Author Topic: Grand Strategy for a Divided America  (Read 273584 times)

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Offline pbi

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #550 on: June 01, 2015, 11:08:58 »
...Now, I need to reiterate my well established (I hope) positions:...   

     2. There is no such thing as "American exceptionalism," so even if America decided to "go for broke" and try to be indispensable there is a very, very good chance that it would fail....

This idea would be a very hard sell with many of the Americans I've met. I think that this is almost an article of their national faith, and certainly a very big part of how they see the world. You may make the logical case that the US can't "exempt" itself from the realities and entanglements of the world, but I doubt very much that many Americans would agree.  There is no saying that the political culture of a nation has to be driven by logic, or even facts. Instead, I think, it tends to reflect how people at home perceive things.

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My bet is on 3, 1 and 2, in that order, for the near to mid term, and then 1, for a while, followed by 2, in the mid to long term.

You are probably right, but I don't see much useful progress on anything until American political culture can reach some firmer, more moderate ground that produces useful discourse and compromise (both hallmarks of American political history, as I understand it), instead of dogmatic shrieking and "culture wars". As Abraham Lincoln observed, "a house divided against itself cannot stand".

I do agree, ultimately, with this view of America, whether I like it or not:

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but the combination of a half century of weak, foolish leadership and flawed (statist) socio-cultural structures has, I fear, fatally weakened our best friend, good neighbour and protector.

I am not a huge fan of everything the US has ever said or done, but they are all we have, and in the long run we have not done badly by them.  I would much, much rather have America on its worst day, than China or Russia or some other bunch of totalitarian nasties on their best day.



The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools. ...

The true measure of a man is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out...

Offline pbi

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #551 on: June 01, 2015, 11:23:53 »
...I guess I could understand their rationale so I came to accept that being civil demanded a degree of hypocrisy.  But for me, the importance of civility always outweighed that concern.

I prefer the "hypocrisy" of Harper shaking Putin's hand while politely telling him what he thinks of him, as compared to a mob yelling at a recently elected British MP "Tory Scum!"

And I do too. I think that more gets done that way. I don't know about you, but I don't do my best work with people screaming insults at me.

Unless, of course, I'm on the parade square. (Which is, fortunately, a part of my life behind me now) :)
The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools. ...

The true measure of a man is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out...

Offline Brad Sallows

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #552 on: June 01, 2015, 21:20:02 »
Civility implies a degree of hypocrisy.  We wouldn't need to emphasize its practice if it was simply a matter of course, just as freedom of speech / expression isn't a principle intended to protect that with which nearly everyone already agrees.
That which does not kill me has made a grave tactical error.

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Offline Thucydides

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #553 on: June 08, 2015, 14:01:00 »
This could have been posted in many palces (the Russia, China and ISIS threads are pretty obvious), but the real question shoudl be how the American led West is going to respond?

http://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/2015/06/05/the-war-of-the-green-men/?print=1

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The War of the Green Men
Posted By Richard Fernandez On June 5, 2015 @ 9:33 pm In cyberwarefare,Russia,War | 120 Comments
What if the world were at war and didn’t know it?
 
Such an idea seems preposterous.  Shouldn’t we know if we were in one? But the last major war in human memory was World War 2, which, as this visualization shows [1],  was so obviously devastating it actually constituted one of the “peak” catastrophes of  the human species. It’s an outlier. To use The Big One as the semantic threshold would be to filter out the majority of conflict in history.
 
Since the ability to attack without actually triggering a response confers a distinct advantage, Russia has actually designed a form of warfare to evade the threshold of cultural psychology and avoid the detection of legalistic minds like President Obama’s.  The approach is called hybrid warfare [2]. ”Hybrid warfare is a military strategy that blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare. … By combining kinetic operations with subversive efforts, the aggressor intends to avoid attribution or retribution.”
 
The Kremlin has already employed this mode of conflict in the Ukraine. Recently, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite [3] warned the West to be on the lookout for “little green men”.  He needs to say this or Washington might not notice.
 

Lithuania held a simulation in May of separatist groups attacking installations near Russia’s enclave of Kaliningrad, a base of Moscow’s Baltic fleet which is connected to the rest of Russia by a train line through Lithuania.
 
The exercise was modeled on last year’s capture of Crimea by Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms, who came to be known as the “little green men” when Moscow denied their identity until the takeover was complete.
 
“We need to learn lessons which we learned in Crimea, which we partly see in the east of Ukraine. Any possible attack, in any form, needs to be taken seriously,” Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told Reuters in May. “What makes sense for us is to be prepared for anything.”
 
Once the World War 2 high pass filter is removed, a plethora of events will readily jump out at the observer. Chinese government hackers [4], for example, have stolen the personal details of 4 million current and former federal employees, possibly in order to identify individuals who can be corrupted, blackmailed or pressured into working for Beijing.  The problem of classifying this event is vexing the administration right now.  Chances are that since they can’t categorize the hack, they’ll throw the fact away.
 

It was the second major intrusion of the same agency by China in less than a year and the second significant foreign breach into U.S. government networks in recent months.Last year, Russia compromised White House and State Department e-mail systems in a campaign of cyber­espionage.
 
CNN [5] wrote “the massive hack that may have stolen the personal information of four million federal employees appears designed to build a vast database in what could be preparation for future attacks by China against the U.S., cybersecurity experts advising the government told CNN Friday afternoon.”  Attack is not a word in the administration’s dictionary unless it comes on December 7, 1941.  And even then, maybe not.  China [6] casually announced “that Beijing could set up an air defense zone above disputed areas of the South China Sea if it thought it was facing a large enough threat, according to Chinese news media.”
 
In November 2013, to the dismay of Japan and the United States, China declared an air defense identification zone over disputed waters in the East China Sea. Chinese military aircraft began requiring all other aircraft flying through the zone to identify themselves, and commercial airliners complied, though the United States sent B-52 bombers through the zone without advance warning to challenge Beijing.
 
In late May, Chinese officials told the United States to stop sending surveillance flights near land formations that China claims as its territory. American officials say the flights have been over international waters.
 
What they’ll do beyond observing the fact is problematic. Iran, with whom the administration is in negotiations, undertook to “freeze” its nuclear stockpile and then promptly increased it by 20% [7]. “With only one month left before a deadline to complete a nuclear deal with Iran, international inspectors have reported that Tehran’s stockpile of nuclear fuel increased about 20 percent over the last 18 months of negotiations, partially undercutting the Obama administration’s contention that the Iranian program had been ‘frozen’ during that period.”
 
They will probably continue the negotiations notwithstanding because “a bad agreement is better than no agreement.” The Associated Press [8] describes the president’s touching faith in pieces of paper:
 

JERUSALEM — U.S President Barack Obama reached out to a skeptical Israeli public in an interview aired Monday saying that only an agreement, not military action, can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. …
 
“A military solution will not fix it. Even if the United States participates, it would temporarily slow down an Iranian nuclear program but it will not eliminate it,” he said in excerpts from his interview with Israeli Channel 2 TV’s investigative program “Uvda.”
 
The architects of hybrid warfare knew paper would be their friend.  They understood that the liberal West was controlled by lawyers operating under the concept of a “rules-based international order” [9]. This legalistic system could only “see” certain facts and was blind to the others. In May 2013, President Obama [10]  demonstrated this selective vision by claiming victory in the “war on terror” (which he soon declared at an end) based on the belief he had degraded “core al-Qaeda”.
 
He said, “their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us.”  Asked about other terror groups, he took shelter in definitions.  But as Marc Thiessen at the Washington Post [10] wrote, Obama’s claim was a distinction without a difference. And indeed, within a few months, the “less capable” al-Qaeda affiliates — the “jayvee team” as Obama called them — had eclipsed the original and taken over large swaths of Syria and Iraq.
 
An unbroken sequence of evacuations, alliance collapses and the capture of equipment including the abandonment of whole countries like Yemen were described as mere “setbacks” in an overall record of stunning success.  It was as if the administration could not see certain things at all.  The Washington Post’s Liz Sly [11] wrote that “while nobody was looking, the Islamic State launched a new, deadly offensive” against the remaining US backed rebels in Syria. Many US backed rebels are throwing in the towel [12] in dismay.
 
But it wasn’t that “nobody was looking.” The raw intelligence data [13] was probably there and the military could “see” the raw facts, but their superiors couldn’t recognize its significance.  They stuck in the high pass filter and voila, no signal.
 

Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command said … F-22 flew surveillance missions tracking fighters on the ground, used its advanced sensors to redirect other aircraft and call for additional strikes, passed along data on its missions and escorted bombers to their targets.  …
 
Since August, coalition forces have conducted about 4, 200 strikes and dropped 14,000 weapons, Carlisle said. About 13,000 enemy fighters have been killed, and about 25 percent of territory has been retaken. Carlisle’s optimistic statements come, however, as Islamic State fighters have been able to retake other ground, like the Iraqi city of Ramadi, and is still able to heavily recruit to their ranks, both locally and internationally.
 
The narrowness of the body-count like metrics speaks to the insularity of the administration’s thinking. They can only detect objects within a limited range of frequencies. Everything else is discarded. Foreign Policy [14] noted this on display at a recent summit of Gulf allies.  The adminstration vow that “the security and sovereignty of the GCC states constitutes a red line for the United States” was almost completely obviated by what he said next. FP wrote:
 
And short of an outright attack? Well, that’s where things got a bit more interesting. Truth be told, the odds of Iran launching a conventional assault across the Gulf are low, all things considered. Why risk triggering a direct confrontation with a vastly more powerful U.S. military, after all? The far more likely scenario: covert penetration and interference, subversion, sabotage, terrorist attacks, and local proxies instigating destabilizing acts of civil unrest and low-level violence. Those are Iran’s preferred tools. Where possible, its modus operandi has generally been to keep its hand hidden, its role plausibly deniable.
 
So what will the U.S. do when the Shiite-majority cities and towns of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province — i.e., where all the oil is — erupt in wide-scale protests against the royal family, with Iranian media, politicians, and clerics agitating them on? While the issue was certainly not addressed directly at the summit, in his introductory presentation Obama made an unsolicited point that caught his guests by surprise and left them somewhat bemused. He told them fairly bluntly that the United States would find it very hard to intervene on behalf of their regimes should they one day wake up and find themselves in a showdown with large masses of their own people. The message: Absent a smoking gun of Iranian interference, the Gulf monarchies will be on their own in the face of any domestic uprising that threatens their rule.
 
The administration’s visual limits are painfully obvious: it can only “see” conventional war. When al-Arabiya asked President Obama [15] why he has been so passive in preventing the Syrian civil war, Obama answered like a lawyer. To act would have been in violation of “international law”.
 

Q So forgive me, Mr. President, when people rise and they demand their rights, they look up to the United States.
 
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
 
Q They don’t look to any other country. And especially after President Assad used chemical weapons, people felt they’ve been let down. The civil war did not start from day one. They felt that you could have done something in the beginning and you didn’t.
 
THE PRESIDENT: But if you look at the history of the process, essentially what they’re arguing is that we should have invaded Syria and overthrown the Syrian regime — which, by the way, would be a violation of international law, and undoubtedly we would then be criticized for that, as well.
 
None of this has escaped Russian, Chinese or radical Islamic notice.  They have got the president’s obvious limits down pat. Obama’s approach to aggression is to give proxies a bunch of weapons and training at arms length, then “run out the clock” [16]. The administration’s preferences were exemplified by Bill Gertz’s recent story on the secret Presidential Study Directive-11 [17], which apparently believes Islamic extremism can be headed off by throwing US support behind the Muslim Brotherhood.
 

President Obama and his administration continue to support the global Islamist militant group known the Muslim Brotherhood. A White House strategy document regards the group as a moderate alternative to more violent Islamist groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
 
The policy of backing the Muslim Brotherhood is outlined in a secret directive called Presidential Study Directive-11, or PSD-11. The directive was produced in 2011 and outlines administration support for political reform in the Middle East and North Africa, according to officials familiar with the classified study.
 
Efforts to force the administration to release the directive or portions of it under the Freedom of Information Act have been unsuccessful.
 
That’s why ISIS is now exterminating Obama’s Syrian rebels.  Once they chop off his timid little tentacles, they are home free. The administration’s inability to perceive hybrid warfare coupled with its penchant for secrecy has created an extraordinarily impotent foreign policy. The world stands, according to security pundit Bruce Schneier [18], on the brink of a global cyber-war, of which China’s attacks are but the opening salvos. But so what?
 
In the meantime, Putin’s “little green men” are poised to go on the offensive for a second straight year. Michael Weiss [19] asks, “can anyone stop Putin’s new Blitz? A shaky cease-fire in Ukraine was shattered Wednesday morning with a new offensive by Russian-backed troops. How will the White House respond?”
 
How will they respond? Simple. By doing nothing. By giving a speech. By increasing domestic surveillance. By denying there’s anything to respond to, that’s what. Beware the combo of little green men from the Kremlin and the small-minded men from Chicago.  It’s the perfect storm.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #554 on: July 12, 2015, 21:59:57 »
More on the idea that current political structures and institutions are increasingly irrelevant in today's social, economic and demographic climates. Current political parties are "doubling down" with current plans and programs because they truly do nnot understand the new environment and why their programs are not working (WRM has done a similar job talking about the death of the "Blue model" in "The American Interest). The problem is that the change isn't going to be a graceful drawdown, but more like an implosion (Imagine Detroit happening across the 20 "Blue" States as their unsustainable pension liabilities come due), and the people who benefit from the current system are determined to fight to the last taxpayer to keep it running:

http://pointsandfigures.com/2015/07/11/want-to-know-how-to-stop-a-centralized-bureaucracy-math/

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Want to Know How to Stop a Centralized Bureaucracy? Math.
Posted by Jeff Carter on July 11th, 2015

My friend Mark Glennon runs Wirepoints. He was on a radio show recently talking about public pensions.

Public pensions have bankrupted the state of Illinois, counties, and virtually all municipalities in Illinois. Bill Gurtin of Gurtin Fixed Income has said he would decline buying the public debt of two places: Puerto Rico and anywhere in Illinois.

Often, we think of the monolithic corporation as being a danger to freedom in America. It’s a pretty easy seed to plant with people that have to deal with companies like Comcast and ATT everyday. But, behind that monolithic corporate giant is an out of control larger monolith. The government. The government regulates corporations, but who regulates the government?

It’s easy to say, “the voters”. But, in states like Illinois every district over every geographic square inch has been gerrymandered to death. Kingmakers have cut up voters to make sure certain things happen. Tammy Duckworth has decided to run for Senate in Illinois. Democrats aren’t worried about her House seat-the election won’t be competitive. A Democrat is virtually guaranteed to replace her.   Last week, there was a primary to replace Aaron Schock in Peoria.  Republicans aren’t too concerned since the district has been drawn to guarantee Republican domination.  In certain parts of the state, there are severe social consequences to going against the local Machine. In the city of Chicago, it’s tougher to be an out of the closet Republican than it is to be gay!

At least corporations have competition that keeps them honest.  Even Comcast has a couple of competitors in the regulated oligarchy they have helped their government pals set up.  Innovation is creating new competitors that weren’t envisioned when they set up their oligarchy.  The real danger to the free, open, capitalistic society the Founding Fathers set up isn’t the mega corporation.  It’s the mega government that enables the mega corporation.

The only thing that will upend the carefully crafted apple cart the political bosses have set up is math.  The math that Mark talks about in the Soundcloud clip I posted is rapidly becoming a reality in states like Illinois.  The answer from Democratic politicians has been to look for ways to increase taxes and fees to keep the shell game going.  None of them have cut the size and scope of government.  None of them have deregulated anything to allow more choice and freedom for people.  Interestingly, the United States federal budget allocates 62% of all spending to entitlements, and the number will rise dramatically with Obamacare.  It’s totally unsustainable but the crony capitalists in Washington don’t care about it.  They’ll be fine.

Or society is transitioning from the old centralized industrial model to a network model of infrastructure.  It’s time to rethink the way we govern.  America 3.0.  It’s time to rethink entitlement spending and create the climate where private networked models can efficiently produce goods and services for people instead of government.  Network models push choice to consumers and make them free.  They set up, disband, flow and change to suit the needs of the people in the network.   Networks work better for individuals and end users most of the time.  What’s a bigger threat to a company like Uber?  Competition from similar companies or government?

Companies like Streamlink Software can provide transparency and accountability to governments.  They can also help governments lower costs dramatically.  Did you know it costs the US federal government $200 billion to manage $500 billion in grant money?  What a money suck.

When the math tells governments their time is up, they are forced to make some really tough decisions.  Society can break down.  Look at Detroit.  Look at Venezuela.  Look at Argentina.  Look at Greece.  At least if you live in a state like Illinois, or a city like Chicago, you can move away and avoid the math.  But what happens when it’s the United States?
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #555 on: July 13, 2015, 15:19:37 »
Looking at the "Blue" side of the divide. The resistance to change even under the enormous debt pressure sounds familier, but as Instapundit often says "Things that can't go on, won't":

http://city-journal.org/2015/eon0712ar.html

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Chicago’s Financial Fire
The city faces trouble from every direction.
12 July 2015

After years of warnings, financial reality is hitting home in Chicago, clouding Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s hope for a transformational legacy. In March, Moody’s downgraded the city’s credit rating to junk, but Chicago’s financial hole long predates its ratings slide. The trouble began emerging at least as far back as 2003, albeit under the radar. Then, as the Great Recession pummeled municipal budgets around the country, former Mayor Richard M. Daley engaged in dubious deals, such as the city’s parking-meter lease. In 2010, as Daley’s tenure neared its close, Crain’s Chicago Business published an exposé on the troubling levels of debt that the mayor’s administration had accumulated. In 2013, after Daley had left office, the Chicago Tribune ran a series further detailing the city’s questionable debt practices, such as “scoop and toss”—that is, rolling over debt at higher cost as it came due, rather than paying it off. Chicago’s pension woes, along with Illinois’, started attracting media coverage—as did financial can-kicking by agencies like the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), which drained its reserves in 2012 and created a 2015 budget showing 14 months of revenue (“loopy,” said the Tribune). So for several years now, the media have been telling Chicagoans that there’s a financial crisis. But it hasn’t really felt like one, at least not in the booming Loop and on the North Side.

The Moody’s downgrade triggered termination clauses in swaps contracts that the city and CPS had been using as part of their financial juggling act, creating a liquidity crisis. To deal with the downgrade fallout, the city plans to issue $1.1 billion in long-term bonds. While some sort of refinancing may be required, the proposed debt issue contains maneuvers similar to those that helped get Chicago into trouble in the first place—including more scoop and toss deferrals, $75 million for police back pay, $62 million to pay a judgment related to the city’s lakefront parking-garage lease, and $35 million to pay debt on the acquisition of the former Michael Reese Hospital site (an architecturally significant complex Daley acquired and razed for an ill-fated Olympic bid). The debt-issue proposal also includes $170 million in so-called “capitalized interest” for the first two years. That is, Chicago is actually borrowing the money to pay the first two years of interest payments on these bonds. In true Chicago style, the proposal passed the city council on a 45-3 vote. Hey, at least the city is getting out of the swaps business.

Even with no further gimmicks, Emanuel will be six years into his mayoralty before the city can stop borrowing just to pay the interest on its debt. And without accounting for pensions, it will take the full eight years of both his terms to get the city to a balanced budget, where it can pay for the regular debt it has already accumulated.

Then there’s the crisis engulfing the city’s schools, which are facing 1,000 layoffs and numerous other cuts to avoid running out of cash. Forced by a state mandate to start paying its pensions, CPS coughed up $634 million as required last week. A recent Ernst & Young report said that even if CPS got another five-year pension-contribution holiday, it would still rack up an additional $2.4 billion in accumulated deficits by 2020. Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union, hostile to any reform that would affect teacher salaries and benefits, says that the district is “broke on purpose.” And CPS has no permanent CEO in place after Barbara Byrd-Bennett resigned last month amid a federal investigation into no-bid contracts.

Emanuel wants Springfield to pay for Chicago’s teacher pensions going forward, as it does for every other school district. He has a legitimate gripe here, but the state is in a deep financial hole of its own, with its teacher-pension fund in even worse shape than the city’s—and a government shutdown looming over the failure to pass a budget.

It’s not just the teachers’ pensions that are in trouble in Chicago; pensions for all municipal workers are woefully underfunded. (Separately, Cook County plans to raise its sales tax by one percentage point to start dealing with its own yawning pension gap.) Emanuel is willing to raise taxes by instituting a $175 million annual pension levy for the schools, but even his best-case scenario for pensions leaves a structural deficit in the CPS operating budget. And an Illinois Supreme Court ruling puts the previously negotiated city reforms in jeopardy. The court struck down state-level pension reform, saying that even future pension accruals for public employees can’t be reduced—a ruling that triggered the Moody’s downgrade. Emanuel denounced the Moody’s decision while strongly defending the legality of his reform. He makes good arguments, but he’s up against an extremely pro-union court. Perhaps recognizing this, he isn’t even trying to reform the police and fire pension funds. Instead, he proposes simply to defer and extend payments. If adopted, it would mean that the city wouldn’t be on track to funding its pensions until 2021—a decade after Emanuel was first elected. Even so, Crain’s projects that this would raise the city’s slice of property taxes next year by 31 percent—and by more than 50 percent if the deferrals aren’t approved.

Add it up and Chicago residents face another five to six years of pain just to get into a position where they might begin climbing out of the hole. This surely isn’t where Rahm Emanuel envisioned himself back in 2011. One wonders whether he fully understood the true financial condition of Chicago when he decided to pursue the mayor’s office—or grasped the lack of power even the most autocratic mayors have compared with the president or a governor.

Even if all of Emanuel’s reforms go through, the best that he could hope for is that after nearly a decade in office, he will have put out Chicago’s financial fire. There is one thing he can do, however, truly to change the trajectory: partner with Illinois governor Bruce Rauner to get legislation passed requiring that all future local-government employees get 401k-style defined-contribution pensions. This would make it much harder for future administrations to create another pension disaster.

Of course, getting such a law passed wouldn’t be easy, which is precisely why a tough guy like Emanuel should take a shot at it. If he succeeded, he could yet leave a legacy that future generations of Chicagoans would look back on with gratitude.
 
Aaron M. Renn is a City Journal contributing editor and a Manhattan Institute senior fellow.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #556 on: August 04, 2015, 13:49:35 »
America's "Greece". Many other "Blue" jurisdictions are facing similar pressure, or indeed have already gone under into bankruptcy (Detroit is perhaps the largest city, but multiple cities in California have gone this route in the past) and the looming unfunded liability crisis with government pensions in most of the "Blue" states is also on the near horizon (Unfunded public pension liabilities are estimated to be between 2 and 4 trillion dollars at the Municipal and State level).

Just like in Greece and th EUZone, Americans are going to have to make some pretty hard choices in the future as unsustainable financial liabilities come home to roost. Massive bond "haircuts", restructuring of government contracts and rethinking the scale and scope of the role of government will all have to be on the menu soon; at some point you can no longer kick the can down the road:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/08/03/puerto-rico-has-defaulted/

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Puerto Rico Has Defaulted

It’s all over the wires: Puerto Rico has defaulted on its $58 million payment to creditors of its Public Finance Corporation, which was due by the end of day. San Juan’s treasury only managed to scrape together some $628,000 towards the total. The government had tried to argue that the PFC bonds were of a different category—and had a different legal status—than general obligation debt. Credit rating agencies rejected the argument. “Moody’s views this event as a default”, Moody’s analyst Emily Raimes said in a statement, according to Reuters. “This is a first in what we believe will be broad defaults on commonwealth debt.”

What now? A whole lot of mess, more than likely. WRM wrote at length on Friday about what needs to happen next, in case you missed it. The kicker from his piece:

The United States faces some serious issues as the 2016 election cycle begins; the blue model meltdown is bigger and in its way more toxic than anything that happened at Chernobyl. Reporters and voters should be asking candidates what they plan to do about it.

The Republican debates start this week. We hope the fourth estate will be rising to the occasion.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline tomahawk6

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #557 on: August 06, 2015, 12:44:45 »
Puerto Rico's democrats have brought this on themselves.Now the US tax payer will have to step in.

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #558 on: August 08, 2015, 07:45:34 »
This article, which is reproduced under thew Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from Foreign Affairs, is a few days old but, since Sen Rubio is a viable candidate for president of the USA I think it deserves a look:

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2015-08-04/restoring-america-s-strength
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Restoring America’s Strength
My Vision for U.S. Foreign Policy

By Marco Rubio

August 4, 2015

America’s status as the greatest and most influential nation on earth comes with certain inescapable realities. Among these are an abundance of enemies wishing to undermine us, numerous allies dependent on our strength and constancy, and the burden of knowing that every choice we make in exercising our power—even when we choose not to exercise it at all—has tremendous human and geopolitical consequences.

This has been true for at least 70 years, but never more so than today. As the world has grown more interconnected, American leadership has grown more critical to maintaining global order and defending our people’s interests, and as our economy has turned from national to international, domestic policy and foreign policy have become inseparable.

President Barack Obama has failed to recognize this. He entered office believing the United States was too engaged in too many places and that globalization had diminished the need for American power. He set to work peeling back the protective cover of American influence, stranding our allies, and deferring to the whims of nefarious regional powers. He has vacillated between leading recklessly and not leading at all, which has left the world more dangerous and America’s interests less secure.
It will take years for our next president to confront the residual effects of President Obama’s foreign and defense policies. Countering the spread of the self-declared Islamic State, for example, will require a broadened coalition of regional partners, increased U.S. involvement in the fight, and steady action to prevent the group’s expansion to other failed and failing states. Halting Iran’s regional expansionism and preventing its acquisition of a nuclear weapon will demand equal urgency and care.

The Middle East, however, is far from the only region with crises. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Beijing’s attempts to dominate the South China Sea, resurgent despotism in South America, and the rise of new threats—from devastating cyberattacks to challenges in space—will all require the careful attention of America’s next president.

Each challenge will be made more difficult by President Obama’s slashing of hundreds of billions of dollars from the defense budget, which has left the U.S. Army on track to be at pre–World War II levels, the U.S. Navy at pre–World War I levels, and the U.S. Air Force with the smallest and oldest combat force in its history. Our next president must act immediately on entering office to begin rebuilding these capabilities.

Physical strength and an active foreign policy to back it up are a means of preserving peace, not promoting conflict. Foreign involvement has never been a binary choice between perpetual war and passive indifference. The president has many tools to advance U.S. interests, and when used in proper balance, they will make it less likely that force will ever be required and will thus save lives rather than cost them.

My foreign policy would restore the post-1945 bipartisan presidential tradition of a strong and engaged America while adjusting it to meet the new realities of a globalized world. The foreign policy I propose has three pillars. Each can be best described through an example of a challenge we face in this new century, but they all reveal the need for all elements of American power—for a dynamic foreign policy that restores strength, promotes prosperity, and steers the world toward freedom.

A STRATEGY OF STRENGTH

The first and most important pillar of my foreign policy will be a renewal of American strength. This is an idea based on a simple truth: the world is at its safest when America is at its strongest. When America’s armed forces and intelligence professionals, aided by our civilian diplomatic and foreign assistance programs, are able to send a forceful message without firing a shot, the result is more peace, not more conflict. Yet when the United States fails to build or display such strength, it weakens our global hand by casting doubt on our ability and willingness to act. This doubt only encourages our adversaries to test us.

The Obama administration’s handling of Iran has demonstrated this with alarming clarity. Tehran exploited the president’s lack of strength throughout the negotiations over its nuclear program by wringing a series of dangerous concessions from the United States and its partners, including the ability to enrich uranium, keep the Arak and Fordow nuclear facilities open, avoid admitting its past transgressions, and ensure a limited timeline for the agreement.

How did a nation with as little intrinsic leverage as Iran win so many concessions? Part of the answer is that President Obama took off the table the largest advantage our nation had entering into the negotiations: military strength. Although the president frequently said that “all options are on the table” with regard to Iran, his administration consistently signaled otherwise. Several senior officials openly criticized the notion of a military strike, and the president himself publicly said that there could be no military solution to the Iranian nuclear program. This was underscored by a historic reluctance to engage throughout the Middle East, from pulling troops out of Iraq at all costs to retreating from the stated redline on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

President Obama became so publicly opposed to military action that he sacrificed any option that could have conceivably raised the stakes and forced the mullahs into making major concessions. Iran recognized that it could push for greater compromise without fear that the United States would break off the talks. The president’s drive for a deal caused him to forsake a basic principle of diplomacy with rogue regimes: it must be backed by the threat of force. As president, I would have altered the basic environment of the talks. I would have maneuvered forces in the region to signal readiness; linked the nuclear talks to Iran’s broader conduct, from its human rights abuses to its support for terrorism and its existential threats against Israel; and pressured Tehran on all fronts, from Syria to Yemen.

It is true that Iran, in response to these displays of strength, may have broken off negotiations or even lashed out in the region. History, however, suggests that even if Iran had created more trouble in the near term, increased pressure would have eventually forced it to back down. That is exactly what happened in 1988, when Iran ended its war with Iraq and its attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf after the Reagan administration sent in the U.S. Navy. More recently, after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Iran halted a key component of its nuclear program.

It’s not too late to mitigate the damage of the administration’s mishandling of Iran. By rescinding the flawed deal concluded by President Obama and reasserting our presence in the Middle East, we can reverse Iran’s malign influence in this vitally important region and prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The security of the region, the safety of Israel, and the interests of the entire world require an American approach toward Tehran marked by strength and leadership rather than weakness and concession.

OPEN FOR BUSINESS

The second pillar of my foreign policy is the protection of an open international economy in an increasingly globalized world. Millions of the best jobs in this century will depend on international trade that will be possible only when global sea-lanes are open and sovereign nations are protected from the aggression of larger neighbors. Thus, the prosperity of American families is tied to the safety and stability of regions on the other side of the world, from Asia to the Middle East to Europe.

That is why Russia’s violation of Ukrainian sovereignty is much more than a question of where lines are drawn on the maps of eastern Europe. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and efforts to sow instability in eastern Ukraine were sparked, in no small part, by the decision of a sovereign Ukrainian government to seek closer political and economic ties with the European Union and the West.

Russia’s actions are a historic affront to the post–World War II global order on which the global economy depends, and they set a disturbing precedent in a world of rising powers with surging ambitions. Our halting and meager response sends a message to other countries that borders can be violated and countries invaded without serious consequences. The threat of this precedent is profound. America should never have to ask permission from a regional power to conduct commerce with any nation. We cannot allow the world to become a place where countries become off-limits to us as markets and trading partners because of violence, uncertainty, or the blustering threats of an autocratic ruler.

Russia’s actions are emblematic of a larger global trend. From the Strait of Hormuz to the South China Sea, authoritarian states increasingly threaten recognized borders and international waters, airspace, cyberspace, and outer space as a means of gaining leverage over their neighbors and over the United States. Since the end of World War II, the United States has prospered in part because it guarded those critical pathways, and U.S. engagement has a distinguished record of increasing the well-being of other countries, from Germany and Japan to South Korea and Colombia. By failing to maintain this devotion to protecting the lanes of commerce, the Obama administration has exposed international markets to exploitation and chaos.

I will also isolate Russia diplomatically, expanding visa bans and asset freezes on high-level Russian officials and pausing cooperation with Moscow on global strategic challenges. The United States should also station U.S. combat troops in eastern Europe to make clear that we will honor our commitments to our NATO allies and to discourage further Russian aggression.

If that support is coupled with more robust support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and a willingness to leverage America’s newly gained status as a leader in oil and natural gas by lifting the ban on U.S. exports, we can help guard our European allies from Russia’s attempts to use trade and energy dependence as a weapon. This will also assist our efforts to help Ukraine’s leaders modernize and reform their economy and ultimately consolidate their independence from Moscow.

By preserving Ukraine’s freedom and demonstrating that the United States will not tolerate such threats to the global economy, the United States can begin to deter other potential aggressors from bullying their neighbors, including an increasingly ambitious China.

DEFENDING FREEDOM

Our approach to China in this century relates to the last pillar of my foreign policy: the need for moral clarity regarding America’s core values. Our devotion to the spread of human rights and liberal democratic principles has been a part of the fabric of our country since its founding and a beacon of hope for so many oppressed peoples around the globe. It is also a strategic imperative that requires pragmatism and idealism in equal measure.

Members of the Obama administration have signaled a disturbing willingness to ignore human rights violations in the hope of appeasing the Chinese leadership. In the administration’s early days in 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that human rights “can’t interfere” with other ostensibly more important bilateral issues, and in the months before Xi Jinping ascended to China’s top leadership post in 2012, Vice President Joe Biden told him that U.S. support for human rights was merely a matter of domestic political posturing.

As we have fallen silent about the true nature of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese government has stymied democratic efforts in Hong Kong, raided the offices of human rights organizations, arrested scores of activists, redoubled its efforts to monitor and control the Internet, and continued repressive policies in Tibet and other Chinese regions, all while rapidly expanding its military, threatening its neighbors, establishing military installations on disputed islands, and carrying out unprecedented cyberattacks against America. China’s actions reveal a basic truth: the manner in which governments treat their own citizens is indicative of the manner in which they will treat other nations. Beijing’s repression at home and its aggressiveness abroad are two branches of the same tree. If the United States hopes to restore stability in East Asia, it has to speak with clarity and strength regarding the universal rights and values that America represents.

The best way for the United States to counter China’s expansion in East Asia is through support for liberty. The “rebalance” to Asia needs to be about more than just physical posturing. We must stand for the principles that have allowed Asian economies to grow so rapidly and for democracy to take root in the region. Only American leadership can show the Chinese government that its increasingly aggressive regional expansionism will be countered by a reinforcement of cooperation among like-minded nations in the region.

As president, I will strengthen ties with Asia’s democracies, from India to Taiwan. Bolstering liberty on China’s periphery can galvanize the region against Beijing’s hostility and change China’s political future. I will also back the Chinese people’s demands for unrestricted Internet access and their appeals for the basic human right of free speech. I will engage with dissidents, reformers, and religious rights activists, and I will reject Beijing’s attempts to block our contacts with these champions of freedom. I will also redouble U.S. support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and ensure that, once the trade deal is concluded, additional countries are able to join, expanding the creation of what will be millions of jobs here at home as well as abroad.

China will likely resist these efforts, but it is dependent on its economic relationship with the United States and, despite angry outbursts, will have no choice but to preserve it. President Ronald Reagan proved through his diplomacy with the Soviet Union that having a productive relationship with a great power and insisting on that power’s improvement of human rights are not conflicting aims. If the United States can pursue this agenda with China even as it continues its economic engagement, it will demonstrate that America remains committed to the cause of freedom in our time. I believe that when true freedom for the 1.3 billion people of China is finally attained, the impact will fundamentally change the course of human history.

FROM DISENGAGEMENT TO LEADERSHIP

These are only three examples of the challenges the United States will face in this century. They are all examples of problems that will require deft, multifaceted leadership. In addition to existing and emerging threats, we undoubtedly will be confronted with unexpected crises in the years ahead. These unknowns highlight the importance of establishing a fixed set of principles and objectives to guide American leadership. After years of strategic disengagement, this is the only way to restore global certainty regarding American commitments.

By making retrenchment his primary objective, President Obama has put the international system at the mercy of the most ruthless aggressors. They are constantly seeking to undermine the basic principles of the post-1945 world by challenging American military primacy, threatening the global commons, and undermining liberal values. That Iran, Russia, and China are each challenging the United States in these spheres at the same time demonstrates their mutual desire for a departure from the postwar order.
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The authoritarian rulers of these nations find an open international system deeply threatening to their exclusive grip on domestic political power. They cannot simply be reassured or persuaded, and they will push their agendas with whatever tools we give them the latitude to use. We cannot assume that these states will negotiate in good faith or see it in their interest to come to an agreement. If we allow the continued erosion of our military, economic, and moral strength, we will see a further breakdown in global order cast a lengthening shadow across our domestic prosperity and safety.

Retrenchment and retreat are not our destiny. The United States, by its presence alone, has the ability to alter balances, realign regional powers, promote stability, and enhance liberty. Only we can form coalitions based on mutual investment and mutual sacrifice. Our sole goal has never been to remain the world’s preeminent power. We will encourage and assist the rise of more powers when their rise is benign or noble. We wish to be a fraternal force rather than a paternal one.

This principle has marked the bipartisan tradition of U.S. foreign policy for the last 70 years. Our recent departure from this tradition has brought only violence, chaos, and discord. By advancing the three pillars of my foreign policy, I intend to restore American leadership to a world badly in need of it and defend our interests in what I’m confident will be another American century.


The first pillar of Sen Rubio's proposed foreign policy is the restoration of American military strength ... fair enough, but he doesn't say how he (or America) can and will provide the financial means necessary. On that issue, alone, Sen Rubio must be measured as a policy lightweight.


It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #559 on: August 09, 2015, 07:12:39 »
In this article, which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from The Economist, that newspaper takes a critical look at the state of America's Asian Pivot:

http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21660552-america-struggles-maintain-its-credibility-dominant-power-asia-pacific-70-year?fsrc=scn/fb/te/pe/ed/The70yearitch
Quote

The 70-year itch
America struggles to maintain its credibility as the dominant power in the Asia-Pacific

Aug 8th 2015 | From the print edition

STILL on crutches after a cycling accident, and with less good news to report than he must have hoped when his speech to a university in Singapore was scheduled, John Kerry, America’s secretary of state, was this week a study in embattled optimism. Ministers from the 12 countries, including his own and Singapore, which are negotiating a much-vaunted trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), had just failed to clinch an expected deal. And China was refusing even to discuss its controversial island-building in the South China Sea at a regional summit in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. Mr Kerry’s speech was defiantly upbeat. But America’s prestige in the Asia-Pacific has been dented of late. On the 70th anniversary on August 15th of Japan’s surrender and the end of the second world war, the American-led order in place since then looks rather brittle.

America itself has turned the TPP into the gauge by which its leadership in the region is measured. Officials and politicians from President Barack Obama down have portrayed it as the most important aspect of America’s “pivot” or “rebalancing” to the Asia-Pacific, and of its determination to help set the rules there rather than let China write them. Mr Kerry spoke positively of the progress made at the TPP talks in Hawaii, conceding only that “there remain details to be hashed out.” Ministers at the talks claimed that the deal was “98%” done. But the devil is in those details, and in any complex negotiation, the last bit is the hardest.

What appear to be the main remaining bones of contention are varied and tricky. Canada, where an election has just been called for October, does not want to open up its market for dairy products—a priority for New Zealand, one of TPP’s originators a decade ago. Liberalising Japan’s agricultural market, notably for rice, remains acutely sensitive politically. Mexico objects to the amount of content from countries not in the TPP that Japan wants allowed into its exports of lorries. America protects its sugar producers. And it wants its pharmaceutical firms to enjoy 12 years of patent protection on new biologic drugs, which most of the other 11 countries find several years too long.

Yet hopes had been high that the Hawaii talks might bring this marathon negotiation to the finishing line. They were the first between ministers since the American Congress narrowly voted to give the president “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), meaning that Congress could no longer unpick a trade agreement clause by clause, having to approve or reject it as a whole. Without TPA, other countries had been unwilling to make their best offers. Now, however, some speculate that, in the intense haggling to secure passage of TPA through Congress, the administration made promises that have hamstrung its negotiators. Another reason for believing the Hawaii round might be crucial was the pressure of the American political calendar. The administration has to give Congress at least 90 days’ notice before signing a trade agreement. So time is already running out if TPP is to be sealed before becoming embroiled in next year’s presidential election campaign. Even some of the most optimistic TPP supporters think a deal may now not happen until 2017 at the earliest.

After losing one battle in economic diplomacy to China by failing to persuade some close allies to reject China’s invitation to join a new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, America needs the TPP. Without an economic leg, other aspects of America’s rebalancing towards Asia, such as its military role, would become even more important. Many countries in the region are alarmed by what they see as an assertive, bullying China. They welcome America’s military might, and its willingness to project it across Asia. But China’s frenzied construction spree in the South China Sea presents America with a dilemma, even if, as China’s foreign minister said this week, the reclamation has now ended. America says it takes no position on the many overlapping territorial disputes there, the most active of which pit China against the Philippines and Vietnam; and it insists on asserting the “freedom of navigation” including of its navy and air force. Under the law of the sea, the artificial islands China has built on rocks and reefs that are submerged at high tide have no territorial waters.

Yet China is behaving as if they do—and so, perversely, is America. China insists the series of bilateral disputes in the South China Sea is none of America’s business and is not a topic for discussion at regional forums such as a 27-country one just hosted by the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Kuala Lumpur. America, of course, disagrees, and has the backing of much of ASEAN for that. But it knows that if it does start testing Chinese resolve by sailing into or flying over China’s notional territorial waters, it could soon be seen as reckless and provocative, and find its regional support evaporate. So America’s inaction makes China’s new facts in the water look even more permanent and fosters the notion of relative American decline.

A TiP-ping point

That impression is heightened by the sense that America is less strident than it was in upholding its values of human rights, freedom and democracy. Cynics have always suspected that these ideals were subject to political exigencies. Last month they pointed to new evidence of this when the State Department promoted Malaysia from the bottom tier of countries listed in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report. It insisted this was because Malaysia was indeed cracking down on traffickers. Most Malaysians (and Thais, whose country was denied a similar upgrade) saw it as political: under American law a bottom-tier ranking would have meant that Malaysia would have to be excluded from TPP. The perception that TPP is so important to America to lead it to such distortions is damaging. It makes it look as if “the stable, transparent and rules-based” order Mr Kerry said America was promoting 70 years on from the war is one where America not only sets the rules, but twists them when they get in the way.


Much as I remain convinced that both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry are weak, vacillating straws in the wind, I believe that they have (accidentally, no doubt) stumbled upon the right strategy for America at this time:

     First, pursue America's financial best interests with skill and vigour. Nothing much else of strategic importance can happen until America's fiscal house in put in order. Republicans can dream all they want about "restoring America's
     strength," they are talking about doing it with money borrowed from China; and

     Second, bluster at China, they don't mind ~ in fact they actually welcome it, they can use America-Japanese-Vietnamese blkuster for their own internal propaganda ~ but stay well clear of direct, physical confrontations.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
----------
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Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #560 on: August 18, 2015, 08:50:37 »
Part 1 of 2

This article, which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from The Telegraph is about the impact of America's strategic choices on Britain bit it also could be applicable in The Chinese Military, Political and Social Superthread, because there is a lot of focus on Sino-American relations, and even in Making Canada Relevant Again - The Economic Super-Thread, because the choicers which American straegy offers/forces on Britain will be similar to some that those American strategic choices offer or force on Canada:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11640302/Exclusive-interview-Ian-Bremmer-says-America-is-no-longer-indispensible-and-thats-bad-news-for-Britain.html

Now, I need to reiterate my well established (I hope) positions:

     1. America cannot afford the Indispensable America option; and

     2. There is no such thing as "American exceptionalism," so even if America decided to "go for broke" and try to be indispensable there is a very, very good chance that it would fail.

That leaves America with two rational and one irrational choices:

     1. Moneyball America, which would be, immediately and directly, bad for Canada but would force us to take advantage of other trade opportunities that might (in my opinion, would) be good in the mid to long term; (rational choice)

     2. Independent (Isolationist) America, which would have somewhat less economic impavct on Canada, because America would, likely want to maintain very close economic ties, but might, actually, threaten our sovereignty because the
         United States might decide that it needs a continental socio-economic base to prosper; (rational choice) or

     3. Incoherent America (what Dr Bremmer and I agree we have now) which means that we need to seek new socio-economic 'partners' in the world. irrational choice

My bet is on 3, 1 and 2, in that order, for the near to mid term, and then 1, for a while, followed by 2, in the mid to long term.

I believe that America has been adrift, strategically, since about 1960. I'm not blaming any one president (not even Kennedy who I think was vacillating and foolish) nor one group (not even the baby boomers) nor even one attitude (not even the deeply flawed belief in American exceptionalism) for America's problems, but the combination of a half century of weak, foolish leadership and flawed (statist) socio-cultural structures has, I fear, fatally weakened our best friend, good neighbour and protector.


Not everyone agrees with Ian Bremmer, including Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution, as he explains in this article which is reproduced under the fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from The American Interest:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/08/14/should-america-power-down/
Quote

Should America Power Down?

THOMAS WRIGHT

Ian Bremmer argues that America should tender its resignation as the world’s superpower. But becoming Clark Kent, permanently, is not sound strategy.

In 1912, many people predicted that the United States would be one of the most powerful states in the 20th century. Its economy was strong and its potential seemingly limitless. But it would have been ludicrous to suggest that within a half-century it would be the dominant resident power in Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East or that in less than a century it would be a unipolar power. After all, on the eve of World War I, German power was ascendant, Britain bestrode the world wearily but still as a Titan, and the United States had little appetite to venture outside its hemisphere.

Of course, the inconceivable happened. The United States became the world’s only superpower because it made better strategic decisions, and far fewer mistakes, than its competitors. Germany destroyed itself twice. Russia imploded and rose again under an ideology that contained the seeds of its future destruction. Britain was pulled into two world wars that sapped its power and forced it into retirement.

The lesson of the 20th century is that strategic choice matters. It is what great powers do geopolitically that makes history, not how much or how fast their economies grow. The contemporary debate on American power has mostly lost sight of this fact. Relying on a couple of crude metrics, like GDP and military spending, experts say with certainty whether this century will be Chinese, American, European, or run by no one at all. It is a little like declaring baseball season over before it begins and awarding the World Series to the team with the largest payroll or highest batting average.

The importance of strategic choice is the starting point for Ian Bremmer’s new book, Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World. Bremmer, a political scientist and the founder and CEO of the Eurasia Group, argues that the United States will remain a superpower for many years to come. The only question that matters is how it will use its power. Bremmer lays out three options for the United States and makes the best case he can for each. Only at the end does he tell us his preference. The book is written as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” with a gimmicky quiz to boot. But it is actually a manifesto in disguise.

Bremmer’s favored strategy is what he calls “Independent America,” whereby the United States would dramatically reduce its international commitments and pivot to the home front. Defense spending would be slashed and directed to homeland security, and Russia and China would each be allowed a sphere of influence. The United States would stop being the security guarantor of last resort for NATO and Japan, and would withdraw from the Middle East entirely.

Bremmer writes, “It’s time for a new declaration of independence—a proclamation of emancipation from the responsibility to solve everyone else’s problems.” He is exhausted by alliance commitments to defend those who won’t look out for themselves: “Why should Americans lead a fight to defend Latvia or Estonia if Germany, now one of the world’s wealthiest nations, won’t share more of the cost?” “America will be better off,” he says, “if we mind our own business and let other countries get along the best they can.” The United States should not get involved in wars or crises, like Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine, and Ukraine, where the others “care more about the outcome than you do.” The superpower must explicitly tender its resignation: “Only a crystal clear signal from Washington that America will now lead mainly by example will force our traditional partners to stand on their own.”

Above all, Bremmer longs for what the United States could do without its heavy burden. “Imagine what might become possible,” he writes, “if we redirected the attention, energy, and resources that we now squander on a failed superhero foreign policy toward building the America we imagine, one that empowers all its people to realize their human potential.” He would slash military spending and shift what’s left away from aircraft carriers and toward intelligence, homeland security, and cybersecurity. With the money saved, he would increase spending on infrastructure, education, veterans’ benefits, and tax cuts. The only time he breaks with the pure version of Independent America, as detailed in an early chapter, is in his support for free trade.

The two strategies that Bremmer rejects, after laying them out in full, are Moneyball America and Indispensable America. The former is, of course, an allusion to Michael Lewis’s best-selling book Moneyball, about Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s. Beane succeeded by jettisoning common baseball practice and using data and statistics to invest in players undervalued by the market. Under this option, Bremmer says, the President should invest in the value of America by making several calculated bets designed to deliver a significant return. However, he believes this will not work; America is not a corporation and cannot behave as if it is one. The U.S. government is simply too big and too complicated to achieve the nimbleness required for moneyball. And corporations make bad bets all the time. In the economy, failure is part of the process of creative destruction. But we can afford less risk when it comes to the nuclear codes.

Indispensable America is the latest iteration of traditional U.S. grand strategy dating back to the late 1940s. Here, the United States will continue to underwrite the liberal international order through alliances, military intervention, the provision of public goods, and an outsized leadership role. But Bremmer believes the U.S. doesn’t have the influence it needs to play this role any more. Even more importantly, he says, the American public is not prepared to play that role, especially if it means going to war with China over some rocks in the South China Sea or fighting Russia over the Baltics. “Indispensable America,” he writes, “was the right strategy at the end of World War II…But we can’t ignore the ways the world has changed.”

Bremmer’s choice, an Independent America, is not isolationist. Indeed, even the isolationism of the 1930s was not truly isolationist, since it allowed for commercial, political, and cultural engagement with the rest of the world. Independent America is, however, strictly non-interventionist. It is the product of what my colleague Robert Kagan has termed a desire to return to normalcy—that notion that the United States does too much as a superpower and should become a normal nation with normal interests.

The idea that the United States must retrench and reduce its international commitments has been percolating in academic circles over the past decade. The most advanced and sophisticated case is Restraint, a 2014 book by Barry Posen, a professor at MIT and perhaps America’s top academic defense expert. Restraint explains in detail why and how the United States should divest itself of its international security commitments and give up the liberal international order. Posen is not an outlier. Retrenchment is the preferred strategy of the majority of security studies scholars, especially in the younger generation of professors. It is the internationalists—William Wohlforth and Stephen Brooks of MIT and John Ikenberry of Princeton University—who are in the minority.

End of Part 1 of 2


It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
----------
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Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #561 on: August 18, 2015, 08:51:55 »
Part 2 of 2

Quote
Despite its success in academic circles, retrenchment has failed to gain much traction in the policy community, except at the Cato Institute. Others, including Richard Haass in his book Foreign Policy Begins at Home, have flirted around the edges of a greater domestic focus but none have called for an unwinding of the alliance system or a dramatic change in America’s global role. Bremmer makes the argument that U.S. strategy is terribly wrongheaded and has been for some time (for instance, he sees the expansion of NATO as a historic error). The entire global order is unsound and the United States needs to act unilaterally and pull the entire edifice down.

It is for this reason that Bremmer’s work is important. It marks the crossover point between academic critiques of U.S. grand strategy and the policy mainstream. It may be the beginning of a debate that the United States has not had since the mid-1940s—should it look out for itself or should it underwrite a liberal international order?

The first big question that retrenchers have to answer is this: what problem does retrenchment solve? For better or worse, American leadership is the status quo. For over sixty years, Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East have been organized around U.S. security guarantees. The abandonment of that leadership, especially in security, will radically change world politics and the international order. To make a case for such a change, one must first convincingly argue that the status quo is untenable. You wouldn’t blow the existing order up and replace it with something else just on a whim or to save some money. There must be a pressing need.

Bremmer suggested in an earlier book, G-Zero, that America’s economic problems were such that it would be unable to continue to play the role of world leader. But in Superpower, he is more optimistic about U.S. capacity. America can be a leader if it wants to, but it should choose not to, he says.

Instead, the problem is that the United States is currently adrift, and the uncertainty about its future role is destabilizing the international system. No one knows what the United States will do next. It is clear, he says, that the public wants to do less. America’s influence is also decreasing as other powers rise. Allies know all this and can’t trust the President. Adversaries know it too and do not fear U.S. power. America’s indecision is contributing to a heightened sense of geopolitical risk. Exhibit A is the red line debacle in Syria when President Obama reversed himself on airstrikes while the planes were fueling up on the runway.
But Syria is only a symptom of a much greater problem—America’s inability to make good on its commitments. The epicenter of this coming earthquake is America’s alliance system—those commitments that the United States is treaty-bound to uphold and where reneging on a red line is impossible without incurring a terribly high cost. Bremmer wants to effectively disband these alliances so the United States is no longer on the hook to protect others. He believes that the American public no longer supports the U.S. commitment to its allies, the allies themselves are not doing enough, and there is a risk that the United States will get dragged into conflicts that are not in its interests.

Take NATO, for example—one of Bremmer’s favorite targets. NATO, he says, made a historic error by expanding to include new members after the Cold War. The expansion aggravated Russia and bound America to protect states that are not strategically important. Now that the Russia threat is back, this is a big problem. The United States is not ready or willing to defend its new member states. The American public can’t locate Latvia or Estonia on a map and the Obama Administration has been ambiguous about its commitment, all of which makes it more likely Russia will do something to test its resolve. Bremmer writes,

     “If Russian troops one day cross the border into Latvia, whatever the pretext, will the president of the United States declare war on Russia? President Obama has suggested that he would be he hasn’t said it.
 
Europe needs to know. America’s men and women in uniform, their families, and America’s taxpayers need to know. Leave it ambiguous and Moscow might one day decide to find out what it can get away with.”

It’s a powerful charge, if true. But here his specific claim and broader case about a crisis begins to fall part. The footnote reveals that Bremmer is referring to President Obama’s speech in Estonia in September 2014. Yet in that speech the President said this:

     “We will defend our NATO allies, and that means every ally. In this alliance, there are no old members or new members, no junior partners or senior partners—there are just allies, pure and simple. And we will defend the territorial integrity
      of every single ally. Today, more NATO aircraft patrol the skies of the Baltics. More American forces are on the ground training and rotating through each of the Baltic states. More NATO ships patrol the Black Sea. Tonight, I depart for the
      NATO Summit in Wales, and I believe our Alliance should extend these defensive measures for as long as necessary. Because the defense of Tallinn and Riga and Vilnius is just as important as the defense of Berlin and Paris and London.”


Now, one can believe that more must be done to protect the Baltics, but it’s hard to see how this speech supports the notion that the United States is unclear on whether it will fight Russia to defend them.
Certainly, the United States has been leading the charge to bolster Article V in the face of the Russian threat. There is also no reason to believe that Russia doubts America’s assurances about Article V because of Syria or anything else.

Indeed, there is a cottage industry in political science on the topic of credibility. Its primary finding is that credibility of commitments depends on the interests of the countries in each case and not on what they do elsewhere. In other words, the Syria red line debacle is unlikely to have any impact on Russian assessments of U.S. credibility in the Baltics or in Asia. Bremmer actually acknowledges this when he praises
Ronald Reagan for having the courage to renege on his own red line—when he withdrew U.S. forces from Lebanon after the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut which killed 241 Americans.

There is also no evidence to suggest that America’s alliances make war more likely. In fact, the opposite is true. Michael Beckley, an assistant professor at Tufts University, conducted a study of all of America’s alliance commitments since 1945 and found that entanglement almost never happens. It is much more common for alliances to restrain the United States or for the United States to restrain its allies.

Yet what of public opinion? Is Bremmer right that even if the political leadership wants to continue to play the role of the indispensable power, the public does not? He cites opinion polls that show only 56 percent of the American people would come to the aid of Britain if attacked. However, the political science literature finds that public opinion exerts little influence on U.S. foreign policy. There is no reason to think that the answer to a very general question about minding your own business is any indicator as to what the United States would or would not do if a sovereign allied state were invaded. In fact, the United States has previously gone to war to defend non-allied states that it had indicated it would not help (South Korea and Kuwait).

The question Bremmer can’t answer is if the American public is so dissatisfied with foreign policy activism, why does it keep voting for candidates who support it? Why is Rand Paul reversing his previous pro-retrenchment positions as he runs for president?

There is an alternative explanation for where the United States is right now. America’s default strategy is Indispensable America. President Obama has, in a very disciplined way, been trying to shift to a Moneyball America strategy. In fact, the chapter on Moneyball reads remarkably like the Administration’s current approach. The next president is likely to move back to a more ambitious foreign policy. But under either approach, America’s alliances are sound. There are foreign policy challenges, but the foundation of world order—America’s system of alliances—is not falling apart and much of the world relies on it.
Even if there is no pressing need to change strategies, what would happen if we gave retrenchment a try? Isn’t it possible that it would improve America’s position by reducing foreign commitments and freeing up resources at home? No, not even close. The reason is simple: it will inject unprecedented risk and uncertainty into world politics.

Retrenchment is a revolutionary strategy. The day after the President of the United States gives the Independent America speech will be the day that every defense planner and diplomat the world over scrambles to understand how to survive in the post-American world. Alliances will be worthless. The glue that held everything together will no longer stick. The United States would have created the mother of all vacuums.
Japan would likely rearm, and may even go nuclear, to defend itself against China. China would see a window of opportunity to establish its dominance over East Asia. In Europe, Russia would likely move on the Baltics to put the final nail in NATO’s coffin and would establish full control over Ukraine. Some western European countries would rearm, but the overwhelming impulse would be to seek a balance of power. It is unlikely that globalization would survive the return to full-throated rivalry.

This is not some far-fetched scenario. Bremmer himself writes:

     “A drive to refocus Washington on domestic priorities will inflict significant damage on relations with allies like Japan, Israel, and Britain. We will forfeit some of the already limited influence we have with China’s leaders as they make critical decisions.”

Other advocates of retrenchment like Barry Posen recognize that the world will become a much more dangerous place. They just believe that these regional conflicts will not affect the United States. America can protect itself behind its oceans and nuclear deterrent. The United States only has to worry about other regions if one rival power is poised to dominate East Asia, Europe, or the Middle East. The sheer physics of balancing mean this is very unlikely to happen but if it did there would be enough time to intervene and tip the balance against the rival. They even argue that the United States could manipulate regional tensions to its benefit.

This belief could not be further from the U.S. post-war tradition. For over seven decades, the United States has sought to quell and reduce regional security competition in Western Europe and East Asia. Yes, the alliances were intended to contain the Soviet Union. But they were also intended to create a community of nations that did not fear each other. And they were designed so that the United States could influence its allies to exercise restraint. Thus, the United States provides for much of Japan’s security so it will not build capabilities that worry South Korea or others. It is also the reason why, even after the Soviet threat disappeared, the United States has gone to extraordinary lengths to promote regional integration and cooperation in Asia and Europe. EU and NATO expansion helped to consolidate democracy in Eastern Europe and reduce the potential for rivalries and territorial disputes.

It is worth pondering how much more dangerous Eastern Europe would be if Bremmer had his wish and NATO expansion never happened. It’s possible that in such a world Russia would not be revisionist because it would not be insecure, but Russian history suggests otherwise. More likely is the possibility that Russia would try to move on the Baltics and parts of Eastern Europe. NATO expansion took those countries of the chessboard.

The United States has also intervened militarily to prevent regional rivalries from rising. U.S. military actions in the first Gulf War, Bosnia, and Kosovo were not in response to a direct threat to a U.S. vital interest. Instead, they were wrapped up in broader notions of what constitutes security. This is not to say that all interventions are good—the Iraq War being the obvious example. In that war, however, the U.S. did not intervene to preserve regional stability but rather to attempt to impose it. It was a break from tradition, not a continuation of it.

Bremmer will no doubt argue that retrenchment must be done in a sensible and prudent way. The United States should not abandon its alliances overnight but rather give fair warning and a timetable—Posen has suggested a decade—after which those alliances would no longer be operative. The American president should deepen diplomacy with Russia and China to dissuade them from destabilizing actions that would hurt everyone involved. Additionally, the United States should redouble its efforts to increase cooperation and burden-sharing to tackle common threats and challenges.

It sounds lovely, but it is awfully hubristic to believe that a president or strategist is capable of undertaking such an awesome task and preventing it from getting out of control. A superpower retreat of this magnitude would be without parallel. And there are too many actors to manage. But surely, some might say, the difficulty of retrenchment is more manageable that being the world’s policeman? Perhaps, yet that is a comparison between the known and the unknown. America is an imperfect leader, but its track record over seventy-odd years is well known. Iraq may be a mess, but Western and Eastern Europe are in pretty good shape, as are U.S. alliances in East Asia.

By voluntarily liquidating its own order, the United States would be placing the mother of all bets that it would be significantly safer in a much more dangerous world. This is the reason why any president, even Rand Paul, would be reluctant to run the experiment. Ultimately, America’s expansive security commitments are not a favor to the allies, even though they work to their benefit. They were created and supported because the United States believes that reducing rivalry through forward-deployed forces is in America’s long-term interest. There is little reason to think anything has changed. Indeed, if the big bet on retrenchment does not work out and a combination of nuclear weapons and two oceans is not enough, the United States will find itself having to deal with severe threats without its alliances and forward-deployed forces. These could prove impossible to put back together.

One is left puzzled that an expert on geopolitical risk, like Bremmer, would opt for the strategy that seems most likely to turn the world upside down. In an earlier book, Bremmer coined the term “G-Zero world” to describe the lack of international leadership after the financial crisis. At the time, this seemed like a call for more leadership to fill the vacuum and reduce geopolitical risk. But Superpower does the opposite. The inescapable reality is there is no way to reverse the G-Zero dynamic unless America does more in the world. Yes, others should step up to the plate, but no one expects that they will. Thus, G-Zero has gone from a diagnosis to a recommendation.

Bremmer doesn’t clearly state why he changed his mind, but he does hint at it. He says that greater uncertainty is increasing volatility in world politics. The outcome of that volatility will depend on whether China becomes revisionist or not, whether Japan pushes back or not, whether Russia keeps Putinism or not, and so on. The United States will have very little influence over these decisions, so the better course of action is to stand aloof from them and find another purpose for American energy and values. He has come to terms with what he feared.

One gets the impression, however, that Americans, and America’s allies, still believe in the notion of an international order, even if they disagree about how to sustain it. If the United States has a conversation about strategic choice at the next election, one hopes that it will dwell, at least for a few moments, on the rationale behind underwriting an order that transcends narrow national interests and dollars-and-cents accounting. Some may also recall that the United States tried all three strategies in the 20th century. When World War I broke out, Wilson pursued an Indispensable America. In the 1920s, the United States switched to a Moneyball approach, but this fell apart after 1929 and led to an Independent America, despite Roosevelt’s best efforts. After that collapsed in ruins, Roosevelt put together the post-war Indispensable America grand strategy that has been largely with us since.

Ultimately, choice is relative. By reminding people of the alternatives, Bremmer may have done more to help Indispensable America than he intended.

Thomas Wright is a fellow and director of the Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institution.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #562 on: August 19, 2015, 07:54:44 »
This month's edition of Foreign Affairs takes a long, critical look at American grand strategy over, mainly, the past decade.

               

The articles are too numerous and too long (even by my standards) to post, but here are some links (Foreign Affairs link titles are self explanatory) some, at least should be free to non-subscribers:

     https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/what-obama-gets-right

     https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/what-obama-gets-wrong

     https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/obama-and-middle-east

     https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/asia/obama-and-asia

     https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/europe/obama-and-europe

     https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/americas/obama-and-latin-america

     https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/africa/obama-and-africa

     https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/obama-and-terrorism

The focus is on President Obama, of course (see the cover), but most articles delve deeper and offer some prescriptive thoughts, too.

Foreign Affairs should be available in most school, public and base libraries ~ if it's not complain, loudly. Sometimes you can buy individual copies in bookstores.
 
My, personal judgement is that President Obama came into office with a strong domestic agenda which, perforce, required a liberal-isolationist foreign policy (disengagement from the Bush Wars and then retrenchment) but "force majeure" and all that, or, as the late Prime Minister Harold MacMillan may have said, "events, dear boy, events" transpired and he has found himself, unwillingly, engaged in battles he would rather not fight, at home and abroad. he is, I think, looking for the least bad way out of the Arab<->Persian<->Israeli<->Arab quagmire in the Middle East and he is trying to back away from a military confrontation with China. But "events" and an aggressive China strategy aimed at keeping him 'engaged' in (strategically) counter-productive or unproductive activities makes his life more difficult: add in Putin and the GOP and the budget and race and, and, and ... why, I wonder, do I keep thinking about Joel Chandler Harris "Uncle Remus" stories (published in 1881 but still popular (and taught in our schools, in Canada, anyway) until the 1950s)?


                   
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline Thucydides

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #563 on: August 29, 2015, 12:58:45 »
Donald Trump may be a case of the symptom that defines what is wrong with America and the body politic. The key is the note by Instapundit at the end: this is the worst political class in American history and the American people are waking up to the fact that the very institutions that are supposed to govern and protect them have become rigged agains them instead, and are willing to listen to whoever is going to talk about the problem. (If Trump somehow becomes President, would he be able to do anything about it? That is an interesting question for another day)

http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/213357

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PEGGY NOONAN ON DONALD TRUMP:

You know the latest numbers. Quinnipiac University’s poll this week has Mr. Trump at a hefty 28% nationally, up from 20% in July. Public Policy Polling has Mr. Trump leading all Republicans in New Hampshire with 35%. A Monmouth University poll has him at 30% in South Carolina, followed 15 points later by Ben Carson.

Here are some things I think are happening.

One is the deepening estrangement between the elites and the non-elites in America. This is the area in which Trumpism flourishes. We’ll talk about that deeper in.

Second, Mr. Trump’s support is not limited to Republicans, not by any means.

Third, the traditional mediating or guiding institutions within the Republican universe—its establishment, respected voices in conservative media, sober-minded state party officials—have little to no impact on Mr. Trump’s rise. Some say voices of authority should stand up to oppose him, which will lower his standing. But Republican powers don’t have that kind of juice anymore. Mr. Trump’s supporters aren’t just bucking a party, they’re bucking everything around, within and connected to it.

Since Mr. Trump announced I’ve worked or traveled in, among other places, Southern California, Connecticut, Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey and New York’s Long Island. In all places I just talked to people. My biggest sense is that political professionals are going to have to rethink “the base,” reimagine it when they see it in their minds.

I’ve written before about an acquaintance—late 60s, northern Georgia, lives on Social Security, voted Obama in ’08, not partisan, watches Fox News, hates Wall Street and “the GOP establishment.” She continues to be so ardent for Mr. Trump that she not only watched his speech in Mobile, Ala., on live TV, she watched while excitedly texting with family members—middle-class, white, independent-minded—who were in the audience cheering. Is that “the Republican base”? I guess maybe it is, because she texted me Wednesday to say she’d just registered Republican. I asked if she’d ever been one before. Reply: “No, never!!!”

Something is going on, some tectonic plates are moving in interesting ways. My friend Cesar works the deli counter at my neighborhood grocery store. He is Dominican, an immigrant, early 50s, and listens most mornings to a local Hispanic radio station, La Mega, on 97.9 FM. Their morning show is the popular “El Vacilón de la Mañana,” and after the first GOP debate, Cesar told me, they opened the lines to call-ins, asking listeners (mostly Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican) for their impressions. More than half called in to say they were for Mr. Trump. Their praise, Cesar told me a few weeks ago, dumbfounded the hosts. I later spoke to one of them, who identified himself as D.J. New Era. He backed Cesar’s story. “We were very surprised,” at the Trump support, he said. Why? “It’s a Latin-based market!”

“He’s the man,” Cesar said of Mr. Trump. This week I went by and Cesar told me that after Mr. Trump threw Univision’s well-known anchor and immigration activist, Jorge Ramos, out of an Iowa news conference on Tuesday evening, the “El Vacilón” hosts again threw open the phone lines the following morning and were again surprised that the majority of callers backed not Mr. Ramos but Mr. Trump. Cesar, who I should probably note sees me, I sense, as a very nice establishment person who needs to get with the new reality, was delighted.

Well, Peggy, he’s got you pretty well figured out. And yes, America has the worst political class in its history, average people are figuring it out, and — finally — the political class is beginning to figure out that average people are figuring it out.

Does this mean that Trump should be President? No, but it means someone capable of absorbing, and putting into practice, the things that Trump is making clear should be.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline cupper

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #564 on: September 09, 2015, 22:12:13 »
Very interesting discussion on how the push by the religious right (specifically the Christian Right) for protection of religious freedoms may backfire and ultimately become a self defeating shot in the foot. But it also speaks (in my opinion) to the larger divide that I see existing in the US today, with social and religious conservative views clashing with the more liberal and progressive social population.

How the GOP’s Religious Freedom Rhetoric Could Undermine the Party
If conservatives want to insist on the priority of rights, they shouldn't be surprised when they see their other goals slipping away.

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/09/republicans-religious-freedom-backfire-213130

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Has anyone noticed that the further right Republican conservatives move, the further left their rhetoric becomes?
Consider the way current Republican contenders for president have reacted to the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who spent Labor Day weekend in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. “This,” Mike Huckabee told ABC’s “This Week,” “is what [President Thomas] Jefferson warned us about. That’s judicial tyranny.”

Huckabee is not the only Republican presidential candidate who invokes the language of the radical left to defend the positions of the radical right. “I’ll tell you, I stand with Kim Davis unequivocally,” echoed fellow candidate Ted Cruz. “I stand with her or anyone else the government is trying to persecute for standing up for their faith.”

“She’s not going to resign,” one of her lawyers, Mat Staver, declared. “She’s not going to sacrifice her conscience, so she’s doing what Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote about his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, which is to pay the consequences for her decision.”

Not too long ago, religious conservatives were happy to be the moral majority, wielding government power against people too extreme in their demands and too outlandish in their lifestyle to be accepted as normal. But with gay marriage now legal everywhere in the United States except American Samoa, and with the majority of Americans now in favor of it, right-wing politicians are increasingly falling back on the language of rights—transforming from a moral majority to an aggrieved minority. Liberal elites, they insist, constitute an establishment persecuting the godly the way the Romans crucified Christ. The Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of gay marriage, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told his followers after the decision, “will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians. … This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty.”

Freedom, liberty, rights, resistance to tyranny—these words are quintessentially American. What conservatives seem to forget, however, is that they usually constitute the rallying cry of those seeking greater social justice, enhanced equality and toleration of difference. If conservatives want to insist on the priority of rights, God bless them. But they should not be surprised when the other goals they seek—limited government, opposition to affirmative action, the importance of moral obligation, and the defense of hierarchy and authority—all become more difficult to achieve.

Rights, for one thing, while offering protection against an intrusive state, cannot be enforced without the help of the state. To be sure, there exists something called negative liberty, or the freedom to be left alone. But neither Jindal nor Huckabee resembles Henry David Thoreau, an earlier signatory to a Grover Norquist-like no-tax pledge. Thoreau was an abolitionist who retreated as far from politics as possible, not a presidential candidate relying on votes from white southerners.

Today’s conservatives, rather, seek a form of positive liberty: not just the right to have a belief, but the accumulation of the resources necessary to turn that belief into reality. Everyone’s favorite example of what is at stake here, at least until Kim Davis came along, illustrates the point. Both liberals and conservatives would agree that a Christian baker has the right to regard homosexuality, in her heart of hearts, as a sin; freedom of private conscience is widely accepted in the United States. The real test, however, is whether that same baker can refuse to provide a public service to a gay couple that she willingly provides to everyone else—a clear act, whether one supports it or not, of discrimination. Conservatives believe she should have such freedom. The problem is that this can only happen when government establishes an exception to a general law and backs that up exception with its enforcement powers. As we have seen, abolishing discrimination requires an active government. What Republicans tend to forget is: So does permitting it.

Here’s another reason why Republicans may come to regret their hasty support for religious rights. Calls for positive liberty nearly always come to support one version or another of affirmative action. It is not difficult to imagine conservative Christians demanding something similar; indeed as they talk about their exclusion from universities and the media, let alone the war directed against them every Christmas, it seems we are already halfway there. Once groups start viewing themselves as helpless victims against unjust tyranny, their burning sense of injustice will know few bounds. No one in America likes affirmative action—except when he benefits from it. Let their anger at perceived victimization fester, and conservative Christians will find the language of diversity perfectly compatible with, as well as a proposed remedy for, their sense of exclusion from top-fight colleges, the senior ranks of the military and major corporations.

The irony in all of this is that conservatives not long ago opposed gay claims by arguing against “special” rights. It was never clear what conservatives meant by that term, but it seemed to imply that gays were demanding rights held by no one else, such as immunity from criticism or rendering “conversion therapy,” efforts by conservatives to “cure” homosexuality, illegal. As recently as this past April, Gov. Bobby Jindal, as if failing to recognize that the conservative script was undergoing serious revision, spoke about gay-friendly New Orleans on “Meet the Press”: “My concern about creating special legal protection is [that] historically in our country, we have only done that in extraordinary circumstances,” he said. “It doesn’t appear to me we are in one of those moments today.”

Jindal should have cleared his remarks with Huckabee, easily the most radical of all the conservative Christians running for president. Unlike Jindal, Huckabee believes that we face extraordinary, indeed momentous, circumstances. The right to marry, in his view, is not some ordinary privilege like opening a business or even worshipping in church. Only God, he believes, not some random collection of judges, can redefine marriage. Talk about special rights! Women seeking an abortion only want a state-recognized right, not a God-given one, as do gays seeking to marry. But in Huckabee’s world, conservative Christians would be granted a right possessed by no one else—and it would be enforced by an authority greater than that of the state. No wonder Kim Davis concluded that the law did not apply to her; God was clearly on her side.

As if support for special rights and positive government were not enough, conservative Christians also want to expand the list of those eligible for rights. The concept of rights, as developed by thinkers such as John Stuart Mill in his brilliant and still relevant On Liberty, was reserved for human beings, creatures who singularly possess the capacity to plan their own course of life. Unless people can think and decide for themselves, Mill argued convincingly, rights are superfluous.

In the Hobby Lobby case decided last year, the five conservative U. S. Supreme Court justices disagreed. In his controlling opinion, Justice Samuel Alito held that requiring employers to include coverage for birth control methods in health insurance plans violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because closely held business corporations can be considered persons whose religious liberties must be respected. “A tremendous victory, not only for Hobby Lobby, but for all those being forced violate their deeply held convictions as a result of this Administration’s assault on religious liberty,” wrote Cruz. Christian colleges, the Catholic Church, non-profits—all now can share the status of religious dissenters such as Roger Williams or Anne Hutchinson, determined to practice their faith in spite of governmental efforts stop then. In this, conservatives have gone further in their quest for rights than liberals ever have: Liberals believe in expanding rights, but, other than those who back them for animals, they never expanded them as far as conservative politicians and judges have in the past year.

But Republicans might find that this victory ends up undermining a key tenet of their platform. As Boston College law professor Kent Greenfield has pointed out, corporations routinely insist that they are responsible only to their share-holders. This mantra is at the heart of the idea of “free enterprise.” But what if corporations are persons? Would that mean they have they have other obligations, in the way that people do? Firms that harm the environment, for example, may be under an obligation to improve the land. Greenfield believes that the left should welcome the move toward corporate personhood because it would give corporations (or closely held ones at least) more public responsibility.

Indeed, every right gained comes with corresponding obligations. [Too many people forget this in my opinion :nod: ] In the 1960s, that most left-wing of decades, extreme leftists and counter-cultural drop-outs approached lawless anarchy in the way they talked about rights: The whole point of having them was to be free of arbitrary restraint. Much like private corporations claiming the right to do as they wish, leftists of that era believed in conceptions of freedom that were extreme in their refusal to take the needs of others into account. My right to abortion ought to be fundamental and unrestricted, some claimed, while others argued that the substances they ingested mattered only to themselves.

Thankfully, this is no longer the case. The right to an abortion, a majority of now women recognize, cannot be allowed to become just a form of birth control; it must be treated as a serious decision with deep moral consequences for others. A number of determined protestors of the Vietnam War, myself included, later came to recognize that there are situations, such as the genocide in Rwanda, where rich nations do have a moral obligation to intervene abroad in the name of justice. The symbol of the gay rights movement was once the bathhouse, a place in which, sexually speaking, anything went—including HIV-AIDS. Now the symbol of gay rights in the wedding ring, as those who once sought liberation now seek considered legal and moral commitment.

If there is any place where the anarchism of the radical left in this country is kept alive, it is with those Christian conservatives for whom compromise is evil, politics useless and reason oblivious. Unlike freedom of speech or assembly, claims to freedom based on the will of God tend to be absolute: One does not disobey the Lord’s truth or carry out the designs of Satan. But here’s the rub: If you invoke a right to religion, you must also recognize that a society like ours has many religions, and therefore many truths. Huckabee, Jindal and the others are only at the first stage of rights assertion. They need to move to the second: the willingness to give in on some of their rights so that they can live together with others. Mormons did that when they abandoned plural marriage. Conservative Christians can do the same thing.

There is, in spite of all this, reason to cheer conservative Christians on in their quest for religion rights. For all their claims to be victims—and this in a society as religious and as Christian as any advanced liberal democracy in the world—Christians seeking rights will always be better than Christians bent on persecuting others, unless, of course, claims to rights become a form of persecution. (The right to broadcast Christian prayers at a Texas high school football game, for example, violates the rights of non-Christians and non-believers in the audience, as the court ruled in in 2000 in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe.) This country could benefit from a national conversation about rights: having them, asserting them and realizing them are what makes America great.

The trouble seems to be that in their quest for rights, conservative Republican politicians have lost all sense of the invisible ties that keep Americans of all faiths, or of no faith at all, united. The society they envision is one that caters only to their needs. If they had their way, we could all pick and choose only those truths that please us, those traditions that enrich us, those authorities that govern us and those ideals that move us. But that is anarchy—just by another name.

More than ever, Americans need visions that appeal to us all. In the past few years, we have begun to witness the emergence a younger generation more willing to question authority, develop innovative career paths, experiment with new ways of living together and willing to take their future financial security into their own hands. Let someone from the older generation, even perhaps myself, preach to them that they are going too far in their rejection of the tried-and-true, and they can reply that these days everyone wants to decide for themselves the best way to live, Christian conservatives definitely included. Where, one wonders, are conservatives when we need them?
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Offline tomahawk6

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #565 on: September 10, 2015, 09:06:09 »
The US is by and large a conservative country.If you doubt that just see the results of the last Congressional elections where the GOP won control of both houses.Trump has tapped into the dissatisfaction in the country with the GOP congressional leadership which has been blocking things like defunding Planned parenthood and the very bad Iran nuclear deal.

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #566 on: September 18, 2015, 17:38:55 »
American power still exists, and it is interesting to contemplate just how different things would be if there were a steady and competent hand weilding this power. The US Federal Reserve could be used to collapse the economies of American rivals like Russia through the simple act of raising interest rates, for example, and holding that threat over Putin would probably bring him to heel in double quick time. While there are many arguments not to do so, the real point here is there are lots of tools the American political and economic establishments have access to which could be used to make major changes, but have refrained from using to date:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/09/18/decline-that-never-quite-becomes-a-fall/

Quote
Decline that Never Quite Becomes a Fall

One big reason the Federal Reserve decided against raising rates had nothing to do with the state of the domestic economy, The Financial Times reports:

The Federal Reserve held interest rates at historic lows as concerns about an increasingly brittle global economy overshadowed evidence of a resilient US recovery.

The US central bank maintained its 0 to 0.25 per cent target range for the federal funds rate, ending weeks of feverish speculation over whether it would raise rates for the first time since before the financial crisis.

For years, we’ve been hearing  about the ongoing American decline. We’ve been told that emerging markets and particularly the BRICS are transforming the world and that the old rules no longer apply. We created the G-20 because of the widespread belief that the U.S., even with the other G-7 countries, was no longer strong enough economically to set the agenda.

Yet here we have the G-1 holding the switch on which that the global economy depends. The vaunted BRICS have to be protected from the economic disaster that a Fed rate rise would be for them. The Federal Reserve System of the United States is the world’s de facto central bank.

That doesn’t mean that the world economy is in a good place; clearly when interest rates can’t be raised from their present derisory level something is seriously wrong. One suspects that several factors are at work: the over-saving of Asian and oil economies accumulating huge reserves; rapid falls in prices not fully captured by economic statistics so that real interest rates (interest rates minus the rate of inflation or plus the rate of deflation) may be higher than the numbers we are looking at; the gradual deflation of a vast global bubble in excess manufacturing capacity and the consequences of government efforts to enable a soft landing; under-reporting of the shadow economy of, for example, oligarchs in Russia and princelings in China. To say nothing of vast off-the-books liabilities for pensions and other entitlement type spending in the advanced world. Central bankers have their work cut out for them these days.

The United States, especially to those of us looking from up close, often seems to be a stumblebum lurching from one folly to the next. And that’s often true. But what we forget is that, erratic as our national performance might be, the other big economic and political groupings—Europe, China, Japan, India, Brazil and so on—have problems of their own. Even with all its flaws, the U.S. still looks like the fastest runner in a slow field.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #567 on: September 19, 2015, 21:24:53 »
The US is by and large a conservative country.If you doubt that just see the results of the last Congressional elections where the GOP won control of both houses Managed to achieve the status quo, while winning a majority of seats in the Senate .Trump has tapped into the dissatisfaction in the country with the GOP congressional leadership which has been blocking things like defunding Planned parenthood and the very bad Iran nuclear deal.

I agree with your basic premise, but don't really think that the GOP won control of anything. All the 2014 midterm's achieved was to switch majority and minority positions in the Senate, and a more fractured House. In fact you could argue that they actually lost control of the Senate by becoming the majority and putting the Dems in the position of dictating what gets through and what doesn't, providing more cover for the President by not having to carry out a veto.
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Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #568 on: September 25, 2015, 07:13:59 »
Part 1 of 3

Prof Graham Allison, the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and author of Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe and co-author of Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World, suggests, in this (long) article which is reproduced, in three parts, under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from The Atlantic, that history teaches us that "man’s capacity for folly" is, apparently, boundless and he suggests that a war between China and the USA is not just possible, it is likely:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/united-states-china-war-thucydides-trap/406756/
(There are many very useful hyperlinks in the original article which I have not included. Those with a deeper interest shoudl go to the source article.)
Quote

The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War?
In 12 of 16 past cases in which a rising power has confronted a ruling power, the result has been bloodshed.

GRAHAM ALLISON  SEP 24, 2015

When Barack Obama meets this week with Xi Jinping during the Chinese president’s first state visit to America, one item probably won’t be on their agenda: the possibility that the United States and China could find themselves at war in the next decade. In policy circles, this appears as unlikely as it would be unwise. 

And yet 100 years on, World War I offers a sobering reminder of man’s capacity for folly. When we say that war is “inconceivable,” is this a statement about what is possible in the world—or only about what our limited minds can conceive? In 1914, few could imagine slaughter on a scale that demanded a new category: world war. When war ended four years later, Europe lay in ruins: the kaiser gone, the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved, the Russian tsar overthrown by the Bolsheviks, France bled for a generation, and England shorn of its youth and treasure. A millennium in which Europe had been the political center of the world came to a crashing halt.

The defining question about global order for this generation is whether China and the United States can escape Thucydides’s Trap. The Greek historian’s metaphor reminds us of the attendant dangers when a rising power rivals a ruling power—as Athens challenged Sparta in ancient Greece, or as Germany did Britain a century ago. Most such contests have ended badly, often for both nations, a team of mine at the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has concluded after analyzing the historical record. In 12 of 16 cases over the past 500 years, the result was war. When the parties avoided war, it required huge, painful adjustments in attitudes and actions on the part not just of the challenger but also the challenged.

Based on the current trajectory, war between the United States and China in the decades ahead is not just possible, but much more likely than recognized at the moment. Indeed, judging by the historical record, war is more likely than not. Moreover, current underestimations and misapprehensions of the hazards inherent in the U.S.-China relationship contribute greatly to those hazards. A risk associated with Thucydides’s Trap is that business as usual—not just an unexpected, extraordinary event—can trigger large-scale conflict. When a rising power is threatening to displace a ruling power, standard crises that would otherwise be contained, like the assassination of an archduke in 1914, can initiate a cascade of reactions that, in turn, produce outcomes none of the parties would otherwise have chosen.

War, however, is not inevitable. Four of the 16 cases in our review did not end in bloodshed. Those successes, as well as the failures, offer pertinent lessons for today’s world leaders. Escaping the Trap requires tremendous effort. As Xi Jinping himself said during a visit to Seattle on Tuesday, “There is no such thing as the so-called Thucydides Trap in the world. But should major countries time and again make the mistakes of strategic miscalculation, they might create such traps for themselves.”

* * *

More than 2,400 years ago, the Athenian historian Thucydides offered a powerful insight: “It was the rise of Athens, and the fear that this inspired in Sparta, that made war inevitable.” Others identified an array of contributing causes of the Peloponnesian War. But Thucydides went to the heart of the matter, focusing on the inexorable, structural stress caused by a rapid shift in the balance of power between two rivals. Note that Thucydides identified two key drivers of this dynamic: the rising power’s growing entitlement, sense of its importance, and demand for greater say and sway, on the one hand, and the fear, insecurity, and determination to defend the status quo this engenders in the established power, on the other.

In the case about which he wrote in the fifth century B.C., Athens had emerged over a half century as a steeple of civilization, yielding advances in philosophy, history, drama, architecture, democracy, and naval prowess. This shocked Sparta, which for a century had been the leading land power on the Peloponnese peninsula. As Thucydides saw it, Athens’s position was understandable. As its clout grew, so too did its self-confidence, its consciousness of past injustices, its sensitivity to instances of disrespect, and its insistence that previous arrangements be revised to reflect new realities of power. It was also natural, Thucydides explained, that Sparta interpreted the Athenian posture as unreasonable, ungrateful, and threatening to the system it had established—and within which Athens had flourished.

               War between the U.S. and China is more likely than recognized at the moment. Indeed, judging by the historical record, war is more likely than not.

Thucydides chronicled objective changes in relative power, but he also focused on perceptions of change among the leaders of Athens and Sparta—and how this led each to strengthen alliances with other states in the hopes of counterbalancing the other. But entanglement runs both ways. (It was for this reason that George Washington famously cautioned America to beware of “entangling alliances.”) When conflict broke out between the second-tier city-states of Corinth and Corcyra (now Corfu), Sparta felt it necessary to come to Corinth’s defense, which left Athens little choice but to back its ally. The Peloponnesian War followed. When it ended 30 years later, Sparta was the nominal victor. But both states lay in ruin, leaving Greece vulnerable to the Persians.

* * *

Eight years before the outbreak of world war in Europe, Britain’s King Edward VII asked his prime minister why the British government was becoming so unfriendly to his nephew Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Germany, rather than keeping its eye on America, which he saw as the greater challenge. The prime minister instructed the Foreign Office’s chief Germany watcher, Eyre Crowe, to write a memo answering the king’s question. Crowe delivered his memorandum on New Year’s Day, 1907. The document is a gem in the annals of diplomacy.

The logic of Crowe’s analysis echoed Thucydides’s insight. And his central question, as paraphrased by Henry Kissinger in On China, was the following: Did increasing hostility between Britain and Germany stem more from German capabilities or German conduct? Crowe put it a bit differently: Did Germany’s pursuit of “political hegemony and maritime ascendancy” pose an existential threat to “the independence of her neighbours and ultimately the existence of England?”

Crowe’s answer was unambiguous: Capability was key. As Germany’s economy surpassed Britain’s, Germany would not only develop the strongest army on the continent. It would soon also “build as powerful a navy as she can afford.” In other words, Kissinger writes, “once Germany achieved naval supremacy … this in itself—regardless of German intentions—would be an objective threat to Britain, and incompatible with the existence of the British Empire.”

Three years after reading that memo, Edward VII died. Attendees at his funeral included two “chief mourners”—Edward’s successor, George V, and Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm—along with Theodore Roosevelt representing the United States. At one point, Roosevelt (an avid student of naval power and leading champion of the buildup of the U.S. Navy) asked Wilhelm whether he would consider a moratorium in the German-British naval arms race. The kaiser replied that Germany was unalterably committed to having a powerful navy. But as he went on to explain, war between Germany and Britain was simply unthinkable, because “I was brought up in England, very largely; I feel myself partly an Englishman. Next to Germany I care more for England than for any other country.” And then with emphasis: “I ADORE ENGLAND!”

However unimaginable conflict seems, however catastrophic the potential consequences for all actors, however deep the cultural empathy among leaders, even blood relatives, and however economically interdependent states may be—none of these factors is sufficient to prevent war, in 1914 or today.

In fact, in 12 of 16 cases over the last 500 years in which there was a rapid shift in the relative power of a rising nation that threatened to displace a ruling state, the result was war. As the table below suggests, the struggle for mastery in Europe and Asia over the past half millennium offers a succession of variations on a common storyline.

          Thucydides Case Studies
         

(For summaries of these 16 cases and the methodology for selecting them, and for a forum to register additions, subtractions, revisions, and disagreements with the cases, please visit the Harvard Belfer Center’s Thucydides Trap Case File. For this first phase of the project, we at the Belfer Center identified “ruling” and “rising” powers by following the judgments of leading historical accounts, resisting the temptation to offer original or idiosyncratic interpretations of events. These histories use “rise” and “rule” according to their conventional definitions, generally emphasizing rapid shifts in relative GDP and military strength. Most of the cases in this initial round of analysis come from post-Westphalian Europe.)

When a rising, revolutionary France challenged Britain’s dominance of the oceans and the balance of power on the European continent, Britain destroyed Napoleon Bonaparte’s fleet in 1805 and later sent troops to the continent to defeat his armies in Spain and at Waterloo. As Otto von Bismarck sought to unify a quarrelsome assortment of rising German states, war with their common adversary, France, proved an effective instrument to mobilize popular support for his mission. After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, a rapidly modernizing Japanese economy and military establishment challenged Chinese and Russian dominance of East Asia, resulting in wars with both from which Japan emerged as the leading power in the region.

End of Part 1 of 3

It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #569 on: September 25, 2015, 07:15:29 »
Part 2 of 3

Quote
          The preeminent geostrategic challenge of this era is not violent Islamic extremists or a resurgent Russia. It is the impact of China’s ascendance.

Each case is, of course, unique. Ongoing debate about the causes of the First World War reminds us that each is subject to competing interpretations. The great international historian, Harvard’s Ernest May, taught that when attempting to reason from history, we should be as sensitive to the differences as to the similarities among cases we compare. (Indeed, in his Historical Reasoning 101 class, May would take a sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle of the page, label one column “Similar” and the other “Different,” and fill in the sheet with at least a half dozen of each.) Nonetheless, acknowledging many differences, Thucydides directs us to a powerful commonality.

* * *

The preeminent geostrategic challenge of this era is not violent Islamic extremists or a resurgent Russia. It is the impact that China’s ascendance will have on the U.S.-led international order, which has provided unprecedented great-power peace and prosperity for the past 70 years. As Singapore’s late leader, Lee Kuan Yew, observed, “the size of China’s displacement of the world balance is such that the world must find a new balance. It is not possible to pretend that this is just another big player. This is the biggest player in the history of the world.” Everyone knows about the rise of China. Few of us realize its magnitude. Never before in history has a nation risen so far, so fast, on so many dimensions of power. To paraphrase former Czech President Vaclav Havel, all this has happened so rapidly that we have not yet had time to be astonished.

My lecture on this topic at Harvard begins with a quiz that asks students to compare China and the United States in 1980 with their rankings today. The reader is invited to fill in the blanks.

          Quiz: Fill in the Blanks
         

The answers for the first column: In 1980, China had 10 percent of America’s GDP as measured by purchasing power parity; 7 percent of its GDP at current U.S.-dollar exchange rates; and 6 percent of its exports. The foreign currency held by China, meanwhile, was just one-sixth the size of America’s reserves. The answers for the second column: By 2014, those figures were 101 percent of GDP; 60 percent at U.S.-dollar exchange rates; and 106 percent of exports. China’s reserves today are 28 times larger than America’s.

In a single generation, a nation that did not appear on any of the international league tables has vaulted into the top ranks. In 1980, China’s economy was smaller than that of the Netherlands. Last year, the increment of growth in China’s GDP was roughly equal to the entire Dutch economy. 

The second question in my quiz asks students: Could China become #1? In what year could China overtake the United States to become, say, the largest economy in the world, or primary engine of global growth, or biggest market for luxury goods?

          Could China Become #1?

          Manufacturer:
          Exporter:
          Trading nation:
          Saver:
          Holder of U.S. debt:
          Foreign-direct-investment destination:
          Energy consumer:
          Oil importer:
          Carbon emitter:
          Steel producer:
          Auto market:
          Smartphone market:
          E-commerce market:
          Luxury-goods market: 
          Internet user:
          Fastest supercomputer:
          Holder of foreign reserves:
          Source of initial public offerings:
          Primary engine of global growth:
          Economy:

Most are stunned to learn that on each of these 20 indicators, China has already surpassed the U.S.

Will China be able to sustain economic-growth rates several times those of the United States for another decade and beyond? If and as it does, are its current leaders serious about displacing the U.S. as the predominant power in Asia? Will China follow the path of Japan and Germany, and take its place as a responsible stakeholder in the international order that America has built over the past seven decades? The answer to these questions is obviously that no one knows.

But if anyone’s forecasts are worth heeding, it’s those of Lee Kuan Yew, the world’s premier China watcher and a mentor to Chinese leaders since Deng Xiaoping. Before his death in March, the founder of Singapore put the odds of China continuing to grow at several times U.S. rates for the next decade and beyond as “four chances in five.” On whether China’s leaders are serious about displacing the United States as the top power in Asia in the foreseeable future, Lee answered directly: “Of course. Why not … how could they not aspire to be number one in Asia and in time the world?” And about accepting its place in an international order designed and led by America, he said absolutely not: “China wants to be China and accepted as such—not as an honorary member of the West.”

* * *

Americans have a tendency to lecture others about why they should be “more like us.” In urging China to follow the lead of the United States, should we Americans be careful what we wish for?

As the United States emerged as the dominant power in the Western hemisphere in the 1890s, how did it behave? Future President Theodore Roosevelt personified a nation supremely confident that the 100 years ahead would be an American century. Over a decade that began in 1895 with the U.S. secretary of state declaring the United States “sovereign on this continent,” America liberated Cuba; threatened Britain and Germany with war to force them to accept American positions on disputes in Venezuela and Canada; backed an insurrection that split Colombia to create a new state of Panama (which immediately gave the U.S. concessions to build the Panama Canal); and attempted to overthrow the government of Mexico, which was supported by the United Kingdom and financed by London bankers. In the half century that followed, U.S. military forces intervened in “our hemisphere” on more than 30 separate occasions to settle economic or territorial disputes in terms favorable to Americans, or oust leaders they judged unacceptable.

For example, in 1902, when British and German ships attempted to impose a naval blockade to force Venezuela to pay its debts to them, Roosevelt warned both countries that he would “be obliged to interfere by force if necessary” if they did not withdraw their ships. The British and Germans were persuaded to retreat and to resolve their dispute in terms satisfactory to the U.S. at The Hague. The following year, when Colombia refused to lease the Panama Canal Zone to the United States, America sponsored Panamanian secessionists, recognized the new Panamanian government within hours of its declaration of independence, and sent the Marines to defend the new country. Roosevelt defended the U.S. intervention on the grounds that it was “justified in morals and therefore justified in law.” Shortly thereafter, Panama granted the United States rights to the Canal Zone “in perpetuity.”

* * *

End of Part 2 of 2
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #570 on: September 25, 2015, 07:22:36 »

Part 3 of 3

Quote
When Deng Xiaoping initiated China’s fast march to the market in 1978, he announced a policy known as “hide and bide.” What China needed most abroad was stability and access to markets. The Chinese would thus “bide our time and hide our capabilities,” which Chinese military officers sometimes paraphrased as getting strong before getting even.

With the arrival of China’s new paramount leader, Xi Jinping, the era of “hide and bide” is over. Nearly three years into his 10-year term, Xi has stunned colleagues at home and China watchers abroad with the speed at which he has moved and the audacity of his ambitions. Domestically, he has bypassed rule by a seven-man standing committee and instead consolidated power in his own hands; ended flirtations with democratization by reasserting the Communist Party’s monopoly on political power; and attempted to transform China’s engine of growth from an export-focused economy to one driven by domestic consumption. Overseas, he has pursued a more active Chinese foreign policy that is increasingly assertive in advancing the country’s interests.

          Never before in history has a nation risen so far, so fast. In 1980, China’s economy was smaller than the Netherlands’. Last year, the increment of growth in China’s GDP was equal to the Dutch economy.

While the Western press is seized by the storyline of “China’s economic slowdown,” few pause to note that China’s lower growth rate remains more than three times that of the United States. Many observers outside China have missed the great divergence between China’s economic performance and that of its competitors over the seven years since the financial crisis of 2008 and Great Recession. That shock caused virtually all other major economies to falter and decline. China never missed a year of growth, sustaining an average growth rate exceeding 8 percent. Indeed, since the financial crisis, nearly 40 percent of all growth in the global economy has occurred in just one country: China. The chart below illustrates China’s growth compared to growth among its peers in the BRICS group of emerging economies, advanced economies, and the world. From a common index of 100 in 2007, the divergence is dramatic. 

          GDP, 2007 — 2015
         

Today, China has displaced the United States as the world’s largest economy measured in terms of the amount of goods and services a citizen can buy in his own country (purchasing power parity).

What Xi Jinping calls the “China Dream” expresses the deepest aspirations of hundreds of millions of Chinese, who wish to be not only rich but also powerful. At the core of China’s civilizational creed is the belief—or conceit—that China is the center of the universe. In the oft-repeated narrative, a century of Chinese weakness led to exploitation and national humiliation by Western colonialists and Japan. In Beijing’s view, China is now being restored to its rightful place, where its power commands recognition of and respect for China’s core interests.

Last November, in a seminal meeting of the entire Chinese political and foreign-policy establishment, including the leadership of the People’s Liberation Army, Xi provided a comprehensive overview of his vision of China’s role in the world. The display of self-confidence bordered on hubris. Xi began by offering an essentially Hegelian conception of the major historical trends toward multipolarity (i.e. not U.S. unipolarity) and the transformation of the international system (i.e. not the current U.S.-led system). In his words, a rejuvenated Chinese nation will build a “new type of international relations” through a “protracted” struggle over the nature of the international order. In the end, he assured his audience that “the growing trend toward a multipolar world will not change.”

Given objective trends, realists see an irresistible force approaching an immovable object. They ask which is less likely: China demanding a lesser role in the East and South China Seas than the United States did in the Caribbean or Atlantic in the early 20th century, or the U.S. sharing with China the predominance in the Western Pacific that America has enjoyed since World War II?

And yet in four of the 16 cases that the Belfer Center team analyzed, similar rivalries did not end in war. If leaders in the United States and China let structural factors drive these two great nations to war, they will not be able to hide behind a cloak of inevitability. Those who don’t learn from past successes and failures to find a better way forward will have no one to blame but themselves.

At this point, the established script for discussion of policy challenges calls for a pivot to a new strategy (or at least slogan), with a short to-do list that promises peaceful and prosperous relations with China. Shoehorning this challenge into that template would demonstrate only one thing: a failure to understand the central point I’m trying to make. What strategists need most at the moment is not a new strategy, but a long pause for reflection. If the tectonic shift caused by China’s rise poses a challenge of genuinely Thucydidean proportions, declarations about “rebalancing,” or revitalizing “engage and hedge,” or presidential hopefuls’ calls for more “muscular” or “robust” variants of the same, amount to little more than aspirin treating cancer. Future historians will compare such assertions to the reveries of British, German, and Russian leaders as they sleepwalked into 1914.

The rise of a 5,000-year-old civilization with 1.3 billion people is not a problem to be fixed. It is a condition—a chronic condition that will have to be managed over a generation. Success will require not just a new slogan, more frequent summits of presidents, and additional meetings of departmental working groups. Managing this relationship without war will demand sustained attention, week by week, at the highest level in both countries. It will entail a depth of mutual understanding not seen since the Henry Kissinger-Zhou Enlai conversations in the 1970s. Most significantly, it will mean more radical changes in attitudes and actions, by leaders and publics alike, than anyone has yet imagined.

First: I agree with Prof Allison's historical analysis: war between a rising power and the established great power is more likely than not.

Second: I am one of those who falls, too easily, into the "inconceivable" trap he describes in the second paragraph. I have said, and I remain convinced, that neither China nor the USA can win such a war. Our own Thucydides has explained the dragon vs the shark conundrum: each is paramount in its own environment, China as a great land power and the USA as the world greatest naval power, but the two cannot have a real war ... not without going nuclear and China can and would survive that.

Third: I agree, therefore, with Prof Allison's last two paragraphs. I hope US policymakers read this article, especially the conclusion ... but I doubt enough will.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #571 on: October 07, 2015, 20:41:22 »
Well, Hillary Clinton is against the TPP trade pact proving that (too) many of the people who are putting themselves forward as "leaders of the free world," Democrats and Republicans alike, are either charlatans, more interested in securing their own political goals than in the future of their country, or idiots.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline GAP

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #572 on: October 07, 2015, 20:48:11 »
Under NAFTA the US was the the big fish in a little pond......the pond just got larger, much larger.

The US is/has been so protective as to strangle it's own trade, the world is moving on....

Oh there still is a place for the US, and a good one, but not as Top Dog......
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I´m not so sure about the universe

Offline tomahawk6

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #573 on: October 07, 2015, 22:52:41 »
There are aspiring top dogs.Perhaps you would prefer China to the US.I will take a democratic state over a totalitarian any day.

Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Grand Strategy for a Divided America
« Reply #574 on: October 08, 2015, 07:59:41 »
It isn't a top dog issue. The US remains, by any and every sensible metric, the top dog.

But: the US is starting to stagnate, and part of that is because it has turned protectionist (think Britain in the 1870s); and China, which is, relatively, a freer trader is growing in strength. The US is not in absolute decline: the pot is getting bigger and China's share is bigger still. It's all relative.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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