24Snobbery and Vox Populi



There is no end to the admiration for the wisdom of our Founding Fathers. Not only did they conceive and implement the most representative government the world had known, drawing on their knowledge of The Greek and Roman Classics. But when they anticipated a particularly galling problem – or, as in the case of the competition of the larger and smaller of the original 13 British colonies which were to form the new Republic.

 

They also understood that the U.S. Constitution which established America’s fundamental law, and guaranteed certain basic rights to its citizens, would in the end be at the mercy of impulse and fads. When the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed it on September 17, 1787, presided over by George Washington, they faced an issue in the fear of smaller members they would be dominated by the numbers and wealth of the larger states such as Virginia. In 1790, Vermont, for example, had only 85,539 free whites and slaves compared to its neighbor, Massachusetts with its 378,787. [Yes, violations of Vermont’s anti-slavery law, a part of its 1777 constitution when it broke away from New York, were not unusual].

In the Federalist No. 10, James Madison argued against “an interested and overbearing majority” and the “mischiefs of faction” in an electoral system. Madison defined a faction as “a number of citizens whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

Madison and others hope and planned what was then called republican government [i.e., federalism, as opposed to direct democracy], with a distribution of voter rights and powers, would countervail against factions. Although the United States Constitution refers to “Electors” and “electors”, neither the phrase “Electoral College, or as until the early 19th century when the name “Electoral College” came into general usage for the electors selected to cast votes for president and vice president. The phrase was first written into federal law in 1845 and appears in the Constitution as “college of electors.

In a sense, what the Founders feared has come to pass in the creation by the system itself of a privileged c political lass, the so-called Establishments of both parties. They have come to dominate the federal government through their expertise in its intricate operations and skill in maneuvering in its constantly growing bureaucracy,. But in a largely unanticipated reaction, a general popular reaction took place in 2016 with the election of Donald K. Trump. Trump’s election, was unforeseen by even the most astute political observers – particularly those in the mainstream media who still are smarting from their failure.

Trump’s decisions since his election have further confounded these media observers along with the leaders of both the major parties. His unpredictability – from their standpoint – has led not only to inability to anticipate them but to a originality to the Trump Administration that has not been equaled for decades.

In that sense, even though he received a smaller popular vote than the Establishment’s candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, he has very much become the successful candidate of the vox populi, the voice of the people, or indeed, from the original Latin phrase, vox populi, vox dei – the voice of the people as the voice of God..Trump may indeed be the voice of “the forgotten man” in the American society to which he so often refers. One thing is clear: the continued struggle between Trump and his base against the Inside the Beltway Establishment aided and abetted by its Hollywood apparatus will continue to dominate the American political scene for some time. The ultimate victor is not now predictable but there is little doubt which side the Founders would have chosen.

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23Sliding into U.S.-China crisis


 

 

Despite Pres. Trump’s repeated claims of friendship with China’s Boss Xi Jinping, Washington-Peking relations have been slid by slow motion into crisis. [Trump might be reminded of British 19th century Prime Minister Lord Palmerton’s quip: “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.”.]

 

The depth of the crisis has been obscured by dramatic domestic news and the war of words between Trump and most of the national media.

 

The issues exist at every level – political, economic and military

 

The crisis entered a critical stage when Pyongyang flew a missile over Japan into the Pacific [Sept. 15] with the strongest possibility of North Korea’s an accidenta; strioke given North Korea’s poor navigational history

 

The United States is committed to automatically respond to any such attack on Japan’s defense by treaty as the keystone of its East Asian security system.

 

Washington now looks to Beijing to force Pyongyang to discontinue its weapons of mass destruction and threats to attack America territory. China could do that with its control of the North Korean tiny economy. Last year China bought two-thirds of North Korea’s exports, worth $2.6 and provided almost imports $3.9 billion in imports..

 

Although China voted September 3 with all the other members of the UN Security Council to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, it remains to be seen if Beijing will enforce the UN restrictions. Beijing did follow the UN vote with an announcement it was cutting petroleum shipments immediately.

 

 

But there is little doubt that Chinese leadership – perhaps Xi himself – remain conflicted over the North Korean issue. However much Xi’s increasing control in China, the Chinese Establishment – particularly the military with its bloody intervention in the Korean War [1950-53] – maintain the closest ties although Beijing dropped direct financial support in 2014.

 

Communist China fears pressure on Pyongyang and its collapse could bring reunification of the Peninsular and a reunited Korea, either neutralized or more likely with a tacit alliance with Washington.

 

In the crunch, the U.S. probably would have to take severe measures against U.S. China trade if it wants to force Beijing to curb Pyongyang. Even with a total world trade of more than $3.6 trillion, the 2016 estimate of almost $500 billion in American trade accounts for almost half the U.S.’ worldwide $737 trade deficit. That obviously would pose severe disruptions on the American economy.

 

Beijing has refused Washington’s offer to take  a more conciliatory view of other trade issues– the imbalance, intellectual property rights, processed food imports, etc. – if they were linked to sanction North Korea sanctions.

 

Meanwhile, Chinese planners are trying to move away from the heavy dependence on exports by continued forced urbanization of, some 1.4 billion. half its population, still living in rural areas. They hardly benefited from recent rapid growthbut worsening the situation of several hundred thousand “temporary” residents floating in its largest cities without official benefits.

 

China has, in fact, been exporting capital to the U.S. with below cost prices for thousands of household and capital products that have wiped out 5 million American manufacturing jobs since 2000, sme including imoported foreign exchange elements. And under attack from some Chinese economists, as an export of capital for a still underdeveloped economy.

 

Some American observers have wrung their hands over Beijing’s role as the chief government purchaser of U.S. Treasuries. Beijing this spring raised ownership of U.S. government bonds to $1.09 trillion   But China’s American debt do not provide China with undue economic influence over the United States. As the British economist John Maynard Keynes put it, “If you owe your bank a hundred pounds, you have a problem. But if you owe a million, it has.”

 

While Trump’s $700-billion program to renovate the U.S. military begins, Beijing continues to move aggressively on its perimeters — in the Japan Sea where it has taken over islands returned to Japan at the end of American Occupation, building naval and air bases  military bass on coral strands a thousand miles from Continental China athwart  one of the main commercial naval arteries of the world, and most recently, opening up old sores on the eastern Himalayan border with India, in support of its growing program of base-building in Pakistan at the entrance to the Persian Gulf from which it proposes a pipeline to carry across the country to western China.

 

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22A political threat


Developments within the Democratic Party are threatening the traditional American political system,

 

Unlike Western Europe, the U.S. system has differed from the older parliaments, when democracy has been in the ascendancy, as in Great Britain. The Europeans have always been governed by a balance among sectarian parties. Those relatively well organized political clubs have been defined relatively ideologically, whether by the moderate socialism of the British Labor Party with its strong dependence on the more conservative trade union movement, or its conservatives bound to English traditions of church and monarchy, often united with the representatives of the proprietors of landed estates.

 

In the United States, although the founders had not anticipated it, a new political class formed early in the Republic, only nominally affiliated with the merchants and small landowners [in New England] and larger slave-holdings states [of the Deep South] who had wrought the rebellion for Englishman’s rights.

 

But given the relatively vast numbers and geographic dispersion of the new 13 colonies and their successors, these parties were less than homogenous. When the old division between those who favored a  new federal government and those – like Thomas Jefferson – who opposed the new strong federation metamorphosed into the two current national parties in the late 1820s, they attained something like their current form.

 

In the modern era, both have been loosely organized – despite their often stronger constituent “machines” such as existed in New York City. In fact, they have often been composed a entirely contradictory ideologies.

 

The most dramatic example was, of course, the Democratic Party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the 1930s. Headed by a charismatic figure with pretentions as a country squire on the Hudson River plantations, FDR’s coalition could hardly have been more disparate. It counted for its majority in Congress on the so-called “Solid South” – representatives of a largely rural strongly bound to the segregation of the large Negro population. But its northern representatives, and a large part of FDR’s executive, counted the trade union movement as well as growing industrial owners with a small sprinkling of European-style Social Democrats and Communists trailing.

 

Those coalitions have formed and reformed in the post-World War II years. But the two parties ultimately represented within their respective borders differences greater than the differences between them. The main political battles have largely been fought within the parties, rather than between them, at the local and regional levels. That has led to the successful candidates for president which they have sponsored often differing as much within the same party as between the two parties’ candidates. Thus a relative conservative like Harry S. Truman could assume the FDR presidency [because FDR no longer wanted or needed for his electoral success a vice president on the left like Henry Wallace, a product of a family of Midwest agrarian radicals.] Had Wallace succeeded in his third party ticket in 1948, he would have tried to initiate policies as different as those of Truman as his Republican opponent.

 

What is happening today is the growing domination within the minority Democratic Party of its leftwing. No more evidence is necessary than the near riot set off when Democratic House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a scion of a Baltimore, Md., political family but a product of San Francisco, CA, leftwing politics, was attacked on camera by Democratic activitists. Their growing influence in what has been a dwindling party, apparently determined not to incorporate the broad spectrum that insures the life of the two-party system, is now a danger for a system that with all its faults has worked relatively well. One could, indeed, make the case it has worked better than the more fractured and ideological European configuration.

 

If the trend continues, the U.S. will be facing and new, unknown, and very different political equation.

 

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21Donald K. Trump’s new nationalism


 

 

There may be some who will denigrate President Trumps’ inaugural speech to the United Nations as lacking in subtlety. They may have an argument although an examination  indicates that the American chief executive ignored little essential detail in his arguments.

 

What Trump delivered was a a new call to the civilized world for the reevaluation of the nation-state, reminding them that though he spoke favorably about the prospects of the international body he was addressing, it had not fulfilled its promise. That promise, he also reminded his listeners, as President Harry S Truman had said, was the joining together of the world’s political polities through their every accent on the fulfillment of their individual sovereignty.

 

Trump laid out for his readers the three major crisis areas in international affairs which faced the institution’s 193 members. There was no diplomatic falderal in his presentation of the problem of a criminal regime in North Korea has brought the world to near disaster with its development of nuclear and missile weapons. He spelled out individual cases of its unsurpassed cruelty to its own citizens as well as interlopers. Nor did he let the Russians and the Chinese off the hook on their continued support of the regime where UN and USA sanctions were largely irrelevant. He echoes the earlier warning by the Permanent U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley to the UN that the U.S.’ military option to deal with the problem may have been reached.

 

Trump made no excuse for inadequacy of the Obama Administration’s deal to postpone development of nuclear weaponry by the Iran regime which he reminded listeners had a reputation as black as any historical tyranny. He suggested that his Administration would move to denounce that agreement and curb the export of terrorism through its own and its satellites in the Mideast.

 

Again in language no listener could fail to understand, he pointed out the Venezuelan regime had bankrupted a once prosperous country – one where the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has indeed successfully, Trump said, instituted socialism. What Venezuelan democrats know is that U.S. oil refineries have been fitted for import its particularly heavy crude, in 2016 more than 270 million barrels worth about $10 billion.  The decision of whether to close off those imports and further cripple the Maduro regime has to be on the docket at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

 

Trump went out of his way make a demonstration of his own personal support for Israel, and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, so often a target of anti-Americanism in the UN. The new emphasis on the American alliance with Israel in the Mideast was not only in sharp contrast to the Obama Administration. But it was also by implication a warning there would be no more American support for a Palestinian movement which refused to accept the existence of a Jewish state and continued to sponsor terrorism and assassination.

 

Trump made short shrift of the Hurricane destruction in the United States which he argued would be overcome by this country’s energy and proficiencies.

 

But inmplicit throughout Trumps message was his theme of “America first”, a new U.S. nationalism based on an emphasis on Washington  – as he urged other nations – to assert their national sovereignty. While promising the U.S. would continue its support of the UN – and lending Sec. Gen. António Guterres help in his effort to reform its bloated and inefficient bureaucracy – he warned that sovereign nations could not pass their obligations to international organizations.

 

Donald Trump’s UN speech will go down in U.S. history as a call for a new American nationalism, one based on its sovereignty as he urged other countries to assert theirs.

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20Business is business


 

 

“The chief business of the American people is business,” according to Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth president [1923–29].

A lawyer, he blossomed into a politician and as vice president took over from his scandal-ridden and expelled senior, Pres. Warren Harding. Coolidge. Like most of his fellows Coolidge was an advocate of smaller government and laissez-faire economcs, and, uncharacteristically, a stalwart supporter of racial equality.

One of the ironies of the American presidency is that although the independence of the New Republic was a revolt against interference of the Mother Country in trading, no “businessman” as such assumed the presidency until Donald K. Trump in 2017.

True, American presidents have often made business affairs a profitable sideline. Our first president, George Washington, for example, more than adequately steered the commercial affairs of the well endowed widow he married, she slightly more their common 27 years, in the White House in January 6, 1759.

Washington lived as a gentleman planter, in between his service in the British Province of Virginia militia in the French-Indian War [1754–63], his role commanding the grim campaign of the Revolutionary Army [1775 -1783], and his service as the first president [1789 to 1797]. Meanwhile, he worked constantly as an innovative farmer, switching from and experimenting with new crops, fertilizers, crop rotation, tools, and livestock.. By his death in 1799, he had expanded the plantation from 2,000 to 8,000 acres with more than 3,000 acres under cultivation.

Not all presidents have been so successful at their parallel commercial pursuits.

Thomas Jefferson, perhaps because an ostentatious lifestyle, owed money throughout his lifetime. His main source of income, “Monticello,” proved inadequate to cover his debts. Towards the end of his life, he he petitioned the state of Virginia to auction off his land; the state refused. After he died, his estate was auctioned but his surviving daughter was had to rely on charity.

James Madison, at his “Montpelier” plantation, suffered similar difficulties. While his various agriculture businesses were occasionally profitable, in the end they lost money. His stepson, a gambler, racked up debts Madison absorbed and forced him to sell half of Montpelier. Although he may have wanted to free his slaves, his financial troubles prevented him doing so, and he sold some of them to pay off debts.

James Monroe,Monroe ran his plantation into the ground. At the end of his life, he petitioned Congress to relieve his family’s debt and was granted $30,000. It turned out to be insufficient and he was forced to sell his Paris home and his 3,500 acre “Ash Lawn” estate. On Monroe’s misfortune, John Quincy Adams wrote “Mr. Monroe is a very remarkable instance of a man whose life has been a continued series of the most extraordinary good fortune, who has never met with any known disaster, has gone through a splendid career of public service, has received more pecuniary reward from the public than any other man since the existence of the nation, and is now dying, at the age of seventy-two, in wretchedness and beggary.”

President Harry S. Truman may have been the poorest of all U.S. presidents. He was worth less $1 million in today’s dollars. .

No one knows for sure how much Donald Trump is worth, but he is the country’s richest president ever. Trump is believed to have inherited $40 million when his father died in 1974. Bloomberg News estimates the GOP candidate is now worth $2.9 billion. But Trump claims he’s much richer than that because he believes his name alone is worth $3 billion.

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19Hurricanes and climate change


 

The two recent horrendous storms have settled the continuing argument about climate change, although neither side in what has been the recent lively and costly dispute in time and energy may recognize it.

 

Our argument begins with the fact that it is hard to exaggerate the force of these weather movements. Granted that both storms set new records or hark back several generations to other high records, and therefore are unusually severe, what they do demonstrate is the power of Mother Nature at what may or may not be its maximum strength. That is to say, much weaker storms, too, exhibit the power of natural forces around us and our inability to control them.

 

Any human activity, whether in support of life or destructive of it, for the most part fade into insignificance totally in comparison.

 

That there is climate change has never been in dispute. We have considerable evidence accumulated in relatively recent times about these changes, remembering always that our historical records are short considering the ages we are talking about

 

The argument has been to what extent human activity impacts on the weather to create or alter it in the longer-term climate.

 

What the storms have demonstrated for any who will take a moment to think about it, is that any human activity is puny in comparison with the strength of Mother Nature and its capacity to change the weather, whether temporarily or over a longer time. These storms are of such magnitude as to put that issue out of the question.

 

The argument is arcane, of course. It has always been. But its implications are important.

 

Those who have argued that human activity – whether intentional or simply coincidental to our increasingly sophisticated industrial and post-industrial livelihood – has a profound effect and alters the climate over the longer term. Therefore, it is argued, public policy must be based on an assumption that human activity can greatly affect the longer term climate development.

 

But the force these storms, and many of much less intensity, demonstrates that human activity whatever it may be, is relatively insignificant compared with the forces of Mother Nature which are totally beyond our control.

 

The deduction that must be drawn from this common sense analysis of the changes in the weather, whether short or long-term, is that our ability to coordinate our activity as to affect the climate, the longer or shorter effects, is extremely limited in comparison to the strength of weather events totally beyond our control such as these storms.

 

That does not mean, of course, that we should avoid all environmental concerns in connection with our industrial activity. But it does mean that we must be realistic about how far we should go in curbing the benefits of any activity in order to attempt to affect the weather, or even a more ambitious aim, climate control.

 

Such an analysis of our policy decisions would be, of course, difficult as it is in formulating all economic and social policy.

 

But it does suggest that activists may have been exaggerating our ability to control the weather and theefore the climate. It may add substance to the argument that some of the policy initiatives we have taken in that regard are not only virtually meaningless in their effect but also costly to our over all income and our way of life.

 

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18Reality and foreign policy


 

 

Donald K. Trump and his base went into office – unexpectedly for most observers – with a promise to cut back on American commitments abroad and to avoid new ones. That was the essence of ”America First”, an echo of an isolationist group and slogan in the pre-World War II debate over U.S. involvement in European arguments.

 

But what they have found to their chagrin is that it is not possible. Overwhelming relative power of the U.S. not only in relation to smaller countries but to other major world leaders makes it ipso facto a determining factor – even when it exercises the option not to take part in the decision-making.

 

The extent of U.S. power in relative terms cannot be overstated. The American GDP of almost 19 billion – the sum total of all its economic activity — in 2016 was $8 billion more than its nearest rival, China. That GDP is a combination of high average individual incomes, a large population, capital investment, moderate unemployment, high consumer spending, a relatively young population, and technological innovation. None of these are challenged by most of its competitors, again save China, and then only n a couple of categories.

The United States shares 24.9 percent of global wealth, while the smallest economy, Tuvalu, a Polynesian island nation, contributes only 0.00005 percent. Fist ranked China shares 18.3 percent. In nominal data, in 2017 five economies would have GDPs above $1 trillion, 62 above $100 billion and 177 above $1 billion. The top five economies account for approximately 53.82 % of the total of world production, where as the top ten account for approx. 67.19 %.

The U.S. overseas involvements continue with few changes in American policy by the Trump Administration.

Washington’s involvement in the Middle East continues to be one of its most important foreign entanglements. The U.S. alliance with Israel depends not only on the important lobby of pro-Zionist Americans including the influential Jewish community, but important commercial and technological ties based on their commercial relationship.

When Trump initially tried to downgrade if not reject American participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO], he encountered counter pressure. The threat of NATO intervention blocked further Moscow action against Ukraine, and supported UN and U.S sanctions against Russian as a lever against further aggression against its Western neighbors which its leader Vladimir Putin had threatened.

Trump’s short-lived love affair with China’s Xi Jinping has been torpedoed by China’s aggressive moves in the Sea of Japan and the South China Sea. Beijing’s base-building athwart one of the major commercial naval routes of the world is inimitable to America’s longtime advocacy of freedom of the seas for itself and all navigators.

The China relationship also is critical to fending off the threat of North Korea to use its intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons against Guam or other U.S. territory. China not only accounts for 90% of North Korea’s external trade, but Pyongyang’s IBM and nuclear weapons owe much to the earlier transfers of Chinese technology.

A Trump hands-off policy in the civil war which has developed in Venezuela is not likely to be sustainable. The attempt to set up a so-called :”socialist” dictatorship backed by the Castro Regime in Cuba is an effort to seek anti-American allies among the left throughout the Hemisphere. Washington’s relations with Latin America are too intimate in terms of trade, immigration and defense capabilities to be left to the machinations of the bankrupt regime in Havana whose only strategy continues to be anti-American.

Trump, as his predecessors – since the end of World War II – finds increasingly that the U.S. must have a policy toward any of the major developments in world politics.

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17Islamization of Europe


Western civilization as represented by the European cultures is under threat from militant Islam.

 

A combination of falling birthrates among the native-born and the influx of hundreds of thousands of Moslem refugees from the Mideast are threatening to swamp the indigenous European culture.

 

Because the French census forbids asking religious questions, estimates of the number of Moslems there varies but may be as much as 10% of the total   population of 70 million, a third of whom described themselves as observing believers. Germany in 2015 was calculated to have 4.4 to 4.7 million Muslims [5.4–5.7% of the population]. But that was before Chancellor Angela Merkel permitted a million Syrian and other refugees to enter in 2016.

 

Optimists have suggested that the growing numbers of Muslims will assimilate to the powerful post-Christian, largely secular culture of the West. They also point to the many aspects of Islam which share the Judaic and Christian religious experience.

 

But that may well be wishful thinking, given the Moslem numbers and their tendency to form self-contained slums around the great European urban centers, incubators of Islamic extremism. Police fear to enter many of these and radical imams [Islamic clerics] in their mosques aggressively recruit young men to wage jihad against the West. The November 2016 bloody attack in Paris hailed from Molenbeek, a Brussels slum that has long been a hotbed for radical Islam, drugs and lawlessness.

 

It also ignores the fundamentals of Islam. Moslems debated the authoritarian aspects of their dogma – which advocated forced conversion and led to the conquest of much of the Mediterranean world.— during the so-called golden age of al-Anduls in present day Spain. But Ibn Rushd [1126 – 1198], often Latinized as Averroes, a medieval Andalusian polymath and cleric, lost the argument with more rigid Moslem theologians The argument came down to whether any individual act of a natural phenomenon occurred only because God willed it, or Ibn Rushd’s insistence that phenomena followed natural laws that God created, The latter, of course, was an important fundamental concept of the European Renaissances and the rediscovery of much of earlier Greek and Roman learning.

Since 2014 Europe has seen an upsurge of Islamic terrorist activity, a spillover of the Syrian Civil War linked to the European migrant crisis. Moslem radicals have used social media to encourage terrorism across Europe; including a number of “lone wolf” attacks..

The number of so-called “honor” crimes has escalated in Germany. Honor violence ranges from emotional abuse to physical and sexual violence to murder, usually carried out by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought shame upon a family or clan. Offenses include refusing to agree to an arranged marriage, entering into a relationship with a non-Muslim or someone not approved by the family, refusing to stay in an abusive marriage or living an excessively Western lifestyle. In practice, however, the lines between honor crimes and crimes of passion are blurred being any challenge to male authority. Elicit retribution is sometimes staggeringly brutal – as with a German husband who dragged his wife behind his car with their two-year-old child sitting in the backseat after plunging a knife into her several times.

The growing American debate over the qualifications and numbers of refugees to be admitted takes on some of these questions. Proponents of a more generous policy toward the refugees point to the U.S.’ strong tradition of assimilation. Others argue that conditions in the world and in America have changed radically; for example, rapid and cheap communications and transportation have reinforced ties between immigrants and their origins which did not exist in the past..

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16China’s strategy clear


 

In a world of regional conflicts, new fighting in the high Himalayas in Bhutan sheds further significance on Beijing’s world strategy.

Bhutan, an incredibly beautiful retreat in the heart of the highest mountains in the world with only a million inhabitants, was a “protectorate” of British India. It, and a half dozen other frontier states – including Nepal with 30 million – drifted either into incorporation, semi-independence or independence [Nepal’s 30 million] in the new Subcontinent divided basically between predominantly Moslem Pakistan [later Pakistan and Bangladesh] and India [with its Islamic minority almost as large as Pakistan’s population].

In late June Beijing accused India of sending border guards from Sikkim, one of the Himalayan kingdoms that eventually became part of India, on to the Doklam plateau in Bhutan. [Bhutan maintains no formal relations with China.] Historically Bhutan  was linked geographically to Tibet rather than India below the Himalayas.]  China accused the Indians of trying to obstruct road construction. New Delhi did admit it had approached the Chinese crew warning them against disturbing the current status.

Indian and Chinese forces have clashed in various parts of the 3,000-mile frontier – much of it either disputed or indefinitely marked – since 1962. Then as a result of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s pushing the Indian demarcation of the British Indian border – apparently with the assurance from his chief foreign policy advisers, V.K. Krishna Menon, a Communist sympathizer, that Moscow would intervene with their Chinese Communist ally to prevent violence. Instead, the Indian military – heirs to the great British Indian Imperial tradition – suffered a devastating blow which brought the Chinese into the lowlands on the south side of the Himalayas but then with a rapid unilateral withdrawal.

Since then, there have been clashes between them– especially after their occupation of Tibet and the flight of the Dalai Lama, its religious-civil leader, to India in 1950, where he leads a government in exile among Tibetan refugees. Despite Pakistan’s one-time alliance and heavy dependence on U.S. arms, Islamabad has drifted into an alliance with Beijing

As American influence and aid has diminished, Beijing’s role in Pakistan – which already had nuclear weapons – has grown. China has been given permission to establish a naval base at Gwadar, on the Iranian border at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. An official announcement came just a few days after U.S. Navy SEALs conducted a secret raid to kill Osama Ben Ladin in Pakistani when relations between Washington and Islamabad took a nosedive.

Beijing plans for Pakistan to play a major role in China’s “Belt and Road”, a $1.4-trillion global trade plan, a rebuilding of the historic Silk Road from China’s west to the Persian Gulf and Europe. If the Chinese are successful, it could shift the global economy and challenge the U.S.-led order. Islamabad is banking on receiving more than $50 billion in Chinese loans and grants including a pipeline to bring Mideast oil and gas to China’s western province of Sinkiang.

Pakistan leadership – always fraught with division and corruption — has just lost its prime minister after a court’s ruling on his massive corruption. Some Islamabad politicians see China as its new “equalizer” with the U.S. and Indian relationship – after the decades of New Delhi’s alliance with Moscow — increasingly stronger. Prime Minister nahrenda Modi, during a two-day visit to Washington in June, called on Islamabad to end its support of terrorism, supporters of the Kashmir state disputed between the two neighbors.

American aid to Pakistan, once the third-largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance, is expected to total less than $1 billion in 2016, down from a recent peak of more than $3.5 billion in 2011.

The Trump Administration is again face to face with a decision: should it continue military and economic aid to nuclear armed Pakistan in order to win whatever support there is for the West among its elite or throw in the towel to what has become a Chinese ally in Beijing’s strategy to reach around India to extend its political influence based on its rank as the world’s No. 2 economy?”

 

 

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15The road to Pyongyang through Bejing


 

 

North Korea’s second intercontinental ballistics missile launch July 29 is a challenge to the five countries trying to keep the Peninsular stable. Neither China, Japan, South Korea, the U.S. nor Russia would welcome a reunited,strong and independent Korea. South Korea’s growth as the world’s eleventh largest economy, fourth in Asia, achieved in a generation, suggests what might happen with the addition of the North’s extensive minerals.

 

The U.S. stood by and watched for more than a hour before the earlier launching of an ICBM July 4th with Pyongyang’s 33-year-old dictator, Kim Young-un conspicuously present. Both offered easy targets but Washington policymakers apparently feared destroying the missile and killing Kim would set off uncontrollable chaos. That could include a resumption of the Korean War which cost more than U.S 60,000 dead and missing before a truce in 1953.

 

Pres. Donald Trump, after his earlier praise following the visit of Chinese Dictator Xi Ping-ping, has now turned bitterly critical of China. Trump has a point in that Pyongyang relies on China for 90 percent of its external trade including food. Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear technology originated with Chinese loans.

 

China did announce a clampdown on coal imports, the largest item in their trade. Given his own earlier optimism, Trump’s comments were a sharp change. “Our foolish past leaders have allowed them][the Chinese] to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet … they do nothing for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!”

 

Trump is simplifying the China-North Korean relationship, however. Beijing has more than 2.6 million ethnic Korean citizens, plus a quarter of a million recent refugees, a large part concentrated along their 800-mile border. Their other connections include: a close military alliance formed in the Korean War when Chinese intervention halted Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s advance toward the Yalu River border and what appeared a de facto reunification of the Peninsular divided by the post-World War II settlement.

 

Nor would Beijing like to risk a collapse of the North Korean regime [such as in 1990 overtook East Germany, considered the strongest satellite in the Soviet Bloc.]. It anticipates handling a flood of refugees no matter how Communist China is noted for its excesses against its own population. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is already increasing his own internal crackdown with growing comparisons to the Mao Tse-tung Era with its personality cult.

 

Despite its limited measures to squeeze Pyongyang economically in response to UN and US sanctions against the missile and nuclear developments, China–North Korea trade has steadily increased — up 37.4 percent in the first quarter of 2017 from 2016.

 

Yet Beijing has announced measures against Pyongyang. In February 2017, China temporarily suspended coal imports and China may be supportive of measures banning oil exports to North Korea should Pyongyang conduct further nuclear tests, echoing calls from some Chinese experts. Regional experts say such actions may suggest that the Chinese regime is “losing patience” with Pyongyang, while others say that these shifts are merely tactical.

 

Pyongyang’s diversion of resources to the world’s largest military establishment – with 5,889,000 paramilitary personnel, 25 percent of the North Korean population. – has produced famine which in the 1990s killed between eight hundred thousand and 2.4 million people. In June 2015 Pyongyang reported its worst drought in decades and flooding in September 2016.

 

Washington may now have to move in on Chinese firms pushing North Korean exports. much in the way they successfully undertook currency counterfeit operations in the early 2000s. With the Chinese economy now experiencing new lower growth and attempting to move to domestic consumption, Beijing is vulnerable to such a campaign although it is likely to produce addition friction in U.S.-China relations.

 

sws-0-01-17

14All-out in Afghanistan – or out?


14Allout in Afghanistan – or out?

 

It’s time for decision-making in Afghanistan.

America’s longest war – 17 years — has cost more than 2,3500 lives [and 20,000 wounded] at a cost of $1.07 trillion.

 

President Donald Trump has authorized sending 3,000 to 5,000 more troops  to strengthen training and support efforts there, augmenting the 9,800-American part of an international force of 13,000..

 

However, the cost of the war has to be reckoned as much greater. Battlefield medicine has improved to more than 90 percent survival of soldiers wounded in Afghanistan. [In  Vietnam 86.5% survived.] But it also means more than 320,000 veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq have Traumatic Brain Injury. More than 1600 lost all or part of a limb and more than 138,000 have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — flashbacks, hypervigilance and difficulty sleeping. The cost for these veterans’ medical payments over the next 40 years will be more than $1 trillion.

 

But now Afghan troops are fighting a resurgence of the Taliban and the Islamic State group. And 2,000 Americans are still actively engaged in active combat in addition to their training and support operations of the Kabul regime’s military.

 

Increaingly the options are narrowing for Washington policymakers.

 

A complete withdrawal from the area would almost certainly lead to a resurgence of Taliban operations and the possible participation of other radical Islamic forces. The possibility of the region again becoming a base for attacks on the American homeland would have to be considered a distinct possibility. An Afghanistan in Taliban hands or even in civil war among increasingly radical Islamist terrorist groups would also threaten neighboring Pakistan with its 200 million Moslems, even neighboring India’s own Islamic minority which is projected to reach 310 million by 2050, by then the largest Islamic group in the world.

 

After December 2014, NATO formally ended combat operations theoretically transferring full security responsibility to the Afghan government. But while Pakistan launched operation in the North Waziristan tribal area in June 2014, between the two countries, dislodging thousands of mainly Uzbek, Arab and Pakistani militants, they flooded into Afghanistan swelling Taliban’s ranks.

 

Afghan security forces lacked capabilities and equipment, especially air power and reconnaissance to counter the Taliban’s increasingly frequent terrorist attacks, even against urban centers. On June 22, 2015, the Taliban detonated a car bomb outside the National Assembly. The Quadrilateral Coordination Group-consisting of Afghan, American, Chinese and Pakistani officials invited the Taliban to discuss peace talks since January 2016, but they appear preoccupied with fighting each other and the government forces.

 

In January 2016, the US granted new legal authority for the U.S. military to go on the offensive against militants affiliated with the ISIS-K (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant –Khorasan Province) in Afghanistan,.after the State Department designated the ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a foreign terrorists

 

The question now is whether the U.S. should again build its forces, modify its terms of engagement to including massive air power, in an effort to break the various Taliban groups. Whether that would be enough to sufficiently strengthen the feuding, corrupt Kabul regime and its own military is a question. But the alternative now appears to be a total withdrawal rather than a piecemeal return to the fight which the current increase in forces suggests might be a creeping strategy leading to another Vietnam disaster.

 

sws-07-30-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time for decision-making in Afghanistan.

America’s longest war – 17 years — has cost more than 2,3500 lives [and 20,000 wounded] at a cost of $1.07 trillion.

 

President Donald Trump has authorized sending 3,000 to 5,000 more troops  to strengthen training and support efforts there, augmenting the 9,800-American part of an international force of 13,000..

 

However, the cost of the war has to be reckoned as much greater. Battlefield medicine has improved to more than 90 percent survival of soldiers wounded in Afghanistan. [In  Vietnam 86.5% survived.] But it also means more than 320,000 veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq have Traumatic Brain Injury. More than 1600 lost all or part of a limb and more than 138,000 have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — flashbacks, hypervigilance and difficulty sleeping. The cost for these veterans’ medical payments over the next 40 years will be more than $1 trillion.

 

But now Afghan troops are fighting a resurgence of the Taliban and the Islamic State group. And 2,000 Americans are still actively engaged in active combat in addition to their training and support operations of the Kabul regime’s military.

 

Increaingly the options are narrowing for Washington policymakers.

 

A complete withdrawal from the area would almost certainly lead to a resurgence of Taliban operations and the possible participation of other radical Islamic forces. The possibility of the region again becoming a base for attacks on the American homeland would have to be considered a distinct possibility. An Afghanistan in Taliban hands or even in civil war among increasingly radical Islamist terrorist groups would also threaten neighboring Pakistan with its 200 million Moslems, even neighboring India’s own Islamic minority which is projected to reach 310 million by 2050, by then the largest Islamic group in the world.

 

After December 2014, NATO formally ended combat operations theoretically transferring full security responsibility to the Afghan government. But while Pakistan launched operation in the North Waziristan tribal area in June 2014, between the two countries, dislodging thousands of mainly Uzbek, Arab and Pakistani militants, they flooded into Afghanistan swelling Taliban’s ranks.

 

Afghan security forces lacked capabilities and equipment, especially air power and reconnaissance to counter the Taliban’s increasingly frequent terrorist attacks, even against urban centers. On June 22, 2015, the Taliban detonated a car bomb outside the National Assembly. The Quadrilateral Coordination Group-consisting of Afghan, American, Chinese and Pakistani officials invited the Taliban to discuss peace talks since January 2016, but they appear preoccupied with fighting each other and the government forces.

 

In January 2016, the US granted new legal authority for the U.S. military to go on the offensive against militants affiliated with the ISIS-K (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant –Khorasan Province) in Afghanistan,.after the State Department designated the ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a foreign terrorists

 

The question now is whether the U.S. should again build its forces, modify its terms of engagement to including massive air power, in an effort to break the various Taliban groups. Whether that would be enough to sufficiently strengthen the feuding, corrupt Kabul regime and its own military is a question. But the alternative now appears to be a total withdrawal rather than a piecemeal return to the fight which the current increase in forces suggests might be a creeping strategy leading to another Vietnam disaster.

 

sws-07-30-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11A war against Christians


A pervasive persecution of Christians goes on throughout the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia with relatively small organized efforts to oppose it, even among Western churchmen.

True, both the Pope Francis has spoken out against discrimination, and in many instances, imprisonment and worse. In April the Roman Catholic Pope made a ceremonial visit to meet the leader of Egypt’s indigenous Christian Coptic leader who may head as many as 20 million Egyptian Christians. But the Mainline Western Protestant churches with their preoccupation with social issues, often to the neglect of articles of faith, have largely left opposition to such oppression to the Western democratic governments led by the U.S.

 

The statistics are horrendous:

It is estimated that more than 300 people are murdered monthly throughout the world because of their Christian faith.

More than 200 places of worship are attacked and destroyed monthly.

Altogether, almost 800 incidents of violence are committed monthly because of religious prejudice against Christians.

The Pew Center, an American secular research organization, estimates more than 75% of the world’s population lives in areas of religious persecution, many of them anti- Christian.

The U.S. State Department compiles a list of more than 60 countries which practice religious discrimination against their own population.

In some areas, where Islam is the dominant religion, there are affiliated Moslem organizations which persecute religious minorities, particularly Christians.

.

Ironically it is the Middle East where Christianity was founded which has the highest toll of martyrs. This past Palm Sunday preceding Easter, two suicide bombings by Moslem fananatics killed 45 persons and injured far more in two Egyptian Coptic churches. It is also paradoxical that Egypt with by far the largest Christian minority in the region has by far the largest number of victims.

 

The Center for the Study of Global Christianity, an academic research center that monitors worldwide demographic trends, estimates that in the period 2005-16 — an average of 900,000 Christians were killed.annually. From Nov. 1, 2015, to Oct. 31, 2016, Open Doors tabulated as many as 1,207 Christians were killed around the globe for faith-related reasons. This is a conservative estimate since it does not include statistics from North Korea and large areas of Iraq and Syria.

 

Persecution of Christians is part of a general pattern of repression in many of these areas, of course. But it takes on a peculiar character because the effort to oppose repression is inhibited by a lack of understanding and forthrightness about the nature of Islam. Islam is, of course, supposedly one of the Abrahamic religions. It has borrowed heavily not only in mythology but in its moral code, rituals and performance from Judaism and Christianity. But unlike Christianity and Judaism, it has not broken its ties to secular power and, indeed, has endowed them with authoritarianism. That is why, for example, Indonesia with a brief tradition of freedom since independence in 1945, is now beset with radical Islamic groups attempting to establish Islam as a state-imposed belief.

This conflict exists, to a greater or lesser extent, in all those majority Moslem societies however much they have also borrowed Western European legal codes from their colonial domination which guarantee secular societies. This conflict will intensify if economic progress does not solve some of the other growing problems of these societies.

Sws-07-24-17

10To the Finland Station


While the U.S. debates whether it has “a Russian problem”, little Finland [6 million] is again fearful of wrestling with its old neighbor.

There is a new wrinkle in the Russia-Finland encounter, however. The Finns are always feeling threatened by their giant neighbor now planning one of its largest military exercises in years. In riposte, the Finns are going underground. A subterranean city beneath Helsinki forms its critical line of defense. Finnish soldiers routinely train there with the aim of keeping Finland’s government running and city residents safe in any attack. A network of more than 124 miles of tunnels, passageways and shelters supplies utility and subway tunnels, communications, water supply and Wi-Fi. There is shelter space for al the city’s more than 600,000 residents.

The Russian war games will take place on Finland’s northern border as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] simultaneously boosts its own presence in the three Baltic states just across the Gulf of Finland. Finland maintains the fiction of its neutrality between Moscow and the West by remaining outside NATO even though it is increasingly dependent on Western – and especially U.S. – arms with an equally officially neutral Sweden.

Much of the relationship is based on the history of The Winter War when Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union tried to subdue what was then a small largely agricultural society gangling off neutral Sweden to the West. [Finland has a substantial Swedish minority and considers itself bilingual.] But with the Western democracies, and much of the rest of the world, cheering, the little Finnish army with its ski troops and other knowledge of winter warfare, held off the Soviet giant for nine months. In the end, it lost 10% of its territory – including its Arctic port was ceded to Russia and it had to absorb a half million Finnish ethnics [12% of its population] as refugees from the Karelian peninsular reaching toward Leningrad that had been Moscow’s target.

One of the great ironies of modern history is that the threat of aggression and reincorporation into a Russian empire has raised Finland to one of the most prosperous and technically advanced societies. [The per capita income is 222% of the world’s average.] That’s despite its isolation at a frigid corner of the world.

The original $300 billion [1939 prices] of reparations which Helsinki agreed to pay the Soviets built a new manufacturing and economic complex that ultimately delivered by 1952, 340,000 railroad carloads of goods and services to Moscow. The economic effect was to turn Finland increasingly into a high tech industrial economy culminating in its leadership of the new wireless telephone industry in the late 1900s.

More than ever, more alarmed than Western observer, Helsinki has seen the Russian seizure of Crimea ahead of Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula as a model for a new threat to its own independence. Its military have carried out an exercise based on a recent, real-world scenario including takeover of government buildings by foreign special forces, like those of the Russians on their southern flank. Some of those wargames were held in Helsinki’s underground labyrinth.

Finland also says it has faced Moscow’s use of pro-Russian activists, propaganda and political pressure on Finnish politicians since the Cold War And although maintaining its strict formal neutrality, Finnish authorities say they have seen concerted efforts by pro-Russian nongovernmental groups, social media accounts and cyberattacks attempting to influence domestic politics..This year 10 NATO countries and the EU committed to establishing a research center focused on hybrid warfare, to open in Helsinki in September.

Sws-07-16-17

8Going to the doctor


We have never been supporters of an all-inclusive law governing the healthcare industry.

 

It is, after all, huge — the economic system that provides goods and services to treat patients with curative, preventive,

rehabilitative, and palliative care. Total health care spending in the U.S. was 18% of GDP in 2011, the highest in the world at $2.3 trillion. The very size of the whole enterprise – from individual medicine practiced by doctors to hospitalization and public health programs – perhaps a sixth of the American economy — suggests how difficult it is to get a perspective on its problems much less possible solutions.

 

That’s why we saw Obamacare as not only not a solution to the problem, but because it attempted to solve all the medical health problems in one piece of legislation, a menace and not just a legislative mistake. All that was compounded by the secrecy, the speed, and the one-party authorship – there was not a single Republican vote for the legislation – doomed it.

 

As Obamacare continues to implode under its own deficiencies, the search for a soluition to the America’s health problems continues. But, again, one would be more sanguine were that a search for solutions to individual problems than one overall panacea which is now the case.

 

The search, of course, is for a system that delivers more access to its potential clients at lower prices.

 

It is with this point of view that we approach the current debate over health care legislation now in the excruciatingly complex process of legislative production, with a House of Representatives version now in the hands of the more arcane rules of the U.S. Senate. That would, in a first stage, presumably, present a different version which would have to be compromised between the two pieces of proposed legislation for final legislation t be voted into law by both houses..

 

It is tragic, we believe, that because of the generation of Obamacare, it is now considered a given that it must be replaced by an equally all-reaching one piece of law. For some of the same reasons as with Obamacare, we fear that it will inevitably produce some of the same results.

 

Given what are generally regarded as better solutions in some other countries’ developed economies achieving more economic returns from the vast expenditures on healthcare in the U.S., introducing cost-saving and more access measures does not seem to be an unobtainable goal.

 

Also in much of the discussion it ignores the growing role of technology which while supplying new and often unanticipated solutions to individual health concerns, often incurs new costs in equipment and its application, only a small part of which we suspect is reducing existing costs. The ordinary individual with the ordinary afflictions has little difficulty in seeing this kind of solution all around him as the progress in medical practice improves extremely rapidly.

 

As we write, the Senate is in the process of originating its own particular approach to the healthcare industry. As we have noted, unfortunately, it is already assumed that the Senate’s product will be a substitute for the proposed legislation already enacted in the House but, indeed, both a replacement of Obamacare. It may have been critical that the question of linking the withdrawal of Obamacare and presenting “a replacement” have been linked for many legislators. Unfortunately, it also guarantees that some of the problems of Obamacare will inevitably reassert themselves in any new legislation.

 

It is early, of course, to take a pessimistic view of this whole complicated process. We can only hope that as it progresses, both the Senators and the Representatives will not have their hands tied to what has gone before.

 

Sws-07-13-17.

All the rich are screaming


Normally we would be coming down hard on the side of newspaper owners in any argument; they are after all running the business where we make our living.

But we are finding it a little hard to choose sides in a struggle between three of the wealthiest men in the world and a news service organization – no pikers themselves for rolling in the dough. The problem seems to be that Google, the preeminent internet news service, has handed the three newspaper owners a bill they think unreasonable. Given their own great resources, it seems to be less a matter of their money than their power and influence.

The three newspaper owners who claim Google is driving them toward “serfdom” [their word no less!] are The Washington Post’s Jeff Bezos [worth $83.9 billion], perhaps the richest man in the world, the Mexican Carlos Slim who is also The New York Times’ largest stockholder, The Buffalo News’ Warren Buffett [the original megabillionaire publisher said to be worth a paltry $76.9 billion].

The three have asked Congress to intervene in support of an anti-trust action to back them against another duo of media moghuls, the billionaires Sergey Brin [$45.6 billion] and Larry Page [46.8 billion], the owners of Google.

The whole idea of a Congressional intervention is not only ridiculous but obviously unconstitutional: setting terms of any relationship between government and the media is a violation of the first amendment to the Constitution which says explicitly: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” That has to include subsidies although perhaps at least temporarily beneficial to the media.[We’re not sure the U.S. Post Office subsidies for second and third class mail, although hoary parts of the current journalistic scene, don’t come under that purview.]

Google, of course, is a runner-up in a struggle with its old soulmate Amazon, both going after the broadest markets possible in their drive to eliminate the traditional retail outlet. The internet has allowed traditional retailers to connect with potential customers and express their brand in entirely new ways, and physical stores have become a part of their communication and sales strategy instead of being their only or primary way to reach consumers. Whether that isn’t a rocky relationship doomed to be eventually shaken loose remains to be seen with the retailer disappearing under the weight of his greater overhead.

The question is, of course, what is going to happen to the old newspaper establishments, so long a part of the financial as well as the cultural world. Many, if not most of that will continue to have a high value. But the days when a newspaper — even the voice of official Washington, The New York Times — set the contours of the public debate are rapidly disappearing. That isn’t helped, of course, by the current war of MainStreamMedia and their very personal antagonism toward Donald Trump. Having failed to recognize that Trump was a serious candidate, they have not accommodated themselves to the fact he is after all not only the President but one who is given to unpredictable and crucial decision-making. [He says not tipping your hand on upcoming decisions is an important part of any successful strategy.]

Trump has used the viciousness of the MSM attitude toward him and played it like a violin. If you give him the benefit of the doubt, you can say he has used this contretemps as a way of drawing attention away from his own more difficult agenda in solving the more important issues of government, although how far this strategy has worked if debatable and will be until we are further along in a very rough and tumble presidency.

Sws-07-18-17

One-state solution


The Israel-Palestine two-state “solution” is melting away.

For a half century negotiating a relationship between the Jews of Israel and the
Moslem and Christian Arabs of Palestine has been a major diplomatic preoccupation.

But without ever finding the formula, reality is wiping away the concept of creating two states in the old British League of Nationals Mandated Palestine.

The fundamental reason is clear: An Arab Palestine is no match for Israeli Jews’
dynamic economy and society which is making it — despite its size [8.5 million] — a world power.

The question posed, of course, is what kind of one-state solution will evolve from
fast moving events.

There had to be a two-state solution, it was argued, for otherwise a Jewish Israel
would be swamped by an Arab majority. Israel could not be, it was argued, a democratic and Jewish state if it had to live with a majority of Arabs. Israel’s Declaration of Independence after all had called for a Jewish state with equality of social and political rights, irrespective of religion, race, or sex.

And, indeed, Arab citizens of Israel have been elected to every Knesset, and
currently hold 17 of its 120 seats.

But Israel’s overwhelming victory against the Arab forces in the 1967 Six Day
War added the contiguous occupied areas of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. A 2013 estimate counted 6.2 million Jews and others in Israel, 1.7 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank [and East Jerusalem].. There were 1.6 million Israeli Arabs [not including Druze who have largely chosen Israeli citizenship.]. Thus there were 5.8 million Arabs and 6.2 million Jews between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

Higher birthrates [including plural marriage] among the Arab Bedouin [momads] increasingly redress this balance it was believed with a majority of Arabs.

The current population distribution already demonstrates that potential problem.

Yousef Munayyer, an Israeli Arab citizen argues the 1.5 million Israel Arabs
are second-class citizens while four million more are not citizens at all. Although
Palestinians make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population, he argues they are allocated less than 7 percent of the budget He recalls that a Jew from any country can move to Israel under“The Right of Return Law” but a Palestinian refugee, with a valid claim to property in Israel, cannot.

It is clear that Israel will have to produce new formulas for living as a democratic
state [that is one with electoral processes] and a Jewish state [with special privileges for its Jewish citizens].

Some problems may be less difficult than at first glance with a blurring of
formulas. For example. Israel as “a Jewish state” may not be a greater problem than England, the epitome of democracy, with an established state religion.

There are some indications that as Arabs move to higher economic status,
especially the Israeli Arabs, they have fewer children, thus reducing the future disparity. And earlier “catastrophic” demographic predictions; for example, in the 1960s, predictions suggested that Arabs would be the majority in 1990, have been way off. That study also demonstrated that Christian Arab and Druze birth rates were actually below those of Jewish birth rates in Israel.

But the phrase “demographic bomb”, famously used by Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu in 2003 when he noted that if the percentage of Arab citizens rises above its current level of about 20 percent Israel will not be able to maintain a Jewish demographic majority, is still appropriate.

A new Israel is again emerging without illusions about its demographic problems
– and that does not include another state carved out of the current complex.

Sws-07-24-17

The end of World War II


In a sense, the current Hamburg meeting of the world’s most important economic powers represents the end of the more than six decades of the Post-World War II Era.

In 1945, the second civil war among the European powers ended with the almost total devastation of Europe. Although the U.S., as a late arrival on the scene, suffered almost a half million deaths, its homeland remained isolated from the conflict.

Furthermore, the war effort had left behind an enormously new powerful industrial and managerial revolution.

It therefore seemed logical enough that not only would the U.S. participate in the rebuilding of Europe, but that it would assume a greater proportionate share of the burden.

That arrangement, in which the U.S. “inevitably” assumed a larger per capita role in any international undertaking has continued as the norm. That is despite the fact that the rebuilding of Europe with American production enhanced its already overwhelmingly leading worldwide economic role.

The Europeans – to a greater or lesser degree, notably Germany most of all, ironically one of the originators of the war and the major enemy.– profited from this assigned disproportional contribution. It became part and parcel of an international strategy of the American political Liberal Establishment – which profited from being its administrators, aided by the more conservative/corporatist business community which gained directly from its activity.

But left behind was the debris of the policy; not least was the growing erosion of the U.S.infrastructure which had not kept up nor pushed forward with the maximum new technology.. Also there was the burden – with whatever incidental profit to the economy and it was considerable – of a military defense force against the new threat to Western Europe of Soviet Communism and its international appurtenances.

The losers in this macroeconomic arrangement were the American constituency of lower middle income families and especially those which saw their more menial industrial jobs move abroad to lower wage countries. Their rebellion against their disadvantaged situation suddenly, unperceived initially by the political and bureaucratic establishments, brought the election of Donald K. Trump to the presidency. Trump, of course, was neither a rebel nor an innovator, but ipso facto he began to speak for what he himself labeled “the forgotten Americans”.

It was inevitable, perhaps, that this new domestic American scene was to be reflected on the international tableau. Rather suddenly it was recognized that there was nothing sacred about the rule of thumb which had assigned the U.S. a larger than proportionate cost in any international economic undertaking. The most dramatic, of course, was the American military expenditures [$600 billion in 2017] which maintained armed forces far larger than all the others in the world in order to defend a European constituency which as individuals for the most part did not bear its share of the load.

The expression of this new call for the U.S. 350 million gross national product, almost one quarter of the world’s total, is now being put forward by the Trump Administration in such international fora as the G20. To a world – and even part of the American public – that does not recognize the change of mood and its U.S. policy and strategic implications, it is seen in the Establishment circles – including the Mainsteam Media – as a reversal of all the chosen criteria for U.S. policy, and to an extent it is just that.

But the world – and the American Establishment – is going to have to live with a new U.S. strategy which claims “what is mine is mine”, not what is mine could be partly yours. The political manifestations could turn ugly.
Sws-07-06-17

One president at a time


Former Pres. Barack Hussein Obama refuses to leave the stage.

He is defying the tradition of former presidents who too a senior statesman role with philanthropic, scholarly and other non-political activities. True, he has a different problem with a decimated Democratic Party bereft of leadership.But stationing himself in Washington, with a $8.1 million house, despite the fact he has no roots in the District, was generally seen as an expression of his continued search for political leadership.

He also has violated the tradition of former presidents of taking only a ceremonial role in visits overseas. When Pres. Donald K. Trump was making his first visit to Europe, for a controversial NATO summit, Obama turned up simultaneously to court German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It’s true, of course, again, that Obama was recalling his pre-presidency May 2017 Brandenburg Gate speech before a wildly enthusiastic 70,000 Europeans. He got a premature Nobel Prize for Peace for that performance. But his activities made Trumps’ simultaneous diplomatic efforts more difficult. The sitting president, of course, had taken up the cudgels for NATO members to pay up and Washington is facing difficult trade issues with Merkel, who is playing domestic politics as she approaches an election with lagging support.

Obama “…push [es] back against those trends that would violate human rights or suppress democracy or restrict individual freedoms” and to “fight against those who divide us”. These charges are widely interpreted as being aimed at Trump.
There has been, of course, a tradition that former American officials do not criticize Washington policy from overseas venues. Longer lifespans have proliferated the number of former chief executives increasing the importance of the issue with so many ex-presidents around.

In early June, speaking to the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, Obama called on people, in the face of uncertainty, to stand by some of the very post-World War II economic and political institutions. These are postwar positions Trump has repeatedly called into question.

“In periods like this, people looking for control and certainty — it’s inevitable,” Obama told the Canadians. “But it is important to remember that the world has gone through similar moments. … Our history also shows there is a better way.”
He said people should overcome fear and not listen to those who “call for isolation or nationalism” and those who “suggest rolling back the rights of others.”

The fact is that although Obama is touted as “the first black president”, he neither comes from the Urban Ghetto nor the rising black professional class but a multicultural environment in Hawaii with time out as a student in Indonesia. On June 30 in Jakarta, Obama, greeted by a crowd of thousands of leaders, students and business people, where he opened the Fourth Congress of Indonesian Diaspora, struck out against Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement on climate change. “In Paris, we came together around the most ambitious agreement in history about climate change, an agreement that even with the temporary absence of American leadership, can still give our children a fighting chance.”

At a time when the Trump Administration is facing difficulties in its own Republican Party and with the President’s unpredictable – he says it is a strategic tactic – approach to issues, Obama is becoming a center of anti-Trump activism.With his own fanatical following within the left, Obama may continue to pursue his own set of domestic and foreign policies in public debate with Trump. But it is neither appropriate nor helpful to defy the traditional American withdrawal of former executives after they have had their “innings”.
It’s time for Obama to make a dignified exit to the traditional role of elder statesman.
Sws-07-01-17

The Syrian crisis deepens


With growing civilian casualties and some nine million refugees, Syria’s civil war has taken a turn for worse.

Direct participation of both the U.S. and Israel now appears to have become inevitable. That adds a new dimension to what too often has been seen as a parallel to the Spanish Civil War [1936-39]. That war, with Mussolini and Hitler aiding the Nationalist/Fascist revolt with weapons and advisers while the Allied powers remained neutral, has often been seen as the prelude to World War II.

In a recent defense engagement the U.S. brought down one of Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad’s fighters, its first direct intervention in the war where it has maintained a defensive shield protecting U.S. interests. But it has carefully avoided conflict with either Russia or Iran, allies both on the ground supporters of the al Basher regime. Israel, a contiguous neighbor, has tried to remain neutral. But it recently returned artillery fire across its northern Golan Heights border when bombardments inside Syria from ISIS strayed albeit with no casualties. But both ISIS and Hizbollah, Moslem terrorists operating as part of the rebellion against the al Assad regime, but are also Jerusalem’s opponents.

With this threat of direct U.S. and Israeli intervention, Syria now becomes a critical test for Pres. Donald Trump’s foreign policy. A threat to intervene directly if al Assad or the Soviet and Iranian forces allied with him use chemical weapons, in effect against unarmed populations, would be a major test of Trump’s overall policy of nonintervention. That includes, of course,Washington’s close alliance with Israel. Trump had made such nonintervention basic to his new foreign policy following “America First” goals.

Chemical warfare in Syria would put into question three very different but important aspects of U.S. policy:

1] Chemical warfare in the increasingly chaotic conflict would lead to a massive increase in noncombatant victims. The Syrian fighting, much of it for control of strategic urban areas, has taken heavy casualties among women and children as well as the combatants. The fighting often involves unrestrictive bombing by Soviet aircraft supporting the regime. These civilian casualties have become an increasing concern for American public opinion as well as official government policy.

2] although Trump has recently endorsed the strategy of keeping his policy options secret in oder to use ambiguity as a strategic tactic, the fact is the rest of the world sees opposition to the spread of chemical weapons as a basic American policy in Syria. It is assumed that their use would bring direct U.S. intervention as was threatened but ultimately rejected by a more reluctant Obama Administration.

3] Chemical warfare was initiated in World War I with an arms development race among the warring parties. By the end of the war, scientists working for both sides had tested some 3,000 different chemicals for use as possible weapons. Some 50 of these poisons were actually tried out on the battlefield including a widespread use of chlorine for which there were continuing postwar casualties for U.S. military., But the horror and fear of the weapons’ use – even though responsible for less than 1% of WWI’s fatalities and about 7% of its casualties – led to repeated and relative success in banning them in various international treaties and wars leading up to WWII. Nor were they used in WWII.Were chemical weapons to become pervasive in Syria now it would be not only be a serious new development in the war there, but would break the general taboo that has held them in check since 1915 as a weapon of even in all-out war.

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Living with Putin


July 5, 2017

Marcus Wolf, “the man without a face”, infamous East German intelligence operative who once put a Communist spy into West German Chancellor Willy Brandt’s bed, has commented pithily on Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Wolf doubts Putin lived in Dresden for 15 years as liaison between the Soviet KGB and the Communist East German spies. He said that Putin couldn’t have been important if he, Wolf, as the East Berlin regime’s external security apparatus boss, had not known him. On the other hand, Wolf admitted an accomplishment of a good spy is to make those around him think he is a mediocrity – and Putin certainly accomplished that. That’s been the assumption for why the former Moscow leader and strongman Boris Yeltsin chose him as a successor.

Those observations help explain the difficulty American leadership has dealing with Putin as head of the Russian state. His ambitions are clear: Putin wants to restore Russia to its former Soviet glory. No Communist, he has nevertheless said that the fall of the Soviet Union was the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century. Whatever odds, Putin dreams of rebuilding a Russia that can compete with the U.S. as a world superpower. That means incorporating eastern and central Europe, even when he risks retribution from the West.

On the other hand, in an increasingly complex world of alliances, Washington looks to Putin to help fight Islamic terrorism, an equally great threat to American security. He has lent his air force to Syria’s Basher al Assad to defend that tyrant against a rebellion led by Washington’s chief terrorist enemy, ISIS. But Washington and its allies are dedicated to ousting al Assad as a menace to Mideast stability. Furthermore, Putin’s war on Islamic extremists is compromised by European Russia’s collapsing birthrate making Moscow increasing dependent on Moslem military recruits from the Russian Federation’s Central Asian republics.

Putin’s survives near bankruptcy with oil and gas exports mostly to Western Europe and Japan. But the high energy prices of yesteryear are only a memory. U.S. technology has found unanticipated huge new reserves in shale deposits at home and around the world. [When Saudi Arabia tried to undercut American pricing with its own vast oil reserves, U.S. oilmen upped their productivity with a technological ante.] There’s a pretty good chance that the U.S. will again take up its prewar and early post-WWII role as a net energy exporter.

Putin’s pretensions to superpower status, however, do have a basis. Although its conventional military badly eroded when the Communists imploded in 1990, Moscow has an arsenal of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Putin rattles these from time to time. He reminds Washington that while it can generally round up an anti-Putin Western coalition – at least when it is not trying “to lead from behind” as in the Obama years – he still can harness and lead anti-Americanism.

Furthermore, Putin’s Russia is not the old Communists’ continuing failure to create an autarchical economy – independent of the rest of the world. The dollars that roll in for energy and cannot be absorbed because of Russia’s primitive investment climate almost as quickly roll out to Western Europe and the U.S. It‘s this access to Moscow energy profits that tempts Westerners to play games with individual Russians – often closely associated with Putin’s coterie.

Reports of clumsy Russian efforts to hack and otherwise influence American elections are as much as anything else part of this international chase for profits from its energy exports. It’s this Putin and his clique that challenges American policymakers trying to maintain world peace and stability. It also explains the contradictory reporting and welter of often unsubstantiated gossip that surrounds the contacts between Russian and Washington players.