked gaping liabilities that limit China’s ability to lose the wealth gap with the United States. China has achieved high growth at high costs, and now the costs are rising while growth is slowing. As I&nbsp;explain in a&nbsp;recent book, data that accounts for these costs reveal that the United States is several times wealthier than China, and the gap appears to be growing by trillions of dollars every year.” His basic point is that the PRC economy is big and inefficient, while America’s economy is big and efficient. The resulting gap is dramatic.</p> <p>Beijing also has no reliable or powerful allies. More aggressive actions in East‐​Asian waters have done the impossible, causing the Philippines to welcome a&nbsp;more active Japan. The PRC’s increasingly brusque and threatening behavior—consider, for example, its petulant trade sanctions against Australia—have sacrificed what little soft power it once claimed. The Belt and Road Initiative has left bruised feelings and damaged relations across Asia and Africa. Of course, the Trump administration has proved to be equally—if not more—maladroit, but the U.S. has much more political, historical, economic, and cultural capital with most nations to draw on.</p> <p>Washington hawks want to simply replay the Cold War, but despite the aforementioned weaknesses, such attempts will fail. China is a&nbsp;much more elusive and serious competitor and adversary than the Soviet Union. The former is an integral part of the global economy. It is a&nbsp;much more important trading partner than America for many nations, including U.S. military allies Australia, Japan, and South Korea. Chinese citizens travel the world. Chinese students study throughout the West. China’s economic connections benefit Europe, cross Africa, and reach Latin America.</p> <p>Moreover, “the Beijing Model”, while short on civil and political liberties, offers economic growth, unlike the decrepit Soviet Union. And so far, the CCP has avoided debilitating mistakes, such as disastrous foreign military interventions. The Soviet Union wasted military strength and political influence in Afghanistan. The U.S. learned nothing from Moscow’s experience and continues to squander lives and resources there, as well as elsewhere, especially in the Middle East. In this sense, at least, Chinese officials have shown better judgment and greater concern for the long‐​term.</p> <p>Especially mistaken is Washington’s increasing readiness to demand that countries choose between America and China. Such a&nbsp;request might result in some surprising and distressing decisions.</p> <p>Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign minister, noted, for example, that Europe is increasingly being pressed to make just such a&nbsp;choice. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a&nbsp;diplomat with no diplomatic skills, demanded that the G-7 label COVID-19 the “Wuhan virus”; his counterparts simply killed any use of the statement on the meeting. Although European criticism of China is increasing, no nation there is yet ready to break with such an important commercial partner. Pompeo also threatened to “disconnect” from Australia, long a&nbsp;loyal friend of the U.S., as a&nbsp;result of Chinese infrastructure investments, a&nbsp;move that sparked sharp criticism.</p> <p>Beijing is inclined to make the same mistake. Its sanctions on South Korea after the latter accepted the THAAD missile‐​defense system soured the South Korean public’s opinion of the PRC. The Xi government’s trade sanctions on Australia in response to its request for an investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic angered rather than cowed the Australian people. China’s aggressive post‐​coronavirus behavior in Europe, such as criticizing the French government’s policies in dealing with COVID-19, backfired. The U.S. should learn from these mistakes and step back and respect the freedom principles it promotes around the world. Political benefits would follow.</p> <p>Finally, American policymakers should recognize that the PRC’s future is not fixed. Mao Zedong created a&nbsp;China that was poor and oppressive. After his death, Deng Xiaoping relaxed economic and social controls, resulting in a&nbsp;very different China. Today, Xi Jinping is staging another reversal, dramatically tightening political and social restrictions. If that does not end well—and it is not likely to do so—his successor may very well rediscover his inner‐​Deng and adopt a&nbsp;more liberal course. But how the U.S. acts today will help set China’s direction. Threats, sanctions, insults, and confrontation are likely to inflame Chinese nationalism and strengthen Xi and the CCP’s hold over the Chinese people. Spending the coming presidential campaign vilifying the PRC may win some votes at home, but it will harden the Xi regime’s resolve and undermine administration credibility with allied states.</p> <p>Beijing will pose an increasing challenge to America and the entire Western world. The U.S. must respond resolutely but responsibly. Most importantly, Washington should develop policy confidently, from a&nbsp;position of strength, while keeping its long‐​term objectives in mind. The two countries inevitably will compete, sometimes vigorously or even brutally. But they also must find ways to cooperate, working together to create a&nbsp;common future that will dramatically impact the rest of the world.</p> </div> Sun, 07 Jun 2020 09:45:43 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/washington-china-both-would-lose-new-cold-war Why Donald Trump Still Doesn’t Understand North Korea https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/why-donald-trump-still-doesnt-understand-north-korea Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The relationship between&nbsp;President Donald Trump&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/we-asked-64%C2%A0top-experts-what-happens-if-kim-jong-un-died-suddenly-149576" target="_blank">Supreme Leader Kim Jong‐​un</a>&nbsp;which began with such promise seems likely to fade away. The negotiations are stalemated, with neither side prepared to move. And the Trump administration still doesn’t understand what motivates Kim.</p> </div> , <div class="promo-block clearfix spacer--standout block--standout bg--standout block p-standard"> <div class="block--inner"> <h3 class="mb-md-4 heading"> <a href="https://www.cato.org/events/terrible-twos-taking-stock-us-north-korea-relations-two-years-after-singapore">Related Event: Terrible Twos? Taking Stock of U.S.-North Korea Relations Two Years after Singapore</a> </h3> <aside class="aside--large aside--right promo-block__image aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <a href="https://www.cato.org/events/terrible-twos-taking-stock-us-north-korea-relations-two-years-after-singapore"><img width="444" height="249" alt="Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump shaking hands in front of US and North Korean flags" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/promo_block_2x/public/2020-05/Kim_and_Trump_shaking_hands-600.jpg?itok=gm2N0l_6 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/promo_block_2x/public/2020-05/Kim_and_Trump_shaking_hands-600.jpg?itok=gm2N0l_6 1.5x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/promo_block/public/2020-05/Kim_and_Trump_shaking_hands-600.jpg?itok=l6NV1xou 2x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/promo_block/public/2020-05/Kim_and_Trump_shaking_hands-600.jpg?itok=l6NV1xou" typeof="Image" /></a> </aside> <p>Online Policy Forum | June 12, 2020 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM EDT</p> <p>Two years after a&nbsp;historic summit in Singapore offered a&nbsp;glimmer of hope for U.S.-North Korea diplomatic engagement, not much progress has been achieved. 2020, however, may shake things up in that regard. Please join a&nbsp;distinguished panel of experts as they discuss both the current and future state of nuclear diplomacy with North Korea.</p> <div class="mt-md-4 mt-standard field field-name-field-call-to-action"> <span class="hs-cta-wrapper" id="hs-cta-wrapper-41f77bd4-8254-4498-b077-ef862384696e"><span class="hs-cta-node hs-cta-41f77bd4-8254-4498-b077-ef862384696e" id="hs-cta-41f77bd4-8254-4498-b077-ef862384696e"><a href="https://cta-redirect.hubspot.com/cta/redirect/4957480/41f77bd4-8254-4498-b077-ef862384696e" target="_blank"><img class="hs-cta-img" id="hs-cta-img-41f77bd4-8254-4498-b077-ef862384696e" src="https://no-cache.hubspot.com/cta/default/4957480/41f77bd4-8254-4498-b077-ef862384696e.png" alt="Watch Webcast"></a></span> hbspt.cta.load(4957480, '41f77bd4-8254-4498-b077-ef862384696e', {}); </span> </div> </div> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The problem is not just the lack of conversation. Kim has retreated from his more positive approach of 2018. He made the extraordinary announcement to his people that the regime had completed North Korea’s deterrent and planned to emphasize economic development. That was intended to appeal to Pyongyang elites who had grown to enjoy some of the finer things in life. The capital was much brighter and livelier, with more consumer goods, when I&nbsp;visited in 2017 than on my earlier trip years before. He was seeking to strengthen the regime’s popular support with an economic appeal.</p> <p>However, after the&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/hanoi-summit-%E2%80%93-we-asked-80-experts-what-happens-next-us-north-korea-relation-46902" target="_blank">summit failure in Hanoi</a>&nbsp;and subsequent diplomatic deadlock he indicated what appeared to be a&nbsp;return to the old Byungjin line, or parallel development of the military and economy. This past New Year’s Eve he warned of tougher times and spoke of unveiling a&nbsp;new strategic weapon. Presumably, Kim still wants to improve the economy, but he, like his father and grandfather, put security first.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Unfortunately, the administration is still using the old playbook which the North Koreans threw away. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Unfortunately, the administration is still using the old playbook which the North Koreans threw away. On Face the Nation, National Security Adviser&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/we-were-warned-china-challenges-the-status-quo-while-the-us-17594" target="_blank">Robert O’Brien</a>&nbsp;<a href="https://thediplomat.com/2020/05/missing-the-signs-on-north-korea/" target="_blank">intoned</a>: “But ultimately, the North Koreans, if they want to reenter the world, if they want to have a&nbsp;great economy—and we hope they do, they are going to have to give up their nuclear program.”</p> <p>Kim understands the administration’s position, which is why he warned his people of hardship to come when he rejected advance denuclearization. For Kim, security, in the form of regime preservation, tops economics.</p> <p>Indeed, if he was inclined to follow O’Brien’s advice he could have avoided steadily tougher sanctions from the start after he took power in late 2011 by not developing and testing missiles and nukes. And the same for his father. Both of them counted the cost and decided to proceed.</p> <p>And who can blame them for doing so? It is a&nbsp;malign regime, to be sure, but it also responds rationally to threats and incentives. The kingdom of Korea long was called a&nbsp;shrimp among whales, surrounded by warring empires—China, Japan, and Russia—all of which wanted to dominate the peninsula. Japan won that battle in 1890, defeating China and turning Korea into a&nbsp;colony. However, Pyongyang has no desire to be ordered about even by supposed friends Beijing and Moscow.</p> <p>Worse, North Korea is, even more, a&nbsp;shrimp today, worried about South Korea and the U.S. as well. Washington is distant, which is good from the standpoint of thwarting imperial control. But America also is moralistic and aggressive and at heart a&nbsp;social engineer. Thus, Washington policymakers can be counted on to take out hostile or obstreperous regimes with some regularity. Since the North’s large but decrepit conventional force could not withstand an American attack, possessing a&nbsp;modest number of deliverable nukes offers the only sure deterrent to attempted decapitation and regime change.</p> <p>Moreover, U.S. behavior has not inspired trust in Washington’s word. President George W. Bush, along with the Europeans, made a&nbsp;deal with Libya’s Muammar Khadafy, who abandoned his missile and nuclear programs. He was feted around Europe until some of his people rose up in revolt. Then the U.S. and European governments took full advantage of his moment of weakness to engineer his ouster. He died in a&nbsp;spectacularly ugly public murder.</p> <p>After the execution of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu on Christmas Day, 1989, Kim Jong‐​il reportedly circulated a&nbsp;video of their end to his top officials to stiffen their resistance to change in North Korea. One can imagine Kim Jong‐​un using the recording of Khadafy’s fate in a&nbsp;similar way. The Trump administration might promise the regime beach resorts and corporate headquarters if only it disarms. But who does Kim sue for relief if American bombers later arrive overhead?</p> <p>Add to that Trump’s repudiation of the Iranian nuclear deal and demand for a&nbsp;renegotiation, based on conditions that amount to Tehran’s surrender of its independent foreign policy. Even if Kim came to terms with Trump, what would stop a&nbsp;successor from deciding to unilaterally change the deal?</p> <p>Washington should acknowledge that denuclearization is a&nbsp;fantasy. Back when the Clinton administration negotiated the Agreed Framework it might have been possible to convince the North to forego the nuclear option by offering the right mix of security guarantees, economic benefits, and mixed penalties.</p> <p>However, today the DPRK is an existing, not a&nbsp;prospective, nuclear power. The U.S. has repeatedly demonstrated that it is not a&nbsp;trustworthy partner. Threats of war only reinforce the North’s reasons to develop a&nbsp;sizeable arsenal capable of hitting America. Kim is a&nbsp;rational dictator who desires to retain power. Ergo, Pyongyang will not denuclearize. And certainly not do so because U.S. officials try to dazzle him with prospective development plans if he turns over his future to Washington.</p> <p>There is still much that could be advanced with negotiations. Creating a&nbsp;communication channel, reducing opportunities for mistake and misjudgment, reducing military tensions, limiting the North’s nuclear ambitions, improving inter‐​Korean relations, and more. However, they require entering talks with open eyes and realistic expectations. Neither of which currently characterizes the Trump administration.</p> </div> Fri, 05 Jun 2020 11:00:59 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/why-donald-trump-still-doesnt-understand-north-korea America Can’t Save Hong Kong https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/america-cant-save-hong-kong Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Rather like Adolf Hitler’s Thousand Year Reich that ended 988&nbsp;years early, China’s guaranteed 50&nbsp;years of freedom for Hong Kong has ended 27&nbsp;years early. It’s been a&nbsp;good run since 1997, since Beijing left the territory mostly alone for longer than many people expected.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>However, the Xi government’s plan to directly impose a&nbsp;comprehensive national security law and allow security forces to operate in the special administrative region (SAR) ends any pretense that residents will retain traditional British liberties and enjoy Western‐​style due process. Nor is there much hope for prudential forbearance in using powers nominally intended for emergencies. Under Xi Jinping the People’s Republic of China has ruthlessly crushed any hint of dissent, political, religious, or other, at home; it considers nothing other than immediate and complete obedience as acceptable. The result will be no different in Hong Kong.</p> <p>Tyranny’s approach has triggered an understandable air of desperation in the territory. After the PRC’s announcement, protestors at one demonstration called on the U.S. military to intervene. Jimmy Lai, publisher of the&nbsp;<em>Apple Daily</em>, who recently was arrested and charged with participating in illegal demonstrations last year, urged President Donald Trump to save Hong Kong.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Hong Kong’s best hope is the threat of economic retaliation by a&nbsp;broad coalition led by America focused on vital redlines protecting essential liberties, not democracy or independence. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Unfortunately, there is little Washington can do. And the more Hong Kongers press for outside interference, the greater the likelihood the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will enter faster and more firmly. Indeed, opposition missteps—understandable and well‐​intentioned, but serious mistakes nonetheless—accelerated the destruction of Hong Kong’s autonomy.</p> <p>First, military action is a&nbsp;nonstarter. The U.S. will not go to war, nor threaten to go to war, against a&nbsp;nuclear‐​armed power on the Asian mainland over that government’s human rights violations in territory universally acknowledged to be legally under its control. Nor should Washington do so. Full stop.</p> <p>Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union slaughtered millions. The U.S. did not start World War III over the issue. Mao Zedong’s China slaughtered millions. Washington did not start World War III to stop the Chinese Community Party then.</p> <p>Pol Pot slaughtered millions. Washington did not invade Cambodia/​Kampuchea. Countries as diverse as North Korea and Eritrea established hellish dictatorships. Washington did not bomb or invade them. Horrendous conflicts and civil wars have dotted the globe: Sudan, Liberia, Burundi, Turkey, Rwanda, Syria, Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo. Washington did little‐​to‐​nothing in them.</p> <p>Despite its often soaring rhetoric about freedom, the U.S. government’s chief responsibility, and thus the appropriate focus of its foreign and military policy, is to protect America, its people, territory, and liberties. Washington often does a&nbsp;bad job, creating even greater harm, as in Iraq. But its interventions that purport to be purely humanitarian are few in number—Haiti, Somalia, the Balkans. And none involved serious powers that could defend themselves and threaten retaliation. The PRC would fiercely resist U.S. action. Even an American victory would merely the first round of a&nbsp;conflict bound to play out over years and more likely decades.</p> <p>Nor does Washington have a&nbsp;political answer for Hong Kong. America’s commitment to human rights is inconsistent at best: just ask the oppressed masses under dictators favored by President Donald Trump: Mohammed bin Salman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kim Jong‐​un, Abdel Fattah al‐​Sisi, Vladimir Putin, Mohammed bin Zayed, and even, until recently, anyway, Xi Jinping. The U.S. government uses human rights as a&nbsp;cudgel against its adversaries, such as Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela. Otherwise mass repression, including kidnapping and murder, receives short shrift. Remember Jamal Khashoggi?</p> <p>Moreover, short of war, the U.S. has no way to force even weak governments to change policy. Sanctions usually fail to win compliance with American demands. Especially policies viewed by other governments as vital, essential to maintain authority, enhance power, preserve order, suppress opposition, and deter challenges. Washington has run “maximum pressure” campaigns against Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. None has yielded. The U.S. applied and continues to apply significant economic pressure on Cuba—after 60&nbsp;years!—and Russia. Neither has given in. Sudan long was the target of stultifying sanctions, but only a&nbsp;popular uprising last year finally ousted the regime.</p> <p>For the PRC, a&nbsp;rising nationalistic power, authority over Hong Kong is not a&nbsp;peripheral matter to be bartered away. Indeed, no serious government would willingly surrender such vital or even important interests to a&nbsp;foreign power. Especially Beijing, since reclaiming territory lost during the “century of humiliation” has been a&nbsp;major Chinese priority.</p> <p>For this reason the belief that the U.S. government might intervene directly in Hong Kong would likely spur a&nbsp;Chinese crackdown. The last thing the Xi government would countenance is direct foreign intervention in what is seen, by the PRC’s population as well as government, as an internal affair. If the opposition calls for outsiders to interfere, the regime has an even greater incentive to act quickly, before any such an attempt is made.</p> <p>Ironically, Hong Kong’s best hope is the&nbsp;<em>threat</em> of economic retaliation by a&nbsp;broad coalition led by America focused on vital redlines protecting essential liberties, not democracy or independence. Today the U.S. and most countries treat the SAR, and the freedom of its financial system, as very different from the mainland. Instead regulating the territory like the PRC proper would impose severe economic losses on China. The issue is less current production than access to Western capital through Hong Kong, as detailed by a&nbsp;recent study by Hong Kong Watch. Such losses would be painful at any time, but especially after the economic damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>The prospect of such economic losses might deter Beijing from putting the SAR under de facto direct rule. The Chinese Communist Party might judge the cost to be too high, the gain to be too little. However, there is no chance that the Xi government would accept either democracy or independence. Doing so would violate the regime’s long‐​term determination to reconstitute historic China. The loss of prestige would be enormous. And the threat of a&nbsp;spreading freedom virus would be too serious. Demanding too much of Beijing ensures losing everything.</p> <p>Indeed, past overreach cost Hong Kongers dearly. Beijing’s intrusions may have been inevitable and in hindsight look inexorable, but the demand for democracy and failure to negotiate for more realistic objectives ensured the failure of the Umbrella Revolution in 2014. Free elections never were going to be and will never be granted by the PRC as presently constituted.</p> <p>Moreover, the oath‐​taking contretemps of 2016 unnecessarily attracted Beijing’s malign attention, drawing the regime into the territory’s electoral affairs and turning democracy advocates into targets. Public contempt even more than resolute opposition was sure to anger the Xi regime, which decided that it had to act.&nbsp;The National People’s Congress intervened to set electoral rules and Xi Jinping used his subsequent visits to publicly set a&nbsp;tougher course. Unfortunately, these actions appeared to reflect public as well as elite sentiment in the PRC.</p> <p>Finally, last year’s protests, though courageous, were also chaotic. Forcing the SAR government to suspend the extradition legislation was a&nbsp;notable achievement. Beijing might have been able to accept, however reluctantly, such a&nbsp;setback. However, the demonstrations continued, threatening China’s control, creating disorder, trashing the legislative chamber, disrupting the airport, and more. There was no obvious end, since protestors were pursuing seemingly unattainable objectives, namely democracy and independence.</p> <p>This guaranteed a&nbsp;tougher response. Few governments, even liberal republics, would be willing to accept daily disarray and disruption. The Communist regime proved willing to fill Beijing’s streets with blood in 1989 to maintain the party’s authoritarian control. A&nbsp;more powerful country under an even more brutal ruler surely is willing to do the same in Hong Kong today.</p> <p>Of course, the PRC remains to blame for the assault on the territory’s rule of law. The opposition’s fault is imprudence, understandable but unfortunate. The task today is to salvage as much as possible. The U.S. can help. But not by overt, dramatic intervention which is unrealistic and would force China’s hand, ensuring an even tougher and more permanent clampdown.</p> <p>Hong Kong risks losing what makes it most special, its protection of legal and political liberties. Contrary to the hopes of some residents, Washington does not have the answer. Indeed, the call on America risks triggering an even tougher Chinese reaction. Only a&nbsp;deft game of diplomacy by a&nbsp;united West, threatening realistic penalties focused on the essentials of territorial autonomy, offers any hope for the future.</p> </div> Thu, 04 Jun 2020 09:58:50 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/america-cant-save-hong-kong A Modest Proposal: Open Ties With North Korea https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/modest-proposal-open-ties-north-korea Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The world has seen North Korea’s Kim Jong Un exactly twice since April 11. His absences have sparked intense global speculation, with highlights including multiple reports of his death or incapacitation. Korea analysts—<a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/04/29/north-korea-kim-jong-un-family-succession-death/" target="_blank">myself included</a>—have debated endlessly which blood relative might take over. This endless “where is Kim” talk, however, distracts from the far bigger problem at hand: What can be done about a&nbsp;nuclear North Korea?</p> </div> , <div class="promo-block clearfix spacer--standout block--standout bg--standout block p-standard"> <div class="block--inner"> <h3 class="mb-md-4 heading"> <a href="https://www.cato.org/events/terrible-twos-taking-stock-us-north-korea-relations-two-years-after-singapore">Related Event: Terrible Twos? Taking Stock of U.S.-North Korea Relations Two Years after Singapore</a> </h3> <aside class="aside--large aside--right promo-block__image aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <a href="https://www.cato.org/events/terrible-twos-taking-stock-us-north-korea-relations-two-years-after-singapore"><img width="444" height="249" alt="Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump shaking hands in front of US and North Korean flags" class="lozad component-image" loading="lazy" data-srcset="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/promo_block_2x/public/2020-05/Kim_and_Trump_shaking_hands-600.jpg?itok=gm2N0l_6 1x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/promo_block_2x/public/2020-05/Kim_and_Trump_shaking_hands-600.jpg?itok=gm2N0l_6 1.5x, /sites/cato.org/files/styles/promo_block/public/2020-05/Kim_and_Trump_shaking_hands-600.jpg?itok=l6NV1xou 2x" data-src="/sites/cato.org/files/styles/promo_block/public/2020-05/Kim_and_Trump_shaking_hands-600.jpg?itok=l6NV1xou" typeof="Image" /></a> </aside> <p>Online Policy Forum | June 12, 2020 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM EDT</p> <p>Two years after a&nbsp;historic summit in Singapore offered a&nbsp;glimmer of hope for U.S.-North Korea diplomatic engagement, not much progress has been achieved. 2020, however, may shake things up in that regard. Please join a&nbsp;distinguished panel of experts as they discuss both the current and future state of nuclear diplomacy with North Korea.</p> <div class="mt-md-4 mt-standard field field-name-field-call-to-action"> <span class="hs-cta-wrapper" id="hs-cta-wrapper-41f77bd4-8254-4498-b077-ef862384696e"><span class="hs-cta-node hs-cta-41f77bd4-8254-4498-b077-ef862384696e" id="hs-cta-41f77bd4-8254-4498-b077-ef862384696e"><a href="https://cta-redirect.hubspot.com/cta/redirect/4957480/41f77bd4-8254-4498-b077-ef862384696e" target="_blank"><img class="hs-cta-img" id="hs-cta-img-41f77bd4-8254-4498-b077-ef862384696e" src="https://no-cache.hubspot.com/cta/default/4957480/41f77bd4-8254-4498-b077-ef862384696e.png" alt="Watch Webcast"></a></span> hbspt.cta.load(4957480, '41f77bd4-8254-4498-b077-ef862384696e', {}); </span> </div> </div> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>With barely five months to go before the U.S. presidential election, a&nbsp;resumption of nuclear negotiations appears unlikely. The Trump administration appears wedded to its demand that Pyongyang remove all nukes at once. Kim is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It is hard to imagine a&nbsp;scenario in which a&nbsp;serious, practical, and realistic North Korean leader—and Kim appears to be all three, despite the inherent bizarreness of Pyongyang’s system—would give up nuclear weapons. North Korea is a&nbsp;true “shrimp among whales,” as the Korean saying goes, surrounded by colossal and potentially threatening neighbors: China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea. And then there is the aggressive superpower across the Pacific, ever ready to destroy regimes on its naughty list. (Muammar al-Qaddafi’s ugly fate will forever remind dictators of what happens when they trust Washington.)</p> <p>Emphasizing arms control and seeking to limit North Korea’s nuclear program are far more realistic approaches by the United States. However, any such agreement would take time, with serious negotiations over details necessary before a&nbsp;summit to seal the deal. That isn’t likely to happen before November. And even if an agreement was reached before the election, it could have a&nbsp;short half‐​life if Joe Biden wins the presidency.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Diplomacy is no magic elixir, but talking is most essential between countries at potential military odds. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>President Donald Trump should take a&nbsp;different approach and, for the moment, forget denuclearization. Instead, Trump should make a&nbsp;historic overture and create diplomatic ties with North Korea. Clear lines of communication are needed now more than ever; opening them could be a&nbsp;rare, winning foreign‐​policy legacy for the Trump administration.</p> <p>U.S. hawks have patented several foolish and ineffective policies, such as sanctioning most any country that engages in behavior they find to be offensive. The Trump administration has filled the Treasury Department’s sanctions list. Yet all the president’s so‐​called maximum pressure campaigns have failed; so far not one target, including North Korea, has been forced to change one action. The strategy of treating diplomatic relations with the United States as a&nbsp;reward has also disappointed. Washington considers its refusal to acknowledge another state’s existence a&nbsp;devastating blow that no self‐​respecting government can survive. Except they do, always. And they do so without having any regular and reliable communication channel with the United States.</p> <p>It took the United States almost a&nbsp;quarter century—from planning to execution—to talk to China and several more years to establish formal diplomatic relations. North Korea, meanwhile, has been around for 72&nbsp;years without exchanging any diplomats with the world’s primary superpower. Indeed, current administration policy bars Americans from visiting North Korea.</p> <p>Diplomacy is no magic elixir, but talking is most essential between countries at potential military odds. The United States faced no greater threat than the Soviet Union, a&nbsp;hostile nuclear‐​armed superpower whose armed forces confronted the U.S. military around the world. Imagine the standoff over Berlin, the Soviet invasion of Hungary, the Cuban missile crisis, and other dangerous moments without the ability to communicate. One of the most dramatic moments between the two governments came in 1962, when Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the president’s brother, dropped by the Soviet Embassy for a&nbsp;private conversation with Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin as their respective nations seemed headed for war. Dobrynin&nbsp;<a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/rfks-secret-role-in-the-cuban-missile-crisis/" target="_blank">later observed</a>: “I had no doubt that my report of this conversation turned the tide in Moscow.”</p> <p>U.S. relations with China offer another important example of the importance of diplomatic channels. In September 1950, the allied forces outflanked the North Korean military by landing at Inchon. Soon, Kim Il Sung’s legions were in full retreat, with U.S. units in hot pursuit headed toward the Yalu River border with China. Beijing sought to warn Washington against invading the North but had no reliable means of doing so. Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai passed one message through India’s ambassador, without apparent effect. Diplomatic ties might have allowed consultations that would have reached a&nbsp;satisfactory modus vivendi, weakening the North Korean regime while allaying Chinese security concerns—perhaps halting the allied advance at the peninsula’s narrow neck between Pyongyang and Wonsan. A&nbsp;simple conversation might have ended the war in six months rather than three‐​and‐​a‐​half years.</p> <p>The Trump administration should announce that it will lift travel restrictions and is prepared to establish diplomatic relations with North Korea. Washington should indicate that once diplomats are talking, they will be expected to discuss all topics, including human rights. Other subjects would include sanctions relief, disarmament steps, recovery of American remains, and cultural and sporting exchanges. While no one should have any illusions about magically solving the nuclear standoff, the two governments could make contact routine. Moreover, North Korean diplomats might be drawn into the larger international community in Washington. While denuclearization would remain as distant as ever, agreement on those less sensitive subjects might move into reach.</p> <p>Opening channels of communication—without the pressure of grand gestures about nukes—could ease resolution of sticking points such as the detention of a&nbsp;visiting American. Diplomatic relations would offer practical evidence of diminished U.S. hostility to North Korea, which Kim indicated was necessary before making any nuclear deal. A&nbsp;diplomatic presence would offer U.S. policymakers a&nbsp;small window into one of the world’s most closed societies. Formal relations might discourage Pyongyang’s policy of brinkmanship, since the regime could get attention without testing another missile. And an open communication channel would allow informal transmission of ideas on relaxing tensions, addressing conventional arms, and limiting if not eliminating nukes. With full denuclearization a&nbsp;dead end, more traditional arms control, preserving Pyongyang’s deterrent while restricting its size and/​or reach, might have better success. And if not, little would be lost in the attempt.</p> <p>Trump could also seek to end the Korean cold war. That doesn’t mean the North and South will be lying down together anytime soon. But Washington could normalize relations, encouraging Seoul and Tokyo to follow. Adopting a&nbsp;peace declaration or treaty and targeting sanctions relief to encourage greater inter‐​Korean cooperation also would aid the process. For instance, Kim’s desire for greater economic development might incline him to be more responsive to Japan’s demand for an accounting of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea decades ago.</p> <p>Of course, maybe nothing would change. Although Kim appears more interested in both economic development and diplomatic engagement than his father and grandfather were, that hardly means he is a&nbsp;closet liberal seeking acceptance by the West. But even so, the United States would have lost nothing. Diplomatic relations recognize reality—another government—and ease communication. In this case, official ties might also nudge serious negotiations forward as well.</p> <p>What’s up with Kim Jong Un? Who knows? Instead of continuing to guess without having anyone on the ground in Pyongyang, the Trump administration could rely on diplomatic ties. That would be one foreign policy likely to survive even a&nbsp;change in administrations and would be a&nbsp;worthy legacy of an administration otherwise short of foreign‐​policy achievements.</p> </div> Thu, 04 Jun 2020 09:41:37 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/modest-proposal-open-ties-north-korea Doug Bandow discusses U.S.-China relations on SiriusXM’s Press Pool with Julie Mason https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-radio/doug-bandow-discusses-us-china-relations-siriusxms-press-pool Mon, 01 Jun 2020 12:36:29 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-radio/doug-bandow-discusses-us-china-relations-siriusxms-press-pool Donald Trump Should Switch to Cooperation as Kim Jong Un Emphasizes Confrontation https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/donald-trump-should-switch-cooperation-kim-jong-un-emphasizes-confrontation Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Kim Jong-un’s long absences from public view continue to mystify observers, but his reappearances should cause more concern. His latest public outing was to the Central Military Commission.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The purpose: to address “new policies for further increasing the nuclear war deterrence” of North Korea. The regime explained that the orders issued dealt with “putting the strategic armed forces on a&nbsp;high alert operation in line with the general requirements for the building and development of the armed forces of the country.” Those attending also discussed implementing “crucial measures for considerably increasing the firepower strike ability of the artillery pieces.” Overall, the attendees considered how to “reliably contain the persistent big or small military threats from the hostile forces.”</p> <p>Alone, this does not indicate a&nbsp;change in Kim’s approach. However, he previously walked back his announcement to the North Korean people that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had completed its deterrent and was going to focus on economic development. Indeed, in his most recent New Year Eve’s message he warned of difficult times ahead and spoke of having to counter Washington’s “hostile policy.”</p> <p>Moreover, Pyongyang has increased weapons testing—there were more short‐​range missile tests in March than ever before. These missiles, which use solid fuel, provide useful information for longer‐​range systems, capable of hitting the United States. Some other activities might presage both ICBM and nuclear tests, which could bring to fruition the “new strategic weapon” that Kim threatened in his speech to the Korean Workers’ Party plenum.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>There is no imaginable circumstance under which Kim will abandon weapons of such great value in return for a&nbsp;mess of American pottage, promises that could be broken at any moment. However, he might agree to important limits, for a&nbsp;price. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The U.S. response has been as inadequate as one would expect from the Trump administration. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien recently declared that “Ultimately, the North Koreans, if they want to reenter the world, if they want to have a&nbsp;great economy—and we hope they do, they are going to have to give up their nuclear program.” His only hopeful note was to observe that “The president’s engaged in some excellent personal diplomacy with Kim Jong‐​un.”</p> <p>Alas, though President Donald Trump deserves credit for&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/why-america-should-normalize-relations-north-korea-undermine-china-154216" target="_blank">being willing to engage</a>&nbsp;Kim, he left the execution to a&nbsp;coterie of hawkish advisers who were more comfortable with coercion than persuasion—the “Libya model,” as John Bolton put it. This resulted in a&nbsp;futile demand of everything before anything, that is, the North must turn over its nukes before the U.S. reciprocates. Kim is many things, but evidently, he is not a&nbsp;fool, so the president’s personal diplomacy so far has had little impact.</p> <p>O’Brien’s argument that North Korea must disarm to “reenter the world” and “have a&nbsp;great economy” is belied by the fact that several nations in the world possess both nuclear weapons and developed economies. That is, they enjoy both security and prosperity. Forced to choose between the two goals, Kim so far has selected security, which should come as no surprise. Governments, including the one located in Washington, DC, routinely put defense first. Why would Pyongyang do anything different?</p> <p>Does North Korea still have aggressive intentions toward the South? It is impossible to know. Kim is no liberal humanitarian, but unlike his father and grandfather, he desires improved economic development and international status. In any case, North Korea is at significant risk, largely abandoned by its former allies, China and Russia, while facing a&nbsp;far more powerful South Korea. Lurking in the background is historic enemy Japan. As well as the global superpower, ever ready to defenestrate vulnerable regimes. Like in Libya, after&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/feature/americas-little-known-mission-support-al-qaedas-role-libya-73271" target="_blank">Muammar el‐​Qaddafi&nbsp;</a>trusted the United States and closed his missile and nuclear programs.</p> <p>If Washington policymakers were honest, then they would acknowledge that there is little they can do to change Kim’s calculus. In reality, denuclearization talks are just a&nbsp;form of Kabuki Theater. No offer or concession is likely to change that.</p> <p>Still, diplomacy could do some good if it refocused on more realistic ends. A&nbsp;good first step would be to build a&nbsp;bilateral relationship. For instance, Washington should allow travel between the two countries, initiate diplomatic relations between the two governments, forge a&nbsp;multilateral peace declaration, and ease restrictions that hamper humanitarian programs. None of these concessions would cost anything. Most would offer obvious if modest&nbsp;benefits. All would help normalize the relationship.</p> <p>In this case, at least, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi was correct when he argued: “Having a&nbsp;dialogue is better than having nothing at all. We would like to see continuous interaction between DPRK and U.S. leaders.” In his view, “building mutual trust and breaking the impasse on the peninsula would require more concrete steps.” Of course, even the right measures might not cause the North to respond as America and South Korea desired. However, Kim’s intentions should be tested.</p> <p>As a&nbsp;second step, the United States should agree to revise United Nations sanctions to give Seoul room to propose joint development projects with the North. Obviously, Washington always has considered itself to be the senior partner. Yet South Korea has far more at stake in the region’s stability and peace, and in reaching détente on the peninsula. Thus, Seoul’s relationship with Pyongyang is more important than Washington’s ties with Pyongyang; America should allow South Korea to take the lead in dealing with North Korea. Indeed, Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, who commanded United States Forces Korea from 2016 until last year when he retired, suggested that Washington should learn from the South: “In Korea, you build a&nbsp;new relationship first, then that builds trust and you will deliver on the things you say you will deliver on.”</p> <p>The two governments should agree on a&nbsp;set of policies, schedule of sanctions relief, and conditions to suspend or eliminate restrictions. Critics no doubt would scream appeasement, but “maximum pressure” has failed. Pyongyang has neither given up its weapons nor made any other significant concession in response. Washington needs to find a&nbsp;way out of its policy cul‐​de‐​sac.</p> <p>The third step should be that U.S. policymakers acknowledge to themselves, even if to no one else, that discussions with the North over denuclearization are but a&nbsp;polite fiction. Washington should develop proposals for arms control which would reduce security threats while advancing the theoretical cause of nonproliferation.</p> <p>There is no imaginable circumstance under which Kim will abandon weapons of such great value in return for a&nbsp;mess of American pottage, promises that could be broken at any moment. However, he might agree to important limits, for a&nbsp;price. Additional sanctions relief, to be sure. Membership in international organizations and foreign aid, perhaps. Such possibilities deserve exploration. A&nbsp;North Korea with its nuclear arsenal capped safeguards against proliferation in place, and inspectors on the station would be significantly less threatening than&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/america-needs-be-more-flexible-when-dealing-north-korea-155001" target="_blank">the North Korea of today</a>.</p> <p>Finally, Washington should play the long game.&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/no-fire-and-fury-2020-may-be-quiet-year-us-north-korea-relations-153391" target="_blank">North Korea is changing</a>. Markets and market forces have transformed the economy. The nomenklatura expects increased material benefits. The young desire a&nbsp;better future and drive social change.</p> <p>Most fundamentally, the regime has lost control of information. In late May the government complained that “the imperialists are desperately scheming to cleverly hide their rotten ideology and culture in texts, melodies, and daily necessities.” The regime complained that viewing a&nbsp;foreign “movie or a&nbsp;song as a&nbsp;mere amusement, without self‐​awareness … will make the bourgeois lifestyle rampant, discoloring the people’s culture.” Such a&nbsp;plea is a&nbsp;sign of desperation in a&nbsp;country where most people have seen at least some South Korean television and movies.</p> <p>Since the information Pandora’s Box has been opened, the United States should work with South Korea to further ease the North Koreans’ people’s access to information. That is one important reason to allow travel both ways. Washington should help empower the North Korean people to decide their own future. That possibility clearly unsettles the regime.</p> <p>It would be unfortunate, even tragic if the opportunity created by Trump’s opening to North Korea is lost. The Korean War began seventy years ago. The human and financial costs were horrific. Washington’s greatest success in the following years was to help prevent a&nbsp;violent reprise. The North could wreak far greater havoc on its neighbors and the United States today if it had nuclear weapons. Washington should focus its efforts on negotiating a&nbsp;stable peace.</p> </div> Mon, 01 Jun 2020 09:09:12 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/donald-trump-should-switch-cooperation-kim-jong-un-emphasizes-confrontation