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JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: CHINA RUSSIA AND THE UNITED STATES IN THE 21ST CENTURY – SOME DIFFICULT AND DANGEROUS TIMES AHEAD AS THE WORLD NOW RAPIDLY EVOLVES IN WAYS AMERICA’S ESTABLISHMENT REJECTS   Leave a comment

John Chuckman

COMMENTS INSPIRED BY AN ALASTAIR CROOKE PIECE ABOUT AMERICA AND CHINA AND RUSSIA IN THE 21ST CENTURY

 

I just read an excellent piece by Alastair Crooke, a former British diplomat, who often writes excellent pieces which appear in the foreign and alternative presses.

I’m not dealing with his entire thesis here. Just a portion of his piece serves as my take-off point on subject areas in which I have long held an interest

He was writing about what, from many indicators, appears to be a serious new turn in the convictions of Washington’s policymakers.

The convictions are against China and against Russia. The disquieting aspect of his words about China includes the idea that American hostility towards China is becoming something far broader, all-encompassing, and perhaps all-consuming than just the trade war Trump has started.

Indeed, we have the idea that America’s elites are hardening attitudes towards China and coming to a consensus about a new kind of Cold War, one involving hostilities on every front – economic, military, and diplomatic. Some have suggested the war will dominate the 21st century.

I don’t doubt most of what the article says at all. I’ve written many times about the American establishment’s enduring antipathy towards Russia, the real basis for everything from Russia-gate and baseless accusations about election-tampering to the general Russophobia pervading America and blinding it.

Russia gets in the way and Russia has the capacity to destroy America, so Russia is hated regardless of how it has changed, how it is governed, how its laws operate, and how it behaves. Which last, for the most part, is very admirably, representing such a change from forty years ago that it should astound anyone, but that doesn’t influence the permanent grimaces and pronounced forehead veins of those gathered around huge oak tables in Washington.

Crooke emphasizes, with regard to Russia, the harsh words he heard from one American official about Russia’s need to learn that it has not won the war in Syria and that there’s a lot of trouble ahead if it doesn’t learn that. A claim, of course, for America’s right to use and dispose of other nations, such as Syria, as it pleases. So, just stand aside, don’t get in our way, and shut-up. Even if you are helping your legal ally, we do not recognize your efforts as legitimate because they conflict with our plans

I have no doubt that that is a deep conviction in America’s power establishment. It explains why there was so much covert effort against Trump even after he was legally elected, it being thought at the time that he was not going to support all the establishment’s convictions about Russia and the need for wars in the Middle East. America, a country almost continuously at war, some place or another, since WWII and brimming with homecoming football-game rah-rah pride and enthusiasm about its “boyz” abroad, just does not like looking as though it is losing to anyone.

Even though, in the case of Syria, America has never directly joined the war as it did in Iraq. But the illegal and very bloody American invasion of Iraq generated a lot of criticism and ill-will in the world even from friends. So, in Syria, America has kept to covert activities and supporting proxies – recruited mercenaries disguised as jihadis, fake NGO outfits (such as the “White Helmets”) working to extend the conflict rather than bring peace, and other groups posed as legitimate opposition to a “tyrannical” government (which somehow remains fairly popular, especially with minority religious groups like Christians, and continues to be supported by the armed forces after more than a half dozen years of bitter war) – never once admitting to the true nature of what it is doing, which is to destabilize a government it doesn’t like and perhaps to dismember the country.

America supports the proxies with weapons, intelligence, propaganda, covert special forces advisors, dark-ops, bombing of every description, and Saudi and Gulf states’ money. Plus, it shepherds a little chorus of allies, such as Britain and France, each with its own assigned dark tasks. Such is the real story of the Syrian “civil war.”

And even though America has lost several wars through its insistence on doing things which were better not attempted – its out-and-out defeat in Vietnam, its long pointless stalemate in Afghanistan, and the chaotic messes it made of Libya and Iraq – it not only often still attempts such tasks, it arrogantly and foolishly underestimates its opponents. “After all, we are Americans, entitled to do as we please, anywhere. Little peasants in straw hats or godless ragheads better not get in our way.”

But they do get in the way, and sometimes with great success. It helps, of course, when an American target country has an ally or allies as does Syria. Still, the “we’re Americans” attitude is quite prevalent in the United States, even outside establishment circles. “Exceptionalism” as Putin accurately likes to call it. It’s a result at least in part of constant indoctrination via everything from newspapers and television and Internet news and public affairs to Hollywood movies and magazines.

The public’s embrace of exceptionalism helps the establishment undertake what it views as needed tasks virtually without opposition at home. Just consider, except for one limited, intense period during the decade-long Vietnam War, there has been, and is, effectively no opposition in America to all the nation’s pointless wars. Decade after decade after decade, it’s just an accepted part of what it is to be an American, hearing and reading about foreign wars and interventions in the news.

That American official’s words about Russia thinking it won in Syria would be heavily reinforced by the interests of Israel. As we all know, Israel can make life hell for any American politician who wavers from the true path. And Syria, like Iraq before it, is an Israeli-inspired project, Israel working with America, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, and a couple of others. Part of what America’s Condoleezza Rice arrogantly and brutally referred to as “the birth of a new Middle East,” the screams of tens of thousands of victims representing the “birth pangs.” That’s Washington’s god-like way of looking at human misery, human misery for which it is directly responsible. Not much different than seeing ants being stepped on.

Now, American concern about China’s remarkable rise and its competitiveness have been around for a while. We saw it in many things from annual State Department lists of human rights abuses – wow, talk about sheer hypocrisy – to arguments about China manipulating its currency or engaging in unfair trade practices or stealing intellectual property. The innate cleverness and hard work and organizational skill of the Chinese couldn’t possibly have created what we see. It must be the result of underhandedness, underhandedness especially towards America, the place where all good things originate, of course.

On the economic and trade front, things came to a head recently with Trump’s clumsy revival of the centuries-old concept of Mercantilism – an old and discredited economic-political  philosophy of using protectionism to generate favorable trade balances to increase your own country’s wealth, clearly something not everyone can do at the same time, so it is a philosophy inherently antagonistic – as a way to make America richer, or, as he puts it, “make America great again.”

Trump’s approach to Mercantilism is bullying the other party into making concessions favorable to the United States. So, it is easy to see how this kind of policy is on a continuum with the outbreak of actual hostilities. He uses a major new American government industry in generating and enforcing tariffs and sanctions to create pressure, “maximum pressure,” to obtain a trade treaty, one that according to his thinking, and this where Mercantilism comes in, must be better than balanced between the parties. It must absolutely favor America over China owing to all of China’s past abuses, “taking advantage of” the gentle, uncomplaining giant he believes America has long been.

I won’t run through all the flaws contained in Trump’s thinking. They are many, but just the notion that you can “beggar your neighbor” to make yourself richer is ignorant and dangerous. It is as unthinking as the conviction of the Luddites that they could stop the Industrial Revolution, with all its unwelcome changes in their workplaces, by smashing the new machines. Trump’s views are really that crude.

I suggest China may well just choose to make do, of course having taken serious reprisal measures but forgetting about any agreement with the United States, rather than submit to public pressure and unfair demands.

What Trump does not “get” is that most of China’s modern success is about natural competitiveness, not unfair practices or imagined tricks. China started with a great cost of labor advantage combined with great organizational skills and new, more-enlightened laws governing business, but already it has exploded past those starting advantages to serious technological and scientific competitiveness, what took centuries in Europe’s development. The reason a company like Huawei, some of whose technology is the world’s best of its type, has been under intense American attack is only that and nothing more.

The Communist Party under Mao, while holding the country together through difficult times, was an inhibitor of the country’s advance, much as the Catholic Church once was in Europe. But today’s Chinese Communist Party is something altogether different. It provides intelligent leadership, builds advanced infrastructure on a large scale, supports advanced education, again, on a large scale, generates important new long-term strategic national projects, provides new approaches to national defense – all while cementing national unity and allowing for considerable flexibility in the activities of individual companies.

As just one example of the Chinese government’s efforts, adult literacy rates, since the early stages of the new economic order in the 1980s, have grown at a phenomenal average rate of more than ten-percent per year, bringing them close to those of traditional advanced countries. Remember, this is a vast country with a population about seventeen times the size of Germany’s, one where rural peasants represented a large portion of the population. This is not a government which squanders resources.

And there will no pausing, as immense, government-set, brilliantly-conceived projects proceed in everything from the New Silk Road – something that literally will change the earth’s economic geography – and about 20,000 miles of operating national high-speed rail lines, two-thirds of the entire world’s total and still growing, and a galaxy of hundreds of modern airports built as China prepares to overtake the United States as the world’s largest air-travel market in the next couple of years, to imaginative moon exploration and truly advanced quantum physics work show us. As someone has observed, China now has about eight times the number of students studying science, engineering, and technology in universities as does the United States, just an immense investment in “human capital” for the future.

China has coped well with Trump’s tariffs. They have a national model that combines a powerful, well-informed, stable central authority with freedom for individual firms to adjust as they see appropriate. You must be exceptionally bright, as is Xi, to become the leader of China in recent times. The celebrity and populism and advertising and marketing we see in American politics have little place. It is a powerful state model for the kind of ambitious growth China has experienced and one well suited to any serious challenge such as Trump’s trade war.

Trump started something I believe he cannot win. But going beyond the threadbare limits of Trump, the American establishment, if Alastair Crooke is right, is committing itself to a greater, longer-term battle that it also cannot win. One, importantly, that will chew up immense American resources far better invested elsewhere. And one carrying implicitly the risk of war.

Today, America wastes huge sums on its military and on destructive wars motivated by 19th century imperial thinking. A major part of the reason that it can manage doing that, despite its immense debts, is the dollar’s special position in the world. But that position is rapidly deteriorating, and making enemies of China and Russia, plus all the pressure America applies now to everyone from the EU, and Germany in particular, to South Korea, plus the abuse of its financial and payments systems for arbitrary domination, as in the cases of Iran or Venezuela or Russia,  are unquestionably speeding the end of the dollar’s privileged reserve-currency role. The process of dethroning the dollar is already well underway. It is not clear just when it will be completed, but it will be completed.

A “weaponized” dollar simply does not provide the convenient medium of exchange people of the world need and want. Quite the opposite, it attempts to thrust politics and arbitrary limits into the world’s transactions. It also generates uncertainty, an enemy of all things financial. A weaponized dollar simply is not sustainable in the long run. As the dollar loses its reserve currency role in the world, America will be left not only without its immense currency-printing privilege but with slovenly habits and attitudes towards spending and debt and investment that it has accumulated over decades.

When it comes to defense, China and Russia each spend a fraction of what America spends, but they spend it wisely without the sense of unlimited resources to which Americans are conditioned, and they are producing impressive results. Russia spends less than a tenth of what America does. China now spends a bit more than a fifth of what America spends.

Both China and Russia have well-stated views on defense spending. Enough is required for the absolutely reliable defense of the homeland and no more. The amounts between them vary because so many of their individual circumstances vary, from physical geography to the current size and shape and state of their armed forces and to the level of mastering various key new technologies to be employed. But both states are committed to the idea of an arms race being wasteful and unnecessary.

The American establishment is, I believe, under the mistaken impression that it can repeat what happened with the Soviet Union during the Ronald Reagan era when immense new spending on exotic arms programs helped weaken the Soviet state as it strove to compete, its socialist system being inherently not as robust or flexible as a market-oriented one.  But that is entirely a wrong view, although of course it provides the Pentagon and defense contractors all kinds of opportunities to expand their empires.

Russia is no longer a socialist economy and neither is China. Despite the name of the Communist Party still being prominent in China, it has morphed into something quite different than what it was decades ago.

Putin especially has been clear about his philosophy of defense spending. Just enough to secure Russia’s very important efforts now underway to expand economic growth and national prosperity. You need peace for growth, and highly focused research efforts over years have given Russia the weapons capable of doing just that.

Weapons to assure the mutual destruction of the United States should it attack, remembering that it is the United States that, more than once in the past, produced detailed and aggressively-promoted plans for a massive nuclear first strike against the former Soviet Union, including all of its cities.

America’s increasingly aggressive pressures are driving Russia and China together, as we have not seen them before, to cooperate on a wide range of matters. Russia, apart from its products and excellent technologies in a number of areas, has the capacity to be a great natural resource provider for China’s ferocious industry, just as it has for Europe, especially for Germany.

Bonds that grow out of natural mutual interests are strong ones, just as antipathies over being told what to do, what and where to buy, and punitive threats are strong, antipathies which Trump and America’s establishment have been working hard in recent years to build.

America keeps putting new pressures on Germany, and the whole EU, with threats of sanctions for Russian natural gas projects, threats of tariffs on German cars, demands about new taxes being laid as by France on Internet commerce, and demands for purchasing overpriced American products from Liquified Natural Gas to F-35 fighter jets. Recent polls show a sizable majority of Germans are for ending sanctions altogether against Russia, sanctions which European governments have accepted in the name of a long-standing alliance. But serious cracks are starting to appear, both because the original purpose of that alliance has faded and because of America’s aggressive new and inappropriate demands. The American-imposed sanctions have cost Europe many billions of dollars of lost sales in everything from agricultural products to industrial machines.

China’s geography-changing New Silk Road is being welcomed in many parts of Europe, and countries are signing on to be a part of it. To some extent, China’s massive efforts on this project can potentially offset some of the effects of the economic collapse towards which America appears to be hurling itself. An important contributing cause of the Great Depression was America’s so-called Smoot-Hawley Tariff. It imposed protectionist policy on much of the world’s trade. Trump’s total effort to control the activities of other nations with tariffs, sanctions, and threats is doing much the same thing.

We do see something large taking form in the world that absolutely is against America’s comfortable, traditional position since WWII, and it is the American establishment’s belligerence itself helping to shape it. The new close ties between Russia and China, a quickly emerging new Eurasian center of finance and other important matters, Europe’s new skepticism about American behavior and intentions, the ties forming from China to Europe with the New Silk Road and other projects such as Chinese construction of nuclear power plants, Russia’s massive new Arctic projects and China’s serious parallel interest including launching its first huge icebreaker, Russia’s emerging Northern Sea shipping route as almost a branch of the Silk Road, China’s diligent efforts at economic relationships with Africa securing supplies of raw materials, American trade with Africa in sharp decline while Chinese trade enjoys healthy growth, the new African Continental Free Trade Area offering new opportunities for China building infrastructure, and new Russian and Chinese economic relationships in Latin America.

It is a greatly changing world, not necessarily hostile, unless you choose to regard it so. And, sadly, America’s power establishment does choose to regard it so. They do not want to give up the privileged position they have enjoyed since the end of WWII, something they fell into by the good fortune of being the last one standing more than inherent skill or superior abilities, but ultimately there is no choice. The stage is set, however, for conflict as America’s establishment fights to retain privilege, using its still mighty military and financial strength in a very uncreative effort to pry advantages from others or simply deprive others of advantages. The more intense this effort becomes, the more motivation there is for a still faster pace of change. And, of course, the greater becomes the risk of war.

 

Posted August 6, 2019 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: LIVING WITH INSANITY Harper, Abbott, and Cameron at the Brisbane G-20   Leave a comment

LIVING WITH INSANITY

Harper, Abbott, and Cameron at the Brisbane G-20

 

John Chuckman

Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is reported by a spokesman, to have had the following exchange with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin during the Brisbane G-20 summit: “Well, I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine.” Putin is said to have replied, “Impossible. Since we are not there.”

A graceless bit of diplomatic crudity from a truly graceless man, Stephen Harper, someone Canadians know has a history of underhanded practices at home, from introducing ugly personal-attack campaign advertising, using secretive and bullying tactics in parliament, failing to deal with corrupt practices by subordinates especially an American-style election scandal of robo-calls which sent some voters to the wrong polls, to having appointed several unbelievably incompetent and corrupt ministers. He is known for a ferocious temper in private, a very controlling man who grants his political associates absolutely no freedom of expression, and is reported by insiders as having on at least one occasion thrown a chair in a meeting. His silencing of Canadian government scientists from offering their opinions on issues in areas of expertise has been a simmering international scandal, as has his complete suppression of environmental issues.

Before Harper, Canada enjoyed for many decades a reputation for fairness and decency and intelligence in international affair with statesmanship and openness exhibited by figures like Lester Pearson or Jean Chretien or Paul Martin. Harper has destroyed a great deal of that as he pursues a single-minded role as American junior partner in almost all things.

He completely abandoned Canada’s traditional policies of fairness and balance in the Middle East, literally shocking many Canadians at times with fervent outbursts about Israel, including suggestions that Canadian critics of Israel are anti-Semitic. He does this, as any astute political observer recognizes, to solicit increased campaign funds from Canada’s financially successful Jewish community, taking his cue from Republicans in the United States such as Newt Gingrich who alone received $18 million dollars from one wealthy supporter of Israel for his last nomination campaign in exchange for inserting into his speeches that there was no such thing as a Palestinian, an utterly insincere and ridiculous statement. Since Israel is no admirer of President Putin’s, he being too independent-minded and opposed to the American exceptionalism Israel tightly embraces and by which it prospers, this activity of Harper’s puts him in an anti-Russian frame of mind from the start.

Harper has made an annual photo-op journey to Canada’s North, always trying to appear to voters as the man most concerned with a future there of melting ice creating free access through the Northwest Passage. Ironically, he periodically mentions Russia as the nation he is most concerned about, but Canada’s recent history couldn’t make it clearer that it is the United States which represents the great threat to our Northern waters and shore. Everything from unauthorized American atomic submarine prowling to a giant American oil tanker passing to published American charts showing this future open water as international tells a pretty harsh story. But in every detail, Harper only pretends America is a great and non-threatening friend.

Harper is the single most obsessed leader in Canada’s history with pleasing, almost fawning over, the United States. Had the history of Canada, which included a great deal of disagreement and contention with the United States over its many imperialistic behaviors, included many leaders of Harper’s character, there quite likely would not be a county called Canada today.

So here are the demonstrated qualities of the man performing as Canada’s diplomatic ass at the G-20 in Brisbane. He demonstrates a genuinely anal-retentive temperament, is intolerant of differences of opinion, and embraces a willful blindness to the world’s greatest threat to peace, the United States in its self-appointed role as imperial arbiter among nations.

In case you wonder why a man like Harper even holds office in Canada, it is because the effective opposition was split with internal battles and because the last leader they selected in desperation following those battles was a man of no political intelligence or even experience and a totally unattractive personality to the public, Michael Ignatieff, someone who managed to do almost everything wrong. It also reflects a democratic deficit in our parliamentary structure where a party with just over 39% of the vote can be a parliamentary majority. So despite Canadians consistently being about 60% or higher inclined to somewhat progressive parties, Harper has had a free run at pole-axing the country’s traditional international reputation. Every day we come to be seen as a bit more like the deceptive and brutal American colony in the Middle East he embraces so closely.

We unfortunately live in a time utterly lacking statesmen in the West. I don’t know the detailed backgrounds of those other aggressive fools at the G-20, Abbott of Australia and Cameron of Britain, but I know they are both men who have lied exceedingly and been intimately involved with such nasty business as favors for the unsavory Rupert Murdoch empire. I can think of nothing which recommends either of them as statesmen. Indeed, they both, quite literally, kowtow to America.

Putin is head and shoulders above these men in intellect and focus, readiness to communicate clear views to the world, someone demonstrating considerable patience, and, from all evidence, someone notably free of the blowhard ideology which virtually characterizes Harper, Abbott, and Cameron.

Putin’s moves in Ukraine seem to me appropriate for dealing with a deliberately-induced crisis in an important neighboring country, and one with a long history of connections and associations. He has not invaded Ukraine, something which he could easily do were he so inclined. I suspect he has supplied weapons to East Ukraine, but that is something the United States does all the time, including supplying weapons to some of the most brutal groups and governments on earth, as it is right now doing in Syria, with secret night cargo flights out of Turkey to terrorist cutthroats. Just ask yourself what America would do about a comparable situation in Mexico: patience simply would not exist, and Mexico City would be quickly overrun by tanks.

The people of East Ukraine, Russian in background and sympathies, deserve protection as much as they deserve the huge amounts of emergency supplies Russia has supplied in a conflict owing its origin entirely to the covert acts of America. Had the coup-established government of Ukraine originally offered protection of Eastern interests, including language rights they openly tried suppressing, the story might have been different, but they did precisely the opposite, passing unfair laws, making threat after threat, and attacking their own citizens. Who wouldn’t rebel in that environment, including any of the states of the United States? How easily people forget past rebellions in the United States, the greatest of which was the Civil War, still the bloodiest war Americans ever experienced.

It is quite clear that the United States is responsible for destabilizing Ukraine. Its CIA funds have been invested into many unsavoury projects, perhaps most disturbing is its paying support to a collection of neo-Nazi groups ranging from extremist parties to violent militia forces, some of the very groups who have committed atrocities such as murdering many hundreds of civilians and some of whom actually march under swastika-like flags. It does seem more than a bit strange that men like Harper, Abbott, and Cameron implicitly support that kind of filthy work while charging Putin with dark acts, dark acts which are stated ambiguously and certainly never proved.

It is also clear that the United States has pressured all authorities involved to delay and obscure the investigation into the destruction of Flight MH17, and the only explanation for that can be America’s preventing, for as long as possible while the new coup-created government of Ukraine consolidates its position, the highly embarrassing finding that Ukraine in fact shot it down. The United States has said over and over it has evidence about the crash, yet it has never produced a scrap of it. Just as it never produced evidence for so many past claims from what actually happened on 9/11 to the assassination of a President.

The great irony of the G-20 summit in Brisbane is that its only substantial agreement concerned doing everything possible to promote growth in a world whose economy is dangerously stagnating, yet it wasted time and energy on America’s fantasy stories about Russia and Ukraine, insulted Russia’s President, and threatened in some cases further growth-suppressing sanctions. Nothing could be more contradictory and unproductive or, frankly, just plain stupid.

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: 9/11: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL   2 comments