Americanism • Asia • China • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • military • North Korea • Post • Trump White House

A Common Sense Strategy for North Korea

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The United States needs to keep the military option on the table in dealing with the rogue regime in North Korea. Put simply, a state with nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver them to the United States (particularly when it has expressed eagerness to do so) ought to be an unacceptable outcome for the Trump administration and the American people.

Would the use of military force against North Korea be risky? Yes, and we should weigh these risks carefully. But the fact is that pusillanimity and cowardice also carry risks, and the United States has been indulgent, even enabling, to North Korea for far too long. 

Beyond Belligerent Tweets
To his credit, President Trump has not undertaken military action lightly. He has used the strongest rhetoric in criticizing the regime of Kim Jong-un, and he has expressed a willingness to do whatever it takes to remove the nuclear threat that the country poses. He has also demonstrated remarkable patience, allowing time for diplomacy and sanctions to work.

Although his belligerent tweets (“Rocket Man,” “fire and fury”) undoubtedly got North Korea’s attention, it is more likely that tighter U.N. sanctions, engineered by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, was the decisive factor in convincing Kim he needed to pivot from saber-rattling to diplomacy. International sanctions on North Korea have been the most comprehensive and severe of recent history and, more importantly, even North Korea’s principal sponsor, Communist China, has assisted in bringing maximum pressure to bear on Kim Jong-un.

These sanctions, combined with aggressive U.S. military deployments and maneuvers in the region, clearly have convinced the North Koreans that it’s time to change direction. North Korea’s announcement on Friday that it would suspend nuclear and missile testing is a sign the regime is finally beginning to face reality.

Thanks to the Trump Administration’s successful rhetorical, economic, and military moves, we find ourselves on the brink of peace on the Korean Peninsula. We need to do all we can to make the most of it. The contours of a comprehensive settlement with the regime of Kim Jong-un are coming into view.

Peace At Last on the Peninsula?
For years, the primary goal of the North Koreans,
vis-à-vis the United States, was to achieve a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War (some readers may be shocked to learn that this wasn’t accomplished long ago) and a security guarantee that, in effect, removes any possibility that the United States would pursue “regime change” in North Korea. That North Korea has stubbornly sought nuclear weapons and missile technology for the last couple of decades is largely a consequence of America’s equally stubborn refusal to give ground on a treaty or a security guarantee. Conceding those points would involve no real sacrifice on our part, and could immeasurably reduce North Korean suspicions.

Fact is, the North Korean leadership inhabits a parallel world of Stalinist semi-lunacy. While Kim and his close associates are not suicidal or obviously self-destructive, they have been born and bred to believe that the United States of America is their sworn enemy and will stop at nothing to destroy us if they continue to feel threatened. The presence of powerful U.S. military forces in the region, including approximately 25,000 American troops in South Korea, does nothing to reassure the paranoid North Koreans. Their pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range missile technology makes sense when viewed from within that milieu as it is based on their desire to deter what they view as U.S. aggression and their (irrational) fear of American “imperialism.”

What a Deal Might Look Like
A treaty to end the Korean War is long overdue. The United States should happily agree to this condition, and it should engage in whatever bilateral or multilateral talks are needed to facilitate it. A security guarantee is also a reasonable request on North Korea’s part. This certainly will not create anything like an alliance between the U.S. and North Korea. It would more likely take the form of a Non-Aggression Pact between our two countries.

Again, this is not a sacrifice on our part, since we have never had any intention of attacking North Korea. Why would we? We would be inviting terrible retaliation on our allies and potentially Chinese intervention. Much as we might like to rescue the people of North Korea from communist oppression, the cost of doing so, or even attempting to do so, is much too high. It would be far better to reassure the North Korean regime that we respect its sovereign rights.

What other elements could a comprehensive deal include? Clearly, North Korea must denuclearize in a way that is total and verifiable (but not necessarily immediate). North Korea would also need to cease its criminal enterprises, including cyber warfare and arms smuggling. Meanwhile, the United States should consider changing the disposition of its military forces in the region to assuage lingering North Korean fears. In time, the United States, South Korea, and North Korea should all agree to drawdown their conventional forces on the peninsula. The U.S. could also gradually eliminate sanctions against North Korea, and full diplomatic relations could be achieved.

All sides have much to gain by reducing the potential for armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Arguably, no one has anything to gain from a war that could turn nuclear very quickly.

President Trump, by bringing fresh eyes and an iron will to our North Korean imbroglio, has opened the door to peace. Let us seize the day and make the wise choices that will allow this door to stay open. The people of North and South Korea may not be united and free overnight. But peace would create the potential for further progress in the North. Who can say where that will lead?

Photo credit: Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images

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America • Asia • China • Donald Trump • Economy • Foreign Policy • Post • Trade

Trump’s Hardball Trade Tactics Are Working

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When President Trump recently announced new tariffs of $50-60 billion on Chinese exports, to punish China for stealing U.S. intellectual property and coercing U.S. companies into revealing their technological secrets, the media’s reaction was, to say the least, negative. The reaction to Trump’s tariffs designed to protect U.S. steel and aluminum producers from unfair foreign competition was no better.

A sampling of headlines underscores and highlights the point: “Trump Tariffs Undermine Trust . . . ,” “Trump Tariffs on Chinese Imports Could Raise Prices for Shoppers,” “Trump’s Trade War is Stupid, and It’s Bad News for Virtually Everyone in the U.S.,” “Trump’s China Tariffs Risk ‘Tit-for-Tat Protectionism’ That Threatens World Economy,” “China Slams Trump’s ‘Reckless’ and ‘Arrogant’ Tariffs, Warns of Retaliation,” “Trump Tariffs . . . Could Make Your Next Phone or Laptop Cost More,” “5 Reasons Trump’s Steel and Aluminum Tariffs Are Stupid,” “Trump’s Tariffs Won’t Protect U.S. Jobs, But They May Start a Trade War,” “’Straight-Up Stupid’, ‘Incompetent’, and ‘Misguided’: Economist . . . Rips Trump’s Tariffs,” “More Pain is Coming from Trump’s Tariffs,” “EU Official’s Response to Trump’s Tariffs: ‘We Can Also Do Stupid,’” “Imposing Tariffs is Stupid Policy,” “Trump Orders Huge Tariffs . . . Raises Trade War Worries,” “Trump’s Idiotic Trade War is Tanking the Stock Market,” “Larry Summers: Trump’s Tariffs ‘Crazy, Dumb.’”

As you can see, if there’s a theme here, it’s that Trump’s tariffs are not merely unwise—they are destructive and foolish. Even a dunce, we are told, could see that Trump’s policies could not possibly lead to anything good.

Well, at the risk of exposing myself as a dunce, I would draw the reader’s attention to some important new developments that prove Trump’s instincts as a businessman and a negotiator were, in fact, spot on.

First, China did announce retaliatory measures. They were feeble, by all accounts. Trump is proposing to slap tariffs on Chinese exports that will add $50-60 billion to their costs (the value was calculated based on the losses that American companies face because of abusive Chinese trade practices). The Chinese, in reply, are proposing to target $3 billion in U.S. exports with tariffs of 15-25 percent—implying an aggregate value to their tariffs of less than $1 billion. Does this sound like the clarion call of an earth-shattering trade war to you? On the contrary, it sounds as if the Chinese are thoroughly spooked.

The Chinese also indicated—contrary to the headlines above—they agree with the premise of President Trump’s sanctions. They agree that their market is closed to many U.S. goods and that major changes would be necessary in Chinese trade policies to enhance their fairness, transparency, and openness to foreign competition.

“With regard to trade imbalances, China and the United States should adopt a pragmatic and rational attitude, promote balancing [i.e. reduction of the U.S. trade deficit] through expansion of trade, and stick to negotiations to resolve differences and friction,” said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. While hardly endorsing Trump’s tariffs, the Chinese clearly are signaling their openness to further talks, and they have already demonstrated, by previous concessions, a willingness to meet the United States halfway.

There is, however, a much bigger sign that Trump’s forceful trade strategy is paying dividends. The United States and South Korea on Tuesday announced a revision of their free-trade deal (the one President Trump had threatened to cancel), and it involves major South Korean concessions. South Korean steel exports will be cut 30 percent, and U.S. access to the South Korean auto market will expand. This should go a long way to closing the $17 billion trade gap between us while expanding opportunities for American workers—which is precisely what President Trump was elected to do.

Far from causing a breakdown in U.S.-South Korean relations, Trump’s hardball tactics have resulted in meaningful progress, and will likely produce greater prosperity for the American people.

All along, the key assumption made by the media on trade—that any policy that confronts bad actors overseas with their unfair trade practices will produce conflict and economic cataclysm—has proven to be false. For years, in fact, establishment politicians, corporate leaders, and journalists have been so committed to the shibboleth of supposed “free trade,” to internationalism, and to politically correct platitudes, that they refuse to question the fairness and rationality of existing trade deals and relationships, even while record trade deficits bleed many factory towns white.

President Trump is proving that the establishment’s scaremongering is baseless, and that standing up for American workers, and for U.S. economic interests, is not only possible—it works.

It’s too bad we didn’t learn this lesson sooner.

Photo credit: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

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America • Asia • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • North Korea • Post

Our Long History of Misjudging North Korea

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North Korea has befuddled the United States and its Asian allies ever since North Korean leader Kim Il Sung launched the invasion of South Korea in June 1950.

Prior to the attack, the United States had sent inadvertent signals that it likely would not protect South Korea in the event of an unexpected invasion from the north. Not surprisingly, a war soon followed.

General Douglas MacArthur, after leading a brilliant landing at Inchon in September 1950, chased the communists back north of the 38th parallel. In hot pursuit, MacArthur gambled that the Chinese would not invade, as he sought to conquer all of North Korea and unite the peninsula.

As MacArthur barreled northward to the Chinese border during the fall of 1950, the landscaped widened. American supply lines lengthened. MacArthur’s forces thinned. The weather worsened. The days shortened.

Conventional wisdom had been that the Chinese would not invade, given America’s near-nuclear monopoly and likely air superiority. But in November 1950, what eventually would become nearly a million-man Chinese army did just that, pouring southward into the Korean peninsula.

The Chinese and North Koreans pushed the American and United Nations forces past the Demilitarized Zone at the 38th parallel. In January 1951, the Communists retook Seoul after forcing the longest American military retreat in U.S. history.

With the arrival of military genius General Matthew Ridgway, U.S. forces regrouped. In early 1951, Western troops retook Seoul and drove Communist forces back across the 38th parallel. But despite continued success, Western forces chose not to reinvade the north and reunite the country.

What followed the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War was a tense Cold War standoff between two antithetical Korean countries for the next 65 years. North Korean assassinations, kidnappings, and continual provocations continued throughout the “peace.”

In 1994, the Bill Clinton Administration gave massive aid to North Korea under the “Agreed Framework” deal, including heavy fuel oil. In exchange, North Korea promised to cease its ongoing nuclear proliferation.

Predictably, North Korean leadership lied. It eagerly took the aid only to further fast-track its nuclear weapons program.

The George W. Bush Administration in 2003 arranged for “six-party talks”—China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea and the United States—to discourage North Korean nuclear proliferation. America and its allies once more provided aid and promised not to attack the Kim Jong Il regime. In exchange, Pyongyang agreed in writing to dismantle “all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.”

Once more, North Korea outsmarted Western naifs. It interpreted American concessions as weakness to be exploited rather than magnanimity to be reciprocated.

In 2006, North Korea detonated a nuclear device.

The Barack Obama Administration learned nothing from the failures of the Clinton and Bush administrations. It followed the same old tired script of lecturing North Korea about its violations of international law. Then, predictably, Obama gave more aid to North Korea while pleading that it change its behavior and denuclearize. Obama’s policy was called “strategic patience”—a hope that if North Korea would not compromise, it at least would eventually collapse due to its corruption and malfeasance.

Obama misjudged North Korea as every other president had since the end of the Korean War. North Korea only further expanded its nuclear arsenal. Pyongyang always figured it could feign one of its “crazy” moods and then play on Western empathy for more money, all while China smiled and claimed ignorance.

Soon after Donald Trump was elected, North Korea announced that it was now capable of using its nuclear weaponry to take out cities on America’s West Coast. But this time around, the United States did not offer bribes. Instead, it issued its own threats to North Korea. Trump himself assumed the unhinged role the Kims usually played, denigrating Kim Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man” and “short and fat.”

But the Trump Administration also lined up an international boycott of North Korea that is slowly squeezing the regime. Now, Kim Jong Un suddenly wants to talk. A collapsing North Korea once again claims it will denuclearize, but first it wants a historic photo-op with a U.S. president.

What have we learned about North Korea in the past 65 years? North Korea’s cunning usually trumps America’s ideals of fair play and self-confidence. Empty threats do not work. Appeasement with infusions of food, cash, and fuel makes things worse.

China finds its North Korea client useful. Russia is usually against anything we are for. South Korea appeases North Korea when it senses U.S. weakness. It stands firm only when America does.

What should Trump do after seven decades of North Korean aggression?

Ratchet up the embargo of North Korea. Do not give it any aid—no matter the pleas and threats. Put more pressure on China. Do not barter with Pyongyang until it is proven that it has no more nukes.

(C) 2018 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images

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Americanism • Asia • Center for American Greatness • China • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • military • North Korea • Post

How Trump Can Avoid Being Played By North Korea

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In a shocking development, it has been revealed that North Korean strongman, Kim Jong-un, has extended an offer to meet with President Donald J. Trump as soon as possible. For their part, the South Koreans are resolutely supportive of the North Korean olive branch. On Twitter, President Trump announced: “Meeting being planned!”

Amid the surprise, people seem to have taken leave of their senses. This is, after all, the North Korean regime we are talking about and not some intransigent trading partner.

The Kim regime is ideologically wedded to the notion of achieving nuclear weapons capability as a means not only of ensuring regime survival, but also of forcibly reuniting the Korean peninsula.

According to reports, it was not President Trump but young Kim who offered to engage in talks. While some may view this as a capitulation on the part of the North Korean strongman (and, for everyone’s sake, I truly hope that it is), I  remain skeptical. Frankly, the fact that Kim appears to be backing down is not exactly heartening. You see, after 30 years of engaging in this dance with the North Koreans over their nuclear arsenal, the Trump administration appears to be willing to repeat history. The North Koreans have a long record of using endless negotiations—that ultimately go nowhere—as a means of buying time in order to achieve some milestone in their ongoing nuclear weapons arsenal development.

Kim’s offer appears to have caught the Trump Administration by surprise, which is likely why the White House had the South Korean national security team that was visiting Washington, D.C. make the announcement in the Rose Garden.

Understand: the South Korean regime is highly liberal and committed to avoiding any form of confrontation with their wayward brothers to the north—even if it means looking the other way while North Korea finalizes the development of their nuclear arsenal (which Pyongyang most certainly will).

The worst thing for North Korea would be a sustained pressure campaign of the sort that the Trump administration was mounting against it these last several months. Presently, the United States has considerable assets operating in-theater: some B-2 stealth bombers; F-22 Raptors; and special forces training daily to surge across the border and conduct covert strikes against the North Koreans. The North Koreans know all of this and were likely concerned that President Trump was readying a preemptive strike. So, young Kim did as his father and grandfather taught him: manipulate Western weakness to engage in a classic diplomatic holding action. Kim needs those U.S. forces to stand down, so calling for talks is the best way forward for him.

The CIA believes North Korea is roughly 18 months away from acquiring an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States. It already has functioning nuclear warheads—and the ability to miniaturize them. Time is all that the Kim regime needs to achieve its last goal: a functional ICBM. From that point, the only thing that the North will have to do is to mass-produce enough nuclear ICBMs to provide an effective deterrent. And, at that point, all that the West has to rest on is the hope that Kim Jong-un has no greater plans to use those nuclear weapons in an offensive capacity to forcibly reunite South Korea under his control.

Whatever his intentions, Kim appears to have played his hand masterfully. For his part, Trump has played his limited hand extremely well (given how bad of a hand his predecessor had left him). Mind you, this is not to say that Trump cannot (or will not) be able turn the tables on young Kim at some point. Now that Kim has extended an invitation to President Trump, the American leader must go—especially with South Korea so clearly supportive of this move. It would be bad form for the U.S. president to decline. However, the United States should not give ground on any issue until real concessions by the North have been made. For too long, the North Korean leadership has offered endless talks in exchange for real concessions from the West. This cannot continue.

Before going into the meeting, the United States must insist that it conduct its joint training exercise with South Korea (something that the North has been complaining about for several months). Then, the president should spend every second from now until his meeting flooding South Korea with U.S. forces, in order to signal his resolve. Once at the meeting with Kim, the president must insist that no aid will be given or concession made lest the North publicly vows to denuclearize—and allows for unfettered international inspectors to verify that the North has, in fact, denuclearized. If the Kim regime disagrees with any aspect of this proposal, the United States should continue readying for war.

It’s important to note that the president has insisted that the North not engage in any missile tests between now and the meeting (which has yet to be scheduled). While this may seem like skillful gamesmanship on the part of the president, this is not a difficult concession for Kim Jong-un. Traditionally, North Korea stands down on its military exercises during the winter months. It is likely that whatever missile tests have been prepared would not begin until mid-April, anyway, judging from previous North Korean missile launches. So, should Kim agree not to do any missile tests for now, that does not necessarily indicate a real change of heart in the North Korean leadership.

In the event that the Kim regime does agree with President Trump, and if the North actually denuclearizes, another problem remains: China.

Tom Rogan believes that China compelled North Korea to come to the table after President Trump enacted tariffs against steel and aluminum (which theoretically threatened China’s economy). Even if Rogan is correct, should North Korea give up its nuclear weapons, the impetus for American forces to remain on the Korean peninsula would evaporate. Once that reason is gone, it appears inevitable that the South Koreans would ask their American partners to leave. And, after American forces leave, the ethnic Han leadership in Pyongyang and Seoul would begin coordinating with the ethnic Han leadership of Beijing—thereby creating a Chinese zone of control extending across the entirety of the Eurasian east coast.

In other words, it would be a major geostrategic blow to the United States in its ongoing competition with China.

Remember, the elites of both North and South Korea have an affinity for China because both share a deep animus (and fear) over a resurgent Japan (because Korea was brutalized by the Japanese Empire as recently as World War II).

The Trump Administration should not rest on its laurels: the North Koreans have a long history of using diplomacy to buy time for their nuclear program. This is likely no different. The worst thing Trump could do would be to replicate either the Clinton Administration’s deal with North Korea or the Obama Administration’s deal with Iran over their nuclear programs. President Trump must meet with Kim, but he must also continue his pressure campaign until it is proven that the North has abandoned its quest for nuclear arms. What’s more, Trump must be willing to use force against Pyongyang, should they drag their feet and continue building a weapons arsenal that could threaten the United States (which, they are).

Trump could go down in history as the president who made the greatest peace deal in the last two or three decades. On the other hand, it may be that we have just ensured the arrival of a nuclear-armed North Korea—and a major war thereafter. Even if the president does manage to get a deal with North Korea, this will merely anticipate a larger reduction of American influence in Asia at a time when the United States is attempting to challenge the rising Chinese regional hegemony.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

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America Created the Sino-Russian Threat

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Russia and China are forming a dangerous coalition of powers on Eurasia. This is bad for the United States and the world. The great geostrategist, Sir Halford Mackinder, once cautioned his audience to be on the lookout for the rise of a strong military power or an alliance of powers in Eurasia, as that could negatively impact global trade. Eurasia—the landmass of Europe and Asia (connected by the Mideast)—is the most populous region of the world and contains the bulk of the world’s natural resources. It is a critical engine for global trade and prosperity. The largest powers in Eurasia, Russia, and China, are all land-based powers.

It was only in recent decades that both Russia and then China started becoming maritime powers. Even then, the Sino-Russian relationship was fraught and ultimately created a strategic opening for President Richard Nixon to exploit during the Cold War. When the United States moved China into its camp during the Cold War, the Soviet Union was truly isolated globally, and the end was nigh.

For some time, the United States and China maintained affable relations (though China took advantage of the United States, draining it of economic vitality and coming to threaten it militarily today). Meanwhile, Russia continued its inexorable decline. Today, it is a shadow of its former self, though it retains nominal control over a sizable chunk of land and its military gives Russian leaders the ability to complicate American grand strategy (which it does routinely).

Yet, at the end of the Cold War, the world was made anew—or at least it could have been. The Russians wanted to be embraced in the Western camp whereas the Chinese were looking to craft an alternate power center, but did not at that time have the power to create one. After 30 years of diplomatic mismanagement in Washington, D.C., the Russians have been pushed into China’s camp and China has been allowed to become a real threat to the United States.

Never once did American leaders take the time to ask how their actions (or inaction) on the world stage would propel the Russians and Chinese into a closer alliance. Not only that, most American leaders didn’t even care, believing in the bizarre notion that the United States possessed an otherworldly capability to control events everywhere, all at once with its military. It was geopolitical malpractice of the highest order and it was allowed to continue for three decades. Now, the United States is paying the price.

Presently, the Russian Federation is a weak state with a large nuclear arsenal. It has demonstrated limited capabilities for intervening in nearby states and using superior diplomacy to exercise its will across the world, from the Mideast to Africa. The Russian population is unhealthy and dwindling in size, being replaced slowly by Muslims from the south and ethnic Chinese in the Russian Far East. Meanwhile, in the world of United States Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), Russia is a giant gas station masquerading as a country. It sits atop some of the wealthiest reserves of natural gas, oil, and water—Lake Baikal, for instance, is believed to have the largest stores of fresh water beneath its frozen surface.

The Russians have used their position atop this rich vein of natural resources—particularly its access to abundant stores of natural gas and oil—as a geostrategic lever to goad other states into adhering to Russian will. Currently, Europe is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas. The Russians have effectively created linkages with other oil-and-natural-gas-producing states, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, to intensify its standing in the Middle East. Also, the Russians sell their resources to the resource-starved China. In many respects, Russia is the geostrategic linchpin of the world order when it comes to natural resources.

Rather than bringing Russia closer to its orbit, the United States spent much of the last three decades alienating and insulting Russia whenever it could. Today, the United States has strict sanctions placed on the Russian economy for their boorish behavior in Ukraine. Unfortunately, though, all that the sanctions have managed to do is to force Russia to move more closely into China’s orbit. Russia is making energy deals with the Chinese (and Indians) to make up for their losses in Europe and the West. Also, the Chinese are providing diplomatic cover to the Russians, as they run roughshod over neighboring countries and throughout the Middle East. Then, of course, the Chinese are using the Russians to solidify their dream of connecting all of Eurasia with the Chinese-dominated Belt-and-Road Initiative.

As the Chinese move east-west with their “new silk road” project, the Russians are moving from the north-south to link Eurasia together that way. Much of this could have been avoided had the United States simply thought through how it would respond to a weakening Russia. Thanks to America’s draconian moves, Russia is now becoming a “partner” to China’s global ambitions and is providing close cover for rogue regimes, such as North Korea and Iran, as they move further in building arsenals of nuclear weapons.

America’s political class—the so-called foreign policy experts—failed this country royally in the post-Cold War era. The United States and Russia should be running the world. Instead, Russia and China are set to destroy the world order. Just wait for China’s petro-yuan project to take full form. Then even the threat of American sanctions directed against Russia, Iran, or North Korea will no longer hold any weight.

If we were smart, the United States would use what leverage it currently has over Russia with the sanctions to negotiate a longer-lasting settlement with Moscow over long-standing conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, and then build off that to stunt the growth of Chinese power in the Pacific. But, time is not on our side and Washington continues to dither.

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Americanism • Asia • China • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Post • Terrorism

Who’s Really Winning the North Korea Standoff?

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There have been wild reports that the United States is considering a “bloody nose” preemptive attack of some sort on North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. Such rumors are unlikely to prove true. Preemptive attacks usually are based on the idea that things will so worsen that hitting first is the only chance to decapitate a regime before it can do greater damage.

But in the struggle between Pyongyang and Washington, who really has gotten the upper hand?

With its false happy face in the current Winter Olympics, North Korea thinks it is winning the war of nerves. Yet its new nuclear missile strategy is pretty transparent. It wants to separate South Korea’s strategic interests from those of the United States, with boasts—backed by occasional missile nuclear tests—that it can take out West Coast cities.

Pyongyang could then warn its new frenemy, Seoul, that the United States would never risk its own homeland to keep protecting South Korea. Thus it would supposedly be wiser for Koreans themselves, in the spirit of Olympic brotherhood, to settle their own differences. A failed but nuclear North Korea ultimately would dictate the terms of the relationship to a successful but non-nuclear South Korea.

North Korea might even insincerely offer to dismantle some of its nuclear assets if the United States would just pull out its forces from the demilitarized zone at the 38th parallel. This strategy would also send the message to the United States that it should have little interest risking a nuclear exchange over a distant and largely internal Korean matter.

The playbook is that of the old Soviet Union during the Cold War, when it habitually tried to separate Europe from the United States. Moscow warned neighboring Europeans that America would never risk its cities to keep the Red Army out of Germany. At the same time, it advised the United States simply to let Europe go and not risk its homeland for such ankle-biting ingrates.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s patron, China, also thinks time is on the communist side. Beijing still believes that if Pyongyang can tone down the rhetoric a bit and cut back on the missile testing, things can return to the nuclear status quo of the last decade, which serves China’s interest.

North Korea can continue to be a passive-aggressive Chinese pit bull that diverts American time, attention and military assets. China can still offer plausible deniability that it has any control over the rogue North Korean government.

Time, however, may actually be on the American side. The situation in 2018 will certainly be better than it was in 2016. Under the prior policy of “strategic patience,” Washington apparently accepted having North Korean missiles pointed at the West Coast. But things are changing in several ways.

First, Japan, South Korea, and the United States are rushing to expand several missile-defense systems that may soon not just end North Korea’s first-strike capability, but China’s as well.

Second, there is serious talk in Japan about developing nuclear weapons. Obviously, Japanese missiles would be pointed at North Korea and China, not the United States. The world has assumed over the last 20 years that unstable regimes such as North Korea, Iran and Pakistan would go nuclear and threaten Western democracies. The next round of proliferation is more likely to be among Western democracies themselves. A nuclear Japan (or South Korea or Taiwan) would not be in China’s interest.

Third, there is evidence that tough new sanctions are eroding an already anemic North Korea. The U.S. economy is booming; North Korea’s is collapsing. China already is preparing for a flood of refugees across the Chinese-North Korean border.

Fourth, the United States has an array of ways to ratchet up pressure on China to force North Korea to denuclearize—ranging from tougher trade sanctions to denying visas to thousands of Chinese students and property holders.

Fifth, Donald Trump’s approval ratings are up somewhat. And with an improving economy, the Trump administration is gaining clout at home and abroad. On foreign matters, Trump is letting subordinates such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and CIA Director Mike Pompeo do the talking. And they are lining up the world against North Korea.

It would be a mistake at this time to stage a preemptive attack on North Korea. Bombing the North Koreans would trigger a wider war and disrupt the world economy. But most importantly, it would be an act of desperation, not an act of confidence.

In the current nuclear standoff, the United States is insidiously gaining the upper hand while North Korea becomes even poorer and more isolated. The world may not recognize it, but the United States is slowly winning.

(C) 2018 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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America • Americanism • Asia • Book Reviews • Europe • Foreign Policy • History • Intelligence Community • military • Post • Terrorism • the Flag

A Tragic Tale of Nation Building

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Few Americans today have heard of Edward Lansdale, one of the founders of modern counterinsurgency theory who was something of a cause célèbre in the 1950s and 1960s for his involvement in championing the rise to power of Filipino leader Ramon Magsaysay and the doomed South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem.

Review of The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam by Max Boot (Liveright, 768 pgs., $21)

Lansdale was made famous by the public’s association of him (in the first case undeserved) with the main characters in two contemporary novels and subsequent movies, The Quiet American (1955) and The Ugly American (1958).

In his latest book, The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam, noted author and historian Max Boot explores the life and times of this enigmatic figure, bringing his unique journey to life for a new generation of readers. Boot, the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, came to the idea of updating Lansdale’s story during the writing of Invisible Armies, Boot’s work on the history of guerrilla warfare. The result is an exceptionally well-written, captivating tale of one of the most distinctive characters in American Cold War history.

Lansdale grew up in a middle-class family in Michigan and southern California and became an advertising executive after attending college at UCLA. He served as an intelligence officer with the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency, during World War II. Lansdale remained in the Philippines when the war ended, in no small measure due to his amorous relationship with Pat Kelly, an attractive Filipina widow who would become a lifelong friend and eventually, after the death of his first spouse Helen, his second wife. Boot is the first historian to gain access to Lansdale’s numerous letters to Kelly, providing a window into his innermost thoughts on any number of issues, both personal and professional. Boot has also leveraged recently declassified documents to provide a more complete picture of Lansdale’s more controversial assignments, such as his leadership of Operation Mongoose, a U.S. government operation to overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the early 1960s.

Lansdale grew to love the Philippines and its people. A chance meeting with Ramon Magsaysay in Washington, D.C., led to Lansdale’s return to the Philippines as his personal advisor. Magsaysay lived with Lansdale, now seconded to the CIA, for a time and became his close compatriot and friend. Magsaysay turned out to be exactly the sort of incorruptible, courageous, honest nationalist that counterinsurgency advisors dream of to turn around a country in the throes of rebellion. Lansdale advised Magsaysay in his role as Secretary of National Defense. Their campaign against the communist Huks emphasized psychological warfare and civic action. Lansdale and Magsaysay worked to minimize civilian casualties and gain the trust of the people. Magsaysay used his administrative authority over the army officer corps to get rid of corrupt officials and promote competent leaders. It took only eighteen months for Magsaysay and Landsdale to turn around a failing war effort.

Lansdale then promoted Magsaysay as a candidate for president of the Philippines—a position the latter attained in 1953 with the help of Lansdale, who acted as a quasi-campaign manager and who worked to ensure a free and fair vote. Magsaysay’s election all but ended the Huk rebellion as a political force. Harassed and on the run, their platform for reform co-opted by Magsaysay, the Huks were a spent force. Landsdale had helped to defeat a communist insurgency in the third world—and without a massive infusion of American aid or troops. It was a singular achievement for U.S. intelligence in the early period of the Cold War.

Could Lansdale duplicate his success in America’s next battleground, Vietnam? Lansdale believed that insurgencies could only be defeated by creating effective state institutions; in other words, by nation-building. But the larger lesson is counterinsurgency works when you find a Magsaysay to implement it; it does not when you are stuck with less charismatic, less honest, and less effective leaders. Lansdale developed a close relationship with South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem, but the latter lacked Magsaysay’s ability to relate to the common people and thereby gain legitimacy for his administration. The authoritarian Diem built a one-party state that lacked popular backing among large segments of the South Vietnamese populace.

In 1961 Lansdale came to the attention of President John F. Kennedy, who offered him the position of ambassador to South Vietnam or failing that, commander of the military advisory group. Lansdale declined both positions, but the president’s favor stirred jealousy in the ranks of Washington bureaucracy. After helping to draft an interagency task force report on Vietnam, Lansdale was all but excluded from implementing it. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had little use for someone who couldn’t provide a path to victory using quantitative inputs and systems analysis. Lansdale’s influence on the Vietnam War waned and his later tours in Saigon were overshadowed by the massive ground war that followed the infusion of U.S. ground troops into the conflict—a step he had counseled against but could do nothing to prevent.

Even as talented a figure as Lansdale could not change the arc of history already heavily slanted against Diem’s regime. American diplomatic and military officials subsequently made matters much worse by failing to embrace the psychological warfare and civic action components of counterinsurgency warfare, by attempting to fight guerrillas with conventional military forces backed by massive firepower, and eventually by Americanizing the conflict. Even had U.S. leaders followed his advice, it is unlikely that Lansdale’s presence could have changed the ultimate outcome in Vietnam. Diem’s unwillingness to bolster his government by engaging the people of South Vietnam and bringing them into the political process undercut his legitimacy and ultimately doomed his regime. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that American backing of a coup against Diem in 1963 eliminated what little chance South Vietnam had of stabilizing politically.

When Lansdale returned to Vietnam in 1965, ostensibly to lead the pacification effort, he was marginalized by other U.S. players in Saigon, more intent on protecting their bureaucratic turf than on cooperating to conduct the kind of “hearts and minds” campaign with which they fundamentally disagreed. Lansdale ended his final tour in Vietnam in the summer of 1968, a Cassandra doomed to understand the realities of the war in Vietnam but incapable of making anyone in power in Washington understand.

During his career, Lansdale fought as many battles with the U.S. government bureaucracy as he did with communist guerrillas. He operated best when given broad authority and a small but capable team while stationed far away from Washington, D.C. His more conventional supervisors resented his independence and reluctance to follow orders. Lansdale was as unconventional as the wars he was trying to wage and win; a maverick hailed by some as the “Lawrence of Asia” and by others as a reckless operative who needed to be reined in. His inability to find a way to ingratiate himself with senior leaders at Defense and State eventually sealed his fate.

Even Lansdale’s work in the Philippines was overturned by the tragic death of Ramon Magsaysay in a plane crash in 1957. The Philippine government quickly returned to its previous dysfunctional state of corruption and incompetence.

The true tragedy in this period was the failure of democracy to take root in the Third World in Asia, an outcome that Lansdale had done his best to forestall but which in the end he was powerless to avert. In a 1964 Foreign Affairs article Lansdale wrote, “The great lesson was that there must be a heartfelt cause to which the legitimate government is pledged.” The unstated truth was that such causes and governments rarely have need for U.S. assistance in combating insurgencies in the first place.

The Road Not Taken is highly recommended reading for historians of the Cold War and military leaders, Foreign Service officers, and intelligence personnel wrestling with America’s current challenges in the small wars of the 21st century, as well as general readers looking for an exhilarating story of a fascinating character in American history.

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Americanism • Asia • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Post • Terrorism

Why Trump Must Get Pakistan Right

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The Trump Administration has rightly acknowledged that Pakistan presents a problem in America’s ongoing (and seemingly endless) Global War on Terrorism. Pakistan—like Saudi Arabia and Iran—is a pernicious proliferator of jihadism. Like Saudi Arabia, however, Pakistan is also a vital ally of the United States. Pakistan has served as a vital logistics hub for U.S. supplies and personnel (as well as joint-counterterrorism operations).

Of course, Pakistan is also a place where both the Taliban and al-Qaeda derive much of their support.

To say that Pakistan is an unstable country is an understatement. In fact, Pakistan sucks, in the words of Pakistan-born Salman Rushdie. A small cadre of elite political leaders in Pakistan is fond of the West. Yet more in the military and intelligence services—particularly at the mid-levels of the bureaucracy—are strident Islamists, ardent anti-Indian ideologues, or both. Meanwhile, the people of Pakistan are overwhelmingly pro-Islamist and virulently anti-American. If not for its strategic location in South Asia—and for the presence of an arsenal of 150 aging nuclear weapons—Pakistan would not rise to the level of notice in U.S. foreign policy. But, its nuclear arsenal and location make Pakistan one of the top three most important states for American grand strategy.

I have argued that the best path out of Afghanistan for the United States is not through Pakistan, as so many believe, but rather through India. By aligning more closely with India, the United States, in theory, could place pressure on the Pakistanis to get them fully to assist our efforts to end the war in Afghanistan on terms favorable to the West.

Unfortunately, the ability to conduct that kind of complex diplomacy has been hampered by the ham-fisted nature of the Trump Administration’s Pakistan policy. The goal of buddying up with India was to pressure Pakistan rather than challenge Islamabad directly. An overt challenge would put on the defensive the mostly pro-American minority of leaders in the country. To keep their power, they would then kowtow to more popular Islamist sentiments.

The goal should be not to rile up the anti-American fervor that burns hot in Pakistan; rather, our goal should be to get the Pakistani government to help U.S. forces in Afghanistan leave, while simultaneously preventing Afghanistan from becoming conquered yet again by terrorists.

In recent weeks, however, the Trump Administration has not only riled up the Pakistanis but also unilaterally cut off billions of dollars worth of military aid. True, Pakistan didn’t deserve all that money for all those years. Unfortunately, disconnecting the Pakistani government from U.S. tax dollars has worked to empower the extremists.

The administration should continue to move closer to India, but it should not be openly attacking Pakistan. Instead, it should be conducting quiet shuttle diplomacy between Washington, D.C., Islamabad, and New Delhi. By completely shutting down the flow of money into Pakistan, the Trump Administration has turned friends into enemies and has empowered our enemies to become fanatics. What’s worse, Pakistan and China now consider themselves to be “iron brothers” opposed to U.S. influence in Asia—something that is inimical to American grand strategy for that region.

Our diplomatic efforts in South Asia require a deft touch. With China, Pakistan, India, Iran, and Russia all jockeying for greater power and influence, what happens in Afghanistan does not stay in Afghanistan. Further, Afghanistan is not the strategic priority that the H.R. McMaster-James Mattis wing believes it to be. With America maintaining its presence in that part of the world, we are actually destabilizing relations with traditional nation-states, such as China and Russia, and could be opening strategic opportunities for China and Russia to expand in ways that threaten the global balance of power. Afghanistan is only important in its potential to complicate needlessly our relations with Russia and China.

The flow of money into Pakistan, coupled with America’s newfound relationship with India, as well as a promise to leave all but the smallest counterterrorism force behind in Afghanistan is what will be needed to convince the Pakistanis to help the United States achieve its strategic goal: preventing global terrorism from emanating from Afghanistan ever again. When it comes to Pakistan, the Trump Administration needs more diplomacy and less bombast. Because, when dealing with Islamabad, it is not just about Afghanistan, but about the entire region—that could go up in smoke at any moment.

The Obama Administration got Pakistan all wrong (and we lost our advanced stealth helicopter during the showy Bin Laden raid to the Chinese because of it). Trump has an opportunity now to get Pakistan right.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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America • Asia • Center for American Greatness • Defense of the West • Department of Homeland Security • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Immigration • Middle East • Post • Religion of Peace • Terrorism

The Port Authority Attack is a Snapshot of Our Future

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New York City on Monday suffered another terror attack at the hands of a young Muslim man who swore fealty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (better known as  ISIS). The 27-year-old Bangladeshi national strapped a pipe bomb on himself and attempted to detonate it at the New York City Port Authority in the middle of morning rush hour.

Three people were injured (mercifully, there were no deaths), and the would-be bomber, identified as Akayed Ullah, was taken to a nearby hospital.

It is a good thing for  New York City and the country that the terrorist wannabe did not understand how to build a proper pipe bomb. If he had, there likely would be many people dead and maimed, much economic damage, and another wave of fear would grip the city and the nation.

Kill the “Cyber Caliphate”
Since the physical manifestation of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in northern Iraq and Syria was destroyed, many ISIS fighters who avoided being killed or captured in battle are 
returning to their “homes” in Europe, Asia, Africa, and even the United States. Their intentions are not to settle down and lead quiet lives of recompense; they are seeking vengeance for the destruction of their caliphate. Therefore, the New York Port Authority terror attack is not an anomaly. Rather, it is a portent of things to come.

Fact is, the Islamic State’s all-powerful internet presence, the “cyber caliphate,” remains nearly unmolested. Information warfare and social media propaganda have been the most pernicious component of the Islamic State’s global agenda. This cyber caliphate is responsible for wooing many young, ideologically vulnerable Western-educated Muslim men (and some women) over the cause.

A few years ago, these radicalized elements would take off for more violent pastures in the Middle East. Today, however, these individuals no longer have anywhere to go. So they either stay at home (where they intend to terrorize their fellow countrymen) or they move to a country with more targets of opportunity.

Because of this, destroying the cyber caliphate must be the top priority for the Trump Administration.

Terrorism Map is Changing
Keep in mind: the attacker in New York City was a young Muslim man from Bangladesh. In the summer of 2016, Bangladesh
suffered a terrible terror attack in which young ISIS fighters stormed a café frequented by Westerners in the capital of Dhaka. When it was all over, 29 people were dead, including 20 hostages, two police officers, two staff, and five gunmen.

The Dhaka slaughter highlighted a large—and growing—problem that had mostly been ignored: the rise of jihadist terror networks throughout south Asia. Of course, we all know about the problems Americans face in Afghanistan; we are mostly familiar with the woes of Pakistan, but Americans don’t know much about the jihadist threat beyond those countries in southern Asia—from Pakistan and Bangladesh to Indonesia and the Philippines.

The Islamic State has spread beyond the Middle East—and continues to exist, even as the caliphate created by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been incinerated in Iraq and Syria. ISIS elements exist in the borderlands between Pakistan and Afghanistan. In fact, President Trump in April allowed American forces in Afghanistan to drop America’s largest non-nuclear bomb on a mountain in southeastern Afghanistan that was teeming with ISIS fighters. These fighters infiltrated Afghanistan from neighboring Pakistan.

For nearly two years, ISIS elements have competed with al-Qaeda for influence and control in Southern Asia. As this has occurred, the mostly young and unemployed (though devout) Muslim populations of these countries have become radicalized.

To compound matters, a Cuban refugee told me last year that when he was attempting to enter the United States, he was made to wait in Trinidad until the State Department could process his asylum request. While waiting there, he came into contact with scores of mostly young Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Nigerian migrants who were looking to enter the United States through the broken border with Mexico (since Trinidad is an unofficial part of the route that most illegal immigrants from Asia and Africa take to get into the United States).

Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria are home to not only Islamic extremism but also to the particular brand of violent Salafist extremism the ISIS espouses. And while we can shrug and say all of those migrants must be looking for work, at least some of them are likely seeking entry into the United States for nefarious purposes. Thus, the Trump Administration’s controversial travel moratorium seems all the more sensible today.

Help South Asia
The Philippine city of Marawi was effectively 
annexed by the Islamic State earlier this year. A five-week siege ensued, which ended in October with the destruction of the ISIS force by government troops. Yet the fact that ISIS could claim a city in the far-off Philippines—and hold it for as long as it did—is telling. And just because Marawi was liberated does not mean the ISIS threat to the Philippines is over. Far from it.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous (and relatively stable) Muslim country is suffering through a drastic increase in Islamic extremism, as ISIS fighters flee the Mideast and enter that country intending to bring their jihad to a new land.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh and several other South Asian states are being subsumed by a new wave ISIS-style terrorism. African countries, too, such as Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, and Niger are experiencing an increase in ISIS related activity. Yet the United States remains focused on Iraq and Syria.

Clearly, the fight against ISIS has shifted away from the Mideast. President Trump’s forthcoming National Security Strategy memo rightly focuses on boosting homeland security. But the president’s national security team should also intensify its support of Asian governments where Islamic extremism is on the rise. Further, the United States should expand its special forces activities in Africa and Asia, in an effort to neutralize the Islamic State’s threat before it becomes a real problem, as it did in northern Iraq and Syria in 2014.

We must never again allow for the Islamic State to rise anywhere in the world. America is winning against ISIS, but the fight is far from over.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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America • Americanism • Asia • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Intelligence Community • Middle East • military • North Korea • Post • Russia • Technology • Terrorism • Trump White House

An America First National Security Strategy

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The Trump Administration continues to run circles around its detractors. In an historically unusual move, President Donald Trump will be unveiling his administrations first National Security Strategy (NSS) memo soon.

Required by the Goldwater-Nichols Act, the National Security Strategy memo is a document that is released by the executive branch of the United States government for Congress, and provides a blueprint for our elected leaders as to where the president plans to take American foreign policy. The concept of the NSS is to help bring Congress more fully into the national security and foreign policy process, so that Congress can more effectively exercise its oversight authority.

It is rare for a new administration to release an NSS document within its first year, however. The move illustrates the seriousness and the resolve with which the president and his foreign policy team have faced a troubled world, and it indicates a determination to change course in the face of the persistent failures of his predecessors.

This is a major move, also, because it isnt just another recitation of the usual bromides so familiar to Washington foreign policy elites. There are no calls for spreading democracy to the dark corners of the world. The new NSS is a “corrective” to the well-meaning excesses of the last 30 years. In fact, sources close to the new NSS say that it will be “less aspirational” than previous NSS documents—a welcome change.

The principal advisers to the president who wrote the document appear to incorporate the presidents campaign promises of putting American interests first. In addition, the NSS aims to craft a viable strategy for countering the various unorthodox threats to American power that the country now faces—even as previous leaders (in both parties) have either ignored or not noticed them.

Reports indicate that the Trump Administration NSS will significantly address the geoeconomic threat of Chinese trade practices. This is key, because after Steve Bannon and a good number of other economic nationalists left the administration, there was concern that the president would drop his commitment to responding to Chinese economic warfare practices. Clearly, that concern was unfounded. Trump remains steadfast in holding Chinas proverbial feet to this particular fire.

For 30 years, the Chinese (and other states) have used Americas open border and “free trade” policies as a cudgel to gut the United States of its middle-class and blue-collar jobs—the jobs that empowered the United States to become the sole Superpower that it was immediately following the Cold War. In fact, in many respects, creating a reliable and effective geoeconomic strategy is far more pressing of a national security concern than even dealing with the North Korean or Iranian nuclear threat, because, unlike the North Korean or Iranian nuclear threats, the frontline of the global economic war is in the once-vibrant small towns of Americas “rust belt”—and unlike those threats there are currently no real defenses to this ceaseless economic assault.

As Robert D. Blackwill and Jennifer M. Harris describe in their incredible 2016 book, War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft, “as a state comes to perceive the geopolitical climate as increasingly about economic power projection and hones its own geoeconomic reflexes accordingly, it may—indeed, should—be the case that this realization and retooling process leads to changes in its foreign policy strategies.” This has happened in China since the end of the Cold War, but only now with the Trump Administration, has the United States once again recognized this primary form of geopolitical competition.

Theres another bit that has been lacking in previous NSS documents—including, even, the infamous 2002 Bush Administration NSS memo, which laid the groundwork for the Iraq War in the following year—and that is an emphasis on homeland security. The Trump Administration led a successful coalition aimed at destroying the physical manifestation of the Islamic State in northern Iraq and Syria. They succeeded. However, now, the world must contend with the former ISIS fighters who are returning “home” to the West—including the United States. What will these fighters, now dispossessed of their Caliphate—do as a means of retaliating against the United States? Given the spate of terror attacks that have occurred in the United States and throughout the West since the rise of ISIS in 2014, its heartening to see the White House finally take homeland security seriously (beyond describing terror attacks as “workplace violence” or “lone wolf attacks”).

According to the snapshots of the pending NSS that have been released to the public thus far, the most important elements are the inclusion of space weaponization and technological threats. This has been something that few NSS memos have ever seriously addressed. Fact is, rival states are increasingly looking to find the strategic high ground of space as a place to threaten the United States and fundamentally debilitate Americas military supremacy. Whomsoever manages to place orbital weapons systems in space—using space as a means for power projection—will dominate the rest of the 21st century.

Of course, there is also the technological component to the matter of space weaponization. After all, government investment into research and development has been precipitously declining—and it shows. For instance, China has successfully tested their quantum internet and are now expanding their investment into a multi-billion-dollar quantum computing research center in Hebei. This new quantum computing center will be run by the Chinese military and be geared toward developing this new, cutting-edge form of computing for national security purposes. It is believed that quantum computers will eventually replace silicon-based computers at some point in the near-future. Whoever gets this technology first will have considerable strategic advantages.

This is to say nothing of the endless series of cyberattacks that China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and a retinue of other countries have subjected Americas military and private sector to, in order to gain geostrategic leverage over the United States. This has never fully been addressed by previous administrations. Instead, those administrations—from Clinton to Obama—preferred to virtue-signal to the world, over things like democracy promotion and the Responsibility-to-Protect (R2P). In other words, the bulk of past NSS memos have been entirely unserious and laughably naïve about the exercise of American power.

The Trump National Security Strategy memo is not only a hearteningly realistic assessment of American power, but it is also a set of achievable goals that realistically protect American interests while denying our adversaries key advantages over the United States. This is a wonderful change from the last 25 years.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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America • Asia • China • Congress • Economy • Energy • Environment • EU • Europe • Greatness Agenda • Post • Trade

Why Carbon Taxes Actually Increase Global Emissions

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As the hysteria over global warming heats up, carbon taxes have become the “cool” option. Environmentalists love them. So do politicians, who are more than happy to raise taxes while scoring political points.

Carbon taxes, or other analogous pricing schemes, are now prevalent in Western Europe, and are making headway in North America. For example, California recently joined forces with the Canadian Provinces of Ontario and Quebec to create an integrated cap-and-trade carbon market.

On top of this, many well-known economists support carbon taxes, thinking they’re the best way to mitigate man’s contribution to climate change. A relatively new report written by thirteen leading economists under the direction of professors Nicholas Stern and Joseph Stiglitz—who won a Nobel Prize in 2001—recommends the adoption of a global carbon tax. The tax would value carbon emissions somewhere between 50 and 100 USD per ton by 2030, and would cost upwards of $4 trillion. Theoretically, the tax would raise the cost of using carbon-intensive sources of energy, thereby nudging producers to switch from fossil fuels to “green energy” sources like wind and solar power. Likewise, it would raise the cost of electricity, thus creating an incentive to use energy more efficiently.

As an abstract principle of theory, this seems to make sense. There’s just one problem. It won’t work.

In reality, carbon taxes are just that: taxes. They’re a money-grab dressed up with good intentions. Worse still, carbon taxes will not reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, adopting carbon taxes in the West will actually raise global carbon emissions by offshoring economic activity from relatively environmentally-friendly places, like the USA and Germany, to places with lax environmental laws, like China.

Open Markets & Offshoring

Wealth is like water: it flows to the lowest possible point, and continues to do so until the level is equal. This is why consumers chase cheaper goods, why investors look for undervalued companies, and why multinationals offshore to cheaper markets. This last point—offshoring—is why Western carbon taxes will actually increase global emissions.

The underlying logic is fairly straightforward. Pretend there are only two countries in the world: Germany and China. The cost of doing business in them is identical, however China’s economy is twice as carbon-intensive as Germany’s. In other words, it costs $1 to build a widget in either country, but the widget’s carbon footprint in Germany is only 1 kilogram of carbon, compared to 2 kilograms in China. Clearly it’s better for the environment if widgets are made in Germany.

But Germany’s not satisfied: they want to further reduce their carbon emissions. Therefore, they impose a carbon tax of 10 percent per widget. This raises the cost of making widgets in Germany to $1.10. Ideally, German widget-makers will invest in energy-efficient machinery, and the government can use the tax revenues to plant more trees.

Sadly Germany’s politicians forgot something: Germany is an open market. This means that German consumers can simply buy Chinese widgets—which still only cost $1 to make. At this point, Germany’s widget-makers have two options: (1) they can foreclose, since they’re unable to compete with artificially cheaper Chinese widgets, or (2) they can move their factories to China and import the widgets back into Germany. Either way, China ends up building enough widgets for both China and Germany, and Germany doubles its carbon emissions.

Now imagine what our example would look like if China built widgets for $0.1 rather than $1, and they generated three times as much emissions per widget of Germany, since this better reflects the reality. Would a carbon tax in Germany have a hope of reducing global emissions? No.

Evidence Suggests Carbon Taxes Will Increase Global CO2 Emissions

Not only does the logic show that carbon taxes in the West will invariably increase global CO2 emissions, but so does the empirical evidence.

To begin with, data from the World Bank reveals that China, and other developing countries, produce far more carbon per dollar of economic output (at purchasing power parity) than do Western nations. For example, China produced 0.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide per dollar of economic output in 2014, whereas America produced 0.3 kg of CO2, and Germany produced just 0.2 kg. On top of this, China shows no signs of decreasing its emissions any time soon: China’s currently building hundreds of new coal-fired power plants, which will ensure its CO2 emissions continue to rise for decades to come.

Taken together, these facts suggest that every factory pushed out of the West due to carbon taxes actually increases global emissions dramatically, and this will continue to be the case for decades to come. A number of other studies came to the same conclusion.

One important paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that carbon reductions alleged to the Kyoto Protocol were more than offset by increase emissions from imported products. Glen Peters of the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research said this of the research:

Our study shows for the first time that emissions from increased production of internationally traded products have more than offset the emissions reductions achieved under the Kyoto Protocol … this suggests that the current focus on territorial emissions in a subset of countries may be ineffective at reducing global emissions without some mechanisms to monitor and report emissions from the production of imported goods and services.

Essentially, local carbon taxes are not a useful tool for mitigating a nation’s carbon footprint. If anything they actually raise global emissions. The paper also notes that China accounts for some 75 percent of the developed world’s offshored emissions.

Another study published in The Guardian, found that “50 percent of the rise in Chinese emissions are the result of goods for foreign markets.” This was echoed in a different study from the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters, which found that cuts in carbon emissions by developed countries have been cancelled out “many times over” by increases in imported goods from developing countries—especially China.

Another study found that all of the trumpeted carbon reductions in places like Germany fall apart under closer scrutiny:

According to standard date, developed countries can claim to have reduced their collective emissions by almost 2% between 1990 and 2008. But once the carbon cost of imports have been added to each country, and exports subtracted—the true change has been an increase of 7%. If Russia and Ukrainewhich cut their CO2 emissions rapidly in the 1990s due to economic collapseare excluded, the rise is 12%.

These studies conclusively show that the offshoring of Western industry to China has actually increased global carbon emissions. It is unreasonable to assume that a carbon tax, which will further increase the incentive for business owners to offshore, will magically reduce global carbon emissions. There is no silver bullet. Carbon taxes are a pipe dream.

Carbon Taxes Won’t Reduce Global CO2 Emissions—Now What?

Carbon taxes will not reduce global carbon emissions—they’ll only make things worse. So what should we do? We should stop and put things in perspective. No matter your opinion on climate change, we should begin with the assertion that carbon dioxide is not a harmful chemical in the traditional sense of the word. It’s actually essential for all life on earth—plants need it to live.

The obsession with carbon emissions is allowing many real polluters to fly under the radar. For example, fertilizers and pesticides runoff from our farms is creating gigantic “dead zones” downstream. Algal blooms are choking out life a the mouths of major rivers throughout the world. Likewise, deforestation is (often unnecessarily) stripping the world of its most precious habitats.

These are real environmental problems that aren’t getting attention because carbon dioxide is so ardently demonized. It is high time we triaged the situation, and took care of real environmental concerns before investing billions in green schemes

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America • Asia • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • military • North Korea • Post • Russia • Technology • Trump White House

What Will It Take to Get Serious About Missile Defense?

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North Korea’s possession of mobile-launched missiles that can deliver nukes anywhere in the United States shows that, nowadays, anybody can make lots of pinpoint-accurate missiles of any range. Since America’s ICBMs, submarines, and bombers are fewer, concentrated in fewer places than ever, even North Korea can carry out the kind of disarming attack that Americans feared the Soviet Union might have mounted in the 1980s. Kim Jong-un is showing the world that the missile defense programs into which the U.S. government has poured some $80 billion in recent years are no barrier to destroying most U.S. strategic forces and holding the American people hostage.

The officials who crafted these programs, ideologically focused as they have been on not hindering Russia’s or China’s capacity to devastate America, built token defenses to suffice against unsophisticated, unserious opponents. But North Koreans, semi-starved and serious, grasped better than highly credentialed Americans how this focus makes U.S. defenses inherently vulnerable. Yet, because U.S. policy continues to be one of not having missile defense—the public’s support for it notwithstanding—the government’s response to its programs’ failure is to pour more money into them.

The Technology is Not Lacking
Since the 1960s, the government and elite opinion have obfuscated that policy by pretending that technology is lacking. Hence, support for missile defense has meant spending endlessly on expensive tokens and endless “research.” Yet, as ballistic missiles have evolved since the 1950s, America has never lacked the technical means of defending seriously against them. As Professor Joseph Constance’s magisterial work showed, Republicans and Democrats have avoided responsibility for critical choices on these matters by framing them in pseudo-technical terms, none too subtly telling the public that they are beyond ordinary people’s understanding. Nonsense.

What follows summarizes how current programs are irremediably inadequate to defend against any serious missile attack from anywhere, and what a missile defense worthy of the name requires.

The current “National Missile Defense” (NMD) system consists of a single radar/fire control system plus a maximum of 44 interceptors based mostly in Alaska that purports, or rather pretends, to defend U.S territory. This arrangement so increases the distance that the interceptors must travel and so shortens the time in which the interceptors must do it that the interceptors have to be huge. Moreover, because the system’s designers chose to require that the interceptors collide with the incoming warhead directly—without the aid of any warhead—the guidance system must be exquisite and fragile. Such requirements make these interceptors hugely expensive and doubtful of success. Current “employment doctrine” calls for devoting two interceptors to each incoming warhead. In short, this system is un-expandable.

Nobody would design a missile defense system this way if defending America were the intention. In fact, the system’s mission is to destroy at most a handful of warheads from “rogue “ states or unauthorized launches by Russia and China, while posing no obstacle to serious attacks by anyone. Not incidentally, this token counters charges that the government is unable to stop “even a single missile.” But the accomplishment of these missions has made it possible for poor North Korea to render it and our National Missile Defense irrelevant, merely by running its missile production line. The lesson is not lost on anyone, except perhaps in Washington.

The focus on not defending against Chinese or Russian missiles led the U.S government to structure all its missile defense programs, including so-called “Theater Missile Defense” systems intended to defend U.S troops overseas and allies, in the least efficient manner.

Understanding this requires keeping in mind that time-distance problems such as we learned in Algebra 1 are the basic calculus of missile defense by surface-based interceptors. The objective is to cause the interceptor to meet the incoming missile at as great a distance away as possible. Two factors work against the objective: the curvature of the earth, which determines when the incoming missile becomes visible (and hence when the interceptor may be launched from the target area), and the speed of the oncoming missile (longer range missiles come in faster than shorter range ones).

Orbital Systems Needed
There are two ways of increasing that distance. Increasing the interceptors’ speed—at the cost of making them bigger, more complex, expensive and rare—helps a little. Increasing the time available for the interceptors to travel increases the distance at which they meet the incoming missile, helps a lot, and makes it possible to use less sophisticated, cheaper interceptors. But increasing the time available requires launching interceptors on the basis of information from systems remote from the target and forward of the earth’s curvature. U.S. government policy, however, has been contrary to this logic.

From the very beginning, U.S. government policy conceived of missile defense in terms of “sites” containing interceptors and the radar/fire control systems that operate them, and prohibited the launch of interceptors from any “site” on the basis of information forward from that “site.” Refusing to pursue “remote launch,” imprisoned U.S interceptors within earth curvature short horizon and forced us to make them, fast, big, sophisticated, expensive, rare, and relatively impotent. So long as U.S. surface-based interceptors must rely on for fire control co-located sources of information, the speed of incoming targets must load the interceptors with heavy burdens and degrade their performance.

The alternative, the obvious path to efficient surface-based missile defense, was and remains to launch interceptors on the basis of infra-red systems based in orbit. But the U.S. government chose to enshrine in the 1972 ABM treaty that no orbital systems may “substitute for” radars. In the 1980s, the United States was developing such an SBIRS-low network of satellites. It was canceled when U.S. Arms Controllers pointed out, correctly, that such a network would have enabled relatively easy interception of Russian and Chinese missiles as well as of North Korean and Iranian ones. Today, even though the ABM treaty is no longer in force, the U.S. government has no intention of launching interceptors on the basis of information from orbit and is barely edging toward very limited “launch on remote.”

The U.S. government remains committed even more firmly to the ABM treaty’s prohibition of orbit-based weapons based on “other physical principles”—that is, lasers. These would strike down missiles as they are launched, and confer control of space on whoever owns them. A generation ago, such a missile killing prototype was ready for trials. On December 4, 1994, the New York Times’ science section devoted a page, complete with drawings to a story titled “Space-based laser nearly ready to fly.” The U.S. government canceled it because it would have been very useful against missiles rising from anywhere on the globe. A scaled-down, land-based version shot down Katyusha rockets over Israel.

Washington’s response to North Korea’s missiles has been typical: throw words and money at the problem. Everybody, it seems, has nice words for missile defense. But because few know or bother to learn the details, interest group logic ensures that the same people who have kept America vulnerable are continuing to do so.

The technologies of missile defense, like the technologies of intercontinental missiles, have ceased to be exotic. The U.S government’s refusal to be serious about missile warfare and missile defense empowers foreigners who are more serious.

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Americanism • Asia • Center for American Greatness • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Europe • feminists • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Middle East • NATO • Post

Turkey Is No Ally

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Turkey has turned its back on the West. To be fair, we in the West didn’t do much to prevent it.

When Turkey sought entry into the European Union, other members balked and resisted—though not without reason. Many Europeans were alarmed by the rise of Turkey’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP). The AKP sought to undo the reforms that made Turkey a modern, secular nation upon its independence in 1923. Up to that point, Turkey had been the seat of power for the Ottoman Empire—the last, great Islamic empire—and was dismantled after World War I. From 1923 onward, the country was ruled by a secular autocracy and became an integral component of NATO’s southern flank during the Cold War.

Now, Turkey is becoming fast friends with Russia and pushing the West away.

The move away from the West in Turkey began around 2002. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP Party burst onto the political scene, taking advantage of deep divisions within Turkish society. Erdogan supplanted the autocratic, secular junta that had ruled the country for decades.

Once firmly ensconced in power, Erdogan’s Islamists began methodically enacting “reforms” to make Turkey comport with traditional Islamic values. In the intervening years, Turkey has banned the sale of liquor, cracked down on any form of political opposition, and instituted a requirement for Turkish women to wear a headscarf—not exactly the stuff of European liberalism or Western freedom.

Today, Turkey is strengthening ties with China, as the Chinese carry out their One-Belt-One-Road-Initiative to link Eurasia as never before (under Beijing’s control, of course). In fact, President Erdogan has repeatedly said that Turkey’s future lies to its east, with the Turkish population in China and Central Asia, rather than in Europe and the West.

Turkey is currently purchasing Russian S-400 air defense batteries instead of Western-made systems, such as the U.S. Patriot missile, thereby complicating NATO’s collective defense measures. The Turkish government insists that it is only buying Russian-made air defense systems because Western governments balked at selling Patriot missiles to Ankara in 2015. That’s true. The reason is Turkey has a long history of doing illicit business with Iran and funding jihadist terror groups operating in Syria, including ISIS. The United States doesn’t want some of its best weapons falling into Iranian or jihadist hands.

The Turks still refuse to crack down on the virtually ceaseless flow of refugees from the Middle East over its borders into Europe, despite official promises to their European “partners” that they would. The Turkish government has become a primary element in facilitating Iran’s rise in the Mideast by backing an Iranian-Russian pipeline meant to deliver Iranian natural gas and oil to Europe—negating a similar U.S.-backed Saudi pipeline to bring energy sources from Qatar onto the Continent. Thus, Turkey supports Russia’s play to monopolize all energy flows into Europe, thereby isolating Europe from the United States, and forcing Europe to become a mere vassal of Russia.

Further, Erdogan’s government remains convinced that the Obama Administration and U.S. intelligence services backed a coup attempt against Erdogan in the summer of 2016. The coup was perpetrated by a handful of disgruntled Turkish military officers who supposedly were members of the Gülenist religious movement, a small group of Sufi Muslims seeking to purify what they perceive as Turkey’s corrupt political culture. The Gülenists initially supported Erdogan’s rise in 2002, but slowly turned against him, as Erdogan’s rule became increasingly autocratic and corrupt.

Fethullah Gülen, the leader of this politico-religious opposition movement, took refuge in the United States several years ago and has spent his time in the country making alliances with key political figures of both parties. Because of his presence in the United States, Erdogan’s supporters in Turkey believe last year’s coup was directed by the United States. Gülen’s influence with America’s political elites is limited, however, and there is no evidence he managed to get American leaders to back the coup effort. In fact, many analysts today question whether the coup attempt had anything to do with the Gülen movement at all (or if it was fabricated by Erdogan to accrue more power at a time when his rule was becoming increasingly unpopular domestically).

Even if the United States were planning to overthrow Erdogan, the truth is that Turkey moved beyond the reach of the West long ago.

Turkey’s moves to align more closely with China, Iran, and Russia are not a result of feckless covert American action against Erdogan’s government. They are the result of a rabidly Islamist regime rising to power in Turkey, and finding no common cause with their purported Western allies.

Turkey also assumes (as does much of the rest of the world) that the United States and the West are in decline and the East is rising. Erdogan believes he can make a better deal for both his political future and his country with the Chinese, Russians, and Iranians.

That means NATO no longer has a reliable partner in Ankara. Without a viable southern defensive flank, the United States will have trouble operating effectively in Europe and the Middle East. A new southern flank is needed, one that not only protects Europe from traditional threats but also prevents Turkey from becoming the tip of a Russia, Iranian, or jihadist spear pointed at Europe’s soft underbelly. That means Greece and Cyprus—two historical enemies of Turkey—should assume the role (at least until NATO disbands or fundamentally changes). The West should further limit Turkey’s influence in the Middle East by recognizing an independent Kurdistan.

Turkey isn’t an ally; it’s a strategic competitor. President Trump has praised Erdogan as “a friend.” But the administration would do well to acknowledge reality before America’s strategic position is hopelessly undermined in Europe and the Middle East.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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Americanism • Asia • Book Reviews • Center for American Greatness • China • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Economy • Foreign Policy • Post • Trade

Standing Up to the Bully in Asia

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Steven W. Mosher’s  new book, Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order, couldn’t arrive at a better time. Mosher is a leading scholar of China, who has written a retinue of books on the subject. With the recent publication of Graham Allison’s Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? and with President Trump’s ongoing Asia trip, the topic of China’s rise is ripe for discussion.

The critical difference between Allison’s work and Mosher’s is that Bully of Asia relies heavily on Chinese history to illuminate China’s strategic intentions today. Allison, by contrast, likens the competition between China and the United States to that of ancient Athens and Sparta, which led to the quarter-century-long Peloponnesian War and ended in the destruction of the Athenian Empire. While Allison rightly draws universal and eternal lessons from Thucydides, Mosher looks more carefully at China’s particular experience for a fuller picture and, specifically, to China’s Warring States period for a snapshot of China’s distinct strategic outlook.

While no earthly state is exempt from universal lessons of human experience, a nation’s peculiar culture is also derived from its particular historical experience. So it makes more sense to consider how Chinese strategists would make inferences from their country’s bloodiest period, as opposed to limiting our understanding by boxing them into inferences drawn from the history and experiences of the West. What is universal is universal. But what is particular to China cannot be understood within artificial categories extrapolated from Western experience.

Our strategic culture differs from Chinese strategic culture, which Mosher explains has been dominated by cold realists for thousands of years. America’s strategic culture, once rooted in its own kind of realism, has been hijacked by postmodernism and globalist utopians. If present American strategic culture is informed by the wistful claims of Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man, then Chinese strategic culture is predicated on painful memories of the Warring States period, the “Century of Humiliation,” and the terror of Maoism.

When China looks around the world, they see every state as potential fuel for their meteoric rise. When America looks to the world, they see partners seeking to cooperate in an American-dominated international system. Given the disparity in outlooks—and the rise of China’s power—Americans would do well to abandon the naïve sentiments of the idealists and notions about an inevitable “end of history” that culminates with the global embrace of liberal democracy. Instead, we should return to an understanding of realistic American strategic concepts such as “peace through strength.”

Throughout Mosher’s brilliant work is a common and vital theme: culture matters.

Mosher uses the recently deceased Chinese political dissident (and prisoner), Liu Xiaobo’s criticism of the Chinese Communist Party’s “bellicose nationalism” as an example of how China’s culture is being warped to favor an aggressive and competitive relationship with the rest of the world. Mosher believes “[a] Great Wall against truth has been erected in the minds of the Chinese” which results in most of China’s population “uncritically accepting [the] Party’s propaganda.” This has happened to such a degree that, “[the Chinese people] mistook the illusions spun by a dictatorial regime intent upon its own aggrandizement for actual reality.”

It’s clear why China, on pace very soon to become the world’s largest economy (in GDP terms), would risk its future by threatening Taiwan (and therefore the United States) rather than leaving well-enough-alone. It’s a cultural thing, which Mosher calls “Han chauvinism.” Trying to understand it in Western terms won’t do.

Mosher’s perspective matches nicely with renowned geostrategist Edward N. Luttwak’s 2013 criticism of China’s strategic culture. Luttwak accused the Chinese Communist Party of suffering from “Great State Autism,” which meant China was not actually listening to what the United States and other states were saying to them. Instead, Chinese foreign policy was crafted according to an internal logic that contained, “highly simplified, schematic representations of unmanageably complex realities, which [are] thereby distorted to fit within internally generated categories, operations, and perspectives.” In short, if one wants to understand Chinese intentions in foreign affairs, one need only listen to what Chinese state media tells its citizens to believe.

To get a working sense of China’s alternative worldview, just ask any Chinese citizen if he believes the 1999 U.S. bombing of the Chinese consulate in Belgrade during the Kosovo War was an accident. I’ve yet to meet a Chinese citizen—regardless of his background or political orientation—that doesn’t believe the most deranged, anti-American conspiracy theory about purported American guilt in that instance. In the Chinese mind, the United States destroyed China’s consulate to keep China down. In reality, the consulate bombing was the result of bad intelligence. It was a simple screw up.

With all this in mind, Allison’s conclusion in Destined for War—that the United States must move out of China’s way in Asia and mind its own business to prevent the breakout of another apocalyptic Peloponnesian-style war—strains credulity.

If the idealists in the American foreign policy community get their way and the United States retreats from Asia, the Chinese would not merely run roughshod over the region; they would almost certainly expand into other parts of the world (since they would feel that Chinese regional hegemony was secure). It should be obvious that making China feel more secure at home would result in greater Chinese adventurism abroad. This is all bad for American security and interests, given China’s “internally generated” worldview.

My own view dovetails with David P. Goldman’s answer to China’s rise—and it seems Mosher’s conclusion in the Bully of Asia supports it, too: to preserve peace, prepare for war. Moreover, we have to be willing to threaten trade and to “play the Taiwan card” to make the Chinese more pliable. Mosher goes one step further and argues that the American foreign policy community’s China watchers need to open their ranks and allow for other viewpoints on China’s rise to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, as American Greatness has reported, the establishment will actively resist having their sacred cows in policy slaughtered by outsiders like President Trump and Steven W. Mosher. It remains to be seen if the Mosher worldview can break through the toxic miasma of the Swamp.

Whether this view penetrates or not, it is the correct one. It’s time to stand up to the bully in Asia. You can start by buying Mosher’s book.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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America • Asia • China • Cultural Marxism • Defense of the West • Economy • First Amendment • Foreign Policy • Free Speech • Post

The Coming Threat of Chinese Censorship

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In recent weeks have been dominated, as they have been for much of the past year , with talk of Russian social engineering to influence the 2016 presidential election and to damage our political culture as a whole.

Lost in the clamor to discover who was behind some sad looking Facebook ads, however, is any acknowledgement of what may be a true and greater foreign menace: a foreign government that is openly pressuring large tech companies and academia to squelch free speech, not only at home, but here in the United States.

Here the threat is not Russia but China, whose leaders are extraordinarily sensitive to criticism, and to even the mention of Tiananmen Square.

For the moment, the bulk of China’s efforts have been devoted to locking down its mainland. In doing so, Chinese authorities have used the lure of their enormous and increasingly affluent market to get  Apple and Amazon to join in their content censorship. Google, though compliant elsewhere, left China over its censorship requirements. Two years ago it knuckled under so its app store could return.

Academia is at risk, as well. Earlier this year, Cambridge University Press first removed, then restored, hundreds of academic articles on its Chinese website. Eager to extend their Chinese-language offerings, many other colleges furnish administrative support and physical space to so-called Confucius Institutes, ceding control over teaching staff and course materials to the home office in China. Needless to say, Beijing strictly controls the institutes’ political content. In Australia, the centers have even become tools for keeping tabs on and indoctrinating Chinese students studying abroad.

The surrender can be so slow as to be unnoticed by the colleges themselves. In 2014, taxpayer-funded Colorado State University at first refused my open records request for the school’s operating agreement with the campus Confucius Institute. Administrators finally produced the document after repeated requests. Turns out, the agreement had a confidentiality clause.

And there is increasing concern about what political strings might come with a potential new particle accelerator.Unfortunate for the locals, you say, but what does the price of T-quarks in China have to do with me?

So far, not much—unless you happen to be a Chinese national named Guo Wengui living in New York, and are in the habit of airing the dirty laundry of Chinese government officials. In that case, you might get an unauthorized visit from Beijing’s representatives trying to persuade you to return to China to stand trial.

You might also have Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube shut down your accounts for “harassment.”

As U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) pointed out, all three platforms are already blocked by China’s “Great Firewall.” The only purpose of cracking down on Guo’s accounts was to “extend China’s censorship regime to American soil.” They weren’t keeping Chinese at home from seeing Guo’s information. They were keeping Americans from seeing it, and Chinese abroad from seeing it and bringing the contagion back home.

This behavior by the tech oligarchs and higher-ed officials would be much less galling if they didn’t ritually make a show of what great corporate citizens they are, or of how much they value academic freedom. When Google left China, Sergey Brin claimed to be very proud of the role his company had played in defending free speech. And remember how Apple won the hearts of libertarians country-wide by refusing to unlock the San Bernardino jihadist’s iPhone for the FBI? In the end, when wink came to nudge, down they both went.

This would also matter a lot less if these social media companies didn’t operate as virtual monopolies. Not every free speech restriction is a First Amendment violation. Pauline Maier, in her book Ratification about the debate over the Constitution, describes how small-town newspapers that refused to print letters with an opposing view were often accused of violating citizens’ free speech, even in the absence of an as-yet-unratified First Amendment.

Nobody then was calling for the government to direct what was printed, and nobody who remembers the scandal of the IRS targeting Tea Party groups or the baleful days of the Fairness Doctrine is doing so now.

Likewise, it’s unclear that the current alternative under discussion—regulating these large companies like monopolies—would be any better.

The large tech companies hold onto their top spots largely because of our busted patent system. Yes, they spend ungodly amounts of money fighting each other. But what’s a cost of doing business for them is a crushing barrier to entry for smaller would-be competitors.

For instance, Amazon’s announcement that it would file for a meal-kit trademark was enough to tank Blue Apron’s IPO from $15-$17 to $6.66 on opening day. As of this writing, Blue Apron stock is priced under $4. Facebook routinely snaps up competing social media platforms, either incorporating their features into its main product or easing content-sharing between them. They can do this because for smaller startups, it’s easier to switch than fight.

In all likelihood, treating them as monopolies would only make things worse, ratifying their positions at the top of the heap, and validating their anti-competitive practices. What’s needed is more platforms, not fewer, and perhaps patent reform that forces the oligarchs to compete with rather than farm new ideas  can do that.

At the same time, we could require that any programs receiving direct or indirect federal aid have their final faculty and curriculum decisions under the control of the college receiving the aid. This would prevent both private and public colleges from abdicating their responsibilities to Beijing.

We should understand that the stakes here are high, and the sooner we act, the better. Already colleges and tech companies feel the carrot-and-stick of China’s economic clout. Before long, not only will they be lobbying against these changes, China’s representatives to Washington will be bringing pressure to bear. In Guo’s case, the officials who visited him could have been detained under U.S. law, but were instead allowed to go free to avoid a diplomatic incident.

If we’re not careful and assertive, without even knowing it, Americans could find themselves censored by a foreign power, using our own institutions against us.

 

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America • Asia • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Post • Trade

Trump’s Malaysia Gambit: Call It Another Win

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Less than two weeks ago there was a bit of news—little reported in the United States, but more on that later—that Malaysia had cut off all imports from North Korea. In the scheme of global trade, the numbers seem small. Malaysia’s annual imports may total no more than about $15 million, but those millions in cash are the lifeblood of a pariah nation that can barely pay its electric bill, let alone finance even the barest-bones infrastructure project to pave roads.  

Malaysia’s decision to cut economic ties with Kim Jong-un shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, the North Korean dictator had the poor social grace to have his half-brother assassinated in the Kuala Lumpur international airport. But that isn’t the only reason. Give some credit to savvy foreign policy gamesmanship by President Trump and his administration.

Recall that about a month ago, Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, visited the United States and the White House. To the media, the visit was “controversial” and a “terrible idea.” So-called “foreign policy experts” called the meeting a setback for the rule of law. The media’s favorite term to describe the prime minister was “embattled,” due to a financial scandal in which he is allegedly embroiled, although the Malaysian justice system has yet to find any evidence to charge him with a crime.

One wonders where the media watchdogs were when President Barack Obama climbed into bed with the Castro regime in Cuba, or when he endorsed the Muslim Brotherhood during the Arab Spring uprisings, which led to the downfall of one of America’s stronger allies in the region. In fact, Obama continued to endorse the Muslim Brotherhood, an entity that was spreading its particular brand of religious zealotry and violence to countries like Malaysia, where Prime Minister Razak has been battling them.

Only President Trump and his foreign policy advisers seemed to understand the importance of working with an influential, duly elected regional leader on a broader agenda important strategically to both the United States and Malaysia, and other allies in the region.

The Trump Administration had two goals with Malaysia: first, solidify a friendship that had been weakened by Obama Administration failures and then reinforce the critical role Malaysia can play in the region as a key strategic partner of the United States.

In seeking to overcome the mismanagement of our relations during the Obama years, the Trump Administration also wanted to prevent a turn toward China as Malaysia can play a vital role in the Asia Pacific region on trade, counter-terrorism and the in our relationship with China.

Multi-Front Diplomacy
At the same that President Trump was meeting with Malaysia, the United States was also working with China on their response to an increasingly troublesome and aggressive North Korea. In the end, the Trump Administration’s efforts paid off on several fronts.

First, Prime Minister Razak announced his country’s intention to purchase upwards of $20 billion in jets from Boeing over the next decade, as well as investing an additional $3-4 billion on top of the $7 billion Malaysia already annually spends in the United States. Second, President Trump and Razak committed to work on a trade deal with Malaysia that would be an economic boon to both nations. Third, we are now seeing the additional steps Malaysia is taking in support of regional security, cutting off its own trade, and assisting the Trump Administration in encouraging China to step in line with other players to do the same.

For his part, Razak came to Washington hoping to strengthen Malaysia’s economic and strategic partnership with the United States and Malaysia, and left having achieved both. It’s not an accident that at the same time as Malaysia is stepping up, China announced that it was cutting off banking ties with North Korea, perhaps the most serious blow to Kim Jong-un’s efforts to rally support against the United States and broader global efforts to contain him.  

Trump’s Malaysia gambit is an excellent example of the kind of realpolitik approach to foreign policy that America has desperately needed for more than a decade. Rather than coddling tin-pot dictators and terrorists at the White House, we have an administration that is willing to work with leaders who are willing to work with the United States, reach mutually beneficial agreements, and along the way strengthen U.S. national and economic security both abroad and at home.

Some like to toss around the term “nationalism” as though it were a pejorative, but it’s clear that for many Americans, it’s an approach worth defending if not wholeheartedly supporting.

We’ve seen what happens when we have a president unwilling to defend and uphold our nation’s interests at home and abroad. It will take years for us to recover, but the Trump White House is digging in and rebuilding that trust and that national interest one ally at a time and whether the media elite and its friends like it or not.

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America • Asia • China • Defense of the West • Education • Foreign Policy • Trade • Trump White House

America is Losing the Education Race Against China—Bigly

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We are no longer living in the unipolar world of the immediate post-Cold War period. This is especially clear when it comes to observing the nearly 30 years war the Chinese Communist Party has waged upon U.S. economic interests—using the very free trade so worshiped by our elites as a cudgel to diminish America’s competitive advantages in peace, while propping up China’s strategic edge in the event of war.

Over time, the results have been remarkably beneficial for China and detrimental to the United States. China began by soaking up as many industrial trade secrets as it could to become the world’s leading low-cost manufacturer. The working-class jobs that created America’s middle class were systematically shipped overseas to China, leaving America’s once-vibrant middle class bereft of employment opportunities and leading to a significant decline in middle-class living standards. This, combined with a declining respect for bourgeois morality and growing government dependence, worked to increase opioid and other forms of substance abuse that exacerbated the pathologies of a burgeoning underclass of undereducated people with little hope of escaping their plight. America left these folks and their communities behind.

As China came to dominate the manufacturing market, they recognized that the key to the future was in education—notably in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields (STEM). For nearly 20 years, the Chinese took their massive (and growing) wealth and invested heavily in developing educational programs for training their next generation of workers in critical hi-tech industries and supporting a civilizational ethic dedicated to sustaining it.

Thanks to these copious material, moral, and intellectual investments, China is a world leader in producing the world’s scientists, engineers, technicians, and mathematicians—the kinds of people who will dominate the newfangled knowledge economy. Meanwhile, in the United States, there was no corresponding increase in our level of competitiveness in the growing STEM fields. As David Goldman has documented at American Affairs Journal, investment in cutting edge research and development programs by the federal government has declined as China’s has intensified.

For its part, America’s education system remains mired in outmoded concepts not for a lack of funds, but for lack of proper understanding of how those funds should be spent. The Department of Education consumes $68 billion a year. Yet, America’s students are assessed merely as “average” when compared to other students from OECD countries. In standardized tests, the ranking of U.S. 15-year-olds has fallen to 17th in science and 25th in math. In fact, according to U.S. News and World Report, “our top students are generally not competitive either.” Some years back, Bill Gates said, “When I compare our high schools to what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I’m terrified for our workforce of tomorrow.” America spends nearly six times more money on its students (in GDP terms) than most other countries, yet our students are merely “average.”

Of course, our country’s political discourse on the issue of education reform has been as painful to listen to as every other political debate today—both the Right and Left stick to their ideological orthodoxies and our kids suffer.

Whose interests are we protecting?

In China, on the other hand, government investments in STEM are paying significant dividends. Not only are the Chinese churning out the world’s next innovation leaders, but thanks to their investment in research and development along with a willingness to give the technology time to bear fruit, China is leading the way in specific new technological frontiers. Though many Western leaders and scientists dismissed the concept, their quantum Internet is proving to be a success. Whereas NASA Eagleworks lab is fighting for greater support of its revolutionary EMDrive, China quietly has been building up its own EMDrive as a means of beating the Americans to Mars. And, more importantly, China has been serious in its development of antiballistic missile defense (ABM) systems.

Yet, our leaders continue to dither when it comes to missile defense.

With the rise of nuclear rogue states in North Korea (a nominal Chinese client) and Iran (a nominal Russian client), the threat of nuclear warfare has returned. However, America’s ability to protect itself—and its allies—from nuclear war remains outdated. And, with China now developing its own ABM systems, the Chinese will likely add fully workable ABM defenses to their increasing repertoire of military capabilities which will only further diminish America’s strategic advantages over China.

Because China has made the requisite levels of investment and commitment to developing the human capital necessary for dominating the new knowledge economy of the 21st century, they are now beginning to take the lead in the crafting of critical technologies. The United States has neither made the necessary investments nor committed itself to developing a plan for shaping the next generation of great technological innovation. That starts with reforming our education system entirely. If we don’t, we will lose the great geopolitical game with China and other foreign actors.

Back in the Cold War days, everything from space exploration to the Olympics was a matter of geopolitical competition between the two Superpowers. Today, this remains true for the United States and China—even if America’s indolent elite fail to recognize the fact. But even more important than the competition in the military, economic, or sports realms, the education race is what will determine the future outcome of what Noah Feldman presciently termed the “Cool War” between China and America.

Unfortunately, America is losing the education race against China—bigly. Even if we began to get serious about changing things today, it will take years to make a real impact. The longer we wait, the less secure we are in the long-term. Until we make these investments in our future, China will continue beating us in the Cool War. God help us if it ever turns hot.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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Americanism • Asia • Center for American Greatness • Congress • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Republicans • Russia • The Media

Establishment GOP Puts Cronies over Country on Missile Defense

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As North Korea demonstrates America’s vulnerability to ballistic missiles, and as President Trump pledges “many billions of dollars” for “the anti-missile,” establishment Republicans are poised to use missile defense talk today in the same way they did in the wake of Ronald Reagan’s commitment to it: profit politically from rhetoric, funnel money to the best-connected contractors, and accomplish nothing.

Since Reagan restored missile defense to the nation’s agenda 34 years ago, Republicans have led the spending of some 80 billion dollars on its behalf. But they have acquiesced as the U.S government has crafted each and every program according to one overarching policy: to put no barrier to missiles from China or Russia reaching Americans.

Accordingly, our so-called National Missile Defense is but a hamstrung token. Using the same logic with respect to technology, we are depriving the equipment we build for defense against threats such as North Korea and Iran from all capacity defend against China and Russia. In practice, this means that it is less capable of doing anything. Today, malnourished North Korea is on the cusp of overwhelming every defense we’ve got, in Alaska and California, as well as in the Western Pacific.

Republicans banked votes, contractors banked the money, and America’s vulnerabilities deepened. Unless President Trump changes basic policy, the cycle repeats.

A $30 Billion Boondoggle
The Establishment Republicans’ intellectual guide, 
the Wall Street Journal, has just pointed the way. In an obituary (September 2-3) and an editorial (September 6), it celebrated George A. Keyworth, the White House science adviser from 1981 until 1984, as “the Godfather of Missile defense.” In fact, no one was more responsible than Keyworth for turning President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative into a research program that produced zero anti-missile weapons—by design. The so-called Fletcher Panel that he created defined SDI by precluding building defensive devices, restricting its mandate to long-term research. He staffed it exclusively with delegates from the national labs and their contractors. They divvied up some $30 billion to fund their favorite hobby horses.

Some—Edward Teller’s and Lowell Wood’s X-ray laser and free-electron laser—were patent scientific frauds that discredited the initiative. But steering programs to the right people got Keyworth a seat on Hewlett-Packard’s board of directors. Hence from the very first, SDI was a typical U.S-government program: soaring rhetoric that covered a feeding trough for well-connected interest groups. One of its former directors, asked what SDI had produced, waved a report titled, “What We Got for $30 Billion.” An expensive missile-swatter.

The Journal also says, “to the extent that the North Korean nuclear threat is at all containable,” it is because SDI “eventually gave us systems like THAAD.” Thus does the Journal show the Republican Establishment’s nonchalant ignorance. The combination of interceptor missile and radar called Theater High Altitude Defense was a U.S. Army program. All it owes to SDI and its Missile Defense Agency successor are limitations, such as depriving the interceptor of a warhead and requiring it to crash directly onto the oncoming warhead. This added layers of technical complexity—e.g. exquisite reductions in vibrations—and added to the cost of nearly $1 billion per battery. Expense, and hence scarcity, is one reason why even North Korea can overwhelm it quantitatively.

THAAD’s effective range is set by how soon after the offensive missile takes off the interceptor may be launched. The reason why the interceptor, whose physical range is just over 500 miles, has an effective range of only 120 miles is the policy (in the spirit of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty) that requires our interceptors to be programmed and launched only by radar/fire control systems co-located with the interceptor. The THAAD warning radar is not equipped to program and fire interceptors. (Just now, Navy Aegis ships networked with one another are being given a partial exemption).

Blinded By Partisanship
More fundamentally, all U.S interceptors continue to be hampered by their radars’ inability to look over the earth’s curvature to see missiles being launched by China and Russia (or Iran, or North Korea’s interior). Already a generation ago a network of infrared satellites was being designed that would have made it possible see all such launches as they happened and to launch interceptors with plenty of time to stop them at maximum range. But the SDI office and its successor canceled that. It would have displeased Russia and China. Thanks, SDI!

Partisanship with regard to missile defense is the last thing America needs. That is why it was so disheartening to read former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc A. Thiessen last week in the Washington Post: “If we had continued the Bush program over the past eight years, we would now have a robust array of defenses against any North Korean ICBM.”

Evidently, Thiessen’s partisan concerns overcame his duty to know what he is talking about. “We would be able to target a North Korean missile in the boost phase.” In fact, trying to intercept North Korea’s missiles in boost phase from nearby ships was nuts. Simple algebra showed that our interceptors would be engaged in tail chases that they would lose.

Thiessen continues: “we would have 44 ground-based interceptors [GBIs] armed with hundreds of warheads that could be fired to take it out in midcourse.” Baloney! Since these GBIs (as well as THAAD) are required to crash directly onto the oncoming warhead, their guidance system is on such an edge that two interceptors, each with its own exquisite kill vehicle, are needed for reasonable assurance of stopping one warhead. The only “robustness”is in the pretense.

A true establishment Republican, Thiessen joins The Wall Street Journal in urging more money for missile defense and in chiding Trump for being too slow to offer it. But money to do what, precisely? Neither Thiessen, the Wall Street Journal, nor any other prominent Republican is asking Trump to reverse the fundamental decision to remain vulnerable to Chinese and Russian missiles. Only the president of the United States can do that.

Only Trump can prevent the “many billions of dollars” for missile defense that he will propose and that will surely be allocated from being wasted on current programs, and on hobby horse research that substitutes for building weapons that protect us against the really serious Chinese and Russian threats.

The Latest Quest for ‘Unobtanium’
The Missile Defense Agency’s hottest idea nowadays is to equip drones with laser weapons capable of destroying missiles deep in North Korea while hovering over international waters “for the cost of a gallon of gas per shot.” But neither the batteries to generate high levels of power nor the lasers with wavelengths short enough to compensate for low power exist. Something like that also requires perfect compensation for atmospheric turbulence, existing and induced. Attempts to achieve this have already been made at the cost of over $100 million. Were such technical difficulties surmounted, defending these drones on station 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week, 365 days-a-year would be beyond our capacity. In short, the laser drone project is about inventing a host of things, the main attraction of which is that they do not exist. In the trade, these are called “
unobtanium” and are sure-fire excuses for follow-on contracts.

Here is hoping that Donald Trump, a practical man, sees the foolishness of much of what we have been doing for the past 34 years; that he will reverse the ban on defending against China and Russia, and that he will use our money to build things that actually destroy missiles of all kinds no matter whence they come.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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2016 Election • America • Asia • China • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Economy • Europe • Foreign Policy • History • Republicans • taxes • Trade

When Did ‘Tariff’ Become a Bad Word?

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“Another Revelation of Strength,” political cartoon, 1898.

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President Trump last month empowered U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to investigate China’s theft of American intellectual property (IP), which costs America up to $500 billion annually. A new report from Axios, however, reveals that Trump’s aggressive action on IP theft may just be the beginning. Not content with cracking down on IP theft, President Trump wants tariffs, too.

In a high-level meeting, President Trump accused a number of his advisors as being “globalists” who are raising the issue of IP theft to redirect the president’s attentions. Trump reportedly vented:

For the last six months, this same group of geniuses comes in here all the time and I tell them, ‘Tariffs, I want tariffs.’ And what do they do? They bring me IP. I can’t put a tariff on IP . . . China is laughing at us.  Laughing.

. . . let me tell you why they didn’t bring me any tariffs. I know there are some people in the room right now that are upset. I know there are some globalists in the room right now. And they don’t want them . . . they don’t want the tariffs. But I’m telling you, I want tariffs.

At this point the colorless, odorless, and tasteless NeverTrump crowd feigns a collective jaw-drop—surely the president is joking. Tariffs? Did he not attend the Wharton School of Business? Is he not a multi-billionaire businessman? How dare he even mention tariffs! By their reaction, one might easily assume tariff was one of George Carlin’s seven dirty words.

But it was not always so. High tariffs were the norm in America from 1789 until the 1970s. In fact, the second piece of legislation passed by the United States Congress was the Tariff Act of 1789. The act’s purpose was twofold: to raise revenue for the nascent federal government and to spur the creation of U.S. industry, and thereby wean America from British imports. This second, but often ignored purpose, is obvious according to the writings of the Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton and George Washington. Washington himself remarked:

A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies . . .

Washington knew that political independence is often predicated upon economic independence. Tariffs were a means to an end: they allowed American manufacturers to profit from making guns, tools, and fabric—all things Britain could make more cheaply and efficiently. It is not an understatement to say that without tariffs, America would have remained dependant upon British imports, and the Industrial Revolution would not have occurred. Tariffs worked.

Like Father, Like Son: The Inherited Wisdom of Tariffs
Most Americans are unaware of the nation’s protectionist past, and even more are skeptical of protectionism’s benefits. Therefore, a brief history lesson is in order. All data is sourced from my book: Bobbins, Not Gold: How Countries Get Rich.

America’s Founders learned the value of tariffs from the British. Ever since the reign of King Edward III England protected its critical industries from foreign competition—doing so was a matter of survival in the medieval world—but it was not until 1721 that a coherent trade policy emerged under Prime Minister Robert Walpole. Walpole embraced the “mercantile trade paradigm” (distinct from the corporatism Adam Smith reviled) and therefore crafted his policies to grow Britain’s industrial capacity by exporting manufactured goods in exchange for raw or exotic materials.

To do this, Walpole lowered or dropped import duties on raw materials; abolished export duties on manufactured goods; boosted tariffs against manufactured goods; created bounties (export subsidies) for new industries; and increased quality control to ensure British exports were second-to-none. While this government regulation may seem overbearing, a policy must be measured according to its success, not its ideological purity.  

Did it work?

Resoundingly. Between 1721-1730 and 1761-1770, Britain’s average trade surplus with the American colonies grew from £67,000 to £739,000. Not only did British exports increase, their composition changed. Between 1700 and 1773, raw materials and agricultural products, as a percentage of overall British exports, declined from 13.2 percent to 8.8 percent, and the share of wool cloth declined from 47.5 percent to 26.7 percent. Conversely, manufactured goods rose from 8.4 percent to 27.4 percent of British exports. This category included things like glassware, metal products (tools, weapons, nautical instruments), paper, hats, and cotton cloth. Also, Britain cut its imports of manufactured goods by half during the period, (from 31.7 percent to 16.9 percent).

In short: Britain’s economy diversified and moved up the value chain. Britain grew rich, and the Industrial Revolution began largely because Walpole’s policies raised labor costs (creating an incentive for labor-saving machinery), and clustered an artificially high quantity of industry, and technical know-how in Britain.

Mercantilism was gospel in Britain until the middle of the 19th century, when things began to change. In the 1840s Parliament consumed itself debating the merits of a radical new ideology: international free trade. Politicians speculated and deliberated, insults were exchanged, but ultimately free trade became Britain’s credo—after all, it looked good on paper. The tariff wall that had protected British industry since the Middle Ages was quickly dismantled from highs of over 50 percent in the 1820s, to just 5 percent decades later. Britain became a free trader. For a time Britain managed to convince its less-industrial European neighbors to play along, and reaped the benefits accordingly.

But the Germans, French, and Italians were not blind. They watched mass-produced British goods flood their markets . . . and saw their economies slow. In fact, Europe’s weakest average economic and industrial growth of the century (1.7 percent and 1.8 percent respectively) coincided with the free trade experiment.  Something had to be done. So the Europeans did what they had always done, and reverted to mercantilist trade regimes during the 1870s and 1890s.

It worked: between 1891 and 1911 GNP growth in continental Europe averaged 2.6 percent, while industrial output grew at 3.8 percent—over twice as fast as during the liberal era (and faster than today, I might add).

But Britain held fast. It doubled down on free trade, keeping its markets open and its tariffs low. You can guess what happened next. Britain’s manufacturing supremacy eroded as their factories were forced to compete with an unholy alliance of European companies and governments. Asymmetrical competition caused exports to fall, and imports to rise: a trade deficit was born. Between 1873 and 1883, the value of British exports fell by 6 percent—the days of endless growth were over. This led to a full-blown “made in Germany” crisis—Britain even found itself importing steel from Spain, for the first time since the Middle Ages, when Spanish swords were in vogue.

In the late Victorian Age, Britain’s economic growth stagnated and was 55 percent slower than it was during the middle of the century. Slowing growth was caused by a sluggish manufacturing sector, which was forced to compete for market share with government-backed foreign rivals. Between 1870 and 1913 British manufacturing grew by only 2.1 percent on average, whereas German manufacturing grew by 4.7 percent on average. Adding to this problem was the fact that British investors chased higher returns abroad, rather than reinvesting their profits in Britain. Consider this: in 1815, the British invested only £10 million abroad, but by 1825 this had increased to £100 million, and by 1870 over £700 million left the country. By 1914, fully 35 percent of British wealth was held abroad. Northern Britain became a rust belt, and cities like Glasgow or Manchester became the Detroits of their age.

The Fate of ‘Free-Trade’ Nations
By the outbreak of World War I, Britain was merely a first among equals, as opposed the unrivaled superpower it had been a mere half-century earlier. This was Britain’s fate, and America’s will be no different. The same arrogance afflicts us, while global free trade eats away at our prosperity like an incurable infection.

The similarities as to why both countries adopted free trade fundamentalism are amusing to contemplate, however. Sure, some genuinely believed free trade was a panacea; but others were more Machiavellian. For example, Lord Goderich said of Britain’s free trade policy:

other nations knew . . . that what we meant by free trade, was nothing more nor less than, by means of the great advantages we enjoyed, to get the monopoly of all their markets for our manufactures, and to prevent them, one and all, from ever becoming manufacturing nations. 

Lord Goderich recognized that many British politicians thought they could weaponize free trade in order to lock their rivals into agrarian servitude. Perhaps it would have worked if the other nations played ball. Either way, Britain did not adopt free trade for purely economic reasons—and neither has America.

Propaganda Pure and Simple
America became a bastion of free trade to oppose the Communists—free trade was a propaganda tool, an ideological weapon to wield against the Soviet Union. Furthermore, it was a way to export wealth and industry to allies, to dissuade states from joining the Soviets. In short, it was a bribe. This is all it has ever been: even while Ronald Reagan spoke about the virtues of free trade, he desperately scrambled to protect American industries through non-monetary barriers, perhaps aware of what was to come.

“Tariff” only became a bad word when America’s academics, politicians, and people began to believe their own propaganda: we continued pursuing free trade long after the USSR fell, thinking it was an end unto itself. This has led America down the same path as Britain before it. China is our Germany—it has grown fat off American technology and investment. Let us hope things end differently this time around.

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America • Asia • China • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • Technology • Trade

Nukes for Japan and South Korea? Yes—Here’s Why

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Millions of Americans own a gun. About four in 10 U.S. households, in fact, have at least one firearm. People own guns for all sorts of reasons, but a major reason is the sense of safety and security a firearm can offer in what seems like an increasingly hostile world. Many Americans rely on law enforcement for security. But, as the saying goes, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

Let’s extend the analogy to geopolitics. Japan and South Korea find themselves under increasing threat from a nuclear-armed North Korea. While the United States will always respect its treaty commitments, those North Korean missiles will find their targets in Japan and South Korea much more readily than any U.S. territory, including Guam. So in the face of an increasingly hostile Pyongyang, it would make sense for Seoul and Tokyo to develop their own self-defense capabilities.

Right now, analysts estimate North Korea will have fully functional nuclear weapons capability within 18 months. In the meantime, North Korea continues to test fire missiles over the Sea of Japan. And, of course, it still maintains tens of thousands of pieces of conventional artillery pointed south of the 38th parallel. The only thing that will keep the North in check is force—or the credible threat thereof.

That suggests Japan and South Korea not only need anti-ballistic missile defense systems but, more importantly, a proper nuclear deterrent of their own.

I don’t make this case lightly. Nuclear weapons are the most destructive devices mankind has ever devised. The United States has long sought to prevent nuclear proliferation. But those days are coming to an end. It no longer makes sense for the United States to carry so much of the world’s defense burden. As with gun owners in America, responsible actors should be allowed to defend themselves with all available means against their irresponsible enemies.

President Trump has said on more than one occasion he would favor Japan and South Korea having a nuclear deterrent. The Trump Administration would do well to make it clear to our Japanese and South Korean allies that they need to take on a greater share of their defenses.

Greater Wealth, Greater Burden
Of course, this raises the question: do South Korea and Japan want their own nuclear weapons?

Postwar Japan has maintained a constitutional prohibition against developing nukes (and almost any offensive military capability), and the country has adopted pacifism as public policy. Memories of Japanese militarism remain fresh in the region—until recently, few of Japan’s neighbors would welcome news of that country’s rearmament with anything other than horror. Koreans in particular remember the ravages that Japan’s imperial army inflicted on them—and their women especially.

Meanwhile, South Korea has relied primarily on the United States for its defenses over the past six decades due largely to the exigencies of the Cold War. The South Korean government and military has always been hesitant to push their neighbors too far. Military analysts have long predicted that Seoul would be incinerated in the first 30 minutes of renewed hostilities.  

Times change, however—and so do circumstances.

Japan and South Korea are both global economic powers. Today, Japan boasts the third-largest economy in the world, while South Korea ranks 12th. Both have the wealth and the technological know-how to take on a greater share of their own defense, to say nothing of the ability to develop nuclear weapons in short order.

What’s more, South Korea has a modern, sophisticated conventional military. Although Seoul does pick up some of the expense of stationing U.S. troops there, the fact remains that most of the burden falls to the American taxpayer—to say nothing of the American servicemen and women whose lives would be sacrificed to defend the South against a North Korean attack. The least that South Korea could do is to take up most of the military burden by fully developing their own capabilities—even if it risks retaliation from the North.

Should We Fear Japan?
As for Japan, there has been in recent years a growing nationalist sentiment that questions the utility—not to mention the morality—of maintaining a tiny defense force under the U.S. defense umbrella as North Korea and China become more aggressive and expansionist.

Only nuclear deterrence (as well as a functional anti-ballistic missile defense system) can guarantee Japan’s safety. While Kim Jong-un is most certainly an irrational actor, he wouldn’t likely act as provocatively as he has if he understood that North Korea’s historical nemesis had the means to retaliate decisively. And it’s a rather open question as to whether a fully rearmed Japan would pose the same threat to the Western Pacific in the 21st century that Imperial Japan posed in the 1930s and ’40s.

Redefining the U.S. Role
Placing a nuclear deterrent in the hands of Japan and South Korea would not relieve the United States of all responsibilities in the Pacific. But it would change those responsibilities significantly—and to our long-term benefit.

America could assume a more diplomatic role, similar to China, stepping in as an “honest broker” to cool tensions among nations in the region.

The fact is, the Cold War is long over. So, too, is the prospect of American unipolar dominance of the sort that we enjoyed for a short period after the fall of the Soviet Union. While America remains a first among equals in terms of military and economic power globally, the world has changed. Other powers have risen. In the case of Japan and South Korea, the United States has two very powerful and capable of allies. Let them assume greater responsibility for their defense—and take greater control of their own destinies. It would be in America’s best interest.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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