After 18 months of Trump in the White House, American politics finds itself at a crossroads. The United States has moved unmistakably toward a novel form of fascism that serves exclusively corporate interests and the military, while promoting at the same time a highly reactionary social agenda infused with religious and crude nationalistic overtones, all with an uncanny touch of political showmanship. In this exclusive Truthout interview, world-renowned linguist and public intellectual Noam Chomsky analyzes some of the latest developments in Trumpistan and their consequences for democracy and world order.
C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, I want to start by asking for your reading of what took place at the Singapore summit, and the way this event was covered in the US media.
Noam Chomsky: It’s reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and the dog that didn’t bark. What was important was what didn’t happen. Unlike his predecessors, Trump did not undermine the prospects for moving forward. Specifically, he did not disrupt the process initiated by the two Koreas in their historic April 27 [Panmunjom] Declaration, in which they “affirmed the principle of determining the destiny of the Korean nation on their own accord” (repeat: on their own accord), and for the first time presented a detailed program as to how to proceed. It is to Trump’s credit that he did not undermine these efforts, and in fact made a move toward facilitating them by cancelling the US-South Korean war games, which, as he correctly said, are “very provocative.” We would certainly not tolerate anything of the sort on our borders – or anywhere on the planet – even if they were not run by a superpower which not long before had utterly devastated our country with the flimsiest of pretexts after the war was effectively over, glorying in the major war crimes it had committed, like bombing major dams, after there was nothing else to bomb.
Beyond the achievement of letting matters proceed, which was not slight, no “diplomatic skills” were involved in Trump’s triumph.
The coverage has been quite instructive, in part because of the efforts of the Democrats to outflank Trump from the right. Beyond that, the coverage across the spectrum illustrates quite well two distinct kinds of deceit: lying and not telling relevant truths. Each merits comment.
Trump is famous for the former, and his echo chamber is as well. Liberal commentators exult in totting up and refuting Trump’s innumerable lies and distortions, much to his satisfaction since it provides the opportunity for him to fire up his loyal — by now almost worshipful — base with more evidence of how the hated “Establishment” is using every possible underhanded means to prevent their heroic leader from working tirelessly to defend them from a host of enemies.
A canny politician, Trump surely understands well that the base on which he relies, by now almost the entire Republican Party, has drifted to a surreal world, in part under his influence. Take the major Trump-Ryan legislative achievement, the tax scam — “The US Donor Relief Act of 2017,” as Joseph Stiglitz termed it. It had two transparent aims: to enrich the very wealthy and the corporate sector while slamming everyone else, and to create a huge deficit. The latter achievement — as the main architect of the scam Paul Ryan helpfully explained — provides the opportunity to realize the cherished goal of reducing benefits that serve the general population, already very weak by comparative standards, but still an unacceptable infringement on the prerogatives of the 1%. The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the law will add $1 trillion to deficits over the next decade. Virtually every economist generally agrees. But not 80 percent of Republican voters, of whom half believe that the deficit will be reduced by the gift their leader has lavished upon them.
Or consider something vastly more significant, attitudes toward global warming (apologies for the obscenity: climate change), which poses a severe threat to organized human life, and not in the distant future.
Half of Republicans believe that what is plainly happening is not happening, bolstered by virtually the entire leadership of the Party, as the Republican Primary debates graphically revealed. Of the half who concede that the real world exists, barely half think that humans play a role in the process.
Such destructive responses tend to break through the surface during periods of distress and fear, very widespread feelings today, for good reason: A generation of neoliberal policies has sharply concentrated wealth and power while leaving the rest to stagnate or decline, often joining the growing precariat. In the US, the richest country in history with unparalleled advantages, over 40 percent of the population don’t earn enough to afford a monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cell phone. And this is happening in what’s called a “booming economy.”
Productivity has risen through the neoliberal period, even if not as much as before, but wages have stagnated or declined as wealth is funneled to a few bulging pockets. Distress is so severe that among white middle-aged Americans, mortality is actually increasing, something unheard of in functioning societies apart from war or pestilence. There are similar phenomena in Europe under the “business first” (“neoliberal”/”austerity”) assault.
Returning to forms of deceit, one technique is simply lying, honed to a high art by the Maestro. Another technique is not telling parts of the “whole story” that matter.
To illustrate, consider the analysis of “Trump’s claims about the North Korea deal” by the expert and highly competent fact-checker of The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler. His article originally ran under the title of “Not the Whole Story,” with the title presented in extra-large letters to emphasize the ignominy. Kessler’s acid (and accurate) critique of Trump’s distortions and inventions opens by declaring (again correctly) that “North Korea has a long history of making agreements and then not living up to its obligations,” citing the most crucial case, the September 2005 US-North Korea agreement (under six-power auspices), in which, in the official wording, “The DPRK [North Korea] committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards.”
As Kessler points out, the North Koreans did not live up to these promises, and in fact, soon returned to producing nuclear weapons. Obviously, they can’t be trusted.
But this is “Not the Whole Story.” There is a rather significant omission: Before the ink was dry on the agreement, the US undermined it. To repeat the unwanted facts from our earlier discussion of the matter, “the Bush administration broke the agreement. It renewed the threat of force, froze North Korean funds in foreign banks and disbanded the consortium that was to provide North Korea with a light-water reactor. Bruce Cumings, the leading US Korea scholar, writes that ‘the sanctions were specifically designed to destroy the September pledges [and] to head off an accommodation between Washington and Pyongyang’.” The whole story is well-known to scholarship, but somehow doesn’t reach the public domain.
Kessler is a fine and careful journalist. His evasion of “the whole story” appears to be close to exceptionless in the media. Every article on the matter by The New York Times security and foreign policy experts is the same, as far as I’ve seen. The practice is so uniform that it is almost unfair to pick out examples. To choose only one, again from a fine journalist, Washington Post specialist on Korea Anna Fifield writes that North Korea “signed a denuclearization agreement” in 2005, but didn’t stick to the agreement (omitting the fact that this was a response to Washington’s breaking the agreement). “So perhaps the wisest course of action,” she continues, “would be to bet that it won’t abide by this one, either.” And to complete the picture with a banned phrase, “So perhaps the wisest course of action would be to bet that [Washington] won’t abide by this one, either.”
There are endless laments about the deceitfulness and unreliability of the North Koreans; many are cited in Gareth Porter’s review of media coverage. But it would be hard to find a word about the rest of the story. This is only one case.
I don’t incidentally suggest that the deceit is conscious. Much more likely, it’s just the enormous power of conformity to convention, to what Gramsci called hegemonic “common sense.” Some ideas are not even rejected; they are unthinkable. Like the idea that US aggression is aggression; it can only be “a mistake,” “a tragic error,” “a strategic blunder.” I also don’t want to suggest this is “American exceptionalism.” It’s hard to find an exception to the practice in the history of imperialism.
So far, at least, Trump has kept from disrupting the agreement of the two Koreas. Of course, all of this is accompanied by boasts about his amazing deal-making abilities, and the brilliance of his skillful tactics of threatening “fire and fury” in order to bring the dictator to the negotiating table. There are many accolades by others across the spectrum for this triumph — which is about on a par with the standard claims that Obama’s harsh sanctions forced Iran to capitulate by signing the joint agreement on nuclear weapons, claims effectively refuted by Trita Parsi (Losing an Enemy). Whatever the factual basis, such claims are necessary to justify harsh measures against official enemies and to reinforce the general principle that what we do is right (with occasional tragic errors).
In the present case too, there is good evidence that the truth is almost the opposite of the standard claims, and that the harsh US stance has impeded progress toward peaceful settlement. There have been many opportunities in addition to the 2005 agreement. In 2013, in a meeting with senior US diplomats, North Korean officials outlined steps toward denuclearization. One of those who attended the meeting, former US official and Stimson Center Senior Fellow Joel Wit reports that, “Not surprisingly, for the North Koreans, the key to denuclearization was that the United States had to end its ‘hostile policy’.”
While the US maintains its threatening stance, the North Korean leadership — “not surprisingly” — has sought “to develop a nuclear arsenal as a shield to deter the US while they moved to develop the economy.” The North Korean government, in June 2013, “issued an important new pronouncement that it was open to negotiations on denuclearization,” Wit writes, adding that, “The Obama administration dismissed it at the time as propaganda.” He adds further that “the North Koreans have given a great deal of thought to denuclearization and almost certainly have a concrete plan of action for the upcoming [Singapore] summit, whether the White House does or not.” In fact, at the 2013 meetings, “the North Korean officials actually laid out a concrete plan to achieve denuclearization,” Wit reports.
Not the only case. China’s “double freeze” proposal, supported by Russia, Germany and others, has been on the table for years, rejected by Washington — until the Singapore summit.
Trump’s diplomacy, such as it is, has been subjected to withering attack, especially by liberal opinion: How could the US president agree to meet on friendly terms with a brutal dictator? How could he fail to demand that North Korea end its human rights violations, which are indeed horrendous?
Willingness to look at “the whole story” suggests some other questions, of course unasked — in fact, unthinkable: How could Kim agree to meet on friendly terms with the head of the state that world opinion overwhelmingly regards as the greatest threat to peace? How could North Korea fail to demand that the US end its human rights violations, also horrendous? Has North Korea done anything remotely like invading Iraq, the worst crime of this century? Or destroying Libya? Has it been condemned by the ICJ [International Court of Justice] for international terrorism (“unlawful use of force”)? And a lot more that is easy enough to reel off.
It made perfect sense for North Korea not to bring up US crimes as a condition for moving forward. The proper goal of the meeting was to expedite the efforts of the two Koreas to pursue the directions outlined in their April 27 Declaration. And the argument cuts both ways.
Interestingly enough, while Trump seeks to appease his political doppelgänger in Pyongyang, he has succeeded in alienating most of the US’s major Western allies, including Canada, France and Germany. Is this the consequence of his alleged foreign policy doctrine “We are America, bitch”?
There are extensive efforts to try to discern some coherent doctrine that guides Trump’s behavior, but I suspect it’s a fool’s errand. A very good predictor of Trump policy is [his fixation on] … reversing anything associated with the despised “Kenyan Muslim” he replaced: in foreign policy, tearing up the successful Iran deal and accepting the long-standing possibilities for addressing the serious North Korea crisis (proclaiming to have created an astonishing breakthrough). Much the same is true of other actions that look like random shots when the driving forces are ignored.
All of this has to be done while satisfying the usual Republican constituencies: primarily the business world and the rich. For Trump, that also means unleashing the more brutal wing of the Republican Party so that they can dedicate themselves even beyond the norm to the interest of private wealth and corporate power. Here the technique is to capture the media with attention-grabbing antics, which can be solemnly exposed while the game goes on — so far, quite effectively.
Then comes the task of controlling the so-called “populist” base: the angry, frightened, disillusioned white population, primarily males. Since there is no way for Trumpism to deal with their economic concerns, which are actually being exacerbated by current policy-formation, it’s necessary to posture heroically as “standing up” for them against “malevolent forces” and to cater to the anti-social impulses that tend to surface when people are left to face difficult circumstances alone, without institutions and organizations to support them in their struggles. That’s also being done effectively for the time being.
The “We are America, bitch” posture appeals to chauvinistic instincts and the white supremacy that is a deeply rooted feature of American culture and is now exacerbated by concern that whites might even become a minority. The posture can also delude working people into believing that their tough-guy protector will bring back the world they’ve lost. Such propaganda exercises cannot, of course, target those actually responsible for the plight of the victims of neoliberal globalization. On the contrary, attention has to be diverted away from corporate managers who largely shape state policy while establishing complex global supply chains to maximize profit at the expense of working people. More appropriate targets are desperate people fleeing horrors for which we are largely responsible: “foreigners” who have been “robbing us” with the connivance of “treacherous liberals” and other assorted devils that can be conjured up in periods of social breakdown.
Allies, friends, who cares? There is no need for policies that are “coherent” in any traditional sense. Consequences don’t matter as long as the primary goals are met.
After months of harsh rhetoric against China’s trade practices, Trump has decided to impose tariffs of $50 billion on Chinese imports, prompting Beijing, subsequently, to declare that the US has embarked on a trade war and to announce in turn that it will retaliate with similar measures against US imports. First, isn’t it true that China is merely practicing today the same sort of mercantilist policies that the US and Great Britain practiced in the past on their way to global ascendancy? Second, is the targeting of tariffs expected to have any impact either on China’s economy or on the size of the US trade deficit? And lastly, if a new era of protectionism is about to take off, what could the consequences of such development be for the reign of global neoliberalism?
Several questions arise. First, what is Trump’s motive? If it were concern about China’s economic management and trade policies, he wouldn’t be going out of his way to alienate allies with tariffs and insults but would be joining with them to confront China on the issues of concern. If, however, the driving force is what I discussed earlier, then targeting both China and allies with abuse and tariffs has a certain logic: It may play well in the rust belt, contributing to the delusion that our hero is fighting to ensure jobs for working people — though it’s a tricky strategy, because it harms other parts of his loyal base, mainly farmers, and also, though more subtly, because it imposes a new tax on consumption, which is what tariffs amount to.
As for China’s economic policies, yes, they are similar to those that have been used by developed societies generally, beginning with Britain and then its former North American colony. Similar, but more limited. China lacks the means available to its predecessors. Britain stole superior technology from India, the Low Countries, Ireland, and by force and severe protectionism, undermined the Indian economy, then the world’s most advanced along with China. The US, under the Hamiltonian system, resorted to high tariffs to bar superior British goods, and also took British technology in ways barred by the current US-initiated global trading system. Economic historian Paul Bairoch describes the US as “the mother country and bastion of protectionism” into the 1920s, well after it had become far and away the richest country in the world.
The general practice is called “kicking away the ladder” by economic historians: first use the practices to develop, then bar others from following.
Earlier, Britain’s economic development relied on large-scale piracy, now considered by its former practitioner to be the most heinous of crimes. Keynes wrote that the booty of English pirates, like the famed and admired Sir Francis Drake, “may fairly be considered the fountain and origin of British foreign investments.” Piracy was also a standard practice in the American colonies. Both British and US economies also relied crucially on the most hideous system of slavery in human history. Cotton was the oil of the industrial revolution, providing the basis for manufacturing, finance, commerce, retail. Such practices are not available to China.
Like Britain before it, the US called for “free trade” when it recognized that the playing field was tilted properly in its direction. After World War II, when the US had incomparable power, it promoted the “liberal world order” that has been an enormous boon to the US corporate system, which now owns about half of the global economy, an astonishing policy success.
Again, following the British model, the US hedged its commitment to “free trade” for the benefit of domestic private power. The British-dominated “free trade” system kept India as a largely closed protectorate. The US-dominated system imposes an extreme patent system (“intellectual property”) that provides virtual monopoly power to major US industries. The US government also provides huge subsidies to energy industries, agribusiness and financial institutions. While the US complains about Chinese industrial policy, the modern high-tech industry has relied crucially on research and development in the publicly subsidized sector of the economy, to such an extent that the economy might fairly be regarded as a system of private subsidy, private profit. And there are many other devices to subsidize industry. Procurement, for example, has been shown to be a significant device. In fact, the enormous military system alone, through procurement, provides a huge state subsidy to industry. These comments only skim the surface.
Britain abandoned laissez-faire when it could no longer compete with Japanese competition, part of the background for World War II in the Pacific. Some in the US are having similar qualms today, concerns that Trump is cynically exploiting. But not the powerful corporate sector that relies crucially on the US-designed global economic order.
The corporate sector relies so extensively on the global economy it has designed that it is sure to use its enormous power to try to head off a major trade war. The Trump tariffs and the retaliation might escalate, but it’s likely that the threat will be contained. Trump is quite right, however, in proclaiming that the US would “win” a limited trade war, given the scale of the US economy, the huge domestic market and unique advantages in other respects. The “We are America, bitch” doctrine is a powerful weapon of intimidation.
The Trump administration is moving full speed ahead with its intent on cracking down on unauthorized entries to the country by separating immigrant children from their parents. More than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents during the last seven weeks, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions sought recently to justify Trump’s immigration policy by citing a verse from the Bible. What can one say about an advanced Western society in which religion continues to crowd out reason in shaping public policy and public attitudes? And didn’t the Nazis, although they were no believers, also use Christianity to justify their immoral and criminal acts?
The immigration policy, always grotesque, has descended to levels so revolting that even many of those who foster and exploit xenophobia are running for cover — like Trump, who is desperately trying to blame it on the Democrats, and like the First Lady, who is appealing to “both sides of the aisle” to come together to stop the obscenity. We should, however, not overlook the fact that Europe is crawling through much the same gutters.
One can quote scripture for almost any purpose one likes. Sessions doubtless knows that “all the law” hangs on two commandments: loving God and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” But that is not the appropriate thought for the occasion.
It is true, however, that the US is unique among developed societies in the role of religion in social life, ever since the Puritans landed.
Recently, Trump stated that he had the absolute right to pardon himself (after he had already said that he could shoot someone on New York’s 5th Avenue and not lose any support), while his lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said the president could even commit murder in the Oval Office and still not be prosecuted for it. Your thoughts?
After praising Kim [Jong Un] effusively as a strong leader who “speaks and his people sit up at attention,” Trump added: “I want my people to do the same.” When the predictable reaction followed, he said he was kidding. Maybe. I hope we don’t have an opportunity to find out.
While it is clear that the country is well on its way to becoming a pariah nation, the Democrats continue to focus their attention primarily on Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia and unethical behavior, all the while trying to outflank the president on the jingoist front, adopting new restrictions for the 2020 elections so they can keep away the likes of Bernie Sanders, and of course, playing masterfully the fundraising game that works in a plutocracy. With all this in mind, how would you describe the nature of contemporary US politics?
Much as in Europe, the centrist political institutions in the United States, which have long been in the driver’s seat, are in decline. The reasons are not obscure. People who have endured the rigors of the neoliberal assault — austerity in the recent European version — recognize that the institutions are working for others, not for them. In the US, people do not have to read academic political science to know that a large majority, those who are not near the top of the income scale, are effectively disenfranchised, in that their own representatives pay little attention to their views, hearkening rather to the voices of the rich, the donor class. In Europe, anyone can see that basic decisions are made by the unelected Troika, in Brussels, with the northern banks peering over their shoulders.
In the US, respect for Congress has long been hovering in single digits. In recent Republican primaries, when candidates emerged from the base, the Establishment was able to beat them down and obtain their own candidate. In 2016, that failed for the first time. True, it’s not far from the norm for a billionaire with enormous media support and almost $1 billion in campaign funding to win an election, but Trump was hardly the choice of the Republican elites. The most spectacular result of the election was not the Trump phenomenon. Rather, it was the remarkable success of Bernie Sanders, breaking sharply with US political history. With no support from big business or the media, Sanders might well have won the Democratic nomination had it not been for the machinations of Obama-Clinton party managers. Similar processes are apparent in recent European elections.
Like it or not, Trump is doing quite well. He has the support of 83 percent of Republicans, which is without precedent apart from rare moments. Whatever their feelings may be, Republicans dare not cross him openly. His general support in the low 40s is not far from the norm, about the same as Obama’s going into his first midterm. He is lavishing gifts on the business world and the wealthy, the authentic constituency of the Republicans (with the Democrat leadership not far behind). He has thrown enough crumbs to keep the Evangelicals happy and has struck the right chords for racist/white supremacy elements. And he has, so far, managed to convince coal miners and steel workers that he is one of them. In fact, his support among union members has increased to 51 percent.
It is hardly in doubt that Trump cares almost nothing about the fate of the country or the world. What matters is me. That’s clear enough from his attitude toward global warming. He is perfectly well aware of the dire threat — to his properties. His application for a seawall to protect his Irish golf course is based explicitly on the threat of global warming. But pursuit of power impels him to lead the race to destruction, quite happily, as is evident from his performances. The same holds of other serious, if lesser, threats, among them the threat that the country may be isolated, despised, declining — with dues to pay after it’s no longer his concern.
The Democrats are now torn between a popular base that is largely social democratic and a New Democrat leadership that panders to the donor class. Under Obama, the party was reduced to shambles at the local and state level, a particularly serious matter because the 2020 elections will determine redistricting, offering opportunities for gerrymandering even beyond today’s scandalous situation.
The bankruptcy of the Democrat elite is well-illustrated by the obsession with alleged Russian meddling with our sacred elections. Whatever it might amount to — apparently very little — it cannot begin to compare with the “meddling” of campaign funding, which largely determines electoral outcomes, as extensive research has shown, particularly the careful work of Thomas Ferguson, which he and his colleagues have now extended to the 2016 elections. As Ferguson points out, when Republican elites realized that it was going to be Trump or Clinton, they responded with a huge wave of last-minute money that not only led to Clinton’s late October decline but also had the same effect on Democratic candidates for Senate, “virtually in lock step.” It is “outlandish,” Ferguson observes, that former FBI Director James Comey or the Russians “could be responsible for both collapses” in the final stage of the campaign: “For the first time in the entire history of the United States, the partisan outcome of Senate races coincided perfectly with the results of every state’s presidential balloting.” The outcome conforms very well to Ferguson’s well-supported “Investment theory of party competition.”
But facts and logic matter little. The Democrats are bent on revenge for their 2016 failure, having run such a rotten campaign that what looked like a “sure thing” collapsed. Evidently, Trump’s severe assault against the common good is a lesser matter, at least to the party elite.
It’s sometimes been noted that the US not only regularly meddles in foreign elections, including Russian ones, but also proceeds to subvert and sometimes overthrow governments it doesn’t like. Horrifying consequences abound, to the present, from Central America to the Middle East. Guatemala has been a horror story since a US-backed coup overthrew its elected reformist government in 1954. Gaza, declining in misery, may become unlivable by 2020, the UN predicts, not by acts of God. In 2006, Palestinians committed a grave crime: They ran the first free election in the Arab world, and made the “wrong” choice, handing power to Hamas. Israel reacted by escalating violence and a brutal siege. The US reverted to standard operating procedure and prepared a military coup, pre-empted by Hamas. In punishment for this new crime, US-Israeli torture of Gaza sharply increased, not only with strangulation but also regular murderous and destructive US-backed Israeli invasions, on pretexts that quickly collapse on examination. Elections that come out the wrong way plainly cannot be tolerated under our policy of “democracy promotion.”
In recent European elections, there has been much concern about possible Russian meddling. That was particularly true of the 2017 German elections, when the far-right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) did surprisingly well, winning 94 seats in the Bundestag, the first time it had won seats. One can easily imagine the reaction had Russian meddling been detected behind these frightening results. It turns out that there was indeed foreign meddling, but not from Russia. AfD hired a Texas media firm (Harris Media) known for support of right-wing nationalist candidates (Trump, Le Pen, Netanyahu). The firm enlisted the cooperation of the Berlin office of Facebook, which provided it with detailed information about potential voters for use in microtargeting those who might be receptive to AfD’s message. It may have worked. The story seems to have been ignored, apart from the business press.
If the Democratic Party cannot overcome its deep internal problems and the slow expansion of the economy under Obama and Trump continues without disruption or disaster, the Republican wrecking ball may be swinging away at the foundations of a decent society, and at the prospects for survival, for a long time.
The post Noam Chomsky on Fascism, Showmanship and Democrats’ Hypocrisy in the Trump Era appeared first on Truthout.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced Tuesday that his state would join 13 states and the District of Columbia in adopting California’s clean car emissions standards.
“Colorado has a choice,” Gov. Hickenlooper said in a statement. “This executive order calls for the state to adopt air quality standards that will protect our quality of life in Colorado. Low emissions vehicles are increasingly popular with consumers and are better for our air. Every move we make to safeguard our environment is a move in the right direction.”Tags: clean carsColoradoJohn HickenloopercaliforniaEPAcalifornia waiverUS Environmental Protection AgencyTrump Administration
More on suicide, depression, drugs. What is AR mostly trying to do? Drought vs. flooding. Venezuela. Anti-civ getting some notice at last. (Un-)health news. (Google) ad of the week. Some resistance news, discussion of The Brilliant, Anews podcast. 5(!) calls.
More on suicide, depression, drugs. What is AR mostly trying to do? Drought vs. flooding. Venezuela. Anti-civ getting some notice at last. (Un-)health news. (Google) ad of the week. Some resistance news, discussion of The Brilliant, Anews podcast. 5(!) calls.Tags: anarchy radiopodcastjzIGcategory: Projects
The Trump administration has left the United Nations' Human Rights Council | 20 June 2018 | US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley called it "an organisation that is not worthy of its name", marking the latest withdrawal by the Trump administration from an international institution. Ms Haley said the US had given the human rights body "opportunity after opportunity" to make changes. She lambasted the council for "its chronic bias against Israel" and lamented the fact that its membership includes accused human rights abusers such as China...Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, appearing alongside Ms Haley at the State Department, said there was no doubt that the council once had a "noble vision".
IG confirms Comey under investigation over memo handling | 19 June 2018 | Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz confirmed publicly Monday that his office is investigating James Comey for his handling of classified information as part of memos he shared documenting discussions with President Trump. The inspector general's comments confirmed reports dating back to April that the ex-FBI director was facing scrutiny, amid revelations that at least two of the memos he shared with his friend, Columbia University Professor Daniel Richman, contained information now deemed classified. The confirmation came during Monday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, where Horowitz and FBI Director Christopher Wray testified on the findings in the IG's report on the handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe.
North Korea expected to return remains of up to 200 US service members lost in Korean War | 19 June 2018 | The Trump administration is expecting North Korea to return up to 200 sets of remains believed to be American service members who died during the Korean War, three U.S. officials confirmed. Planning is underway to receive the remains from North Korea in the coming days...One official said though it was unclear where the handover of remains could occur, they would ultimately be taken to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii where the Defense Department has a lab to identify remains of missing U.S. service members from all wars.
FBI agent Peter Strzok escorted from FBI building, amid ongoing internal proceedings at the bureau on his conduct
FBI agent Peter Strzok escorted from FBI building, amid ongoing internal proceedings at the bureau on his conduct | 19 June 2018 | FBI agent Peter Strzok was escorted from the FBI building Friday as part of the ongoing internal proceedings at the bureau on his conduct, according to a source familiar with the matter. As of Tuesday, the source said, Strzok is still an FBI employee. He had a central role on the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information. He later worked on the investigation into connections between Trump campaign associates and Russia and briefly worked for special counsel Robert Mueller before text messages between Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page disparaging President Donald Trump were discovered.
30 Years Ago Global Warming Became Front-Page News – and Both Republicans and Democrats Took It Seriously
June 23, 1988 marked the date on which climate change became a national issue.
In landmark testimony before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Dr. James Hansen, then director of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies, stated that “Global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause-and-effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and observed warming … In my opinion, the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.”Tags: climate science denialrepublican party climate change#ExxonKnewclimate litigationjames hansen
IG confirms he is reviewing whether Strzok's anti-Trump bias impacted launch of Russia probe | 19 June 2018 | Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz confirmed Tuesday that he is investigating whether FBI official Peter Strzok's anti-Trump bias factored into the launch of the bureau’s Russia probe. During a joint hearing before the House Oversight and Judiciary committees, Horowitz testified that his office was reviewing Strzok's anti-Trump text messages as part of a separate probe related to the Russia investigation. "It clearly shows a biased state of mind," Horowitz said, referring to text messages written as the FBI probe of Hillary Clinton's private email use was wrapping up and the Russia probe was getting underway. The most infamous text, revealed in last week's IG report on the Clinton email case, showed Strzok responding "We'll stop it" when his colleague and lover Lisa Page sought assurances that Trump would not become president.
Vigil for the health of Julian Assange to take place in London --The vigil coincides with the sixth anniversary of the WikiLeaks founder's self-imposed exile in London's Ecuadorian Embassy. | 19 June 2018 | A vigil will take place Tuesday evening outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the health of its longstanding resident Julian Assange. The vigil will be held between 6 and 8 p.m. local time. Tuesday marks six years since WikiLeaks founder Assange first entered the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault charges. The charges have since been dropped, but Assange is still wanted in the UK for skipping bail in 2012. He is concerned that if he leaves the embassy the US may also seek to extradite him on espionage charges.
The Canadian Co-operative Investment Fund (CCIF) has approved the first investments from its $25 million fund. CCIF is currently closing nearly $1 million in four loans to co-operatives. In Nelson, BC, the capital will be used to support a business expansion. In Edmonton, AB, and in London, ON, the loans will provide mortgage financing for housing co-operatives. Finally, a loan to the Conseil de la coopération de l'Ontario (CCO) will add support to a micro-lending program for co-operative enterprises.
The four investments represent the diversity of the co-operative sector and are clear examples of how CCIF can assist co-operatives in serving their communities alongside co-operative financial institutions.
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Lawyer for texting FBI official who told lover they could 'stop' Trump's election says he's willing to testify to Congress without pleading the Fifth
Lawyer for texting FBI official who told lover they could 'stop' Trump's election says he's willing to testify to Congress without pleading the Fifth --FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok infamously texted his lover that the two of them could 'stop' Donald Trump from becoming president --House Judiciary Committee chairman was preparing to subpoena him | 17 June 2018 | A senior FBI agent who remains employed by the Bureau despite telling his lover in 2016 that they could together 'stop' Donald Trump from becoming president is willing to testify before Congress, his lawyer said Sunday. For supporters of the president, Peter Strzok's name has become synonymous with institutional bias at the Justice Department and a 'deep state' of anti-Trump collaborators whose influence runs through the agency's highest levels. But attorney Aitan Goelman told The Washington Post that Strzok 'wants the chance to clear his name and tell his story.' Goelman promised the Post that Strzok would answer questions without invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, a tantalizing guarantee for Republicans who have already been drafting a subpoena to drag him to Capitol Hill.
Republican pressure intensifies to end family separations at border | 19 June 2018 | The Trump administration is facing mounting pressure from fellow Republicans and other allies to end the practice of separating children from parents caught illegally crossing the border, as backlash over the enforcement policy quickly escalates into a political crisis. Some GOP lawmakers want the administration to stop the policy on its own, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and others are proposing emergency legislation. Meanwhile, GOP governors are pulling their state's National Guard troops from the border in protest. All this comes as President Trump and top Cabinet officials put the blame on Congress, in the run-up to a meeting late Tuesday between the president and House Republicans -- where discussion of the family-separation backlash will likely dominate.
House GOP 2019 budget calls for deep Medicare, Medicaid spending cuts | 19 June 2018 | The House GOP budget proposal released Tuesday calls for a $5.4 trillion decrease in mandatory spending over a decade, including $537 billion in reductions to Medicare and $1.5 trillion in reductions to Medicaid and other health programs. Another $2.6 trillion in reductions would come from other mandatory spending programs that include welfare and anti-poverty programs...The budget also calls for a precipitous drop in non-defense spending over the next decade, even as defense spending rises.
Gowdy scorches Comey in blistering opening statement at IG hearing | 19 June 2018 | House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy scorched James Comey in a blistering opening statement at a high-profile congressional hearing on Tuesday, declaring "we can't survive with a justice system we don't trust." Gowdy kicked off the hearing featuring testimony from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz on his review of the Hillary Clinton email case. The top DOJ watchdog is on Capitol Hill for the second day in a row to discuss the explosive report. But Gowdy launched into Tuesday's session -- a joint hearing held by the House oversight and judiciary panels -- with a fiery condemnation of the former FBI director and certain agents in the bureau he led.
After more than two years of planning, fundraising, and construction, the city’s first worker-owned and democratically run brewery is nearing a debut, and just in time for Independence Day. If all goes according to plan, the micro brewery, kitchen, and German style beer hall located at 35 Temple Place in Downtown Crossing will hold a series of soft openings in the coming weeks before welcoming the general public on that most patriotic of holidays, the 4th of July.
The brainchild of James Razsa, formerly a community organizer with a passion for economic justice, he concocted the idea while working at a fair-trade coffee co-op five years ago. A short time later he started learning the craft brewery ropes as a beer slinger for community focused Aeronaut Brewing in their Somerville taproom. He followed that up with an internship at John Harvard’s in Cambridge where he met Jason Taggart, the pub’s head brewer. The two hit it off, and when Razsa shared his idea of opening the area’s first cooperative brewery, a partnership was born.
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Julian Assange health fears: UK forcing Wikileaks chief to 'make impossible choice' | 19 June 2018 | Julian Assange's lawyers hit out at the UK and the WikiLeaks founder is being forced to make an "impossible choice" between his health and his safety...Mr Assange's team of lawyers claimed doctors have confirmed his protracted confinement in the Ecuador's London embassy is having a severe impact on the journalist’s physical and mental health. Calling for the intervention of the UN's Human Rights Council, they argued the UK is forcing Mr Assange, 46, to make an "impossible" choice. Human rights barrister Jennifer Robinson of Doughty Street Chambers, representing the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, said: "The UK shows a deliberate disregard for his medical needs by forcing him to choose between his human right to asylum and his human right to medical treatment."
Caged Children and Terrified Infants: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee Describes “Acts of Indecency” at Border
President Trump is continuing to blame Democrats for his administration’s practice of separating at least 2,000 children from their parents in recent weeks. He also doubled down on the practice in an address Monday, ahead of his meetings today with Republicans to discuss compromise legislation on a hardline immigration bill. We speak with Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Democrat of Texas. She has represented the 18th Congressional District since 1995, which includes most of central Houston. She is just back from the Texas border with Mexico, where she joined a delegation of lawmakers who visited a processing center in McAllen, Texas, and the Southwest Key Programs’ Casa Padre, which houses 1,500 children in Brownsville, Texas.
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Outrage is growing over the Trump administration’s separation of children from their parents along the US-Mexico border. On Monday, ProPublica released audio from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, in which children estimated to be between the ages of 4 and 10 years old are heard crying “Mama” and “Papi” after being separated from their parents. In another part of the audio, a Border Patrol agent is heard joking, in Spanish, “Well, we have an orchestra here. What’s missing is a conductor.” Video footage released by the US Border Patrol Monday shows migrant children in concrete-floored chain link cages, in an old warehouse in McAllen, Texas. A new Quinnipiac Poll shows roughly two-thirds of US voters oppose separating children from their parents at the border. About 7 percent of Democratic voters support the Trump policy, while 55 percent of Republicans support it. We speak with Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Democratic congressmember from Washington state. She has just helped announce a march on Washington and cities nationwide on June 30 against family separation. She is vice ranking member of the House Budget Committee and vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. On June 9 she visited a detention center in her home state and spoke with some of the 200 asylum-seekers held at the Sea-Tac Bureau of Prisons facility.
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On May 30th, Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced a momentous shift in American global strategic policy. From now on, he decreed, the US Pacific Command (PACOM), which oversees all US military forces in Asia, will be called the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM). The name change, Mattis explained, reflects “the increasing connectivity between the Indian and Pacific Oceans,” as well as Washington’s determination to remain the dominant power in both.
What? You didn’t hear about this anywhere? And even now, you’re not exactly blown away, right? Well, such a name change may not sound like much, but someday you may look back and realize that it couldn’t have been more consequential or ominous. Think of it as a signal that the US military is already setting the stage for an eventual confrontation with China.
If, until now, you hadn’t read about Mattis’s decision anywhere, I’m not surprised since the media gave it virtually no attention — less certainly than would have been accorded the least significant tweet Donald Trump ever dispatched. What coverage it did receive treated the name change as no more than a passing “symbolic” gesture, a Pentagon ploy to encourage India to join Japan, Australia, and other US allies in America’s Pacific alliance system. “In Symbolic Nod to India, US Pacific Command Changes Name” was the headline of a Reuters story on the subject and, to the extent that any attention was paid, it was typical.
That the media’s military analysts failed to notice anything more than symbolism in the deep-sixing of PACOM shouldn’t be surprising, given all the attention being paid to other major international developments — the pyrotechnics of the Korean summit in Singapore, the insults traded at and after the G7 meeting in Canada, or the ominous gathering storm over Iran. Add to this the poor grasp so many journalists have of the nature of the US military’s strategic thinking. Still, Mattis himself has not been shy about the geopolitical significance of linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans in such planning. In fact, it represents a fundamental shift in US military thinking with potentially far-reaching consequences.
Consider the backdrop to the name change: in recent months, the US has stepped up its naval patrols in waters adjacent to Chinese-occupied islands in the South China Sea (as has China), raising the prospect of future clashes between the warships of the two countries. Such moves have been accompanied by ever more threatening language from the Department of Defense (DoD), indicating an intent to do nothing less than engage China militarily if that country’s build-up in the region continues. “When it comes down to introducing what they have done in the South China Sea, there are consequences,” Mattis declared at the Shangri La Strategic Dialogue in Singapore on June 2nd.
As a preliminary indication of what he meant by this, Mattis promptly disinvited the Chinese from the world’s largest multinational naval exercise, the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), conducted annually under American auspices. “But that’s a relatively small consequence,” he added ominously, “and I believe there are much larger consequences in the future.” With that in mind, he soon announced that the Pentagon is planning to conduct “a steady drumbeat” of naval operations in waters abutting those Chinese-occupied islands, which should raise the heat between the two countries and could create the conditions for a miscalculation, a mistake, or even an accident at sea that might lead to far worse.
In addition to its plans to heighten naval tensions in seas adjacent to China, the Pentagon has been laboring to strengthen its military ties with US-friendly states on China’s perimeter, all clearly part of a long-term drive to — in Cold War fashion — “contain” Chinese power in Asia. On June 8th, for example, the DoDlaunchedMalabar 2018, a joint Pacific Ocean naval exercise involving forces from India, Japan, and the United States. Incorporating once neutral India into America’s anti-Chinese “Pacific” alliance system in this and other ways has, in fact, become a major twenty-first-century goal of the Pentagon, posing a significant new threat to China.
For decades, the principal objective of US strategy in Asia had been to bolster key Pacific allies Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines, while containing Chinese power in adjacent waters, including the East and South China Seas. However, in recent times, China has sought to spread its influence into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region, in part by extolling its staggeringly ambitious “One Belt, One Road” trade and infrastructure initiative for the Eurasian continent and Africa. That vast project is clearly meant both as a unique vehicle for cooperation and a way to tie much of Eurasia into a future China-centered economic and energy system. Threatened by visions of such a future, American strategists have moved ever more decisively to constrain Chinese outreach in those very areas. That, then, is the context for the sudden concerted drive by US military strategists to link the Indian and Pacific Oceans and so encircle China with pro-American, anti-Chinese alliance systems. The name change on May 30th is a formal acknowledgement of an encirclement strategy that couldn’t, in the long run, be more dangerous.Girding for War With China
To grasp the ramifications of such moves, some background on the former PACOM might be useful. Originally known as the Far East Command, PACOM was established in 1947 and has been headquartered at US bases near Honolulu, Hawaii, ever since. As now constituted, its “area of responsibility” encompasses a mind-boggling expanse: all of East, South, and Southeast Asia, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and the waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans — in other words, an area covering about 50% of the Earth’s surface and incorporating more than half of the global population. Though the Pentagon divides the whole planet like a giant pie into a set of “unified commands,” none of them is larger than the newly expansive, newly named Indo-Pacific Command, with its375,000 military and civilian personnel.
Before the Indian Ocean was explicitly incorporated into its fold, PACOM mainly focused on maintaining control of the western Pacific, especially in waters around a number of friendly island and peninsula states like Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. Its force structure has largely been composed of air and naval squadrons, along with a large Marine Corps presence on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Its most powerful combat unit is the US Pacific Fleet— like the area it now covers, the largest in the world. It’s made up of the 3rd and 7th Fleets, which together have approximately 200 ships and submarines, nearly 1,200 aircraft, and more than 130,000 sailors, pilots, Marines, and civilians.
On a day-to-day basis, until recently, the biggest worry confronting the command was the possibility of a conflict with nuclear-armed North Korea. During the late fall of 2017 and the winter of 2018, PACOM engaged in a continuing series of exercises designed to test its forces’ ability to overcome North Korean defenses and destroy its major military assets, including nuclear and missile facilities. These were undoubtedly intended, above all, as a warning to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un about what he could expect if he continued down the path of endless provocative missile and nuclear tests. It seems that, at least for the time being, President Trump has suspended such drills as a result of his summit meeting with Kim.
North Korea aside, the principal preoccupation of PACOM commanders has long been the rising power of China and how to contain it. This was evident at the May 30th ceremony in Hawaii at which Mattis announced that expansive name change and presided over a change-of-command ceremony, in which outgoing commander, Admiral Harry Harris Jr., was replaced by Admiral Phil Davidson. (Given the naval-centric nature of its mission, the command is almost invariably headed by an admiral.)
While avoiding any direct mention of China in his opening remarks, Mattis left not a smidgeon of uncertainty that the command’s new name was a challenge and a call for the future mobilization of regional opposition across a vast stretch of the planet to China’s dreams and desires. Other nations welcome US support, heinsisted, as they prefer an environment of “free, fair, and reciprocal trade not bound by any nation’s predatory economics or threat of coercion, for the Indo-Pacific has many belts and many roads.” No one could mistake the meaning of that.
Departing Admiral Harris was blunter still. Although “North Korea remains our most immediate threat,” he declared, “China remains our biggest long-term challenge.” He then offered a warning: without the stepped-up efforts of the US and its allies to constrain Beijing, “China will realize its dream of hegemony in Asia.” Yes, he admitted, it was still possible to cooperate with the Chinese on limited issues, but we should “stand ready to confront them when we must.” (On May 18th, Admiral Harris was nominated by President Trump as the future US ambassador to South Korea, which will place a former military man at the US Embassy in Seoul.)
Harris’s successor, Admiral Davidson, seems, if anything, even more determined to put confronting China atop the command’s agenda. During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 17th, he repeatedly highlighted the threat posed by Chinese military activities in the South China Sea and promised to resist them vigorously. “Once [the South China Sea islands are] occupied, China will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power deep into Oceania,” hewarned. “The PLA [People’s Liberation Army] will be able to use these bases to challenge US presence in the region, and any forces deployed to the islands would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea claimants. In short, China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.”
Is that, then, what Admiral Davidson sees in our future? War with China in those waters? His testimony made it crystal clear that his primary objective as head of the Indo-Pacific Command will be nothing less than training and equipping the forces under him for just such a future war, while enlisting the militaries of as many allies as possible in the Pentagon’s campaign to encircle that country. “To prevent a situation where China is more likely to win a conflict,” he affirmed in his version of Pentagonese, “we must resource high-end capabilities in a timely fashion, preserve our network of allies and partners, and continue to recruit and train the best soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and coast guardsmen in the world.”
Davidson’s first priority is to procure advanced weaponry and integrate it into the command’s force structure, ensuring that American combatants will always enjoy a technological advantage over their Chinese counterparts in any future confrontation. Almost as important, he, like his predecessors, seeks to bolster America’s military ties with other members of the contain-China club. This is where India comes in. Like the United States, its leadership is deeply concerned with China’s expanding presence in the Indian Ocean region, including the opening of a future port/naval base in Gwadar, Pakistan, and another potential one on the island of Sri Lanka, both in the Indian Ocean. Not surprisingly, given the periodic clashes between Chinese and Indian forces along their joint Himalayan borderlands and the permanent deployment of Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi has shown himself to be increasingly disposed to join Washington in military arrangements aimed at limiting China’s geopolitical reach. “An enduring strategic partnership with India comports with US goals and objectives in the Indo-Pacific,” Admiral Davidson said in his recent congressional testimony. Once installed as commander, he continued, “I will maintain the positive momentum and trajectory of our burgeoning strategic partnership.” His particular goal: to “increase maritime security cooperation.”
And so we arrive at the Indo-Pacific Command and a future shadowed by the potential for great power war.The View From Beijing
The way the name change at PACOM was covered in the US, you would think it reflected, at most, a benign wish for greater economic connections between the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions, as well, perhaps, as a nod to America’s growing relationship with India. Nowhere was there any hint that what might lie behind it was a hostile and potentially threatening new approach to China — or that it could conceivably be perceived that way in Beijing. But there can be no doubt that the Chinese view such moves, including recent provocative naval operations in the disputed Paracel Islands of the South China Sea, as significant perils.
When, in late May, the Pentagon dispatched two warships — the USS Higgins, a destroyer, and the USSAntietam, a cruiser — into the waters near one of those newly fortified islands, the Chinese responded by sending in some of their own warships while issuing a statement condemning the provocative American naval patrols. The US action, said a Chinese military spokesperson, “seriously violated China’s sovereignty [and] undermined strategic mutual trust.” Described by the Pentagon as “freedom of navigation operations” (FRONOPs), such patrols are set to be increased at the behest of Mattis.
Of course, the Chinese are hardly blameless in the escalating tensions in the region. They have continued to militarize South China Sea islands whose ownership is in dispute, despite a promise that Chinese President Xi Jinping made to President Obama in 2015 not to do so. Some of those islands in the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries in the area and have been the subject of intensifying, often bitter disagreements among them about where rightful ownership really lies. Beijing has simply claimed sovereignty over all of them and refuses to compromise on the issue. By fortifying them — which American military commanders see as a latent military threat to US forces in the region — Beijing has provoked a particularly fierce US reaction, though these are obviously waters relatively close to China, but many thousands of miles from the continental United States.
From Beijing, the strategic outlook articulated by Secretary Mattis, as well as Admirals Harris and Davidson, is clearly viewed — and not without reason — as threatening and as evidence of Washington’s master plan to surround China, confine it, and prevent it from ever achieving the regional dominance its leadersbelieveis its due as the rising great power on the planet. To the Chinese leadership, changing PACOM’s name to the Indo-Pacific Command will just be another signal of Washington’s determination to extend its unprecedented military presence westward from the Pacific around Southeast Asia into the Indian Ocean and so further restrain the attainment of what it sees as China’s legitimate destiny.
However Chinese leaders end up responding to such strategic moves, one thing is certain: they will not view them with indifference. On the contrary, as challenged great powers have always done, they will undoubtedly seek ways to counter America’s containment strategy by whatever means are at hand. These may not initially be overtly military or even obvious, but in the long run they will certainly be vigorous and persistent. They will include efforts to compete with Washington in pursuit of Asian allies — as seen in Beijing’s fervent courtship of President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines — and to secure new basing arrangements abroad, possibly under the pretext, as in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, of establishing commercial shipping terminals. All of this will only add new tensions to an already anxiety-inducing relationship with the United States. As ever more warships from both countries patrol the region, the likelihood that accidents will occur, mistakes will be made, and future military clashes will result can only increase.
With the possibility of war with North Korea fading in the wake of the recent Singapore summit, one thing is guaranteed: the new US Indo-Pacific Command will only devote itself ever more fervently to what is already its one overriding priority: preparing for a conflict with China. Its commanders insist that they do not seek such a war, and believe that their preparations — by demonstrating America’s strength and resolve — will deter the Chinese from ever challenging American supremacy. That, however, is a fantasy. In reality, a strategy that calls for a “steady drumbeat” of naval operations aimed at intimidating China in waters near that country will create ever more possibilities, however unintended, of sparking the very conflagration that it is, at least theoretically, designed to prevent.
Right now, a Sino-American war sounds like the plotline of some half-baked dystopian novel. Unfortunately, given the direction in which both countries (and their militaries) are heading, it could, in the relatively near future, become a grim reality.
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