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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

US Cold War China Policy Will Isolate the US, Not China

 


'The sad truth is that 30 years after the supposed end of the Cold War,' write Benjamin and Davies, ' the U.S. military-industrial complex has failed to reimagine itself in anything but Cold War terms, and its 'New' Cold War is just a revival of the old --CodePink

The U.S. must stop pursuing its counterproductive effort to undermine China, and instead work with all our neighbors on this small planet.


By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies 

Common Dreams

Aug 4, 2020 - Tensions between the United States and China are rising as the U.S. election nears, with tit-for-tat consulate closures, new U.S. sanctions and no less than three U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups prowling the seas around China. But it is the United States that has initiated each new escalation in U.S.-China relations. China’s responses have been careful and proportionate, with Chinese officials such as Foreign Minister Wang Yi publicly asking the U.S. to step back from its brinkmanship to find common ground for diplomacy. 

Most of the U.S. complaints about China are long-standing, from the treatment of the Uighur minority and disputes over islands and maritime borders in the South China Sea to accusations of unfair trade practices and support for protests in Hong Kong. But the answer to the “Why now?” question seems obvious: the approaching U.S. election. 

Danny Russel, who was Obama’s top East Asia expert in the National Security Council and then at the State Department, told the BBC that the new tensions with China are partly an effort to divert attention from Trump’s bungled response to the Covid-19 pandemic and his tanking poll numbers, and that this “has a wag the dog feel to it.” 

Meanwhile, Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden has been going toe-to-toe with Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a potentially dangerous “tough on China” contest, which could prove difficult for the winner to walk back after the election. 

Elections aside, there are two underlying forces at play in the current escalation of tensions, one economic and the other military. China’s economic miracle has lifted hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty, and, until recently, Western corporations were glad to make the most of its huge pool of cheap labor, weak workplace and environmental protections, and growing consumer market. Western leaders welcomed China into their club of wealthy, powerful countries with little fuss about human and civil rights or China's domestic politics. 

So what has changed? U.S.high-tech companies like Apple, which were once only too glad to outsource American jobs and train Chinese contractors and engineers to manufacture their products, are finally confronting the reality that they have not just outsourced jobs, but also skills and technology. Chinese companies and highly skilled workers are now leading some of the world’s latest technological advances.   

The global rollout of 5G cellular technology has become a flashpoint, not because the increase and higher frequency of EMF radiation it involves may be dangerous to human health, which is a real concern, but because Chinese firms like Huawei and ZTE have developed and patented much of the critical infrastructure involved, leaving Silicon Valley in the unfamiliar position of having to play catch-up. 

Also, if the U.S.’s 5G infrastructure is built by Huawei and ZTE instead of AT&T and Verizon, the U.S. government will no longer be able to require “back doors” that the NSA can use to spy on us all, so it is instead stoking fears that China could insert its own back doors in Chinese equipment to spy on us instead. Left out of the discussion is the real solution: repeal the Patriot Act and make sure that all the technology we use in our daily lives is secure from the prying eyes of both the U.S. and foreign governments.      

China is investing in infrastructure all over the world. As of March 2020, a staggering 138 countries have joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a massive plan to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime networks. China’s international influence will only be enhanced by its success, and the U.S. failure, in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.  

On the military front, the Obama and Trump administrations have both tried to “pivot to Asia” to confront China, even as the U.S. military remains bogged down in the Middle East.  With a war-weary public demanding an end to the endless wars that have served to justify record military spending for nearly 20 years, the U.S. military-industrial complex has to find more substantial enemies to justify its continued existence and budget-busting costs. Lockheed Martin is not ready to switch from building billion-dollar warplanes on cost-plus contracts to making wind turbines and solar panels.  

The only targets the U.S. can find to justify a $740-billion military budget and 800 overseas military bases are its familiar old Cold War enemies: Russia and China. They both expanded their modest military budgets after 2011, when the U.S. and its allies hi-jacked the Arab Spring to launch covert and proxy wars in Libya, where China had substantial oil interests, and Syria, a long-term Russian ally. But their increases in military spending were only relative. In 2019, China’s military budget was only $261 billion compared to the U.S.’s $732 billion, according to SIPRI. The U.S. still spends more on its military than the ten next largest military powers combined, including Russia and China.   

Russian and Chinese military forces are almost entirely defensive, with an emphasis on advanced and effective anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems. Neither Russia nor China has invested in carrier strike groups to sail the seven seas or U.S.-style expeditionary forces to attack or invade countries on the other side of the planet. But they do have the forces and weapons they need to defend themselves and their people from any U.S. attack and both are nuclear powers, making a major war against either of them a more serious prospect than the U.S. military has faced anywhere since the Second World War.

 

China and Russia are both deadly serious about defending themselves, but we should not misinterpret that as enthusiasm for a new arms race or a sign of aggressive intentions on their part. It is U.S. imperialism and militarism that are driving the escalating tensions. The sad truth is that 30 years after the supposed end of the Cold War, the U.S. military-industrial complex has failed to reimagine itself in anything but Cold War terms, and its “New" Cold War is just a revival of the old Cold War that it spent the last three decades telling us it already won. 

'China Is Not an Enemy'

 The U.S. and China do not have to be enemies. Just a year ago, a hundred U.S. business, political and military leaders signed a public letter to President Trump in the Washington Post entitled “China Is Not an Enemy.” They wrote that China is not “an economic enemy or an existential national security threat,” and U.S opposition “will not prevent the continued expansion of the Chinese economy, a greater global market share for Chinese companies and an increase in China’s role in world affairs.”

 They concluded that, “U.S. efforts to treat China as an enemy and decouple it from the global economy will damage the United States’ international role and reputation and undermine the economic interests of all nations,” and that the U.S. “could end up isolating itself rather than Beijing.”

 That is precisely what is happening. Governments all over the world are collaborating with China to stop the spread of coronavirus and share the solutions with all who need them. The U.S. must stop pursuing its counterproductive effort to undermine China, and instead work with all our neighbors on this small planet. Only by cooperating with other nations and international organizations can we stop the pandemic—and address the coronavirus-sparked economic meltdown gripping the world economy and the many challenges we must all face together if we are to survive and thrive in the 21st century. 

[Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of the new book, Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Her previous books include: Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection; Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control; Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart, and (with Jodie Evans) Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide). Follow her on Twitter: @medeabenjamin]

 [Nicolas J.S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He also wrote the chapters on "Obama at War" in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.]

Thursday, May 14, 2020

In a Pandemic, Military Spending is an Extravagant Waste

















In the very near future, countries are going to have to choose whether they make guns or vaccines.


By Conn Hallinan
Foreign Policy in Focus

“There have been as many plagues as wars in history, yet plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”— Albert Camus, “The Plague”

May 13, 2020 - Camus’ novel of a lethal contagion in the North African city of Oran is filled with characters all too recognizable today: indifferent or incompetent officials, short-sighted and selfish citizens, and lots of great courage. What not even Camus could imagine, however, is a society in the midst of a deadly epidemic pouring vast amounts of wealth into instruments of death.

Welcome to the world of the hypersonic weapons, devices that are not only superfluous, but which will almost certainly not work. They will, however, cost enormous amounts of money. At a time when countries across the globe are facing economic chaos, financial deficits, and unemployment at Great Depression levels, arms manufacturers are set to cash in big.

A Hypersonic Arms Race

Hypersonic weapons are missiles that go five times faster than sound — 3,800 mph — although some reportedly can reach speeds of Mach 20, 15,000 mph. They come in two basic varieties. One is powered by a high-speed scramjet. The other, launched from a plane or missile, glides to its target. The idea behind the weapons is that their speed and maneuverability will make them virtually invulnerable to anti-missile systems.

Currently there is a hypersonic arms race going on among China, Russia, and the U.S., and, according to the Pentagon, the Americans are desperately trying to catch up with its two adversaries.

Truth is the first casualty in an arms race.

In the 1950s, it was the “bomber gap” between the Americans and the Soviets. In the 1960s, it was the “missile gap” between the two powers. Neither gap existed, but vast amounts of national treasure were nonetheless poured into long-range aircraft and thousands of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The enormous expenditures on those weapons, in turn, heightened tensions between the major powers and on at least three occasions came very close to touching off a nuclear war.

In the current hypersonic arms race, “hype” is the operational word. “The development of hypersonic weapons in the United States,” says physicist James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “has been largely motivated by technology, not by strategy. In other words, technologists have decided to try and develop hypersonic weapons because it seems like they should be useful for something, not because there is a clearly defined mission need for them to fulfill.”

They have certainly been “useful” to Lockheed Martin, the largest arms manufacturer in the world. The company has already received $3.5 billion to develop the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (Arrow) glide missile, and the scramjet-driven Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (Hacksaw) missile.

The Russians also have several hypersonic missiles, including the Avangard glide vehicle, a missile said to be capable of Mach 20. China is developing several hypersonic missiles, including the DF-ZF, supposedly capable of taking out aircraft carriers.

“No Advantage Whatsoever”

In theory hypersonic missiles are unstoppable. In real life, not so much.

The first problem is basic physics: speed in the atmosphere produces heat. High speed generates lots of it. ICBMs avoid this problem with a blunt nose cone that deflects the enormous heat of re-entering the atmosphere as the missile approaches its target. But it only has to endure heat for a short time because much of its flight is in frictionless low earth orbit.

Hypersonic missiles, however, stay in the atmosphere their entire flight. That is the whole idea. An ICBM follows a predictable ballistic curve, much like an inverted U and, in theory, can be intercepted. A missile traveling as fast as an ICBM but at low altitude, however, is much more difficult to spot or engage.

But that’s when physics shows up and does a Las Vegas: what happens on the drawing board stays on the drawing board.


Without a heat deflecting nose cone, high-speed missiles are built like big needles, since they need to decrease the area exposed to the atmosphere. Even so, they are going to run very hot. And if they try to maneuver, that heat will increase. Since they can’t carry a large payload, they will have to be very accurate — but as a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists points out, that is “problematic.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

US Sends Navy Ships to Caribbean in ‘Anti-Drug’ Mission Targeting Venezuela














A map produced by the US Southern Command shows the main drug-smuggling routes in Latin America connecting Colombia and Ecuador with Guatemala and Mexico via the Pacific Ocean.


Venezuela denounced an attack on one of its naval vessels in recent days.


By Ricardo Vaz and Lucas Koerner
Venezuelanalysis.com

Mérida, April 2, 2020 - The Trump administration is dispatching US Navy warships to the Caribbean Sea in an effort to turn up the pressure on Venezuela.

The initiative was announced by President Donald Trump and other high ranking officials in a press conference Wednesday.

The move is allegedly part of a wider “anti-narcotics” operation in the region, which in addition to Navy destroyers will reportedly involve AWAC surveillance aircraft and on-ground special forces units. The Associated Press reported that the operation is one of the largest in the region since the 1989 invasion of Panama.

“We must not let malign actors exploit the [coronavirus] situation for their own gain,” Trump said.

The military deployment came on the heels of the Department of Justice (DoJ) levying “narco-terrorism” charges against top-ranking Venezuelan officials, as well as a “democratic transition” plan unveiled by the State Department.

On March 26, the DoJ accused President Nicolas Maduro, National Constituent Assembly Diosdado Cabello and several other officials of conspiring with FARC rebels to “flood” the US with cocaine.

Critics have pointed to the dearth of concrete evidence implicating top Venezuelan leaders and to the fact that data from US agencies shows that only a small fraction of drug routes pass through Venezuela, with most cocaine entering US territory via Central America and Mexico.

On Tuesday, the State Department unveiled a “framework for a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela,” calling for Maduro’s resignation and the establishment of a transition government headed by opposition and Chavista officials to oversee new elections.

The Trump administration pledged to lift sanctions against Venezuelan individuals and key economic sectors, but only after Maduro left office and all security agreements with Russia and Cuba were terminated.

The US has vowed to ramp up unilateral sanctions until the Maduro administration accepts the deal.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Trump’s Afghanistan Deal Prioritizes Bragging Rights Over Lasting Peace
















U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar sign a peace agreement during a ceremony in Doha, Qatar, on February 29, 2020. KARIM JAAFAR / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

By Marjorie Cohn
Truthout

March 4, 2020 - It’s true that the Trump administration signed a “peace deal” with the Taliban — something that eluded both George W. Bush and Barack Obama — but a closer look at the agreement reveals it to be riddled with conditions that are fraught with obstacles.

The terms of the deal suggest that Trump is more interested in boasting that he’s fulfilling his campaign promise to bring the troops home than he is committed to achieving real peace in Afghanistan. This fact has also been noted by Trump’s former national security aides, some of whom have said that the president “is far less interested in an actual Afghan peace” than in claiming he is making good on his vow to withdraw the U.S. troops.

The agreement announced on February 29 should not rightly be called a “peace deal,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) said in a statement. Although the agreement “is a step forward,” Lee noted, “It leaves thousands of troops in Afghanistan and lacks the critical investments in peacebuilding, human-centered development, or governance reform needed to rebuild Afghan society.”

Afghan women activists Mary Akrami, Sahar Halaimzai and Rahela Sidiqi criticized the agreement and the process leading to it in USA Today: “Afghan women and representatives from civil society and other minority groups should have been at the table for the U.S.-Taliban talks that led to this agreement, but we were not.”

Trump’s “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” sets forth a plan for withdrawing all foreign forces from Afghanistan, a mutual release of prisoners, Taliban prevention of attacks against U.S. and allied forces from Afghan soil, and negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Although it claims to be “a comprehensive peace agreement,” as Lee points out, “this so-called ‘peace deal’ is anything but.”

Withdrawal Timeline for All Foreign Forces

The agreement establishes a timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan. It says the “United States is committed to withdraw from Afghanistan all military forces of the United States, its allies and Coalition partners, including all non-diplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors, trainers, advisors, and supporting service personnel” no later than 14 months after the agreement is announced.