Latest Cato Research on Foreign Policy and National Security https://www.cato.org/ en No Fire and Fury: Donald Trump’s Crucial North Korea Choices in a Second Term https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/no-fire-fury-donald-trumps-crucial-north-korea-choices-second-term Ted Galen Carpenter <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>If&nbsp;Donald Trump&nbsp;defies the predictions of polls and pundits once again to win another term as president, he will have considerable latitude to adopt bold initiatives, especially with respect to foreign policy. Such latitude could be especially useful in the case of U.S. policy toward&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/tag/north-korea">North Korea</a>.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Trump’s volatile performance during his first term, though, makes it difficult to predict what direction his relationship with Pyongyang might take.&nbsp;From the time that he took office until shortly before his&nbsp;<a href="https://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-trump-kim-north-korea-summit-updates-htmlstory.html" target="_blank">historic</a>&nbsp;June 2018 summit with Kim Jong‐​un in Singapore, the president pursued an extremely aggressive policy toward North Korea.&nbsp;Not only did the United States build up its air and naval forces in Northeast Asia and work to tighten international economic sanctions against Pyongyang, but Trump also exhibited extreme personal animus toward the North Korean leader, including&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2017/sep/23/trump-little-rocket-man-kim-jong-un-video" target="_blank">deriding him</a>&nbsp;as “Little Rocket Man.”</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>It is imperative that a&nbsp;re‐​elected President Trump not return to the dangerously confrontational policy toward North Korea that he embraced during the initial months of his first term. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The administration then made a&nbsp;sharp reversal and adopted a&nbsp;cordial program of diplomatic outreach, culminating in the so‐​called&nbsp;<a href="https://apnews.com/4823bd17c1c94869826d8bf2a2825896" target="_blank">photo‐​op summit</a>&nbsp;at the DMZ in June 2019, during which the U.S. president briefly strolled into North Korea in a&nbsp;powerful symbolic gesture. Unfortunately, that phase of U.S. policy did not last.&nbsp;Since the summer of 2019, Washington and Pyongyang have been at a&nbsp;<a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/09/north-korea-talks-stall-trump-overtures-new-summit-nuclear-negotiations/" target="_blank">diplomatic impasse</a>&nbsp;over a&nbsp;seemingly intractable issue: the long‐​standing U.S. demand that North Korea agree to a&nbsp;complete, verifiable, and irreversible end to its nuclear‐​weapons program.</p> <p>It is imperative that a&nbsp;re‐​elected President Trump not return to the dangerously confrontational policy toward North Korea that he embraced during the initial months of his first term.&nbsp;Such a&nbsp;policy would greatly endanger the already fragile peace of East Asia.&nbsp;Instead, the president would be wise to begin his second term with a&nbsp;renewed bid for a&nbsp;rapprochement with Pyongyang. As I’ve written&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/libya-the-forgotten-reason-north-korea-desperately-wants-23129">elsewhere</a>, it is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/rump-kim-jong-un-talks-shouldnt-focus-getting-north-korea-give-its-nukes?queryID=021cda4f10f5e4375521656d2c8e04c9" target="_blank">highly improbable</a>&nbsp;that North Korea will ever capitulate regarding the U.S. insistence on complete denuclearization. At the same time, it would be difficult (because of both policy inertia and domestic political pressures) for Washington to explicitly abandon that demand—however unrealistic the position might be. Unless some changes in U.S. policy take place, though, the ongoing impasse will persist indefinitely.</p> <p>President Trump would have an opportunity in his second term to do an end‐​run around that policy blockage. Instead of focusing on the narrow nuclear issue, he should seek to normalize overall relations with North Korea as soon as possible.&nbsp;That approach would include signing a&nbsp;peace treaty formally ending the state of war on the Korean Peninsula, establishing diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, working to lift international sanctions directed against North Korea, and issuing an executive order lifting all U.S. sanctions that he can without needing congressional action.</p> <p>If Trump wants to give expression to his inner realist, he would then use the normalized relationship with North Korea as a&nbsp;foundation to build a&nbsp;new overall U.S. policy in Northeast Asia.&nbsp;The centerpiece of such a&nbsp;policy would be to terminate not only the U.S. troop presence in South Korea but to phase‐​out the bilateral security alliance with Seoul. Such moves would signal Washington’s determination to adopt a&nbsp;lower military profile in the region and not treat North Korea as a&nbsp;dire threat to peace.&nbsp;Primary responsibility for dealing with Pyongyang, including coming to some resolution on the nuclear issue, would be transferred from the United States to Japan and South Korea—the nations that have far greater interests at stake.</p> <p>It remains to be seen whether a&nbsp;re‐​elected President Trump would have the fortitude and wisdom to adopt such a&nbsp;bold course. He will be under intense pressure to return to the futile approach based on isolating North Korea and imposing sanctions that the United States pursued for decades before his initial foray at conciliation in 2018. Worse, hawks in his own party will push for a&nbsp;return to the belligerent approach that he adopted throughout 2017. If he intends to leave a&nbsp;meaningful, beneficial foreign policy legacy, he must ignore both of those factions and pursue a&nbsp;true, comprehensive rapprochement with North Korea.</p> </div> Fri, 18 Sep 2020 12:16:56 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/no-fire-fury-donald-trumps-crucial-north-korea-choices-second-term Trump Challenges Pro‐​War Foreign Policy Elite https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/trump-challenges-pro-war-foreign-policy-elite Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Donald Trump’s practical record might suggest otherwise, but his rhetoric has been the most anti‐​war on record. Last week he chastised Joe Biden for sending “our youth to fight in these crazy endless wars” as vice president. He also complained that top Pentagon officials “want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs, that make the planes and everything else, stay happy.”</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>In practice, he has done little to turn his words into policy. U.S. troops are still fighting every war they were fighting when he took office in 2017. Before reducing forces in Afghanistan, Trump did an Obama—<em>increasing</em>&nbsp;the number first.</p> <p>Moreover, the president brought the U.S. uncomfortably close to war against Iran, largely, it seems, at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Israel. Worse, Trump played a&nbsp;dangerous game of geopolitical chicken with nuclear‐​armed North Korea, creating serious concern that he might inadvertently trigger what could become the Second Korean War. The latter would have been far bloodier than all the military actions taken by Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama combined.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Calls from experts to continue our current endeavors all fall flat. Intervention is the problem, not the solution. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Nevertheless, no other president has similarly criticized America’s promiscuous war‐​making, denounced U.S. aggression, admitted that Washington has abused its power to kill, and questioned the Pentagon’s endless subsidies for wealthy allies. Although the Blob, the ever‐​interventionist foreign policy establishment, routinely dismisses his observations, its members have been forced to address such critiques for the first time. Which has horrified, even angered those who evidently believe that they have the mandate of heaven to rule the world.</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, the president’s latest comments were ill‐​received. And he unfairly maligned the military leadership, which tends to be more cautious than politicians. During the Reagan years Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of State George Shultz clashed over the use of military force, with the former urging restraint.</p> <p>The confrontation between Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, was similar. The former came up with the “Powell Doctrine,” which set restrictive conditions similar to those advanced by Weinberger. In contrast, Albright infamously asked Powell: “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it.” Powell, who saw men die in Vietnam, an experience spared the ivory tower warrior Albright, noted that he “almost had an aneurysm.” Yet Albright has continued to afflict her views on the American people, always backing endless wars.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the U.S. military brass has lined up solidly in favor of every commitment, alliance, deployment, program, weapon, base, subsidy, expenditure, maneuver, grant, facility, war, guarantee, agreement, promise, and everything else that expands the armed services’ footprint and role overseas. The president’s desire to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq set off collective hysteria in Washington. The wailing and gnashing of teeth was as frenzied at the Pentagon as it was&nbsp;at Foggy Bottom and think tanks across New York and Washington, D.C. Not a&nbsp;single Blob member seemed to dispute the principle that what has ever been must ever be.</p> <p>Certainly, the president has noticed that when he, as commander‐​in‐​chief, expresses his desire to exit a&nbsp;war or alliance, those in uniform around him turn into whirling dervishes determined to halt any move toward disengagement and peace. The military’s motto might as well be: “Why not another 19&nbsp;years of peacebuilding in Afghanistan?” Or: “Stay in Syria forever lest the devastated country reunite.” Better yet: “Remain a&nbsp;Saudi pawn in the Sunni‐​Shia struggle in Iraq.”</p> <p>The president’s whack at the military‐​industrial complex drew particularly sharp criticism from some Blob members. Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake accused Trump of sounding like Noam Chomsky. Yet defense contractors know that war increases demand for their wares. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the master of ceremonies opening a&nbsp;conference of arms‐​makers enthusiastically thanked Saddam Hussein. While the infamous merchants of death may not explicitly lobby for war, they promote the meme that the world always is increasingly dangerous, always requiring ever greater weapons expenditures. That contributes to a&nbsp;public perception of danger and aids candidates who run for office suggesting that Americans are in greater danger today than ever before, which is utter nonsense.</p> <p>The most striking complaint about Trump’s comments may be the most fatuous. Lake contended: “The reason America keeps supporting weak, corrupt governments in Baghdad and Kabul is because their collapse would lead to&nbsp;<em>more</em>&nbsp;war,&nbsp;<em>more</em>&nbsp;terrorism and&nbsp;<em>more</em>&nbsp;suffering. Nineteen years ago this week, when a&nbsp;plot hatched in war‐​ravaged Afghanistan felled the World Trade Center and destroyed part of the Pentagon, the U.S. learned this lesson. Trump’s foreign‐​policy message for 2020 is an attempt to persuade American to forget this history.”</p> <p>This claim fails at many levels. First, al‐​Qaeda did not attack America because the latter was so virtuous. It struck the U.S. because the latter had intervened all over the world, meddling in other people’s disputes, supporting oppressive governments, occupying nations, and more. This didn’t justify terrorism, but believing Washington to be an innocent Vestal Virgin abused by the nasty world has resulted in stupid, counterproductive policies. If you strike the hornet’s nest, you get stung. Intervention is the problem, not the solution.</p> <p>Second, the U.S. invasion of Iraq generated many of today’s problems. America managed to create the worst possible consequences: thousands of dead Americans, tens of thousands of wounded Americans, hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, millions of displaced Iraqis, a&nbsp;sectarian conflict, an activist Shia government, greatly strengthened Iranian influence, and creation of al‐​Qaeda in Iraq, which morphed into the Islamic State. The latter, combined with the consequences of sectarian conflict and governance, led to a&nbsp;second round of catastrophic violence.</p> <p>Third, spending almost 20&nbsp;years to promote centralized and liberal government in Afghanistan was not a&nbsp;successful means to prevent more war, terrorism, or suffering. The Watson Center figures tens of thousands of civilian dead and millions displaced in Afghanistan. Nor does attempting to buttress the dismal wreck known as the government in Kabul halt terrorism. Al‐​Qaeda can operate from any ill‐​governed space. Osama bin Laden ended up in Pakistan, where he was killed. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned 9/11, lived almost everywhere but Afghanistan. Al‐​Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, located in Yemen, long was viewed as the most effective national affiliate. As for Washington’s concern over terrorism, it should be noted that in Yemen the U.S. has supported the Saudis, Emiratis, and Hadi governments, all of which have accommodated or cooperated with AQAP; in contrast, the Yemeni Houthis long opposed the terrorist group.</p> <p>Fourth, Washington’s support for weak, corrupt, aggressive, and oppressive governments is one of the best incubators of terrorism. Among bin Laden’s grievances was U.S. support for Riyadh, including stationing U.S. troops on what he viewed as holy Muslim soil. Current al‐​Qaeda head Ayman Mohammed Rabie al‐​Zawahiri was radicalized in the prisons of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, a&nbsp;long‐​time, well‐​subsidized American client. It would not be surprising if Yemenis eventually strike at the U.S. for providing the Saudis with planes, munitions, intelligence, and refueling services used to bomb weddings, funerals, apartment buildings, school buses, and more. The best way to minimize terrorism would be to make fewer enemies, especially by no longer reflexively making other people’s conflicts America’s own.</p> <p>There is much to criticize about Trump’s approach to foreign policy. His policy toward Iran is little short of disastrous. His embrace of the vile Saudi regime is beyond embarrassing. His faux Mideast “peace plan” was written to empower Benjamin Netanyahu with no concern for Palestinians who have suffered under a&nbsp;half century of military occupation. His consistently failed reliance on “maximum pressure” around the globe is a&nbsp;fiasco. He lost an admittedly faint opportunity to negotiate an agreement with North Korea by adopting John Bolton’s approach without John Bolton. Trump’s effort to shift responsibilities onto prosperous, populous allies has been all rhetoric, no action.</p> <p>Nevertheless, his willingness to criticize the endless wars promoted by the usual ivory tower warriors and think tank samurai deserves praise. Maybe not the Nobel Peace Prize—after all, he has yet to end a&nbsp;single war. However, Washington’s promiscuous war‐​making over the last two decades has had catastrophic consequences. Presidential recognition of the obvious is long overdue.</p> </div> Fri, 18 Sep 2020 09:49:25 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/trump-challenges-pro-war-foreign-policy-elite The West Shouldn’t Intervene In Belarus https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/west-shouldnt-intervene-belarus Ted Galen Carpenter <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>After massive street demonstrations erupted last month against the corrupt, autocratic rule of Alexander Lukashenko, the longtime president of Belarus, it appeared that Western governments might have the wisdom not to meddle. Unfortunately, that hope is fading, as the usual advocates of U.S.-led regime change campaigns become more vocal. It’s imperative that American and European leaders resist calls to take action in support of pro‐​democracy demonstrators. A&nbsp;move in that direction could not only entangle the United States and its allies in a&nbsp;messy internal political struggle in a&nbsp;small Eastern European country, it also could lead to a&nbsp;dangerous confrontation with Russia.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>As I&nbsp;discussed in a&nbsp;previous&nbsp;<em>American Conservative</em><a href="https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/why-us-should-keep-its-distance-belarus" target="_blank">&nbsp;article,</a>&nbsp;the relationship between Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin is complicated. On a&nbsp;personal level, the two men can barely tolerate each other. The Kremlin regards the regime in Minsk as a&nbsp;dysfunctional, often unreliable, client. Most Western experts agree that Moscow would prefer to avoid conducting a&nbsp;direct military intervention in Belarus. Russian officials likely see little advantage for their country in becoming responsible for the affairs of their politically restless, economically impoverished neighbor.</p> <p>Nevertheless, Putin’s government is visibly nervous about what might fill the resulting power vacuum if Lukashenko is ousted. The memory of Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan Revolution, when demonstrators (with more than a&nbsp;little Western encouragement) overthrew the country’s elected, Russia‐​friendly government and replaced it with a&nbsp;staunchly nationalistic pro‐​NATO successor, still haunts Russian leaders. Granted, there are important differences between the two. Unlike the Ukrainian protestors, few Belarusian demonstrators carry signs proclaiming their enthusiasm for NATO or the EU, nor are they festooned with buttons and flags displaying the stars and stripes. Overall Belarusian public sentiment appears to be&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dw.com/en/belarus-european-union-russia/a-54613952" target="_blank">vaguely pro‐​Russian</a>. Most pro‐​democracy demonstrators seem genuinely focused on their stated goal of having honest elections and bringing an end to Lukashenko’s strongman rule.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Russia considers its neighbor a&nbsp;buffer between itself and NATO. The consequences of a&nbsp;provocation could be disastrous. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Yet it’s important for Western leaders not to underestimate Moscow’s determination to keep Belarus in Russia’s geopolitical orbit. Early on, Putin explicitly warned EU governments&nbsp;<a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/as-protests-build-in-belarus-putin-warns-european-leaders-to-keep-out-11597784672?st=ltl5z2r4vu8vpms&amp;reflink=article_email_share" target="_blank">not to interfere</a>&nbsp;in Belarus. He also assured Lukashenko that Russia was prepared, under the provisions of the existing mutual security agreement, to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-belarus-election-russia/putin-tells-belarusian-leader-lukashenko-russia-ready-to-help-militarily-if-necessary-idUSKCN25C0EL?il=0" target="_blank">deploy troops</a>&nbsp;to help maintain order, if that became necessary. He has since&nbsp;<a href="http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/August%2027%20Belarus%20Update%201%20Final.pdf" target="_blank">reiterated</a>&nbsp;that commitment.</p> <p>The initial response of Western governments to the disorder in Belarus was relatively cautious and restrained. When Lukashenko accused NATO of deploying troops on his country’s Western border, alliance leaders&nbsp;<a href="https://www.stripes.com/news/europe/nato-rejects-lukashenko-claim-it-s-positioning-forces-near-belarus-borders-1.641546#gallery" target="_blank">flatly denied</a>&nbsp;the allegation, and at the time, those denials were apparently accurate. They aren’t anymore. NATO has now conducted military exercises&nbsp;<a href="https://www.scmp.com/news/world/europe/article/3100394/hundreds-us-troops-arrive-lithuania-belarus-tensions-mount" target="_blank">near Lithuania’s border with Belarus</a>, an imprudent and gratuitously provocative step. It also may reflect a&nbsp;growing campaign in the West to demonstrate “solidarity” with pro‐​democracy factions in Belarus.</p> <p>An&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/10/opinion/belarus-protests.html?referringSource=articleShare" target="_blank">editorial</a>&nbsp;in the September 10&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>, “Support the Brave Protestors of Belarus,” is typical of this lobbying effort. The&nbsp;<em>Times</em>’ editorial board asserted that the “crackdown on peaceful protests over a&nbsp;blatantly fixed election in Belarus is an affront to everyone who cherishes democracy and elemental fairness.” The editorial noted that the protesters “have not reached out to the European Union, NATO or the United States for support.” Yet that did not deter the editors from offering support. They warned that Moscow might “try to draw the European Union into some form of dialogue that would give a&nbsp;patina of legitimacy to Russia’s search for a&nbsp;way to resolve the crisis to its advantage.”</p> <p>The editorial writers scorned any such dialogue. Instead, they contended,</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>the West’s role — that of governments, human rights organizations and the social media‐​wielding public — is to demonstrate to the many courageous people who cast their ballots for Ms. Tikhonovskaya, [the opposition’s candidate in the previously tainted election] and who have braved beatings and arrest simply to demand that these be counted, that free people everywhere are on their side and support their demand for new elections, the release of all detainees and the return of opposition leaders who have been driven into exile.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The&nbsp;<em>Times</em> was hardly content with such moral support, however. It insisted that the message of Western support “ought to be underscored by serious personal sanctions — frozen foreign bank accounts, travel bans and the like — against Mr. Lukashenko’s cronies and those who falsified the election results and then cruelly abused those who dared to protest.”</p> <p>That approach managed to be simultaneously provocative and feckless. It would symbolize that the intent of the West was once again to fish in troubled political waters on Russia’s perimeter, agitating the Kremlin and worsening already chilly East‐​West relations. Belarus has already&nbsp;<a href="https://www.scmp.com/news/world/europe/article/3099352/belarus-threatens-shut-european-transit-routes-if-sanctions" target="_blank">threatened</a>&nbsp;to shut down important transit routes from Russia into Eastern and Central Europe if sanctions are imposed, which would further raise tensions. Although provocative, the sanctions suggested by the&nbsp;<em>Times</em>&nbsp;would be woefully insufficient to bring down Lukashenko’s regime or even threaten its tenure.</p> <p>Highlighting the bipartisan nature of the push for a&nbsp;more active U.S. policy to back the anti‐​Lukashenko forces, the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.heritage.org/europe/commentary/how-the-us-government-should-respond-the-protests-belarus" target="_blank">Heritage Foundation urged</a>&nbsp;Washington “to consider implementing Magnitsky Act sanctions on relevant Belarusian authorities.” That legislation was enacted in 2012 to punish Russia for alleged human rights violations. The&nbsp;<em>Times</em>&nbsp;and Heritage recommendations regarding the desirability of sanctions were nearly identical.</p> <p>U.S. and EU leaders must resist such pressure. The one development that might impel Putin to overcome his reluctance to intervene militarily in Belarus would be if he concludes that the West intends to interfere there as it did in Ukraine. Moscow regards Belarus as an important territorial buffer between the Russian Federation and NATO. If pressed, Putin may decide to absorb Belarus for security reasons, as he did Crimea. A&nbsp;Treaty on the Creation of a&nbsp;Union State of Russia and Belarus was signed in 1999. So far, it has been mostly symbolic, but a&nbsp;spooked Russia could move to implement it fully. Such a&nbsp;step would put the existing cold war between Moscow and the West into a&nbsp;deeper freeze, an outcome no one should want. Western, especially U.S., leaders need to refrain from making an already bad situation worse.</p> </div> Wed, 16 Sep 2020 12:40:36 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/west-shouldnt-intervene-belarus The American News Media’s Volatile Perspectives on China https://www.cato.org/cato-journal/fall-2020/american-news-medias-volatile-perspectives-china Ted Galen Carpenter <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>In the decades since the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, wild swings have occurred in the way that American media outlets view that country. At most times, a&nbsp;herd mentality is evident, as a&nbsp;large percentage of news stories portray China in one particular fashion, although there always are some dissenters from the dominant narrative. The nature of that narrative sometimes shifts rapidly and dramatically, however. During some periods, the prevailing perspective has been extremely hostile, with nearly all accounts seeing the PRC as a&nbsp;monstrous oppressor domestically and an existential security threat to the United States. That was the case for more than two decades following the communist revolution, until Richard Nixon’s administration suddenly altered U.S. policy in 1971–1972, and Washington no longer treated the PRC as a&nbsp;rogue state.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>For the next three decades, the media tended to view China in a&nbsp;more benign fashion. During the 1970s and 1980s, China’s image in the American press was that of a&nbsp;useful, de facto diplomatic and even military ally of the United States against the Soviet Union. A&nbsp;considerable number of news stories, editorials, and op‐​eds also noted that China was emerging as a&nbsp;significant U.S. trading partner. When the Cold War ended, the rationale for a&nbsp;strategic partnership no longer applied, but journalistic accounts emphasized the PRC’s rising economic importance to America. Not even the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 derailed either Washington’s cooperative relationship with Beijing or the media’s reasonably positive view of China, although there appeared to be a&nbsp;bump in wariness and skepticism within the journalistic community.</p> <p>During George W. Bush’s administration, the roster of dissenters favoring a&nbsp;more hawkish policy toward Beijing began to grow. One catalyst for the media’s shift was the sense that the PRC was becoming more a&nbsp;serious economic competitor to the United States than an essential trading partner. Even though both countries were prospering greatly from the relationship, a&nbsp;greater number of stories appeared featuring allegations of “unfair” PRC trade practices, including cases of intellectual property theft and currency manipulation to make Chinese goods more competitive.</p> <p>Negative media accounts were not confined to the economic arena. More journalists began to see the PRC not just as a&nbsp;worrisome trade competitor, but as an emerging U.S. military rival, if not an outright adversary. Beijing’s surging defense budgets and increasingly assertive behavior in such arenas as the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea fed those concerns in the media. Press uneasiness about the PRC’s behavior continued to rise throughout President Barack Obama’s administration, although a&nbsp;majority of news stories and opinion pieces still presented the U.S.-China relationship as positive and mutually beneficial.</p> <p>A more noticeable split in press coverage has developed over the past three years, with a&nbsp;hawkish perspective gaining strength and challenging the once‐​dominant pro‐​engagement view in the media. The Trump administration’s hardline trade policies led primarily to a&nbsp;sharp (sometimes partisan) debate, with journalistic advocates of the status quo condemning the president’s apparent willingness to wage a&nbsp;trade war, while economic nationalists saw the firmer stance as long overdue. However, it is Beijing’s behavior outside of the economic arena that has sparked a&nbsp;surge in both public and media hostility.</p> <p>Two events were especially important catalysts. One was the successful move by President Xi Jinping’s regime in May 2020 to impose a&nbsp;new national security law that menaced Hong Kong’s guaranteed political autonomy. That move reinforced already strong condemnation in the American press about Xi’s growing repression within the PRC, including squelching even the mildest forms of political and economic dissent. The other crucial catalyst for the increasingly negative portrayals of the PRC was Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020. Complaints erupted throughout the American news media about the PRC’s secrecy and duplicity regarding the spread of the virus, as well as attempts by Chinese officials to shift blame onto the United States for the pandemic. Public hostility toward Beijing has risen sharply—as confirmed in opinion polls—and media accounts reflect that shift.</p> <p>Security hawks and economic nationalists have gone on the offensive in the media. Proponents of the overall U.S.-China relationship are still active and influential, but there is now a&nbsp;cautious, defensive, and at times almost apologetic tone to many of their news stories and editorials. They seek to prevent fatal damage to the relationship, even as they feel compelled to criticize PRC leaders for their conduct regarding both Hong Kong and the coronavirus.</p> <p>Negative press views of China seem to be reaching their highest levels since the period immediately following the Tiananmen Square crackdown. In some ways, the extent of negativity may be higher than at any time since Nixon’s outreach to the PRC. There certainly is less evidence of group think and a&nbsp;herd mentality throughout the media. For perhaps the first time since the communist revolution, there appears to be a&nbsp;vigorous debate between factions of roughly equal strength about how the United States should deal with China.</p> </div> , <h2 class="heading"> The Early Years: Pervasive Anger and Hostility </h2> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>China’s communist revolution in 1949 came as an alarming shock to the American people in general and news outlets in particular. Americans could scarcely believe that a&nbsp;leader they regarded as an admirable figure and an important member of the free world, Chiang Kai‐​shek, had lost a&nbsp;civil war and been overthrown. Dean Rusk, who served as deputy undersecretary of state for far eastern affairs in the Truman administration, ruefully recalled that the press and public reaction to the fall of China, was akin to “that of a&nbsp;jilted lover” (<a href="#ch008-ref051">Rusk 1990</a>: 158).</p> <p>Even before World War II, American news publications lionized Chiang. Historian Barbara Tuchman (<a href="#ch008-ref059">1971</a>: 187–88) noted that “Generalissimo and Mme. Chiang Kai‐​shek as ‘Man and Wife of the Year’ for 1937 gazed at Americans in sad nobility from the cover of <em>Time</em>, sober, steady, brave and true.” <em>Time</em>’s publisher, Henry Luce, had been born in China of missionary parents, and not only did he take a&nbsp;great interest in China’s affairs, he was a&nbsp;staunch anti‐​communist and admirer of Chiang. <em>Time</em> and the rest of Luce’s vast magazine empire were important components of the powerful “China Lobby,” which influenced public opinion and U.S. government policy to continue supporting Chiang and persist in an utterly uncompromising policy toward the new regime in Beijing (<a href="#ch008-ref030">Koen 1960</a>).</p> <p>Media leaders were not pleased when a&nbsp;communist regime displaced their hero. Even moderate members of the mainstream media, such as the <em>New York Times</em> and the <em>Boston Globe</em>, criticized the Truman administration for failing to prevent the communist takeover. Conservative publications were decidedly more strident than the <em>New York Times</em> or other liberal establishment types in condemning administration policies. Three right‐​of‐​center media platforms during that time, the <em>Washington Times‐​Herald</em>, the <em>Chicago Tribune</em>, and the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> advocated an extremely hawkish stance regarding the overall threat that international communism posed to the “free world” (<a href="#ch008-ref013">Chamberlin 1948</a>). Those newspapers joined with the Luce magazines to excoriate the Truman administration for its handling of developments in China. Two of those newspapers, the <em>Times‐​Herald</em> and the <em>Tribune,</em> were owned by Col. Robert McCormick, a&nbsp;long‐​time conservative Republican stalwart, and members of his extended family (<a href="#ch008-ref053">Smith 1997</a>). Criticisms of the Truman administration’s handling of China developments became ever more pointed and vitriolic in those publications.</p> <p>Once Chiang’s regime fell, it became utterly perilous for anyone in the media or government service to dispute the dominant conservative narrative that Washington’s incompetence had “lost” China. The corollary was that a&nbsp;policy to isolate the PRC was essential along with vigorous U.S. diplomatic and military support for Chiang’s exile regime on Taiwan (<a href="#ch008-ref012">Carpenter and Innocent 2015</a>: 48–61). Indeed, the prevailing narrative by the 1960s portrayed the PRC as an even more dangerous and repulsive threat than the Soviet Union to America’s security and way of life. That view even penetrated popular culture. A&nbsp;best‐​selling novel and subsequent movie, <em>The Manchurian Candidate</em>, was based on a&nbsp;paranoid premise that Communist China was able to infiltrate and manipulate America’s political system by utilizing a&nbsp;brainwashed prisoner of war. In Ian Fleming’s book <em>Goldfinger</em>, the conspirators behind that arch‐​nemesis of hero James Bond were Russians. But in the 1964 movie based on the book, the villains were changed to Chinese.</p> <p>The assumption that China was an existential threat was especially strong among right‐​wing media outlets once it became apparent in the mid‐​1960s that Beijing was intent on building a&nbsp;nuclear arsenal. <em>National Review</em>, the flagship publication of the conservative movement, published two editorials in 1965 warning that China’s communist leaders could not be deterred the way the United States deterred the Soviet Union. The second editorial appeared with the pro‐​war headline “Bomb the Bang.” <em>National Review</em>’s editors admonished U.S. officials not to sit passively “like a&nbsp;man who watches and waits while the guillotine is constructed to chop his head off” (<a href="#ch008-ref011">Carpenter 2015</a>).</p> <p>Moderate and liberal publications did not go as far as recommending preemptive war against the PRC, but they saw no opportunity for a&nbsp;policy of peaceful coexistence with Mao Zedong’s regime either. The onset of China’s bizarre, fanatical Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s made the notion of a&nbsp;dialogue with that government seem even more farfetched. However, a&nbsp;major policy change was on the horizon, and that development would be the catalyst for a&nbsp;dramatic shift in the media’s perception of China.</p> </div> , <h2 class="heading"> Nixon’s Policy Change Initiates Benign Media Illusions About China </h2> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Both U.S. policy and media attitudes toward China shifted abruptly in July 1971 when President Richard M. Nixon announced that he would travel to the PRC the following February to hold talks with that country’s communist rulers. His visit culminated with the issuance of the Shanghai Communique, which began the profound transformation of U.S.-China relations. Nixon’s initiative marked the abandonment of the U.S. campaign to isolate and demonize the PRC. Media accounts were mostly favorable, although many were still cautious about whether the rapprochement would achieve meaningful, substantive results. Other journalists were extremely supportive. Liberal <em>New York Times</em> columnist James Reston (<a href="#ch008-ref049">1972</a>) stated that the trip to China and the signing of the Shanghai Communique was Nixon’s finest hour.</p> <p>An Associated Press sampling of editorial comments in newspapers across the nation found far more support than criticism of the president’s policy (<a href="#ch008-ref002">Associated Press 1972</a>). That stance was particularly evident among liberal‐​leaning publications. The <em>Boston Globe</em> stated that “with this good start, it remains to be seen how far the two nations can proceed together on the road to peace.” The <em>Chicago Sun Times</em> exuded pleasure: “If all this is not superior to trading insults mixed with myths, we’d like to know what is.” The <em>St. Louis Post‐​Dispatch</em> noted that “many Americans may be viewing Communist China in a&nbsp;positive light for the first time.” Such a&nbsp;development, the editors concluded, was in itself “a notable advance in international amity and a&nbsp;heartening portent.” Those and other newspapers expressed caution that much additional diplomatic labor was necessary before the bilateral relationship was fully transformed, but they gave the president high marks for his initial foray. Only a&nbsp;handful of right‐​wing publications expressed outright opposition to the notion of a&nbsp;U.S. rapprochement with the PRC (<a href="#ch008-ref010">Buckley 1972</a>).</p> <p><em>Los Angeles Times</em> diplomatic correspondent and long‐​time China observer James Mann noted that after Nixon’s outreach to Beijing, “China was America’s partner in fighting the Cold War,” and that for America’s policymaking elite, “China was considered a&nbsp;special relationship” (<a href="#ch008-ref038">Mann 2000</a>: 5). Most portions of the U.S. news media came to accept Washington’s 180‐​degree policy turn regarding Beijing. Now that policymakers no longer viewed “Red China” as a&nbsp;grave threat and an ideological bogeyman, Mann observed, some journalistic accounts even went to the opposite extreme and minimized the Beijing regime’s ongoing domestic repression.</p> <p>Such kid‐​glove treatment built gradually, though. Conservatives especially were divided or ambivalent about the new U.S. relationship. When long‐​time anticommunist hawk Sen. Henry Jackson (D-WA) reversed course and called for normalization of relations with China to better combat the Soviet Union, William F. Buckley’s <em>National Review</em>, accused Jackson of “moral blindness,” pointing out that the PRC was “a far more totalitarian state than the Soviet Union” (<em>National Review</em> 1974). Other right‐​wing publications featured critics of Washington’s growing military assistance to Beijing. Writing in the pages of <em>Commentary</em>, military analyst Edward Luttwak (<a href="#ch008-ref037">1978</a>: 43) posed some provocative and unpopular questions to policymakers. “Is it our true purpose to promote the rise of the People’s Republic to superpower status?” he asked. “Should we become the artificers of a&nbsp;great power which our grandchildren may have to contend with?”</p> <p>Most American journalists, though, adopted an increasingly benign view of the PRC in their coverage during the 1970s and 1980s. Harry Harding, a&nbsp;prominent scholar on China, states that by the mid and late 1980s “American euphoria about developments in China reached its zenith” (<a href="#ch008-ref026">Harding 1992</a>: 169). Press accounts reflected that view, and the attitude prevailed until China’s communist regime committed the massacre at Tiananmen Square in June 1989.</p> <p>In a&nbsp;2014 retrospective, the editors of the <em>New York Times</em> conceded that its reporters and columnists had been too upbeat about prospects for political reform in the PRC. “Before the violence of June 4, [<em>Times</em> reporter Nicholas D.] Kristof and others had been optimistic about the prospect of a&nbsp;more open, more democratic China.” Kristof agreed with that assessment. “Looking back at what I&nbsp;wrote 25&nbsp;years ago, I’d say the tone was right but the timing way too optimistic,” Kristof said. “The Communist party indeed has diminishing control over people’s lives,” but he noted that despite economic and social pluralism, there is “still not a&nbsp;whisker of political pluralism” (<em>New York Times</em> 2014). Given the regime’s dramatic tightening of controls under Xi Jinping, Kristof was still too optimistic in 2014.</p> </div> , <h2 class="heading"> Harsh Initial Post‐​Tiananmen Square Coverage Gradually Moderates </h2> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The PRC’s brutal Tiananmen Square crackdown produced a&nbsp;flurry of angry stories in the American press. <em>New York Times</em> reporter Sheryl Wudunn managed to disguise herself as a&nbsp;local and get close to the action on that fateful night. Her report provided a&nbsp;searing eyewitness account of the regime’s appalling behavior:</p> <blockquote>Tens of thousands of Chinese troops retook the center of the capital this morning from pro‐​democracy demonstrators, killing scores of students and workers and wounding hundreds more as they fired submachine guns at crowds of people who tried to resist.… Most of the dead had been shot, but some had been run over by armored personnel carriers that forced their way through barricades erected by local residents [in <a href="#ch008-ref055">Timperlake and Triplett 1999</a>: 26].</blockquote> <p>The initial press coverage was universally harsh. When information leaked that President George H. W. Bush had sent National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft on a&nbsp;secret fence‐​mending mission to Beijing, the media erupted with condemnations. A&nbsp;<em>Washington Post</em> editorial stated that the president “should not be making placatory gestures to a&nbsp;blood‐​stained Chinese government” (<em>Washington Post</em> 1989). A&nbsp;short time later, the <em>Post</em> published an op‐​ed by the recently retired U.S. ambassador to China, Winston Lord. Although a&nbsp;thoroughly moderate member of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, Lord was unsparingly caustic in his assessment of the president’s handling of the Tiananmen Square atrocity: “Let us conduct necessary business with the Beijing authorities in workmanlike fashion, not with fawning emissaries” (<a href="#ch008-ref035">Lord 1989</a>).</p> <p>Yet as widespread as the negative press treatment of the PRC was immediately following the Tiananmen Square bloodletting, the intense outrage was relatively short‐​lived. The incident also had surprisingly little impact on U.S. government policy, especially with respect to the expanding bilateral economic ties, and that attitude of returning to business as usual subtly influenced the media coverage. Bill Clinton campaigned against the “butchers of Beijing” in 1992, but once in office, his policy differed little in substance for those of Reagan and Bush. And as bilateral relations gradually returned to normal, media coverage became calmer and focused increasingly on the beneficial economic ties. Even when the PRC fired missiles into the Taiwan Strait in 1995&nbsp;in a&nbsp;futile effort to disrupt Taiwan’s first genuinely free election, and the United States sent an aircraft carrier task force to the area in a&nbsp;show of support for Taipei, press reports generally avoided hyperbole.</p> <p>There were, to be sure, dissenters in the 1990s. Conservative hawks frequently attacked President Clinton’s policies toward China. An especially persistent and virulent critic was <em>Washington Times</em> defense and national security reporter Bill Gertz. He even impugned the loyalty of Clinton and other administration officials, saying that “highly effective Chinese political influence and intelligence operations against the United States had led the president and his advisers to try to fool the American people into believing that China poses no threat” (<a href="#ch008-ref023">Gertz 1999</a>: 81). Among his specific accusations, Gertz charged that the administration had accepted cash payments from the Chinese government and had assisted the PRC in developing its nuclear weapons.</p> <p>There was very thin support for the latter allegation, but the former had at least some validity. In early 1997, the <em>Washington Post</em> reported that Justice Department investigators had discovered evidence, including some based on electronic surveillance, indicating that Chinese officials had tried to steer campaign contributions to the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. Although only circumstantial evidence ultimately emerged, James Mann contended that “the swirl of accusations and news stories about the scandal had an impact. They put Clinton on the defensive concerning China and prompted the administration to hold temporarily in abeyance its plans for a&nbsp;far‐​reaching improvement in relations with Beijing” (<a href="#ch008-ref038">Mann 2000</a>: 351). Mann’s conclusion about the scandal’s impact on policy was a&nbsp;bit exaggerated. There was just a&nbsp;modest effect, and outside of right‐​wing press outlets, only a&nbsp;modest negative impact on the media’s perspective</p> <p>Gertz’s broader complaint was that government and corporate ties to China were endangering America’s security. In 2000, Gertz published a&nbsp;book, partly based on his <em>Washington Times</em> articles, which provided a&nbsp;detailed presentation of the right‐​wing case for a&nbsp;more confrontational U.S. policy toward the PRC (<a href="#ch008-ref024">Gertz 2000</a>). Worries about the impact of extensive government and corporate ties to Beijing would reemerge with even greater virulence during the second decade of the 21st century, and Gertz was hardly the only analyst to voice them.</p> <p>Mainstream media treatments at the time, though, adopted a&nbsp;markedly different approach. Nicholas Kristof was an especially vocal spokesman for a&nbsp;mild, conciliatory China policy. His arguments typified the views of journalists who defended and promoted maximum U.S. engagement with China. Such an approach, even after Tiananmen Square, he contended, maximized the likelihood of the PRC becoming less repressive domestically and being a&nbsp;responsible actor internationally (<a href="#ch008-ref031">Kristof and Wudunn 1995</a>). Despite some anger and concern surrounding the campaign contribution scandal, a&nbsp;moderately favorable and optimistic perspective regarding China generally characterized mainstream media coverage throughout the 1990s and into George W. Bush’s administration. There was some residual pessimism and skepticism about prospects for political reform in the PRC. After Vice President Al Gore’s trip to China in 1997, a&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em> editorial observed that “Mr. Gore seemed to go out of his way … to praise ‘a significant advance in democracy’ that few others have been able to detect” (<em>New York Times</em> <a href="#ch008-ref044">1997</a>). But the views that <em>Times</em> columnist Thomas Friedman expressed were more typical of the mainstream media’s perspective. “China’s going to have a&nbsp;free press,” he predicted confidently. “Globalization will drive it” (<a href="#ch008-ref021">Friedman 2000</a>: 183). Former <em>New York Times</em> and <em>Washington Post</em> correspondent Patrick Tyler was more cautious about those prospects, but he warned nevertheless that a&nbsp;more confrontational U.S. policy “is profoundly against the interests of a&nbsp;stable international order” (<a href="#ch008-ref060">Tyler 1999</a>: 426).</p> </div> , <h2 class="heading"> Press Criticism of China Slowly Rises Again During the Bush and Obama Years </h2> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>A more negative tone began to creep into media analyses of PRC behavior during George W. Bush’s administration. In a&nbsp;major campaign address in 1999, candidate Bush used the term “strategic competitor” to describe China (<a href="#ch008-ref034">Lippman 1999</a>). It was a&nbsp;term than evoked an image midpoint between friend and enemy, but even such a&nbsp;nuanced relationship got off to a&nbsp;very bad start in April 2001 when a&nbsp;PRC fighter plane and a&nbsp;U.S. surveillance aircraft collided near China’s coast, killing the Chinese pilot and forcing the damaged American spy plane to land on Hainan Island. Public and press irritation at Beijing soared when Chinese authorities initially refused to release the plane or crew. Although a&nbsp;diplomatic compromise eventually resolved the spat, some U.S. publications vented their fury at the PRC government.</p> <p>An article by prominent neoconservative writers, William Kristol and Robert Kagan, in the <em>Weekly Standard</em> was especially caustic. The authors described the conciliatory U.S. response as “a national humiliation.” Kristol and Kagan saw much wider, dangerous ramifications from such conduct. “As the Chinese understand better than American leaders, President Bush has revealed weakness. And he has revealed fear: fear of the political, strategic, and economic consequences of meeting a&nbsp;Chinese challenge. Having exposed this weakness and fear, the Chinese will try to exploit it again and again, most likely in a&nbsp;future confrontation over Taiwan” (<a href="#ch008-ref032">Kristol and Kagan 2001</a>).</p> <p>They also stressed a&nbsp;theme that would become increasingly visible in right‐​wing and economic nationalist articles about the U.S.-China relationship. “The Chinese believe, with good reason, that the American business community has a&nbsp;hammerlock on American policy toward China, and that Congress will never dare cut off American business’s access to the Chinese market. Congress has a&nbsp;chance to prove that when matters of fundamental national security are at stake, the United States can break this addiction.” At the time of the 2001 incident, though, most portions of the news media expressed relief that sober diplomacy had resolved the crisis without doing serious damage to bilateral ties or escalating to a&nbsp;dangerous military confrontation.</p> <p>Suspicions about China’s behavior and motives appeared to tick up a&nbsp;notch in press coverage, but in the years following the spy plane incident, Bush was firmly committed to preserving and even expanding a&nbsp;cooperative relationship with Beijing. One very noticeable feature was that while the president frequently condemned various countries for their human rights abuses and lack of democracy, China was almost always left off the list. As the Beijing Olympics approached, Mann (<a href="#ch008-ref039">2007</a>: 89–93) found that the media treatments of China still were heavily laden with (mostly benign) simplistic clichés. Indeed, the bulk of the press coverage of the Olympics turned out to be friendly and positive.</p> <p>Nevertheless, during both Bush’s presidency and Barack Obama’s, the number of negative articles on Beijing’s distressing human rights record continued to grow. Media outlets skewered Obama in 2009 when he refused to meet with Tibet’s Dalai Lama, apparently for fear of offending Beijing (<em>Wall Street Journal</em> <a href="#ch008-ref061">2009</a>). Pressure in the press also contributed to the reversal of that decision the following year. In addition to the human rights issue, more news stories contended that economic globalization was not an unalloyed benefit—especially as it pertained to China. Complaints rose about American job losses in certain industries, and a&nbsp;litany of complaints about Beijing’s “unfair” trade practices developed (<a href="#ch008-ref014">Collins 2016</a>). There also was a&nbsp;rising number of critical stories about the double‐​digit annual increases in the PRC’s military budget, much of it used to build new, highly sophisticated weapons (<a href="#ch008-ref047">Perlez 2012</a>). The primary purpose of those weapons systems seemed especially unsettling. The development of anti‐​ship missiles and radars appeared to be focused on making a&nbsp;U.S. intervention to support Taiwan in a&nbsp;crisis prohibitively dangerous.</p> <p>Still, even publications such as the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> that expressed growing concern about the PRC’s implicit military challenge to U.S. primacy in the western Pacific defended the extensive and growing bilateral economic ties. Economic nationalists in the media asserted that such a&nbsp;policy was internally contradictory, arguing that massive trade flows contributed to China’s economic strength, thereby enabling Beijing to build an ever more capable military that that utilized some of America’s best technology (<a href="#ch008-ref029">Kearns and Tonelson 2011</a>). Such negative assessments became more visible during Barack Obama’s presidency. Right‐​wing journalists such as Bill Gertz were especially alarmed about how the economic ties the Obama administration encouraged seemed to be aiding China’s geostrategic challenge to the United States and its allies. Indeed, Gertz (<a href="#ch008-ref025">2019</a>: 34–41) accused the administration of outright appeasement on a&nbsp;host of issues.</p> <p>Most media perspectives on bilateral relations, though, avoided discussing the possible contradiction between approving extensive technology transfers and limiting the PRC’s military capabilities, as did most foreign policy scholars. Other analyses in the press tried to square the circle, using the term “congagement” to describe the supposed optimal policy—one that took China’s military rise seriously and sought to contain Beijing’s geopolitical ambitions while still preserving maximum bilateral economic connections and seeking to find areas of diplomatic and strategic cooperation (<a href="#ch008-ref062">Wang 2016</a>). That somewhat hazy and ambivalent media treatment persisted through Obama’s time in office, although criticism and warnings from conservative journalists were becoming more numerous and strident.</p> </div> , <h2 class="heading"> China’s Press Image Worsens in the Trump Years </h2> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>As relations between Washington and Beijing have become more contentious during the Trump administration, media coverage exhibits some major divisions. Public opinion has turned more negative toward China because of intensifying trade disputes, the PRC government’s rising authoritarianism at home under President Xi Jinping, Beijing’s deteriorating human rights record—exemplified in its treatment of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang province—and its heavy‐​handed moves to reduce or abolish Hong Kong’s political autonomy.</p> <p>The PRC’s attempt in the spring of 2019 to gain the power to extradite Hong Kong residents for trial in mainland courts created great suspicion among American journalists. When pro‐​democracy demonstrations erupted in Hong Kong in response to Beijing’s extradition power play and other grievances, American media accounts across the political spectrum were sympathetic to the demonstrators and hostile to the communist authorities (<a href="#ch008-ref001">Allen‐​Ebrahiman 2020</a>; <a href="#ch008-ref046">Olney 2019</a>). Conservative columnist George Will typified the reaction. “Just eight years after the Tiananmen massacre,” Will wrote in the pages of <em>National Review</em>, “there began what was supposed to be half a&nbsp;century of Hong Kong’s exceptionalism preserved, after which the city might be gracefully melded with a&nbsp;mellowed mainland. Just 22&nbsp;years later, this hope has been as refuted as the 1989 hope that the massacre would be followed by a&nbsp;less authoritarian, because more secure, Beijing regime” (<a href="#ch008-ref065">Will 2019</a>).</p> <p>American journalists have noticed the growing authoritarianism in China, and criticism of Xi Jinping’s regimentation policies are more frequent and pointed (<a href="#ch008-ref056">Thayer and Han 2019</a>). The criticism is especially vocal and emphatic about the tightening censorship measures (<a href="#ch008-ref033">Lin 2018</a>). But media discontent with the policies of Xi’s regime now go beyond that issue. Civil liberties advocates are deeply alarmed about the massive degree of surveillance and data collection associated with Beijing’s social credit system. Writing in <em>The Atlantic</em>, longtime promoters of global democracy Anna Mitchell and Larry Diamond unequivocally denounce that system (<a href="#ch008-ref041">Mitchell and Diamond 2018</a>).</p> <p>Although Beijing’s tightening autocracy generated greater criticism in the American news media, a&nbsp;sizable portion of the corporate media community has still held back, according good relations—especially profitable economic relations—between the United States and China a&nbsp;higher priority. That approach has begun to enrage conservative media outlets. A&nbsp;more noticeable split in media coverage along political and ideological lines has become evident in 2020 than at any time in recent decades.</p> <p>China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020 has caused a&nbsp;surge of media criticism—especially among conservative journalists. Early on, anti‐​China agitation on the part of right‐​wing journalists went well beyond allegations that Beijing had withheld information that might have saved the lives of Americans and other victims throughout the world. Conservatives routinely referred to the coronavirus as the “Wuhan virus” or even the “Chinese virus” in an effort to whip‐​up greater public resentment against Beijing (<a href="#ch008-ref040">Mastio 2020</a>; <a href="#ch008-ref036">Lowry 2020</a>). Liberal journalists rejected such labels as not only inaccurate, but xenophobic and implicitly racist, and they blasted both President Trump and his right‐​wing media allies for using them (<a href="#ch008-ref019">Flipovic 2020</a>; <a href="#ch008-ref052">Scott 2020</a>; <a href="#ch008-ref017">Dickinson 2020</a>). Members of the media taking a&nbsp;soft line on China’s responsibility for the onset and spread of the coronavirus were increasingly on the defensive, however.</p> <p>Most of China’s conservative adversaries carefully draw a&nbsp;distinction between blaming the Chinese people and blaming the Chinese Communist Party. Some media members even use the term “CCP virus” rather than “Chinese virus”—in part to neutralize charges of racism. Helen Raleigh, a&nbsp;senior contributor to <em>The Federalist</em>, emphasizes that “it’s important that in our quest for justice, we distinguish between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese people. At fault for the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus is the CCP” (<a href="#ch008-ref048">Raleigh 2020</a>). Josh Rogin, a&nbsp;moderately conservative columnist for the <em>Washington Post</em>, had earlier promoted a&nbsp;similar view. “Our beef is not with the Chinese people; our problem is with the CCP—its internal repression, its external aggression, and its malign influence in free and open societies” (<a href="#ch008-ref050">Rogin 2020</a>). Writing in <em>National Review</em>, Hoover Institution scholar Michael Auslin (<a href="#ch008-ref043">2020</a>) states bluntly that “the CCP, which for years has claimed to be a&nbsp;responsible member of the global community, showed its true colors when this crisis hit. It can no longer be denied that Xi’s regime is a&nbsp;danger to the world. Justice demands it be held morally culpable for its dangerous and callous behavior.”</p> <p>Some right‐​wing figures contend that lax containment standards at a&nbsp;virology research lab outside Wuhan may have allowed the virus to be released into the outside world. Liberal publications dismiss the accusation as crude right‐​wing conspiracy theories (<a href="#ch008-ref005">Barclay 2020</a>; <a href="#ch008-ref054">Stellino 2020</a>). Nevertheless, such suspicions persist, and journalists trying to promote a&nbsp;conciliatory perspective found it acutely difficult to do so when Beijing conducted a&nbsp;vigorous propaganda campaign to shift the blame for the global pandemic onto the United States.</p> <p>There also has been an increase in allegations from conservative writers that some journalists and media outlets are subservient to Beijing. In a&nbsp;March 31, 2020 article, J. Arthur Bloom, managing editor of the <em>American Conservative</em>, laid out one important aspect of the case that some of the most prominent media organizations were inhibited from leveling justifiable criticism of Beijing on an array of issues. “The companies that own the major news networks, NBC, ABC, and CBS, all do significant business in China,” he emphasizes, creating an inherent conflict of interest (<a href="#ch008-ref007">Bloom 2020a</a>). In another article, Bloom documents the extensive financial connections that both the <em>Washington Post</em> and the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> maintain with the PRC government‐​owned <em>China Daily</em>. “We now have a&nbsp;figure for how much the <em>Washington Post</em> and the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> have taken from <em>China Daily</em> … since 2016. It’s $4.6 million, and $6 million, respectively.” He points out that the Chinese government undoubtedly seeks to promote its views on various issues with such large expenditures (<a href="#ch008-ref008">Bloom 2020b</a>).</p> <p>Bloom is not the only conservative journalist to argue that the vast economic stakes that media outlets or their parent companies have in preserving a&nbsp;friendly relationship with China could be compromising the content of their news coverage. Barbara Boland, the <em>American Conservative</em>’s national security reporter, accused <em>Bloomberg News</em> of burying stories critical of China on other issues. She specifically cited the editors’ decision not to run a&nbsp;follow‐​up story on the accumulation of massive wealth by members of China’s political elite (<a href="#ch008-ref009">Boland 2020</a>).</p> <p>Establishment journalists and analysts have sought to stem, or at least deflect, the public hostility toward China. Some of them even make an effort to turn the coronavirus issue to their advantage in terms of promoting the broader agenda of preserving international cooperation. Rather than defending the Chinese government outright (which was becoming increasingly difficult), they instead prefer to stress related themes. A&nbsp;key rationale is that the coronavirus constitutes an extraordinarily serious threat that requires enhanced, not reduced, bilateral and global cooperation (<a href="#ch008-ref020">Flournoy and Monaco 2020</a>).</p> <p>China’s critics have little patience for the newest edition of pro‐​globalism arguments. Economic nationalist writer Alan Tonelson, editor of the <em>RealityChek</em> blog, pushed back hard on a&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em> story, which he described as an implicit editorial rather than a&nbsp;news story. Tonelson (<a href="#ch008-ref057">2020</a>) contended that “see‐​no‐​evil pre‐​Trump American science and tech collaboration and exchange programs were a&nbsp;one‐​way street that sent to Beijing cutting edge knowhow crucial both for defense and for national competitiveness. None of that made its way into the <em>Times</em>.” He charged further that the <em>Times</em> story was another example of the mainstream media making “no effort to conceal its free‐​trade, globalist, liberal biases, even if it means throwing in with China.”</p> <p>Even as anger over Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact press coverage of China issues, another PRC action puts China’s defenders in an even more awkward position. In May 2020, Xi Jinping’s government imposed a&nbsp;national security law on ostensibly autonomous Hong Kong. The passage of that measure effectively negates the territory’s autonomy, which was supposed to last until 2047—50&nbsp;years after Britain’s transfer of the territory to the PRC. PRC officials offer assurances that the security law is merely intended to deal with disruptive demonstrations and other manifestations of subversion and disorder (<a href="#ch008-ref066">Zheng 2020</a>). Comments in the American press are overwhelmingly skeptical, if not scornful, of such assurances. NPR’s Emily Feng (<a href="#ch008-ref018">2020</a>) brands the new law as a “power grab” and points out that not only would Beijing decide who falls under the provisions of the law, but the PRC frequently refers to Hong Kong’s democracy protests “as the work of ‘terrorists.’”</p> <p>Not surprisingly, conservatives in the press are especially categorical in denouncing Beijing’s action. The editors of <em>National Review</em> not only praised the Trump administration for rescinding Hong Kong’s special trade status, they called for a&nbsp;similar firm response on other issues:</p> <blockquote>We obviously also need a&nbsp;strategy to combat Chinese belligerence elsewhere. Control of Hong Kong is only one step in China’s quest to “occupy a&nbsp;central position in the world,” as Chinese president Xi Jinping has put it. The Hong Kong security law coincides with increasingly aggressive naval exercises in the South and East China Seas and a&nbsp;sudden military buildup on the Sino–Indian border. The Chinese have also made clear their intention to annex Taiwan, and show no signs of rolling back their programs of industrial espionage and anti‐​competitive trade practices. The White House must resist China on all fronts [<em>National Review</em> <a href="#ch008-ref043">2020</a>].</blockquote> <p>Other right‐​wing publications echo that view (<a href="#ch008-ref015">del Guidice 2020</a>). <em>Fox News</em> contributor Marc Thiessen pointedly condemns the new national security law, stating that “the Chinese regime is going to be able to ban pro‐​democracy groups, arrest people for political crimes. They’re going to allow the state security service, which is the Chinese secret police that terrorizes people all over mainland China, to operate openly in Hong Kong, which they have not been allowed to do” (<a href="#ch008-ref022">Garcia 2020</a>). But moderate and liberal commentators emphasize that there is little the United States and its democratic allies can do in response, and most China policy specialists share their pessimism and sense of constraints (<a href="#ch008-ref064">Wertime 2020</a>).</p> <p>It became evident in the spring of 2020 that U.S. policy toward China was going to be a&nbsp;major issue in the election—especially at the presidential level (<a href="#ch008-ref004">Bandow 2020</a>). The Trump and Biden camps soon traded accusations about which candidate was weaker regarding the PRC. A&nbsp;Biden campaign ad accused Trump of having “rolled over for the Chinese” during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak. “Trump praised the Chinese 15 times in January and February as the coronavirus spread across the world,” the ad sneeringly concluded (<a href="#ch008-ref027">Hain 2020</a>).</p> <p>That approach has alienated some of the Democratic Party’s usual media allies while drawing derision from right‐​of center outlets. The approach created a&nbsp;noticeable rift with some left‐​leaning journalists (<a href="#ch008-ref058">Toosi 2020</a>). The <em>Nation</em>’s Jeet Heer accused Biden of succumbing to the type of xenophobia that Trump epitomized. Heer (<a href="#ch008-ref028">2020</a>) was especially upset about the “rolling over for the Chinese” terminology. He even accused the former vice president of dabbling “in ‘Yellow Peril’ rhetoric.” Some moderate Democrats reached a&nbsp;similar conclusion. Writing in <em>The Atlantic</em>, Peter Beinart (<a href="#ch008-ref006">2020</a>) blasted the “utter futility of Biden’s China rhetoric,” cautioning that trying to “out‐​hawk Trump” on China was “pointless, even dangerous.”</p> <p>Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong, though, has made such sentiments even more out‐​of‐​step with the trend in American public opinion. Even before that episode, A&nbsp;Pew Research Center survey of Americans taken in late April 2020 indicated intense and growing hostility toward the PRC. The results showed that 66 percent of respondents had a&nbsp;negative opinion of China, while a&nbsp;mere 26 percent expressed a&nbsp;favorable attitude. It was the highest percentage of negative views toward China since Pew began asking the question in 2005 (<a href="#ch008-ref016">Devlin, Silver, and Huang 2020</a>).</p> </div> , <h2 class="heading"> Conclusion </h2> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Given the state of American public opinion, it is not surprising that media accounts regarding the PRC are becoming increasingly hostile. Advocates of a&nbsp;cooperative relationship between the United States and China have not given up the fight, but a&nbsp;pronounced split has occurred in the journalistic community, and the pro‐​engagement faction is weakening. The trend in media perspectives toward more extensive criticism of the PRC is apparent, and if Beijing’s behavior, both domestically and internationally, does not improve, the number and influence of conciliatory stories likely will wane. Indeed, the emergence of hawkish group‐​think akin to that in the 1950s and 1960s is no longer out of the question.</p> </div> , <h2 class="heading"> References </h2> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p id="ch008-ref001">Allen‐​Ebrahiman, B. (2019) “The Depressing Reality Behind Hong Kong’s Protests.” <em>New Republic</em> (June 20).</p> <p id="ch008-ref002">Associated Press (1972) “Editorial Opinions in U.S. on Nixon’s Trip.” <em>New York Times</em> (February 25).</p> <p id="ch008-ref003">Auslin, M. (2020) “Why China Must Be Held Accountable for the Coronavirus Pandemic.” <em>National Review</em> (March 3).</p> <p id="ch008-ref004">Bandow, D. (2020) “China to Become a&nbsp;Political Piñata in 2020 Presidential Election.” <em>China-U.S. Focus</em> (May 5).</p> <p id="ch008-ref005">Barclay, E. (2020) “The Conspiracy Theories About the Origins of the Coronavirus, Debunked.” <em>Vox</em> (March 12).</p> <p id="ch008-ref006">Beinart, P. (2020) “The Utter Futility of Biden’s China Rhetoric.” <em>The Atlantic</em> (April 20).</p> <p id="ch008-ref007">Bloom, A. (2020a) “China’s Long Tentacles Extend Deep into American Media.” <em>American Conservative</em> (March 31).</p> <p id="ch008-ref008">__________ (2020b) “They Really Are Lying to You.” <em>American Conservative</em> (June 10).</p> <p id="ch008-ref009">Boland, B. (2020) “Bloomberg News Buried Stories Critical of China.” <em>American Conservative</em> (April 14)</p> <p id="ch008-ref010">Buckley, W. F. Jr. (1972) “Nixon Diplomacy Won’t Work.” <em>Washington Star</em> (February 23).</p> <p id="ch008-ref011">Carpenter, T. G. (2015) “Blast from the Past: When Hawks Wanted to Bomb a ‘Suicidal’ China.” <em>National Interest</em> (April 1).</p> <p id="ch008-ref012">Carpenter, T. G., and Innocent, M. (2015) <em>Perilous Partners: The Benefits and Pitfalls of America’s Alliances with Authoritarian Regimes.</em> Washington: Cato Institute.</p> <p id="ch008-ref013">Chamberlin, W. H. (1948) “Disaster in China.” <em>Wall Street Journal</em> (November 11).</p> <p id="ch008-ref014">Collins, M. (2016) “It’s Time to Stand Up to China.” <em>Industry Week</em> (June 13).</p> <p id="ch008-ref015">del Guidice, R. (2020) “The End of the Rule of Law in Hong Kong? What China’s New Crackdown Could Mean.” <em>Daily Signal</em> (May 27).</p> <p id="ch008-ref016">Devlin, K.; Silver, L.; and Huang, C. (2020) “U.S. Views of China Increasingly Negative Amid Coronavirus Outbreak.” <em>Pew Research Center Global Attitudes and Trends</em> (April 21).</p> <p id="ch008-ref017">Dickinson, T. (2020) “Racist Trump Defends Using ‘Chinese Virus’ to Describe Coronavirus Pandemic.” <em>Rolling Stone</em> (March 18).</p> <p id="ch008-ref018">Feng, E. (2020) “4 Takeaways from Beijing’s Hong Kong Power Grab.” <em>NPR</em> (May 29).</p> <p id="ch008-ref019">Flipovic, J. (2020) “Trump’s Malicious Use of ‘Chinese Virus.’” <em><a href="http://www.CNN.com">CNN​.com</a></em> (March 18).</p> <p id="ch008-ref020">Flournoy, M., and Monaco, L. (2020) “Now’s Not the Time for Isolationism.” <em>Politico</em> (April 8).</p> <p id="ch008-ref021">Friedman, T. L. (2000) <em>The Lexus and the Olive Tree.</em> New York: Anchor Books.</p> <p id="ch008-ref022">Garcia, V. (2020) “Marc Thiessen: Trump Must Threaten China with ‘Brain Drain’ and ‘Capital Flight’ Amid Hong Kong Crackdown.” <em>Fox News</em> (May 30).</p> <p id="ch008-ref023">Gertz, B. (1999) <em>Betrayal: How the Clinton Administration Undermined American Security</em> Washington: Regnery.</p> <p id="ch008-ref024">__________ (2000) <em>The China Threat: How the People’s Republic Targets America.</em> Washington: Regnery.</p> <p id="ch008-ref025">__________ (2019) <em>Deceiving the Sky: Inside Communist China’s Drive for Global Supremacy.</em> New York: Encounter Books.</p> <p id="ch008-ref026">Harding, H. (1992) <em>A&nbsp;Fragile Relationship: The United States and China since 1972.</em> Washington: Brookings Institution Press.</p> <p id="ch008-ref027">Hain, T. (2020) “Biden Ad: Trump Left U.S. Unprepared for Epidemic, Rolled Over for the Chinese.” <em>Real Clear Politics</em> (April 19).</p> <p id="ch008-ref028">Heer, J. (2020) “On China, Biden Falls into Trump’s Xenophobia Trap.” <em>Nation</em> (April 20).</p> <p id="ch008-ref029">Kearns, K. L., and Tonelson, A. (2011) “China’s Reagan‐​esque Trap for Obama.” <em>Huffington Post</em> (May 25).</p> <p id="ch008-ref030">Koen, R. Y. (1960) <em>The China Lobby in American Politics</em>. New York: Macmillan.</p> <p id="ch008-ref031">Kristof, N. D., and Wudunn, S. (1995) <em>China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a&nbsp;Rising Power.</em> New York: Vintage Books.</p> <p id="ch008-ref032">Kristol, W., and Kagan, R. (2001) “A National Humiliation.” <em>Weekly Standard</em> (April 1).</p> <p id="ch008-ref033">Lin, T. (2018) “As China Abolishes Two‐​Term Limit, a&nbsp;Siege on Digital Free Speech.” <em>Columbia Journalism Review</em> (March 16).</p> <p id="ch008-ref034">Lippman, T. W. (1999) “Bush Makes Clinton’s China Policy an Issue.” <em>Washington Post</em> (August 20).</p> <p id="ch008-ref035">Lord, W. (1989) “Misguided Mission.” <em>Washington Post</em> (December 19).</p> <p id="ch008-ref036">Lowry, R. (2020) “Calling the Wuhan Virus the ‘Wuhan Virus’ Is not Racist,” <em>National Review</em> (March 10).</p> <p id="ch008-ref037">Luttwak, E. N. (1978) “Against the China Card.” <em>Commentary</em> (October 1978).</p> <p id="ch008-ref038">Mann, J. ([1998] 2000) <em>About Face: A&nbsp;History of America’s Curious Relationship with China, From Nixon to Clinton.</em> Revised ed. New York: Vintage Books.</p> <p id="ch008-ref039">__________ (2007) <em>The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression.</em> New York: Viking.</p> <p id="ch008-ref040">Mastio, D. (2020) “No, Calling the Novel Coronavirus the ‘Wuhan Virus’ Is Not Racist.” <em>USA Today</em> (March 11).</p> <p id="ch008-ref041">Mitchell, A., and Diamond, L. (2018) “China’s Surveillance State Should Scare Everyone.” <em>The Atlantic</em> (February 2).</p> <p id="ch008-ref042"><em>National Review</em> (1974) “Jackson on China.” (August 16).</p> <p id="ch008-ref043">__________ (2020) “The End of Hong Kong?” Editorial (May 29).</p> <p id="ch008-ref044"><em>New York Times</em> (1997) “Newt Gingrich in China.” Editorial (April 1).</p> <p id="ch008-ref045">__________ (2014) “It Will Be Incomparably More Difficult to Rule China.” Editorial (June 3).</p> <p id="ch008-ref046">Olney, K. (2019) “America Must Prevent another Tiananmen Square and Stand for a&nbsp;Free Hong Kong.” <em>National Review</em> (August 12).</p> <p id="ch008-ref047">Perlez, J. (2012) “Continuing Buildup, China Boosts Military Spending More than 11 Percent.” <em>New York Times</em> (March 4).</p> <p id="ch008-ref048">Raleigh, H. (2020) “Don’t Blame All Chinese People for the Actions of Their Evil Government.” <em>The Federalist</em> (April 8).</p> <p id="ch008-ref049">Reston, J. (1972) “Washington: Mr. Nixon’s Finest Hour.” <em>New York Times</em> (March 1).</p> <p id="ch008-ref050">Rogin, J. (2020) “Don’t Blame ‘China’ for the Coronavirus—Blame the Chinese Communist Party.” <em>Washington Post</em> (March 19).</p> <p id="ch008-ref051">Rusk, D. (1990) <em>As I&nbsp;Saw It</em> (as told to Richard Rusk). New York: Penguin Books.</p> <p id="ch008-ref052">Scott, D. (2020) “Trump’s New Fixation on Using a&nbsp;Racist Term for the Coronavirus Is Dangerous.” <em>Vox</em> (March 18).</p> <p id="ch008-ref053">Smith, R. N. (1997) <em>The Colonel: The Life and Legend of Robert R. McCormick, 1880–1955.</em> Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press.</p> <p id="ch008-ref054">Stellino, M. (2020) “Fact Check: Did the Coronavirus Originate in a&nbsp;Chinese Laboratory?” <em>USA Today</em> (March 19).</p> <p id="ch008-ref055">Timperlake, E., and Triplett, W. C. II (1999) <em>Red Dragon Rising: Communist China’s Military Threat to America</em>. Washington: Regnery.</p> <p id="ch008-ref056">Thayer, B., and Han, L. C. (2019) “China’s Weapon of Mass Surveillance Is a&nbsp;Human Rights Abuse.” <em>The Hill</em> (May 29).</p> <p id="ch008-ref057">Tonelson, A. (2020) “Front Page <em>NYT</em>: ‘Nationalism Is Jeopardizing’ COVID Fight.” <em>American Conservative</em> (April 13).</p> <p id="ch008-ref058">Toosi, N. (2020) “Biden Ad Exposes Rift Over China on the Left.” <em>Politico</em> (April 23).</p> <p id="ch008-ref059">Tuchman, B. W. (1971) <em>Sand Against the Wind: Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911–1945</em>. New York: Macmillan.</p> <p id="ch008-ref060">Tyler, P. (1999) <em>A&nbsp;Great Wall: Six Presidents and China, An Investigative History</em>. New York: Public Affairs.</p> <p id="ch008-ref061"><em>Wall Street Journal</em> (2009) “No Time for the Dalai Lama.” Editorial (October 6).</p> <p id="ch008-ref062">Wang, H. H. (2016) “America’s Smart Congagement Policy in Asia Pacific.” <em>Forbes</em> (April 29).</p> <p id="ch008-ref063"><em>Washington Post</em> (1989) “The China Mission.” Editorial (December 11).</p> <p id="ch008-ref064">Wertime, D. (2020) “China’s Hong Kong Crackdown Narrows Options for the U.S.” <em>Politico</em> (May 29).</p> <p id="ch008-ref065">Will, G. (2019) “Hong Kong Stands Athwart an Increasingly Nasty Regime.” <em>National Review</em> (September 19).</p> <p id="ch008-ref066">Zheng, S. (2020) “Two Sessions: National Security Law Will Not Damage Hong Kong’s Freedoms, Chinese Foreign Minister Says.” <em>South China Morning Post</em> (May 24).</p> </div> Mon, 14 Sep 2020 12:00:00 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter https://www.cato.org/cato-journal/fall-2020/american-news-medias-volatile-perspectives-china Time to Open Nongovernmental Contacts With North Korea https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/time-open-nongovernmental-contacts-north-korea Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>On August 28,&nbsp;the State Department announced that it was extending&nbsp;<a href="https://apnews.com/072fcee69e49401aa319bb8d983a7c2c" target="_blank">the travel ban</a>&nbsp;to North Korea for another year. Separately, the Trump administration continues to prohibit North Koreans from visiting the United States.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that his department “has determined that there continues to be serious risk to United States citizens and nationals of arrest and long‐​term detention representing imminent danger to their physical safety.” In fact, despite the unfortunate fate suffered by&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/i-was-pyongyang-when-otto-warmbier-was-released-21240?nopaging=1">Otto Warmbier</a>, there was no evidence of intentional torture.</p> <p>Only a&nbsp;handful of Americans ever got in trouble visiting the North—by forgetting that they were not in Canada or Denmark and violating the well‐​known rules. Moreover, the Trump‐​Kim summits make the North far more likely to treat Americans gingerly in the future. In any case, it is far more dangerous for Americans to go to Afghanistan or Syria (which I&nbsp;have visited) or Yemen or Libya (which I&nbsp;have not). Yet it remains legal for Americans to head to these countries.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>More communication will help to diffuse future crises and could even slowly change North Korea over time. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Few other contacts exist between America and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). A&nbsp;handful of aid workers got past State’s gatekeepers pre‐​coronavirus, but virtually every other private trip to the North remained impossible. And there never have been&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/whether-kim-jong-un-lives-or-dies-america-should-normalize-relations-pyongyang-147481">official diplomatic relations</a>&nbsp;between the two countries. With the deadlock after the failed Hanoi summit, contacts of any sort between the governments diminished.</p> <p>Unfortunately, substantive negotiations may prove impossible for months. There is little expectation of any movement before the election. If Trump loses, Pyongyang is likely to write off his administration and might stage one or another provocation to gain leverage in dealing with&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/symposium-we-asked-world%E2%80%99s-top-experts-what-america%E2%80%99s-north-korea-policy-would-look">President‐​to‐​be Joe Biden</a>. In any case, Biden would not likely address the North immediately absent a&nbsp;crisis. He would be staffing his administration and reconsidering existing policy. Moreover, other issues, such as Iran, given the imminent end of President Hassan Rouhani’s term in office, would take priority. </p> <p>Isolation is&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/time-donald-trump-make-north-korea-offer-it-can%E2%80%99t-refuse-168523">a&nbsp;stupid policy</a>. It reinforces existing policies and personalities. It enshrines incentives for bad behavior. It strengthens demands for toughness, determination, commitment, and resistance. It isn’t really a&nbsp;policy. It certainly is not a&nbsp;successful policy.</p> <p>Now, preparatory either to his own reelection or what could be a&nbsp;lengthy interregnum before a&nbsp;new administration takes over, President Donald Trump should connect the two countries, preparing for the time when public negotiations and private contacts again will become possible.</p> <p>First, the president should send a “love letter” to Kim proposing the opening of&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/feature/accept-reality-north-korea-will-remain-nuclear-state-72296">liaison offices</a>. Many U.S. policymakers treat diplomatic recognition as a&nbsp;reward, as if only the nicest, best, and finest abroad get to talk to an American ambassador. Official ties are the ultimate practical tool in international relations. Washington typically has maintained diplomatic contact with the worst foreign governments so long as the two nations are not actively fighting—such as the Soviet Union during the entire Cold War.</p> <p>Where the United States has attempted to weaponize recognition, embassies, and relations, its policy has failed. Washington broke ties with Cuba for two decades, later opening a&nbsp;reduced “interests section.” America refused to recognize the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for three decades. The DPRK was founded seventy‐​two years ago and has never had official relations with America. In none of these cases did Washington’s stance either oust the opposing regime or force it to reform. Instead, the United States found it difficult to communicate with them even over mundane matters.</p> <p>Cuba is but ninety miles from the United States. There were plenty of problems between the two nations, especially during the Cold War, but no means for the two governments to defuse them. In October 1950, the PRC entered the Korean War to halt America’s victorious and seemingly inexorable advance. With no official communication channels open, Beijing had attempted to send a&nbsp;warning message through India, which had no impact. As for the North, even today Washington has no easy means to discuss anything from security issues to travelers’ woes.</p> <p>The irony with such foolhardy attempts at isolation is that it is most important to talk with the most dangerous regimes. Given proximity, Cubans and Americans inevitably will come into contact in some fashion, making official communication a&nbsp;necessity. China was second only to the Soviet Union in dangerous communist regimes during the Cold War. Imagine if the United States had no relations with the Soviet Union when the two nations’ militaries confronted each other around the globe. And President Donald Trump’s misguided “fire and fury” campaign against the North apparently came closer than many people realize to&nbsp;<a href="https://news.yahoo.com/u-north-korea-were-close-123005352.html" target="_blank">igniting a&nbsp;real war</a>&nbsp;in late 2017. Whatever the overall state of U.S.-North Korean relations, the two governments should have a&nbsp;means to talk beyond media pronouncements.</p> <p>Also important is promoting private contacts in all forms. This reflects no illusion that friendly personal relations are more important than government policies in a&nbsp;totalitarian regime like that in the North. However, interactions are useful. If nothing else, they provide greater knowledge about other societies, particularly useful when it is a&nbsp;country that is easily caricatured.</p> <p>Before I&nbsp;made my first trip to the North in 1992, I&nbsp;read comments from an analyst who claimed that no trucks were allowed in Pyongyang, so as not to sully its image. The city had more trucks than cars. When I&nbsp;returned from that trip someone at State asked me if people there wore socks. He said most of the photos they saw only showed North Koreans from the waist up, leading to the conclusion that the regime was hiding the fact that it produced no socks. North Koreans wore socks, I&nbsp;assured him.</p> <p>Moreover, the DPRK is changing and is more permeable today. Cross‐​border traffic with China has been great, most North Koreans have seen at least some South Korean films and TV shows, and cell phones allow illicit foreign communication. Kim Jong‐​un is serious about desiring economic growth. His government has invested in science and education.&nbsp;<a href="https://thediplomat.com/2019/02/at-trump-kim-2-0-dont-forget-north-koreas-markets/" target="_blank">Markets are common</a>&nbsp;and have helped counteract the state’s incapacities and inefficiencies.</p> <p>Moreover, the regime puts on a&nbsp;better outward face. Diplomats are professional. Kim appears committed to negotiation as an important policy tool. Washington should see private activity as one aspect of the long game to change North Korea in the future. Complained Jennifer Deibert of the Mennonite Central Committee: “restrictions on travel to the DPRK undermine the chances for building a&nbsp;more positive future between the people of the DPRK and the U.S. That can only be built through relationships, through face‐​to‐​face interactions.”</p> <p>Finally, the administration should welcome DPRK citizens to America. Of course, a&nbsp;tourist trade is unlikely. More important initially, at least, is sending a&nbsp;welcoming message to the Kim regime. Although anything said by Pyongyang must be treated skeptically, the North is correct to perceive a “hostile policy” by Washington. The regime would be foolish to believe that such a&nbsp;deep‐​rooted approach had disappeared after a&nbsp;couple of summits. Yet it is inconceivable that Kim would denuclearize if he still considered America to be a&nbsp;hostile power. Dropping travel restrictions would be an important symbolic step, even if it had no practical impact, at least in terms of North Koreans coming to the United States.</p> <p>Overall Washington’s policy toward Pyongyang is brain‐​dead. Imposing ever tougher sanctions on a&nbsp;proud, nationalistic regime does not modify behavior. Increasingly isolating a&nbsp;nation that you want to engage the world and become more like other nations does not work. And making the international environment more threatening while expecting the government to disarm always backfires. Yet, when this process fails, Washington&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/korean-war-lessons-what-war-70-years-ago-korea-taught-america-163901">simply repeats it</a>.</p> <p>Give Trump credit, he tried something different when he met Kim Jong‐​un. Win or lose in November, the president should not give up trying. He still has time to win that Nobel Peace Prize!</p> </div> Mon, 14 Sep 2020 08:38:13 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/time-open-nongovernmental-contacts-north-korea Trump Is Right to Be Antiwar https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/trump-right-be-antiwar Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>President Donald Trump recently&nbsp;<a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/07/trump-disparages-pentagon-chiefs-409528" target="_blank">pointed</a>&nbsp;to Joe Biden’s support for “these crazy endless wars.” The president also blamed the top military brass, in contrast to those in the ranks, for wanting to “fight wars.”</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The latter claim isn’t strictly accurate. Even the generals tend to be cautious about getting into conflicts. But once in they never seem to want to leave: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria are all stupid places where American forces are fighting today, yet the Pentagon continues to obstruct Trump’s attempts to withdraw.</p> <p>But the real base of support for endless wars comes from the Blob, the Washington foreign policy establishment. There are Republican members — such as the late John McCain, who never found a&nbsp;war he didn’t want Americans to fight, and Lindsey Graham, who thought nuclear war with North Korea would be just fine since the devastation would be “over there,” not “over here,” a&nbsp;singularly moronic judgment. But the group is overwhelmingly center‐​left, filled with those who have spent their careers imbibing the waters of the Potomac, Hudson, and East rivers. They are the ones who are driven to a&nbsp;frenzy whenever Trump suggests that the U.S. should&nbsp;<a href="https://spectator.org/can-we-finally-stop-trying-to-police-the-world/" target="_blank">stop patrolling</a>&nbsp;yet another failed state in the Middle East.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Whatever happens November 3, conservatives should take the lead opposing the promiscuous war‐​making that has characterized U.S. foreign policy over the last two decades. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The president has the issue right. Sometimes war is necessary, but only rarely, and then America should fight hard and finish the job. No more trying to fix failed states by supporting al‐​Qaeda affiliates in the midst of civil wars in which no outsider can even name all the players. The conflicts are the Washington equivalent of fantasy football, paid for with the lives and wealth of Americans across the country — and people in other nations as well.</p> <p>Conservatives should rediscover the hatred of war that animated their predecessors’ opposition to mad foreign adventures. For instance, in World War I&nbsp;it was the ostentatiously arrogant, hypocritical, and sanctimonious Woodrow Wilson, a&nbsp;proud progressive, backed by the Eastern commercial elite, who imagined that sacrificing Midwest farm boys in France’s Belleau Wood and elsewhere would somehow inaugurate a&nbsp;magical global utopia.</p> <p>War is the ultimate big government program, “the health of the state,” as Randolph Bourne put it. War destroys lives, ravages families and communities, eliminates thrift, and undermines constitutional government. The Founders, who got so much right, also understood this point. Which is why they feared a&nbsp;standing army and designed the Constitution to place the power of declaring war — that is, deciding whether the president was authorized to send Americans off to fight — in Congress. At the Constitutional Convention James Wilson explained, “It will not be in the power of a&nbsp;single man, or a&nbsp;single body of men, to involve us in such distress; for the important power of declaring war is in the legislature at large.” Those who risked Americans’ lives and wealth should be accountable to the people.</p> <p>The horrendous cost of war has been evident over the last two decades. And the price keeps getting higher. For instance, the Watson Institute at Brown University just published a&nbsp;paper on the human displacement caused by conflicts collectively known as “the global war on terror.” It&nbsp;<a href="https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/" target="_blank">figures</a>&nbsp;that an astonishing 37 million to 59 million people have been forced from their homes, some moving within their own countries, many fleeing to other nations. Noted the authors, “this exceeds those displaced by every war since 1900, except World War II.”</p> <p>Underlying such mass flight is mass destruction. Even those who return typically find a&nbsp;very different life than before. The study noted, “Displacement has caused incalculable harm to individuals, families, towns, cities, regions, and entire countries physically, socially, emotionally, and economically.” And the pain persists. I&nbsp;have visited refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan, and Thailand. In them people are born and grow up in a&nbsp;world where the future in all its facets is limited, circumscribed, even hopeless.</p> <p>Obviously, the U.S. did not intend such a&nbsp;result. And there are many players in many of these conflicts.&nbsp;However, Washington started what became a&nbsp;regional conflict and willingly intervened in multiple national wars. The displacement caused by direct, substantial U.S. involvement is enormous: Iraq, 9.2 million; Syria, 7.1 million; Afghanistan, 5.3 million; Yemen 4.4 million; Libya, 1.2 million. This massive carnage achieved surprisingly few positive results.</p> <p>Other war costs also are substantial. The U.S. was essentially bankrupt even before COVID-19 hit and state governments shut down much of the economy. Yet Washington wasted trillions of dollars on endless wars and nation‐​building.</p> <p>Brown University’s Neta Crawford&nbsp;<a href="https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2019/US%20Budgetary%20Costs%20of%20Wars%20November%202019.pdf" target="_blank">reported</a>,</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>Since late 2001, the United States has appropriated and is obligated to spend an estimated $6.4 Trillion through Fiscal Year 2020&nbsp;in budgetary costs related to and caused by the post‐​9/​11 wars—an estimated $5.4 Trillion in appropriations in current dollars and an additional minimum of $1 Trillion for US obligations to care for the veterans of these wars through the next several decades.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>And costs will jump even if all the endless wars ended tomorrow. Crawford explained, “the total budgetary burden of the post‐​9/​11 wars will continue to rise as the US pays the on‐​going costs of veterans’ care and for interest on borrowing to pay for the wars. Moreover, the increases in the Pentagon base budget associated with the wars are likely to remain, inflating the military budget over the long run.” In this way, as a&nbsp;government bureaucracy, the Department of Defense isn’t that much different from the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Commerce, Health and Human Services, and others.</p> <p>Worst is the human toll. Crawford and Catherine Lutz, another Brown University professor, figured that, as of last November, 770,000 to 801,000 people had died in these wars. They use very conservative, almost certainly inaccurate, figures for Iraq, so an overall million dead would better estimate. The major categories of dead: U.S. military 7,012; U.S. contractors 7,972; local government personnel 173,073 to 177,073; other allies 12,468; opposing fighters 254,708 to 259,783; civilians 312,971 to 335,745; journalists and NGO staffers 1,343.</p> <p>Even more were injured, some grievously. In Washington, D.C., and at airports I&nbsp;have occasionally seen men with artificial limbs and military haircuts, almost certainly hurt in America’s wars. As harrowing as these experiences were for such casualties, in a&nbsp;sense they were good news: in past wars many of those injured would have died.</p> <p>Particularly disturbing are the civilian deaths, since Washington was supposed to be saving these people. Of course, the U.S. did not directly target civilians, many of whom were killed by brutal opponents or the inevitable disruptions caused by wars. But American policymakers cannot escape contributory blame. Consider Iraq. The Iraqi Body Count (IBC)&nbsp;<a href="https://www.iraqbodycount.org/" target="_blank">figures</a>&nbsp;documented civilian deaths, which ran between 185,296 and 208,295. However, many deaths are never recorded, especially amid a&nbsp;bitter sectarian war in which movement even within a&nbsp;city is dangerous. The IBC suggested that doubling its estimate probably would give a&nbsp;more accurate figure — assume 400,000. They all died in a&nbsp;conflict triggered by America’s disastrous invasion, in violent strife over which they had no say about its initiation or continuation.</p> <p>These wars also have corrupted America’s military and democracy. The president&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-09-08/trump-channels-noam-chomsky-on-u-s-aggression" target="_blank">complained</a>&nbsp;that top Pentagon officials probably “want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs, that make the planes and everything else, stay happy.” It is an odd charge coming from someone who appears to be maintaining support for the vile Saudi regime’s horrid war in&nbsp;<a href="https://spectator.org/yemen-mohammed-bin-salman-saudi-arabia-americas-war-too/" target="_blank">Yemen</a>&nbsp;solely to promote arms sales. Nevertheless, the problem is real.</p> <p>Shortly after the January 2005 election in Iraq, Fox News brought me on to debate a&nbsp;retired general, whose name I&nbsp;have mercifully forgotten, on the poll’s impact. While the cameras were on he was relentlessly positive and optimistic. When he lights went off he told me about his recent trip to Iraq, during which the “grunts” he encountered said everything was screwed up. He concluded that the best thing for America would be for the newly elected Iraqis to request that we leave. Even I&nbsp;was shocked with his cynicism, his having just moments before lied to the American people about the situation on the ground. But he had a&nbsp;job with a&nbsp;defense contractor and contract with Fox. Telling the truth would have risked both incomes.</p> <p>Boston University’s Heidi Peltier&nbsp;<a href="https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2020/Peltier%202020%20-%20Growth%20of%20Camo%20Economy%20-%20June%2030%202020%20-%20FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">buttresses</a>&nbsp;the president’s comments:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>Since September 11, 2001, United States military spending has grown rapidly, as has the portion of that spending that pays for military contractors. These contracting companies engineer and manufacture equipment, build and repair infrastructure around the world, provide services like cafeterias and other facilities support, and even replace troops in many war zones. In 2019, the Pentagon spent $370 billion on contracting — more than half the total defense‐​related discretionary spending, $676 billion, and a&nbsp;whopping 164% higher than its spending on contractors in 2001.</p> <p>Over nearly two decades, government officials, private companies, and conservative think tanks have sold the idea that military contractors are a&nbsp;cost reducer, yet in reality, the growth in military contracting — or what I&nbsp;call the “Camo Economy” — has actually increased the overall cost of this country’s military operations. It’s a&nbsp;Camo Economy because the U.S. government has used the commercialization (often mislabeled “privatization”) of the military as camouflage, concealing the true financial and human costs of America’s post‐​9/​11 wars. Regarding human costs, in 2019, there were 53,000 U.S. contractors compared to 35,000 U.S. troops in the Middle East. Since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, an estimated 8,000 U.S. contractors have died, in addition to around 7,000 U.S. troops.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Criticizing foolish involvement in disastrous wars is not a&nbsp;knock on those who join the armed services to defend America. The fault lies with their leaders, most importantly with political officials who misuse the military, sending soldiers into unnecessary, even counterproductive, conflicts, and refusing to confront reality and take responsibility. Yet they keep repeating their mistakes, with grievous humanitarian consequences. The best way to support the troops is by holding accountable those who waste American lives, wealth, and credibility.</p> <p>The president has been correct to criticize the nation’s “endless wars.” If reelected, halting such conflicts should be his top priority. If Joe Biden wins, he should do the same. Whatever happens November 3, conservatives should take the lead opposing the promiscuous war‐​making that has characterized U.S. foreign policy over the last two decades.</p> </div> Sat, 12 Sep 2020 08:49:13 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/trump-right-be-antiwar Sahar Khan discusses the Global War on Terror and how the real threat to the US is coming from white supremacist groups and not transnational terrorist groups on VOA Urdu’s View 360 https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/sahar-khan-discusses-global-war-terror-how-real-threat-us-coming Fri, 11 Sep 2020 11:53:55 -0400 Sahar Khan https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-tv/sahar-khan-discusses-global-war-terror-how-real-threat-us-coming How Far Should the U.S. Go to Counter China? https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/how-far-should-us-go-counter-china Emma Ashford, Matthew Kroenig <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p><strong>Emma Ashford:</strong>&nbsp;Hey, Matt, congrats on the start of the semester! Have they quarantined your entire class yet, or just most of them?</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p><strong>Matthew Kroenig:</strong>&nbsp;So far, so good. But, despite the virtual classroom, many students have moved back to the Georgetown area to be with their friends. We received an email from University officials indicating that some students are ignoring public health guidelines about large group gatherings and face masks, so we will see how long the positive news lasts.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong>&nbsp;Ugh. You know where they could send the students? Palau. I&nbsp;hear the United States is getting a&nbsp;new military base on the tiny Pacific island. Sounds like a&nbsp;nice boondoggle for the military.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong>&nbsp;Yes. Grab your sunscreen. We should organize a&nbsp;think tank conference there immediately. Palau has invited the Pentagon to place military installations on their islands. I&nbsp;think this is a&nbsp;welcome development.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>From Pacific bases to the Himalayas, Washington and Beijing are facing off. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p><strong>EA:</strong>&nbsp;Well. you’ve answered my first question, which was that I&nbsp;don’t see what the U.S. military can do from Palau that it couldn’t have done from Guam. But it sounds like you’re just saying more bases are better? I’m pretty confident the Chinese can figure out how to target Palau as well.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong>&nbsp;It helps solve two challenges to U.S. defense strategy in Asia. First, the United States needs to bring more firepower to the region. In war games, Americans run out of weapons pretty quickly if they are relying solely on air‐​based and sea‐​based platforms. More ground‐​launched capabilities would help, but Washington needs places to put them.</p> <p>Second, U.S. military power in Asia is currently concentrated at a&nbsp;handful of bases, which makes them easy targets for the Chinese army. Dispersing them makes China’s targeting challenge at least somewhat more difficult.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong>&nbsp;I&nbsp;remember back when the Trump administration pulled out of the Intermediate‐​Range Nuclear Forces Treatymdash;citing China as the reasonmdash;most of us policy wonks were perplexed about where the United States would base appropriately ranged missiles in the Pacific. There’s barely any land! So I&nbsp;guess Palau helps with that problem.</p> <p>But I&nbsp;think any government should be very wary of taking steps that are primarily based on the outcomes of war gamesmdash;in other words, steps that focus mostly on how we would&nbsp;<em>win</em>&nbsp;a&nbsp;war against China. Sure, it would be helpful in a&nbsp;conflict. But it also makes that conflict more likely. That’s not a&nbsp;good trade‐​off.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong>&nbsp;I&nbsp;hate to invoke IR theory, but many debates about U.S. defense policy revolve around whether one believes the deterrence or spiral model. Does strengthening our military capabilities deter war or provoke it? And when dealing with an aggressive adversary, like China, the deterrence model is a&nbsp;better guide. After all, did you see what happened on the border with India this week?</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong>&nbsp;If you believe China is implacably aggressive, then it’s possible that strengthening U.S. capabilities would deter them. But if I’m right, and they’re driven by security concernsmdash;which seems extremely plausiblemdash;then what you’re suggesting could cause a&nbsp;war. It hardly matters why the United States is putting a&nbsp;base in Palau; what matters is how China perceives it.</p> <p>But I’m not sure anyone saw what actually happened on the China‐​India border. You could not ask for a&nbsp;worse location from which to obtain intelligence. It’s high up in the Himalayas, with poor visibility and bad roads. Most of the information we get comes from the Chinese and Indian governments. And they’re both accusing each other of bringing a&nbsp;gun to a&nbsp;rock fight.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong>&nbsp;The situation is certainly intensifying. Shots were exchanged for the first time in decades, and Chinese forces are sitting across the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control. China’s neighbors are getting nervous. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun has said that he would like the “Quad” of major democracies in the Indo‐​Pacific (the United States, Japan, India, and Australia) to become a&nbsp;formalized institutionmdash;with the unstated objective of defending against China.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong>&nbsp;Washington should be trying to dial down these tensions, not add to them by confirming Chinese fears and boosting India. Both sides are behaving badly. The last thing the United States needs to do is take a&nbsp;side in a&nbsp;border dispute between two nuclear powers.</p> <p>Speaking of border disputes, it seems like new problems have come up during the Brexit process. Or rather, the same old problem: the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. What’s your take?</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong>&nbsp;Yes. As part of the Brexit negotiations, the U.K. had originally vowed to keep the border open, consistent with the Good Friday Agreement. But now it appears that Boris Johnson is thinking about backtracking on that commitment, prompting the Joe Biden campaign and leading Democrats in Congress to threaten that a&nbsp;hard border would hurt U.S.-U.K. relations and could jeopardize progress toward a&nbsp;bilateral trade deal.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong>&nbsp;I&nbsp;don’t know what Johnson is thinking. The Irish border is a&nbsp;seriously controversial issue. A&nbsp;hard border would be extremely unpopular, and it could reignite separatist tensions in Northern Ireland. As someone who grew up in the middle of the Troubles in Glasgow, Scotlandmdash;a city where hardcore Northern Irish unionists once bombed two pubsmdash;I just can’t understand why he would risk it. After all, he could have stuck with the so‐​called backstop instead. That would have kept the whole of the U.K. in regulatory compliance with Europe and avoided the whole question of a&nbsp;customs border with Ireland.</p> <p>That said, I&nbsp;also don’t believe Biden would necessarily retaliate if he wins the presidency in November. Just like the Obama administration threatened that the U.S.-U.K. relationship would be less strong if Britain voted for Brexit, it’s a&nbsp;bit of an empty threat.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong>&nbsp;The policy position is the right one; the United States would prefer that the Northern Ireland protocol remain in place. But it is puzzling that Democrats launched this shot across the bow to London, especially given that a&nbsp;central plank of Biden’s foreign‐​policy platform is repairing relations with allies in Europe.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong>&nbsp;Sometimes it seems that the United States is so concerned with building new alliances that it rejects the old ones. Even putting Donald Trump aside, Barack Obama and now Biden have both been quick to repeatedly criticize the United Kingdom while pushing for countries like Kosovo or Macedonia to become U.S. allies. I&nbsp;know I’m biased, but it hardly seems like a&nbsp;good strategic choice to alienate one of the most militarily capable European countries just because you’re mad about Brexit.</p> <p>But even the Trump administration seems to have the Balkans on its mind. It announced a&nbsp;major new diplomatic initiative this week: economic normalization between Kosovo and Serbia. Pity it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong>&nbsp;I&nbsp;guess I’m more optimistic. The parties to the agreement were killing each other two decades ago, and now they have agreed to increase economic cooperation. It does not solve all of the outstanding political issues (including Serbia’s refusal to recognize Kosovo’s independence), but it is a&nbsp;step in the right direction and another late‐​term diplomatic achievement for the Trump administration.</p> <p>Why do you say it is worthless?</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong>&nbsp;It sounds great when you put it that way! But it’s a&nbsp;classic Trump diplomatic achievement: Scratch the surface, and there’s nothing there. Most of what the two parties agreed to had already been resolved in European Union‐​brokered agreements, for example. They couldn’t even get the Serbian and Kosovar leaders to agree on a&nbsp;joint statement. Instead, the signing ceremony was just the three leaders signing different bits of paper.</p> <p>And there’s already been backpedaling on some of it. Aleksandar Vucic, the Serbian leader, has already said that he won’t move the Serbian Embassy to Jerusalemmdash;Trump’s attempt to pander to his basemdash;if the Israelis recognize Kosovo.</p> <p>Doesn’t that sound a&nbsp;little less impressive?</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong>&nbsp;I&nbsp;remain somewhat impressed. But I&nbsp;was less stirred by another recent news item:&nbsp;Trump’s claim that military officers like starting wars to help the defense industry. If anything, senior military officers are reluctant to recommend the use of force because they appreciate the life‐​and‐​death consequences better than anyone.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong>&nbsp;I&nbsp;find it almost laughable that Trump has finally rediscovered his strong support for ending America’s endless wars. I’m happy that he’s committing to bringing some troops home from the Middle East, and that he’s criticizing corruption in the military‐​industrial complex. It’s a&nbsp;true about‐​face.</p> <p>After all,&nbsp;Trump has done very little during his time in office to end the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He kept troops in Syria to guard oil fields that don’t belong to us.And his administration has repeatedly sought to increase the profits of defense contractors, whether from weapons sales abroad or corporate welfare and tax cuts at home. </p> <p>But it does prove one thing: Even Trump finally realizes that America’s wars overseas are unpopular and unproductive. Has he persuaded you? </p><p><strong>MK:</strong>&nbsp;Unproductive? No. There remains an important role for a&nbsp;contingent of U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria for the foreseeable future.</p> <p>And the popularity of foreign‐​policy issues is hard to pin down. Most Americans don’t have firm opinions on foreign policy any more than I&nbsp;have strong views on how to repair my air conditioning. It is just not in my interest to devote time and attention to the issue, so I&nbsp;outsource it to specialists.</p> <p>There is clearly a&nbsp;need for U.S. leaders to better make the case to the American people about the purpose of U.S. forces in those countries.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong>&nbsp;Well, the president is certainly going to have trouble persuading the electorate he’s the peace candidate this time around. But I&nbsp;look forward to seeing how he tries to persuade everyone that Joe Biden is simultaneously soft on defense and a&nbsp;warmonger. Should be entertaining, at least.</p> <p>I do want to one hit one final news story. The only thing less surprising than Donald Trump’s itchy Twitter finger is the news that the Russians have been trying to hack into the Biden campaign. Apparently, they were unsuccessful this time. But I’m more concerned about the hacks that we don’t know about, and particularly about the return of the election meddling that we saw in 2016. You have to admit, the Trump administration has done very little to prevent or deter such meddling. There’s even a&nbsp;whistleblower who says that he was ordered to stop providing intelligence on Russian hacking to Congress!</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong>&nbsp;Unsurprising, indeed. The United States is an open society and is the target of constant cybersurveillance and attacks from malicious state‐​backed actors.</p> <p>And you are right that the administration has not done enough. The solution is to stop treating cyberspace as virtual. What if Russian commandos had tried to physically break into the office of Biden’s consultants at the firm SKDKnickerbocker, who were the hack’s targets? What would the U.S. response have been in terms of arrest warrants, expelling diplomats, targeted sanctions, etc.? That should be the response in this case.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong>&nbsp;For once, we agree. But it’s hard to see a&nbsp;second Trump administration cracking down on this kind of interference, particularly when his first term was enabled by interference from a&nbsp;wide range of state and nonstate actors.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong>&nbsp;And don’t forget the latest Washington controversymdash;the claim in Bob Woodward’s new book that Trump knowingly downplayed the threat of the coronavirus in his early public statements. There is a&nbsp;necessary balance to be struck between alerting the public to dangers and shouting “Fire!” in a&nbsp;crowded theater. In hindsight,&nbsp;Trump may not have gotten it exactly right, but I&nbsp;don’t think the average voter is going to punish him for a&nbsp;less than perfect response to a&nbsp;once‐​in‐​a‐​century pandemic.</p> <p><strong>EA:</strong>&nbsp;I’m not so sure about that, but I&nbsp;guess it’s time to watch the polls closely. Now I&nbsp;just need to figure out if the&nbsp;<a href="https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2020-election-forecast/" target="_blank">fivethir​tyeight​.com&nbsp;</a>election forecast model includes Russian interference as a&nbsp;variable or not.</p> <p><strong>MK:</strong>&nbsp;After 2016, I’m not putting much credibility in the poll numbers this time around. I&nbsp;think it is still anyone’s race.</p> </div> Fri, 11 Sep 2020 08:50:31 -0400 Emma Ashford, Matthew Kroenig https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/how-far-should-us-go-counter-china An Old NATO Nightmare Returns: Possible War between Greece and Turkey https://www.cato.org/blog/old-nato-nightmare-returns-possible-war-between-greece-turkey Ted Galen Carpenter <p>U.S. and other Western leaders have long <a href="https://www.amazon.com/NATO-Dangerous-Ted-Galen-Carpenter/dp/1948647613/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2UJ2MS8LO6K0S&amp;dchild=1&amp;keywords=nato+the+dangerous+dinosaur&amp;qid=1599759088&amp;s=books&amp;sprefix=NATO%3A+The+%2Cstripbooks%2C171&amp;sr=1-1">worried</a> about what to do if an armed conflict ever erupted between two NATO members.<span> </span>Rapidly <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/13/greek-military-put-on-high-alert-as-tensions-with-turkey-rise">rising tensions</a> between Greece and Turkey, primarily involving a&nbsp;<a href="https://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/82587">maritime dispute</a> over oil, natural gas, and other resources under the eastern Mediterranean, have brought that nightmare to the surface once again. <span> </span>Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/27/world/europe/greece-turkey-eu.html">warned both governments</a> in late August against further military escalation. “Fire is being played with and any small spark could lead to catastrophe,” he stressed.</p> <p>The heart of the North Atlantic Treaty is Article 5, which proclaims that an attack on any member of the Alliance will be considered an attack on all.<span> </span>The underlying assumption is that there would then be a&nbsp;collective response to repel and punish the aggressor.<span> </span>Obviously, that approach would not work if two NATO signatories went to war against each other.<span> </span>Even determining which country was the aggressor and which the victim could be quite challenging.</p> <p>Throughout NATO’s history, the greatest risk of an intra‐​alliance conflict has always been one involving Greece and Turkey.<span> </span>Although both countries joined NATO in 1952, mutual membership in that security partnership did not erase the centuries of animosity between the two populations.<span> </span>Athens and Ankara have nearly come to blows on several occasions, most notably when Turkey invaded majority‐​Greek Cyprus in 1974, proceeded to occupy nearly 40 percent of the island, and expelled Greek Cypriots from that territory.<span> </span>The occupation continues to this day.</p> <p>There have been several lesser, but still worrisome, incidents over the years.<span> </span>Among other problems, Turkish military planes continuously violate Greek airspace.<span> </span>Athens then sends its fighter planes up to intercept and challenge the Turkish aircraft—in some years as many as <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2015/11/26/turkish-jets-violated-greek-airspace-over-2000-times-last-year-infographic/#7c2c2e7e42e3">2,000 times</a>.<span> </span>Thus far, there have been no armed clashes, but as I’ve written <a href="https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/why-russia-likes-play-aerial-chicken-america?queryID=8b0f1a7daced568730e0aca22bc5aa93">elsewhere</a>, similar games of aerial “chicken” involving the United States and such countries as Russia and China are extremely reckless.<span> </span>One such episode between U.S. and Chinese planes in 2001 resulted in a&nbsp;midair collision that killed the Chinese pilot and created an <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/02/world/us-plane-in-china-after-it-collides-with-chinese-jet.html">ugly diplomatic row</a> between Washington and Beijing.<span> </span>All it would take is one miscalculation by a&nbsp;Greek or Turkish pilot to trigger a&nbsp;similar (or worse) crisis between Athens and Ankara.</p> <p>The Cyprus episode suggests what Washington’s reaction would be to the outbreak of a&nbsp;Greco‐​Turkish armed conflict.<span> </span>Under the guidance of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the United States pressured both countries to dampen their quarrel, and Kissinger used maximum leverage to get the other NATO members to adopt the same position.<span> </span>However, Kissinger’s stance was <a href="https://www.amazon.com/United-States-Cyprus-Rule-1974/dp/089241569X/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&amp;keywords=Eugene+Rossides%2C+Cyprus&amp;qid=1599758263&amp;s=books&amp;sr=1-4">far from neutral</a>.<span> </span>Even though Turkey had been the aggressor, the United States soon tilted in favor of Ankara’s position.<span> </span>Congressional anger compelled Gerald Ford’s administration to implement sanctions against the Turkish government, but the White House moved inexorably to dilute those measures as quickly as possible.<span> </span>That approach continued under Jimmy Carter’s administration, and by the beginning of the 1980s, the restrictions were effectively moot.</p> <p>Washington’s response reflected the belief that Turkey was a&nbsp;much more important ally than Greece in terms of strategic considerations.<span> </span>There is little reason to believe that the U.S. attitude has changed.<span> </span>Even if a&nbsp;Biden administration would not share Donald Trump’s <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/10/world/europe/erdogan-trump-turkey-libya-syria.html">apparent admiration</a> for Turkey’s autocratic president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, both security and economic calculations would push Washington toward that conclusion.</p> <p>There is one important difference, though, between the Cyprus crisis and a&nbsp;possible new confrontation between Athens and Ankara.<span> </span>Key NATO powers, most notably France and Italy, are not happy about Erdogan’s increasingly undemocratic rule and his government’s maverick, often pro‐​Russian, behavior on security issues.<span> </span>In addition, France has openly challenged Turkey’s territorial and resource claims in the eastern Mediterranean, and in late August, French warships and planes joined a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-greece-france/france-joins-military-exercises-in-east-mediterranean-idUSKBN25M0UF">joint military exercise</a> with Greece and Cyprus to convey a&nbsp;blunt message of displeasure to Ankara.<span> </span>Washington may find it far more difficult today to drag its NATO allies into taking a&nbsp;pro‐​Turkish stance in case of an armed confrontation between Greece and Turkey than it did in 1974.</p> <p>The mere prospect of a&nbsp;possible Greco‐​Turkish war underscores one of the major drawbacks of the United States being the leader of a&nbsp;nearly 30‐​member military alliance.<span> </span>America automatically is entangled in the grievances and quarrels of every one of those members.<span> </span>And when two members openly hate each other, that situation can create not only a&nbsp;headache but an outright nightmare for the United States. <span> </span><span> </span></p> Thu, 10 Sep 2020 15:07:49 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter https://www.cato.org/blog/old-nato-nightmare-returns-possible-war-between-greece-turkey The Pentagon Sizes up China, Sees a Serious Military Threat https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/pentagon-sizes-china-sees-serious-military-threat Doug Bandow <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The purpose of America’s military is to protect the United States. That requires imagining all manner of potential dangers. And in the Pentagon’s eye, the People’s Republic of China is moving from theoretical to serious military threat.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The “2020 China Military Power Report” is the 20th such document from the Department of Defense. When the first issue appeared, America had little reason to worry. Explains the latest analysis:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>DOD’s first annual report to Congress in 2000 assessed the PRC’s armed forces at that time to be a&nbsp;sizable but mostly archaic military that was poorly suited to the [Chinese Communist Party]’s long‐​term ambitions. The report recognized the CCP’s objective was for the PRC to become a “strong, modernized, unified, and wealthy nation.” Despite these great power aspirations, the [People’s Liberation Army] lacked the capabilities, organization, and readiness for modern warfare. Yet the CCP understood these deficiencies and set long‐​term goals to strengthen and transform its armed forces in a&nbsp;manner commensurate with its aspirations to strengthen and transform China.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>In the intervening two decades, China’s economy has exploded. Today, China is second only to the U.S.—first if you base it on purchasing power parity—and has created a&nbsp;modern, high‐​tech society. As a&nbsp;result, Beijing has acquired enormous economic and political influence abroad.</p> <p>The CCP has taken advantage of the torrent of new wealth and steadily increased military outlays. Although Beijing still lags behind America militarily, the gap has closed substantially. China is not a&nbsp;power to be trifled with and its ambitions have expanded accordingly. Observes DOD:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>Two decades later, the PLA’s objective is to become a “world‐​class” military by the end of 2049—a goal first announced by General Secretary Xi Jinping in 2017. Although the CCP has not defined what a ‘world‐​class’ military means, within the context of the PRC’s national strategy it is likely that Beijing will seek to develop a&nbsp;military by mid‐​century that is equal to—or in some cases superior to—the U.S. military, or that of any other great power that the PRC views as a&nbsp;threat. As this year’s report details, the PRC has marshalled the resources, technology, and political will over the past two decades to strengthen and modernize the PLA in nearly every respect. Indeed, as this report shows, China is already ahead of the United States in certain areas.</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The most immediate role for this growing military is regional, which means direct defense of China and domination of the surrounding area, rather like U.S. treatment of the Western Hemisphere. However, Beijing’s expanded global role has increased the number and importance of its foreign relationships. The PLA is expected to support a&nbsp;broader and more aggressive foreign policy intended to advance those interests and, in the Pentagon’s view, support the PRC’s “aims to revise aspects of the international order.”</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, given the rapid growth and transformation of the PLA, there remain “major gaps and shortcomings,” according to the Pentagon. However, Chinese officials are seeking to address such weaknesses. Defeating China would be no cakewalk.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Yet projecting power is also expensive for an America with little money to spare. How should Washington proceed? </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>For a&nbsp;United States used to the status of dominant power, China’s transformation poses a&nbsp;particularly daunting challenge. Increasingly military leaders and political officials are calling for higher military expenditures to confront this allegedly growing and potentially dire threat.</p> <p>The nature of the Chinese “threat” is unique. It is not against America directly, an existential challenge that could eliminate the U.S. as a&nbsp;free and independent society, highly integrated in the world system and exceedingly influential around the world. Rather the challenge is primarily over Washington’s continuing dominance of the Asia‐​Pacific up to China’s coast. In effect, the U.S. currently enforces the Monroe Doctrine in Asia as well as North America (along with Europe and the Middle East too!). This hubris, that Washington can continue to dictate international arrangements everywhere, especially in Asia, looks increasingly uncertain.</p> <p>The most threatening armament for any nation is a&nbsp;strategic nuclear force. Today, only Russia possesses a&nbsp;nuclear arsenal equivalent to America’s. Beijing is focused on improving its deterrent and moving towards great power and even superpower status.</p> <p>Explains the Pentagon: “China’s strategic ambitions, evolving view of the security landscape, and concerns over survivability are driving significant changes to the size, capabilities, and readiness of its nuclear forces.” The PRC will modernize its forces and increase their readiness. Most important for the U.S., “Over the next decade, China’s nuclear warhead stockpile—currently estimated to be in the low-200s—is projected to at least double in size.” Moreover, “China is pursuing a ‘nuclear triad’ with the development of a&nbsp;nuclear capable air‐​launched ballistic missile (ALBM) and improving its ground and sea‐​based nuclear capabilities,” which will bring these forces to a&nbsp;closer match with those of the U.S. and Russia.</p> <p>Such a&nbsp;force structure is not adequate for a&nbsp;first strike or an attempt at coercion, neither of which would be easy even with a&nbsp;larger arsenal, given America’s active stockpile of 3,800 warheads, of which 1,365 are currently actively deployed. Indeed, this array almost guarantees that the continental U.S. will not be attacked by China regardless of how relations develop.</p> <p>In contrast, the Chinese homeland is at potentially great risk. The most likely Sino‐​American confrontation would be a&nbsp;conventional clash in East Asia. The U.S. would rely on land bases scattered among friendly states and naval forces centered on aircraft carriers to battle China over contingencies involving Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines. The PRC would mostly operate from the mainland. That means any war almost certainly would entail American assaults on China proper, though Washington would not seek to occupy the mainland. Thus, the American threat facing China is serious, if not existential.</p> <p>In this environment, it is unsurprising that Beijing is focused on preventing U.S. action against China, not attacking America. According to the Pentagon:</p> <ul> <li>The PLA is developing capabilities to provide options for the PRC to dissuade, deter, or, if ordered, defeat third‐​party intervention during a&nbsp;large‐​scale, theater campaign such as a&nbsp;Taiwan contingency.</li> <li>The PLA’s anti‐​access/​area‐​denial (A2/AD) capabilities are currently the most robust within the First Island Chain, although the PRC aims to strengthen its capabilities to reach farther into the Pacific Ocean.</li> <li>The PRC also continues to increase its military capabilities to achieve regional and global security objectives beyond a&nbsp;Taiwan contingency.</li> <li>The PLA is developing the capabilities and operational concepts to conduct offensive operations within the Second Island Chain, in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and in some cases, globally.</li> </ul> <p>Although overall China’s military lags behind America’s, there are areas of vulnerability for the U.S., according to the DOD. One is shipbuilding. Indeed, by number, Beijing currently deploys the world’s largest navy. Moreover, notes the Pentagon: “The PRC has more than 1,250 ground‐​launched ballistic missiles (GLBMs) and ground‐​launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) with ranges between 500 and 5,500&nbsp;kilometers. The United States currently fields one type of conventional GLBM with a&nbsp;range of 70 to 300&nbsp;kilometers and no GLCMs.” Beijing also has a&nbsp;substantial, well‐​integrated air defense system.</p> <p>It is worth noting that the latter is&nbsp;<em>defensive</em>, reducing Washington’s ability to attack. China’s missiles could be used for offense but in practice they primarily represent a&nbsp;deterrent to American offensive action. Beijing’s naval build‐​up offers both defensive and offensive possibilities, though China possesses limited ability to launch a&nbsp;D‐​Day‐​style amphibious invasion against its island neighbors. Although the U.S. maintains a&nbsp;superior force overall, China can concentrate on the Asia theater. In response, Washington would look for assistance, most notably from Japan and Australia, in a&nbsp;serious conflict with Beijing.</p> <p>There is much detail in the Pentagon report, which offers a&nbsp;sobering warning for those who imagine Pax Americana lasting throughout the 21st century. Nevertheless, at base, the news remains good. The U.S. is fundamentally secure, with geography still a&nbsp;natural defense, a&nbsp;world filled with allies and friends, soft power that attracts even those skeptical of Washington’s pretensions to global leadership, and a&nbsp;military that will be able to deter the PRC even if the latter achieves the military superiority that its leaders may crave.</p> <p>In contrast, China faces serious economic, demographic, and political problems. Overall, it remains surprisingly poor, the benefits of growth having been shared very unevenly, and its population is rapidly aging. The regime spends more on internal security to subjugate its own people than on the PLA to defend against foreign threats. Its contentious “wolf warrior” diplomacy has driven nations toward America. The brutal crackdown at home and aggressive stance abroad have lost Beijing much of the soft power it might have had.</p> <p>The ultimate challenge for America is how much it is willing spend and risk to impose its will on China in its own neighborhood. No matter how worthy the objectives, such as ensuring Taiwanese independence, projecting power is far more expensive than deterring attack. The burden on Washington will grow even as American finances face ever greater challenge in coming years.</p> <p>There is an alternative strategy for Washington: aiding friendly states in creating their own deterrents, based on A2/AD capabilities similar to those being created by Beijing. Indeed, at some point, the U.S. should consider the wisdom of dropping its objection to proliferation among friends, most notably Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia. The objections are obvious and serious. Nevertheless, the most effective way to safeguard the independence of such states while minimizing the risk to America would be for each to possess the ability to retaliate with great force against Chinese aggression.</p> <p>Dealing with Beijing is likely to be the greatest challenge for the incoming administration, whoever is president. In a&nbsp;changing world, Washington can no long can assume that it will always possess the largest and most sophisticated military on earth. Abundant creativity and ingenuity will be required to fashion a&nbsp;cost‐​effective defense in the decades ahead.</p> </div> Thu, 10 Sep 2020 09:13:57 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/pentagon-sizes-china-sees-serious-military-threat Why America Should Fear a Russia‐​China Alliance https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/why-america-should-fear-russia-china-alliance Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The United States is the world’s strongest nation. It has the largest, most productive economy. America’s military is peerless. The United States also enjoys unmatched “soft power,” with a&nbsp;globe‐​spanning culture and appealing values.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Nevertheless, the Trump administration’s attempt to run the world from Washington, treating allied states as vassals, has faltered. America’s most desperate adversaries, including Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, and Syria, have rebuffed U.S. pressure. And when pressed by the United States for support against Tehran European governments sided with the latter.</p> <p>Perhaps most ominous are the growing if still limited ties between China and Russia. Tension between the two nations is real but antipathy to Washington binds them together. Although some analysts dismiss the importance and sustainability of the relationship, Thomas Joscelyn of the Foundation for Defense of Democracy contended: “the Xi‐​Putin partnership is arguably the most dangerous relationship on the planet today.”</p> <p>There was nothing inevitable about cooperation between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation. Relations between the Soviet Union and PRC sometimes were anything but friendly. Ideological differences joined nationalistic passions in 1956 after Nikita Khrushchev made his famous denunciation of Joseph Stalin. Bilateral relations rapidly deteriorated: in 1969 the two governments fought an undeclared border war for several months.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>American policymakers need to recognize that Russia has separate interests that it will pursue irrespective of Washington’s wishes. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>This environment invited Richard Nixon to transform U.S. relations with China three years later. After Mao’s death in 1976 bilateral ties substantially expanded, as economic reforms advanced by the new Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping, turned the PRC into an important trading partner.</p> <p>Moscow attempted to ease the breach exploited by the United States and relations eventually normalized. When the Cold War ended there was no reason to expect Washington to end up at odds with both countries. But after the West launched its economic war on Russia a&nbsp;few years ago Beijing and Moscow took their relationship to a&nbsp;higher level, though not into a&nbsp;formal alliance, which remains unlikely. Observed Alexander Gabuev of Carnegie Moscow Center: “China and Russia’s budding relationship is still primarily transactional.”</p> <p>However, the two governments continue to draw closer. Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have met more than thirty times. Last month Xi called on the two countries to “oppose hegemony and unilateralism,” obviously directed against you know who. Noted historian Matthew Dal Santo, “Russia and China are closer today than at any point since the Sino‐​Soviet split that Nixon’s China policy seized advantage of.”</p> <p>Moscow attempted to ease the breach exploited by the United States and relations eventually normalized. When the Cold War ended there was no reason to expect Washington to end up at odds with both countries. But after the West launched its economic war on Russia a&nbsp;few years ago Beijing and Moscow took their relationship to a&nbsp;higher level, though not into a&nbsp;formal alliance, which remains unlikely. Observed Alexander Gabuev of Carnegie Moscow Center: “China and Russia’s budding relationship is still primarily transactional.”</p> <p>However, the two governments continue to draw closer. Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have met more than thirty times. Last month Xi called on the two countries to “oppose hegemony and unilateralism,” obviously directed against you know who. Noted historian Matthew Dal Santo, “Russia and China are closer today than at any point since the Sino‐​Soviet split that Nixon’s China policy seized advantage of.”</p> <p>Both Beijing and Moscow are awful regimes. But the United States (and to a&nbsp;lesser degree European) hubris encouraged them to become confidantes. Now, even advocates of unbridled American primacy have grown nervous about the world’s second‐​most powerful economy and its second‐​most powerful military working together.</p> <p>China poses a&nbsp;greater challenge though. Economic connections and other connections between America and the PRC are great, but the tension between a&nbsp;rising and an existing power reflects the so‐​called Thucydides Trap, captured by Thucydides’ classic history of the Peloponnesian War. Even if the United States and China avoid conflict, their ambitions will continue to clash. Washington should adopt reasonable accommodations rather than reflexively resist Chinese objectives while maximizing international support for America’s position and minimizing backing for the PRC.</p> <p>In pursuing the latter Washington should begin with Russia. Moscow’s substantial weaknesses make the condominium with&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/china-interfering-2020-election-beijing-wants-trump-lose-168411" target="_blank">China</a>&nbsp;particularly important but also most uncomfortable. Moreover, America’s and Europe’s estrangement from the Russian Federation makes little sense. Despite hysterical fearmongering by those who see Moscow as an enemy, Russia poses minimal threat to America and almost as little danger to Europe.</p> <p>Indeed, in his early years, President Vladimir Putin evinced little hostility toward the West. His shift reflected a&nbsp;changed sense of threat, which was an outgrowth of the aggressive United States, and to a&nbsp;lesser degree, European policies. (That does not, of course, excuse his domestic repressions and foreign depredations.)</p> <p>In pursuing the latter Washington should begin with Russia. Moscow’s substantial weaknesses make the condominium with&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/china-interfering-2020-election-beijing-wants-trump-lose-168411" target="_blank">China</a>&nbsp;particularly important but also most uncomfortable. Moreover, America’s and Europe’s estrangement from the Russian Federation makes little sense. Despite hysterical fearmongering by those who see Moscow as an enemy, Russia poses minimal threat to America and almost as little danger to Europe.</p> <p>Indeed, in his early years, President Vladimir Putin evinced little hostility toward the West. His shift reflected a&nbsp;changed sense of threat, which was an outgrowth of the aggressive United States, and to a&nbsp;lesser degree, European policies. (That does not, of course, excuse his domestic repressions and foreign depredations.)</p> <p><a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/russia-claims-nato-deploying-more-troops-border-and-increasing-spy-flights-168545" target="_blank">Russia’s response was wrong</a>&nbsp;but did not threaten any member of NATO. In fact,&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/north-korea-and-russia-just-how-close-168520" target="_blank">Putin’s objectives</a>&nbsp;were rather modest, a&nbsp;one‐​off strike largely designed to preserve the base for the Black Sea fleet and prevent Kiev’s membership in the transatlantic alliance. American policymakers should consider how they would have reacted had the Soviet Union helped overthrow Mexico’s elected pro‐​American leader, set forth its list of approved government officials, pushed to shift trade away from the United States to Soviet clients in South America, and invited the new government to join the Warsaw Pact. Washington would have been overcome by mass hysteria and war fever.</p> <p>Russia is no more threatening today. It has recovered from its nadir but it is still no match for America. Today Moscow is a&nbsp;great power akin to pre‐​1914 Imperial Russia, which insisted on international respect for its borders and interests. Moscow’s nuclear arsenal provides a&nbsp;powerful deterrent, but Russia is in no position to force its will on the United States. Grappling for influence in countries such as Syria is standard great power politics—and there Moscow has much greater, historically rooted interests than America. The chief flashpoint is Washington’s insistence that it is entitled to essentially impose the Monroe Doctrine on Europe, with the unlimited right to intervene militarily in Russia’s neighborhood. It should surprise no one that Putin refuses to surrender his foreign policy to America.</p> <p>Additionally, the Europeans, whatever their rhetoric may be, don’t have much reason to fear Moscow. The continent vastly outdistances Russia with eleven times the economic strength and three times the population. Countries that refuse to spend much on their militaries do not fear invasion, irrespective of their rhetoric. Even Poland and the Baltics barely break that barrier. If they really feared invasion, then they would develop serious territorial defenses to make aggression too costly for Moscow to contemplate.</p> <p>Of course, critics of a&nbsp;Russo‐​rapprochement have assembled a&nbsp;long list of particular offenses and impossible demands. For instance, they point out, Putin is an authoritarian—of which the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny is but the latest evidence. However, Washington long has embraced its favorite dictators throughout South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Remember Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who slices and dices his critics?</p> <p>There are angry charges of Russian interference in America’s elections—yet the U.S. interfered in more than eighty foreign elections between 1945 and 2000. American policymakers also are shocked, shocked that Moscow promotes its interests in Syria, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Cuba, and elsewhere, just like Washington pushes its agenda in the Balkans, Central and Eastern Europe, Mideast, and elsewhere, all closer to Russia than America.</p> <p>The former wrongly backed war against Ukraine and for Syria’s Assad regime, critics note; the United States launched or supported illegal military action against Iraq, Serbia, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Moscow may have paid bounties to kill Americans in Afghanistan. In practice, this is little different than Washington providing lethal military aid to Ukraine, for use to kill Russian soldiers and ethnic Russian insurgents. (It is also like America’s long‐​ago assistance to the Afghan Mujahedeen, which killed thousands of Soviet military personnel.)</p> <p>America’s mistakes and misdeeds do not justify Moscow’s far worse behavior, but Russia is no outlier in the international system and its illicit behavior is negotiable. Or, at least, it would be if the United States deigned to talk about such issues. America current policy of insisting that Moscow drop its policies because it doesn’t like them has failed. Why, for instance, should Russia abandon an ally of decades, Syria, because Washington seemingly expects to dominate every nation in the Middle East? And Moscow, whether the government is led by Putin or someone else, is likely to surrender Crimea only after America returns Texas to Mexico. Thomas Graham, who handled Russia for the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, has noted that “Other than the Russians capitulating, I&nbsp;have no idea what the administration is trying to achieve concerning Russia.”</p> <p>Washington should take a&nbsp;different path. Top American leaders should sit down with Russian policymakers and look for compromises that both sides can live with. Admittedly, as Australian Member of the House of Representatives Dave Sharma observed, “the statecraft required is not easy, and the realpolitik underpinning it might be hard to stomach.”</p> <p>Nevertheless, support for the idea is growing. Henry Kissinger, architect of the breakthrough with China, reportedly urged Trump administration officials to do the same with Moscow today. When asked about the possibility Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, hardly a&nbsp;diplomat’s diplomat, responded: “I do think there’s that opportunity.” Elbridge Colby, a&nbsp;principal at the Marathon Initiative and former Pentagon official, opined: “Our goal should be to ensure a&nbsp;lot of space between China and Russia.”</p> <p>Moreover, a&nbsp;group of distinguished foreign policy analysts recently used Politico as an outlet to call for a&nbsp;renewed effort to negotiate with Russia, writing that “Our strategic posture should be that which served us well during the Cold War: a&nbsp;balanced commitment to deterrence and détente. Thus, while maintaining our defense, we should also engage Russia in a&nbsp;serious and sustained strategic dialogue that addresses the deeper sources of mistrust and hostility and at the same time focuses on the large and urgent security challenges facing both countries.”</p> <p>What kind of compromise would be acceptable? There are many possibilities. For instance, America could announce the end of NATO expansion, which increases America’s obligations far more than its resources, and military assistance to Kiev. In return, Russia could halt support for ethnic Russian separatists in the Donbass and guarantee free Ukrainian maritime access. Ukraine could follow through on the Minsk Protocol, approving constitutional guarantees for greater regional autonomy.</p> <p>On Crimea, the United States and Europe could accept annexation de facto but not jure. If Russia wants official recognition, then it could hold an internationally monitored referendum. Indeed, Washington’s demand that Crimea be returned without a&nbsp;vote would be unfair to Crimeans. America should not barter its future as if it were a&nbsp;commodity. Irrespective of the past, their consent should determine their future.</p> <p>Washington and Moscow should agree to mutual disarmament when it comes to electoral interference, including partisan involvement packaged as “democracy promotion,” an American favorite. The West could drop complaints over South Ossetia and Abkhazia—in which indigenous nationalism goes back centuries—and the United States could stop augmenting its financial contributions and troop deployments to Europe if Moscow dropped threatening and hostile actions, from cyberattacks against America and Europe to military maneuvers. Russia could end support of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and intervention in Libya if Washington stopped trying to push Russia out of Syria and overthrow the Assad government.</p> <p>On other issues of disagreement, the two governments could either engage in traditional horse‐​trading or agree to disagree. Washington’s determination to stand on dubious, and often hypocritical, principle guarantees prolonged, and perhaps eternal, Russian hostility. America’s only benefit is the satisfaction of infusing U.S. foreign policy with an abnormally noxious concentration of sanctimony.</p> <p>Unfortunately, perennial hawks seem horrified by the idea of revived détente. They prefer permanent confrontation, forever growing military outlays, an ever‐​expanding NATO alliance, and constantly increasing sanctions. Yet their inflated threat claims inadvertently demonstrate the need for a&nbsp;dramatic change in policy. For instance, John Rood, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, argued: “in many ways, Russia’s the larger near term threat [compared to China] because of the overwhelming lethality of its nuclear arsenal and also because of some of the behavior that the Russian government has exhibited.” His claim is exaggerated—Moscow would fight the United States only if forced to—but, if true, it illustrates why Washington should engage Moscow and seek to moderate its behavior.</p> <p>Matthew Kroenig of the Atlantic Council contended that “Putin cannot be trusted to abide by arms control agreements or cease‐​fires in eastern Ukraine.” The Russian leader doesn’t need to be trusted when his actions can be monitored. Anyway, lack of trustworthiness is not a&nbsp;problem just for Russia: U.S. officials misled—and possibly lied to—the Soviet and Russian governments about expanding NATO after the collapse of the Soviet empire. Washington did not live up to its implicit commitments to Libya’s Muammar el‐​Qaddafi. Donald Trump trashed the Obama administration’s agreement with Iran. The president’s critics were agog that he removed American troops stationed with Syrian Kurds.</p> <p>Perhaps reflecting such behavior, Vasily Kashin at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics wrote: “First, there is no trust between Moscow and Washington and, second, Russia believes U.S domestic politics is too chaotic and extremist to make any deal‐​making or subtle maneuvers very likely.” However, little subtlety would be necessary to propose broad reciprocal actions, especially if tied to rolling back of one or more sanctions. Moscow could decide whether to accept the invitation.</p> <p>Former NATO ambassador Kurt Volker claimed the failure of “multiple attempts by U.S. administrations to work together” with Russia. He complained that “The fundamental fallacy in such an argument is to believe that U.S. policies drive Putin’s actions. They don’t.” For Volker “working together” must mean Moscow subordinating itself to Washington’s demands. His “America as Vestal Virgin” thesis is unsustainable.</p> <p>As Mark N. Katz of George Mason University pointed out, even before Putin’s rise “Russians became frustrated with how the weak state of the armed forces serve (in their view) to encourage the United States and the West to undertake military actions.” Katz cited NATO expansion, attacks on Serbia, the Iraq War and multiple color revolutions. “It was in response to this U.S. tendency to act unilaterally in ways to which Moscow objected that Putin implemented a&nbsp;military strategy aimed at thwarting U.S. unilateralism as well as building up Russia’s own ability to act unilaterally.”</p> <p>A long list of the usual hawkish foreign policy suspects wrote in Politico to ask what possible “acceptable resolutions” were possible to resolve U.S.-Russian differences? In horror they cited ideas like leaving Georgia and Russia out of NATO, accepting Russian control of Crimea, and ignoring Moscow’s human‐​rights violations, and concluded that “any ‘rethink’ involving such trade‐​offs is not worth pursuing.”</p> <p>This argument reflects the madness afflicting the bipartisan War Party in Washington. Foreign policy has become a&nbsp;tool for micro‐​managing the globe, not ensuring the safety of the American people. Adding countries in conflict with Russia to the transatlantic alliance is dangerous and goes against U.S. interests. Moscow will not surrender Crimea absent defeat in a&nbsp;full‐​scale war, irrespective of America’s demands.</p> <p>Washington ostentatiously, even cheerfully, ignores grievous human rights violations in many nations—Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Turkey, and the Central Asian states, to start. The militaristic policies lauded by the hawkish Greek Chorus, such as providing lethal aid to Ukraine, enhancing U.S. military presence in the Baltics and Poland, and maintaining sanctions, have not acted as an “incentive for Putin to change,” as claimed, but instead have assured Russia’s continuing hostility and determination to retaliate.</p> <p>Although Kroenig acknowledged that the Russo‐​Chinese entente “is worrying,” he contended that Russia “does not want to be openly antagonistic” toward the PRC and “does not bring much to the table.” Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, observed: “I just don’t see Russia as currently oriented playing a&nbsp;role” in containing the PRC. And although she took an approach from a&nbsp;different direction, Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Minister, has assured the public that the United States would not succeed in attempting “to provoke a&nbsp;public clash between Russia and China.”</p> <p>That said, Washington’s objective should not be to make Russia an American ally, but to prevent it from becoming a&nbsp;Chinese one. As Dal Santo has observed: “balancing China alone is far more realistic than balancing China and Russia together.” Even benevolent neutrality, leavened with a&nbsp;greater willingness to challenge the PRC when Moscow’s interests are at risk, would be good for the West.</p> <p>Perhaps the most bizarre hyperventilation over proposals to shift U.S. policy came from James Gilmore, a&nbsp;neither memorable nor successful presidential candidate now serving as U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co‐​Operation in Europe. He called the putative reformers’ article a “shameful document” and said their arguments were “the Russian message that we see here in Vienna.” He insisted: “We have a&nbsp;right to hold Russia up to the proper standards of conduct of international relations and foreign policy.”</p> <p>Alas, that argument suffers coming from someone officially representing a&nbsp;nation that routinely engages in aggressive wars, attempts to overthrow foreign governments, and supports nations that flagrantly violate international law and human rights. The question is: would a&nbsp;deal with Moscow increase the likelihood that it holds to “the proper standards of conduct of international relations and foreign policy”? The current policy toward Russia manifestly has failed to chasten Moscow. It is time to try a&nbsp;different approach.</p> <p>Finally, some critics might be inclined to try to outwait Putin. However, his successor is likely to adopt a&nbsp;similar nationalist approach. Unfortunately, liberalism is a&nbsp;dead force in Russia. “Even if Putin’s eventual successor is more democratically inclined, it does not follow that Russia will embrace a&nbsp;worldview more favorable to the United States. The disagreement cuts to the heart of national identity and purpose,” according to Thomas Graham, Jr., and Matthew Rojansky, of the Council on Foreign Relations and Woodrow Wilson Center. The reformers writing for Politico similarly observed: “the reality is that Russia, under Vladimir Putin, operates within a&nbsp;strategic framework deeply rooted in nationalist traditions that resonate with elites and the public alike. An eventual successor, even one more democratically inclined, will likely operate within this same framework.” Indeed, the much‐​feted Alexei Navalny appears to be a&nbsp;hardline nationalist who opposes Putin’s misrule, not ideology.</p> <p>Even among those who prefer better relations between Washington and Moscow, there is skepticism that they are attainable. For instance, Lyle Goldstein of the U.S. Naval War College has argued that “China and Russia have a&nbsp;very similar worldview right now and they’re supporting each other pretty strongly. I&nbsp;don’t see a&nbsp;lot of cracks.” Meanwhile, analysts Andrea Kendall‐​Taylor, David Shullman, and Dan McCormick doubted “efforts to lure Russia away from China would be successful … because Putin views the United States and not Beijing as a&nbsp;threat to his hold on power.” Katz suggested that “Putin, it appears, may actually prefer a&nbsp;state of hostility with the United States and the West, given his fears that friendly relations are more likely to undermine him.”</p> <p>Although powerful forces are pushing China and Russia together, differences between them are real. The PRC has used its greater economic strength to win influence in Central Asia, once part of the Soviet Union. Moreover, Imperial China lost territory to Imperial Russia, including Vladivostok, which some Chinese imagine recovering. Moscow is likely to be increasingly dissatisfied playing number two to Beijing, which seems inevitable as the economic gap between them grows.</p> <p>Nevertheless, punitive allied actions are inflaming the two governments’ current hostility toward and fear of America. The United States should work to eliminate or moderate factors pushing them together. There is no guarantee of success, but Washington should play the long game.</p> <p>Foreign policy is the art of the possible, distinguishing between reality and fantasy. American policymakers need to recognize that Russia has separate interests that it will pursue irrespective of Washington’s wishes. Despite near‐​hysteria among U.S. policymakers who cannot understand foreign rejection of American hegemony, most contested issues—such as Syria and Crimea—are not particularly important, let alone vital, to the United States. In any case, Russia has repeatedly demonstrated that it will not surrender to Washington.</p> <p>The United States and Europe should seek a&nbsp;civil, cooperative relationship with Russia. Doing so would be the best way to counter today’s informal alliance between Moscow and Beijing. But that requires America to compromise on its own outsize geopolitical ambitions. This approach would do far more to enhance American security than launching another Cold War.</p> </div> Wed, 09 Sep 2020 09:28:29 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/why-america-should-fear-russia-china-alliance With Friends Like These https://www.cato.org/multimedia/power-problems/friends-these Emma Ashford, Rachel Rizzo <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Donald Trump has taken America’s relationship with Europe from bad to worse. Emma Ashford chats with Rachel Rizzo of the Truman Project about the prospects for transatlantic relations.</p> <p><strong>Show Notes</strong></p> <ul> <li>Rachel Rizzo <a href="http://trumancenter.org/about/board-leadership-staff/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Bio</a></li> <li>Tom McTague, “<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/08/brexit-trump-china-90s-golden-era/615406/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Remember the 90s, Don’t Long for a&nbsp;Return</a>,” <em>The Atlantic</em></li> <li>Emma Ashford, “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/25/opinion/biden-foreign-policy.html" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Biden Wants to Go Back to a&nbsp;Normal Foreign Policy. That’s the Problem</a>,” <em>The New York Times</em></li> </ul> </div> Tue, 08 Sep 2020 03:00:00 -0400 Emma Ashford, Rachel Rizzo https://www.cato.org/multimedia/power-problems/friends-these Time for Donald Trump to Make North Korea an Offer It Can’t Refuse? https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/time-donald-trump-make-north-korea-offer-it-cant-refuse Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The year 2020 is shaping up as annus horribilis for&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/symposium-we-asked-world%E2%80%99s-top-experts-what-america%E2%80%99s-north-korea-policy-would-look" target="_blank">North Korea</a>. Ravaged by seven decades of socialist mismanagement, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/time-president-trump-truly-apply-maximum-pressure-north-korea-111226" target="_blank">under economic siege by America</a>. In January Pyongyang shut out most foreign trade and contact to limit the spread of COVID-19. Subsequently, North Korea was battered by torrential rains and floods. And most recently was&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nknews.org/2020/09/typhoon-haishen-north-korea-hit-hard-by-third-typhoon-in-three-weeks/" target="_blank">hit by multiple&nbsp;typhoons</a>. Kim Jong-un’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/19/world/asia/north-korea-economy-coronavirus.html" target="_blank">vision of accelerated economic development</a>&nbsp;was washed away along with much of his nation’s landscape.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee&nbsp;<a href="https://www.38north.org/articles/affiliates/north-korean-economy-watch/20498/" target="_blank">recently announced</a>&nbsp;that the “economy was not improved in the face of the sustaining severe internal and external situations and unexpected manifold challenges” over the last five years. The danger for Kim is that hardship will taint even Pyongyang’s elite, which could cause destabilizing unrest for a&nbsp;leader who has proved willing to imprison and kill to ensure his political survival. Unless China or Russia offer large‐​scale aid, the North could suffer a&nbsp;deadly economic crisis that reprises past natural disasters.</p> <p>James Fretwell of NK News&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nknews.org/2020/09/why-north-korea-may-be-on-the-brink-of-another-deadly-arduous-march-famine/" target="_blank">recently pointed back</a>&nbsp;to the 1990s: “The DPRK faced similar circumstances prior to the Arduous March—estimates vary, but somewhere between 200,000 and 1.5 million people died as a&nbsp;result of the famine.” The cause was complex and multifaceted. Then socialist control of the economy was almost complete and thus enervating. The collapse of the Soviet Union cost Pyongyang foreign trade and assistance. North Korean agriculture suffered through a&nbsp;series of floods and droughts. Fretwell noted that “already the parallels are evident” and the DPRK “could soon be facing serious shortages in its domestic food supply.”</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Trump should use the North’s current difficulties as an excuse to reestablish contact. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Gaining international aid will be more difficult than in the past. No doubt, Kim does not want to show weakness to the U.S. and South Korea.&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/north-korea-most-certainly-has-coronavirus-problem-166638" target="_blank">The North’s COVID-19 restrictions</a>&nbsp;have driven out diplomats, aid workers, and humanitarian volunteers. Pyongyang previously said it would maintain its self‐​blockade until development of a&nbsp;coronavirus vaccine, which almost certainly means next year. Even if the DPRK changed policy and invited the return of international organizations, they would be reluctant to send personnel given uncertainty over the degree of infection in the North and the difficulty in arranging travel for anyone willing to go.</p> <p>Should the situation materially worsen the People’s Republic of China, most likely, or Russia, or both might step in. They fear chaos in the North, which could spur desperate North Koreans to attempt to cross a&nbsp;border which has been largely locked down. Moreover, Beijing and Moscow might hope to undermine U.S. policy, both because doing so forces Washington to focus on the seemingly intractable North Korea problem and reduces the likelihood that a&nbsp;desperate DPRK would cut them out in making a&nbsp;denuclearization deal with the U.S.</p> <p>The latter point should not be underestimated. The PRC has little love for Pyongyang, despite their wartime alliance and rhetorical brotherhood. China’s Xi Jinping refused to meet with Kim Jong‐​un for six years until early 2018, after<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/feature/grading-the-singapore-summit-compared-what-26275" target="_blank">&nbsp;the Kim‐​Trump summit</a>&nbsp;was scheduled. Then Xi was worried about being bypassed and his interests ignored, forcing him to soften his stance toward the North. Even though the possibility of a&nbsp;Trump‐​Kim agreement has ebbed, Xi likely remains wary of the possibility, especially given Trump’s unpredictability.</p> <p>Although fans of “maximum pressure,” which as yet has failed everywhere, hope the DPRK’s current travails will force surrender. Unfortunately, Pyongyang’s painful resistance seems likely to continue. The resulting situation is not good for Washington.</p> <p>First, Kim’s increased desire for sanctions relief may cause him to be more provocative. Kim and his officials long have promised serious, even dramatic action to assure the regime’s security. Some analysts&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/north-korea-may-be-prepping-submarine-launched-ballistic-missile-test-n1239420" target="_blank">forecast the imminent launch of an SLBM</a>; this worries Washington since submarines are relatively invulnerable to American attack.</p> <p>Pentagon officials predict that&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/exclusive-white-house-and-us-intelligence-officials-warn-north-korea-could-unveil" target="_blank">the North will unveil a&nbsp;new ICBM</a>, capable of hitting the U.S. A&nbsp;parade mock‐​up of the latter—on October 10 the DPRK will be celebrating the 75th&nbsp;anniversary of the Korean Workers’ Party—would be a&nbsp;threat only modestly expressed.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.19fortyfive.com/2020/06/north-korea-threatens-to-build-up-a-more-reliable-force-that-could-mean-an-icbm-test/" target="_blank">A&nbsp;launch</a>, however, would be harder for Washington to ignore. Even more disruptive would be a&nbsp;nuclear test.</p> <p>Trump would be embarrassed if one of his few claimed foreign policy successes turned into a&nbsp;dramatic and complete fiasco. Before the election, he would have an incentive to respond in a&nbsp;way that demonstrated resolve and toughness to the public. If he returned to “fire and fury,” the two countries might find themselves catapulted back to the mutual threats and insults, and corresponding fears of war, of late 2017.</p> <p>If he is reelected, an angry Trump feeling personally betrayed might find his inner‐​Bolton, abandon negotiations, and resume threats. The North’s inevitable response—another threes years of North Korean missile and nuclear development—would exacerbate the crisis. A&nbsp;newly elected Joe Biden, already skeptical of Trump’s approach, also might drop active diplomacy in favor of another round of “<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/strategic-patience-20-heres-how-biden-would-handle-both-koreas-167361" target="_blank">strategic patience</a>,” with an emphasis on bolstering ties with South Korea, perhaps leavened with warnings of possible military action.</p> <p>Instead of tossing away his unique opportunity to engage Kim, Trump should use the North’s current difficulties as an excuse to reestablish contact. He should send a&nbsp;note to Kim, to match those the North Korean leader used to write to Trump. The latter should indicate his concern over the difficulties faced by the people of the DPRK and suggest this would be a&nbsp;good moment to work together for their benefit.</p> <p>The president should state his interest in relaxing restrictions on travel, making it easier for aid workers and others to visit North Korea when Pyongyang opens its borders again. Moreover, a&nbsp;liaison office is more imperative than ever, allowing communication over constantly changing circumstances, such as weather disasters.</p> <p>Finally, Trump should suggest, humanitarian problems facing the North demonstrate the need for greater flexibility in sanctions. The president should express his desire to move forward to increase trust and commitment at a&nbsp;time when many people have written off the two nations’ joint commitment to peace. That would require taking a&nbsp;meaningful step toward halting Pyongyang’s production of nuclear material and toward reducing its capacity to produce nuclear material. That is, picking up their discussions from Hanoi.</p> <p>Both sides should choose negotiators and initiate discussions. The president might note that it is in Kim’s interest to begin the talks now. Few believe that Joe Biden would pick up where Trump left off and, given the record of the Obama administration, Biden seems less likely to pursue the sort of deal Kim is seeking.</p> <p>However, if Trump and Kim reached an agreement—a reasonable one that would withstand hostile political scrutiny in America—then Biden would be unlikely to revoke it. Even if the Trump administration eliminated or suspended some sanctions. Performance by Pyongyang would be necessary for any permanent rollback, but Trump will be in office until January 20 even if he loses, providing sufficient time to inaugurate a&nbsp;meaningful if limited deal upon which an incoming Biden administration could build.</p> <p>Even when the president has had a&nbsp;good idea, such as negotiating with pariah nations such as North Korea and Iran, he has assumed that applying “maximum pressure” will cause them states to simply surrender. He’s consistently been wrong and, in the case of Tehran, actually encouraged the regime to do everything America sought to prevent: enrich uranium, disrupt Gulf oil traffic, and attack U.S. forces in Iraq.</p> <p>In the case of North Korea, the president has seemingly squandered an opportunity to make a&nbsp;good deal. But he still has time left and should use the North’s present difficulties as leverage. However, he would have to find the right Goldilocks solution, applying pressure that is neither too harsh nor soft. Lest that seem utterly improbable, he recently made important progress in the Middle East and Balkans. Why not give the Korean peninsula another try?</p> </div> Mon, 07 Sep 2020 10:41:24 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/time-donald-trump-make-north-korea-offer-it-cant-refuse The Khmer Rouge’s Famed Prison Master Dies: Who Remembers Cambodia’s Destruction? https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/khmer-rouges-famed-prison-master-dies-who-remembers-cambodias-destruction Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Kaing Guek Eav, the Cambodian communist prison chieftain known as Duch who was serving a&nbsp;life sentence for his crimes, has died. The commandant of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison compound in Phnom Penh more than four decades ago later described his work as “evil eating evil.” The horrors that he represented, including an ideological rather than religious holocaust, further recede into history.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The Vietnam War was a&nbsp;great tragedy on every level. Decades of war. Millions of casualties. Devastated lands. Futile French attempts to retain a&nbsp;lost empire. Nationalism perverted by communism. A&nbsp;costly U.S. attempt to save an unloved autocracy from brutal dictatorship. Tens of thousands of Americans killed, disabled, and scarred.</p> <p>Thankfully, the fabled domino theory stopped at two nations, Laos and Cambodia. But the damage done the latter was unfathomable. North Vietnamese forces opened the way for the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian communists. The KR soon took control of the fight from the Vietnamese and ended resistance by the desperate, squabbling, inefficient, undemocratic Khmer Republic. On April 17, 1975, the capital, Phnom Penh, fell.</p> <p>No one imagined the terrors that impended for the nation renamed as Democratic Kampuchea. Although the North Vietnamese were ruthless and brutal, they generally sought to “reeducate” rather than slaughter their defeated opponents. In contrast, the French‐​educated KR leadership was the epitome of deracinated intellectuals determined to create a “new” man and society, irrespective of cost. Observed French scholar Henri Locard: “the entire country was to become in a&nbsp;way one big prison.”</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>The Cambodian people continue to suffer today. It will take more time for this ravaged country to recover from the madness known as the Khmer Rouge. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Joseph Stalin killed millions of Ukrainians to industrialize. KR leader Pol Pot, known as Brother Number One, and his acolytes murdered to purify the land. The cities were emptied in order to turn the countryside into a&nbsp;peasant paradise. Alas, more than a&nbsp;few eggs were broken to make this national omelet. Of a&nbsp;population of roughly eight million, up to three million died. The most common estimate is 1.7 million, an incredible 21 percent of Cambodia’s people. Urban dwellers, suspected of ideological treason by their new overseers, also were unprepared to become modern serfs. Perhaps 40 percent of people living in Phnom Penh when the unsmiling KR cadres arrived died. Slaughter on such scale is beyond imagination, a&nbsp;number the numbs the mind and soul. The country became known as the “killing fields.”</p> <p>Yet, as demonstrated by Stalin, who loosed the Great Terror on fellow party members, including his closest colleagues, and Mao Zedong, who unleashed the Cultural Revolution to eliminate “capitalist roaders” and others lacking sufficient revolutionary fervor, the purge is essential to revolutionary communism. It is never enough to summarily execute officials of the old regime. Faux allies undermining the revolution they purport to support also must be ferreted out and eliminated. That is where Duch came in.</p> <p>The son of Chinese immigrants, he was a&nbsp;mathematics teacher who joined the Khmer communist movement in 1967. He ran jails in guerrilla‐​controlled territory, picking up ideas for how to brutally interrogate prisoners from French and Cambodian police manuals. He realized that it was important not to kill prematurely, lest a&nbsp;confession be lost. After the KR’s victory he was chosen to run the notorious Security Prison 21, or S-21.</p> <p>In May 1976, Tuol Svay Pray High School was turned into S-21, more famous today as Tuol Sleng prison. It was only one of a&nbsp;couple hundred murderous detention centers. The new rulers had many scores to settle. There were three waves of repression. The first was directed against almost anyone associated with the fallen Lon Nol regime. In general, the victims were murdered outside of formal prison. No need to waste space: their guilt was certain.</p> <p>The second bout of repression began in the latter part of 1975 and was directed against similar classes of people, including professionals and civil servants. Many of these victims had either been denounced by enemies or prisoners or had revealed incriminating details of their pasts when writing their autobiographies for the new rulers. These arrests coincided with&nbsp;establishment of the national prison network.</p> <p>The final round of brutality began in 1976 and, explained Locard, “swept through all classes of the new society,” including “the Khmer Rouge cadres and military personnel themselves. All categories of the revolutionary society were soon engulfed in the maelstrom of repression as the regime was getting more and more deranged and saw ‘enemies,’ khmang, everywhere.”</p> <p>Still, Tuol Sleng had unique status “serving” the capital. The facility was home to as many as 30,000 — estimates vary widely — people in less than three years; among its residents were some 80 foreigners, including four Americans. S-21’s purpose was simple: extermination. No one who entered could expect to exit. Only 12 inmates are known to have survived. While heading operations there the trusted Duch was appointed head of the KR’s “special branch” in charge of prisons and international security.</p> <p>He was good at his job. Seth Mydans of the&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;wrote of “the vigor, creativity and cruelty with which [Duch] ran his torture house.” The prison-meister’s work ended in January 1979, when a&nbsp;Vietnamese invasion ousted the KR from the capital. Duch fled with the rest of the communist leadership, only to be demoted for having failed to destroy incriminating documents before leaving.</p> <p>I visited Phnom Penh 20&nbsp;years ago and toured S-21. It was one of the more moving and horrifying experiences of my life. Tuol Sleng sits in an area scarcely bigger than a&nbsp;football field. The property, originally used to do good, became a&nbsp;center of extraordinary evil. Some 1,700 dedicated KR believers sought to expose and eliminate enemies of the revolution. The exterminators were busy until the end. When Vietnamese troops entered the facility, they found 14 dead victims still shackled to metal bed frames.</p> <p>Now a&nbsp;museum, Tuol Sleng overwhelms through its photos, of the living as well as of the dead. The Khmer Rouge were nothing if not meticulous. They kept arrest and execution records and filed confessions; they also numbered and photographed incoming prisoners, often in profile as well as in front.</p> <p>An interesting footnote to Duch’s trial was the testimony of Nhem En, who at age 16 became one of six photographers at S-21. The latter joined the KR in 1961 when he was nine and performed for visiting delegations. By 12 he had been trained to use a&nbsp;weapon. As the North Vietnamese neared Phnom Penh he fled with other KR cadres. He only defected from the KR, which maintained a&nbsp;desultory and diminishing resistance after the Vietnamese invasion, in 1997, two years before the movement disbanded. He was a&nbsp;witness against Duch in the latter’s trial.</p> <p>It is the photographers’ images of the living that most haunt Tuol Sleng. Men and women. Boys and girls. Babies. The photos lined the walls of four rooms.</p> <p>Faces of people. Once alive, now dead. A&nbsp;few look angry, even defiant, seething hostility evident in their eyes. Others look confused. Many radiate anxiety and panic, eyes wide at the fate they saw before them. One seemed to be crying, almost begging for his life.</p> <p>But most look dead. They could still think and breathe. Their hearts still pumped blood through their bodies. However, their eyes were listless, cold, lifeless. Their oppressors had crushed the humanity out of them and casually tossed it aside.</p> <p>One picture was particularly unnerving. A&nbsp;man sporting the number 162 sat with vacant, desolate stare. He knew only too well that his life would soon be over. The way he likely died is not for the faint‐​hearted.</p> <p>Tuol Sleng was technically an interrogation center. Guilt was known ahead of time, otherwise a&nbsp;person would not have been detained. “Everyone who was arrested and sent to S-21 was presumed dead already,” Duch testified at his trial. But people usually failed to admit their guilt, so interrogation required torture. And torture often meant death.</p> <p>Duch lived in obscurity until an Irish photographer tracked him down in 1999, leading to his arrest and trial. He had converted to Christianity. When confronted, he showed guilt and admitted responsibility — but still sought an acquittal.</p> <p>At trial his conduct oscillated, but he appeared forthright in many of his admissions. “I never believed that the confessions I&nbsp;received told the truth,” he allowed. “At most, they were about 40 percent true.” Moreover,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/01/world/asia/duch-kaing-guek-eav-dead.html" target="_blank">reported</a>&nbsp;the&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>, “he said he believed that only 20 percent of the people whose names had been extracted through torture were genuine opponents of the regime. Those people were in turn pursued, arrested and tortured until they, too, produced the names of imagined accomplices.” As a&nbsp;result, observed Duch, “The work expanded” with additional arrests and interrogations.</p> <p>And what work it was. On view are the implements of coercion, seemingly one for every occasion. Axes and knives to slice. Clubs and hammers to batter. And shovels if the other tools were not punishing enough. There are spare metal bed frames and wooden slabs to which inmates were secured and tortured. Unassuming boxes holding scorpions that were placed on prisoners. And electrical wires used to shock inmates. Even seemingly innocent objects were used to inflict pain and death. Simple tubs in which to drown rather than bathe occupants — the Full Monty rather than waterboarding. There even was a&nbsp;high bar for suspending inmates.</p> <p>Although death was the ultimate end, the jailers thoughtfully strung barbed wired around open areas in the cellblocks to prevent prisoners from jumping to their death. You would die, but only when the party believed the time to be right. And that typically was only after you confessed. As Martin Stuart‐​Fox and Bunheang Ung explained in their book&nbsp;<em>The Murderous Revolution</em>, enemies “were never simply arrested and shot: authorities had first to obtain confessions which would justify their arrest, and thus confirm the omniscience and justice of Angkar [the Communist Party] in arresting them.”</p> <p>If there was any justice at Tuol Sleng, it was that KR cadre were among the victims. This revolution, like so many revolutions before it, consumed its own. Several former ministers and other high‐​level officials ended up at S-21 and are immortalized on the walls as among the facility’s guests. Several members of Tuol Sleng’s staff ended up as prisoners. Even two of Duch’s brothers‐​in‐​law were purged, one of whom was imprisoned and killed at S-21.</p> <p>Some prisoners died at the prison. As burial space disappeared, however, most were sent to what became known as the “Killing Fields,” named after the village of Choeung Ek, around 10&nbsp;miles outside of Phnom Penh. The slaughter was daily; the number of victims varied, peaking at about 300&nbsp;in May 1978. The process was gruesome. The museum detailed the process: prisoners “were told to kneel down and then they were clubbed on the neck with tools such as cart axle, hoe, stick, wooden club or whatever else served as a&nbsp;weapon of death. They were sometimes stabbed with knives or swords to save using bullets, which were deemed to be too expensive.” Duch explained that the party dictated the execution method: “usually, we slit their throats. We killed them like chickens.”</p> <p>Choeung Ek also is a&nbsp;brutal commemoration of death. A&nbsp;white monument juts up 40&nbsp;feet or so, dominating the surrounding fields and trees. From a&nbsp;distance it looks like it could commemorate most anything — a&nbsp;military victory, important statesman, or historical event. But this monument is different. It is filled with skulls.</p> <p>When I&nbsp;visited, only 86 of 129 mass graves had been excavated. The 86 had yielded 8,985 victims, whose skulls and bones are stored in the 17‐​level monument. Atop the holes of varying sizes were signs listing the number of bodies — 450&nbsp;in one mass grave that was about 20&nbsp;feet by 10&nbsp;feet, for instance. “Many holes, same, same,” explained my guide.</p> <p>But there was more. Stub your toe on the path in between holes and you weren’t likely to find a&nbsp;stone. It is more likely the tip of a&nbsp;leg bone or a&nbsp;jaw poking through the dirt. The bodies of foreigners were burned to eliminate any evidence. However, similar precautions were not necessary for Kampuchean criminals and traitors.</p> <p>Duch was never a&nbsp;senior political figure, but his death shows how the actuarial tables are finally bringing justice to murderous Kampuchean communists. Most of the leaders are gone. Pol Pot died in 1998. Other top level officials passed, far too peacefully, while on trial. Among the original leaders only&nbsp;Khieu Samphan, who succeeded Pol Pot as KR leader in 1985, is still alive — defending the KR even while serving a&nbsp;life sentence. He received his doctorate at the Sorbonne for a&nbsp;thesis entitled “Cambodia’s Economy and Industrial Development.” Needless to say, there wasn’t much industry in Kampuchea when he served as Chairman of the State Presidium, or head of state.</p> <p>The tortured at Tuol Sleng and dead at Choeung Ek were mostly innocent, victims of totalitarian egalitarianism, in which life means nothing and the collective means everything. Alas, the world is full of monuments to incredible evil cloaked with the rhetoric of humanity. Few are more appropriate or moving than tragic remembrances of the unique form of communist madness that consumed and destroyed Cambodia 45&nbsp;years ago. The Cambodian people continue to suffer today. It will take more time for this ravaged country to recover from the madness known as the Khmer Rouge.</p> </div> Sun, 06 Sep 2020 10:48:50 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/khmer-rouges-famed-prison-master-dies-who-remembers-cambodias-destruction China Is Interfering in the 2020 Election. Beijing Wants Trump to Lose. https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/china-interfering-2020-election-beijing-wants-trump-lose Ted Galen Carpenter <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p><a href="https://nationalinterest.org/tag/2020-election">As the 2020 election approaches</a>, there is growing agitation about possible foreign influence or outright meddling and disruption. Once again, <a href="https://nationalinterest.org/tag/russia">Russia</a> is the principal target of both Democratic Party activists and the mainstream media. That obsession continues even though both the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s subsequent investigation failed to find credible evidence that Donald Trump’s campaign illegally colluded with Moscow to affect the 2016 election. Indeed, new accusations are flying that the Russians are meddling to promote Trump’s re‐​election. Although why <a href="https://nationalinterest.org/feature/vladimir-putin-real-lessons-75th-anniversary-world-war-ii-162982">Vladimir Putin</a>’s government would wish to do so, given the Trump administration’s <a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/myth-won%E2%80%99t-die-donald-trump-russias-puppet-48982">actual record</a> of adopting surprisingly <a href="https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/stop-saying-donald-trump-colluded-russia" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">hardline policies</a> toward Moscow, remains a&nbsp;mystery.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Strident allegations about crude Russian schemes are overblown, and usually seem motivated by cynical partisan considerations. Broader concerns about foreign influence with respect to America’s politics and foreign policy, though, have considerable merit. The problem is not new, and Russia is by no means the only overseas power involved. Other countries, including Turkey, Israel, and other U.S. allies in both Europe and East Asia, have played the influence game for decades, including by establishing close connections with American media outlets and <a href="https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2020/01/29/new-report-details-174-million-in-foreign-funding-to-d-c-think-tanks/" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">think tanks</a>, with considerable success.</p> <p>One of the more recent players is the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Beijing’s first major foray into America’s politics was an attempt to <a href="https://www.amazon.com/About-Face-History-Americas-Relationship/dp/0679768610/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&amp;keywords=James+Mann%2C+About+Face&amp;qid=1599230967&amp;s=books&amp;sr=1-1" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">promote Bill Clinton’s re‐​election</a> in 1996. The PRC’s influence campaigns, especially those designed to shape media accounts about China’s foreign and domestic policies, have become <a href="https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/chinas-long-tentacles-extend-deep-into-american-media/" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">much more extensive</a> since then. Yet while concerns about Russia’s behavior remain front‐​and‐​center in Congress and the media, far less attention has been paid to China’s efforts. That attitude is both hypocritical and myopic.</p> <p>The double standard and blinkered response was evident again in August following an <a href="https://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsroom/press-releases/item/2139-statement-by-ncsc-director-william-evanina-election-threat-update-for-the-american-public" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">intelligence report</a> about possible foreign interference in the 2020 campaign. The report stated that Russia wanted President Trump to be re‐​elected and was adopting some initiatives to further that objective. But the analysis also looked at the activities and goals of countries such as China and Iran. It concluded that both Beijing and Tehran considered Trump “unpredictable “ and viewed a&nbsp;victory by Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden as more palatable. There was little that was surprising about either conclusion.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>Democratic Party leaders and most mainstream media figures have continued to minimize or ignore the implications of the intelligence community’s assessments of Beijing’s behavior.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>However, news stories and opinion pieces in the mainstream media rarely mentioned the latter point, or they spun it as a&nbsp;mere passive “preference” on the part of the Chinese and Iranian governments. Reporters and <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/08/08/russia-is-interfering-our-elections-again-trump-wont-let-intelligence-community-say-so/?utm_campaign=wp_post_most&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_source=newsletter&amp;wpisrc=nl_most" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">pundits</a> <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/08/09/russia-is-actively-helping-trump-again/" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">stressed</a> that the new analysis was the latest confirmation of Moscow’s use of active measures to secure Trump’s re‐​election. Hosts on CNN and MSNBC repeatedly gave platforms to Democratic Party figures, such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, to emphasize the alleged distinction between Russian and PRC conduct. Pelosi <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2020/08/09/pelosi-russia-china-election-392798" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">asserted</a> that “Russia is actively 24/7 interfering in our election. They did so in 2016, and they are doing so now.” She wouldn’t even acknowledge that Beijing actually preferred Biden, merely that U.S. intelligence agencies had reached that conclusion. “[W]e don’t know that, but that’s what they’re saying.” In any case, Pelosi contended, the Chinese are “not really getting involved in the presidential election.” Most of the television and newspaper coverage conveyed the same message.</p> <p>The distinction between active Russian measures and a&nbsp;passive Chinese preference was factually incorrect. The pertinent passage from the statement by NCSC Director William Evanina read: “China has been expanding its influence efforts ahead of November 2020 to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interests, and deflect and counter criticism of China.” That assessment certainly indicated something more than a “preference.” Another report insisted that the Chinese consulate in Houston, which the Trump administration ordered closed in July 2020, was not only a&nbsp;center for electronic espionage, it <a href="http://chinascope.org/archives/24225?doing_wp_cron=1599173697.6703360080718994140625" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">headed an operation</a> to identify potential recruits for Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The consulate allegedly even supplied videos instructing activists on organizational techniques for such demonstrations. Again, such measures were at least comparable to Russia’s alleged efforts to sow greater social and racial divisions in the United States.</p> <p>Yet Democratic Party leaders and most mainstream media figures have continued to minimize or ignore the implications of the intelligence community’s assessments of Beijing’s behavior. Such indifference irritated RealityChek blogger Alan Tonelson. His article in the <em>American Conservative</em> <a href="https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/china-leaves-russian-meddling-in-the-dust/" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">made the case</a> that Beijing’s tactics to influence U.S. politics and policy were both sophisticated and extensive. Indeed, he asserted that China’s meddling over the years exceeded Russia’s “by orders of magnitude” and left Moscow’s efforts “in the dust.”</p> <p>Even if one argues that Tonelson’s conclusion is exaggerated, there is little question that Beijing’s influence strategies are somewhat more extensive than Moscow’s. Just between 2016 and 2020, the PRC government and state‐​controlled publications, such as <em>China Daily</em>, paid American newspapers <a href="https://dailycaller.com/2020/06/08/chinese-propaganda-china-daily-washington-post/?utm_source=&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=12973" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">more than $11 million</a> for issue advertising and the inclusion of inserts and supplements that are designed to mimic straight news stories. The <em>American Conservative</em>’s Arthur Bloom correctly notes that the figure was <a href="https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/they-really-are-lying-to-you/" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">vastly more</a> than the $200 thousand that Russia was thought to have spent on Facebook advertising prior to the 2016 election.</p> <p>Such a&nbsp;disparity means that Americans should be more, not less, concerned about China’s influence efforts than they are about Russia’s. Greater overall realism also is badly needed. The professed shock about Moscow’s actions has been both naïve and overstated. All major (and some not‐​so‐​major) powers try to shape America’s politics and policies. It comes with the territory of being the world’s strongest and most influential power whose decisions can have a&nbsp;dramatic impact on the interests and well‐​being of every other country. We just need to be aware of that reality and guard against attempts at undue foreign manipulation.</p> </div> Fri, 04 Sep 2020 15:43:17 -0400 Ted Galen Carpenter https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/china-interfering-2020-election-beijing-wants-trump-lose Who Lost Hong Kong? https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/who-lost-hong-kong Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Hong Kong is dead—or at least, the rule of law and civil liberties there is. The imposition of China’s wide‐​ranging national security law, enforced by mainland security agents empowered to drag suspects off to the mainland for trial, makes any criticism of both the Hong Kong and Chinese governments deeply dangerous. Even foreigners will have to act as if they are living in the People’s Republic of China.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In 1997, the United Kingdom transferred Hong Kong to the PRC with the promise that Beijing would apply the “two systems, one country” standard for 50&nbsp;years. Many Hong Kongers were skeptical that China would keep its promise and looked for an exit from the territory. Some residents went elsewhere for citizenship and returned after the Special Administrative Region appeared to continue operating largely unchanged.</p> <p>Still, the Chinese Communist Party’s forbearance never was likely to last a&nbsp;half century. President Xi Jinping’s rise in 2012 accelerated the destruction of the territory’s uniquely liberal atmosphere. He proved intent on dramatically tightening CCP control over the rest of China and Hong Kong was unlikely to escape his ill attention.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>The city’s fate was inevitable, but protests sped it up. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Yet it took a&nbsp;few years for him to act. What triggered his assault on the autonomous territory that had provided such benefit for the mainland?</p> <p>The PRC’s rapid economic growth and development of other financial centers diminished Hong Kong’s importance. Xi also was more concerned than his predecessors about ensuring regime control and preserving national order. Xi wanted nothing and no one to get in the way of his plans for the PRC. Fears of party authority slipping away, whether culturally, religiously, or legally, haunt his speeches.</p> <p>At three critical points, Hong Kongers effectively challenged Xi’s vision of control—prompting a&nbsp;decisive and brutal revenge from Xi. The fault remains his, not theirs, but the lessons learned are useful.</p> <p>The first misstep was the 2014 Umbrella Revolution. The grassroot protests demanding democracy, sparked by plans to change the method of choosing Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, were dramatic and might have succeeded in a&nbsp;Western nation. However, the movement was hampered by the lack of leaders who could negotiate and strike a&nbsp;bargain. Worse, the Hong Kong authorities, who might have been inclined to deal, were not in real control. Beijing was, and would never meet the demonstrators’ demands for genuine democracy.</p> <p>Although the Xi government might have been willing to make a&nbsp;deal to end the protests, it would never abandon control. At the same time, the central government could not countenance the sort of chaos and disorder that resulted when protestors shut down major roads and intersections for 77&nbsp;days. If nothing else, Beijing realized that Hong Kong hosted a&nbsp;mass protest movement and the local authorities could not govern. PRC officials blamed outsiders for instigating trouble in the SAR, which their own ideology insisted was the only possible explanation for the protestors’ antagonism toward China. The loss of a&nbsp;sense of Chinese—meaning, CCP-compliant—identity, as they saw it, was the root of the problem. </p> <p>Events quieted down until 2016. Chinese interference in the territory escalated—for instance, publishers of books critical of China were kidnapped and prosecuted in the mainland—but such activities were covert. In October of that year, several democracy activists were elected to the Legislative Council. That was no surprise: The voting system ensured establishment control but allowed some open elections to give people a&nbsp;voice.</p> <p>However, this time a&nbsp;number of those elected used their oaths of office to show their contempt for Beijing. They were disqualified but allowed to retake their oaths. Unfortunately, their actions—foolishly juvenile and needlessly confrontational—split the democracy movement. Far worse, the controversy drew Beijing into Hong Kong’s affairs. The central government insisted that the affected candidates be barred from retaking the oath and that advocates of independence be disqualified from running, barring several other democracy activists. Worse, the National People’s Congress insisted that it could interpret the Basic Law governing Hong Kong and set new election standards.</p> <p>Events again quieted down, though with another increase in central government interference. Presumably at Beijing’s behest, Hong Kong subsequently arrested leaders of the Umbrella Movement—charged for illegal protests years after the events occurred. Several activists served prison terms of various lengths. And advocacy of anything deemed to be pro‐​independence prevented people from running for office.</p> <p>The third and final act occurred last year. Millions of people protested a&nbsp;proposed extradition treaty that could send Hong Kongers to the mainland. Chief Executive Carrie Lam at first suspended rather than withdrew the legislation. The demonstrations became violent—though the police and CCP‐​allied thugs behaved much worse—and chaotic, such as blocking the airport and trashing the Legislative Council chamber. Lam finally yielded, but protestors expanded their demands, including universal suffrage in electing the Hong Kong government.</p> <p>Had democracy activists pocketed Lam’s concession and deescalated, perhaps Beijing would have waited. However, the protestors again demonstrated that the local authorities were not in control and could never approve the long‐​delayed national security law. Worse, activists seemed intent on making Hong Kong ungovernable unless Beijing granted their impossible demand for democracy. Indeed, protestors appeared prepared to shut down commerce in the territory, something that might provide leverage in the West but which the PRC could never accept. Democracy activists misunderstood who and what they were fighting: a&nbsp;system that over the last seven decades had imposed mass repression, implemented totalitarian controls, and caused tens of millions of deaths on the mainland. Against the Hong Kong government, they might have succeeded. Against Beijing, they were doomed to failure.</p> <p>Moreover, some protestors publicly and dramatically called for American assistance, waving U.S. flags at rallies, and urged congressional approval of sanctions legislation. The Heritage Foundation’s Walter Lohman wondered if the “protesters in Hong Kong ever understood the limited impact American power could have on Beijing’s calculations”? Apparently not. Alas, Xi and other CCP grandees also saw those demonstrations. The plea for U.S. intervention was sure to enrage, providing another humiliation at the hands of activists seen as enemies of China. Such language also offered evidence for those who believed the United States instigated the protests and may have sparked fears of more direct American intervention in the future.</p> <p>At that point, Hong Kong’s fate was sealed. For a&nbsp;government dedicated to control and order, the situation in the territory had become intolerable. It is hard to imagine anyone in Beijing arguing against a&nbsp;proposal to crush the protests, though the regime undoubtedly preferred to do so in a&nbsp;way that avoided mass casualties. The regime also hoped to maintain the fiction of respecting “two systems, one country.” The National Security Law, with an assist from the COVID-19 epidemic, turned out to be an almost perfect vehicle. Xi and his colleagues proved to be tragically perceptive in how to quickly and effectively break the opposition.</p> <p>The loss of Hong Kong is a&nbsp;tragedy and offers important lessons in dealing with China—asking for what cannot be given and insulting proud nationalists might be morally inspirational, but is a&nbsp;bad strategy. Hong Kongers will pay the price for this.</p> <p>Hong Kong will survive, but eventually will look like any other Chinese city—advanced, busy, and prosperous, but without many of its most creative and inventive residents, or the rule of law and relative transparency that underpinned business in the city.</p> <p>China was always going to eventually retake full control: The CCP does not want its people to be free. Protests might have sped up the process, but a&nbsp;crackdown of some kind under Xi or his successors was inevitable.&nbsp;But Beijing is also a&nbsp;loser here. With Hong Kong increasingly treated like the mainland, where the CCP applies repressive legislation broadly, takes Westerners hostage in disputes with foreign governments, and treats economic information as secret, over time U.S., European, and Asian companies will shrink their presence or leave entirely. And Beijing has also demonstrated that its international commitments are worthless. The West won’t be able to reverse China’s action, but it will approach the PRC with ever greater caution and skepticism in the future. </p> </div> Fri, 04 Sep 2020 10:35:31 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/who-lost-hong-kong William Yeatman discusses Michael Flynn on The Bob Harden Show https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-radio/william-yeatman-discusses-michael-flynn-bob-harden-show-0 Thu, 03 Sep 2020 11:19:58 -0400 William Yeatman https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-radio/william-yeatman-discusses-michael-flynn-bob-harden-show-0 Peace Yes, but Please Don’t Whitewash UAE Dictatorship https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/peace-yes-please-dont-whitewash-uae-dictatorship Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, under legal and political siege, celebrated his government’s agreement with the United Arab Emirates to normalize relations. Egypt and Jordan already had done so, but the resulting peace has been cold. UAE, an oil‐​rich opponent of Iran, has more potential as a&nbsp;partner. Indeed, the latest agreement “was only made possible due to their shared sense of threat from Iran,” noted Trita Parsi of the Quincy Institute.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Netanyahu also was pleased because Abu Dhabi abandoned anything other than pretense of concern for the millions of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. As part of the agreement Israel agreed to forgo—for now, anyway—unilateral annexation of West Bank territory, but Israel’s de facto colonization of Palestinian lands, ratified by the Trump administration, will otherwise proceed unimpeded.</p> <p>Only when Netanyahu described the Emirates as an “advanced democracy” did he come under significant political fire. That label was errant nonsense. Although improving relations between Israel and any Arab state should help moderate regional conflict, attempting to whitewash his government’s new partner, a&nbsp;repressive, militaristic dictatorship, was fake news at best.</p> <p>Nor was Abu Dhabi acting out of eleemosynary motives: the Emiratis are expecting a&nbsp;generous F-35 sale by Washington in return. Mutual recognition between Israel and the Emirates is a&nbsp;bit like détente between the U.S. and Soviet Union—good policy, but a&nbsp;deal with the devil.</p> <p>The Trump administration’s purposes are also politically selfish. An election impends, and the president hopes to squeeze evangelicals for more votes by putting Israeli interests first. Moreover, he wants another big weapons sale: “They have the money and they would like to order quite a&nbsp;few F‐​35s,” he explained. Rewarding munitions makers may be the only objective more important to Trump than satisfying Israel supporters.</p> <p>Absolute monarchy is a&nbsp;way of governance more befitting the 15th than 20th century and has disappeared from much of the Middle East. However, the UAE has survived. Its flood of oil dollars provides cash to buy peace, both through abundant security personnel and extensive social subsidies.</p> <p>Freedom House rates the seven‐​member United Arab Emirates as not free. Explained the group: “Limited elections are held for a&nbsp;federal advisory body, but political parties are banned, and all executive, legislative, and judicial authority ultimately rests with the seven hereditary rulers. The civil liberties of both citizens and noncitizens, who make up an overwhelming majority of the population, are subject to significant restrictions.”</p> <p>The UAE does practice a&nbsp;bit of cultural openness and tolerance—certainly more than Saudi Arabia. “Talking about tolerance, diversity and coexistence is important in a&nbsp;region that has generally not become more tolerant in the last 100&nbsp;years,” wrote the <em>Jerusalem Post’s</em> Seth J. Frantzman.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>In efforts to herald normalization with Israel, the Emirates have been called an ‘advanced democracy.’ Wrong.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Nevertheless, the Emirates remain ruthlessly oppressive domestically and dangerously aggressive internationally. Expatriate labor, especially domestic servants, often is mistreated. The UAE’s broad assault on individual liberty also results in foreign victims, some of whom mistakenly expect commercial fairness.</p> <p>More broadly, the State Department reported:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>“Significant human rights issues included allegations of torture in detention; arbitrary arrest and detention, including incommunicado detention, by government agents; political prisoners; government interference with privacy rights; undue restrictions on free expression and the press, including criminalization of libel, censorship, and internet site blocking; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; the inability of citizens to choose their government in free and fair elections; and criminalization of same sex sexual activity, although no cases were publicly reported during the year.”</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Human Rights Watch also was critical:</p> </div> , <blockquote class="blockquote"> <div> <p>“Despite declaring 2019 the ‘Year of Tolerance,’ United Arab Emirates rulers showed no tolerance for any manner of peaceful dissent. Ahmed Mansoor, an award‐​winning human rights activist sentenced to 10‐​years in prison solely for exercising his right to free expression, went on hunger strike to protest his prison conditions and unjust conviction. Activists who had completed their sentences as long as three years ago continued to be detained without a&nbsp;clear legal basis.”</p> </div> </blockquote> <cite> </cite> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Mansoor was not the only victim named by HRW. He was arrested for allegedly publishing “False information that harms national unity.” Nasser bin‐​Ghaith is serving ten years for criticizing the UAE and Egyptian governments. In a&nbsp;case which received international attention British academic Matthew Hedges was arrested, convicted on dubious espionage charges, and then, under foreign pressure, released.</p> <p>Equally serious is the UAE’s aggressive foreign policy, highlighted by multiple war crimes in Yemen. The Emirates has been called “Little Sparta,” but in truth that is no compliment. Sparta was a&nbsp;totalitarian military dictatorship which brutally ruled over the subject Helot population.</p> <p>UAE promoted bloody civil war in both Syria, where Abu Dhabi funded radical Islamist forces, and Libya. The Emirates plotted with Riyadh to isolate and then invade Qatar, apparently stepping back from the military brink only because of U.S. pressure and Turkish deployment of troops. Alas, warned Jason Pack of the group Libya‐​Analysis: “Despite being hailed as a ‘peace deal,’ the UAE‐​Israel agreement will more likely prolong ongoing regional wars. It will intensify conflict in those contested zones of the Middle East where the two blocs back rival actors—primarily Yemen, Libya, and Syria.”</p> <p>Worst has been the Emirati and Saudi aggression against Yemen. The war was originally initiated to put pliant puppet President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi back in office after he was ousted in one of endless rounds of domestic political unrest that has characterized Yemen’s six‐​decade existence. However, over the last couple years Abu Dhabi began backing separatists against Hadi, threatening to split a&nbsp;country that originally began as two warring nations. Suspicion is widespread that Abu Dhabi hopes to grab effective control of ports and other commercial facilities.</p> <p>The result has been humanitarian carnage in what already was one of the world’s poorest nations. Although the Yemeni Houthis have committed their share of war crimes, the vast majority of abuses were caused by the coalition. Indeed, the bombing campaign, backed by the U.S., often appeared to target civilians.</p> <p>A UN Group of Experts’ report from 2018 concluded: “Coalition air strikes have caused most of the documented civilian casualties. In the past three years, such air strikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities.” Also wrecked was the country’s commercial infrastructure.</p> <p>Moreover, UAE incarcerated and abused Yemeni opponents. Reported the experts’ panel in 2018: “The Group has reasonable grounds to believe that the Governments of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are responsible for human rights violations, including enforced disappearance. As most of these violations appear to be conflict related, they may amount to the following war crimes: rape, degrading and cruel treatment, torture and outrages upon personal dignity.”</p> <p>Around the same time Amnesty International cited a&nbsp;UAE secret prison in supposedly “liberated” territory: The Emiratis practiced “detention at gunpoint, torture with electric shocks, waterboarding, hanging from the ceiling, sexual humiliation, prolonged solitary confinement, squalid conditions, inadequate food and water.”</p> <p>Although the obviously embarrassed State Department could only bring itself to cite “allegations” of misconduct, its indictment was sharp: “The United Nations, human rights groups, and others alleged UAE military operations as part of the Saudi‐​led Coalition in Yemen killed civilians, damaged civilian infrastructure, and obstructed delivery of humanitarian aid. Human rights groups alleged UAE‐​backed security forces in Yemen committed torture, sexual assault, and mistreatment against detainees.”</p> <p>The Emirates also directly undermines American security interests. Shortly after the “splendid little war” went bad, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh turned to al‐​Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, long viewed as the terrorist group’s most effective national offshoot. Reported the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>, this put the coalition “on the same side as one of the world’s most notorious extremist groups.” In contrast, Yemeni’s Houthi movement had been a&nbsp;determined opponent of AQAP. Two years later Associated Press reported that: “al‐​Qaeda has emerged as a&nbsp;de facto ally of the government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and his backers Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.”</p> <p>The coalition even transferred U.S.-provided weapons to AQAP and other radical groups. According to Amnesty International: “The UAE for instance, even though it stated it had withdrawn from Yemen in October 2019, has been actively training, funding and arming different armed groups since mid‐ to late 2015, supporting as such the proliferation of unaccountable militias.”</p> <p>Despite Abu Dhabi’s atrocious human rights record, regularizing relations with Israel should be a&nbsp;major positive. However, the <em>Financial Times</em> quoted an unnamed Arab official who observed that the deal could give UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed “a lot in terms of cooperation with Israel and he gets to be back in the good books of the Trump administration. It might give him a&nbsp;free pass on certain things in the future.” That would negate any benefits from the deal.</p> <p>The Emiratis, no less than the Saudis, put U.S. interests last. The UAE is fully prepared to drag Americans into another endless war to advance its ends. The Trump administration should remember its promise to put the U.S. first and focus on serving the American people rather than another group of corrupt Mideast kleptocrats.</p> </div> Thu, 03 Sep 2020 09:45:56 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/peace-yes-please-dont-whitewash-uae-dictatorship The Good and Bad Nuclear Issues in the 2020 China Military Power Report https://www.cato.org/blog/good-bad-nuclear-issues-2020-china-military-power-report Eric Gomez <p>The rapid deterioration of the U.S.-China relationship makes understanding China’s approaches to military strategy and nuclear deterrence all the more pressing. <a href="https://media.defense.gov/2020/Sep/01/2002488689/-1/-1/1/2020-DOD-CHINA-MILITARY-POWER-REPORT-FINAL.PDF">The Department of Defense (DoD) annual report on China’s military power</a> offers a&nbsp;helpful snapshot for policymakers and analysts to keep tabs on how the U.S. military assesses China’s military plans, intentions, and strategy.</p> <p>The nuclear section&nbsp;of the latest DoD report, which was released yesterday, contains several important pieces of information about China’s nuclear arsenal and approach to deterrence. Some of this information <a href="https://www.hudson.org/research/15063-transcript-the-arms-control-landscape-ft-dia-lt-gen-robert-p-ashley-jr">undercuts the threat inflation proffered by high‐​ranking officials</a> in the Trump administration, while other bits of information paint a&nbsp;concerning picture about potential sources of U.S.-China nuclear instability.</p> <p><strong>The Good: Lower Warhead Count</strong></p> <p>Unlike past DoD reports on China, the 2020 report provides an estimated number for China’s total nuclear warheads, placing the count in the “low 200s.” This estimate is lower than <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00963402.2019.1628511?needAccess=true">open source estimates</a> that place the warhead count closer to 300.</p> <p>The starting number is important because administration officials have repeatedly warned that China wants to double the size of its nuclear arsenal over the next ten years. <a href="https://fas.org/blogs/security/2019/05/chinese-nuclear-stockpile/">Past U.S. predictions of large increases</a> to China’s nuclear arsenal have been proven false so it would be wise to take current warnings of doubling with a&nbsp;grain of salt. But even if the DoD is correct this time around, a&nbsp;doubling from a&nbsp;lower baseline estimate represents a&nbsp;less significant threat to the United States than a&nbsp;doubling from a&nbsp;higher baseline. Even if China doubles from the higher estimate of 300 warheads, it will pale in comparison to the <a href="https://www.state.gov/new-start-treaty-aggregate-numbers-of-strategic-offensive-arms-12/">more than 1,300 deployed U.S. nuclear warheads</a>.</p> <p>Baseline warhead estimates and allegations of doubling it in ten years may sound like <a href="https://www.libertarianism.org/podcasts/pop-locke/dr-strangelove">Dr. Strangelove‐​like minutiae</a>, but it has real consequences for U.S. military planning and arms control. China’s nuclear ambitions have <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/07/01/unattainable-conditions-for-new-start-extension/">seeped into the Trump administration’s negotiations with Russia to extend the New START agreement,</a> which caps Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear warheads, by demanding that Moscow convince Beijing to come to the negotiating table or risk the deal collapsing. Senior administration officials have repeatedly invoked the “doubling in ten years” line in this arms control context to inflate the threat of China’s nonparticipation in New START‐​style warhead caps.</p> <p><strong>The Bad: Launch on Warning <span> </span></strong></p> <p>More concerning, however, is the DoD report’s claim that China might be shifting to a&nbsp;<a href="https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/nuclear-vault/2019-06-11/launch-warning-nuclear-strategy-its-insider-critics">launch on warning (LOW) nuclear posture</a>. The report states that China is expanding the number of nuclear missiles based in stationary silos, which are more vulnerable to attack and destruction than mobile missiles carried by trucks or in submarines. Recent improvements to China’s early warning systems make a&nbsp;LOW posture possible via early detection of incoming attack, thereby allowing Chinese units to launch their missiles before they are destroyed. The 2020 report argues that China would not be increasing its stock of vulnerable, silo‐​based missiles unless it had a&nbsp;LOW system in place to offset the increase in vulnerability.</p> <p>The report’s evidence for China shifting to LOW is thin, but Chinese policymakers and strategists alike have expressed concern about the tension of <a href="https://www.belfercenter.org/publication/assuring-assured-retaliation-chinas-nuclear-posture-and-us-china-strategic-stability">maintaining a&nbsp;small nuclear arsenal that can be an effective deterrent.</a> Advances in both U.S. missile defense capabilities and rapid, conventional strike are especially worrying to Beijing because they allow Washington to reduce the survivability of China’s nuclear arsenal without using nuclear weapons.</p> <p>Moving to LOW is one way to address this tension while technically adhering to China’s long‐​held no first use of nuclear weapons policy—under LOW China is still being attacked first, it’s just getting a&nbsp;retaliation strike off before it suffers damage. However, LOW also reduces time for decision making. The whole point of LOW is to fire missiles before they can be taken out, but there are only minutes to give a&nbsp;launch order if an incoming strike is detected. The United States and Soviet Union adopted LOW postures for most of the Cold War, <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/close-calls-nuclear-weapons">which experienced several accidental detections or system malfunctions</a> that could have triggered a&nbsp;major nuclear exchange by accident. China moving to LOW would not exactly replicate this Cold War problem, but it would make any crisis or conflict between the United States and China more dangerous by increasing the risk of accidental escalation.</p> <p>The United States could reduce some of the risks associated with China’s potential shift to a&nbsp;LOW posture by <a href="https://www.belfercenter.org/publication/would-china-go-nuclear-assessing-risk-chinese-nuclear-escalation-conventional-war">thinking carefully about its military strategy toward China</a>. The LOW temptation is in large part due to the U.S. approach to warfare that could hold Chinese nuclear forces at risk without using U.S. nuclear weapons. The conventional threat to China’s nuclear forces could easily grow now that the United States has <a href="https://www.eastwestcenter.org/publications/are-america%E2%80%99s-east-asia-allies-willing-and-able-host-us-intermediate-range-missiles">left the Intermediate‐​range Nuclear Forces Treaty</a>, which frees it to deploy longer‐​range, land‐​based missiles in East Asia. If these future missiles target Chinese military installations that are deep in the center of the country, then Beijing will face a&nbsp;strong incentive to move more of its nuclear force to a&nbsp;LOW posture.</p> <p><strong>Conclusion</strong></p> <p>The 2020 DoD report on China’s military power should be applauded for the level of detailed, unclassified information it presents on China’s nuclear forces and approach to deterrence. Understanding China’s nuclear strategy is the first step toward crafting U.S. policies that prevent a&nbsp;nuclear exchange between the two countries as their general relationship sinks deeper into acrimony and the risk of armed conflict increases.</p> <p>While the lower warhead estimate is welcome news, China shifting to a&nbsp;LOW posture would not be in America’s interest. Military planners in Washington should seriously consider how the U.S. approach to conventional warfighting interact with Chinese nuclear thinking if they want to develop strategies that deter while minimizing the likelihood of accidental or inadvertent nuclear escalation.</p> Wed, 02 Sep 2020 13:41:03 -0400 Eric Gomez https://www.cato.org/blog/good-bad-nuclear-issues-2020-china-military-power-report Eric Gomez discusses American nuclear policy since the Cold War on the Our Nuclear Now podcast https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-radio/eric-gomez-discusses-american-nuclear-policy-cold-war-our-nuclear Wed, 02 Sep 2020 11:35:13 -0400 Eric Gomez https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-radio/eric-gomez-discusses-american-nuclear-policy-cold-war-our-nuclear President Trump’s Lost North Korea Opportunity https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/president-trumps-lost-north-korea-opportunity Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>The conventions have mercifully ended. The real campaign is about to begin. And the contest <a href="https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2020-election-forecast/" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">could be close</a>.</p> <p>Perhaps the most striking absence from President Donald Trump’s acceptance speech was any mention of North Korea. He <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-usa-trump/trump-makes-his-case-for-nobel-peace-prize-complains-hell-never-get-it-idUSKCN1Q42FJ" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">previously touted</a> the issue as a&nbsp;great success. Indeed, the president believes that he saved the world from a&nbsp;nuclear holocaust in fall 2017. Actually, the only reason war threatened was because he adopted a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.wired.com/story/how-trump-could-trigger-armageddon-with-a-tweet/" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">recklessly aggressive stance</a> toward the North. Certainly, Kim Jong‐​un had no interest in starting a&nbsp;conflict.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>More seriously, President Trump regularly highlighted his summits, which opened a&nbsp;relationship with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the first time in seventy‐​two years. That was a&nbsp;genuine accomplishment, but no denuclearization agreement resulted. That is hardly surprising.</p> <p>Unfortunately, the president received almost no political support for his efforts. Democrats, who had been hyperventilating about the impending nuclear war, flipped and denounced him for selling out to Kim. Few had any interest in doing what was right, encouraging the president to <a href="https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/ending-korean-war-national-interest" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">make peace</a>. Democrats simply sought to score political points, irrespective of the cost to America.</p> <p>Republicans were even worse. Most appeared to be ideologically committed to endless war—everywhere. Many were more interested in following Saudi and Israeli demands regarding Iran than in advancing American interests. GOP legislators were horrified by proposals to leave Afghanistan even after nearly two decades of nation‐​building. Led by the war‐​happy John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Republicans <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2019/10/07/trump-turkey-syria-invasion-037052" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">pushed to intervene</a> in the tragic Syrian civil war, which <a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/coronavirus-means-america-really-broke-trump-should-get-hell-out-syria-135932">was irrelevant</a> to American national interests. This informal war lobby’s only disappointment with Libya was that the United States stopped being involved in the ongoing civil war.</p> <p>As for North Korea, Republican legislators, analysts, and pundits reacted with near unanimity in horror to the president’s diplomatic initiative. Graham was honest and openly welcomed the prospect of conflict. He dismissed concerns over nuclear war, since it would be “<a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/north-korea/sen-lindsey-graham-trump-says-war-north-korea-option-n788396" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">over there</a>” rather than “over here.” If a&nbsp;few million South Koreans died, it apparently would not have concerned him.</p> <p>Indeed, the GOP leadership—politicians and activists—has degenerated dramatically in recent years. The party has been captured by reflexive hawks without historical knowledge or intellectual curiosity, who want America to rule the world and believe that Washington can simply threaten its way to control. The American people are lucky that the Iraq debacle is the worst failure in the last twenty years. A&nbsp;nuclear war with North Korea could have yielded <a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/us-north-korea-nuclear-war-would-mean-millions-dead-92461">millions of casualties</a> across several nations, including America.</p> <p>The bigger problem was the president himself, of course. He didn’t take the process of diplomacy seriously. He could hold a&nbsp;summit. But he couldn’t make a&nbsp;complex agreement. And no personal connection, however genuine—most international relationships are politically convenient, not personally meaningful—can overcome radically different conceptions of national interest.</p> <p>Kim Jong‐​un would have been a&nbsp;fool to agree to denuclearization under any circumstance, but especially in the way the president wanted which would have been instantly and completely. The latter seemed to expect a&nbsp;handshake and hug, followed by a&nbsp;drive to a&nbsp;warehouse holding <a href="https://www.19fortyfive.com/2020/08/north-koreas-long-march-towards-solid-fueled-icbms/" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">the North Korean arsenal</a>, to be loaded onto Air Force One. After which the two governments would live happily ever after.</p> <p>Apparently it never occurred to Trump that filling his administration with warhawks, such as John Bolton, who had <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-legal-case-for-striking-north-korea-first-1519862374" rel=" noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">advocated bombing</a> the North, might further discourage Kim from abandoning his costly deterrence for nothing other than a&nbsp;presidential promise to be nice. And that trusting Trump would be nuts after Washington dropped the Iran Deal with Tehran, reinstated sanctions, and demanded that Tehran surrender its independent foreign policy. Pyongyang could easily suffer the same fate. Then, having abandoned its weapons, Pyongyang would be essentially helpless.</p> <p>If he is reelected, the president could restart the process. But that would require him to take a&nbsp;walk on the practical side. First, he would need staffers who backed his policies and put them into operation. He could “promote” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to be his Iran war chief—a fitting choice if the administration’s aggressive confrontational tactics continue—and choose someone with a&nbsp;genuine interest in diplomacy and peaceful outcomes as his new secretary of state.</p> <p>Second, the president should act as the dealmaker he claims to be and indicate his willingness to conclude agreements big and small so long as they reduce tensions, moderate threats, or reduce armaments. The ultimate objective would remain denuclearization, but he would seek to achieve that by meeting any number of other intermediate goals.</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>If Trump wins a&nbsp;second term, he should quickly double‐​down on making a&nbsp;peace deal. But the deal must be practical.</p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Third, he should press Kim to join in assembling a&nbsp;serious negotiating team to put together disarmament initiatives and sanctions suspensions. Reach an agreement and hold another summit. But, the president should insist, South Korean President Moon Jae‐​in should be involved. Including the latter would benefit the North—Seoul wants to promote economic development, along with other ties—and the United States, which would gain from passing off responsibility for dealing with Pyongyang.</p> <p>If he wins, the president should address the North immediately after the votes are counted. Although second terms are typically disappointments, in the short‐​term, at least, he likely would face little resistance on Capitol Hill. Democrats would be devastated, likely poised for fratricidal conflict over who to blame for another Trump victory. Some likely would make their peace with him. Republicans who spent the last four years genuflecting whenever he turned their way would be even more submissive after his reelection. The sooner he could bring any agreement requiring legislative action to Congress, the better.</p> <p>Anyone hoping for peace on the Korean peninsula probably should hope for this outcome. Predicting the course of a&nbsp;<a href="https://nationalinterest.org/blog/korea-watch/symposium-we-asked-world%E2%80%99s-top-experts-what-america%E2%80%99s-north-korea-policy-would-look">Biden administration</a> is no easy task. The Obama administration simply abandoned any serious effort to address the North. Joe Biden said he would be willing to meet with Kim but with conditions. Given the fact that the Democratic nominee has surrounded himself with the usual Democratic suspects, who differ little from neoconservatives in their propensity for war, North Korean denuclearization would be highly unlikely. In terms of dealing with Pyongyang, anyway, better the demented devil we know than the aged perennial politician who shifted left under pressure and offered no fresh new ideas.</p> <p>Donald Trump’s failure to apply his usual hyperbolic superlatives to his North Korea policy highlighted his lost diplomatic opportunity. The president took the first step but failed to make any serious effort by developing a&nbsp;serious proposal, which was necessary to go any further. November 3<sup>rd</sup> will show us whether he has another opportunity to notch up what could be a&nbsp;serious foreign policy achievement.</p> </div> Wed, 02 Sep 2020 09:41:20 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/president-trumps-lost-north-korea-opportunity John Glaser on the Decidedly Interventionist Foreign Policy of Joe Biden https://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-audio/john-glaser-decidedly-interventionist-foreign-policy-joe-biden Tue, 01 Sep 2020 03:00:00 -0400 John Glaser https://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-audio/john-glaser-decidedly-interventionist-foreign-policy-joe-biden Biden’s Disappointing Vision for a ‘Normal’ Foreign Policy https://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-daily-podcast/bidens-disappointing-vision-normal-foreign-policy Emma Ashford, Caleb O. Brown <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>What does a “normal” foreign policy look like in Joe Biden’s conception? His own record doesn’t give us many clues given its consistent inconsistency. Emma Ashford comments. </p> </div> Mon, 31 Aug 2020 16:19:41 -0400 Emma Ashford, Caleb O. Brown https://www.cato.org/multimedia/cato-daily-podcast/bidens-disappointing-vision-normal-foreign-policy When Will Donald Trump Stop Even One Endless War? https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/when-will-donald-trump-stop-even-one-endless-war Doug Bandow <div class="lead mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>These days the U.S. is the world’s most militaristic power, threatening, droning, bombing, invading, and occupying far more countries than any other nation. Operating on the well‐​established principle that might makes right, American presidents routinely intervene with neither domestic nor international legal warrant, as in Syria today. Washington also routinely sanctions allies as well as adversaries, insisting that every person in every nation follow US dictates.</p> </div> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Today America is lawlessly engaged in low‐​level aggression against Syria. US troops have occupied much of the north, protecting the Kurdish zone known as Rojava, seized Syrian oilfields in the east, for both politics and profit, and cut Syrian roads, including the main route to Baghdad, Iraq — based solely on the president’s illegal orders. Imagine the Syrian army invading Montana, guarding a&nbsp;secessionist ministate, occupying the state’s shale oil fields, and blocking highways heading east toward Washington, D.C.</p> <p>The US also is engaged in a&nbsp;dangerous minuet with Turkey, which occupies part of Rojava. Ankara views Syrian Kurds as a&nbsp;threat and twice invaded northern Syria, including last fall after pushing America aside. Turkey established the “Syrian Interim Government,” dominated by radical Islamist insurgents who have murdered and ethnically cleansed Kurdish inhabitants. The Pentagon admitted that Turkey “actively supports several hardline Islamist militias and groups ‘engaged in violent criminal activities’.”</p> </div> , <aside class="aside--right aside--large aside pb-lg-0 pt-lg-2"> <div class="pullquote pullquote--default"> <div class="pullquote__content h2"> <p>After more than nine years the Obama/​Trump campaign in Syria had failed as completely as US interventions in Iraq and Libya. </p> </div> </div> </aside> , <div class="mb-3 spacer--nomargin--last-child text-default"> <p>Finally, Washington is supporting jihadist rule in the Turkish‐​protected Idlib enclave, the only part of Syria still under insurgent control. Although Washington has deployed no troops there, it provides political support for a&nbsp;leadership dominated by Hayat Tahrir al‐​Sham, long linked to al‐​Qaeda. HTS,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/07/alleges-war-crimes-syria-idlib-offensive-200707194911993.html" target="_blank">reported</a>&nbsp;the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, “detained, tortured and executed civilians expressing dissenting opinions, including journalists” as well as “indiscriminately shelled densely populated civilian areas, spreading terror among civilians living in government‐​held areas.” Just a&nbsp;couple weeks ago the al‐​Qaeda affiliate abducted an American journalist and his driver, after he reported on the group’s use of torture.</p> <p>Thus, Washington, despite its humanitarian claims, is backing enemies of America who are as brutal as the Assad government. Despite repeated accusations of genocide against Damascus, the Syrian conflict was a&nbsp;vicious, multi‐​sided civil war with few good guys. The half million killed included many allies of the regime, such as Alawites, Assad’s co‐​religionists. Max Blumenthal of Grayzone&nbsp;<a href="https://thegrayzone.com/2020/06/25/us-qatari-intelligence-deception-produced-the-caesar-sanctions-syria-famine/" target="_blank">recently reported</a>&nbsp;on an investigation of the atrocity photos used to justify sanctions under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act: “investigators have determined that at least half of the photographs in the ‘Caesar’ trove depict the bodies of government soldiers killed by the armed opposition.”</p> <p>Ironically, American behavior in Syria mimics that of Russia in Ukraine’s Donbass: illicitly occupying a&nbsp;sovereign state and promoting repressive autonomous regions within. In doing so, President Donald Trump is risking conflict with Syria and its allies, Russia, Iran, and conceivably even Lebanon’s Hezbollah, despite his frequent complaints about “endless wars.”</p> <p>The possibility of combat is real. A&nbsp;couple weeks ago Syrians manning a&nbsp;checkpoint and a&nbsp;U.S.-Kurdish patrol engaged in a&nbsp;brief firefight. Around the same time tribal forces allied with Damascus shelled an American base. Bigger news was last week’s clash between American and Russian troops — allied with Damascus — which resulted in four US injuries. In July a&nbsp;Russian patrol blocked transit of American military vehicles.</p> <p>A far more dangerous incident occurred two years ago, when a&nbsp;large contingent of Russian mercenaries unsuccessfully attacked a&nbsp;position held by Americans and Kurds. (Moscow disclaimed responsibility for the incident.) Moreover, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly threatened to attack American units stationed alongside Kurdish forces in Rojava. Last fall US personnel twice came under artillery fire by Turkish units.</p> <p>Nevertheless, at the moment the bipartisan War Party in Washington, which supports American military intervention everywhere for every reason, is in full cry, demanding retaliation against Moscow for challenging the Pentagon’s illegal presence. These same legislators refused to authorize administration war‐​making in Syria. Probably because they know they cannot explain let alone justify America’s involvement.</p> <p>The current US deployment is little short of mad. The Obama administration originally proposed intervening to destroy ISIS, but the last territory held by the Islamic State was recaptured in March 2019. Existing forces from Syria and surrounding nations are capable of preventing an ISIS renaissance. Indeed, that may be the only issue that everyone in Syria agrees on. Anyway, if Washington had not been more interested in ousting Assad than halting jihadist violence, the Islamic State would have had far less opportunity to wreak havoc from the start.</p> <p>Today some 600 American military personnel are tasked with simultaneously forcing Assad from office, ousting Iranian and Russian forces allied with Damascus, protecting Kurds from Turks, and apparently everyone else, and ensuring that the Islamic State does not stage a&nbsp;repeat performance. Damascus is likely to increasingly challenge US forces. The more uncomfortable America’s presence, the harder for Washington to achieve its mission and greater the pressure on Washington to withdraw. Yet so long as US policymakers are determined to play imperial power and lawlessly occupy a&nbsp;country riven by conflict, the potential for violent confrontation will be great. And next time someone could escalate, creating a&nbsp;genuine crisis.</p> <p>Yet geographic and resource piracy might not be the worst aspects of current US policy. Syrians who have been harmed by their own government now are being punished by Washington, which is using sanctions under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act to destroy the already ravaged Syrian economy and immiserate the already‐​impoverished Syrian people. Regime elites can protect themselves to some degree. Most Syrians — more than 80 percent of whom fall below the poverty line — are helpless.</p> <p>U.S. policymakers care nothing about the impact on Syrians. They are focused on preventing reconstruction of a&nbsp;nation that has suffered through nine years of war, which cannot help but punish the victims. The US special representative for Syria, James Jeffrey, glories in the resulting human hardship, explaining that the administration hoped to turn Syria into “a quagmire for the Russians.”</p> <p>Unfortunately, Washington’s harsh strategy is working.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/fikraforum/view/syria-caesar-act-sanctions-assad" target="_blank">Observed Syrian writer Ishtar al‐​Shami</a>: “Sanctions apply to vital institutions that provide important support (like clothing) for millions of Syrians. Among these institutions are the Central Bank of Syria as well as other banks, the oil and gas sector, Syrian airlines, and companies exporting and importing goods and services.” He also cited people’s complaints that the penalties “do not punish the government as much as they punish the Syrians living in their country,” pushing “them further into poverty and suffering.” Similarly, wrote Joshua Landis and Steven Simon, both at the Quincy Institute, the new law “further immiserates the Syrian people, blocks reconstruction efforts, and strangles the economy that sustains a&nbsp;desperate population during Syria’s growing humanitarian and public health crisis.”</p> <p>The impact on the streets was predictable. After the law’s implementation Chole Cornish of the&nbsp;<em>Financial Times</em>&nbsp;observed that “the immediate impact of the act has been felt in the form of higher goods prices as the threat of sanctions roiled the currency market.”&nbsp;<em>The Independent’s</em>&nbsp;<a href="https://www.unz.com/pcockburn/syrians-face-calamity-as-trumps-sanctions-mix-with-surging-covid-19/" target="_blank">Patrick Cockburn concluded</a>: “Millions of ordinary Syrians are having to choose between buying food to eat and taking precautionary measures against coronavirus.” In the last six months the number of Syrians who are food insecure increased by 1.4 million to 9.3 million, more than half of the population, according to the World Food Program.</p> <p>America’s friends are not exempt from harm. The Voice of America’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.voanews.com/extremism-watch/us-backed-syrian-forces-say-us-sanctions-hurting-them" target="_blank">Namo Abdulla reported</a>: “Recent US sanctions against the Syrian government are already hurting US allies in the country’s northeast.” So, too, aid organizations. Last month, explained the&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>, “medicine is already becoming harder to bring into the country. Insurance companies are telling aid organizations they will not cover certain procedures. A.T.M.’s have shut down, causing relief workers to waste precious time standing in line to withdraw salaries.”</p> <p>However, well‐​fed, -paid, and‐​housed politicians, journalists, and policy wonks in the West do not care, since&nbsp;<em>their objective is to create mass misery</em>. Two months ago Jonathan Spyer at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies&nbsp;<a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/01/trumps-syria-policy-is-working-assad-stalemate-pompeo/" target="_blank">proclaimed triumph</a>: “The United States has ensured that [Syria’s] underlying issue remain unresolved. The resulting stalemate — marked by frozen conflict, continued poverty, and a&nbsp;messy de facto division of the country — has prevented a&nbsp;triumph for Assad and his allies. This will remain the country’s only practical future until Assad and his allies are finally prepared to negotiate on terms that their opponents are willing to accept.”</p> <p>Spyer’s attitude recalls Madeleine Albright’s infamous justification when asked about the death of a&nbsp;half million Iraqi babies due to US sanctions: “We think the price is worth it.” No hardship of Syrian civilians is considered too great by Washington policymakers. And if the project fails — so far Assad has refused to play his assigned role and surrender — the humanitarian destroyers will move on to their next victim, consciences clear.</p> <p>Alas, Washington’s barbarity is exceeded only by its stupidity. The US has repeatedly tried the same strategy elsewhere, with no success. Every other case of “maximum pressure,” most importantly Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, has failed completely. As have the slightly less harsh sanctions applied to Cuba and Russia. Each fiasco merely convinced the administration and Congress to redefine success as hurting vulnerable foreign civilians. This is now America’s approach to the entire world, while pretending to be the shining city on the hill acting as a&nbsp;global example.</p> <p>In practice, Syrian sanctions are more about attempting to appear to be doing something than actually doing something to force Assad from power. Who imagines that the regime, triumphing after nearly a&nbsp;decade of war, is going to yield to Washington now? Assad isn’t concerned with his people’s welfare and his government has faced far worse.</p> <p>Serious analysts recognized that the strategy was likely to fail from the start. For instance, Mona Yacoubian of the US Institute of Peace concluded that the law was not “enough to bring the regime down. It just means, unfortunately, more suffering for ordinary citizens.” Cockburn’s judgment was similar: “In practice the Caesar Act does little to weaken President Bashar al‐​Assad and his regime, but it does impose a&nbsp;devastating economic siege on a&nbsp;country where civilians are already ground down by nine years of war and economic embargo.” Admitted al‐​Shami: “Despite the serious effects of the sanctions, a&nbsp;positive reaction from the regime is unlikely.” Instead of adopting political reforms the Damascus government “recently launched military campaigns against opposition forces in southern Syria.”</p> <p>Jeffrey’s desire to create a “quagmire” by ruining Syrian lives is no more realistic. Russia saved Assad in war but has no obvious means to force him from power. Moreover, Moscow invested much to ensure military victory against forces generously funded by the U.S. and Gulf States. Keeping the Syrian regime, as opposed to population, afloat will cost far less. Compare that to the expense of American involvement in Vietnam, the archetype of an international “quagmire” in American parlance: far more money was spent, and the even bigger burden was returning body bags.</p> <p>Weakening Assad also makes him more dependent on Washington’s adversaries. As Simon pointed out, administration “policy will increase [Assad’s] reliance on Russia and Iran, whose influence in Syria the US seeks to roll back.” For instance, in mid‐​August Damascus agreed to Moscow’s request to expand its airbase at Hmeimim.</p> <p>Even worse would be a&nbsp;state collapse. The result could be constant, low level conflict or another full‐​fledged civil war. Alas, Jeffersonian democracy would be unlikely to arise from a&nbsp;Mad Max world in which a&nbsp;plethora of countries, movements, groups, tribes, and perhaps even local warlords ruled and fought. The results of American intervention in Iraq, Libya, and Yemen certainly offer no reason for optimism.</p> <p>When the Arab Spring hit Syria in 2011 the only logical US policy was to stay out. Although a&nbsp;humanitarian tragedy, Damascus did not matter to America security. Attempting to fix a&nbsp;brutal, multi‐​sided civil war where another great power had historical dominance was a&nbsp;fool’s mission at best. Officials were not justified in risking American lives, wealth, and influence on issues of minimal importance and policies with great likelihood of failure.</p> <p>However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union overweening hubris joined abundant hypocrisy and sanctimony to dominate US foreign policy. The reigning American attitude became “what we say goes.” So, unsurprisingly, in Syria the Obama administration exacerbated an already difficult situation.</p> <p>By insisting on Assad’s ouster, the US discouraged both the government and insurgents from negotiating. By targeting a&nbsp;secular dictator, Washington ensured that religious minorities, who were robbed, slaughtered, and displaced in Iraq, would back Assad to avoid an Iraq replay. By threatening an American takeover in a&nbsp;country long allied with Moscow, the administration encouraged Russian involvement.</p> <p>By attacking the Islamic State while backing supposedly “moderate” forces, the administration ensured that Damascus would ignore the first and battle the second. By offering weapons, money, and training to largely nonexistent democratic‐​minded insurgents, usually subservient to more powerful Islamist radicals, the US indirectly subsidized hostile jihadist factions, including the local al‐​Qaeda affiliate.</p> <p>After more than nine years the Obama/​Trump campaign in Syria had failed as completely as US interventions in Iraq and Libya. Yet Washington refuses to consider an alternative strategy. American officials sanctimoniously applaud their own efforts while risking the lives of US military personnel and imposing hardship on foreigners, who suffered most from endless war. America’s only meaningful result was to demonstrate its power to impose great harm on the least among us. It is a&nbsp;strategy for policy fools and political cowards.</p> <p>Indeed, after American and Russian personnel clashed, the Pentagon denounced Moscow’s “deliberately provocative and aggressive behavior.” Members of the House Armed Services Committee, who have refused to vote on the administration’s illegal Syrian operations,&nbsp;<a href="https://cisneros.house.gov/media/press-releases/rep-cisneros-and-bipartisan-members-condemn-russian-aggression-toward-us-troops" target="_blank">issued a&nbsp;statement</a>&nbsp;denouncing “Russian military aggression toward US troops” and “aggressive behaviors” by “Russian forces.” Yet these descriptions more accurately describe Washington’s counterproductive, illegal behavior.</p> <p>The problem goes well beyond Syria. US foreign policy has become an illegal, almost criminal, enterprise. Members of Congress refuse to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to vote on deployment of US forces to numerous foreign battlegrounds. Washington is actively immiserating desperate populations around the world, without influencing their governments’ policies. Yet legislators refuse to be honest with their constituents. Consider: after the administration discussed withdrawing forces from Syria, the Democratic House voted to criticize the administration for plans to withdraw from Syria forces whose deployment legislators had never voted to authorize.</p> <p>The latest U.S.-Russia clash should act as Thomas Jefferson’s famous “fire bell in the night.” The potential for a&nbsp;bigger conflict is very real. Sami Nadir of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs observed: “There is a&nbsp;new Cold War prevailing in Syria and any escalation could pave the way for a&nbsp;regional or international war given the fact that the big powers are directly present on the ground and not through proxies, as used to be the case in the past.” America’s political leaders are recklessly making the country less secure. No where is the need for a&nbsp;genuinely “America first” foreign policy more desperately required.</p> </div> Mon, 31 Aug 2020 10:04:00 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/when-will-donald-trump-stop-even-one-endless-war Doug Bandow discusses America’s failures as the world’s police on The Scott Horton Show https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-radio/doug-bandow-discusses-americas-failures-worlds-police-scott Fri, 28 Aug 2020 11:07:23 -0400 Doug Bandow https://www.cato.org/multimedia/media-highlights-radio/doug-bandow-discusses-americas-failures-worlds-police-scott