China as the non revisionist power.

Analogies to other rising powers with shallower histories — France, the United States, Germany, Japan, the USSR — are not helpful in predicting the consequences of China’s rise. China has no messianic ideology to export; no doctrine of “manifest destiny” to advance; no belief in social Darwinism or imperative of territorial expansion to act upon; no cult of the warrior to animate militarism or glorify war; no exclusion from contemporary global governance to overcome; no satellite states to garrison; no overseas colonies or ideological dependencies to protect; no history of power projection or military intervention beyond its immediate frontiers; no entangling alliances or bases abroad.

This is supportive of the logic of accommodation and against  the logic of confrontation.

You can read the rest here.

Taxes and Economic Growth

Here is a conclusion of a 2012 CRS report titled “Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945 (Updated)”

It is reasonable to assume that a tax rate change limited to a small group of taxpayers at the top of the income distribution would have a negligible effect on economic growth.

The report isn’t conclusive as the report looks at their association and not causation, but the report reinforces (to me anyways) that the Republicans need a broader solution to 1) achieving economic growth and 2) producing growth that is more inclusive. There are all sorts of ways to evaluate economic policy including GDP growth and its allocation, labor participation, unemployment, etc..  Economic growth seems to be the only metric Republicans talk or care about and even if we can growth the economy, we still need to make sure it “works for everyone.”

You can read the rest here.

 

 

Modern Day Guernica

Below is the WaPo worldview newsletter for today, April 26, 2017. I think this is only available to subscribers which is why I provide it in its entirety.

Sober reminder of the horrors of war, both past and present.

 

The Nazi aircraft appeared above Guernica in the late afternoon of April 26, 1937. It was market day in the historic Basque town, with hundreds of residents congregated in the central square. They couldn’t have imagined what was about to happen: Over the next three hours, the planes dropped 100,000 pounds of high-explosive and incendiary bombs, reducing Guernica to a smoldering ruin.

It was one of the first crimes against humanity to grip the global imagination. The atrocity, carried out by the German air force in league with Spain’s fascist Gen. Francisco Franco, is considered the first deliberate attack on a civilian target from the air — years before CoventryDresden and Hiroshima, and decades before Aleppo. Guernica contained nothing of real military value. It was, and remains, a Basque cultural center and home to a sacred tree that symbolized the traditional freedoms of the Basque people — privileges Franco had little interest in defending.

To this day, the scenes of catastrophic suffering recorded in Guernica are a black mark on Spanish history.

“I was the first correspondent to reach Guernica, and was immediately pressed into service by some Basque soldiers collecting charred bodies that the flames had passed over,” wrote Noel Monks of the London Daily Express“Some of the soldiers were sobbing like children. There were flames and smoke and grit, and the smell of burning human flesh was nauseating. Houses were collapsing into the inferno.”

The Manchester Guardian reported that “even flocks of sheep were machine-gunned” and that “the fires have been so extensive that many bodies will never be recovered.” Estimates placed the death toll around 1,600 people, though later studies have reduced the number significantly.

Buildings in the ancient Basque village of Guernica are laid waste after an unprovoked aerial attack by the German Luftwaffe on April 27, 1937. (Associated Press)

“The raid on Guernica is unparalleled in military history,” wrote George Steer in the Times of Londontwo days after the bombing. “Guernica was not a military objective. A factory producing war material lay outside the town and was untouched. The object of the bombardment was seemingly the demoralization of the civil population and the destruction of the cradle of the Basque race.”

Indeed, as it later emerged, the bombing of Guernica was part of a trial run for the Nazi war machine. The Condor Legion, a Luftwaffe unit created to fight alongside Franco’s Nationalists, carried out the assault in coordination with Franco’s troops and with support from the air force of fascist Italy. According to one historian’s account, “the destruction of Guernica was planned as a belated birthday present from [Hermann] Göring to [Adolf] Hitler, orchestrated like a Wagnerian Ring of Fire.”

“Guernica, city with 5,000 residents has been literally razed to the ground,” wrote Wolfram von Richthofen, the Condor Legion’s commander, in his diary. “Bomb craters can be seen in the streets. Simply wonderful.”

Such sentiment is chilling and shocking, but it’s no relic of the past. To this day, American politiciansbluster with alarming glee about the prospect of carpet-bombing other parts of the world.

If Guernica’s ordeal still echoes powerfully in the present, it’s in large part thanks to the efforts of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, who debuted his now-famous mural of the slaughter at an international arts exhibition in Paris in July 1937.

A “cubist apocalypse,” as British art critic Jonathan Jones recently put it, the painting received mixed reviews from Picasso’s initial audience. But of all the works at the exhibition — lavishly sponsored pieces of propaganda by governments including Germany’s — it is Picasso’s colorless tableau of grotesque forms, broken and brutalized, that is remembered to this day.

“Picasso knew exactly what he was doing when he painted Guernica,” wrote Jones. “He was trying to show the truth so viscerally and permanently that it could outstare the daily lies of the age of dictators.”

Both Franco’s Nationalists and the Nazis initially denied any culpability in the attack, blaming it instead on retreating Republican troops. Their callousness — and the international community’s mute shock — wasinvoked by observers last year as they watched the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies relentlessly bomb rebel-held areas of Aleppo.

“When it comes to incendiary weapons and munitions such as bunker buster bombs and cluster bombs, the U.N. makes it clear that the systematic use of such indiscriminate weapons in densely populated areas amounts to a war crime,” said British politician Andrew Mitchell to parliament last October. “We are witnessing events that match the behavior of the Nazi regime in Guernica in Spain.”

A Portuguese cartoonist updated Picasso’s work to show Assad’s face and that of Russian President Vladimir Putin:


It also took a while for Guernica.
 Franco’s dictatorship suppressed Basque rights until his death in 1975. Picasso’s mural, after a peripatetic life around the world, only made its way home in 1981. Eight decades on, Spain is still coming to grips with how to reckon with its bloody, divided past. In Guernica, there is nowa dedicated peace museum, as well as a verdant “peace park” in the foothills surrounding the town.The rebels have been mostly driven out of Aleppo — and so, too, hundreds of thousands of residents. It will take a long time for the devastated city to be made whole again.

And there are survivors.

Earlier this year, Luis Iriondo Aurtenetxea, who was 14 at the time of the bombing and saw Guernica burn to ash around him, spoke to the Guardian of what endures.

“We survivors will disappear. We want people to carry on our message. We want every town hall to have a peace committee to talk to their governments,” he said. “When the German ambassador came here to apologize in 1997, I was asked to speak for the town. I said to him: ‘A flag of peace should be raised from the ruins of what our town once was. This must never happen again.’ ”

 

Perspective on American Defense Budget

The 2015 (fiscal year) American defense budget is approximately 600 billion.

If the American defense budget were a state’s GDP, it would be ranked twentyfirst in the world.

Rank Country 2017
1 United States 19,417.14
2 China 11,795.30
3 Japan 4,841.22
4 Germany 3,423.29
5 United Kingdom 2,496.76
6 India 2,454.46
7 France 2,420.44
8 Brazil 2,140.94
9 Italy 1,807.43
10 Canada 1,600.27
11 Russia 1,560.71
12 Korea 1,498.07
13 Australia 1,359.72
14 Spain 1,232.44
15 Indonesia 1,020.52
16 Mexico 987.303
17 Turkey 793.698
18 Netherlands 762.694
19 Saudi Arabia 707.379
20 Switzerland 659.368
21 United States Defense Budget 650
22 Argentina 628.935
23 Taiwan Province of China 566.757
24 Sweden 507.046
25 Poland 482.92
26 Belgium 462.715
27 Thailand 432.898
28 United Arab Emirates 407.21
29 Nigeria 400.621
30 Norway 391.959
31 Austria 383.509
32 Islamic Republic of Iran 368.488
33 Israel 339.99
34 Hong Kong SAR 332.266
35 Philippines 329.716
36 South Africa 317.568
37 Malaysia 309.86
38 Colombia 306.439
39 Denmark 304.216
40 Ireland 294.193
41 Singapore 291.86
42 Venezuela 251.589
43 Chile 251.22
44 Bangladesh 248.853
45 Finland 234.524
46 Vietnam 215.829
47 Peru 207.072
48 Portugal 202.77
49 New Zealand 198.043
50 Czech Republic 196.068
51 Greece 193.1
52 Romania 189.79
53 Iraq 189.432
54 Algeria 173.947
55 Qatar 173.649
56 Kazakhstan 157.878
57 Kuwait 126.971
58 Hungary 125.297
59 Angola 122.365
60 Sudan 115.874
61 Morocco 105.623
62 Puerto Rico 99.727
63 Ecuador 97.362
64 Ukraine 95.934
65 Slovak Republic 89.134
66 Sri Lanka 84.023
67 Ethiopia 78.384
68 Dominican Republic 76.85
69 Kenya 75.099
70 Myanmar 72.368
71 Oman 71.325
72 Guatemala 70.943
73 Uzbekistan 68.324
74 Luxembourg 59.997
75 Costa Rica 59.796
76 Panama 59.486
77 Uruguay 58.123
78 Belarus 54.689
79 Libya 54.411
80 Lebanon 53.915
81 Bulgaria 52.291
82 Tanzania 51.194
83 Croatia 50.084
84 Macao SAR 45.728
85 Slovenia 43.503
86 Lithuania 42.826
87 Ghana 42.753
88 Turkmenistan 42.355
89 Democratic Republic of the Congo 41.098
90 Jordan 40.506
91 Tunisia 40.289
92 Bolivia 39.267
93 Azerbaijan 38.583
94 Serbia 37.739
95 Côte d’Ivoire 36.873
96 Bahrain 34.31
97 Cameroon 29.547
98 Paraguay 28.743
99 Latvia 27.795
100 El Salvador 27.548
101 Yemen 27.189
102 Uganda 27.174
103 Estonia 23.422
104 Nepal 23.316
105 Zambia 23.137
106 Iceland 22.97
107 Honduras 21.79
108 Trinidad and Tobago 21.748
109 Papua New Guinea 21.189
110 Cambodia 20.953
111 Afghanistan 20.57
112 Cyprus 19.648
113 Bosnia and Herzegovina 16.78
114 Botswana 15.564
115 Senegal 15.431
116 Zimbabwe 15.285
117 Lao P.D.R. 14.971
118 Mali 14.344
119 Jamaica 14.272
120 Gabon 14.208
121 Nicaragua 13.748
122 Georgia 13.723
123 Brunei Darussalam 12.326
124 Albania 12.294
125 Burkina Faso 12.258
126 Mauritius 12.245
127 Namibia 11.765
128 Equatorial Guinea 11.686
129 Mozambique 11.17
130 Malta 11.164
131 FYR Macedonia 10.951
132 Armenia 10.741
133 Madagascar 10.372
134 Mongolia 10.271
135 Chad 9.636
136 The Bahamas 9.172
137 Rwanda 8.918
138 Benin 8.792
139 Republic of Congo 8.341
140 Haiti 7.897
141 Niger 7.674
142 Moldova 7.409
143 Tajikistan 7.242
144 Guinea 6.936
145 Kyrgyz Republic 6.854
146 Kosovo 6.809
147 Malawi 6.182
148 Eritrea 6.051
149 Mauritania 5.063
150 Fiji 4.869
151 South Sudan 4.812
152 Barbados 4.759
153 Togo 4.554
154 Montenegro 4.185
155 Sierra Leone 4.088
156 Swaziland 3.938
157 Suriname 3.641
158 Guyana 3.591
159 Maldives 3.578
160 Burundi 3.384
161 Timor-Leste 2.727
162 Lesotho 2.439
163 Bhutan 2.308
164 Liberia 2.215
165 Djibouti 2.088
166 Central African Republic 1.992
167 Belize 1.829
168 Cabo Verde 1.637
169 San Marino 1.551
170 Seychelles 1.475
171 Antigua and Barbuda 1.454
172 St. Lucia 1.428
173 Solomon Islands 1.245
174 Guinea-Bissau 1.166
175 Grenada 1.089
176 The Gambia 1.041
177 St. Kitts and Nevis 0.951
178 Samoa 0.843
179 Vanuatu 0.829
180 St. Vincent and the Grenadines 0.809
181 Comoros 0.654
182 Dominica 0.539
183 Tonga 0.422
184 São Tomé and Príncipe 0.355
185 Micronesia 0.334
186 Palau 0.315
187 Marshall Islands 0.188
188 Kiribati 0.173
189 Nauru 0.114
190 Tuvalu 0.036
191 Egypt n/a
192 Pakistan n/a
193 Syria n/a

Keep in mind that this doesn’t even include the vast intelligence apparatus created after 9/11.

All data are in current, USD. The scale is billions.

You can see the original data here.

 

 

American Versus Russian Intervention

Excellent WaPo piece about American intervention by Simon Waxman.

The point of the article is to lend understanding about why Putin supported a Trump presidency, but what I found most insightful was his point about Putin and Syria.

Of course, Putin does not oppose militant humanitarianism for idealistic reasons. He, too, claims to be a militant humanitarian. In justifying Russian policies toward Syria and Ukraine, Putin and his supporters have explicitly relied on arguments the Clinton administration used in Kosovo. If NATO can stumble into Yugoslavia’s civil war, why can’t Russia do the same in Syria? Indeed, Russia is Syria’s ally, sworn by treaty to protect its government. And if Saddam Hussein’s genocide against Kurds was a reason to violently unseat him from power, then why shouldn’t Russia protect persecuted ethnic Russians, as it has claimed to do in Georgia and Ukraine? If there is a principled difference between the Clinton and Putin approaches to militant humanitarianism, it is that the latter is essentially conservative, seeking to preserve the status quo or restore the status quo ante, and the former is transformative, attempting to build new states along lines preferred by U.S. politicians and strategists.

The rest can be read here.

His homepage is here.

 

BBC interview with North Korean Diplomat

They are not Iran. They have no ideology they want to export.

They want the regime to survive.

As Vice-Foreign Minister Han made clear to me, North Korea has learned the lessons from recent history, in particular the US-led attempts at regime change in Iraq and Libya.

 

“If the balance of power is not there, then the outbreak of war is imminent and unavoidable.”

 

“If one side has nukes and the other side doesn’t, and they’re on bad terms, war will inevitably break out,” he said.

 

“This is the lesson shown by the reality of the countries in the Middle East, including Libya and Syria where people are suffering from great misfortune.”

I’m not defending the regime (they aren’t the sort of government I want to be ruled by) yet if America does want to fix this issue it should address it’s post-cold war foreign policy first, NK foreign policy second.

From a third party view, NK foreign policy appears to be rational.

You can read the rest here.

Background on Policy Options for a Nuclear North Korea.

With the end of “strategic patience,” I wanted to direct attention to Doug Bandow’s recent work on the North Korea problem. Nothing about the paper is libertarian (I think the stock libertarian response would be that a nuclear North Korea is either 1) rational NK policy to preserve the regime or 2) none of America’s business) but the paper is the one of the best introductions to how complicated the situation is.

Below is the introduction. A longer read but it is so well written you can get through it within one sitting.

Northeast Asia is perhaps the world’s most dangerous flashpoint, with three neighboring nuclear powers, one the highly unpredictable and confrontational North Korea. For nearly a quarter century the United States has alternated between engagement and containment in attempting to prevent Pyongyang from developing nuclear weapons.

 

Unfortunately, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has accelerated its nuclear and missile programs since Kim Jong-un took power in December 2011. Washington has responded with both bilateral and multilateral sanctions, but they appear to have only strengthened the Kim regime’s determination to develop a sizeable nuclear arsenal. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has grown increasingly frustrated with its nominal ally, but the PRC continues to provide the DPRK with regime-sustaining energy and food aid.

 

The United States and South Korea, in turn, have grown frustrated with Beijing, which is widely seen as the solution to the North Korea problem. However, the Obama administration’s approach has generally been to lecture the PRC, insisting that it follow American priorities. Unsurprisingly, successive Chinese leaders have balked.

 

China does possess an unusual degree of influence in Pyongyang, but Beijing fears an unstable DPRK more than a nuclear DPRK. From China’s standpoint, the possible consequences of a North Korean collapse—loose nukes, mass refugee flows, conflict spilling over its border— could be high. The Chinese leadership also blames Washington for creating a threatening security environment that discourages North Korean denuclearization.

 

Thus, the United States should change tactics. Instead of attempting to dictate, the United States must persuade the Chinese leadership that it is in the PRC’s interest to assist America and U.S. allies. That requires addressing China’s concerns by, for instance, more effectively engaging the North with a peace offer, offering to ameliorate the costs of a North Korean collapse to Beijing, and providing credible assurances that Washington would not turn a united Korea into another U.S. military outpost directed at the PRC’s containment.

 

Such a diplomatic initiative still would face strong resistance in Beijing. But it may be the best alternative available.

 

Recreating China’s Imagined Empire

That is the title of Ian Johnson’s review of Howard W. French’s Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power. 

 

Regarding Chinese policy of cliaming owndership of South China Sea, Johnson writes

China’s leaders have not directly discussed theses actions, but broadly say that their claims are based on history. The argument is simple: because Chinese ships once sailed here, the reefs and shoals are Chinese. but as French puts it:

 

“These historical claims are not worth exploring because of any legal power they might possess. Almost all non-Chinese experts agree that claiming distant waters are one’s own “historic waterway” is not something that international law or conventions governing the sea either contemplate or permit…

 

The merit our attention instead because of how they speak to China’s ambivalence about the international system itself, and to the continuing resonance of a certain imperial perspective – tian xia.”

My view is that Chinese behavior in the SCS is mostly a form of balancing American military policy, but Johnson’s review is an interesting exploration of how China’s behavior is shaped by its history.

It is gated, but you can read the review here.

Russian Advisers Help Taliban in Contested Province

Russia’s role in Afghanistan was questioned again Tuesday when the provincial police chief in Uruzgan told Afghan media that intelligence reports showed visiting Russian generals were providing Taliban militants with weapons and training.

 

“Eleven Russians, including two women, dressed in doctor’s uniforms and guarded by four armed Taliban, along with an Afghan translator, have been spotted in various parts of the province,” Ghulam Farooq Sangari, Uruzgan police chief, told VOA’s Afghan service. “They have been enticing people against the government, providing training and teaching how to assemble land mines.”

The reporting is by Noor Zahid. You can read the rest of the article here.

Does the 54 billion already exist?

The $54 billion defense spending increase the White House has proposed is a sign that President Trump intends to keep his promise to rebuild the military. Yet simply increasing the defense budget will not be enough. The president must fundamentally reshape the way Washington approaches defense spending if he hopes to be successful.

 

Our defense budget is a sieve for congressional pet projects, special interest contracts, and social engineering programs. Pumping more fuel into the tank is little use if you don’t patch the holes in the bottom first.

There is more than enough money already allocated to make American “safer.” The US military, just like any large institution, is grossly inefficient and rent seeking is rampant.

You can read the rest here. The author is James Hasson.