Cato Recent Op-eds The Cato Institute seeks to broaden the parameters of public policy debate to allow consideration of the traditional American principles of limited government, individual liberty, free markets and peace. Toward that goal, the Institute strives to achieve greater involvement of the intelligent, concerned lay public in questions of policy and the proper role of government. en Time to Cure America’s ‘Clientitis’ over Ukraine <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>An especially dangerous disease for leaders of any major nation is “clientitis”—the willingness to place the interests of a&nbsp;foreign ally or client on a&nbsp;par with or above the interests of one’s own country. And American officials appear to have a&nbsp;virulent case with respect to Ukraine.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The United States has no treaty obligation whatsoever to defend Ukraine from an adversary. Even though George W. Bush and Barack Obama&nbsp;<a href=";qid=1615059635&amp;sr=8-1" target="_blank">pushed NATO allies</a>&nbsp;to make Kiev a&nbsp;member of the Alliance, Germany, France, and other key NATO powers balked at doing so. And since Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union before the dissolution of that country at the end of 1991, no serious American previously&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">ever regarded</a>&nbsp;Ukraine as a&nbsp;relevant, much less a&nbsp;crucial, U.S. interest.</p> <p>Yet over the past decade or so, policymakers have acted as though that country is vital to America’s own security and therefore merits Washington’s unquestioning support. The Obama administration&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">shamelessly meddled</a>&nbsp;in Ukraine’s internal affairs to help oust an elected, pro‐​Russia government and install a&nbsp;cooperative client regime. The Trump administration approved&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">multiple weapons sales</a>&nbsp;to Kiev and trained Ukrainian troops—a policy the Biden administration&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">is intensifying</a>. An April 2&nbsp;White House&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">press release confirmed</a>&nbsp;that, in a&nbsp;telephone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Biden “affirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea.” Other high‐​level administration officials, including&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Secretary of State Antony Blinken</a>, have done the same. Worse, the Biden foreign policy team is engaging in saber rattling, strongly indicating that the United States is&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">even willing to go to war</a>&nbsp;to back Ukraine in its ongoing confrontation with Russia.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Too many officials seem to place Ukrainian interests over those of their own country—even if it risks a&nbsp;major provocation with Russia. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Ever more blatant manifestations of sycophantic clientitis on the part of U.S. officials have accompanied that radical transformation of Washington’s policy. A&nbsp;new incident appears to be truly shocking. Veteran&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">international affairs reporter Martin Sieff relates</a>&nbsp;that the defense attache at the U.S. embassy in Kiev, Colonel Brittany Stewart, visited a&nbsp;Ukrainian government military unit confronting separatist forces in the eastern Donbas region to show U.S. solidarity with Kiev’s effort to suppress the rebellion.</p> <p>That was questionable enough behavior, but photos of the visit indicated that she wore a&nbsp;Ukrainian military insignia on her uniform—something that is utterly improper for a&nbsp;U.S. officer. Still worse, it appears to have been a “Ukraine or death” (or “death’s head”) insignia, whose roots go back to the Nazi SS and their Ukrainian allies in World War II. If true, such a&nbsp;display not only suggested her support for Kiev’s aggressive policies in the Donbas, but for some of the worst ultra‐​nationalist, even neo‐​Nazi elements in Ukraine.</p> <p>Senior members of Washington’s diplomatic corps have displayed brazen, utterly uncritical backing for Ukraine in recent years. That much became apparent during House committee hearings on the first effort to impeach President Donald Trump for allegedly soliciting an illegal quid pro quo. William Taylor, who served as the interim U.S. ambassador to Kiev in mid‐​2019, was&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">quite candid</a>&nbsp;about his motive for testifying against Trump, stating that he intended “to provide the committees with my views about the strategic importance of Ukraine to the United States.” Taylor expressed the dismay he and his colleagues felt about Trump’s delay in providing promised military aid to Kiev: “The Ukrainians were fighting the Russians and counted on not only the training and weaponry [in the aid package], but also the assurance of U.S. support.”</p> <p>At times it seemed as though Taylor was Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States rather than the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. In a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">subsequent op‐​ed</a>&nbsp;in the&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>, he elevated Ukraine’s importance to stratospheric levels. “Ukraine is defending itself and the West against Russian attack,” Taylor wrote. “If Ukraine succeeds, we succeed. The relationship between the United States and Ukraine is key to our national security….” Indeed, in “the contest between democracies and autocracies, the contest between freedom and unfreedom, Ukraine is the front line.”</p> <p>Similar attitudes emerged from the testimony of former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Jovanovich (whom Trump had removed from her post earlier that year), Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George P. Kent, and NSC staffer Alexander Vindman. Kent&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">stressed</a>&nbsp;that “we have focused our united efforts across the Atlantic to support Ukraine in its fight for the cause of freedom, and the rebirth of a&nbsp;country free from Russian dominion.” He added, “The United States has clear national interests at stake in Ukraine. Ukraine’s success is very much in our national interest in the way we have defined our national interests broadly in Europe for the past 75&nbsp;years.” He neglected to mention that Ukraine was not even an independent country for 47 of those years, much less a “clear national interest” of the United States. Kent even described the 2014 Maidan Revolution that brought a&nbsp;pro‐​NATO government to power not by that usual name, but by the laudatory label “Revolution of Dignity,” the term Ukrainian nationalists embrace. As in Taylor’s case, Kent identified with Ukraine’s cause to an unsettling degree.</p> <p>Vindman likewise&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">emphasized his full agreement</a>&nbsp;with “the strategic importance of Ukraine as a&nbsp;bulwark against Russian aggression.” In some ways, his identification with Ukraine and its anti‐​Russia posture was even more pronounced than those of his colleagues. He was born in Ukraine, and his family had left the Soviet Union four decades earlier. Vindman’s rhetoric, both in his congressional testimony and in his public statements, exhibited a&nbsp;pronounced hostility to Russia and the Russian government. Ukrainian leaders considered him such a&nbsp;valuable ally that, according to Vindman’s own admission, Kiev had&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">offered him the post of defense minister</a>&nbsp;on three separate occasions.</p> <p>Such clientitis is profoundly dangerous for the United States. Officials afflicted with the condition are alarmingly willing to entangle their country in a&nbsp;war that could escalate to a&nbsp;nuclear holocaust. Incredibly, they are willing to do so on behalf of another country that has little intrinsic importance to the United States. It is irresponsible behavior, and policymakers who succumb to clientitis need to be removed from their posts.</p> </div> Wed, 21 Apr 2021 13:35:44 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter America’s Populism Problem <p><a href="" hreflang="und">P.J. O&#039;Rourke</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>We have a&nbsp;populism problem in America…</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>One big, honking populist has just been shooed out of the White House. And his replacement — while more of an old political&nbsp;hack and Washington establishmentarian than a&nbsp;populist per se — is coming in trailing strong fumes of populism from his own political party.</p> <p>Populism isn’t a&nbsp;Right‐​wing or Left‐​wing ideology. Populism isn’t an ideology at all…It’s about feelings, not ideas. Populism isn’t conservative or liberal, Republican or Democratic. But it&nbsp;<em>is</em>&nbsp;both MAGA and BLM, both QAnon and Antifa — AOC in a&nbsp;Boogaloo Boys Hawaiian shirt.</p> <p>A reasonably good definition of Populism can be found in an unsigned article from the April 17, 1972, issue of&nbsp;<em>Time</em>&nbsp;magazine cited by the&nbsp;<em>Oxford English Dictionary</em>:</p> </div> , <blockquote> <div class="fs-lg"> <p><em>Populism is a&nbsp;label that covers disparate policies and passions: among many others, New Deal reforms, consumer rage against business, ethnic belligerence. Often it is merely a&nbsp;catch phrase. Yet it describes something real: the politics of the little guy against the big guy — the classic struggle of the haves against the have‐​nots or the have‐​not‐​enoughs.</em></p> </div> </blockquote> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The only thing dated about that&nbsp;<em>Time</em>&nbsp;paragraph from almost half a&nbsp;century ago is “New Deal reforms.” An invasion of the Capitol building by ardent New Dealers would have required many more wheelchair ramps than the Americans with Disabilities Act stipulates, and New Deal disturbances in city business districts would have been limited to the occasional whacking of police riot shields with canes and the looting of Depends.</p> <p>Otherwise,&nbsp;<em>Time</em>&nbsp;puts it neatly. Populism is a&nbsp;muddle. This muddle may be “classic” in the sense that “disparate policies and passions” date to the beginnings of governance. But, in America, the type of muddle that’s currently on display began to manifest itself in 1874 with the founding of the “Greenback Party.”</p> <p>The main concern of the Greenback Party was inflation — they were for it. They felt that America’s post‐​Civil War return to the gold standard and a “sound dollar” gave too much power to big business and banking. They opposed deflation, believing lower prices were bad for “the little guy.” They wanted the government to print more money — because that way…<em>everybody would have more money</em>.&nbsp;Today, we would call them some sort of pinko flake advocates of Modern Monetary Theory.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Populism is a&nbsp;muddle – a&nbsp;political, economic, and moral dog’s breakfast. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>But the Greenback constituency was primarily rural with support from labor, especially in mining and heavy industry. So really they’d be like some kind of reactionary nut supporters of Trump Forever.</p> <p>The Greenback Party won control of a&nbsp;number of municipal governments in what would later become the Rust Belt, and it elected 20‐​some members of Congress. But Greenback influence faded as American&nbsp;economic growth recommenced after the depression of 1873 to 1877. (Could that growth have had anything to do with a&nbsp;sound dollar?)</p> <p>Shifts in economic reality often have a&nbsp;way of dispersing the mists of populism. Widespread flirtations with Marxism among intellectuals in the 1930s (a sort of “highbrow populism”) disappeared into the capitalist war‐​making machinery of the 1940s. The populist “youth culture” social upheavals of the 1960s ended in the 1970s with thousands of hippies saying, “Oh wow, man, we’re broke.” And where did the occupiers of Occupy Wall Street go? Probably to Reddit and WallStreetBets, to day trade GameStop stock.</p> <p>However, another financial panic in the early 1890s gave fresh impetus to Greenback‐​style populism. A&nbsp;new political party was started in 1892, officially named the People’s Party, but popularly — as it were — called the Populist Party. (According to the&nbsp;<em>OED</em>, the word “populist” seems to have been coined that year by the&nbsp;<em>Columbus Dispatch</em>&nbsp;to describe the party.)</p> <p>The Populist platform called for an inflationary monetary policy. It also called for women’s suffrage, labor union collective bargaining rights, an eight‐​hour workday, a&nbsp;graduated income tax, direct election of U.S.&nbsp;Senators by voters instead of state legislators, price supports for farmers, and federal regulation of railroad monopoly shipping rates.</p> <p>If you’re a&nbsp;well‐​meaning liberal (and, conservative though I&nbsp;am, I&nbsp;have no objection to your being so), this all sounds so attractive, and so politically&nbsp;<em>advanced</em>&nbsp;– such policies being proposed more than 120&nbsp;years ago! But before you get too excited about this Populist movement of yore, you should know that there was, among the Populists, an element of another kind of populism that isn’t so popular with you.</p> <p>Wikipedia is not the most precise or accurate research tool. But the crowdsourced nature of the free online encyclopedia does give us a&nbsp;rough survey of “what is commonly thought and known” about a&nbsp;subject. The Wikipedia article “People’s Party (United States)” is, in general, favorably disposed to the Populists.</p> <p>But the “Women and African Americans” section of the article (to which I’ve made addenda in brackets) reports that…</p> </div> , <blockquote> <div class="fs-lg"> <p><em>…racism did not evade the People’s Party. Prominent Populist Party leaders…at least partially demonstrated a&nbsp;dedication to the cause of white supremacy, and there appears to have been some support for this viewpoint in the party’s rank‐​and‐​file membership. After 1900 [Thomas E.] Watson [the Populist presidential candidate in 1904] himself became an outspoken white supremacist.</em></p> </div> </blockquote> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>From what I&nbsp;can learn about Watson, this is true. A&nbsp;Georgia politician and rabble‐​rousing publisher, Watson started out urging poor whites and poor blacks to unite against “elites.” But as time went by, he changed his mind about which rabble he was rousing. He first embraced racial bigotry and by the time he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1920, he had added nativism, anti‐​Semitism, and anti‐​Catholicism to his gross prejudices. In his Senate career, he distinguished himself by dying after 16 months in office.</p> <p>Further material from the Wikipedia article…</p> </div> , <blockquote> <div class="fs-lg"> <p>Historian Hasia Diner [professor of American Jewish History at New York University] says: Some Populists believed that Jews made up a&nbsp;class of international financiers whose policies had ruined small family farms…owned the banks and promoted the gold standard, the chief sources of their impoverishment.</p> </div> </blockquote> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>And…</p> </div> , <blockquote> <div class="fs-lg"> <p><em>[Charles] Postel [history professor at San Francisco State University and author of&nbsp;</em>The Populist Vision<em>, where, overall, he views the Populists in a&nbsp;positive light] notes…White Populists embraced social‐​Darwinist notions of racial improvement, Chinese exclusion and separate‐​but‐​equal.</em></p> </div> </blockquote> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>And…</p> </div> , <blockquote> <div class="fs-lg"> <p><em>[Political scientist, former aide to President Gerald Ford, and Senior Fellow at the (liberal leaning) Brookings Institute, A. James] Reichley (1992) sees the Populist Party primarily as a&nbsp;reaction to the decline of the political hegemony of white Protestant farmers…Reichley argues that, while the Populist Party was founded in reaction to economic hardship, by the mid‐​1890s it was “reacting not simply against the money power but against the whole world of cities and alien customs and loose living they felt was challenging the agrarian way of life.”</em></p> </div> </blockquote> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>(And, P.S., consulting other historical sources, it’s also clear that the Populists often worked in tandem with the Prohibition Party.)</p> <p>As someone who’s fond of loose living, charmed by alien customs, and having grandparents who, with alacrity, moved from the farm to the big city to escape the toilsome dullness of the agrarian way of life, I&nbsp;feel no affinity for the roots of populism or for any of the Donald Bernie Trump Sanders underbrush that has sprouted from its 19th century stump.</p> <p>Populism is a&nbsp;muddle — a&nbsp;political, economic, and moral dog’s breakfast.</p> <p>Which brings us back to that quote from&nbsp;<em>Time</em>, “…the politics of the little guy against the big guy — the classic struggle of the haves against the have‐​nots or the have‐​not‐​enoughs.”</p> <p>Populism is a&nbsp;lie and a&nbsp;logical sophistry. The very idea of the “struggle of the haves against the have‐​nots” presupposes the zero‐​sum fallacy that only a&nbsp;fixed amount of good things exist in the world, and I&nbsp;can only have more good things if I&nbsp;take them from you.</p> <p>It’s the old “pizza delusion,” which you’ve probably heard explained before, but I’ll have it delivered again. To think of economics in terms of haves versus have‐​nots is to look at the economy like a&nbsp;pizza — if you hog too many slices, I’ll have to eat the Domino’s box.</p> <p>As hundreds of years of economic development — and the expansion of Domino’s from one store in Ypsilanti, Michigan in 1960 to more than 17,000 franchises today — proves, the answer is to make more pizza.</p> <p>Populism is also not American. There is no “little guy” in this country. Every American&nbsp;citizen stands with the same height and strength,&nbsp;equal before the law to a&nbsp;degree remarkable by any world or world history standard.</p> <p>We each have our disadvantages — economic, social, and circumstantial. But few of our ancestors landed here in circumstances such as arrival by Gulfstream private jet. America is a&nbsp;monument to what the disadvantaged can do.</p> <p>And none of us face the disadvantage — if his portrayal in&nbsp;<em>The Social Network</em>&nbsp;is anything to go by — of being as big an a‐​hole as Mark Zuckerberg.</p> <p>As to the “politics of the little guy,” there is no&nbsp;other kind in America. The&nbsp;<em>OED</em>’s definition of&nbsp;(small “p”)&nbsp;<em>populist</em>&nbsp;is “One who seeks to represent&nbsp;the views of the mass of common people.”</p> <p>There’s something sneaky and faintly sinister in that “seeks to,” as if there are secrets to be disclosed. Get out of here, you populist. In America, the views of the mass of common people are&nbsp;<em>on view</em>! In fact, it’s impossible not to see them. And, in the matter of “represent the views,” they’re already represented. It’s called the House of Representatives (and the Senate too). These representative bodies may be full of nincompoops, but the mass of common people is free to exchange them for other nincompoops at every election.</p> <p>A populist is somebody offering democracy to a&nbsp;democracy, somebody saying, “I’ll give you a&nbsp;dollar for four quarters.” When you hear a&nbsp;proposition like that, you know something’s up, some con is being played.</p> </div> Tue, 20 Apr 2021 15:34:36 -0400 P.J. O'Rourke The Untapped Economic Potential of the Pakistan‐​Turkey Relationship <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Sahar Khan</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Pakistan and Turkey have always had a&nbsp;positive relationship—and one which has steadily improved under the leadership of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. On February 14, 2021, President Erdoğan&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">addressed Pakistan’s parliament</a>&nbsp;on a&nbsp;two‐​day trip to Islamabad—and became the only foreign head of state to have addressed Pakistan’s parliament&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">for the fourth time</a>; President Erdoğan&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">emphasized</a>&nbsp;the history of the enduring bilateral relationship.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Turkey has begun to play a&nbsp;prominent role in Khan’s foreign policy, especially in security and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">defense cooperation</a>. But Turkey can—and should—be more than just a&nbsp;defense partner. The Khan administration has not sufficiently tapped into the economic potential of this burgeoning bilateral relationship. To discover this seemingly mutually beneficial frontier, Pakistan will need to prioritize economic goals alongside defense‐​related ones. Although this could be a&nbsp;challenging feat, Pakistan needs to counter the demons of its struggling economy. A&nbsp;foreign policy that prioritizes economic objectives is not only necessary but also critical for Pakistan’s long‐​term success.</p> <p><strong>Bilateral Defense Relations</strong></p> <p>Closely tied to Pakistan‐​Turkey defense cooperation is their shared Muslim identity. Both states were founded by secular leaders,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Mohammad Ali Jinnah</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href=";linkCode=df0&amp;hvadid=312064602668&amp;hvpos=&amp;hvnetw=g&amp;hvrand=4199859454580782377&amp;hvpone=&amp;hvptwo=&amp;hvqmt=&amp;hvdev=c&amp;hvdvcmdl=&amp;hvlocint=&amp;hvlocphy=9008166&amp;hvtargid=pla-556613574864&amp;psc=1" target="_blank">Mustafa Kamal Ataturk</a>, who thought deeply of the intersection of Islam, constitutional rights, and governance. Their mutual fight against British colonialism and oppression dates back to 1919, when Muslims from the subcontinent began the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Khilafat Movement</a>&nbsp;to restore the pre‐​World War I&nbsp;borders of the Ottoman Empire.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Pakistan’s economic woes are no longer simply a&nbsp;domestic issue but a&nbsp;foreign policy challenge. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Since the onset of the Global War on Terror after the September 11, 2001 attacks, cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey has centered on three issues: counterterrorism, the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and long‐​term defense cooperation. Both Pakistan and Turkey are acutely aware of terrorism—domestic and international—as each continues to deal with their own secessionist movements; the Balochis in Pakistan and the Kurds in Turkey. Pakistan and Turkey, alongside Afghanistan, have participated in the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Pakistan‐​Afghanistan‐​Turkey Trilateral Summits</a>&nbsp;to work on shared military exercises and share intelligence information on terrorist activities.</p> <p>Though not yet agreed upon, Pakistani and Turkish defense and government officials have held high‐​level discussions about&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">manufacturing</a>&nbsp;warplanes and missiles in Pakistan. In 2018, Pakistan&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">collaborated</a>&nbsp;with a&nbsp;Turkish defense company to build the largest warship ever constructed at the Karachi Shipyard. Notably, in the aftermath of the December 2020&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Turkey‐​Pakistan‐​High‐​Level Dialogue Group</a>&nbsp;session between Pakistan’s Defense Secretary and Turkey’s Army General, Turkey has been reported to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">seek Pakistan’s support</a>&nbsp;in pursuing and developing a&nbsp;nuclear weapons program. In addition to arms manufacturing, both countries have also been&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">collaborating on technology</a>—the Turkish Aerospace Industries has created a&nbsp;research and development section at Pakistan’s National University of Science and Technology that will focus on cybersecurity, drone surveillance, and radar technology.</p> <p>Pakistan and Turkey have also routinely claimed to fight for the rights of Muslims across the world, and, thus, have often supported each other’s territorial disputes. For instance, Pakistan is one of the only countries in the world that does not recognize Armenia as a&nbsp;sovereign state. Pakistan also acknowledges Turkey‐​ally Azerbaijan’s claims over the disputed territory of Nagorno‐​Karabakh. In fact, in January of 2021, the foreign ministers of Pakistan, Turkey, and Azerbaijan&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">held talks and issued a&nbsp;joint statement</a>&nbsp;to support their claims to Kashmir, Cyprus, and Nagorno‐​Karabakh respectively. Prime Minister Khan has also&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">maintained</a>&nbsp;Pakistan’s stance on the Kurds,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">backing</a>&nbsp;Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria. Turkey, in turn,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">supports Kashmir openly</a>, much to India’s ire, as it maintains that Kashmir is an&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">internal matter</a>, and views Erdogan’s support as a “<a href="" target="_blank">gross interference</a>.” In September 2020, in his address to the UN General Assembly, President Erdoğan won&nbsp;<a href=";" target="_blank">praise</a>&nbsp;from Prime Minister Khan after&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">calling Kashmir</a>&nbsp;a “burning issue” a&nbsp;year after India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">revoked</a>&nbsp;the Indian‐​administered Kashmir’s special status.&nbsp;Both countries have overtly supported Palestinians, routinely declaring in the UN and other international forums that neither support any political settlement that does not support the Palestinian people.</p> <p><strong>Prioritizing Economic Ties</strong></p> <p>Although defense cooperation and diplomatic support over territorial disputes improve Pakistan’s regional security status, they do not help resolve Pakistan’s core dilemma: a&nbsp;dwindling economy. Pakistan’s economic woes have dominated Prime Minister Khan’s domestic and foreign policies; woes which have been&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic</a>. There is no shortage of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">critics</a>&nbsp;of Khan’s economic policies and plans, and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">calls for reform</a>&nbsp;keep getting louder. As such, part of Prime Minister Khan’s quest to improve Pakistan’s economy has been to focus on its neighbors and regional partners—and, recently, Turkey has played&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">a&nbsp;key role</a>&nbsp;in this plan.</p> </div> , <figure class="figure responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="413" alt="khan-image1.jpg" class="lozad image-style-pubs-2x component-image" loading="lazy" data-src="/sites/" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>In January 2021, Khan released a&nbsp;statement on a&nbsp;meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglo that&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">outlined</a>&nbsp;both countries’ commitment to trade relations and highlighted that investments by Turkish companies in Pakistan have increased by over USD $1 billion. During President Erdoğan’s visit to Pakistan in February 2021, the two countries signed a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Strategic Economic Framework</a>&nbsp;agreement that covers a&nbsp;broad spectrum of cooperation in science and technology, defense, tourism, education, and health. While the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Pakistan‐​Turkey Free Trade Agreement</a>&nbsp;(FTA) is still in the works, the Pakistan‐​Iran‐​Turkey cargo train service&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">resumed</a>&nbsp;just a&nbsp;few weeks ago to facilitate the movement of goods between these neighbors, though there are&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">concerns</a>&nbsp;about how each can bear the cost of this project. To facilitate the movement of tourists and business personnel, both countries also signed a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">citizenship agreement</a>&nbsp;last year, and Pakistan&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">launched</a>&nbsp;an e‐​visa facility earlier this year.</p> <p>Despite recent economic initiatives, Pakistan should take additional steps to reprioritize this essential aspect of the bilateral equation. Successful completion of ongoing projects with Turkey such as the Trans‐​Afghan Railway project, CASA-1000, and Turkmenistan‐​Afghanistan‐​Pakistan‐​India (TAPI) gas pipeline could significantly improve Pakistan’s connectivity with Western Asia and Europe. The Turkish foreign minister recently&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">stated</a>&nbsp;that the USD $800 million worth of bilateral trade is not sufficient and should be brought up to its true potential. The Khan administration should include Turkish companies in CPEC projects, especially those in energy and transit&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">infrastructure</a>. Although this might&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">strain</a>&nbsp;relations with Saudi Arabia, considering the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">low</a>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">point</a>&nbsp;in Turkey‐​Saudi Arabia relations since the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">killing</a>&nbsp;of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia would avoid stirring trouble with Pakistan keeping in mind its&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">own investments</a>&nbsp;in CPEC. Additionally, both countries&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">should agree on an FTA</a>&nbsp;that would incentivize mutually beneficial infrastructure projects and foreign investment. Since both countries are eager for their publics to forge a&nbsp;connection, they should also create more people‐​to‐​people exchanges, such as student exchange programs, conferences focused on public‐​private partnerships, and workshops aimed at encouraging startups.</p> <p><strong>Looking Ahead</strong></p> <p>Prioritizing economic cooperation centered on trade, financial partnerships, development projects, and tourism would not require Pakistan to give up its security goals or weaken its defense relationship with Turkey. Instead, recognizing economic needs are as important as defense needs is essential for recalibrating the country’s foreign policy agenda, especially when engaging with regional allies like Turkey. Prime Minister Khan has already started taking domestic economic reform seriously by&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">reconstituting</a>&nbsp;the 25‐​member Economic Advisory Council (EAC) on April 4, 2021. Instead of the finance minister, Prime Minister Khan will be leading the EAC.</p> <p>Elevating Pakistan’s economic goals to its defense goals may seem counterintuitive—and even irresponsible—to some. And while Pakistan certainly lives in a&nbsp;dangerous neighborhood that demands consistent defense cooperation, Pakistan’s continuously weak economy requires it to become a&nbsp;priority. In other words, Pakistan’s economic woes are no longer simply a&nbsp;domestic issue but a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">foreign policy challenge</a>. Considering that Turkey is such a&nbsp;close ally, where President Erdogan has addressed the parliament four times, exploring an economic dimension within the bilateral relationship makes sense. It is yet to be seen if the Khan administration can reprioritize international relations beyond the national security prism.</p> </div> Tue, 20 Apr 2021 15:27:07 -0400 Sahar Khan Why Is Joe Biden Risking War with Russia over Ukraine? <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>It is bad enough when the United States incurs grave risks to defend even indisputably democratic allies, if those countries lack sufficient importance to America’s economic and security interests.&nbsp;Too many U.S. allies, such as the Baltic republics, fail that crucial risk‐​benefit calculation. However, it is even worse when the United States incurs excessive risks on behalf of undemocratic allies or clients that have little intrinsic importance. And yet, Washington is making precisely that blunder with respect to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Ukraine</a>.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The United States has no treaty obligation to defend Ukraine from an adversary. Indeed, the notion that Ukraine should be an important U.S. ally is a&nbsp;rather recent phenomenon. Until the end of 1991, Ukraine merely was part of the Soviet Union, and before that, the Russian empire, and no credible American ever argued that the territory was a&nbsp;significant U.S. interest. That attitude began to change during George W. Bush’s presidency, but Ukraine still remained outside Washington’s geostrategic orbit. Even though both Bush and Barack Obama&nbsp;<a href=";qid=1615059635&amp;sr=8-1" target="_blank">pushed NATO allies</a>&nbsp;to make Kiev a&nbsp;member of the Alliance, Germany, France, and other key powers balked at doing so.&nbsp;Although they (correctly) worried that such a&nbsp;move might antagonize Russia beyond endurance, German and French leaders also had another objection. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice&nbsp;<a href=";keywords=condoleeza+rice+book&amp;link_code=qs&amp;qid=1618862208&amp;sourceid=Mozilla-search&amp;sr=8-5" target="_blank">recalled</a>&nbsp;that German Chancellor Angela Merkel regarded the government that had emerged from Ukraine’s ostensibly democratic “Orange Revolution” in 2004 as a&nbsp;corrupt “mess.”</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Washington should not put itself in a&nbsp;position of militarily supporting a&nbsp;similar country to which it has no such treaty obligation. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Indeed, that pro‐​Western government did not endure, and elections in 2010 produced a&nbsp;victory for pro‐​Russia presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych. U.S. leaders were unhappy with that result, and in late 2013 and early 2014, Washington and several European allies supported anti‐​government demonstrators to oust Yanukovych before his term expired. That “Maidan Revolution” succeeded, but Russia retaliated by annexing Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and supporting an armed insurgency by pro‐​Russia separatists in the eastern Donbas region. Since then, Washington has treated Kiev as a&nbsp;de facto NATO member and a&nbsp;crucial U.S. ally. Donald Trump’s administration approved&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">multiple weapons sales</a>&nbsp;to Kiev and trained Ukrainian troops—a policy the Biden administration&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">is intensifying</a>. In early April, Biden&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">assured</a>&nbsp;Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of Washington’s “unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea.”</p> <p>U.S. officials consistently have praised Ukraine’s political system and supposed respect for individual liberties. In congressional testimony, William Taylor, who served as interim U.S. ambassador to Kiev in 2019,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">described</a>&nbsp;Ukraine’s domestic governance as “an inclusive, democratic nationalism.” Ukraine’s nongovernmental fans in the United States are even more effusive.&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;columnist Michelle Goldberg&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">asserts</a>&nbsp;that the country has become “a vibrant democracy.”</p> <p>The reality is murkier. Ukraine does have competitive elections, although the continuing insurgency in Donbas and the loss of Crimea severely weakened pro‐​Russia factions and correspondingly strengthened nationalist, anti‐​Russia factions to the point of dominance. Within that democratic framework, moreover, there are disturbing, authoritarian features. Earlier this year, Zelensky’s government&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">closed three independent television stations</a>, supposedly for being Kremlin tools. It was hardly coincidental, though, that the move significantly reduced the number of opposition media outlets, not to mention having a&nbsp;chilling effect on those that remained open.</p> <p>Nor was such censorship the extent of the government’s recent troubling actions.&nbsp;In a&nbsp;March 27 decree, Zelenskiy&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">removed</a>&nbsp;Constitutional Court Chairman Oleksandr Tupytskiy and another judge, Oleksandr Kasminin, for continuing to “threaten Ukraine’s independence and national security.” Those jurists had ruled against the government in several cases. Their removal hardly was intended to foster an independent judiciary in Ukraine.</p> <p>Such behavior continues the autocratic tendencies of Zelensky’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko. In July 2015, Ukraine’s State Commission for Television and Radio Broadcasting outlined new measures&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">to ban books, magazines, and movies</a>&nbsp;that were guilty of “promoting war, racial, and religious strife,” and “threatening the territorial integrity of Ukraine.” Prohibited conduct also included “humiliating and insulting a&nbsp;nation and its people [i.e., Ukraine]”</p> <p>It soon appeared that anyone who disputed the government’s version of developments surrounding the Maidan Revolution or the conflict in eastern Ukraine was likely to be silenced. Ukrainian officials even banned the movies of French actor Gerard Depardieu,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">a&nbsp;critic of Kiev’s policies</a>.</p> <p>Authorities later issued an order preventing 34 journalists and seven bloggers from even entering the country. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that the newly publicized list was merely part of a&nbsp;larger blacklist containing the names of 388 individuals and more than a&nbsp;hundred organizations barred from entry on the grounds of “national security” and allegedly posing a&nbsp;threat to Ukraine’s “territorial integrity.” Human Rights Watch criticized the Kiev government in September 2017&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">for imposing yet more restrictions</a>&nbsp;on journalists.</p> <p>Because of the North Atlantic Treaty, the United States already is stuck with an obligation to defend Alliance members, such as&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Turkey</a>&nbsp;and Hungary, that are (at best) “illiberal democracies.”&nbsp;Washington should not put itself in a&nbsp;position of militarily supporting a&nbsp;similar country to which it has no such treaty obligation. Yet U.S. policies are leading to exactly that situation.&nbsp;Biden administration statements signal that the United States is&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">even willing to go to war</a>&nbsp;to back Ukraine in its ongoing confrontation with Russia. Risking war with a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">nuclear‐​armed</a>&nbsp;great power would be unwise even if Ukraine were a&nbsp;model of democratic values. Doing so on behalf of a&nbsp;quasi‐​authoritarian Ukraine would be the essence of folly.</p> </div> Tue, 20 Apr 2021 11:19:55 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter The Johnson & Johnson‐​Vaccine Fiasco Is Business as Usual For the FDA <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Jeffrey A. Singer</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Last&nbsp;week, the Food and Drug Administration reported that six women of childbearing age who received the one‐​dose Johnson &amp;&nbsp;Johnson COVID vaccine contracted a&nbsp;rare form of blood clotting in the venous drainage of the brain — one associated with a&nbsp;low platelet count. Sadly, one of the six died and another is in critical condition at the time of this writing. The FDA recommended “pausing” the use of the J&amp;J vaccine until more information can be gathered. But even though this was less than a&nbsp;one‐​in‐​a‐​million event — more than 6&nbsp;million Americans have received the J&amp;J vaccine — and the risk of blood clots in women taking oral contraceptives is higher, the advisory panel established by the FDA to study the problem punted. It decided to not decide — waiting instead to see if any more cases get reported. We may never know how many people will die from COVID who would have gladly taken their chances with the vaccine.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The FDA is also sitting on a&nbsp;decision to grant emergency‐​use authorization to the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine. Though it has been widely used throughout the developed world, reports of the same rare complication resulting from the AstraZeneca vaccine — which, like the J&amp;J vaccine, uses an adenovirus as a&nbsp;vector — have kept the FDA from approving its use. Yet the U.S. government is giving roughly&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">4&nbsp;million doses</a>&nbsp;of its stock of the vaccine to Mexico and Canada.</p> <p>The FDA won’t allow Americans to act on their own assessments of the risk of dying from COVID versus the risk of a&nbsp;complication from these two vaccines. Instead, it has forced the public to accept the risk‐​benefit assessment of the majority of its advisory‐​committee members. And this is nothing new: For more than 80&nbsp;years, the FDA has infringed on the right of people to make their own lifesaving decisions.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>The regulatory agency regularly hamstrings the development and use of essential medicines. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The FDA secured authority over deciding which drugs will be prescription‐​only and which will be available over the counter in 1951. That power denied women ready access to emergency contraception — the “morning‐​after pill” — for more than twelve years, despite the recommendations of expert advisory panels and its availability in Europe. It ultimately took a&nbsp;court order for women to get access to the drug without restriction.</p> <p>To this day, the FDA still requires a&nbsp;prescription for hormonal contraceptives, despite appeals from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Academy of Family Practice to allow American women to join women in 102 other countries who get birth‐​control pills&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">over the counter.</a></p> <p>For years, the FDA deprived people of access to safe, non‐​sedative antihistamines without a&nbsp;prescription while permitting them to buy much more dangerous sedative antihistamines over the counter. And the FDA still hinders efforts to combat drug‐​overdose deaths by classifying the overdose antidote naloxone as&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">prescription‐​only</a>, despite&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">tacitly admitting</a>&nbsp;it should not require a&nbsp;prescription.</p> <p>Self‐​administered, at‐​home tests for various medical conditions have required pre‐​market FDA approval since 1976. The FDA’s paternalistic concern for consumers has&nbsp;<a href=";context=dlj" target="_blank">delayed or blocked</a>&nbsp;patients from accessing at‐​home pregnancy tests, at‐​home HIV tests, at‐​home genetic‐​screening tests, and most recently, at‐​home&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">COVID tests</a>.</p> <p>FDA procrastination in approving drugs for the market, sometimes influenced by vocal special‐​interest groups, causes countless unseen patients to suffer or die waiting for permission to use a&nbsp;lifesaving drug. This phenomenon, known as&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank"><em>drug lag</em></a>, spurred&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">civil disobedience</a>&nbsp;from AIDS activists in the 1980s and inspired the “<a href="" target="_blank">Right to Try</a>” movement of the last decade.</p> <p>The severe costs of securing FDA approval, in money and time, are responsible for what health economists call&nbsp;<em>drug loss</em>, the phenomenon whereby pharmaceutical manufacturers choose not to invest in the development of new drugs because they don’t believe they’ll be able to recoup the considerable approval costs.</p> <p>Aside from political pressures, as Nobel‐​winning economist Milton Friedman&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">pointed out</a>, FDA regulators fear the fallout from potential adverse reactions to approved drugs. Yet they are insulated from the unseen consequences of drug lag and drug loss, so they have an incentive to maintain the status quo.</p> <p>In a&nbsp;Cato Institute&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">white paper</a>, Michael F. Cannon and I&nbsp;have traced the history of how private organizations monitored, reported on, and regulated pharmaceuticals&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">prior</a>&nbsp;to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. Organizations such as the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention and the American Medical Association Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry engaged in safety and quality testing of drugs on the market. Only drugs with the AMA’s Seal of Acceptance could be advertised in the various AMA journals. The AMA’s Chemical Laboratory continuously tested products for purity and composition.</p> <p>The AMA’s Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry was shuttered in 1955, as the FDA continued to accumulate unchallenged authority to regulate drugs. But even today, the AMA maintains a&nbsp;registry of reported adverse drug reactions. And other organizations, from&nbsp;<em>Consumer Reports</em>&nbsp;to health‐​insurance companies to academic journals to foreign regulatory agencies, continuously monitor and report on the safety and efficacy of drugs and vaccines. The FDA itself relies on research and trials&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">conducted</a>&nbsp;in the private sector.</p> <p>In 2015 and again in 2019, Senators Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Mike Lee (R., Utah) introduced the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Reciprocity Ensures Streamlined Use of Lifesaving Treatments (RESULT) Act</a>. The proposal would allow consumers to choose between FDA‐​approved drugs and drugs approved by the regulatory agencies of a&nbsp;number of developed countries. Though it is too deferential to FDA regulators and doesn’t provide nearly enough choice, it would still be a&nbsp;step in the right direction. But it failed to advance out of committee both times it was introduced.</p> <p>The COVID-19 pandemic has provided many examples of how regulations and bureaucratic stasis can impede a&nbsp;rapid and nimble response to a&nbsp;public‐​health emergency. To deal with the emergency, the FDA temporarily suspended many of its regulations and other red tape — a&nbsp;tacit admission that they were blocking the way.</p> <p>If anything good comes out of the pandemic, let it be a&nbsp;widespread recognition that the 21st century has no use for this sclerotic, politicized relic of 20th‐​century central planning.</p> </div> Tue, 20 Apr 2021 09:58:36 -0400 Jeffrey A. Singer As Castro Rule Fades in Cuba, Americans Should Engage the Cuban People <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The Castro brothers ruled Cuba for more than six decades. The results have not been pretty. An island impoverished in body and mind. Even artists have been protesting of late, punished by the security forces for having the temerity to question the communist authorities.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>However, change is in the offing. Fidel died in 2016.&nbsp;A&nbsp;petty tyrant compared to the 20th&nbsp;Century’s murderous triad of Hitler‐​Mao‐​Stalin, he still oppressed millions. Raul, longtime defense minister before succeeding his brother as president and communist party head, quit the former three years ago and resigned the latter last week. Although his children are influential, they will not succeed him. Cuba will no longer belong politically to the Castro family. He said he would turn power over to younger officials “full of passion and anti‐​imperialist spirit,” meaning willing to continue holding the Cuban people in brutal bondage.</p> <p>The reality of communist rule has been dismissed by many on the Left ever since the Castros took control. Some self‐​styled progressives still wax lyrical about Cuban communism, energized by Fidel Castro’s well‐​publicized Cold War resistance to U.S. pressure.</p> <p>His legions arrived in Havana on New Year’s Day in 1959 promising to liberate the people. However, the soon‐​to‐​be global celebrity turned his country into an open‐​air prison and little has changed decades later. For instance, Freedom House rates Cuba as Not Free, scoring just 13 out of 100. On political rights the island scores a&nbsp;pitiful 1&nbsp;out of 40, along with Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Washington should further improve the prospects for fundamental change by ending its decrepit and failed embargo plus additional sanctions. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Explained Freedom House: “Cuba’s one‐​party communist state outlaws political pluralism, bans independent media, suppresses dissent, and severely restricts basic civil liberties. The government continues to dominate the economy despite recent reforms that permit some private‐​sector activity. The regime’s undemocratic character has not changed despite a&nbsp;generational transition in political leadership between 2018 and 2019 that included the introduction of a&nbsp;new constitution.”</p> <p>Human Rights Watch came to a&nbsp;similar judgment: “The Cuban government represses and punishes dissent and public criticism. Tactics against critics include beatings, public shaming, travel restrictions, short‐​term detention, fines, online harassment, surveillance, and termination of employment. In October 2019, Miguel Diaz‐​Canel was confirmed as president of Cuba, with nearly 97 percent of the votes of National Assembly members. His presidency has seen little change in the government’s human rights policy. Arbitrary detention and harassment of critics continue. Under his government, Cuba has used Decree‐​Law 370/2018, which came into effect in July 2019 and severely limits free speech, to detain, fine, and harass critics.”</p> <p>Victims of Castroite repression include intellectuals. The regime even targets artists, at least those who fail to praise their oppressors. Art in service of the totalitarian state — the famed “socialist realism” of the Soviet Union — was always the true communist ideal. Art reached its apogee as oppression beautified during China’s Cultural Revolution, with depictions of a&nbsp;benevolent, even cherubic Mao Zedong presiding over adoring crowds of besotted revolutionaries as a&nbsp;veritable civil war raged on streets and in communities across the land.</p> <p>Adoring artists of the Castros have been few of late. Last year, reported Reuters, featured a “crackdown on the San Isidro Movement of dissident artists and activists … that formed two years ago to protest curbs on freedom of expression, often through irreverent performances. The situation came to a&nbsp;head after authorities besieged the movement’s headquarters in Old Havana’s San Isidro district [and] then … broke up a&nbsp;hunger strike there that had started to gain international attention. Security forces forcibly removed and briefly detained the five members on hunger strike and nine other people in the house, citing violations of coronavirus protocols.”</p> <p>This crackdown in turn spurred 300 artists to protest outside the cultural ministry. Officials initially met with demonstrators, generating hope of an ongoing dialogue, but Diaz‐​Canel, Raul Castro’s successor who some in the West hoped would liberalize the system, denounced the artists for “an imperialist show” which he blamed on the Trump administration. Luis Manuel Otero, one of the San Isidro Movement’s founders, is under house arrest. He observed: “People are more and more miserable, more and more hungry, more and more desperate.” So much for younger apparatchiks being different than their predecessors. Cuban communism kills fewer people than did its Soviet and Chinese counterparts, but equally murders people’s spirits.</p> <p>The Castros did no better with the economy but predictably blamed the US However, if socialism is so wonderful, a&nbsp;system designed to cause the best of humanity to serve one another, people contributing according to their ability and receiving according to their needs, then American economic policy should be irrelevant. Cuba should be leading the world toward a&nbsp;new utopia after 62&nbsp;years of selfless communist economic management. Instead, food rations go unfulfilled while communist politicos seek foreign investment to hide their failure.</p> <p>During the Cold War Cuba was both a&nbsp;humanitarian and security challenge. However, Washington didn’t worry much about human rights then, being happy to work with most anyone who was willing to resist communist revolutionaries. Such was America’s dalliance with Fulgencio Batista, the dictator ousted by the Castro brothers. And with a&nbsp;multitude of other authoritarian regimes across the region and well beyond. Had the Castros aligned themselves with the US rather than Moscow, American advisers with pockets full of cash would have immediately embarked for the island.</p> <p>However, the alliance with the Soviet Union, which led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, offered a&nbsp;security justification for the embargo, imposed in 1960. Human rights activists on the island complained that the regime used the embargo as an excuse for its failure. But the Castros’ survival only caused Washington to tighten economic sanctions, with no greater effect.</p> <p>Moscow kept the Castros afloat as they yet again proved that the quickest way to destroy an economy was to socialize it. The U.S.S.R.‘s collapse at the end of 1991 ended both the embargo’s justification and Soviet Union’s lifeline. Cuba ended up just a&nbsp;small, pitiful impoverished dictatorship fronted by a&nbsp;loquacious public showman so insecure that he imprisoned critics for years, even decades. The Cuban economy contracted by more than a&nbsp;third. The regime euphemistically termed that time as the “Special Period.”</p> <p>Washington should have responded by highlighting the alternative of freedom. Flood the island with Americans, especially those with family there. Send forth America’s best ambassadors, common folks who would share experiences and ideas. Such engagement wouldn’t directly overturn brutal Cuban state power, of course, but would be naturally subversive, undermining the regime’s very foundations. Unfortunately, Washington did the opposite, intensifying its attempt to starve the Cuban people into revolt.</p> <p>The Castro regime staggered on. All the while remaining a&nbsp;global symbol of resistance to US dominance. The more tightly Washington, in the service of the hardline Cuban‐​American community in Florida — no president wanted to risk losing that state’s electoral votes, no matter how counterproductive the policy — squeezed Havana, the harsher the Castros treated their domestic critics.</p> <p>Economic desperation forced the regime to turn to the market, however, allowing people to work privately. Access to foreign currency became a&nbsp;particularly prized opportunity. I&nbsp;met engineers who drove pedicabs and doctors who washed dishes. Families were allowed to open small businesses. “Capitalism,” with the hiring of outside employees, was not allowed, yet an amazing number of distant and long‐​lost “cousins” showed up seeking jobs. Over time more elaborate enterprises were allowed, generating around 40 percent of the economy’s jobs. Unsurprisingly, observed American University’s William LeoGrande, “among ordinary Cubans, the desire for a&nbsp;better relationship with the United States is almost universal.”</p> <p>In contrast, the regime was frustrated by success. It complained of entrepreneurs running too many businesses, avoiding taxes, and, perhaps worst of all, undermining Cuba’s socialist ethos, which sought to spread hardship as completely and widely as possible. The authorities also worried about losing control to an ever larger and prosperous private sector. Although there was no evidence that the communist system was about to collapse, popular dissatisfaction was rife. A&nbsp;retired diplomat told me that three of his four grandchildren left the country to seek work. Almost everyone recognized that the Castros had failed their people.</p> <p>After being reelected President Barack Obama addressed Cuba. He relaxed controls, though his discretion was limited by statute. Much of Cuba’s population turned out to see him when he visited in 2016. Decals with his photo still abounded on cars when I&nbsp;was there the following year. Raul’s regime — Fidel having retired and only a&nbsp;few months away from death — felt threatened by Obama’s presence. Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez criticized Obama’s “deep attack on our ideas, our history, our culture and our symbols.” The authorities “completely underestimated his popularity,” a&nbsp;Western journalist stationed in Cuba told me: “Obama’s visit was tremendously challenging, like Kryptonite.”</p> <p>The best way to further discomfit the regime would have been to expand the economic opening. Collin Laverty of Cuba Educational Travel, who arranged my 2017 trip, observed: “If you want to create more space for debate, expanding the entrepreneurial class is one way.” By creating not just more business owners, but more people employed by private firms.</p> <p>Instead, President Donald Trump reversed Obama’s limited opening to the island. Citing human rights violations of the sort that Trump ignored, and sometimes even seemed to celebrate, in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and elsewhere, he imposed new restrictions on investment in and travel to the island. He was urged on by faux friends of freedom, such as Marco Rubio, who has never visited the island and refused to even meet with Cuban entrepreneurs brought to the US by the State Department. Rubio’s priority, like so many other politicians who pontificate on the issue, was to win votes in America, not liberate people in Cuba.</p> <p>Trump’s policy worked no better than his economic wars against Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo strutted about the globe pompously celebrating his “swagger,” governments uniformly rejected his demands. In not one case did sanctions force an antagonistic regime to surrender, contra the administration’s predictions. The campaign proved to be an embarrassing and almost total failure. The Trump administration gave new evidence for the classic definition of insanity: constantly repeating something while expecting different results.</p> <p>Cubans with whom I&nbsp;met — owners of restaurants, Airbnbs, taxi services, and other small businesses — were frustrated that US politicians, including Cuban‐​Americans like Rubio, would put their political ambitions before the Cuban people’s future. These people invested in expectation of more American tourists and found the US government against them. Julia de la Rosa, who owned an Airbnb, noted that “So many people opened businesses for American tourists,” but after Trump’s action “there is little demand.”</p> <p>So far, the Biden administration has done nothing to reverse Trump’s counterproductive strategy. Of course, the president has been in office only three months and has much on his policy plate. Nevertheless, the decision should be easy. Today, lift every Trump sanction imposed over the last four years. Tomorrow, create a&nbsp;working group to explore the president’s authority to lift more restrictions. The day after, propose legislation ending all sanctions on the island.</p> <p>The Cuban people deserved liberation in 1959. Alas, the Castro brothers brought even worse oppression and poverty. The Cuban people almost certainly would have been better off today if the old regime had survived, eventually evolving into something more liberal, open, and productive.</p> <p>Unfortunately, the past cannot be relived, leaving the present dominated by poverty and tyranny. Shortly before taking over the presidency Diaz‐​Canel offered his depressing vision: “I think there always will be continuity.” However, Castro’s retirement reduces the regime’s revolutionary legitimacy and increases pressure for meaningful generational change. Diaz‐​Canel must respond to popular demands for change or risk eventually being swept aside. Baruch College’s Ted Henken opined that Diaz‐​Canel “was selected by the old guard to maintain continuity and control, but to have any legitimacy with most ordinary Cubans, he urgently needs to introduce fundamental reforms to halt a&nbsp;collapsing economy and address growing social and political unrest.”</p> <p>Washington should further improve the prospects for fundamental change by ending its decrepit and failed embargo plus additional sanctions. That wouldn’t guarantee Cuba’s freedom overnight. But Cubans with whom I&nbsp;spoke wanted US to stop making their lives tougher. “They are hurting us,” De la Rosa complained of Washington. The Cuban people see increased economic opportunities as their best hope. Insisted one: “We need the Americans back.”</p> </div> Mon, 19 Apr 2021 09:47:56 -0400 Doug Bandow The US Lacks Options If Russia Calls Washington’s Ukraine Bluff <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine are producing an surge of bluster from the Biden administration, as well as from the hawkish denizens of Washington’s think tanks. The administration keeps assuring Ukraine’s government that the United States and NATO have Kiev’s back in its confrontation with Russian‐​supported separatists in the eastern Donbas region as well as with Russia itself. An April 2&nbsp;White House&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">press release confirmed</a>&nbsp;that in a&nbsp;telephone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Biden “affirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea.” Other high‐​level administration officials, including&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Secretary of State Antony Blinken</a>&nbsp;have done the same.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>On the surface, American Russophobes almost seem to be itching for a&nbsp;military showdown with Moscow. Overall bilateral relations just took another plunge on April 15, when the administration imposed an array of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">additional sanctions</a>&nbsp;on Russian businesses and the Russian governments for a&nbsp;range of alleged misdeeds, including interference in the 2020 U.S. election, mistreatment of Alexei Navalny and other domestic dissidents, and aggressive behavior toward neighboring countries. Using logic and language similar to a&nbsp;middle school boy experiencing a&nbsp;testosterone surge and contemplating challenging a&nbsp;playground rival, Admiral James Stavridis, the former commander of NATO forces,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">asserted in an op‐​ed</a>&nbsp;that Putin was eyeing territorial expansion at Ukraine’s expense, and that Biden must “stare him down.”</p> <p>Credible experts, however, doubt that the United States would actually go to war against Russia to defend Ukraine. Quincy Institute scholar Anatol Lieven&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">asserts flatly</a>&nbsp;that the United States “has no intention of fighting Russia,” and should, therefore, stop arming Ukraine and encouraging Kiev’s increasingly belligerent stance against its larger and much more powerful neighbor. One hopes that Lieven is right and that even if fighting breaks out between Russia and Ukraine,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">sanity would prevail</a>, and US leaders would not launch a&nbsp;war that involves the inherent risk of a&nbsp;nuclear holocaust.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Credible experts, however, doubt that the United States would actually go to war against Russia to defend Ukraine. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Another US administration encouraged one of Russia’s neighbors to strut and preen militarily, only to abandon that client when actual fighting erupted. George W. Bush led Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, to believe that his country was a&nbsp;valued US ally and that the United States and NATO would come to Georgia’s rescue if it became embroiled in an armed conflict with Russia. Saakashvili had every reason to conclude that he had Washington’s unwavering support. The Bush administration had provided millions of dollars&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">in weaponry</a>&nbsp;to Tbilisi, trained Georgian troops, and had actively lobbied NATO to accept Georgia as a&nbsp;new member.</p> <p>But when an overconfident Saakashvili tried to regain control over a&nbsp;secessionist region and killed Russian peacekeeping troops stationed there, Moscow launched a&nbsp;counteroffensive that soon routed Georgian units. Despite Washington’s previous indications of support, US and NATO forces prudently stood down. Georgia had to sign a&nbsp;humiliating accord to end the fighting.</p> <p>Washington could well&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">face a&nbsp;similar situation</a>&nbsp;if Ukraine, confident of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">US and NATO support</a>, foolishly tries to wrest Crimea back from Russia or launches a&nbsp;new offensive against pro‐​Russia separatists in Donbas. Having staked US prestige so publicly on backing Kiev, it would be more difficult for Washington to abandon Ukraine than it was for the Bush administration to cut Georgia loose. The usual suspects would insist that the United States could not retreat without suffering irreparable damage to its “credibility” as a&nbsp;superpower. Yet even reasonably prudent officials likely would recognize that a&nbsp;U.S.-NATO military intervention against Russian forces would be far too perilous.</p> <p>Given those countervailing pressures, the most probable U.S. response would be to strike back militarily at a&nbsp;symbol of Russian power and influence, but one that did not entail a&nbsp;direct military confrontation with Moscow. The situation is reminiscent of the options US leaders mulled during the Cold War if the Soviet Union extinguished the Western enclave in West Berlin. The most common expectation was that Washington would refrain from a&nbsp;nuclear confrontation in Europe, but would retaliate by eliminating Moscow’s ally in the Western Hemisphere, Cuba.</p> <p>A similar tit‐​for‐​tat response is perhaps even more likely today, if the current confrontation with Russia culminates in fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces. However, the list of feasible targets for US retaliation is not a&nbsp;long one. Beating up on Serbia, as Bill Clinton’s administration was fond of doing in the 1990s would be pointless. Although Belgrade maintains close ties with Moscow, the country is democratic and also seeks admission to the European Union. Even the Biden administration’s most sycophantic media allies would have difficulty portraying today’s Serbia as an odious dictatorship or a&nbsp;threat to regional peace.</p> <p>Syria would be a&nbsp;much more credible candidate, but launching a&nbsp;major offensive to oust Bashar al‐​Assad would be almost as risky as attacking Russian forces in the Ukraine theater. Moscow has a&nbsp;crucial naval base in Syria, and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">thousands of Russian troops</a>&nbsp;operate in that country. The danger of a&nbsp;clash between US and Russian forces, thereby triggering a&nbsp;full‐​scale war, would be highly probable.</p> <p>Cuba remains a&nbsp;possible target, but an easier one exists for an ostentatious US“war of liberation” that would also constitute a&nbsp;geopolitical humiliation for Russia: Venezuela. Donald Trump’s administration made no secret that it wanted Nicolas Maduro’s extreme left‐​wing regime&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">ousted from power</a>, Not only did the administration provide diplomatic and financial backing to opposition leader Juan Guaido, but it demanded that Russia&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">stop supporting</a>&nbsp;Maduro’s government. Moscow certainly has extensively backed Maduro, and it is not an exaggeration to say that Venezuela is a&nbsp;Kremlin client state. During the Trump years, the United States and Russia conducted an outright&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">proxy struggle</a>&nbsp;regarding Venezuela.</p> <p>Despite widespread expectations that Biden would pursue a&nbsp;more conciliatory approach, the administration has continued the Trump policy. Washington&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">still recognizes</a>&nbsp;Guaido as Venezuela’s lawful president, and the White House&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">continues Trump’s “emergency declaration”</a>&nbsp;proclaiming Venezuela to be a&nbsp;national security threat.</p> <p>Despite existing economic and political support, any Russian military intervention on behalf of Venezuela would be highly improbable, and US leaders would be confident of Moscow’s continuing restraint regardless of Washington’s actions. Domestic opposition to a&nbsp;regime‐​change war also could be contained without too much trouble, although some of the president’s progressive allies certainly would be unhappy. The administration (along with its legions of allies in the media) would spin the intervention as necessary both to remove a&nbsp;brutally repressive dictatorship and to prevent a&nbsp;Russian security threat in America’s own “backyard.”</p> <p>A regime‐​change war against Venezuela is precisely the kind of tit‐​for‐​tat response chastened, but still angry and aggressive, US foreign policy mandarins might choose to salvage some prestige if Russia calls Washington’s bluff about defending Ukraine. There is, of course, a&nbsp;much easier way for America’s armchair hawks and laptop bombardiers to avoid the danger of such humiliation. But that approach would require them to end their posturing and saber‐​rattling toward Moscow, and they don’t seem inclined to embrace such basic prudence.</p> </div> Mon, 19 Apr 2021 09:37:45 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter North Korea’s New Arduous March: What Biden Should Do (and Not Do) <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Kim Jong‐​Un</a>’s&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">downbeat and surprisingly candid comments</a>&nbsp;on April 9&nbsp;caught many U.S. and international observers by surprise.&nbsp;North Korea’s leader called on officials to brace for a&nbsp;prolonged campaign (an “arduous march”) to tackle the country’s worsening economic problems, comparing the current crisis to the 1990s famine that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.&nbsp;He placed much of the blame on the effects of U.S.-led sanctions, but he also conceded that the coronavirus pandemic had taken a&nbsp;major toll.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Kim’s admission creates an occasion for the Biden administration to make a&nbsp;fundamental choice about the direction of its&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">policy toward North Korea</a>. Advocates of a&nbsp;hardline policy could see Kim’s comments as an opening to increase U.S. pressure on the regime, concluding that it is now exceptionally vulnerable.&nbsp;Such a&nbsp;strategy would include adopting even more robust sanctions and being even less willing than previous administration to show any flexibility on Washington’s long‐​standing demand that Pyongyang agrees to a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">complete, verifiable, and irreversible</a>&nbsp;end to its nuclear weapons program.&nbsp;Although that approach might seem tempting, given the new signs of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">North Korean weakness</a>&nbsp;and vulnerability, it would be a&nbsp;serious, potentially tragic, mistake.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Kim’s language conveys a&nbsp;tacit admission that North Korea’s chronic policy of self‐​isolation has not served the country, or the regime, particularly well </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Indeed, the Biden foreign policy team should adopt the opposite approach.&nbsp;Kim’s language conveys a&nbsp;tacit admission that North Korea’s chronic policy of self‐​isolation has not served the country, or the regime, particularly well.&nbsp;Minimizing interaction with the outside world did not even shield North Korea&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">from the ravages</a>&nbsp;of the coronavirus pandemic.</p> <p>That realization may well make Kim more receptive to productive negotiations on an array of issues.&nbsp;The Biden administration should seize that opportunity by making timely concessions and seeking to achieve some attainable goals.&nbsp;The demand for complete denuclearization, though, is not on the list of such goals; it remains, as it always has, a&nbsp;poison pill that terminates any prospects for constructive diplomacy.</p> <p>A key timely concession would be the easing of economic sanctions.&nbsp;In addition to being one creative component of a&nbsp;wiser foreign policy, such a&nbsp;move would constitute basic humanitarianism—especially if North Korea is facing a&nbsp;crisis comparable to the horrible famine of the 1990s.&nbsp;That concession also would facilitate negotiations on other important issues.</p> <p>Beyond easing sanctions, the Biden administration should propose a&nbsp;major breakthrough on&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the normalization of bilateral relations</a>.&nbsp;One step would be to finalize a&nbsp;treaty to replace the 1953 armistice and formally end the state of war on the Korean Peninsula.&nbsp;Another would be to establish formal diplomatic relations, open embassies in Pyongyang and Washington, and appoint ambassadors to those new posts.&nbsp;As an additional confidence‐​building measure, the administration should propose an indefinite freeze on U.S.-South Korean military exercises and a&nbsp;large reduction in the number of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea in exchange for a&nbsp;freeze on the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">North’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests</a>&nbsp;and a&nbsp;pullback of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">North Korean troops</a>&nbsp;and weaponry from the Demilitarized Zone.</p> <p>Such an agenda would not have the resonance of the dramatic demand for&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">North Korea’s total denuclearization</a>, but it would have the virtue of being feasible.&nbsp;Even achieving a&nbsp;portion of those pragmatic goals would significantly reduce the dangerous, heavily armed stand‐​off on the Peninsula.&nbsp;Kim’s speech tests whether the Biden foreign policy team is perceptive enough to see an opportunity for conciliation and diplomatic progress or instead embraces a&nbsp;myopic strategy of trying to increase pressure on a&nbsp;beleaguered regime.</p> </div> Sun, 18 Apr 2021 09:59:17 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter Shadow‐​Boxing Between Ukraine and Russia: What Should the US Do? <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Although the U.S. has been involved in multiple endless wars, none of them have posed an existential threat. That’s because none of them have been against a&nbsp;serious military power, one with well‐​trained conventional forces and extensive nuclear weapons, like Russia.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Some American policymakers contemplated starting such a&nbsp;catastrophic conflict for trivial stakes, but thankfully they failed. For instance, in 2008 the ever‐​bombastic Sen. John McCain declared “we are all Georgians now” after Tbilisi attacked Russian forces in the breakaway province of South Ossetia. The Bush administration considered attacking Moscow’s military units moving into combat but thought better of starting World War III.</p> <p>In 2016, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie led a&nbsp;parade of tough‐​sounding Republican presidential candidates in threatening to shoot down Russian planes flying over Syria. This reckless proposal would have simultaneously thrust the U.S. into a&nbsp;bitter, multi‐​sided civil war and brought America to the brink with nuclear‐​armed Moscow. After his election, Donald Trump sensibly declined to follow this invitation to trigger Armageddon.</p> <p>Now troops are on the march in Europe. Russia has mobilized extensive forces along the Ukrainian border, spawning a&nbsp;flurry of diplomatic activity. So far there has been more sound and fury than blood and guts. The betting is that no one wants war. But when tensions rise, mistakes become increasingly possible. No one would really win any resulting conflict.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Russia’s behavior is morally debilitating and regionally destabilizing, but not globally threatening. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The Russian Empire and Soviet Union, essentially a&nbsp;reengineered version of the Russian Empire, crushed individuals and peoples underfoot in pursuit of greater international glory. Nevertheless, dissolution of the USSR was extraordinarily painful to Russian nationalists. Although eventually reacquiring Moscow’s old colonial domains was well beyond reach, including geographic pockets of ethnic Russians appeared to be a&nbsp;more realistic ambition. So did reasserting Moscow’s influence in its “near abroad,” establishing Russia’s equivalent of America’s Monroe Doctrine, which stated that only the U.S. was entitled to oversee America’s “near abroad” of Latin America.</p> <p>Still, when Boris Yeltsin resigned two decades ago, leaving his government to Vladimir Putin, such ambition was well beyond the Russian Federation’s capabilities. Apparatchik‐​dominated gangster capitalism replaced authoritarian communism. The U.S. and European states, reveling in their triumph, humiliated Moscow at every turn — expanding NATO despite contrary commitments, dismantling Serbia, and promoting “color revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine. Whether or not these actions were “justified,” whatever that might mean, is irrelevant. No Russian government could have accepted them with equanimity.</p> <p>By the time Washington and Brussels got around to redirecting Ukrainian commerce to Europe and promoting a&nbsp;street putsch against the elected (though highly flawed) pro‐​Russian president of Ukraine in 2014, Putin and his allies had remade the Russian Federation. In response, Moscow seized Crimea, the historic Russian province containing the important military base of Sevastopol, and backed separatist movements of ethnic Russians in the Donbass in Ukraine’s east. Although a&nbsp;ceasefire was eventually reached and generally held, some 14,000 people died in the fighting, which became a&nbsp;classical “frozen” conflict.</p> <p>Neither Ukraine nor Moscow seemed to favor their negotiated solution. Both sides quickly violated the Minsk Protocols. Russia continues to support the separatists, while Ukrainian nationalists killed Kiev’s promise to provide the dissident regions with greater autonomy. Moreover, backed by Europe and America, Ukraine insists that Crimea, now integrated into Russia, be returned, irrespective of the views of the Crimean people. That won’t happen, absent Russia’s defeat in a&nbsp;general war, which would be devastating for everyone concerned. Nor should Crimea be transferred without its residents’ consent: Almost certainly a&nbsp;majority was for annexation by Moscow in 2014, though the referendum was far short of fair. And a&nbsp;majority probably would want to remain with Russia even today, though no one knows for sure.</p> <p>Russia’s behavior was terrible, of course, but American and European officials were foolish and reckless. Pushing for the inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine in NATO was particularly heedless, adding states that would not improve allied security and could only be seen as the culmination of an aggressive advance up to Russia’s borders.</p> <p>Washington would never have tolerated a&nbsp;similar situation in its unabashed sphere of interest of the Western Hemisphere. Had the Soviet Union pressed Mexico to orient economically to Moscow’s allies, led by Cuba, Peru, Venezuela, and Brazil; encouraged a&nbsp;revolution overthrowing the elected and U.S.-backed government in Mexico City; and proposed that the new rulers join the Warsaw Pact, members of the Washington Blob would have gone crazy. Enthusiastic members of the bipartisan war party like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman, Tom Cotton, and Robert Menendez would have done the Maori Haka around Capitol Hill while declaring that everyone was a&nbsp;Mexican now and demanding war. There would be grim comparisons to the Cuban Missile Crisis.</p> <p>Russia’s conventional buildup includes 100,000 troops, 1,300 each tanks and artillery pieces, 380 rocket launchers, and 3,700 drones. Of course, as Moscow observed, it has authority to move troops within its own borders, though its claim that it was merely engaged in innocent military exercises was incredible. At the same time, a&nbsp;Russian invasion is very unlikely. Had Putin wanted to create the much‐​predicted “land bridge” to Crimea, he could have done so in 2014 with little resistance and no greater response from the U.S. and Europe. Nor would he want to rule over a&nbsp;hostile country of nearly 40 million people — after subtracting those in Crimea and the Donbass — which bitterly resisted Soviet and German control.</p> <p>Moscow might be testing U.S. and European reactions, given the recent administration transition in Washington and coming leadership changes across Europe, most importantly in Berlin. But aggravating the Biden administration and undermining friendly forces in Europe for no evident gain would be a&nbsp;dubious strategy. More likely, the maneuvers are directed at Kiev — an inducement to move forward with the Minsk agreements, a&nbsp;reaction against a&nbsp;recent domestic crackdown on Russia‐​friendly politicians and television stations, and/​or a&nbsp;warning to President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has dramatically hardened his position against Moscow. Indeed, Zelensky called Putin’s moves “muscle‐​flexing.” These might not be good reasons to unsettle the continent, but Russia’s behavior falls well within the unpleasant norms of international behavior.</p> <p>What to do?</p> <ul> <li>Discourage Russia from going down a&nbsp;road from which there may no exit. War would be an abyss of varying depths for Russia, Ukraine, Europe, and the United States. The consequences would be unpredictable but certainly bad and potentially catastrophic. Too many wars have begun with the expectation that they would be cakewalks. Few ended up being so.</li> <li>Reject proposals to back Kiev militarily. Ukraine is not a&nbsp;member of NATO, possesses no independent security guarantee, and has no strategic significance for America. In contrast, it matters greatly to Russia, which would risk much more and pay a&nbsp;far higher price to achieve its ends. Kiev deserves U.S. sympathy, not American troops.</li> <li>Don’t flood Ukraine with allied weapons, whether anti‐​tank Javelins or others. Russia can always bid higher in any fight. Tactically raising the price of military action isn’t likely to change Moscow’s strategic decision, but doing so might cause Russia to act with much greater destructiveness to start. Moreover, allied military assistance could cause Kiev to assume combat support, rather like&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Georgia did in 2008</a>, making major escalation possible and perhaps even likely.</li> <li>Reject proposals to bring Ukraine into NATO. The purpose of the alliance is security, not charity. The U.S. should include countries that advance American security, not states that add a&nbsp;preexisting conflict with a&nbsp;nuclear‐​armed power. Indeed, most European nations sensibly oppose the admission of Kiev and Tbilisi for this reason.</li> <li>Suggest that European governments, which have far more at stake in Ukraine’s future, lead discussions over how to respond to Russian threats. Come to a&nbsp;transatlantic agreement and warn Moscow ahead of time. Let the latter know the specific consequences that would occur depending on how it acts.</li> <li>Push Kiev to move forward with the Minsk Protocols. Ukraine can complain about Russian recalcitrance only if Kiev upholds its promises. In any case, the latter should look for a&nbsp;<em>modus vivendi</em>&nbsp;with Moscow, no longer allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Ukraine exists in a&nbsp;bad neighborhood and cannot count on rescue from the West. How then to accommodate Kiev’s large number of ethnic Russians while retaining its freedom of action?</li> <li>Seek a&nbsp;larger settlement, allowing the U.S. and Europe to revamp ties with Russia, reduce tensions between NATO’s eastern members and Moscow, and stop pushing Russia toward China. The starting point should be to agree to take NATO expansion off the table — as an allied choice, since it is not in America’s or Europe’s interest, rather than a&nbsp;Russian “veto” — and end sanctions. Moscow should drop disruptive activities against Ukraine, especially support for the separatists, and acknowledge Kiev’s commercial freedom to go east or west. Crimea should be set aside, its annexation still unrecognized and sanctioned, unless Russia agreed to an internationally monitored referendum, the results of which would be accepted by both sides.</li> </ul> <p>Such a&nbsp;result, or something similar, though far from perfect, would serve the interests of all better than the situation today, a&nbsp;frozen conflict that continually erodes any relationship between&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Russia</a>&nbsp;and the West and that could unexpectedly explode, with potential nuclear consequences. The U.S. doesn’t want war and would prefer to cooperate with Moscow in the Middle East, on terrorism, dealing with China, and in confronting North Korea’s nuclear weapons.</p> <p>Europe also doesn’t want war and would prefer to increase commerce with Russia. The Baltic States and Poland would prefer to have a&nbsp;pacific, nonthreatening neighbor to their east as well as west. Ukraine would prefer to end a&nbsp;conflict that has cost too many lives and too much treasure, undermined domestic politics, and destabilized the nation. Russia would prefer to achieve security without conflict and see its concerns addressed, rather than dismissed, by the West.</p> <p>President Donald Trump might have desired such a&nbsp;result, but false claims of collusion with Moscow hampered his ability to reform policy. Perhaps Biden, who called Putin to indicate his interest in creating a&nbsp;working relationship and holding a&nbsp;summit before imposing a&nbsp;new round of diplomatic penalties and economic sanctions, can do better and play the Nixon to China role. It might be a&nbsp;long shot, but already Biden has approached as well as punished Moscow.</p> <p>Russia’s behavior is morally debilitating and regionally destabilizing, but not globally threatening. Ukraine deserves support in developing a&nbsp;stable, democratic polity and prosperous, market‐​driven economy. But Kiev has no claim to become yet another American and NATO defense dependent. Ukraine simply is not worth the risk of war with a&nbsp;determined nuclear power. If Europe feels differently, it should act, spending its money and putting its troops at risk. But America, the world’s great but essentially bankrupt superpower, must start setting priorities.</p> </div> Sun, 18 Apr 2021 09:36:16 -0400 Doug Bandow How to Stop North Korea from Becoming a Nuclear Weapons Superpower <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The Day of the Sun, North Korea’s celebration of the birth of the country’s founder, Great Leader Kim Il‐​sung, passed without international incident. However, the future might not be so pacific.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">latest report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence</a>&nbsp;(ODNI) warned that North Korea will remain a&nbsp;potential nuclear threat, given the living Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">active nuclear weapons program</a>. ODNI warned that the North might resume testing of either long‐​range missiles or&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">nuclear weapons</a>&nbsp;this year, abandoning the moratorium imposed three years ago along with the first Kim‐​Trump summit.</p> <p>Even more sobering is&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the joint report</a>&nbsp;from the Rand Corporation and South Korea’s Asan Institute about potential North Korean nuclear developments. Obviously, the future is uncertain, but the assessment is ominous: “by 2027, North Korea could have 200 nuclear weapons and several dozen intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and hundreds of theater missiles for delivering the nuclear weapons.”</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>If the DPRK creates a&nbsp;nuclear arsenal numbering in the hundreds, then the consequences could be cataclysmic for the United States, unless Washington abandons its interventionist addiction. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>This would move the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea into the second rank of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the world’s nuclear powers</a>. Although lagging behind the United States and Russia, its arsenal would approach that of China and France, approximate that of the United Kingdom, and exceed those of India, Israel, and Pakistan. That would make the DPRK the most powerful, problematic state on the planet.</p> <p>It is worth considering what the North could do with such a&nbsp;force. Pyongyang enjoyed conventional superiority when invading South Korea in 1950 and threatening a&nbsp;repeat for years afterward. However, the DPRK’s eventual economic malaise and the Republic of Korea’s market‐​oriented “miraculous” growth transformed the peninsula’s power balance.</p> <p>North Korea retains a&nbsp;quantitative military edge, and the mass of even older artillery and tanks concentrated on the capital of Seoul would wreak enormous damage. However,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the apparent conventional advances</a>&nbsp;unveiled in the North’s October military parade could not disguise the Kim regime’s essential weakness when facing modern, technologically advanced adversaries. Wartime is full of surprises, but there is no doubt that the ROK and United States, and perhaps even South Korea alone, would defeat the North, though the “collateral damage,” as mass death and destruction is commonly called, would be enormous.</p> <p>However, the North Koreans are&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">raising the stakes</a>&nbsp;by developing nuclear weapons and seeking&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">to reach the U.S. mainland</a>. Observed the Rand/​Asan report: “their nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs have become their means for empowering their regime and working toward dominance. Today, even a&nbsp;few of the likely dozens of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">North Korean nuclear weapons</a>&nbsp;could cause millions of fatalities and serious casualties if detonated on ROK or U.S. cities.” To that could be added the possibility of strikes on Tokyo and other Japanese cities, as well as Guam, an American territory that hosts U.S. military forces.</p> <p>The increase in both quantity and sophistication would increase Pyongyang’s malign options. To the good, nothing suggests that Kim or anyone else in the DPRK’s leadership is suicidal. They do not desire to leave this earth atop a&nbsp;radioactive funeral pyre in Pyongyang.</p> <p>However, in most wars, at least one participant miscalculates badly and often disastrously. Desperation would increase the likelihood of poor judgment and obvious blunders. The report raises the fearsome possibility of calculated recklessness: “the North Korean regime faces internal instabilities and is determined and ruthless; we cannot rule out North Korea trying to manage its internal problems by waging a&nbsp;limited or major diversionary war in which it would use nuclear weapons.” Such would be a&nbsp;prescription for escalation and destruction.</p> <p>What to do in response? The authors offer a&nbsp;couple of remarkably bad ideas. For instance, “The ROK and the United States need to strengthen the ROK-U.S. alliance.” Is there anything more common than a&nbsp;public policy organization, especially one receiving U.S. government funding, advocating the “strengthening” of each and every alliance? Washington could be paired with Monaco or Eswatini, and op‐​eds, studies, and books would pour forth proposing ways to expand, extend, improve, advance, and, of course, strengthen the absolutely vital relationship at issue.</p> <p>However, the U.S.-Korean alliance, along with the presumed American nuclear umbrella, is the problem in this case. Promising to use nuclear weapons on Seoul’s behalf works as long as the North does not have nuclear weapons or at least the capability to hit the United States with them. During the Cold War Moscow believed Washington’s threat to use nuclear weapons to protect Europe: the superpower confrontation was global and America believed that its security required preserving the continent’s independence from Soviet control.</p> <p>The United States and North Korea are not similarly locked in a&nbsp;conflict, let alone one worldwide, and South Korea does not play a&nbsp;similarly critical role in the global balance of power. No U.S. interest in the ROK is worth risking a&nbsp;nuclear exchange involving the American homeland. Far from being an answer to an increased DPRK nuclear threat, the alliance could scarce survive it. Even a&nbsp;conventional war could go nuclear if South Korea and America appeared set on liberating the North, like in 1950. Then Kim would risk little demanding an allied halt and withdrawal or else.</p> <p>Another Rand/​Asan suggestion is even more frightening. The authors wrote: “The ROK and the United States also could use threats to pressure North Korea. For example, the United States could warn the North that if it appears to have fielded an unacceptable number of nuclear weapons (maybe 80 to 100), the ROK and U.S. might be forced to prepare to execute preemptive counterforce or decapitation attacks, or both.”</p> <p>Such a&nbsp;policy would make the regime more suspicious and fearful. Pyongyang would have reason to act in even greater secrecy, more fully hiding weapons and disguising leadership movements. And emphasize more survivable weapons, such as submarine‐​launched ballistic missiles. Kim and his successors also might reduce already limited international contact, including future summitry.</p> <p>Even worse, such an approach would make clear to the North what today it might merely suspect, that its military forces, conventional and nuclear alike, are essentially “use it or lose it.” Thus, in any conflict, real or imminent, the DPRK might decide that it must act quickly and decisively, and perhaps preemptively.</p> <p>The possibility of North Korea becoming a&nbsp;serious nuclear power should energize diplomatic efforts to cap its arsenal. Whether or not Washington is willing to publicly admit that its effort to prevent the North from becoming a&nbsp;nuclear state is kaput,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the Biden administration</a>&nbsp;should focus on freezing North Korean efforts.</p> <p>Equally important, the United States must consider the price it is willing to pay to defend its allies. Especially in a&nbsp;world in which most of America’s friends are well able to protect themselves and are not critical to America’s survival. The only existential military threat facing the United States today is nuclear war. Thus, there is nothing more important for Washington than precluding, deterring, thwarting, or otherwise defeating such an attack. Which requires avoiding involvement in any war which the DPRK perceives as posing an existential threat, meaning any conflict with America.</p> <p>Despite a&nbsp;world filled with conflict and upheaval, the United States is more secure today than at virtually any other point in American history. The primary dangers come from getting entangled in other nations’ conflicts, such as on the Korean Peninsula. The results were awful in 1950. If the DPRK creates a&nbsp;nuclear arsenal numbering in the hundreds, then the consequences could be cataclysmic for the United States, unless Washington abandons its interventionist addiction.</p> </div> Sun, 18 Apr 2021 09:19:30 -0400 Doug Bandow No F‐​35s for UAE, Please <p><a href="" hreflang="und">A. Trevor Thrall</a> and <span class="text-semibold">Jordan Cohen</span></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The Biden administration told Congress&nbsp;on April 13 that it&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">plans to proceed</a>&nbsp;with a $23 billion sale of advanced weaponry to the United Arab Emirates originally approved by the Trump team — including the F-35 advanced joint fighter aircraft. Biden has yet to provide a&nbsp;clear rationale for continuing the sale, but following the previous administration’s logic,&nbsp;advocates believe it will help&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">curb Iran’s ambitions</a>&nbsp;in the Middle East. The reality, however, is that these sales will further entangle the United States and amplify existing conflicts in the troubled region.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The first problem with the sale is that it will deepen the American commitment to Israel’s defense while simultaneously making that commitment more expensive. At present, Israel is the&nbsp;<a href=";source=gmail-imap&amp;ust=1619206396000000&amp;usg=AOvVaw3pfbLn1JSA0jiWtOe3cTjK" target="_blank">only country</a>&nbsp;in the region with access to the high‐​tech F-35, which provides it a&nbsp;significant advantage in any potential conflict. Given this, one might imagine that Israel would oppose UAE’s purchase of F‐​35s.</p> <p>On the contrary, however, though Israel has little love for the Emirates, the Israeli government has not opposed the sale because the United States&nbsp;<a href=";source=gmail-imap&amp;ust=1619206396000000&amp;usg=AOvVaw3gexghqDGyxdDB2MwT-etq" target="_blank">agreed to</a>&nbsp;“significantly upgrade Israel’s military capabilities” in return. Ensuring that Israel has enough firepower not to worry about F‐​35s in the neighborhood will be expensive indeed. Worse, however, is that the American&nbsp;<em>carte blanche</em>&nbsp;will give Israel the confidence to behave aggressively towards its neighbors, as its&nbsp;<a href=";source=gmail-imap&amp;ust=1619206396000000&amp;usg=AOvVaw1AML32THaaYfowCPQr7D4T" target="_blank">recent attack</a>&nbsp;on Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz indicates.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>The sale is likely to deepen existing conflicts and further enmesh the U.S. in the region. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Selling the F-35 to the UAE also raises the risks of a&nbsp;regional arms race, as well as increased tensions between the United States and Russia. Russia is&nbsp;<a href=";source=gmail-imap&amp;ust=1619206396000000&amp;usg=AOvVaw2UWng-490XBP_TfvUtVczI" target="_blank">discussing</a>&nbsp;selling its answer to the F-35, the S-400 anti‐​aircraft system, to Iran. The S-400 is&nbsp;<a href=";source=gmail-imap&amp;ust=1619206396000000&amp;usg=AOvVaw0P0RSPbEwwFw43U31itXWo">designed</a>&nbsp;to overcome the F-35’s stealth technology, and its potential deployment has&nbsp;<a href=";source=gmail-imap&amp;ust=1619206396000000&amp;usg=AOvVaw02z-fFim4uS2J2nSzDDuNX" target="_blank">produced concern</a>&nbsp;in Israel because it would make future Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets much more dangerous.</p> <p>The temptation in Jerusalem to carry out more attacks before Iran finishing installing the S-400 would be significant. What Iran might do in response is anyone’s guess. At a&nbsp;minimum, rather than deterring Iran, selling F‐​35s to the UAE is likely to spur more intense regional competition and violence and fuel increased tensions between Russia and the United States.</p> <p>Finally, selling advanced aircraft to the UAE is likely to amplify existing conflicts. Until 2019, the UAE was a&nbsp;primary participant in the Saudis’ tragic and fruitless intervention in Yemen — itself part of the regional struggle between Iran and Iran’s adversaries. UAE and Saudi airstrikes have prolonged a&nbsp;deadly civil war and helped create one of the world’s worst humanitarian situations. Were the UAE to use the F-35&nbsp;in Yemen—or Libya where it is also active–its stealth and other high‐​tech capabilities would promise even more devastation.</p> <p>Though the UAE&nbsp;<a href=";source=gmail-imap&amp;ust=1619206396000000&amp;usg=AOvVaw0L2xhN-Mdg82R-JKgbeV1H" target="_blank">pulled out</a>&nbsp;of the Saudi coalition during 2019, there is little evidence that they intend to stop working to counter Iran in Yemen. American officials were horrified in 2020 by&nbsp;<a href=";source=gmail-imap&amp;ust=1619206396000000&amp;usg=AOvVaw3hUQ3-DEVm-aHaRboLfbqa" target="_blank">reports</a>&nbsp;that American weapons sold to the UAE as part of a $2.5 billion deal had been illegally funneled to militias and other non‐​governmental forces in Yemen.&nbsp;<a href=";source=gmail-imap&amp;ust=1619206396000000&amp;usg=AOvVaw0zpyc-8LkfahN0WTU95R9J" target="_blank">In June 2020</a>, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs argued that the situation in the Middle East demanded a&nbsp;more “activist” foreign policy. Given this mindset, there is little reason to believe that the UAE will not use its most advanced weaponry to pursue its strategy.</p> <p>The Biden administration’s decision to approve the sale of F‐​35s to the UAE is troubling, but it also raises more general concerns about Biden’s weapons transfer policy. On the one hand, Biden made the right decision to halt the sale of “offensive weapons” to Saudi Arabia in an effort to end American complicity with the war in Yemen. On the other hand, the Biden administration has approved billions of dollars in sales of major conventional weapons that to countries that pose great risks, such as&nbsp;<a href=";source=gmail-imap&amp;ust=1619206396000000&amp;usg=AOvVaw29fwSzqm5BE1tet8jXBdDk" target="_blank">Jordan</a>,&nbsp;<a href=";source=gmail-imap&amp;ust=1619206396000000&amp;usg=AOvVaw3-uBI8CqznC-xeYK5WxEPc" target="_blank">Egypt</a>,&nbsp;<a href=";source=gmail-imap&amp;ust=1619206396000000&amp;usg=AOvVaw0XpW8-XoQOWiEO2oo86ESj" target="_blank">Taiwan</a>,&nbsp;<a href=";source=gmail-imap&amp;ust=1619206396000000&amp;usg=AOvVaw2b28BpR4gdMLeiQB-GOYmf" target="_blank">the Philippines</a>, and&nbsp;<a href=";source=gmail-imap&amp;ust=1619206396000000&amp;usg=AOvVaw0IKxZnxjkqMXg4NLgJjlcm" target="_blank">Chile</a>,&nbsp;while also&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">maintaining</a>&nbsp;sales of any weapon that can be used for self‐​defense to Saudi Arabia.</p> <p>In his statement about the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Biden noted that it is time to “<a href=";source=gmail-imap&amp;ust=1619206396000000&amp;usg=AOvVaw1HmmiRApzh0GwZl_a6zekD" target="_blank">end the forever wars</a>.” But, if Biden truly wants the U.S. to reduce its footprint in the Middle East and peacefully end the war in Yemen, providing the F-35 to the UAE is a&nbsp;step in the wrong direction.</p> </div> Sat, 17 Apr 2021 10:43:01 -0400 A. Trevor Thrall, Jordan Cohen China and U.S. Should Keep Competition Peaceful <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Bilateral relations between the U.S. and China got off to a&nbsp;rocky start in Anchorage. What amounted to a&nbsp;diplomatic food fight illustrates the challenge to come. Even if the diplomats were posturing for home audiences, the fact they felt the need to do so demonstrated the widespread suspicion and hostility on both sides.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>However, President Joe Biden pointed to a&nbsp;way forward at his first press conference, when he warned of “stiff competition with China.” He observed: “China has an overall goal, and I&nbsp;don’t criticize them for the goal, but they have an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world and the most powerful country in the world. That’s not going to happen on my watch, because the United States is going to continue to grow and expand.”</p> <p>He offered a&nbsp;specific challenge, but one that is both peaceful and positive. He recognized that Beijing’s most important objectives, influence and wealth, are commonplace and not inherently objectionable. Moreover, he suggested that the U.S. can meet China’s challenge by bettering America rather than harming the People’s Republic of China.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Adopting the vision of a&nbsp;competition that can be won by being better rather than a&nbsp;conflict that would be won by hurting the other could help reset relations. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Of course, the president made these comments without addressing other, more troubling aspects of the bilateral relationship. Tensions are rising sharply over Taiwan. The U.S. recently reaffirmed its willingness to go to war to back Japan’s claim over the contested Diaoyu/​Senkaku Islands. Washington and Beijing are sanctioning officials in both nations over human rights. The U.S. is challenging the PRC’s use of economic pressure against allied states. And the Biden administration continues to dispute Beijing’s claims over the spread of COVID-19.</p> <p>Nevertheless, adopting the vision of a&nbsp;competition that can be won by being better rather than a&nbsp;conflict that would be won by hurting the other could help reset relations. Otherwise, the race to the bottom, demonstrated last year after President Donald Trump decided that his best chance for victory was campaigning against the PRC, is likely to dominate relations between the two nations.</p> <p>How to proceed? First, recognize that trade and investment benefit both sides. The challenge, then, is to set reasonable rules of the game. Focusing on arbitrary results, such as the trade deficit, inevitably will lead to managed trade, a&nbsp;political process certain to leave both sides worse off. The Biden administration should drop Trump’s destructive and costly tariffs and begin a&nbsp;dialogue over trade practices, investment regulation, and economic policies.</p> <p>Compromise will be necessary but should be possible. Of course, politics will need to be accommodated. Both governments are promoting decoupling. Yet, full commercial disengagement would be foolish and risky. Indeed, the U.S. discovered the problems of domestic supply chains when the Texas ice storms took American chip factories and chemical plants offline. A&nbsp;better objective would be diversification, more fully rationalizing economic links. The two governments should discuss strategies to productively cooperate, including in critical areas, despite growing popular distrust.</p> <p>Similar negotiations are needed over IP protection and commercial cyberespionage. Countries will spy on one another, but the Obama administration reached an accord with the PRC barring cyberattacks for profit, which reportedly, was respected for some time. This is another area in which tough bargaining and a&nbsp;U.S. commitment to monitoring and enforcement might resolve an important area of contention. There will be no perfect solutions, but even narrowing areas of discord would reduce threats of confrontation and retaliation and preserve cooperation elsewhere.</p> <p>Human rights will inevitably remain an area of sharp disagreement. Few in America can simply ignore the Chinese government’s recent crackdowns, particularly in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. However, it might be possible to lower political passions if both sides acknowledged, without necessarily accepting, the underlying concerns of the other. That is, Beijing believes that terrorism and secession threaten in varying degrees in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong. The U.S. is committed to protecting basic human rights, viewed as inherent to every person and necessary for a&nbsp;just society.</p> <p>The U.S. and China should establish a&nbsp;dialogue over how to simultaneously address both issues. That is, how might the PRC provide for security without so harshly restricting the rights of the Chinese people? Admittedly, Beijing is unlikely to back down and reaching agreement would be difficult and perhaps impossible. However, neither side is likely to abandon its stance. The current dispute is deadlocked and only likely to worsen. Diplomacy offers the possibility of compromise. China could drop or adjust some practices while pursuing the same basic ends. And Washington could defuse some controversies and drop some sanctions.</p> <p>Security issues may be the most difficult since all governments are reluctant to make concessions over issues related to national security. And when two major powers clash over contested interests in the same geographic area, the potential for conflict rises greatly. Which makes it even more important for Washington and Beijing to have serious diplomatic conversations about these matters.</p> <p>One objective would be to simply communicate concerns, interests, and red lines. Obviously, posturing would be inevitable. Nevertheless, such discussions could yield valuable information on intensity and rank of interests. Surprises are particularly unwelcome and dangerous when parties are facing off militarily.</p> <p>Equally important, officials should discuss possible compromises and modus vivendis. For instance, perhaps fewer U.S. “freedom of navigation operations” in return for a&nbsp;Chinese affirmation of navigational freedom in contested waters. Perhaps a&nbsp;U.S. commitment not to base forces in Taiwan, and a&nbsp;Taiwanese promise to ease efforts to gain greater acceptance of its separate existence in exchange for Beijing pulling back missiles and dropping efforts at intimidation. Perhaps regional development initiatives for contested islands and waters with sovereignty claims set aside for future decision.</p> <p>While it would be naïve to imagine the threatening U.S.-China imbroglio becoming merely a&nbsp;matter of economic competition, thinking more of competition than confrontation provides a&nbsp;possible template for de‐​escalating relations. The relationship is complex and could become much more difficult, even volatile, in coming years. However, it is vital for both nations, as well as the rest of Asia and beyond, that Washington and Beijing avoid conflict. Multiple serious negotiations could create firebreaks to war and push both countries toward cooperation rather than confrontation. Success would yield a&nbsp;very different world and century.</p> </div> Sat, 17 Apr 2021 09:51:29 -0400 Doug Bandow Don’t Sell Arms to the Philippines <p><a href="" hreflang="und">A. Trevor Thrall</a> and <span class="text-semibold">Jordan Cohen</span></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Given its location in the South China Sea and its utility as a&nbsp;place to station American forces, the Philippines has long been able to count on American military support as a&nbsp;deterrent to antagonism from China. Historically, this support has included a&nbsp;steady flow of arms transfers.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Since 2002, the United States has sold the Philippines&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">nearly $900 million</a>&nbsp;in weapons and provided&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">over $1.3 billion</a>&nbsp;in security assistance. In February 2021, the Philippines said it would move ahead on a&nbsp;purchase of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">15 Black Hawk helicopters</a>.</p> <p>Selling weapons to countries like the Philippines that have disastrous human rights records and chaotic leadership, however, is a&nbsp;recipe for disaster. Neither the helicopter sales nor most of the previous arms sales have any utility for deterring Chinese aggression. Continuing American arms sales to the Philippines, in fact, is both bad for the Philippines and dangerous for the United States.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>There are nearly 2&nbsp;million unregistered firearms in the country, which has in turn fueled a&nbsp;vigorous black market and amplified the problems of gun violence and vigilantism in the Philippines. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The most obvious downside of arming the Duterte government is that the regime is actively using American firepower to kill and imprison its own people. In 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte told a&nbsp;televised audience that citizens had his support if they wanted to kill drug dealers themselves,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">telling them</a>: “Shoot him and I’ll give you a&nbsp;medal.”</p> <p>Since then, as Amnesty International&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">noted</a>&nbsp;recently, thousands of civilians have been executed in extrajudicial killings by the Philippine police and military in Duterte’s “War on Drugs,” many of whom are armed with American handguns, machine guns, and semiautomatic rifles. Duterte has also used a&nbsp;strong police force backed by recent weapons deliveries in combination with a&nbsp;COVID-19 lockdown to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">execute and arrest</a>&nbsp;over 30,000 people who oppose the regime.</p> <p>None of these horrors should have come as any surprise. The Philippines has long had a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">terrible human rights record</a>, and it has only gotten worse under Duterte. Sadly, despite occasional attempts to halt arms sales to the Philippines, the country remains one of the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">top five</a>&nbsp;recipients of American handguns. There are nearly 2&nbsp;million unregistered firearms in the country, which has in turn fueled a&nbsp;vigorous black market and amplified the problems of gun violence and vigilantism in the Philippines.</p> <p>From an American strategic perspective, there is no positive payoff from fueling the Philippines’ internal conflicts. None of these small arms sales or Black Hawk helicopters have any deterrent value when it comes to China. Instead, Duterte will likely put this weaponry to use in his draconian counterinsurgency campaign, which has already displaced over 450,000 civilians on the island of Mindanao.</p> <p>American arms sales, on the other hand, do raise the prospects for a&nbsp;deadly conflict by turning the Philippines into an overconfident ally. In early April, China sent 30 of its naval ships into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in an act clearly designed to intimidate. In response, the United States reaffirmed its commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty and began its annual two‐​week military drill with Manilla.</p> <p>U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price reinforced the message publicly,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">telling reporters</a>&nbsp;that “an armed attack against the Philippines’s armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific, including the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.”</p> <p>The strong American response has in turn emboldened the Philippines, which has&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">called for more weapons transfers</a>&nbsp;in the event of any Chinese aggression and has made it clear that its primary strategy to resist China is to get America to do the work.</p> <p>Philippine Defense Department spokesman Arsenio Andolong&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">said</a>&nbsp;that “as the situation [in the South China Sea] evolves, we keep all our options open in managing the situation, including leveraging our partnerships with other nations such as the United States.”</p> <p>Back in 1951, when the United States signed the Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines, the risk of making a&nbsp;commitment to the Philippines was quite low. China was a&nbsp;poor country, recovering from World War II and its own civil war. It simply did not matter whether China felt threatened by Washington’s support for Manila. Today, however, China is confident, well armed and extremely sensitive — as all superpowers are — about how things go in their near abroad.</p> <p>The last thing the United States needs is for the Philippines to provoke a&nbsp;conflict with China thinking that the United States will step in to save them.</p> <p>Though the United States clearly needs a&nbsp;strategy for dealing with China, attempting to counter China’s regional strength by depending on unstable countries like the Philippines should not be part of it. Arms sales to the Philippines do little to deter China while raising the risk of entangling the United States in a&nbsp;war that would not be worth the costs. Ending those arms sales would not only lower the prospects of conflict — it would also end American complicity with the violence and abuses of the Duterte regime.</p> </div> Fri, 16 Apr 2021 15:39:38 -0400 A. Trevor Thrall, Jordan Cohen It’s Full of Contradictions <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Chris Edwards</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Washington is on a&nbsp;spending spree. President Trump approved $3 trillion in pandemic relief last year, and President Biden approved another $1.9 trillion in March. All this spending has gone on the national credit card, which has an accumulated balance of $22 trillion, or $172,000 for every household in the nation.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Biden is now proposing another $2 trillion in spending, this time for infrastructure. He apparently recognizes that we can’t borrow‐​and‐​spend forever, so his plan is financed by a&nbsp;massive corporate tax increase rather than debt. Nonetheless, his plan makes no sense because of three major contradictions.</p> <p>The first is that Biden’s corporate tax increase would undermine America’s infrastructure because most of it is owned by the private sector, such as the broadband network and the electric grid. While Biden would subsidize broadband by $100 billion, the electric grid by $100 billion, manufacturing by $300 billion, and electric vehicles by $174 billion, corporations in those industries would slash their own investment in the face of Biden’s large tax hike. It would be a&nbsp;wasteful circular flow of cash from corporations to Washington in higher taxes, and then back to politically favored corporations in subsidies.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Biden’s plan is supposed to help mitigate climate change, but the green way to fund infrastructure is through user charges that restrain consumer demand. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>That raises the second contradiction. During the presidential campaign, Biden said “we do not reward corporations, we reward individuals,” and he complained that Trump’s “strategy is trickle‐​down economics that works for corporate executives and Wall Street investors, but not working families.” But Biden’s own plan features trickle‐​down corporate subsidies.</p> <p>All the subsidies would create a&nbsp;third contradiction. Biden’s plan is supposed to help mitigate climate change, but the green way to fund infrastructure is through user charges that restrain consumer demand. Gas taxes restrain automobile use; water charges restrain water use; and airport charges restrain airport use. But Biden’s plan includes large new subsidies for automobiles, water systems, airports, and other facilities — all funded by income taxes, not by pro‐​environment user charges.</p> <p>Biden’s infrastructure plan is a&nbsp;bad solution looking for a&nbsp;problem. The private sector is already investing billions of dollars in infrastructure favored by the president, such as electric vehicles, broadband and the electric grid. Many states have raised their own gas taxes in recent years to invest more in highways. The nation does not need a&nbsp;big new spending plan from Washington, especially one funded by infrastructure‐​killing corporate tax increases.</p> </div> Fri, 16 Apr 2021 08:47:30 -0400 Chris Edwards Meaningless Gun Control Efforts <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Trevor Burrus</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Recent tragic shootings in Atlanta and Boulder have led to a&nbsp;new round of executive orders from the Biden administration. Part of those orders will focus on home gun manufacture — so‐​called “ghost guns.”&nbsp;The problem is, those guns are not a&nbsp;meaningful source of weapons that are used for criminal activity.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The fact that someone can manufacture an “assault weapon” may scare some, but assault weapons are used in a&nbsp;tiny percentage of crimes per year compared to other guns. Nevertheless, they get all the headlines.&nbsp;This is unfortunately how gun politics plays out in America: a&nbsp;tragic shooting leads lawmakers to focus on the weapon that was used, invariably described as a “uniquely dangerous weapon of war.”</p> <p>A shooting in white, wealthy, and suburban Boulder understandably attracts the attention of pundits, reporters, and politicians who probably reside in similar areas. In between such tragedies, however, handguns kill thousands of people per year — about 30 times more than “assault weapons” — and in ways that garner far less attention: mostly inner‐​city gun violence and suicides by middle‐​aged men. But we invariably focus on “assault weapons,” the guns that are used in the shocking spree killings that occur in otherwise extremely safe locations.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Anyone who fears they may be a&nbsp;target for gun violence or wants to commit violence themselves is much more likely to hide a&nbsp;handgun in a&nbsp;pocket or in his waistband. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Meanwhile, in Chicago during one weekend at the end of February,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">27 were shot, 6&nbsp;fatally.</a> And while we don’t have the full data, it’s very likely that a&nbsp;handgun was used in every instance.</p> <p>There is no agreed upon definition of “assault weapon,” but proposed bans, like the federal ban from 1994–2004, usually focus on a&nbsp;few cosmetic features of some semi‐​automatic rifles. Whatever the definition, they are still rifles, and rifles are used in comparatively few murders — <a href="" target="_blank">between 300 and 400</a>&nbsp;over the last few years, according to data covering from 2015 to 2019. That makes sense as rifles are difficult to conceal and often more expensive. Anyone who fears they may be a&nbsp;target for gun violence or wants to commit violence themselves is much more likely to hide a&nbsp;handgun in a&nbsp;pocket or in his waistband. Consequently, handguns are usually used in around&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">6,500 homicides</a>&nbsp;per year.</p> <p>Among homicide victims, more than half are young men, and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">more than two‐​thirds of those are Black</a>.</p> <p>But two‐​thirds of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">gun deaths in this country</a>&nbsp;are suicides, and men kill themselves about three times more often than women and with guns roughly&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">seven times more often</a>. In suicides, while we don’t have comprehensive data, handguns are used far more often than other types, if only because it can be physically difficult to use a&nbsp;long gun on oneself. When it comes to teenagers, while every school shooting with an “assault weapon” is a&nbsp;tragedy, schools are still very <a href="" target="_blank">safe places</a>&nbsp;for children to be. A&nbsp;student is fourteen more times likely to commit suicide with a&nbsp;gun than be shot at school.&nbsp;</p> <p>In short, gun deaths in America are primarily young Black men who are victims of homicides and men between 25–64 who commit suicide. Almost all of this death comes from handguns, yet questions about “assault weapons” and what guns scare Diane Feinstein are pushed to the fore. We debate onerous and nearly impossible to implement “high‐​capacity” magazine restrictions that will have no effect on suicides — it only takes one bullet after all — <a href="" target="_blank">or crime</a>.</p> <p>What we tend not to do, however, is discuss policies that will make a&nbsp;meaningful impact in the number of gun deaths in America. And those policy proposals need to look beyond guns. We need to first acknowledge that America is saturated with guns, and that’s not realistically changing soon. If half of all guns in the country were eliminated, we’d still have 150–200 million guns in private hands.</p> <p>But if we look beyond this performative and ineffective focus on gun laws, there are changes that would dramatically impact gun deaths. First, there is ending the war on drugs, which has failed and been a&nbsp;disaster by every conceivable metric. While ending the drug war wouldn’t end street gangs, it would significantly cut back on their reach and the activities that make them profitable. More importantly, the drug war has devastated inner cities by causing havoc in schools, families, and communities. It will take a&nbsp;long time to recover but stopping the madness of drug prohibition is a&nbsp;necessary first step.</p> <p>For suicides, unfortunately, crafting effective policies is more difficult. Whereas guns rarely “cause” crime — in the sense that a&nbsp;would‐​be criminal only decides to commit a&nbsp;crime after he acquires a&nbsp;gun — guns can more directly&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">“cause” a&nbsp;suicide</a>. The ready availability of a&nbsp;gun, often mixed with substance abuse, can turn a&nbsp;split‐​second decision into a&nbsp;fatal one.</p> <p>But suicides are mostly not split‐​second decisions, and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">in one study </a>&nbsp;38 percent made a&nbsp;health care visit a&nbsp;week before a&nbsp;suicide attempt and 64 percent made a&nbsp;visit a&nbsp;month before. Some have proposed that doctors should inquire into whether there are guns in the house and possibly report to the authorities. Yet this could dissuade many from seeking help. Finding the balance between helping and scaring away potential gun‐​suicide victims will not be easy. But we do know that offering compassionate help and support is usually the most effective way to avert these tragedies, and for good reason that is where suicide prevention experts and organizations focus their efforts.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ultimately, however, if we’re not focusing the homicides of young black men and male suicide, we’re not seriously addressing gun deaths in America. Mass shooters get the attention, but the biggest issues are behind the headlines.</p> </div> Thu, 15 Apr 2021 12:56:37 -0400 Trevor Burrus What Led to Our Worst Pandemic Errors? In Many Cases, Faulty Economic Thinking <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ryan Bourne</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Retrospectives on the U.S.’s COVID-19 failures are soon to be written. Misguided decisions and the individuals who made them will take center stage. A&nbsp;good analysis, though, might step back and ask: What fundamental errors of thinking lay behind the most egregious mistakes?</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Looking back, it’s clear a&nbsp;lot of the worst public health decisions were themselves underpinned by faulty&nbsp;<em>economic</em>&nbsp;analysis, implicit or explicit. The most consequential were driven by failures to accurately define the reality that would exist in the absence of the policy, so miscalculating the balance of its costs (or risks) and benefits.</p> <p>Our “original sin” was the lack of early diagnostic testing for COVID-19. The FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization rules delayed the approval of new tests here and the importing of tests from abroad. Why?&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Commissioner Stephen Hahn</a>, then head of the FDA, claimed there was a&nbsp;trade‐​off between assessing test quality and timeliness.</p> <p>In public health terms, though, having more tests sooner, even if some were less sensitive, was clearly preferable to having barely any tests at all. With a&nbsp;virus that spreads pre‐​symptomatically and asymptomatically, identifying the infected and their contacts was crucial. The risks associated with greenlighting less accurate tests relative to scarcely any tests were therefore tiny. The benefits of catching more of the infected through broader testing availability, especially when cases were growing exponentially, were large.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Regulators frequently flunked basic risk‐​benefit analysis. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The ironic result was worse information for public health officials, as more infected people went about their lives without knowing they were carriers. With so many infections spreading undetected, the option of adopting a&nbsp;South Korea‐​style test‐​and‐​trace regime—a framework that has coincided with 35 deaths per million to date there, against 1,736 here—was dead on arrival. As a&nbsp;result of these failures, all of us were then forced to live our lives as if all our contacts were potentially COVID-19 positive.</p> <p>Did we learn from this error? Cheap, at‐​home rapid tests have only recently been approved, despite being a&nbsp;clear improvement on people “seeing how they feel” or waiting until symptoms necessitate a&nbsp;PCR test, with results taking days to return. Yet for many months the FDA failed to approve such at‐​home tests because they judged them as a&nbsp;diagnostic tool—and hence one required to have PCR test‐​like accuracy—rather than as an additional screening device that could reduce the virus’s transmission rate by informing more infected people they should isolate sooner.</p> <p>This regulatory model, in other words, delayed a&nbsp;technology that would have reduced the transmission rate over the community—with barely any downside—by judging it against the accuracy of more expensive, slower PCR tests, but without considering cheap rapid tests’ benefits of speed and cost. As a&nbsp;result, Americans forwent the potential for a&nbsp;smarter reopening, one with more “normal” activity undertaken at lower risk as people took tests regularly at home or at their work.</p> <p>Though the vaccination program is now accelerating, erroneous risk‐​benefit analyses have dominated vaccine policy, too. Donald Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers reckoned the pandemic was costing Americans up to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">$20 billion per week</a>&nbsp;in lost output and the value of lost lives before vaccines were rolled out, even before considering the impacts on liberties. Any measure that could speed up vaccine‐​acquired herd immunity by even a&nbsp;month would therefore have produced hundreds of billions of value.</p> <p>Yet, as Nobel Prize winner&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Paul Romer has bemoaned</a>, Congress focused heavily on funding economic relief to “boost demand” and under‐​focused on the more lucrative cause of using further incentives beyond Operation Warp Speed to speed up vaccine production. As George Mason University’s&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Alex Tabarrok has argued</a>&nbsp;as well, we ignored the potential of human challenge vaccine trials, whereby volunteers would be offered payment to be deliberately infected with the virus to test vaccine efficacies more quickly. The potential&nbsp;trials could have been restricted to the young and healthy to keep health risks to participants low. But the potential social benefits of speeding up the end of this pandemic were, again, massive.</p> <p>U.S. regulators have forgone millions of additional vaccine shots in American arms already by insisting AstraZeneca deliver an additional U.S. clinical trial for its vaccine, due to concerns over the company’s original trial data. Given economists estimate the value of mitigating the statistical likelihood of any given death at between $1 million and $10 million (depending on whether you control for age), it’s difficult to see what marginal benefit the new trial elicited which overcame this massive marginal cost for each life lost as a&nbsp;result of vaccine delay.</p> <p>This week, of course, the FDA and CDC recommended pausing use of the Johnson &amp;&nbsp;Johnson vaccine out of an “abundance of caution” over the risk of blood clots. But that advice, already acted upon in some states, itself potentially brings worse societal risks associated with more people catching and dying of COVID-19, absent the protections afforded by vaccination. It was as if regulators, informed that several young women had been killed by electric scooters on sidewalks, had closed those sidewalks, instead allowing thousands of people instead to walk in the middle of the road.</p> <p>Misanalysing costs and benefits, sadly, is just the tip of the iceberg for economic errors that have compounded our pandemic pain. Whether it be wrongly thinking of important product markets (especially masks) as zero‐​sum, failing to sufficiently consider incentives, ignoring the fact that people alter their behavior when risks are changed by policy, or failing to think about how lockdowns and regulations interact with one another, mistakes in economic reasoning have made this pandemic cost more in lost lives, output, and liberties than was necessary.</p> <p>Yes, devising policy in the heat of an emergency was always going to be a&nbsp;breeding ground for mistakes. In a&nbsp;crisis with costs as high as this, experimentation is necessary. When we evaluate our failures, however, it’s no good just identifying poor individual decisions or culpable villains. To truly learn from the pandemic, we need to understand why the faulty economic instincts underpinning those choices have been so entrenched.</p> </div> Thu, 15 Apr 2021 11:58:58 -0400 Ryan Bourne Should We Go to War for Taiwan? <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Last month, Admiral Philip S. Davidson, commander of U.S. Indo‐​Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Taiwan is one of China’s targets and “the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact, in the next six years.”&nbsp;Some observers, noting increased Chinese military action, believe a&nbsp;crisis could come even sooner.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>What would the U.S. do? Washington’s policy of “strategic ambiguity” dictates no answer. When asked about the issue, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded: “Our position on Taiwan remains clear. We will stand with friends and allies to advance our shared prosperity, security, and values in the Indo‐​Pacific region,” whatever that means.</p> <p>The American people deserve to know what they might be expected to die for. Washington is filled with people who believe that being a&nbsp;superpower means never having to limit one’s ambitions, consider the actions of other nations, or fear the consequences of military interventions. Yet the impact of war over Taiwan would be disastrous.</p> <p>By any normal measure, the Republic of China, its official name, is an independent country. However, the island of Formosa, plus some much smaller possessions, is claimed by China. And the ROC is recognized by only 14 small countries. Most nations, including the U.S., accept Beijing’s “one China” policy while maintaining an unofficial relationship with Taiwan focused on trade.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>The American people need a&nbsp;debate now, before a&nbsp;crisis arrives </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The island was detached from imperial China by Japan in 1890, recovered by the ROC in 1945 at the end of World War II, and separated again by the retreating Nationalists in 1949. For years, the U.S. recognized the ROC located on Taiwan as the legitimate government of all China.</p> <p>That began to change with President Richard Nixon’s trip to the People’s Republic of China in 1972. President Jimmy Carter completed the process on January 1, 1979, establishing formal diplomatic ties with the PRC.</p> <p>Chinese speak of the “century of humiliation” during which various European powers, Japan, and the U.S. forced the once great empire to surrender (or “lease”) territory. Taiwan is the final significant “Chinese” territory which remains separated from the mainland. The PRC long lacked the ability to conquer the island, but the military balance is shifting strongly toward the mainland.</p> <p>Beijing once assumed that the Taiwanese people would choose to come “home” to the growing colossus. However, the increasingly authoritarian superstate holds ever less appeal to residents of the small, vibrant capitalist democracy.</p> <p>Last year 83 percent of the population said it viewed itself as Taiwanese; 78 percent of people said they would resist a&nbsp;Chinese invasion. Taiwan’s people ranked trust in China at two on a&nbsp;scale of zero to 10. Younger Taiwanese were skeptical of even economic ties with the PRC. Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong destroyed any illusions that any Taiwanese might once have had about “one country, two systems.”</p> <p>Which means the possibility of peaceful reunification has disappeared.</p> <p>Relations between Taiwan and the mainland deteriorated after President Tsai Ing-wen’s election in 2016, since her Democratic Progressive Party long has been inclined toward independence. The PRC refused to have any contact with her government and worked to deny Taiwan membership in and even recognition by international organizations, convince governments to switch diplomatic recognitions from Taipei to Beijing, and intensify military pressure on Taiwan.</p> <p>What should Washington do?</p> <p>Under “strategic ambiguity” no one is sure how this or any future administration would react to an attempt to coerce Taipei. The theory is that Taiwan can’t take U.S. support as a&nbsp;given and therefore won’t do anything reckless. And that China can’t be sure that America wouldn’t send in the cavalry and therefore won’t take any chances.</p> <p>Yet current uncertainty is more likely to run the other way. Taiwanese officials have told me that they expect American support even if their behavior, such as a&nbsp;declaration of independence, triggered Chinese action. And Beijing officials consistently express skepticism that Washington would act against its own interest, risking, as one Chinese general put it, Los Angeles for Taipei.</p> <p>However, as PRC ambitions have expanded, military power has increased, and human rights have worsened, Washington opinion against China and for Taiwan has hardened. Elbridge Colby, a&nbsp;Trump DOD official, opined: “We just need China to understand that we would come to Taiwan’s defense.” Even reliably left‐​wing Barney Frank, a&nbsp;former Democratic congressman, recently wrote that the U.S. should “resolve now that we will commit our full military force to helping Taiwan repel a&nbsp;Chinese invasion.”</p> <p>Support for dropping ambiguity has correspondingly increased. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, along with David Sacks, also at the Council, last year argued that “The time has come for the United States to introduce a&nbsp;policy of strategic clarity: one that makes explicit that the United States would respond to any Chinese use of force against Taiwan.” Author Francis P. Sempa contended that the U.S. should “make it unmistakably clear to China that we will defend Taiwan if China attacks.”&nbsp;Even Adm. Davidson argued that strategic ambiguity “should be reconsidered.”</p> <p>This is not a&nbsp;debate for the faint‐​hearted. Beijing calls Taipei’s status an internal affair, in which the U.S. plays no legitimate role. Top Chinese officials indicate that their willingness to wait to resolve the issue is diminishing. For the PRC, Taiwan’s status is a&nbsp;likely casus belli.</p> <p>Last year, Chinese&nbsp;Premier Li Keqiang said that Beijing would&nbsp;“resolutely oppose and deter any separatist activities seeking Taiwan independence.” More explicit were remarks by&nbsp;Li Zuocheng, Joint Staff Department chief and Central Military Commission member: “If the possibility for peaceful reunification is lost, the people’s armed forces will, with the whole nation, including the people of Taiwan, take all necessary steps to resolutely smash any separatist plots or actions.”&nbsp;Blunter still was Wu Qian, spokesman for China’s Defense Ministry, who recently allowed that “Taiwan independence means war.”</p> <p>The common presumption of the usual suspects in Washington is that the U.S. need only express its resolve and the PRC will slink away, never to be heard from again. Consider&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the comments of former defense secretary and CIA director Leon Panetta</a>: “We’re not going to allow China to invade Taiwan, and to undermine their independence” and “you cannot militarize these islands in the South China Sea, you cannot violate international laws with regards to freedom of the seas, we’re not going to allow you to do that.” Might the result be war? No, he explained: “I think frankly if China understands that we’re serious about that, China’s not going to do that. They may be a&nbsp;lot of things, they’re not dumb. They’ve got to get that signal that the United States is a&nbsp;player in the Pacific, that we are a&nbsp;power in the Pacific.”</p> <p>These presumptions are common but dangerous, and not because the Chinese are dumb.</p> <p>First, they reasonably believe the U.S. is bluffing. Look at a&nbsp;map. Geographically, Taiwan is to the U.S. like Cuba is to China. In Beijing’s view, Washington can’t seriously claim that Taiwan is an important security interest. Propinquity alone suggests that who rules Taipei is more likely to be vital for China than America.</p> <p>Second, however much some Americans feel for Taiwan, a&nbsp;great power just 100&nbsp;miles away from the island cares even more. The U.S. foolishly engaged in endless Third World wars without catastrophic risk. America can’t do the same against nations with serious militaries, including nuclear weapons. Hence the Chinese jibe that the U.S. won’t risk nuclear war over Taiwan. No rational nation would.</p> <p>Third, if war comes, the PRC has a&nbsp;good chance of winning. Not threatening or occupying America, which wouldn’t be at issue, but thwarting a&nbsp;U.S. attempt to prevent Chinese coercion or conquest of Taiwan, in whole or in part. The tyranny of distance favors deterrence over power projection. China can rely on mainland bases while America’s allies, despite blustery rhetoric today, would be reluctant to become instant targets and permanent enemies of the PRC by aiding U.S. forces.</p> <p>In this case American strikes on the mainland would be inevitable, which would guarantee retaliation and escalation. Indeed,&nbsp;in 2005 Gen.&nbsp;Zhu Chenghu warned: “If the Americans draw their missiles and precision‐​guided ammunition on to the target zone on China’s territory, I&nbsp;think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons.”</p> <p>Even defeat would probably build popular support in China to double down and prepare for the next attempt, when the U.S. likely would be more beleaguered economically, enfeebled by debt, and focused on its own problems. MIT’s Barry Posen noted: “The U.S. commitment to Taiwan is simultaneously the most perilous and least strategically necessary commitment that the United States has today.”</p> <p>What could justify such a&nbsp;risk? Taiwan is a&nbsp;good friend but is not a&nbsp;serious security interest for America.&nbsp;Sen. Josh Hawley called the island “the lynchpin of a&nbsp;free and open Indo‐​Pacific,” yet the Chinese navy is active and aggressive even now. The Stimson Center’s James Loomis was even more extravagant in his claim: Taiwan is&nbsp;increasingly the “lynchpin” of Washington’s “overall strategy to contain China’s hegemonic ambitions.” That objective alone makes conflict much more likely. The island might look like a&nbsp;great base in peacetime. However, in war there would be no more vulnerable target than land so close to China.</p> <p>Although&nbsp;Taiwan’s friendship might advance U.S. influence in East Asia, that doesn’t make an island 7,600&nbsp;miles from America worth war. In 2018, Rep. Michael McCaul said the Taiwanese “stand for freedom and democracy in the region.” They do, but that’s not a&nbsp;good reason for going to war anywhere, especially against a&nbsp;major power, which happens to possess nuclear weapons and has genuinely vital interests at stake.</p> <p>Moreover, it will become ever more difficult for the U.S. to defend Taiwan. The U.S. is essentially bankrupt. The deficit already was running $1 trillion annually before COVID-19 hit. The pandemic will ultimately add as much as $16 trillion in debt, which already exceeds 100 percent of GDP. With the baby boomer generation continuing to retire, the latter number, according to the Congressional Budget Office, is likely to hit 200 percent by 2050.</p> <p>These numbers do not even count the Biden administration’s spending plans for everything from infrastructure to education, health care, and more. Are Americans prepared to spend tens or hundreds of billions of dollars annually—it costs far more to project military force than to deter its use, especially halfway around the world against a&nbsp;serious power—to effectively support just Taiwan?</p> <p>Before the Biden administration commits the U.S. to war with China over Taipei, the American people should have a&nbsp;serious conversation about the issue. Loomis admitted: “Any sustained military action taken to defend Taiwan will require the domestic support of the American public.”&nbsp;The promise might be more costly than anyone imagines. Just what is worth war, and how much?</p> <p>Instead, Washington should be developing alternatives: e.g., providing Taipei with weapons to create its own deterrent, sufficiently robust to deny China the certainty that it would desire before attacking; bringing together Asian and European nations to warn of the grievous diplomatic and economic consequences of aggression against Taiwan; and looking for a&nbsp;peaceful modus vivendi, perhaps one that trades China dropping threats of military action in return for America’s assurance not to forge a&nbsp;military relationship with Taipei and Taiwan’s agreement to drop its campaign to achieve a&nbsp;larger, separate international existence.</p> <p>U.S. officials hand out security commitments rather like hotels set chocolates on pillows, free for anyone who asks. But a&nbsp;promise to go to war is serious, especially when directed against a&nbsp;nuclear‐​armed adversary. Taiwan deserves to be independent. But a&nbsp;war with China is too high a&nbsp;price for Americans to pay.</p> </div> Thu, 15 Apr 2021 10:37:54 -0400 Doug Bandow Afghanistan Exit Is the Right Call <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>It appears that President Joe Biden is determined to make at least one good decision in his presidency: leaving Afghanistan. Unlike his predecessors, he does not plan on letting American personnel die far from home while kicking the geopolitical can down the road, hoping to shift blame for a&nbsp;failed military invasion onto his successor. An unnamed aide explained to the&nbsp;<em>Washington Post</em>, “If we break the May 1st deadline negotiated by the previous administration with no clear plan to exit, we will be back at war with the Taliban, and that was not something President Biden believed was in the national interest.”</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>After 9/11, President George W. Bush acted rightly to destroy al‐​Qaeda for killing thousands of Americans and oust the Taliban for hosting the terrorist group. This necessary and proper use of military force quickly succeeded. Indeed, Osama bin Laden might have been captured or killed in the fight over Tora Bora in December 2001 had the administration not even then been shifting attention and resources to prepare for it disastrous Iraqi misadventure.</p> <p>Unfortunately, Bush then made a&nbsp;common mistake, engaging in mission gallop. He radically transformed America’s presence from killing enemies to nation‐​building, social reconstruction, democracy expansion, and progress promotion. The result has been a&nbsp;disaster.</p> <p>Afghanistan is a&nbsp;wreck and a&nbsp;failed state. The national government’s writ extends only tenuously beyond Kabul in a&nbsp;country always governed in the valley and village. After two decades, the bulk of the security forces remain incapable, inefficient, or absent, unable to defend the Afghan regime. Expensive but failed development projects litter the land. Corruption drained public finances, looted aid, and created a&nbsp;class of nouveau riche living in garish “poppy palaces” in Kabul with families and bank accounts secured overseas. Opium production undergirds the rural economy and insurgent activity. The Taliban controls or contests almost half of the country, with the government steadily weakening.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>The U.S. spent much treasure and sacrificed many lives in a&nbsp;heroic effort to transform Afghanistan into a&nbsp;stable modern state. That campaign failed. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Even the streets of Kabul, the capital city, on which I&nbsp;traveled safely a&nbsp;decade ago, are no longer secure.</p> <p>All this despite combat support from allied forces ranging up to 140,000. For two decades. That’s longer than the Mexican–American War, Civil War, Spanish–American War, World War I, World War II, and Korean War combined — and with no end in sight.</p> <p>Absent a&nbsp;U.S. troop withdrawal — the ongoing negotiations with the Taliban are best seen as useful cover for getting out — Americans could spend another 20&nbsp;years dying as presidents keep pushing the tough decision to their successors. Washington is long overdue in ending another doomed nation‐​building attempt to install a&nbsp;never‐​before‐​tried system of centralized governance and liberal democracy.</p> <p>None of the common objections to departing make sense. One is that the U.S. is finally at the point when the stars have aligned and a&nbsp;bountiful future for Afghanistan is within reach. Sticking around just a&nbsp;little longer will unlock the dream as former enemies, however reluctantly, join hands. In contrast, leaving, as in Iraq, would toss away this opportunity and risk America’s forced return in the future.</p> <p>Yet assuming success to be just a&nbsp;short time away is a&nbsp;pipe dream, repeated by every U.S. administration, allied military commander, and Afghan apparatchik. Even some advocates now exhibit doubt. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., co‐​chair of the Afghanistan Study Group and one of the debacle’s many architects as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">recently opined</a>, “If we take advantage of the opportunity we have right now then there is at least a&nbsp;prospect of achieving that end state [a U.S.-friendly outcome] even as we recognize how difficult it will be.” That’s it? There is “at least a&nbsp;prospect of achieving” a&nbsp;positive outcome? That is the justification for tossing away more cash and lives, potentially forever?</p> <p>This presumes that sticking around — about 3,500 Americans and 7,000 Europeans are still in Afghanistan — would be simple and cheap. U.S. casualties are way down because the few troops there do little fighting and the Taliban did not target them during negotiations. Break the agreement reached by the Trump administration and all bets would be off: U.S. forces likely would be at the top of the target list in an attempt to drive them out. Yet 3,500 personnel aren’t likely to achieve what 100,000 Americans a&nbsp;decade ago were unable to do.</p> <p>Nor was America’s departure from Iraq discretionary. President George W. Bush was unable to convince the Iraqi parliament to approve a&nbsp;status of forces agreement, necessary for any continuing U.S. military presence. And a&nbsp;small force could have done little to prevent larger social collapse without being placed in combat, which would have turned Americans into targets. Indeed, ousting America’s garrison was a&nbsp;shared objective of nationalistic Shia and antagonistic Sunnis alike.</p> <p>Another claim is that America has invested too much to quit: $2 trillion in cash, more than 7,000 lives (about 6,000 U.S. service members and contractors and 1,100 allied soldiers), thousands more wounded, many grievously, and enormous effort and emotion. These costs must not end up being incurred in vain. The emotion behind this argument is powerful. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez observed, “I just am concerned that after so much blood and national treasure that we don’t lose what we were seeking to achieve.”</p> <p>But this is the fallacy of the sunk cost. The money and lives are gone and cannot be returned or redeemed. The question is whether or not the endeavor is worth future costs. Afghanistan is not. The best, indeed the only, way to honor those sacrificed by a&nbsp;succession of myopic political leaders is to stop wasting more lives and money. This presumably is why the vast majority of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Afghan vets back withdrawal</a>.</p> <p>No doubt the air will filled with complaints about lost resolve, trust, and reputation. A&nbsp;couple years ago several Rand Corp. analysts warned that leaving Afghanistan in defeat “would be a&nbsp;blow to American credibility, the weakening of deterrence and the value of U.S. reassurance elsewhere.”&nbsp;Such claims were constantly tossed at Donald Trump, who&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">questioned</a>&nbsp;the bloody conventional wisdom, by insulated, pampered Blob members who sent Americans from across the country to fight and die in multiple endless wars that damaged rather than advanced U.S. security.</p> <p>The problem is not that America failed, however — the U.S. quickly dispersed al‐​Qaeda and ousted the Taliban — but that Washington unrealistically expanded its objectives. Moreover, the belief that America must sustain every stupid, peripheral undertaking lest adversaries believe Washington will not keep serious, central ones ignores history and reality. No country can be forever bound by zombie commitments.</p> <p>The U.S. has always “cut and run” when necessary, without causing a&nbsp;global cataclysm. Washington abandoned efforts to liberate North Korea in 1950, failed six years later to back its encouragement of Hungarians to revolt against the Soviet Union, fled South Vietnam with the last Americans escaping via helicopter from atop the embassy in 1975, and dropped support for various friendly dictatorships and insurgencies over the years. None of these actions left the Soviet Union in doubt that America would defend itself or Europe. Indeed, the USSR and other nations acted similarly — the Soviets, too, left Afghanistan in humiliating defeat.</p> <p>Of course, these are all arguments against withdrawing. Inertia tends to dominate policy. What has always been must always be. Doing what we have always done seems safer than making changes. Indeed, that’s why the last three presidents pushed the problem to their successors. Let someone else make the difficult decision!</p> <p>But it is time to ask: Are there any reasons for&nbsp;<em>staying</em>? No. Not any good ones, at least.</p> <p>Imagine we were looking at Afghanistan on September 10, 2001. Who would have advocated an invasion and 20‐​year occupation? Not even the neocon cabal pushing so hard to target other nations, such as Iraq and Iran. Even for Washington’s activist war lobby, Afghanistan made no sense. And that lack of enthusiasm persisted as the Bush administration rapidly shifted troops to the conflict that they really wanted: Iraq. Afghanistan was just a&nbsp;convenient sideshow, unexpectedly dropped in their laps by Osama bin Laden’s location.</p> <p>So why invade Afghanistan? Not because it is critical for Washington to dominate Central Asia. Of course, Uncle Sam tends to think he is akin to God in the sense that he is interested if anyone anywhere is doing anything just as God is concerned if a&nbsp;sparrow falls to Earth. But while being a&nbsp;superpower means having interests all over, few are important — such as in Central Asia. It is too far from America and too close to several powerful states. What happens there is of interest to Washington, but not vitally so, and certainly not worth decades of war. In fact, China, India, Iran, Pakistan, and Russia all have reason to promote stability in Afghanistan even though they prefer the U.S. to handle the problem.</p> <p>There is also the broader call for nation‐​building as a&nbsp;positive good. For instance, Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">wrote</a>&nbsp;about</p> </div> , <blockquote> <div class="fs-lg"> <p>the undoubted risk to all of the Afghans who have risked life and limb to build a&nbsp;new country since 2001. Think of all the girls going to school, all the women in the workforce, all the brave soldiers and police officers fighting the Taliban despite heavy casualties, all the young entrepreneurs starting businesses, all the government officials trying to build a&nbsp;fragile democracy.</p> </div> </blockquote> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Yes, and there are many nations around the world in which an American invasion and occupation might be similarly seen as a&nbsp;virtuous act: South Sudan, Haiti, Burma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Venezuela, Yemen, and more. Alas, as America has learned, creating a&nbsp;modern liberal order in other countries is no easy feat. Why do Afghanistan instead of the others? And how long should the U.S. persist if the wonderful transformation promised continues to remain but a&nbsp;glint in a&nbsp;Washington policymaker’s eyes? If not 20&nbsp;years, then 40? Sixty? One hundred? Or as long as it takes? As a&nbsp;Biden aide&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">observed</a>, “The president has judged that a&nbsp;conditions‐​based approach … is a&nbsp;recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever.”</p> <p>The status of women in Afghanistan has understandably gained special attention. If that is a&nbsp;casus belli for America, however, then Washington should be bombing Riyadh, Tehran, and several other Muslim nations. There is much injustice, unfairness, and hardship around the world. The U.S. government’s chief responsibility is to its own people, to protecting them — their security, liberty, and prosperity — not acting as a&nbsp;social avenger for whatever cause happens to dominate Washington’s zeitgeist at the time.</p> <p>Nor is Afghanistan likely to end up where it was before even after the U.S. departs. Two decades of invasive international contact have changed the country. And the Taliban is unlikely to be strong enough to replicate its prior monopoly on power nationally. It might even decide that treating urban and rural rule is in its interest.</p> <p>Might leaving Afghanistan without a&nbsp;strong, friendly government in control of the entire country result in terrorists overrunning America? Trump once noted that his staff said&nbsp;that “if we don’t go there, they’re going to be fighting over here.” That fear assumes al‐​Qaeda and other groups would turn Afghanistan into a&nbsp;terrorist haven and target America.</p> <p>But the Taliban is made up of insurgents, not terrorists, and it has no interest in again suffering the wrath of the U.S. by tolerating attacks from al‐​Qaeda or anyone else. Even today much of Afghanistan is relatively uncontrolled by either the Kabul government or America, and thus it presumably could act as a “terrorist haven.”</p> <p>As could many other areas on Earth. Given the world’s size, trying to occupy every ungoverned or badly governed territory would be an impossible strategy. Off‐​shore counter‐​terrorism operations, in conjunction with other similarly minded states — in this case India, Pakistan, and even China and Russia share America’s anti‐​terrorism objectives — is the better practice.</p> <p>More important, terrorism is not tied to geography. The 9/11 plot was conceived, planned, prepared, and carried out almost entirely outside of Afghanistan. The man labeled by the 9/11 commission as the “principal architect” of that attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, rejected Osama bin Laden’s entreaties to move to Afghanistan. Bin Laden later escaped to Pakistan, where he remained active until U.S. SEALs dropped in uninvited.</p> <p>Finally, along with its strategy of killing or incapacitating its enemies, the U.S. should create fewer foes. Ending foreign bombings, occupations, and wars would help. America must stop making&nbsp;enemies faster than it kills them.</p> <p>Afghanistan is a&nbsp;tragedy by any measure. The civil war has entered its fifth decade. Withdrawal creates “awful danger,”&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">complained</a>&nbsp;<em>Washington Post</em>&nbsp;columnist David Ignatius. Perhaps. But Washington’s participation only spreads the pain and loss to Americans. The U.S. spent much treasure and sacrificed many lives in a&nbsp;heroic effort to transform Afghanistan into a&nbsp;stable modern state. That campaign failed. Now it is the time to focus on Americans’ needs.</p> </div> Thu, 15 Apr 2021 10:17:56 -0400 Doug Bandow President Joe Biden Set for Summit with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Tokyo’s boosters call Japan America’s most important ally. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe forged a&nbsp;close relationship with President Donald Trump, playing to the latter’s vanities. In response, Trump seemed to go easier on Tokyo, a&nbsp;longtime Pentagon cheap rider, than South Korea or Europe.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is due in Washington on Friday, April 16, and is sure to ask the Biden administration to do more to deter Chinese adventurism in nearby waters. He lacks his mentor Abe’s impressive pedigree and record, but President Joe Biden, having promised to “restore” America’s alliances, is likely to prove a&nbsp;soft touch. Indeed, the administration earlier gave away the store when it agreed that the Senkaku/​Diaoyu Islands, controlled by Tokyo but also claimed by Beijing, fell under the “mutual” defense treaty and that the U.S. had an “unwavering commitment” to intervene in any conflict over them.</p> <p>Alas, the obvious question, which went unasked in last month’s professed lovefest between the two nations’ foreign and defense ministers, was: why does Tokyo spend so little, barely one percent of GDP, on its military if it fears war with a&nbsp;great power rival over conflicting territorial claims? Why isn’t Japan rapidly adding more ships, planes, and missiles to deter offensive Chinese action?</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Prosperous democratic allies should take over their own defense, instead of expecting Washington’s guardianship forever. Why not start with Japan? </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Tokyo cannot argue that it is overburdened since it devotes less effort to the military than do its Asian neighbors, including even the Philippines. More important, Japan lags far behind its potential adversaries, China and North Korea. Tokyo also devotes a&nbsp;smaller share of its GDP to the military than does almost every European member of NATO. Either Japan faces no serious threats or figures America will handle its security.</p> <p>If the former, why should the US waste effort and resources on Japan’s defense? If the latter, why should overloaded Americans, who also are paying to protect several other East Asian nations, most of Europe, much of the Middle East and North Africa, and part of Central Asia, do more so Japan can do less? The current relationship makes no sense.</p> <p>To raise these issues is not to reject mutually beneficial security cooperation between the two nations. However, the seven‐​decade‐​old alliance — it is not and never has been a “mutual” relationship — discourages Tokyo from doing what every serious nation should do, provide for its defense. There were historical reasons why the American commitment and deployment originally operated like the infamous “cap in the bottle” claimed by American Lt. Gen. Harry Stackpole. However, that world has been swept away.</p> <p>It is now 76&nbsp;years after World War II, making that conflict as distant from today as it was from the Meiji Restoration. The likelihood of an imperial revival with Japan conquering its neighbors has passed into the realm of fantasy. Once fearful nations like the Philippines now ask Tokyo to do more militarily.</p> <p>Moreover, regional challenges are increasing. Both North Korea and China raise significant security concerns, but far more to nearby countries and especially Japan than America.</p> <p>The North has long‐​standing grievances against its onetime colonial masters in Tokyo, which is vulnerable to missile attack. In contrast, Pyongyang’s weapons are only deterrents to the US, since a&nbsp;first strike would result in devastating retaliation. The People’s Republic of China also has historically rooted antagonisms toward Japan. The PRC is arming against America too, but for defense in its own neighborhood. Any conflict would occur thousands of miles from America.</p> <p>Hence, Japan is at greater risk than the US and capable of doing much more on its own behalf. Tokyo should stop relying on the bankrupt republic a&nbsp;large ocean away.</p> <p>Japan is well‐​positioned to constrain Chinese aggressiveness. Even its modest military efforts have yielded a&nbsp;sizable and modern force. Despite having a&nbsp;smaller economy overall, Tokyo remains far wealthier than the PRC and diverts far less funds to internal security, i.e., repression, allowing Japan to spend substantially more than present on its armed forces. As an archipelago with no land borders Japan also is in a&nbsp;better strategic position than China. In contrast, the PRC is surrounded by countries with which it has been at war over the last century: India, Korea, Russia, and Vietnam. Tokyo could mimic China and emphasize anti‐​access/​area denial capabilities, which Beijing hopes will deter US military operations nearby.</p> <p>Moreover, Tokyo could help establish a&nbsp;collaborative network with its neighbors. In its report&nbsp;<em>Defense of Japan 2020&nbsp;</em>the Abe government noted that “a regional cooperation framework in the security realm has not been sufficiently institutionalized in the Indo‐​Pacific region.” A&nbsp;growing if informal coalition beckons.</p> <p>Australia’s attitude toward the PRC has hardened. South Korea has suffered economic reprisals by China, which continues to underwrite North Korea. Manila’s efforts to ingratiate itself with Beijing have not limited the latter’s aggressive maritime activity. Vietnam has clashed with the PRC over conflicting claims involving the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Similarly, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, while not interested in a&nbsp;formal anti‐​China alliance, share an interest in regional peace and stability.</p> <p>Significantly, India, at serious odds with the PRC over their land borders, has extended its reach into the Pacific. In a&nbsp;report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies Mitsuko Hayashi observed: “Defense ties with India have developed in the maritime sphere since the first [Japanese] participation in the multilateral Malabar exercise in the Indian Ocean in 2007 but also among the ground services, such as anti‐​terrorism exercises held in India in 2018 and 2019.”</p> <p>Of course, it is up to the Japanese people to decide how much to spend on their military. Washington will inevitably badger its allies to do more when it is tasked with defending them since the less they do means the more Americans are expected to spend, provide, and risk. The frequent result is the pitiable spectacle of US officials complaining, commanding, entreating, insisting, criticizing, exhorting, demanding, whining, insulting, and finally begging friendly governments to do more militarily&nbsp;<em>for themselves</em>. Yet any suggestion that Washington do less generates cacophonous wailing and frenetic gnashing of teeth as alliance advocates aver that America must always do more to protect other nations even if they do less themselves.</p> <p>However, there is no reason for Washington to do what Tokyo could do. The present alliance, with some 54,000 Americans stationed in Japan (unfairly concentrated in Okinawa, which the US ruled from 1945 to 1972), demonstrates the essential truth of President Donald Trump’s complaints against America’s defense dependents. His solution, however, was to shake down other states, essentially hiring out US military personnel to other countries. His opening annual bids were $5 billion and $8 billion from South Korea and Japan, respectively. That approach was a&nbsp;bust — the allies simply said no — and a&nbsp;bad idea since Americans should not be treated as the modern equivalent of mercenaries.</p> <p>Instead, Washington should announce that it plans to shift defense responsibilities to capable partners. Which means Tokyo should forthrightly confront its China challenge. So far the PRC’s ambitions appear bounded: reclaiming territory once seized by avaricious neighbors and colonial powers. That could change, of course. However, as noted earlier, Japan is well able to deter Chinese aggression.</p> <p>Moreover, Washington still could backstop Tokyo’s independence, which doesn’t appear to be at issue — even the most fervent China hawks do not predict a&nbsp;Sino invasion force sailing to conquer Honshu Island anytime soon — and otherwise cooperate to advance common objectives. However, the US should make clear that Japan’s defense is now Tokyo’s responsibility. And while refusing to discuss contested territorial claims with the PRC is up to Japan, so is dealing with the consequences. Settling ownership of the Senkaku/​Diaoyu Islands isn’t America’s responsibility.</p> <p>Some Japanese already are pushing for a&nbsp;larger and more vigorous Japanese military. Abe’s defense minister, Taro Kono, pointed to foreign military activity to argue: “All cards should be on the table.” There also is increased discussion of being able to preempt foreign attacks, most obviously a&nbsp;possible North Korean missile attack. A&nbsp;more restrictive American stance would necessitate a&nbsp;broader Japanese debate over such issues.</p> <p>The issue of nuclear weapons could arise as well. That’s obviously a&nbsp;hot button issue for the Japanese people. However, Washington’s policy of “extended deterrence” is a&nbsp;bad deal for America. Why should the US risk Los Angeles, Chicago, or Washington, D.C. for Tokyo? As that seems ever less believable the policy becomes less credible. Japan going nuclear would be fraught with difficulties and downsides, but still might be the best of a&nbsp;bunch of bad options.</p> <p>Of course, Article 9&nbsp;of Japan’s “peace constitution,” imposed by Washington during the post‐​World War II occupation, technically forbids possession of a&nbsp;military. However, Tokyo always has creatively interpreted the restriction. Whether Japan should amend its constitution is not America’s business. If the US does less, the Japanese people will be left to decide if they want to do more and, if so, how to do so.</p> <p>America should embrace the world. However, that doesn’t mean America should protect the world. The US is militarily overextended and financially busted. Prosperous democratic allies should take over their own defense, instead of expecting Washington’s guardianship forever. Why not start with Japan? Biden should communicate that message when Suga arrives on Friday.</p> </div> Thu, 15 Apr 2021 10:11:15 -0400 Doug Bandow Hanke’s 2020 Misery Index: Who’s Miserable and Who’s Happy? <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Steve H. Hanke</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The human condition lies on a&nbsp;vast spectrum between “miserable” and “happy.” In the economic sphere, misery tends to flow from high inflation, steep borrowing costs, and unemployment. The surefire way to mitigate that misery is through economic growth. All else being equal, happiness tends to blossom when growth is strong, inflation and interest rates are low, and jobs are plentiful.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Many countries measure and report these economic metrics regularly. Comparing them, nation by nation, can tell us a&nbsp;lot about where in the world people are sad or happy. Is the United States, for example, more or less miserable than other countries? Hanke’s Annual Misery Index (HAMI) gives us the answers.</p> <p>The first misery index was constructed by economist Arthur Okun in the 1960s to provide President Lyndon Johnson with an easily digestible snapshot of the economy. That original misery index was a&nbsp;simple sum of a&nbsp;nation’s annual inflation rate and its unemployment rate. The index has been modified several times, first by Robert Barro of Harvard, and then by me.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>The latest update — now expanded to 156 nations — on a&nbsp;metric of well‐​being as viewed through the lens of economics</p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>My modified misery index is the sum of the unemployment, inflation, and bank‐​lending rates, minus the percentage change in real GDP per capita. Higher readings on the first three elements are “bad” and make people more miserable. These “bads” are offset by a “good” (real GDP per capita growth), which is subtracted from the sum of the bads. A&nbsp;higher HAMI score reflects a&nbsp;higher level of misery.</p> <p>The HAMI is a&nbsp;simple metric that can be understood at a&nbsp;glance. The table for 2020 is much expanded over the one that was <a href="" rel="noopener" target="_blank">presented for 2019.</a> Indeed, last year’s HAMI included 95 countries, while this year’s includes 156.</p> </div> , <figure class="figure responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="936" height="720" alt="Hanke Misery Index 2020" class="lozad image-style-pubs-2x component-image" loading="lazy" data-src="/sites/" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>In our review of this year’s table, let’s start with three of the least miserable countries.</p> <p><strong>Guyana </strong>takes the prize as the world’s least miserable country. Guyana <a href="" rel="noopener" target="_blank">literally struck oil</a>, and its percentage change in real GDP per capita in 2020 soared by a&nbsp;stunning 25.8 percent. Since Guyana’s huge increase in real GDP per capita represents the “good” component of the HAMI and is subtracted from the three much smaller “bad” components, Guyana’s resulting HAMI score is negative. A&nbsp;negative HAMI equals happiness. Here’s the arithmetic for Guyana:</p> </div> , <blockquote> <div class="fs-lg"> <p>HAMI = [Unemployment (11.8%) + Inflation (1.0%) + Bank‐​Lending Rate (9.7%)] − Real GDP Growth (25.8%) = −3.3.</p> </div> </blockquote> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p><strong>Taiwan </strong>has improved and moved up in the ranks to the second‐​least miserable country in the world in 2020. Here’s the arithmetic:</p> </div> , <blockquote> <div class="fs-lg"> <p>HAMI = [Unemployment (3.8%) + Inflation (0.1%) + Bank‐​Lending Rate (2.5%)] − Real GDP Growth (2.6%) = 3.8.</p> </div> </blockquote> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p><strong>Qatar</strong> has also upped its game in 2020 and is now the third‐​least‐​miserable country in the world. Here’s the arithmetic:</p> </div> , <blockquote> <div class="fs-lg"> <p>HAMI = [Unemployment (0.5%) + Inflation (-2.6%) + Bank‐​Lending Rate (2.8%)] − Real GDP Growth (−4.6%) = 5.3.</p> </div> </blockquote> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Now, let’s dive down into the pits.</p> <p><strong>Venezuela</strong> holds the inglorious title of the most miserable country in the world in 2020, as it did in all five preceding years. The failures of president Nicolás Maduro’s corrupt, <a href="" rel="noopener" target="_blank">socialist petroleum state</a> have been well documented. But behind the shroud of secrecy that Venezuela has drawn over itself, significant changes occurred within the components of HAMI during 2020. Inflation, while still the world’s highest, plunged from 7,374 percent per year in 2019 to 3,713 percent in 2020. But the unemployment rate surged from 24 percent in 2019 to 50.3 percent. Both the bank‐​lending rate and real GDP growth per capita remained about the same in 2020 as in 2019. Here’s Venezuela’s miserable arithmetic:</p> </div> , <blockquote> <div class="fs-lg"> <p>HAMI = [Unemployment (50.3%) + Inflation (3,713.3%) + Bank‐​Lending Rate (33.1%)] − Real GDP Growth (−30.9%) = 3827.6.</p> </div> </blockquote> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p><strong>Zimbabwe</strong> was unranked on last year’s HAMI because of a&nbsp;lack of reliable data. But this year its dubious accomplishment is nailing down a&nbsp;spot as the second‐​most‐​miserable country in the world. Zimbabwe just can’t kick its inflation addiction. Under the reign of the ruthless Robert Mugabe, the country suffered two episodes of hyperinflation. The first peaked in November 2008, when prices were doubling every 24.7&nbsp;hours. It was the <a href="" rel="noopener" target="_blank">second‐​highest hyperinflation in history</a>. In 2009, Zimbabwe officially dollarized and shook its inflation addiction. But dollarization didn’t last long. By 2017, Zimbabwe was afflicted with <a href="" rel="noopener" target="_blank">yet another bout of hyperinflation</a>. Today, President Emmerson “Ed” Mnangagwa rules the way Mugabe did, and inflation continues to rob Zimbabweans, rendering them miserable. Here’s the miserable arithmetic:</p> </div> , <blockquote> <div class="fs-lg"> <p>HAMI = [Unemployment (4.9%) + Inflation (495.0%) + Bank‐​Lending Rate (35.0%)] − Real GDP Growth (−12.1%) = 547.0.</p> </div> </blockquote> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p><strong>Sudan</strong> holds down the spot as the third‐​most‐​miserable country in the world on the 2020 HAMI and is in terrible shape. Indeed, at the start of 2021, the Sudanese pound was devalued by 85 percent against the greenback. This added to Sudan’s inflation fire. If that wasn’t bad enough, the country’s government and institutions remain weak, and a&nbsp;mass exodus of refugees from Ethiopia’s Tigray region has recently rushed into eastern Sudan, a&nbsp;situation that threatens to trigger violence. And speaking of violence, it erupted yet again in February of this year in Sudan’s Darfur region. Here’s Sudan’s miserable arithmetic:</p> </div> , <blockquote> <div class="fs-lg"> <p>HAMI = [Unemployment (25.0%) + Inflation (141.6%) + Bank‐​Lending Rate (16.6%)] − Real GDP Growth (−10.7%) = 193.9.</p> </div> </blockquote> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p><strong>Lebanon</strong> holds down the fourth‐​most‐​miserable spot on this year’s HAMI. After the collapse of the Lebanese pound, Lebanon entered a&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noopener" target="_blank">hyperinflation in July</a>, the first hyperinflation to visit the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. In addition to severe inflation, the currency crisis has resulted in banking and political crises. As the economy collapses and poverty soars, the Lebanese are predictably miserable. Here’s the arithmetic:</p> </div> , <blockquote> <div class="fs-lg"> <p>HAMI = [Unemployment (6.3%) + Inflation (138.0%) + Bank‐​Lending Rate (8.1%)] − Real GDP Growth (−24.7%) = 177.1.</p> </div> </blockquote> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>No doubt it’s better to be “happy” than “miserable.” As Arthur Okun anticipated over 50&nbsp;years ago, the misery index provides politicians with a&nbsp;useful, easy‐​to‐​understand metric of well‐​being as viewed through the lens of official economics statistics. Why useful? Because politicians know that they can remain in office only if they garner the public’s support. And what generates public support? A&nbsp;healthy economy. Hence the importance of Hanke’s Annual Misery Index.</p> </div> Wed, 14 Apr 2021 09:36:13 -0400 Steve H. Hanke In Praise of Foreign Direct Investment–(Almost) All of It <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Scott Lincicome</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Dear Capitolisters, </p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>A few weeks ago, I&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">debated</a>&nbsp;Julius Krein, editor of&nbsp;<em>American Affairs</em>, on trade, industrial policy, and the future of the American economy. It was, I&nbsp;think, a&nbsp;telling and informative discussion (uncomfortable masks notwithstanding), and I&nbsp;invite you to watch the whole thing if you’re interested in the current debate about “free market fundamentalism” and the right’s recent embrace of economic interventionism. Toward the end, Krein and I&nbsp;got hung up on a&nbsp;point that I (incorrectly) assumed was relatively anodyne—the value of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the U.S. economy, regardless of its form (foreign companies acquiring existing U.S. assets or the “greenfield” creation of new ones).&nbsp;I&nbsp;was going to let the issue go, but then saw the claim that foreign acquisitions should be disregarded as valueless “non‐​investing” repeated elsewhere in&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">another New Right critique</a>&nbsp;of the allegedly problematic state of American investment (foreign or domestic) in the United States—a problem, of course, necessitating new federal government action.</p> </div> , <figure class="figure responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <div class="embed embed--youtube js-embed js-embed--youtube"> <div class="responsive-embed"></div> </div> </div> </figure> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>In reality, FDI is not only an important and ever‐​growing part of the U.S. economy, but actually pretty great for American workers and their surrounding communities. And the apparent confusion surrounding this fact—and the oodles of research backing it up—thus makes FDI a&nbsp;perfect newsletter topic. So that’s what we’ll do today.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>The Basics</strong></p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>It’s actually pretty great for American workers and their surrounding communities. </p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Before we get to the impact of foreign direct investment in the United States, let’s start with the basics. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), which tracks FDI, defines it as “cross‐​border investment associated with a&nbsp;resident in one economy having control or a&nbsp;significant degree of influence on the management of an enterprise resident in another economy”; BEA sets the threshold for this “significant” control/​influence at 10 percent of the target company’s voting shares. This distinguishes it from “portfolio” investment, in which a&nbsp;foreign entity just buys some shares or debt issued by a&nbsp;U.S. company.&nbsp;Until last year (and for&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">almost every year</a>&nbsp;before that going&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">back to the 1970s</a>), the United States has been the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">top destination</a>&nbsp;in the world for FDI—a pole position lost because of the pandemic and one that we’ll probably regain this year or next:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="734" alt="lccome1.jpg" class="lozad image-style-pubs-2x component-image" loading="lazy" data-src="/sites/" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Total FDI in the United States fluctuates because of the presence or absence of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">anomalous corporate transactions</a>&nbsp;(hence, two major outliers in 2015/2016 when&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">“inversions” were all the rage</a>), domestic policy (e.g., tax reform in 2017), and the state of the U.S. and global economies generally, but there are a&nbsp;few general takeaways from the topline data:&nbsp;</p> <p>First,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">total FDI</a>&nbsp;in the United States—pandemic aside—has been relatively steady over the last decade and in fact a&nbsp;little higher since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was implemented (in part for that very purpose). According to a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">2020 U.S. Federal Reserve analysis</a>, for example, FDI “climbed to a&nbsp;record high in 2018” after adjusting for the aforementioned transactions (gray bars in Figure 2(a) below)</p> </div> , <figure class="figure responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="612" height="360" alt="lccome2.jpg" class="lozad image-style-pubs-2x component-image" loading="lazy" data-src="/sites/" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>As we discussed&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">a&nbsp;few weeks ago</a>, moreover, various studies indicate that the 2018 and&nbsp;<em>especially</em>&nbsp;2019 numbers would be even better had President Trump not started a&nbsp;massive trade war in early 2018. (For more on that issue, see this&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">2018 piece</a>&nbsp;on the harmful investment uncertainty unleashed by Trump’s trade policies.)</p> <p>Second, contrary to nationalist concerns that FDI means we’re “selling America” (or whatever) to foreign adversaries, the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">bulk of U.S. FDI</a>&nbsp;comes from traditional allies, including Japan, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Only a&nbsp;small share originates in China—a share that’s&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">actually declining</a>, thanks to heightened U.S. scrutiny of Chinese investment and bilateral tensions more broadly.</p> <p>Third,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">BEA</a>&nbsp;data show that a&nbsp;large chunk of annual FDI into the United States—ranging from 40 to 70 percent—is in manufacturing. As I&nbsp;showed in a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">recent paper</a>, moreover, total FDI into the U.S. manufacturing sector continues to grow in real (inflation‐​adjusted) terms, and the United States is a&nbsp;top global destination for manufacturing investment:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="647" height="400" alt="llcome3.jpg" class="lozad image-style-pubs-2x component-image" loading="lazy" data-src="/sites/" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <figure class="figure responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="421" alt="llcome4.jpg" class="lozad image-style-pubs-2x component-image" loading="lazy" data-src="/sites/" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Fourth, all of this FDI has resulted in a&nbsp;major presence of foreign multinationals in the United States. Total FDI assets (“stocks”) in the U.S. manufacturing sector alone hit $1.77 trillion in 2018, and BEA&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>&nbsp;that majority‐​owned affiliates of all foreign multinationals employed 7.8 million American workers and contributed $1.1 trillion to U.S. gross domestic product that same year (the last year available). Much of this investment is, again, in manufacturing—particularly in the Rust Belt and South where there are a&nbsp;lot of major foreign automakers:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="637" height="478" alt="llcome5.jpg" class="lozad image-style-pubs-2x component-image" loading="lazy" data-src="/sites/" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Finally, and important for today’s discussion, the same&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">BEA data</a>&nbsp;show that the vast majority of the&nbsp;<em>new</em> FDI into the United States each year is “acquisitions” (foreign ownership or control of at least 10 percent of a&nbsp;target company’s voting shares), while only a&nbsp;fraction is “greenfield” investment (“expenditures to either establish a&nbsp;new U.S. business or to expand an existing foreign‐​owned U.S. business”). In 2019, for example, about $4 billion of a&nbsp;total $194.7 billion were greenfield, down from $8.1 billion of $296.4 billion in 2018:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="372" alt="llcome6.jpg" class="lozad image-style-pubs-2x component-image" loading="lazy" data-src="/sites/" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>It’s this last point that some have recently targeted to downplay the conventional wisdom that FDI is generally “good” for the U.S. economy, regardless of its form. In our debate, for example, Krein implied that those foreign acquisitions were essentially meaningless paper‐​pushing instead of something to cheer or an indicator of the health of the American manufacturing sector.</p> <p><strong>FDI’s Impact</strong></p> <p>This view, I&nbsp;think, misses several critical points regarding FDI and its impact on the U.S. economy. For starters, the foreign acquisitions&nbsp;<em>themselves</em>&nbsp;have potential value in at least two important ways:&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li> <p>First, the influx of new foreign capital generates a&nbsp;clear financial benefit to the U.S. sellers of the acquired company—sellers who often&nbsp;<em>don’t</em>&nbsp;just cash out permanently and retire to the Caymans (or wherever) but instead reinvest that money in the U.S. economy. Maybe they build a&nbsp;big house; maybe they buy stocks; or maybe they even start a&nbsp;new company. As we&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">discussed</a>&nbsp;a&nbsp;few months ago, for example, the founders of Germany’s BioNTech—of Pfizer mRNA vaccine fame—started their venture using the cash they received from the 2016 sale of their first company to Japan‐​based Astellas Pharma in 2016. The rest, thank goodness, is history. Certainly, such successful subsequent investments aren’t assured when a&nbsp;foreign acquisition takes place, but it’s essential to note that this foreign money doesn’t simply disappear into the ether and, in fact, is often put to good and productive use—including in the United States.</p> </li> <li> <p>Second, an acquisition—by providing U.S. owners with a&nbsp;market return on their investment—can signal to others that the industry at issue (e.g., automaking) is healthy and thus encourages them to invest in that same industry over the longer term. This outcome makes intuitive sense: Sales of existing homes encourage new homebuilding in the same general area (unless, of course, regulations prevent that investment). It’s also backed by some research (though this is admittedly mixed overall).&nbsp;</p> </li> </ul> <p>More importantly, focusing too much the initial acquisition ignores what foreign multinationals do&nbsp;<em>after</em>&nbsp;they make that investment.&nbsp;If, as is implied, foreign companies usually acquire U.S. firms and then do nothing with them, flip them like a&nbsp;house on HGTV, or perhaps even break them apart and sell off the pieces, then the critique of U.S. FDI might have some merit.&nbsp;The literature here, however, tells a&nbsp;much different story: Far from merely acquiring an asset, foreign parent companies typically improve their U.S. acquisitions&nbsp;<strong>and</strong>&nbsp;the domestic companies and communities in which they’re located.&nbsp;</p> <p>Most of this improvement occurs&nbsp;<em>outside</em>&nbsp;of any “greenfield” investments, which BEA&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">defines</a>&nbsp;narrowly as the “establishment” of a&nbsp;new foreign affiliate in the United States or the “expansion” of that affiliate.&nbsp;“Expansion,” however, covers only the construction of a “new facility where business is conducted” and thus excludes other corporate spending once the foreign affiliate is established or expanded. So, for example, if Toyota bought an old GM plant in Michigan and the next day added a&nbsp;bunch of new equipment and hired a&nbsp;bunch of people, none of that subsequent activity would be included in “greenfield” FDI. (I actually called BEA—using an actual telephone!—about this just to be sure.)</p> <p>This type of foreign affiliate activity, it turns out, is substantial.&nbsp;Drilling into&nbsp;<a href=";step=1&amp;isuri=1" target="_blank">another dataset</a>&nbsp;at BEA shows that U.S. affiliates of foreign multinationals spend&nbsp;<strong>hundreds of billions of dollars per year</strong>&nbsp;in the United States on research and development and capital expenditures, with the biggest shares (again) going to manufacturing:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="626" height="362" alt="llcome7.jpg" class="lozad image-style-pubs-2x component-image" loading="lazy" data-src="/sites/" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <figure class="figure responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="381" alt="llcome8.jpg" class="lozad image-style-pubs-2x component-image" loading="lazy" data-src="/sites/" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>(There’s probably some overlap between the total capital expenditures and greenfield figures, but the former clearly dwarfs the latter so it doesn’t matter.)</p> <p>The vast majority (about 90 percent) of these annual R&amp;D and capital expenditures, BEA shows, were completed by domestic companies wholly or mostly (more than 50 percent) owned by multinationals, so they aren’t just a&nbsp;bunch of standard business transactions made by public companies that have like 10.1 percent (or whatever) foreign ownership but aren’t actually controlled by a&nbsp;foreign multinational. It’s almost all done by “real” foreign companies here in the U.S.</p> <p>Second, there are plenty of things that foreign multinationals can do to improve acquired U.S. companies’ performance without spending another cent. This includes changes in management or business practices, the implementation of proprietary technologies, corporate restructuring (including, yes, layoffs), and hooking into multinational supplier, distribution, and consumer networks that the parent already had in place. (Foreign automakers here, for example, commonly import core parts and use R&amp;D produced at their headquarters abroad.) Little, if any, of these major changes would show up as “FDI,” yet they can have major, positive effects on firm performance.</p> <p>And they do.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Summarizing</a>&nbsp;his&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">2018 report</a>&nbsp;on foreign affiliates’ activity in the United States, for example, Daniel Ikenson notes at the time that:</p> </div> , <blockquote> <div class="fs-lg"> <p>These international companies tend to be among the best in their industries, having succeeded in their home markets before taking their best practices and testing their mettle abroad. They have contributed disproportionately to U.S. economic performance over the years, as observed across a&nbsp;variety of objective measures. Even though these entities as a&nbsp;group comprise a&nbsp;mere 1.3 percent of all U.S. businesses, collectively they punch well above their weight, accounting for:</p> </div> </blockquote> , <div class="fs-sm"> <ul> <li> <p>5.5 percent of all private‐​sector employment</p> </li> <li> <p>6.5 percent of U.S. GDP (private‐​sector value added)</p> </li> <li> <p>14.8 percent of U.S. private‐​sector employee benefits</p> </li> <li> <p>16.0 percent of new private‐​sector, non‐​residential capital investment</p> </li> <li> <p>16.7 percent of private‐​sector research and development spending</p> </li> <li> <p>17.1 percent of all corporate federal taxes paid</p> </li> <li> <p>23.5 percent of U.S. exports</p> </li> <li> <p>24.3 percent higher worker compensation than the U.S. private‐​sector average</p> </li> </ul> <p>Ikenson also shows that these companies are particularly impressive when compared to the U.S. economy overall:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="700" height="516" alt="llcome9.jpg" class="lozad image-style-pubs-2x component-image" loading="lazy" data-src="/sites/" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Ikenson’s results are consistent with other analyses of foreign affiliates in the United States, which academic papers repeatedly show&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">pay</a>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">more</a>, export more, and are more&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">productive</a>&nbsp;(<a href="" target="_blank">significantly</a>), on average, than similarly situated domestic firms.</p> <p>One of the most recent and detailed of those papers&nbsp;<a href="blank" target="_blank">found</a>&nbsp;that foreign affiliates (more than 25 percent foreign‐​owned) in the United States pay their workers about 19 percent more than domestic firms on average, and about 7&nbsp;percent more when comparing the same type of workers (e.g., engineer) across firms. The finding, which was not limited to manufacturing entities, indicates that foreign‐​owned firms in the United States not only tend to employ more skilled workers on average, but also pay workers with the exact same skills more than domestic firms do—a wage premium the study’s authors speculate is due to “belonging to a&nbsp;multinational network”; being “especially productive” companies; achieving certain economies of scale; or simply anchoring their wages to headquarter levels. (None of these factors are unique to greenfield FDI.) They calculate that U.S. workers would have been roughly&nbsp;<strong>$36 billion poorer</strong>&nbsp;in 2015 if all foreign affiliates in the United States had been magically replaced by domestic firms.&nbsp;</p> <p>Thank goodness they weren’t.</p> <p>Just as importantly, the study finds that foreign multinationals have a&nbsp;substantial impact on local communities and workers at&nbsp;<strong>non‐​foreign firms</strong>. In particular, an increase in employment at foreign‐​owned companies was found to significantly raise the value added (output minus costs), employment, wage bill, and earnings of workers at domestic‐​owned firms in the same locality. The authors estimate that every additional job at a&nbsp;foreign multinational generated approximately 0.5 jobs and $139,000&nbsp;in value added at domestic firms in the same local labor market, as well as “annual aggregate wage gains for incumbent workers in the commuting zone of approximately $13,400”—benefits that justify, in their view, “trade and investment policies that encourage foreign firms to invest in the U.S.” These findings are again&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">consistent</a>&nbsp;with&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">prior research</a>.</p> <p><strong>Summing It All Up</strong></p> <p>The United States remains a&nbsp;global FDI magnet, reflecting the overall attractiveness of the U.S. market as a&nbsp;place to invest and do business.&nbsp;This investment, moreover, produces real economic benefits above and beyond those that would have been generated in its absence—<em>regardless</em>&nbsp;of whether it entails breaking ground on a&nbsp;new facility or acquiring one that already exists,&nbsp;<em>and totally leaving aside</em>&nbsp;what U.S. sellers do with the foreign capital they’ve just received. Surely, not every bit of FDI meets this standard, but the overall trends strongly refute the assumption that foreign acquisitions should be brushed aside as economically insignificant “non‐​investment”&nbsp;<strong>or</strong>&nbsp;that new regulations are needed to distinguish between “good” and “bad” foreign investment in the future. (Never mind the longstanding&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">problems</a>&nbsp;associated with such regulations.) Instead, study after study shows how FDI in the United States is pretty special, resulting in outsized economic performance and benefiting both Americans employed by foreign affiliates and their surrounding communities—even when it doesn’t involve additional post‐​acquisition investments.</p> <p>In short, if you’re concerned about sagging business activity in the United States (regardless of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">whether</a>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">you</a>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">actually</a>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">should</a>&nbsp;be), you should be welcoming FDI with open arms, not pooh‐​poohing it.</p> <p><strong>Chart of the Week</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">How regulation can chill innovation</a>:</p> </div> , <figure class="figure responsive-embed-no-margin-wrapper"> <div class="figure__media"> <img width="680" height="367" alt="llcome10.jpg" class="lozad image-style-pubs-2x component-image" loading="lazy" data-src="/sites/" typeof="Image" /> </div> </figure> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p><strong>The Links</strong></p> <p>Me on&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">steel tariffs</a>,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">antidumping abuse</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">U.S. industrial policy in action</a>&nbsp;(<a href="" target="_blank">more on that last one</a>).</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Ryan Bourne’s new book on economics &amp;&nbsp;COVID-19</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">We’re finally stocked up on TP.</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Some</a><a href="" target="_blank">worthwhile</a><a href="" target="_blank">commentary</a>&nbsp;on the J&amp;J vaccine pause.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">71–29</a>.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">India fast‐​tracks approvals for COVID-19 vaccines approved elsewhere.</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Walgreens is administering a&nbsp;lot of vaccines.</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">How local labor markets fared in 2020.</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Same old China.</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Same old New York.</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Unfilled job openings—not a&nbsp;big deal yet, but…</a>&nbsp;(<a href="" target="_blank">more</a>)</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">A small victory for occupational licensing in Mississippi.</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Problems with Biden’s broadband plan.</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Furman v. Kelton</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">MonkeyPong!</a></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Akoin?</a></p> </div> Wed, 14 Apr 2021 08:34:02 -0400 Scott Lincicome Could the Philippines Drag the US into War with China? <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ted Galen Carpenter</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Tensions are rising again between the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over rival claims to small islands and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea. The latest incident began in late March when more than 200 Chinese “fishing vessels” <a href="">arrived at Whitsun Reef</a>, which Manila calls Juan Felipe Reef – a&nbsp;maritime structure that it insists lies located within the country’s 200‐​mile exclusive economic zone. The Chinese ships have continued to linger, supposedly because of rough seas caused by adverse weather conditions.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Philippines’ Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana scorned that explanation, noting that the weather had been fine throughout most of the period. He also <a href="">challenged</a> the official status of the ships as fishing vessels, charging that they were manned by armed militias. “The continued presence of Chinese maritime militias in the area reveals their intent to further occupy (areas) in the West Philippine Sea,” Lorenzana said in a&nbsp;statement, using Manila’s name for the South China Sea. The Philippines government also responded to the presence of the ships by <a href="">sending fighter planes</a> to shadow the fleet.</p> <p>The United States has quickly <a href="">injected itself into the dispute</a>. Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphatically took Manila’s side <a href="">in a&nbsp;statement on Twitter</a>. “The United States stands with our ally, the Philippines, in the face of the PRC’s maritime militia amassing at Whitson Reef,” he stated, emphasizing that. “We will always stand by our allies and stand up for the rules‐​based international order.” <em>Anti​war​.com</em> analyst Dave DeCamp <a href="">notes</a> that in an earlier telephone call with Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Blinken emphasized Washington’s solidarity with its longtime treaty ally, including on the South China Sea territorial disputes. Indeed, he “made it clear that any incident between the Philippines and Beijing in the South China Sea could bring the US into war. <a href="">According to a&nbsp;readout of the call</a>, Blinken ‘stressed the importance of the Mutual Defense Treaty for the security of both nations, and its clear application to armed attacks against the Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, which includes the South China Sea.’” One regional observer, Mark J. Valencia, a&nbsp;scholar at the National Institute of South China Sea Studies in Haikow, China, accuses the Biden administration of outdoing even its predecessor in terms of “<a href="">bluff and bluster</a>” regarding the South China Sea.</p> <p>The Biden administration’s position certainly is unwise and potentially dangerous. Apparently confident of U.S. military backing, the Philippines government is taking a&nbsp;tough stance against its much larger, more powerful neighbor. Aides to President Rodrigo Duterte <a href="">warned Beijing</a> on April 5&nbsp;that the continued presence of PRC ships at Whitsun Reef would damage bilateral ties and even lead to “unwanted hostilities.” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque bluntly told a&nbsp;news conference: “We will not give up even a&nbsp;single inch of our national territory or our exclusive economic zone (EEZ).” It is unlikely that a&nbsp;tiny country like the Philippines would be so bold if it did not assume that it had the powerful US military in its corner. Washington is giving Manila every reason to make that assumption. The United States has now <a href="">deployed</a> an aircraft carrier strike group in the South China Sea as tangible evidence of support for its ally.</p> <p>Flirting with an armed clash with China would be imprudent even if the United States had significant interests at stake in the territorial dispute between the Philippines and the PRC. But the involvement of genuine American interests in that quarrel is minimal at most.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Flirting with an armed clash with China would be imprudent even if the United States had significant interests at stake in the territorial dispute between the Philippines and the PRC.</p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>As a&nbsp;general matter, it is a&nbsp;very bad idea to encourage small allies or clients to take a&nbsp;jingoistic stance against a&nbsp;much larger, more powerful adversary. Indeed, it’s a&nbsp;textbook example of creating a&nbsp;situation in which a&nbsp;volatile client state can drag its patron into an unwanted and utterly unnecessary war. The most tragic historical example of that process is how Russia’s support for Serbia in 1914 encouraged Belgrade to defy Austria-Hungary’s demands following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a&nbsp;Serbian nationalist. Since Imperial Germany, the single strongest country in Europe, was backing Vienna’s demands, the stage was set for a&nbsp;war that engulfed the continent and killed millions.</p> <p>A war between the United States and China likely would be at least that bad. Taking such a&nbsp;risk over even important issues is questionable enough. Doing so to support a&nbsp;small client state, and one headed by the <a href="">notoriously volatile</a> Rodrigo Duterte, over a&nbsp;petty territorial squabble would be the operational definition of irresponsible. The Biden administration needs to back away from its ally’s claims and make it very clear to Manila that the United States is not going to risk a&nbsp;war with the PRC over such stakes.</p> </div> Tue, 13 Apr 2021 10:43:46 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter Fauci’s Mistake on Masks Was Driven by Bad Economics, Not Uncertain Science <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ryan Bourne</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Anthony Fauci has admitted to flip‐​flopping on mask‐​wearing guidance. Well, not exactly.</p> <p>On Sunday, MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan replayed a&nbsp;<em>60 Minutes</em> clip from March 8, 2020, in which the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director said, “Right now in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks.” Asked whether he was wrong back then, especially given the Chinese and South Koreans were already wearing masks, Fauci actually offered a&nbsp;spirited defense of his ultimate U‐​turn, alluding to the famous dictum that “when the facts change, I&nbsp;change my mind.”</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>In Fauci’s eyes, the knowledge base last spring justified his opposition to mask‐​wearing in the community. First, there was a&nbsp;lack of evidence that masks actually worked in reducing transmission of the virus back then, he said, at least outside of hospital settings. Second, public health officials also thought asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission of the virus was rare.</p> <p>If the virus was only spread by those coughing or with fevers, most of whom would be isolating at home or in the hospital, then community‐​wide face coverings would be pretty useless. It was only when it became clearer masks did help and that presymptomatic and asymptomatic spread was common, Fauci said, that it made sense to encourage people to wear them when necessary.</p> <p>At least, that’s the official line. But there’s an obvious problem with Fauci’s reasoning here. An absence of evidence of masks’ effectiveness and hunches about how the virus spread might have justified warning the public that masks were no silver bullet or, indeed, that their voluntary use should not be seen as a&nbsp;substitute for social distancing. But given masks were an extremely low‐​cost means of potentially mitigating risk for individuals, the risk‐​to‐​benefit ratio was clearly favoring permissive guidance on their use.</p> <p>“The science,” in other words, never justified Fauci telling people specifically <em>not to</em> wear masks, rather than remaining neutral. That harder opposition ultimately came because of Fauci’s third argument — that a&nbsp;failure to dissuade people from wearing them back then would have exacerbated mask shortages, leaving healthcare workers without access to crucial personal protective equipment.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>It was only when it became clearer masks did help and that presymptomatic and asymptomatic spread was common, Fauci said, that it made sense to encourage people to wear them when necessary.</p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The key reason for Fauci and Surgeon General Jerome Adams discouraging mask‐​wearing therefore had little to do with science. It stemmed from both playing armchair economists. Yet, their economics was faulty. Mask markets are not, and would never be, static and zero‐​sum — with rising demand from the public “using up” masks meant for healthcare workers.</p> <p>Provided politicians didn’t interfere too much with price rises, suppliers would have quickly ramped up production or entered the sector for surgical mask production, as we eventually saw. The belief that mask‐​wearing was beneficial coupled with rising prices would have led to smaller‐​scale innovation too (not least people making cloth masks at home) or finding other means of protection in the interim.</p> <p>Yes, it’s difficult to look at the recent waves here and abroad despite high self‐​reported mask‐​wearing and conclude that masks are so effective that government mask mandates deserved central billing, as in <a href=";utm_source=internal&amp;utm_medium=autolink" target="_blank">Joe Biden</a>’s presidential campaign. So, Fauci’s error can’t be held up as one of the crucial drivers of the early U.S. death toll.</p> <p>But that early guidance almost certainly led to lower voluntary mask‐​wearing than we would otherwise have seen in those early months, worsening community transmission of the virus somewhat on the margin. What’s more, the subsequent change of heart from Fauci and Adams made even voluntary mask‐​wearing a&nbsp;much more politically charged issue than it needed to be.</p> <p>At the end of the case for his defense, Fauci defined flip‐​flopping as a&nbsp;situation in which one alters his position without the underlying data changing. What happened with masks, he said, was that his stance evolved simply because new evidence materialized. This was science in action.</p> <p>But the pertinent underlying fact that defined Fauci’s position was not the scientific uncertainty, but a&nbsp;judgment on how economic markets operated. Any good economist would have told Fauci that his pessimism there was misguided. As with so many other errors during this crisis, lift the lid on a&nbsp;public health mistake, and you find, undergirding it, an error of economic reasoning.</p> </div> Tue, 13 Apr 2021 10:20:29 -0400 Ryan Bourne Biden’s Supreme Court Commission Is Large and Progressive. And Mostly Pointless. <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Ilya Shapiro</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>During the Democratic presidential primaries, Joe Biden was one of the few candidates against packing the Supreme Court, among other radical “reform” proposals. Bernie Sanders, the other finalist for the nomination, <a href="">happened to be another</a>, recognizing that adding additional seats for political reasons would just lead to Republicans doing the same thing at their next opportunity. But then in the general election campaign, Biden played coy, not wanting to alienate activists who saw his candidacy as nothing but a&nbsp;vehicle for defeating Donald Trump. Saying that the judiciary was “out of whack,” he <a href="">proposed a&nbsp;commission</a> to study possible reforms.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Well, after a&nbsp;<a href="">leak about a&nbsp;handful of putative members</a> in January, the White House finally revealed that <a href="">Supreme Court commission</a> last week. There are three striking things about it: I&nbsp;t’s big (36 members), progressive (about a&nbsp;3‐​to‐​1 ratio), and academic (all but three are professors, plus two retired judges who teach part‐​time).</p> <p>The size of the commission will make hearings unwieldy, not to mention the difficulty of trying to write a&nbsp;report by super‐​committee. The ideological skew won’t give the group much credibility with Republicans, though the media will surely use the presence of the token non‐​progressives to paint any recommendations as bipartisan and noncontroversial. And the tilt to law school faculty will make it easier to dismiss the commission’s work as ivory‐​tower pontification with little relevance to the real world.</p> <p>The commission’s membership and its order to “closely study measures to improve the federal judiciary” does nothing to dispel the perception that such presidential actions are little more than kicking cans down the road. The administration no doubt hopes that these issues will be less central when the eventual commission report comes out, and then that report can be quietly shelved, with action only on a&nbsp;technocratic suggestion like adding lower‐​court judgeships. Indeed, it’s quite possible that the Supreme Court won’t make too many waves at the end of its term in June, both because John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh (the middle of the court) don’t want to attract political attention and because the docket doesn’t have as many blockbusters as most years. The biggest flashpoint is the case of Philadelphia’s disqualification of Catholic Social Services from adoption/​foster care for not placing kids with same‐​sex couples—though if the court agrees to take up the <a href="">Harvard affirmative action case</a> (which wouldn’t be decided until June 2022), that could increase progressive calls for restructuring.</p> <p>Coincidentally, earlier in the week, Justice Stephen Breyer cautioned against tinkering with the Supreme Court’s size. The court’s “authority, like the rule of law, depends on trust, a&nbsp;trust that the court is guided by legal principle, not politics,” Breyer said at Harvard Law School. “Structural alteration motivated by the perception of political influence can only feed that perception, further eroding that trust.”</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Many of the proposals being discussed boil down to rearranging deck chairs on the ship of state</p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Activists have already been calling on the 82‐​year‐​old jurist to retire, which shows that dissatisfaction with the court is largely an expression of elite frustration that Democratic presidents haven’t gotten to appoint more of its members. In this telling, Neil Gorsuch is an illegitimate justice because he “stole” Merrick Garland’s seat and Amy Coney Barrett should never have been confirmed so close to the 2020 election (and against Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wish). The opposition to Trump’s nominees was part of the continued refusal to accept the 2016 election, but progressives have made legitimacy arguments against <em>every</em> Republican appointee, going back to the sexual‐​harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas and the Supreme Court’s having “selected” George W. Bush.</p> <p>But the court is the <a href="">most respected government institution</a> other than police and the military, so questions of legitimacy principally arise when the justices rule in ways that disagree with progressive orthodoxy. To quote a&nbsp;brief from five senators led by Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in last year’s Second Amendment case, “Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.”</p> <p>Commission co‐​chairman Bob Bauer, who was counsel to the Biden campaign and White House counsel under President Obama, has argued publicly against court‐​packing, but he’ll have a&nbsp;hard time reining in that kind of impulse. And even if he builds consensus over something like term limits—which could help restore confidence in the confirmation process and eliminate the morbid health watches we now have as justices age—that wouldn’t fix the underlying reason why we argue about the Supreme Court (and it would require a&nbsp;constitutional amendment).</p> <p>All these “reform” proposals boil down to rearranging deck chairs on the ship of state, because what we have is divergent interpretive theories mapping onto partisan preferences at a&nbsp;time when the parties are more ideologically sorted (and polarized) than any time since at least the Civil War. This, at a&nbsp;time when the court regularly decides major political controversies because the federal government has amassed too much power and Congress has abdicated its policymaking responsibility by punting to the executive branch, which then gets sued. For example, the culture war over contraceptive coverage under Obamacare—remember the <em><a href="">Hobby Lobby</a></em> and <em><a href="">Little Sisters of the Poor</a></em> cases?—was based on action by regulatory agencies, not anything Congress legislated. We see the same dynamic with everything from environmental rules to immigration policy, financial regulation to labor law.</p> <p>Because of that dynamic, there are no easy or quick solutions to the politicization of judicial confirmations and the toxic cloud that has descended over many judicial debates. So while I’ll be keenly interested in the commission’s work, I&nbsp;doubt that it’ll produce anything novel or that improves the functioning of the Supreme Court. And I&nbsp;doubt even more that any policy recommendations will be both uncontroversial and doable.</p> </div> Tue, 13 Apr 2021 09:20:16 -0400 Ilya Shapiro Push Saudi Arabia to End the Assault on Yemen <p><a href="" hreflang="und">Doug Bandow</a></p> <div class="fs-sm"> <p>More than six years ago Saudi Arabia attacked Yemen. The goal was to reinstall a&nbsp;friendly president to do Riyadh’s bidding. The royal regime assumed the campaign would be over in six weeks.</p> </div> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>Yet again the gods punished hubris and made the vainglorious pay a&nbsp;terrible price.</p> <p>The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was merely the latest wealthy, technologically advanced nation to underestimate its adversary. Nader Hashemi, who directs the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, observed: “The Houthis have proven to be a&nbsp;formidable fighting force. Saudi Arabia does not have a&nbsp;comparable ground game that can match their adversaries.”</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside"> <div class="pullquote p-mb-last-child-0"> <p>Americans no longer should be complicit in the murder and mayhem being daily visited upon the people of Yemen.</p> </div> </aside> , <div class="fs-sm"> <p>The movement Ansar Allah, known as the Houthis, fought the Yemeni central government for years. In 2015 the group joined its old adversary, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to oust his presidential successor, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. This political game of musical chairs was unexceptional, reflecting the usual vagaries of Yemeni politics.</p> <p>Then the KSA came to Hadi’s defense. However, Ansar Allah failed to fulfill Riyadh’s expectations and surrender after a&nbsp;few bombing raids. Saudi personnel, who have little reason to die on behalf of a&nbsp;dissolute dictatorial monarchy, proved most adept at bombing weddings, funerals, school buses, and other civilian targets. The resulting military stalemate gave Iran, which had had only a&nbsp;distant relationship with the Houthis, an unexpected opportunity to bleed the Kingdom at modest cost.</p> <p>The KSA, joined by the United Arab Emirates and a “coalition” of Saudi client states, also blockaded Yemen, causing the humanitarian situation to deteriorate disastrously. Some 80 percent of the population currently is dependent on international assistance. The <em>New York Times</em> recently reported: “Six years into a&nbsp;war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, shattered the country and battered much of its infrastructure, Yemen faces rising rates of hunger that have created pockets of famine that aid groups warn are likely to grow, leaving even more malnourished Yemenis vulnerable to disease and starvation.”</p> <p>Riyadh cared nothing about Yemeni civilians, who were treated as unimportant collateral damage. But the Kingdom increasingly found itself the target of missiles and drones, leaving its spokesmen whining pitiably about the terrible unfairness of their victims shooting back. By last year the Saudis had tired of the costly campaign they started and wanted out.</p> <p>They could have simply quit the war. However, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, <a href="">who cemented his rule by jailing critics</a> and shaking down relatives, refused to acknowledge his blunder – and the lives and money wasted in six years of fruitless combat. So the Saudi regime sought to salvage its pride and negotiate an exit that would still give the royal family de facto control over Yemen. The KSA proposed a&nbsp;nationwide ceasefire with talks on Yemen’s future.</p> <p>However, Ansar Allah refused to yield its advantage. The Saudis, having bombed mercilessly, increasingly found themselves to be targets. Reported the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>: “Since January, there have been more than 80 such attacks, some involving multiple, simultaneous drone assaults, that have U.S., Saudi and other allies in the region on high alert.” The Houthis insisted that Riyadh lift the blockade of Yemen’s airport and port cities first. In the meantime, Yemeni insurgents pressed toward Marib, an important city tied to the country’s energy resources. Its possession would give the movement powerful negotiating leverage in eventual talks.</p> <p>Noted Hashemi, “Until now, the U.S.-Saudi peace plans have been predicated on Houthi surrender, which is a&nbsp;non‐​starter for peace in Yemen.” Ansar Allah is no friend of America and shares responsibility for the disaster that Yemen has become. Nevertheless, Hashemi emphasized the Kingdom’s role in refusing to end the war: “In this context, Saudi Arabia is the recalcitrant party in blocking a&nbsp;genuine peace plan for Yemen.”</p> <p>For six years the Obama and Trump administration made Americans accomplices to war crimes – providing planes, maintenance, munitions, intelligence, and for a&nbsp;time refueling. The incoming Biden administration was filled with officials, from the president on down, who had become uncomfortable with the consequences of the Obama administration’s decision to back the Saudi offensive. The intent had been to assuage Riyadh’s concern over the nuclear deal with Iran. After Trump played the role of Saudi hireling and switched to a&nbsp;policy of “maximum pressure” against Tehran, however, US support for MbS’s bloody aggression lost its purpose.</p> <p>Almost immediately President Joe Biden announced that that he was “ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.” However, the Biden administration – which demonstrated the limits of its commitment to human rights when it refused to sanction MbS for his slice and dice operation against journalist Jamal Khashoggi – insisted that Washington remained committed to the Kingdom’s defense.</p> <p>However, the Saudis continue to participate in the war, attacking targets throughout Yemen. The KSA also maintains the starvation blockade. Rep. Debbie Dingel (D-MI) organized a&nbsp;letter from more than 70 Democratic congressmen urging the administration to press Riyadh to lift the siege. She explained: “Ending US support for Saudi‐​led offensive operations in Yemen alone isn’t enough if we allow the blockade to carry on. It’s projected that 400,000 Yemeni children under the age of 5&nbsp;could die from starvation this year if this blockade continues – it must be lifted now.”</p> <p>Yet the administration appears oblivious to Riyadh’s continuing responsibility. An unnamed but clueless Biden official told the <em>Journal</em>: “The bottom line is that the Houthis need to know that we are standing with the Saudis and we will continue to support their right to self‐​defense.” Similarly, Washington’s special envoy Timothy Lenderking decried Yemeni retaliation as “not the actions of a&nbsp;group that claims it wants peace.” But the KSA has refused to take the one step that would instantly de‐​escalate the conflict: quit.</p> <p>Nor have the Saudis tempered their conduct anywhere else. With the Trump administration’s fulsome support, Saudi Arabia, especially after MbS took effective control, became the Middle East’s most reckless, irresponsible power. It attacked Yemen, kidnapped Lebanon’s prime minister, underwrote Islamist insurgents in Syria, fueled Libya’s civil war, backed Bahrain’s brutal suppression of democracy protesters, launched economic war against Qatar, and subsidized al-Sisi’s coup and dictatorship in Egypt. No regime, even Iran, is a&nbsp;more malign influence in the region today. Yet Riyadh refuses to drop even one of its oppressive, destabilizing operations.</p> <p>The Biden administration should toughen its stance toward Riyadh. The administration already is drawing down U.S. forces, including a&nbsp;Patriot anti‐​missile battery, which were added by the ever‐​solicitous Trump. (Why he catered to Riyadh’s every whim after having sharply criticized the royal regime during the campaign remains a&nbsp;matter of speculation.) Biden should complete that process, leaving the Kingdom’s defense to the royals. The KSA should stop looking to Washington to provide the equivalent of bodyguards.</p> <p>The president also should suspend <em>all</em> US logistical and maintenance support and <em>all</em> arms sales as long as the KSA is involved in aggressive military operations against its neighbors. Currently “defense” against Yemen means protecting Riyadh from retaliation for its offensive operations. Until Saudi Arabia exits the war, the US should do nothing to shield the Kingdom from the natural consequences of its actions.</p> <p>The history of modern Yemen was complicated, as two very difference states became one, and costly, as the land was consumed by conflict. This endless war is an enormous tragedy but of no security significance to America.</p> <p>Of late Washington’s main concern with Yemen was al‐​Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. However, the Saudi‐​Emirati attack disrupted Yemeni cooperation against the terrorist organization reaching back to Saleh’s presidency and diverted Houthi military efforts away from AQAP. Abu Dhabi also worked to promote secessionist groups <em>against the Hadi government</em>, to improve the UAE’s commercial position. Ending the war would be the best antidote to Yemeni radicalism and separatism.</p> <p>Some observers advocated aiding Saudi Arabia out of fear that a&nbsp;Houthi‐​led government might obstruct traffic in the Red and Arabian Seas. However, Ansar Allah always focused inward, hostile to but little interested in America – or other Western states. It was Riyadh’s U.S.-backed attack, termed the Saudi‐​American War by Yemenis, which created the threat of retaliation. As had happened in Iraq and Libya, US intervention created far more problems than it solved.</p> <p>Of course, Trump was fixated on Iran and prepared to allow Riyadh to kill as many Yemenis as necessary to put additional pressure on Tehran. However, the Houthis never were tools of Iran, which saw the conflict as a&nbsp;means to punish MbS for his folly and distract him from his anti‐​Iran campaign. With the Biden administration now moving toward compliance with the JCPOA, Tehran and Washington should begin a&nbsp;dialogue over other issues, including Yemen.</p> <p>The last two presidents made the American people complicit with brutal aggression against one of the poorest nations on earth. Biden knows what is at stake, having recognized the “unendurable devastation” of the war before announcing the end of offensive aid and suspension of weapons sales. Iran and Ansar Allah share blame over what happened to Yemen, but the Kingdom and UAE greatly multiplied the harms for the crudest reasons of power politics.</p> <p>Peace will not be possible until Saudi Arabia ends its unnecessary war. And that requires the US to finally stop coddling the royals. Washington should end all military support as long as the regime is conducting a&nbsp;murderous war of aggression against its poor neighbor. Americans no longer should be complicit in the murder and mayhem being daily visited upon the people of Yemen.</p> </div> Mon, 12 Apr 2021 18:21:20 -0400 Doug Bandow