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Long Ball Larry

The Foreign Policy and Geopolitical Grand Strategy Thread: In Which We Solve the World

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I have been thinking for a few months about the global geopolitical order, largely through the lens of how the Trump administration is handling foreign affairs and what the grand strategy is (if there is one).  What is the U.S. doing globally that make sense and what things do not? I am interested in this primarily in a practical geopolitical strategic sense, not necessarily what is right or wrong morally. Probably one of the most pressing issues prompting me to consider this is our actions and orientation toward China and whether they are good or bad.  

I think the first thing to think about what is the landscape is, who are the players and what are the actions that are really shaping the future of the world.

The Major Players?

Reading a book review a few weeks ago of The Empire and Five Kings, the author, Bernard-Henri Levy states (paraphrased): The U.S. has given up its role in maintaining order around the world.  Into that vacuum have stepped China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey (the 5 kings).

The first three make sense to me and were key players that I was initially thinking about.  I recognize the role of Iran and Turkey, but am less sure about the total impact on the world right now.  I suppose I understand that those countries are increasing their attempts to influence events and spaces in the world, though I have been skeptical of their real impact.  Iran’s recent aggression on tankers and planes, as well as recent stories about their attempts to use methods of social media manipulation in America, perhaps indicate that they are more serious than I thought.  

For Turkey, I know that Erdogan has been consolidating power over time, put out the hit on Gulen, and generally seems to have been trying to flex various relationships throughout the world.  (Interesting report here from CFR: https://cfrd8-files.cfr.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/CSR82_Cook_Turkey_0.pdf)

Who are other key players on the world stage and who are enemies or allies of the U.S.?

I assume we consider the G20 countries to be major players (France, Germany, England, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, Indonesia).

Other non-G20 countries that I would consider to be particularly relevant: UAE, Israel, North Korea, Syria.

Of every country I’ve listed, probably the only ones that are obvious enemies are Iran, North Korea and Syria.

Who are our strongest allies?  Maybe KSA, Israel, Canada, Germany, England, France, Australia (?)  Despite all of Trump’s bluster, I still think that those last 5 are still pretty strong allies.

I would put China, Russia, Turkey and UAE in their own category of doing things that suit their own interests, working with the U.S. when there is something they want, but going on their own when they want.  KSA might fit here too, but my sense is that they are more firmly in Trump’s camp based on recent events.

I assume that the rest of the countries listed are basically allies at this point, but I am unclear about how strong the relationships are.  India is a strange one to me, because they seem like they could have become a much bigger force and helpful friend in that area, but it also seems like Modi is overmatched in terms of working on a large scale like that.

What events and actions are shaping the world right now, among the above countries and others?

Well, we could spend hours on China (and there is a China a thread, I believe), but to name a few: Belt and Road Initiative (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/all-roads-lead-to-china-the-belt-and-road-initiative-explained/), building out man-made islands in the Pacific, stealing IP, what is really happening with their economy, Made in China 2025, etc.

Unrest in Venezuela is a situation into which the U.S. has inserted itself and I assume will have ripple effects in South America and Central America.

Our approach to aid/crackdowns in Latin America and the effect on immigration.

Russian aggression around the world.

What is Kim Jong-Un going to do?

What is Assad doing (seems mostly laying low internationally lately, but I may have missed some stuff.  I guess still doing a lot domestically to crush opposition)?

Also huge swaths of Africa where seemingly anything goes, continual upheaval and disorganization, though also some improvement and also likely long-term investment and routes from China (and a little bit from Russia potentially).

What’s the point of all this?

I’m mostly trying to organize my own thoughts on this and thought it might be worthwhile to post here so that others could help me fill in the gaps.  It also helps to try to have multi-faceted view and relevant factors to consider for major geopolitical strategy and our foreign policy moving forward.  Regardless of whether you believe in a more isolationist position or more global intertwining, we are going to be affected by the actions of the rest of the world more and more as time goes on.

 

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Marvelous thread topic. 

I often get ripped for too much pontificating on topics like these, so this time I think I will wait and see what others have to say and then chime in in response. 

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24 minutes ago, Long Ball Larry said:

The Major Players?

 Reading a book review a few weeks ago of The Empire and Five Kings, the author, Bernard-Henri Levy states (paraphrased): The U.S. has given up its role in maintaining order around the world.  Into that vacuum have stepped China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey (the 5 kings).

I agree and I think this started under Obama passively, but Trump has been a fullthroated activist and nationalist on this.

IMO global nationalist dynamics were the norm up to and through 1945 and its aftermath.

The post war rubric really started coming unwound with the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the USSR, which naturally we encouraged.

The premodern nationalists include Putin, Erdogan and Xi.

I’m glad to talk more about this, but the point is leaders who fail to see this dynamic are incapable of really understanding or dealing with world affairs.

Edited by SaintsInDome2006

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28 minutes ago, SaintsInDome2006 said:

And I’m unabashed in saying there is one solution to this: democracy.

this is absolutely true but, if the last 50 yrs have taught us anything, attempting democracy in regions that arent ready - nay, screaming - for it is an invitation to tyranny

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1 hour ago, SaintsInDome2006 said:

I agree and I think this started under Obama passively, but Trump has been a fullthroated activist and nationalist on this.

IMO global nationalist dynamics were the norm up to and through 1945 and its aftermath.

The post war rubric really started coming unwound with the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the USSR, which naturally we encouraged.

The premodern nationalists include Putin, Erdogan and Xi.

I’m glad to talk more about this, but the point is leaders who fail to see this dynamic are incapable of really understanding or dealing with world affairs.

Which leaders are you talking about?  And do you mean those who fail to appreciate that the idea of modern global cooperation is really more of an aberration when thinking about the world?

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1 hour ago, SaintsInDome2006 said:

And I’m unabashed in saying there is one solution to this: democracy.

Is it?  Interesting wapo article today: https://www.google.com/amp/s/beta.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/07/20/how-trashy-tv-made-children-dumber-enabled-wave-populist-leaders/%3foutputType=amp

“Young people who watched Mediaset during their formative years would, Durante said, grow up to be “less cognitively sophisticated and less civically minded” than their peers who had access only to public broadcasting and local stations during that period.”

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9 minutes ago, Long Ball Larry said:

Which leaders are you talking about?  

I mean American leadership principally, but also apparently in the UK and to some extent soft nationalists carried along by the nationalist push in continental Europe..

Edited by SaintsInDome2006

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13 minutes ago, Long Ball Larry said:

Is it?  Interesting wapo article today: https://www.google.com/amp/s/beta.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/07/20/how-trashy-tv-made-children-dumber-enabled-wave-populist-leaders/%3foutputType=amp

“Young people who watched Mediaset during their formative years would, Durante said, grow up to be “less cognitively sophisticated and less civically minded” than their peers who had access only to public broadcasting and local stations during that period.”

Quote

 

In Italy, it’s not that television made voters more conservative. Instead, Durante said, it seems to have made them more vulnerable to the anti-establishment stances favored by the country’s populist leaders of all persuasions.

In the ’90s and early 2000s, Berlusconi was “well positioned to benefit from the decline in cognitive skills and civic engagement,” they write, but by 2013, he was outflanked by the insurgent Five Star Movement, whose strong rhetoric won over the Mediaset-affected voters who had once broken for Berlusconi.

Let's say I agree with this - as applied to America and elsewhere in the west - and still maintain my position.

I'm conscious of arguing that power needs to be devolved to the people and various power centers to the extent reasonable, but also realize that freedoms allow for countervailing forces. We can't control everything, that's the point.

That may be self-defeating, but IMO this is really an argument about technology. Tv & A/C drove people inside and off the porches and community settings, mobile phones, the internet and social media drove them inward even further and into a tunnel mentality.

This is an argument about technology driving societal and political conditions which is as old as Marx. And he was right then but wrong about the solution. For every instance of a Facebook driving stupidity I'll give you a Tiran or Maidan Square driving authoritarianism out of power. YMMV though, revanchism is always lurking that is absolutely true. And that's been true since revolutionary France, that's not conditional on technology at all, that's just part of the human condition.

Edited by SaintsInDome2006

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1 hour ago, wikkidpissah said:

this is absolutely true but, if the last 50 yrs have taught us anything, attempting democracy in regions that arent ready - nay, screaming - for it is an invitation to tyranny

Well you can look to post-revolutionary France for that. 

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2 minutes ago, SaintsInDome2006 said:

Well you can look to post-revolutionary France for that. 

that is a response which seeks to win an argument, not to heighten understanding, so i will defer

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9 minutes ago, SaintsInDome2006 said:

Let's say I agree with this - as applied to America and elsewhere in the west - and still maintain my position.

I'm conscious of arguing that power needs to be devolved to the people and various power centers to the extent reasonable, but also realize that freedoms allow for countervailing forces. We can't control everything, that's the point.

That may be self-defeating, but IMO this is really an argument about technology. Tv & A/C drove people inside and off the porches and community settings, mobile phones, the internet and social media drove them inward even further and into a tunnel mentality.

This is an argument about technology driving societal and political conditions which is as old as Marx. And he was right then but wrong about the solution. For every instance of a Facebook driving stupidity I'll give you a Tiran or Maidan Square driving authoritarianism out of power. YMMV though, revanchism is always lurking that is absolutely true. And that's been true since revolutionary France, that's not conditional on technology at all, that's just part of the human condition.

Yeah, it’s not truly a refutation, but something I found interesting and something that seems true from idiocracy to the last election.

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I'm not solving the world here, but Obama did not withdraw from being a world leader 'passively.' He did so despite many objections -- especially those on the neocon right -- and did it willfully. Our shifting of allies also began under Obama. 

Bush II, despite his grand pronouncement to the contrary during campaigning, was very much an internationalist and a Wilsonian at heart. I don't follow other countries' foreign policy matters enough to assume or know who has stepped into the void or vacuum left by the U.S., but pretending this wasn't a deliberate act by our 44th president abdicates all responsibility for our shifting of our alliance with the U.K., and as world leaders. 

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15 hours ago, rockaction said:

 

I'm not solving the world here, but Obama did not withdraw from being a world leader 'passively.' He did so despite many objections -- especially those on the neocon right -- and did it willfully. Our shifting of allies also began under Obama. 

I didn’t mean it was forced upon him, I meant that he did it through policy but not overtly. Primarily I am speaking of Ben Rhodes’ comments about withdrawing from mideast affairs.

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cross-posting Bucky's post in the Iran thread:

Quote

 

Well, that's interesting.

𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙄𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙡 𝘾𝙧𝙖𝙗 Retweeted

Replying to

@lummideast

and

@aawsat_News

Russia and Iran signed a document on the expansion of military cooperation. This is the first memorandum of understanding between countries of this kind. Also, countries will hold joint exercises until the end of the year. (link: https://iran.liveuamap.com/en/2019/29-july-russia-and-iran-signed-a-document-on-the-expansion)iran.liveuamap.com/en/2019/29-jul… #Iran

 

 

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4 hours ago, Long Ball Larry said:

cross-posting Bucky's post in the Iran thread:

Quote

 

Well, that's interesting.

𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙄𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙡 𝘾𝙧𝙖𝙗 Retweeted

Replying to

@lummideast

and

@aawsat_News

Russia and Iran signed a document on the expansion of military cooperation. This is the first memorandum of understanding between countries of this kind. Also, countries will hold joint exercises until the end of the year. (link: https://iran.liveuamap.com/en/2019/29-july-russia-and-iran-signed-a-document-on-the-expansion)iran.liveuamap.com/en/2019/29-jul… #Iran

 

 

And people can't figure out why Russia would want trump in office??  It's right in front of your faces people.  :lmao: 

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So Brazil...

Run by Jair Bolsonaro, retired military who seems interested in returning the country to more of a military dictatorship.  Rode a similar type of populist wave to the presidency, though it now appears that there really was a conspiracy to take out the more left-leaning democratic politicians in the country through targeted corruption cases (which were seemingly mostly legitimate, but only focused on those on the left.) The current justice minister (appointed by Bolsonaro) was previously a federal judge overseeing the corruption probes, but now troves of text messages have come up showing that he was actually coordinating with the prosecutors. (leaks/corruption) This investigation led the imprisonment of the former president Da Silva, crippling his election campaign in 2018.

Brazil is a recent democracy and a decade ago was seen as a rising star in the world as part of the BRICS economies.  But that seems to have stagnated and Bolsonaro looks to be taking the country backward.  Particularly disquieting is the government's increased willingness to allow deforestation of the Amazon, which provides close to 25% of the oxygen on the planet, not to mention his allowance of unfettered violence among police officers and aggressive homophobia.

Also interesting is that Trump has just designated Brazil as a non-NATO ally, making it easier for the South American country to purchase U.S. weapons and defense equipment.  (non-nato ally)

does @msommer live in Brazil?

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7 hours ago, Long Ball Larry said:

So Brazil...

Run by Jair Bolsonaro, retired military who seems interested in returning the country to more of a military dictatorship.  Rode a similar type of populist wave to the presidency, though it now appears that there really was a conspiracy to take out the more left-leaning democratic politicians in the country through targeted corruption cases (which were seemingly mostly legitimate, but only focused on those on the left.) The current justice minister (appointed by Bolsonaro) was previously a federal judge overseeing the corruption probes, but now troves of text messages have come up showing that he was actually coordinating with the prosecutors. (leaks/corruption) This investigation led the imprisonment of the former president Da Silva, crippling his election campaign in 2018.

Brazil is a recent democracy and a decade ago was seen as a rising star in the world as part of the BRICS economies.  But that seems to have stagnated and Bolsonaro looks to be taking the country backward.  Particularly disquieting is the government's increased willingness to allow deforestation of the Amazon, which provides close to 25% of the oxygen on the planet, not to mention his allowance of unfettered violence among police officers and aggressive homophobia.

Also interesting is that Trump has just designated Brazil as a non-NATO ally, making it easier for the South American country to purchase U.S. weapons and defense equipment.  (non-nato ally)

does @msommer live in Brazil?

I don't live in Brazil any more but still talk to people who do.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bolsonaro is a mini Trump. There is also no doubt in my mind that Lula was guilty of the corruption he wassent to jail for, and more

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I was in a coffee shop last weekend and they happened to have the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.  https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2019-04-16/time-different

This article seemed to be trying to tie together a lot of the same threads that I have been thinking about.  You can't read the whole article without a sub, but toward the conclusion, I think the author gives a nice summary.  I don't agree with every single piece of this, but I do think that it properly characterizes the scope and nature of the future world if the U.S. continues to promote a heavily nationalistic and transactional foreign policy:

Quote

 

The Trump administration has unilaterally surrendered the set of ideals that guided U.S. policymakers for decades.  It is entirely proper to debate how much the United States should prioritize the promotion of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law across the world.  What should be beyond debate, however, is that it is worthwhile to promote these values overseas and enshrine them at home.  Trump's ugly rhetoric makes a mockery of those values.  Although a future president might sound better on these issues, both allies and rivals will remember the current moment.  The seeds of doubt have been planted, and they will one day sprout.  

The factors that give the United States an advantage in the international system -- deep capital markets, liberal ideas, world-class higher education -- have winner-take-all dynamics. Other actors will be reluctant to switch away from the dollar, Wall street, democracy, and the Ivy League.  These sectors can withstand a few hits.  Excessive use of financial statecraft, alliances with overseas populists, or prolonged bouts of anti-immigrant hysteria, however, will force even close allies to start thinking about alternatives.  Teh American advantage in these areas will go bankrupt much like Mike Campbell in The Sun Also Rises did: "gradually and then suddenly."  Right now, the United States' Jenga tower is still standing.  Remove a few more blocks, however, and the wobbling will become noticeable to the unaided eye.

What would collapse look like?  The United States would remain a great power, of course, but it would be an ordinary and less rich one.  On an increasing number of issues, U.S. preferences would carry minimal weight, as China and Europe coordinated on a different set of rules.  Persistent domestic political polarization would encourage Middle Eastern allies, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, to line up with Republicans and European allies, such as Germany and the United Kingdom, to back Democrats.  The continued absence of any coherent grand strategy would leave Latin America vulnerable to a new Great Game as other great powers vied for influence there.  Demographic pressures would tax the United States, and the productivity slowdown would make those pressures even worse.  Trade blocs would sap global economic growth; reduced interdependence would increase the likelihood of a great-power war.  Climate change would be mitigated nationally rather than internationally, leaving almost everyone worse off.

 

We have already seen a rise of nationalism around the globe, and in a number of major players: U.K., Russia, China, Japan, Brazil, India, let alone many other places in Europe and also many traditionally tribal areas.  And the effects of this nationalism are already having foreign policy ramifications for the U.S.. For instance, Japan's nationalist streak has led some leaders to make inflammatory comments about their history in South Korea, making their alliance more tenuous.  The downstream effect on the U.S. is that it makes it more difficult to work with diplomats and intelligence in one of the most sensitive areas of the world.  Additionally, India's PM, perhaps seeing his election victory as an endorsement of his nationalistic policies, has decided to become more aggressive in the Kashmir region, reasserting India's claims to the territory disputed with Pakistan which has previously perhaps brought us close to a nuclear event.  Russia has of course been aggressive in this same way for many years now; China is trying to crack down in Hong Kong (not to mention the ongoing Uighur detention).

I have some skepticism of the article's claim that the U.S. will be seen as a bad actor across the world in future because of Trump.  I think that our many historical allies will recognize and understand who is in control of the U.S. and will have no trouble working with more cooperative U.S. leaders in the future (plus many will likely have no choice because the U.S. will continue to occupy a preeminent place in the world.  However, I do think that what the article gets right is that focusing on nationalistic independence could isolate the U.S. from future synergies that would benefit the U.S. economically, politically, informationally and environmentally.  I think that the current administration sees the world as a zero-sum game and on a strict case-by-case basis.  They push buttons on their enemies to see what happens without a good sense of what will happen in the future and considering the counterfactuals (which is largely driven by Trump's seemingly ingrained A/B testing philosophy). 

Perhaps the deepest and most important conflict where this is taking root is with China.  In the Frontline piece on the trade war from May, they described an intense conflict among White House advisors between nationalists and so-called "globalists".  Well, the globalists are pretty much gone now, meaning that we are far more likely to see more of Trump's brinkmanship in dealing with countries he deems as bad actors.  In this respect, I do think that Trump sees a certain long game, where the U.S. and China are vying for long-term power in the world (and for the record, I don't think that is necessarily wrong, though I will get into that in some other post at some point.)  But I think that his lack of perspective, nuance and really any detail about the interconnectedness of the world means that he will go down roads that he thinks will flex power and cause the Chinese to relent.  But the Chinese are so much more adaptable due to their massive resources, central control, and ability to wait things out, that they could draw Trump into a trap (whether intentional or not).  I don't think that Trump can win this game by just looking at it as a zero-sum game, despite the previous bad actions of China.  Those are sunk costs.  There is a future where the U.S. and China do not have to disentangle and in which the U.S. can benefit more than simply trying to remain the king of the hill.  My fear is that Trump repeating this action with many countries will lead to some of our allies forming stronger alliances within themselves and with other countries and that we do enter a period of greater separation among groups across the world and that losing out on those links will hinder the U.S. from moving forward. 

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Hong Kong getting stomped all over.

Russia has a nuclear incident.

Trump is meanwhile tweeting about Chris Cuomo and Clintons killing Epstein. 

Good grief how far we have slipped.

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I've been thinking lately about US policy toward China. In my view, China has become a world power on the dollars of American consumers, and I believe that this can be undone. To put it simply, would it be possible to provide aid and preferred trading to Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Central American countries, or even Africa for infrastructure modernization and development of the products that Americans currently buy from China? Electronics might be more difficult due to sourcing of raw materials, but textiles and plastics, steel, auto parts, rubber, etc can be made elsewhere.

Using this link as a source, I find it hard to believe that we couldn't find/create another supplier for $425M worth of greeting cards or over $500M worth of disposable rubber gloves. In 2017, we imported $2.73B worth of "Electronic integrated circuits" from China, but that was only 8.2% of the total that was imported in that category. So where is the other 91+% coming from, and why can't we shift the remaining 8% there?

Whatever production we can incentivize from other sources serves our purposes of weakening China economically, which would in turn weaken them both geopolitically and militarily. It would be a longer game than I think we are used to, but China's rise has been meteoric. Maybe it's fall can be just as precipitous.

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4 hours ago, Tecumseh said:

I've been thinking lately about US policy toward China. In my view, China has become a world power on the dollars of American consumers, and I believe that this can be undone. To put it simply, would it be possible to provide aid and preferred trading to Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Central American countries, or even Africa for infrastructure modernization and development of the products that Americans currently buy from China? Electronics might be more difficult due to sourcing of raw materials, but textiles and plastics, steel, auto parts, rubber, etc can be made elsewhere.

Using this link as a source, I find it hard to believe that we couldn't find/create another supplier for $425M worth of greeting cards or over $500M worth of disposable rubber gloves. In 2017, we imported $2.73B worth of "Electronic integrated circuits" from China, but that was only 8.2% of the total that was imported in that category. So where is the other 91+% coming from, and why can't we shift the remaining 8% there?

Whatever production we can incentivize from other sources serves our purposes of weakening China economically, which would in turn weaken them both geopolitically and militarily. It would be a longer game than I think we are used to, but China's rise has been meteoric. Maybe it's fall can be just as precipitous.

And this was the positive side of TPP.  Maybe the next President can restart those talks and eliminate some of the sovereignty issues and continue down this path.

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5 hours ago, Tecumseh said:

To put it simply, would it be possible to provide aid and preferred trading to Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Central American countries, or even Africa for infrastructure modernization and development of the products that Americans currently buy from China?

I always think about how much further our spending could go in some of these places, particularly latin america. 

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8 hours ago, Tecumseh said:

To put it simply, would it be possible to provide aid and preferred trading to Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Central American countries, or even Africa for infrastructure modernization and development of the products that Americans currently buy from China? Electronics might be more difficult due to sourcing of raw materials, but textiles and plastics, steel, auto parts, rubber, etc can be made elsewhere..

Maybe, but I think that China's Belt and Road Initiative could make that hard, considering that they are basically already doing that kind of stuff.

https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/chinas-massive-belt-and-road-initiative
 

Quote

 

Xi’s vision included creating a vast network of railways, energy pipelines, highways, and streamlined border crossings, both westward—through the mountainous former Soviet republics—and southward, to Pakistan, India, and the rest of Southeast Asia. Such a network would expand the international useof Chinese currency, the renminbi, while new infrastructure could “break the bottleneck in Asian connectivity,” according to Xi. (The Asian Development Bank estimates that the region faces a yearly infrastructure financing shortfall of nearly $800 billion.) In addition to physical infrastructure, China plans to build fifty special economic zones, modeled after the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, which China launched in 1980 during its economic reforms under leader Deng Xiaoping.

China’s overall ambition for the BRI is staggering. To date, more than sixty countries—accounting for two-thirds of the world’s population—have signed on to projects or indicated an interest in doing so. Analysts estimate the largest so far to be the $68 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a collection of projects connecting China to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea. In total, China has already spent an estimated $200 billion on such efforts. Morgan Stanley has predicted China’s overall expenses over the life of the BRI could reach $1.2–1.3 trillion by 2027, though estimates on total investments vary.

What does China hope to achieve?

China has both geopolitical and economic motivations behind the initiative. Xi has promoted a vision of a more assertive China, while the new normal of slowing growth has put pressure on the country’s leadership to open new markets for its consumer goods and excess industrial capacity.

To date, more than sixty countries—accounting for two-thirds of the world’s population—have signed on to projects or indicated an interest in doing so.

 Experts see the BRI as one of the main planks of Chinese statecraft under Xi, alongside the Made in China 2025economic development strategy. For Xi, the BRI serves as pushback against the much-touted U.S. “pivot to Asia,” as well as a way for China to develop new investment opportunities, cultivate export markets, and boost Chinese incomes and domestic consumption.


 

 

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Recent BRI developments.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-14/china-s-belt-and-road-is-getting-a-reboot-here-s-why-quicktake

Quote

Since 2013 more than 130 countries have signed deals or expressed interest in projects geared to spurring trade along routes reminiscent of the ancient Silk Road. The World Bank estimates some $575 billion worth of railways, roads, ports and other projects have been or are in the process of being built. But President Xi Jinping’s signature effort has also come in for criticism including charges that China is exploiting poor countries -- luring them into debt traps -- for its own political and even military gain. The mixed reviews abroad and worries at home about the cost have led Chinainto something of a rethink as it tries to increase transparency, improve project quality and bring in deep-pocketed partners who can share the risk.

At a high-profile forum in April 2019, Xi signaled that the Chinese government would exert more control over BRI projects and tighten oversight. Rather than boasting about the initiative’s growth, as he did at the previous forum in 2017, he focused on steps China is taking to clean up its image, urging “higher quality” and “greener” projects and vowing “zero tolerance” for corruption. State-owned-enterprises, by far the biggest investors in BRI projects, are being told to beef up auditing and increase supervision for their overseas units and personnel. The government has been drafting rules for use of the BRI label to try to better protect its reputation.

Signs of a more cautious approach have emerged -- at least around its debt exposure. China has withheld some $4.9 billion in new loans for a major rail project it had been building in eastern Africa. The line was supposed to run from the Kenyan port city of Mombasa to Uganda and beyond, but only the stretch from the coast to Nairobi is done. China balked at funding the extension amid concerns that Kenya was at risk of debt distress. Revenue from the railway is supposed to repay the initial $3.6 billion loan, but critics say it won’t turn a profit for a long time. RWR Advisory Group, a Washington-based consulting firm, reported that the Export Import Bank of China backed out of providing financing for a giant solar project due to the Zimbabwean government’s legacy debts.

Italy in 2019 became the first Group of Seven country to sign a memorandum to join the BRI, despite pressure from many of its European Union partners and the U.S., providing a public relations coup for Beijing. After six years of wrangling, Russia quietly approved its first project designed specifically for the BRI: a toll road linking China’s western neighbor Kazakhstan with Belarus, which borders Poland and two other EU members. The second BRI forum attracted about three dozen world leaders, more than the first. Still, Asian powerhouses Japan and South Korea stayed away, as did the U.S. and the three biggest European economies: Germany, the U.K. and France.

 

 

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https://www.cfr.org/blog/trumps-trade-war-puts-belt-and-road-first

Interesting effect of China tariffs.

Quote

 

When he began slapping tariffs on Chinese exports last summer, President Trump said his actions would bring down America’s trade deficit. China, however, has retaliated by pressuring its firms to find alternative sellers for U.S. exports, from agricultural goods to oil, helping to increase the U.S. deficit with China to just over two percent of GDP—as the blue line on the above-left figure shows. Meanwhile, America’s global trade deficit has expanded by eight percent.

Though Trump’s tariffs have not rebalanced U.S.-China (or U.S. global) trade, they have helped reverse the flow of China’s trade with other nations. As the red line on the above-left figure shows, the overall emerging-market (EM) trade balance with China has, since the U.S.-China trade war began, soared toward surplus.

As China has cut its U.S. imports, it has bought commensurately more from the rest of the world. In particular, it has expanded trade with countries participating in its massive “Belt and Road” investment initiative (BRI). As the right-hand figure above shows, African and Latin American countries, many of which signed on to BRI last year, have been among the biggest winners of the U.S.-China decoupling. “The Sino-U.S. trade conflict, if it becomes long-term,” explained one China State Council official, “will definitely impact the import origins of some products.” BRI nations, in particular, were likely to “win orders from China for land-intensive agricultural products.”

 

 

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3 hours ago, parasaurolophus said:

I always think about how much further our spending could go in some of these places, particularly latin america. 

One thing that I have been thinking about writing about (though I need to research a lot more because as of now it is just a vague speculation) is about my perception that we have really drawn down our activities in the western hemisphere in the past 2 decades.  Perhaps because so much of our resources are tied up in the war on terror and elsewhere in the East.  But it seems like we used to have a much bigger hand in elections, leaders and activities within Latin and South America (not that all of that was right, of course) and that our loss in that area has led to some of the immigration issues and a lack of diversified sourcing.

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On 8/14/2019 at 2:58 AM, Tecumseh said:

I've been thinking lately about US policy toward China. In my view, China has become a world power on the dollars of American consumers, and I believe that this can be undone. To put it simply, would it be possible to provide aid and preferred trading to Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Central American countries, or even Africa for infrastructure modernization and development of the products that Americans currently buy from China? Electronics might be more difficult due to sourcing of raw materials, but textiles and plastics, steel, auto parts, rubber, etc can be made elsewhere.

Using this link as a source, I find it hard to believe that we couldn't find/create another supplier for $425M worth of greeting cards or over $500M worth of disposable rubber gloves. In 2017, we imported $2.73B worth of "Electronic integrated circuits" from China, but that was only 8.2% of the total that was imported in that category. So where is the other 91+% coming from, and why can't we shift the remaining 8% there?

Whatever production we can incentivize from other sources serves our purposes of weakening China economically, which would in turn weaken them both geopolitically and militarily. It would be a longer game than I think we are used to, but China's rise has been meteoric. Maybe it's fall can be just as precipitous.

 

On 8/14/2019 at 8:25 AM, parasaurolophus said:

I always think about how much further our spending could go in some of these places, particularly latin america. 

 

On 8/14/2019 at 11:41 AM, Long Ball Larry said:

One thing that I have been thinking about writing about (though I need to research a lot more because as of now it is just a vague speculation) is about my perception that we have really drawn down our activities in the western hemisphere in the past 2 decades.  Perhaps because so much of our resources are tied up in the war on terror and elsewhere in the East.  But it seems like we used to have a much bigger hand in elections, leaders and activities within Latin and South America (not that all of that was right, of course) and that our loss in that area has led to some of the immigration issues and a lack of diversified sourcing.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/21/world/americas/china-el-salvador-trump-backlash.html?searchResultPosition=1

Thought that this was a very interesting article in last week's NY Times that tied together a lot of these themes. Below  I've copied the parts that are particularly relevant to the China-U.S.-Global Geopolitical situation, though there is some other stuff about how El Salvador views this internally, China's machinations, and other details about the potential deal.

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The offer was befuddling: A little over a year ago, families living on Isla Perico, a speck of an island in a destitute corner of El Salvador, were offered $7,000 each to pack up and move to the mainland.The islanders were told their move was necessary to help achieve China’s plan for turning a downtrodden patch of Central America into a global trade hub and manufacturing powerhouse.But they steadfastly refused, doubting that they would benefit from any bonanza the Chinese could bring.

Over the months that followed, the island’s roughly 35 families would become unlikely participants in a struggle between Beijing and Washington, which wants to stop the Chinese from gaining a strategic foothold in a tiny impoverished nation that sits on its doorstep. 
 
American officials in El Salvador went on the offensive to thwart China’s foray, painting Beijing as an untrustworthy partner with hidden motives.For most of the past decade, the United States watched with unease as much of Latin America was pulled into China’s orbit through a growing network of trade and loans — which Washington did little to confront.

As China presented itself as a partner with a vision for El Salvador’s future, President Trump may have played into China’s hands, his critics say. The Trump administration initially countered China with little beyond threats to the Central American nation and its neighbors for not doing enough to curb migration, one of the president’s signature issues.

But then the United States took another tack: trying to turn public opinion in El Salvador against the Chinese.American officials criticized China’s legacy in the developing world in several interviews, meetings with opinion makers and posts on social media. At one point, the American ambassador went as far as suggesting China could be seeking to establish a military post in the country.

“China’s agreements with El Salvador have been negotiated by a small group of individuals, behind closed doors and without the involvement of the public or representatives from the key sectors affected by those agreements,” said Jean Manes, the recently departed American ambassador in El Salvador, who was given rare leeway to publicly criticize China’s plans.China, she said, “advances its own agenda with little regard for the long-term economic prospects for or environmental impact on developing countries.”The American warnings, and the resistance of Isla Perico’s families, helped thwart China’s plans — at least for the time being. Measures that would have allowed China to proceed stalled in El Salvador’s legislature.

The offer to create a special zone in El Salvador, by a Chinese state-owned company called Asia-Pacific Xuanhao, was summarized in a document called “Shared Opportunities, Shared Future.” A copy was reviewed by The New York Times.The deal would allow China to advance its quest to establish an alternative trade route to the Panama Canal, and enhance its ability to shape commerce in the region.The special zone also would give China a valuable perch to expand its military and intelligence capabilities in Washington’s vicinity, according to American officials who have watched warily as Beijing has invested in at least 60 Latin American port projects.For El Salvador, the deal came with significant trade-offs, and left several unanswered questions.

The Chinese requested a 100-year lease of a 1,076-square-mile area — 13 percent of the country’s landmass — and demanded tax exemptions for their companies that would last three decades. Details about the financing structure were not publicly disclosed, causing concern among some Salvadorans that their country risked becoming financially beholden to Beijing for generations.But by the time the United States began its campaign against the Chinese in El Salvador last summer, the Americans had a lot of catching up to do.

While the Chinese were offering to build manufacturing plants, invest in renewable energy and make El Salvador a tourist destination, President Trump was calling migrants “animals,” and separating children from parents at the border.“That attitude opens up space for China,” said Roberto Rubio, director of the National Foundation for Development, a research group in San Salvador, the capital. “If the United States threatens to cut our aid, treats our people poorly and brings little investment, why not go with the Chinese?”While the Trump administration has suspended aid programs to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, Ms. Ou, the ambassador, noted that China had signed 13 cooperation agreements on infrastructure, investment, science, technology, education, culture and tourism.

Trade between China and countries in Latin America and the Caribbean soared from $17 billion in 2002 to nearly $306 billion in 2018.The Obama administration did little to publicly challenge China’s deepening engagement in Latin America after the Chinese in 2009 signaled their intention to expand investment and trade in a region rich in commodities and in dire need of infrastructure upgrades.Soon after President Trump’s election in November 2016, the Chinese issued an updated policy vision for the region that was notably bolder. The update conveyed China’s desire to build military alliances with Latin American nations and signaled its aspirations to become a guiding force on global challenges like climate change, sustainable development and cybersecurity.

 

 

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Interesting situation in Honduras where a New York jury has convicted the brother of Honduran President Hernandez on cocaine trafficking charges.  The president has not been charged but was described in the trial as a co-conspirator in the crime (“see! TOTALLY NORMAL!”-trump, probably) as the drug traffickers were funneling millions of dollars to President Hernandez and his predecessor.  The U.S. has recently resumed some aid to Honduras (as well as El Salvador and Guatemala) for their efforts to stem migration.  Should be interesting.

also, at least one of the bribes came from El Chapo.  And in other news, one of el chapo’s sons,  ovidio, was captured in Mexico and being held for extradition to the U.S.  so what did his brother do?  Naturally he took a bunch of his gang to the police station and took hostages and killed security forces until they agreed to release ovidio back to him.  It seems like Narcos will be able to go on forever on Netflix.

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Interesting developments: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/24/world/africa/esper-troops-africa-china.html?te=1&nl=morning-briefing&emc=edit_NN_p_20191224&section=topNews?campaign_id=9&instance_id=14781&segment_id=19848&user_id=4bdbf0cd3074ccd2e7a949c91ec9ee2c&regi_id=90387925tion=topNews

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Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is weighing proposals for a major reduction — or even a complete pullout — of American forces from West Africa as the first phase of reviewing global deployments that could reshuffle thousands of troops around the world, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations.

The discussions of a large-scale pullback from West Africa include abandoning a recently built $110 million drone base in Niger and ending assistance to French forces battling militants in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. The deliberations stem from a push to reduce post-9/11 missions battling terrorist groups, and instead to refocus Pentagon priorities on confronting so-called Great Powers like Russia and China.

With an initial decision about Africa expected in January, the plans are sure to draw criticism from lawmakers, allies and military officials, and could eventually affect most global missions in some way. About 200,000 American forces are currently stationed abroad, similar to the force posture when President Trump took office with a promise to close out the nation’s “endless wars.”

Officials say the overhaul of Africa deployments will be followed by one in Latin America, and that drawdowns will happen in Iraq and Afghanistan, as has been expected.

The initiative reflects what has become the defining priority for Mr. Esper: moving away from 18 years of counterterrorism deployments in places troubled by militancy and insurgency where thousands of American troops cycle through in an attempt to maintain minimal stability but without much prospect of definitive solutions.

 

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The primary mission of the American troops has been to train and assist West African security forces to try to suppress Islamist groups like Boko Haram and offshoots of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. As part of that mission, four American soldiers were ambushed and killed two years ago while on patrol in Niger.

Mr. Esper’s team has questioned the value of those efforts and wants to scale back missions to counter militants who lack the demonstrated ability and intent to attack the United States on its own soil, the officials said. None of the terrorist groups operating in West Africa are said to meet this heightened assessment standard.

 

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Early internal criticism about the new proposals has focused on whether any American withdrawal would create a vacuum for other Great Powers to fill, undermining their strategic purpose. Also at question is whether they would risk a breakdown of stability that could sharply increase the flow of refugees and other migrants north into Europe.

Mr. Esper has given Africa Command until January to draft a withdrawal plan, as well as a plan for redeploying troops.

The defense secretary is also considering significant cuts in the Middle East. In the coming months in Iraq, officials said, Mr. Esper may cut American presence to 2,500 troops from 5,000. And he has already conveyed a desire to withdraw about 4,000 of the nearly 13,000 troops now in Afghanistan.

 


 

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But the Pentagon’s proposed drawdown in West Africa also runs at cross-purposes with a new State Department initiative to combat a resurgent Islamic State there. “ISIS is outpacing the ability of regional governments and international partners to address that threat,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month at a meeting of nations fighting the terrorist group.

He also created a special task force to focus specifically on deteriorating security and other problems in the sub-Saharan region that stretches from Senegal to Sudan and has been seized by growing waves of terrorism and armed conflict.

Mr. Esper’s initiative, though, has alarmed key allies, including France, which has around 4,500 troops in West Africa who are taking the lead in fighting ISIS and Qaeda insurgents there. The French rely on American intelligence, logistics support and aerial refueling — at a cost to the Pentagon of about $45 million a year.

French officials say they are moving to be more self-sufficient — ordering more American-made C-130 transport planes and Reaper drones, as well as leading a new effort to have European special forces train African militaries.

Mr. Esper has made no attempt to hide his desire to reshuffle American forces around the world. In October, during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, he said he was asking all of his commanders to look for areas “where they can free up time, money and manpower to put into our top priorities as chartered by the National Defense Strategy: China, No. 1; Russia, No. 2.”

 

 

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So stepping back from the craziness of the past 10 days, I have to wonder what all of this means in the grand scheme of things.

What are we ultimately trying to achieve vis-a-vis Iran?  It seemed to me that we were previously basically trying to appease KSA and stay in their good graces by opposing Iran, but clearly we did not do that much in response to the Houthi missile strikes and KSA was not aware of nor thrilled with our strike on Sulemaini.

So what  is our ultimately goal?  To destroy Iran's government and their network of militias and influencers in the middle east?  Toward what end?  What would we prefer happen in Iran?

And why do we care so much?  As far as I can tell, the amount of oil we import from the Middle East is only a few percent of our total oil needs.  So what do we care about and what are we trying to do?  Maintain a flow of money into the country?  Particularly from arms sales?  We loosened restrictions around arms sales and increased revenue by 33% last fiscal year.

Are we trying to have a greater foothold in the ME as a bulwark against China's expanding scope of influence?  Ally with Israel, KSA, Turkey and a newly-formed Iranian government to develop a stronger center of power of there?

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21 hours ago, Long Ball Larry said:

So stepping back from the craziness of the past 10 days, I have to wonder what all of this means in the grand scheme of things.

What are we ultimately trying to achieve vis-a-vis Iran?  It seemed to me that we were previously basically trying to appease KSA and stay in their good graces by opposing Iran, but clearly we did not do that much in response to the Houthi missile strikes and KSA was not aware of nor thrilled with our strike on Sulemaini.

So what  is our ultimately goal?  To destroy Iran's government and their network of militias and influencers in the middle east?  Toward what end?  What would we prefer happen in Iran?

And why do we care so much?  As far as I can tell, the amount of oil we import from the Middle East is only a few percent of our total oil needs.  So what do we care about and what are we trying to do?  Maintain a flow of money into the country?  Particularly from arms sales?  We loosened restrictions around arms sales and increased revenue by 33% last fiscal year.

Are we trying to have a greater foothold in the ME as a bulwark against China's expanding scope of influence?  Ally with Israel, KSA, Turkey and a newly-formed Iranian government to develop a stronger center of power of there?

Best we can tell, there isn't one.  First step was "get out of Iran deal"  Second step?  What?  There has to be a second step?  I can say with 100% confidence "chopping the head off a snake that has the ability to regenerate it's own head" should be off the table of options at this point, but I understand it's been the "go to" option for decades and habits can be hard to break, but it is absolutely the definition of insanity at this point.

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1 hour ago, The Commish said:

Best we can tell, there isn't one.  First step was "get out of Iran deal"  Second step?  What?  There has to be a second step?  I can say with 100% confidence "chopping the head off a snake that has the ability to regenerate it's own head" should be off the table of options at this point, but I understand it's been the "go to" option for decades and habits can be hard to break, but it is absolutely the definition of insanity at this point.

well, they are clearly mounting a campaign of increasing pressure on the Iranian government.  It seems like it has been consistently escalating, so not totally random.

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On 1/12/2020 at 1:32 PM, Long Ball Larry said:

What are we ultimately trying to achieve vis-a-vis Iran?  It seemed to me that we were previously basically trying to appease KSA and stay in their good graces by opposing Iran, but clearly we did not do that much in response to the Houthi missile strikes and KSA was not aware of nor thrilled with our strike on Sulemaini.

So what  is our ultimately goal?  To destroy Iran's government and their network of militias and influencers in the middle east?  Toward what end?  What would we prefer happen in Iran?

Just my POV of course, but IMO what is going on is similar to what happened with the Cold War. The Persia-Arabia slugfest has been going on for centuries. The Romans stepped in for the Greeks, the Umayyad and Abbasid stepped in for the Romans, the Ottoman Empire stepped in for the Abassid. The basic idea is that, like Central and Eastern Europe, Mesopotamia is an open plain and it is basically open to the Persians should they choose to sweep forward. Post WW1 the Brits and French created the Iraqi and Syrian borders with an eye towards continuing that tradition of maintaining a bulwark against Persian expansion. With the controlled implosion of the Baathist Party that the US conducted in 2003 onward followed by a similar event in Syria with their Baathists, the way is again open to Iranian expansion. Today Iran has troops on Irsreal's border.

President Bush seemed to conduct a policy designed to create a democratic Iraq and Afghanistan with military fronts on both sides of Iran. That's a hell of a thing, Iran has US presence on both its eastern and western borders. I suppose the idea there was containment and bases to push pressure on Iran to democratize and deter nuclearization. Instead the opposite happened - the lesson that Iran took from Afghanistan and Iraq was that it need to bolster its protections and so it pushed forwards towards nuclearization.

President Obama's administration seemed to indicate it thought that (understandably) the democratization project was not guaranteed and that eventually the US would have to leave, so the push was to secure Iraq, settle debts with Iran, shoehorn it into a process for further negotiation and delegate US power in the mideast to Russia and Iran so it could get out. This call was made doubly obvious when the US decided not to engage in war with Assad in Syria.

Trump ran on exploiting the obvious contradictions in our policies and to great affect, Americans are tired of war and do not see the end goal. However Trump has removed both the planks that underlied Obama's strategy and Bush's, right now we are both withdrawing militarily but also diplomatically and financially, undercutting the Bush goals, while also destroying the platforms that Obama had created in Syria and Iraq to deter Iran. And then the direct attack on Iran's senior IRGC leadership in Iraq and Yemen occurred which creates an overarching risk of direct conflict with Iran - something both Bush and Obama consistently avoided - while providing no plan to offer KSA, the Gulf States, Turkey, Syria or Iraq a substitute for filling the power void in opposition to Iran left by our departure in several spheres. This inevitably causes conflict risk as other powers - Turkey, Russia, KSA - rush in to fill the void.

Edited by SaintsInDome2006
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19 minutes ago, SaintsInDome2006 said:

while providing no plan to offer KSA, the Gulf States, Turkey, Syria or Iraq a substitute for filling the power void in opposition to Iran left by our departure in several spheres

Well, except, "you can have American troops stationed in your country if you pay for them"

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On 7/27/2019 at 1:49 PM, SaintsInDome2006 said:

I agree and I think this started under Obama passively, but Trump has been a fullthroated activist and nationalist on this.

I actually disagree - if he had said “US has given up SOME of its role in maintaining order around the world”.  Honestly, the idea that we’ve given it up completely is ridiculous to me.

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57 minutes ago, AAABatteries said:

I actually disagree - if he had said “US has given up SOME of its role in maintaining order around the world”.  Honestly, the idea that we’ve given it up completely is ridiculous to me.

You're right. Sorry, what I was thinking of was Obama trying to carefully withdraw from the mideast as essentially the traditional buffer between Iran and Sunni Arabia/Mesopotamia.

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Just an observation and I doubt I'm the first one to say it, but Trump feels like an attempt at a redo of Nixon '74 the same way Putin seems like a replay of Brezhnev '79. 

I don't know how it plays into what we are seeing now with the cv19 "response" but it feels very much like the roiling over Vietnam, just failure built on denial built on fear of shame. It's madness. The question is if there will be reform on the back end that can save us a la Ford/Carter/Reagan or a failure of the system a la Gorbachev despite attempts at reform.

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30 minutes ago, SaintsInDome2006 said:

Just an observation and I doubt I'm the first one to say it, but Trump feels like an attempt at a redo of Nixon '74 the same way Putin seems like a replay of Brezhnev '79. 

I don't know how it plays into what we are seeing now with the cv19 "response" but it feels very much like the roiling over Vietnam, just failure built on denial built on fear of shame. It's madness. The question is if there will be reform on the back end that can save us a la Ford/Carter/Reagan or a failure of the system a la Gorbachev despite attempts at reform.

I don't know if you remember, but I started a thread about this administration and our own '79 and the fatigue welling up from the administration of incompetence, bluster, and lies.

I think there's definitely something that can save the system; America is actually pretty strong and most folks I know that aren't clanging away on message boards aren't politically motivated in the least. They want dinners out and Saturdays, not political upheaval in the name of justice. We need leadership that isn't saying one thing and then the next week the other; that's patently obvious. But most people I know haven't been repressed by slaughters and gulags since 1917.

Actually, your Russian analogy is sort of terrible now that I think about it. All due respect, SID. 

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3 minutes ago, rockaction said:

I don't know if you remember, but I started a thread about this administration and our own '79 and the fatigue welling up from the administration of incompetence, bluster, and lies.

I think there's definitely something that can save the system; America is actually pretty strong and most folks I know that aren't clanging away on message boards aren't politically motivated in the least. They want dinners out and Saturdays, not political upheaval in the name of justice. We need leadership that isn't saying one thing and then the next week the other; that's patently obvious. But most people I know haven't been repressed by slaughters and gulags since 1917.

Actually, your Russian analogy is sort of terrible now that I think about it. All due respect, SID. 

Thanks, I appreciate the feedback, open question on a Saturday night. - I'll look for your thread.

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On 1/12/2020 at 2:32 PM, Long Ball Larry said:

And why do we care so much?  As far as I can tell, the amount of oil we import from the Middle East is only a few percent of our total oil needs.  So what do we care about and what are we trying to do?  Maintain a flow of money into the country?  Particularly from arms sales?  We loosened restrictions around arms sales and increased revenue by 33% last fiscal year.

Are we trying to have a greater foothold in the ME as a bulwark against China's expanding scope of influence?  Ally with Israel, KSA, Turkey and a newly-formed Iranian government to develop a stronger center of power of there?

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/16/us/arms-deals-raytheon-yemen.html

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Weapons supplied by American companies, approved by American officials, allowed Saudi Arabia to pursue the reckless campaign. But in June 2017, an influential Republican senator decided to cut them off, by withholding approval for new sales. It was a moment that might have stopped the slaughter.

Not under President Trump.

With billions at stake, one of the president’s favored aides, the combative trade adviser Peter Navarro, made it his mission to reverse the senator. Mr. Navarro, after consulting with American arms makers, wrote a memo to Jared Kushner and other top White House officials calling for an intervention, possibly by Mr. Trump himself. He titled it “Trump Mideast arms sales deal in extreme jeopardy, job losses imminent.”

Within weeks, the Saudis were once again free to buy American weapons.

The intervention, which has not been previously reported, underscores a fundamental change in American foreign policy under Mr. Trump that often elevates economic considerations over other ones. Where foreign arms sales in the past were mostly offered and withheld to achieve diplomatic goals, the Trump administration pursues them mainly for the profits they generate and the jobs they create, with little regard for how the weapons are used.

 

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But as the situation in Yemen worsened, at least one firm, Raytheon Company, did more than wait for decisions by American officials. It went to great lengths to influence them, even after members of Congress tried to upend sales to Saudi Arabia on humanitarian grounds.

Raytheon, a major supplier of weapons to the Saudis, including some implicated by human rights groups in the deaths of Yemeni civilians, has long viewed the kingdom as one of its most important foreign customers.

After the Yemen war began in 2015 and the Obama administration made a hasty decision to back the Saudis, Raytheon booked more than $3 billion in new bomb sales, according to an analysis of available U.S. government records.

Intent on pushing the deals through, Raytheon followed the industry playbook: It took advantage of federal loopholes by sending former State Department officials, who were not required to be registered as lobbyists, to press their former colleagues to approve the sales.

And though the company was already embedded in Washington — its chief lobbyist, Mark Esper, would become Army secretary and then defense secretary under Mr. Trump — Raytheon executives sought even closer ties.

They assiduously courted Mr. Navarro, who intervened with White House officials on Raytheon’s behalf and successfully pressured the State Department, diminished under Mr. Trump, to process the most contentious deals.

They also enlisted the help of David J. Urban, a lobbyist whose close ties to Mr. Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo go back to the 1980s, when all three men were at West Point.

 

 

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