Foreign Policy

Biden Sees China As Primary Geopolitical Threat

Biden Sees China As Primary Geopolitical Threat

President Biden vowed that he would not allow China to become the world’s “leading” country during his first press conference on Thursday. His comments come as U.S.-China tensions are soaring, and the two countries’ relationship is at its lowest point in decades.

“I see stiff competition with China,” Biden said. “China has an overall goal … to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world. That’s not going to happen on my watch, because United States is going to continue to grow and expand.”

President Biden spoke of his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who Biden got to know while both leaders were serving as vice presidents. “I spent hours upon hours with him alone with an interpreter,” Biden said. “He is very, very straightforward. Doesn’t have a democratic with a small ‘D’—bone in his body.”

Using Cold War-style language, Biden framed the situation on the world stage as a battle between democracy and autocracy, and compared Xi to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “He’s one of the guys, like Putin, who thinks that autocracy is the wave of the future and democracy can’t function in an ever—an ever-complex world,” he said.

“I predict to you, your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded: autocracy or democracy? Because that is what is at stake, not just with China,” Biden told reporters.

While he’s taking a similar approach to China as President Trump, the Biden administration has been able to rally its European allies to take action against China. On Monday, the US, EU, UK, and Canada all announced sanctions on Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the US’s European and NATO Allies to unite against Beijing in Brussels on Wednesday. The common talking point coming for US officials is that China threatens the US-led “rules-based order,” which means Washington sees Beijing as a threat to US global hegemony, something Biden made clear at his press conference.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Biden Turns Up the Heat on America’s Cold Wars

Biden Turns Up the Heat on America’s Cold Wars

President Joe Biden declared “America is back” and his administration is ceaselessly heating up Washington’s Cold Wars against Russia and China. There are new sanctions, constant hostile rhetoric, and innumerable threats against both nuclear armed states. Under Biden, the U.S. military and its allies are normalizing frequent, highly provocative military exercises on China and Russia’s coasts as well as their near abroad. Washington is also proud to announce that it will be waging cyberwarfare imminently against Moscow and is hinting Beijing is up next.

On the basis of baseless accusations regarding the SolarWinds hack, the U.S. is launching cyberattacks, and may be adding more sanctions, against the Russians. According to The New York Times, the attack will be a “series of clandestine actions across Russian networks that are intended to be evident to President Vladimir V. Putin and his intelligence services and military but not to the wider world.”

As Dave Decamp, news editor at Antiwar.com, has reported,

The planned cyberattack is being framed as retaliation for the hack of the software firm SolarWinds that affected several US government agencies. The SolarWinds hack was discovered late last year. It was immediately blamed on Russia by members of Congress and Western media outlets despite a lack of evidence that showed Moscow was responsible.

The US formally attributed blame to Russia for the SolarWinds hack in January. The FBI, NSA, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the Office of the DNI released a statement that said the hack was “likely Russian in origin.” Missing from the statement was any evidence for the accusation.

The fact is SolarWinds’ update server password was “solarwinds123.” It was posted publicly online four years ago, at GitHub, and almost anybody could have pulled this hack off.

Here’s Decamp again;

The reality is, attributing cyberactivity is difficult as hackers have methods to conceal their identity. One reason US officials and media outlets say it could have been Russia is the sophistication of the hack. But testimony from SolarWinds’ former CEO and a cybersecurity expert made it clear that anybody could have accessed SolarWinds’ servers due to a major security lapse.

After the hack was first discovered, Vinoth Kumar, a cybersecurity expert who advised SolarWinds, said the password for the firm’s update server was “solarwinds123.” Kumar said he warned SolarWinds that anyone could access the server because of this password. “This could have been done by any attacker, easily,” he told Reuters last December.

Kumar’s claim about the password turned out to be true. It was confirmed during congressional hearings in February that not only was “solarwinds123” the password it was also leaked and available to the public on the internet for years. Former SolarWinds CEO Kevin Thompson blamed an intern for posting the password on GitHub, a platform programmers use to share software information.

“They violated our password policies and they posted that password on an internal, on their own private GitHub account,” Thompson said during a joint hearing by the House Oversight and Homeland Security committees.

Sudhakar Ramakrishna, the current SolarWinds CEO, said the password was publicly available as early as 2017. “I believe that was a password that an intern used on one of his GitHub servers back in 2017,” he said. SolarWinds did not correct the issue until November 2019. According to the timeline from SolarWinds, suspicious activity on their server began in September 2019.

The SolarWinds hack scandal has been and will continue to be cynically wielded by the Deep State, the corporate press, and the hawks in the administration against Biden to hem him in on foreign policy vis a vis Russia where he is already dangerously bellicose.

As Ray McGovern, Russia expert, former CIA analyst and Presidential briefer, along with Joe Lauria, the editor-in-chief of Consortium News, wrote late last year,

The hyperbolic, evidence-free media reports on the “fresh outbreak” of the Russian-hacking disease seems an obvious attempt by intelligence to handcuff President-elect Joe Biden into a strong anti-Russian posture as he prepares to enter the White House.

Biden might well need to be inoculated against the Russophobe fever.

There are obvious Biden intentions worrying the intelligence agencies, such as renewing the Iran nuclear deal and restarting talks on strategic arms limitation with Russia. Both carry the inherent “risk” of thawing the new Cold War.

Instead, New Cold Warriors are bent on preventing any such rapprochement with strong support from the intelligence community’s mouthpiece media. U.S. hardliners are clearly still on the rise.

Interestingly, this latest hack story came out a day before the Electoral College formally elected Biden, and after the intelligence community, despite numerous previous warnings, said nothing about Russia interfering in the election. One wonders whether that would have been the assessment had Trump won.

Instead Russia decided to hack the U.S. government.

Except there is (typically) no hard evidence pinning it on Moscow.

Ironically, according to a recent report, at the Washington Post, the spooks at the U.S. National Intelligence Council “asses”  that indeed Russia, Iran, Cuba, as well as Hezbollah interfered in the 2020 election, or as respectively in China’s case and Venezuela’s “considered” influencing the outcome or had the “intent” to do so.

As Caitlin Johnstone has written;

So what the US intelligence cartel is asking us to believe this time around is that America’s democracy has suffered yet another invisible attack, the evidence for which is of course top secret, and that the culprits involved are most of the governments the US intelligence cartel doesn’t like. Also, we’re being asked to believe that US-aligned nations like Saudi Arabia and Israel have had no similar interventions in the US electoral process at all.

And of course we’re already getting reports that this narrative will be used to justify sanctions against many of the accused nations, including Iran (which would necessarily kill the nuclear deal Biden campaigned on re-entering).

“The Biden admin is expected to announce sanctions related to election interference as soon as next week, three admin officials tell me,” CNN’s Kylie Atwood reports on Twitter. “They didn’t disclose details related to the expected sanctions but said that they’ll target multiple countries including Russia, China and Iran.”

Under the Donald Trump administration, largely due to the pressure of the Russiagate conspiracy theories that dominated media coverage, the neocons’ new Cold Wars ramped up dramatically. U.S.-Russian relations rapidly deteriorated and tensions rose higher than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Among other antagonistic actions, the U.S. killed Russians in Syria, expanded NATO, expelled Russian diplomats, imposed a multitude of sanctions, armed Ukraine, and withdrew from key arms treaties such as Open Skies and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Despite popular mythology on both sides, it is a fact that under Trump the hawks decidedly won. They aim to keep it that way.

Thus far, the only good thing that has come out of U.S.-Russian relations under this new administration, was the five-year extension of the New Start Treaty. New Start caps the number of nuclear weapons strategically deployed by Washington and Moscow. As recently as last month, Russia indicated their willingness to reenter Open Skies, a treaty that allows unarmed surveillance flyovers of cooperating states. But perhaps imposing sanctions, hurdling new evidence-free election meddling accusations, and attacking the Russians’ cyber infrastructure is not the most optimal way to begin the diplomatic ball rolling. The hawks look to be winning again.

In addition to the economic warfare and cyberwarfare, there have been more belligerent military exercises. This month, the U.S. used B1-B Lancer bombers, which Biden deployed to Norway last month antagonizing the Russians, to conduct flights in their near abroad. The flights were over the North and Baltic Seas, including one bomber making “low flies” over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The U.S. was joined in this exercise by fighter jets from Poland, Italy, Germany, and Denmark.

In another substantial exercise in Russia’s neighborhood, the US was joined by the British as well as the militaries of the Netherlands and Poland. US F-15’s performed mock missile firings over the Black Sea near Russia’s Kaliningrad base sandwiched between NATO states Lithuania and Poland, where the US has a permanent military presence. Biden sent US Navy warships to the Black Sea, where they conducted military drills with the Ukrainian Navy further fueling tensions with Russia. The three warships remained for an unusually extensive 17-day deployment. The U.S. and NATO are looking to further build their presence in the Black Sea region.

Since the implementation of Barrack Obama’s “Asia Pivot” policy, shifting two thirds of U.S. air and naval forces to the Asia-Pacific, the U.S. has been conducting so called Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPS) in the disputed South China Sea. The regional countries have myriad overlapping claims including various reefs, islands, islets, archipelagos, and rocks. The US policy, under Trump and continuing with Biden, is to reject all of China’s claims and sail warships throughout the waters goading China. Additionally, the U.S. often flies warplanes and reconnaissance aircraft near China’s coast in the South China Sea, Yellow Sea, and East China Sea.

Just days into his term, Biden sent an air craft carrier strike group and multiple warplanes to the South China Sea.

In this warming Cold War climate, America’s European allies, following the bipartisan U.S. hawkish lead, are poking the Russians and Chinese flagrantly. At last month’s Munich Security Conference, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said “the rise of China is a defining issue for the transatlantic community.” Last year, NATO released a report that identified China as a major threat to Europe and suggested the alliance should build up cooperation with states like India, Japan, and Australia. These aforementioned states, along with the U.S., form the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the Quad. The Quad is seen as a burgeoning East Asian NATO by many hawks and, since the Trump administration, has been operating together more openly including major naval exercises last year, the Malabar drills, challenging China in the Bay of Bengal. The drills were the largest the dialogue has held since 2007. It has been reported this month, in the Financial Times, that that the Quad is working jointly with the U.S. on vaccine distribution, part of a “broad strategy,” to spite China’s regional influence. Leading the effort is Kurt Campbell, Obama’s “Asia Pivot” architect, who is now Biden’s coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs on the National Security Council. Campbell is a former CEO and co-founder of the Center for a New American Security, an ultra-hawkish, anti-China think tank funded by, among others, the arms industry, the Japanese embassy, Taiwan’s de facto embassy, Google, Facebook, and big banks. Since, the skirmishes between the Chinese and the Indians last year in the Western Himalayas, the US has increased intelligence sharing with India and signed a military pact with New Delhi. The Germans announced that in August they will sail a warship in Asia that will transit the South China Sea. The British will sail an air craft carrier the HMS Queen Elizabeth to East Asia and the South China Sea as well. Last month, French warplanes were intercepted by Russian fighters over the Black Sea. And beyond that, a French nuclear attack submarine, with another Navy ship, made a “patrol” in the South China Sea.

The French continue to escalate with China, now the European Union’s top trading partner in goods, after a close call two years ago in the Taiwan strait.

As reported by France 24, “In April 2019, there was a naval incident in the Taiwan Strait when Chinese ships told the French frigate Vendemiaire to leave the waterway that separates the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, another sensitive area claimed by Beijing.”

Under cover of the pandemic, Trump set records last year sailing warships through the Taiwan strait 13 times. Under Biden, the US has already sent warships through the Taiwan strait three times. Trump sold Taipei Lockheed’s upgraded F-16’s and Boeing Standoff Land Attack Missiles that can be fired from the F-16’s to hit “far inland” Chinese civilian and military targets. Neoconservative Senator Tom Cotton wants to draw a series of “crystal clear” redlines that for China would mean war with the U.S., including if Beijing invades India, Taiwan, or attempts to seize an island claimed by Taipei. Cotton also supports the decoupling of the economies of America and China.

Last year, Australian Senator Jim Molan who supports the US and Canberra’s partnerships on these anti-China policies, said “We are likely in the next three to five years or in the next five to ten years to be involved in a war between China and the United States.”

Likewise, Steve Bannon, a China hawk, who desires regime change and runs an influential anti-Beijing think tank with arch neoconservative Frank Gaffney, has predicted “we’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years.” That was five years ago. Bannon is fond of spreading conspiracy theories about COVID-19 emanating from the Wuhan lab supposedly linked to a covert biowarfare program.

“Anti-neocon” Tucker Carlson advocates “…treating China like the dangerous Cold War level adversary it has clearly become.”

Normalcy” was promised in Biden’s campaign rhetoric. However, what constitutes “normalcy” to the average American is not what Biden’s hawks have in mind. The problem is that the neoconservatives and their fellow travelers’ top priority of “full spectrum dominance” and/or global “primacy” has been deliberately normalized since the end of the previous Cold War and particularly since the beginning of the War on Terror. The neocons’ new Cold War is really a desperate attempt to conserve Charles Krauthammer’s fleeting “unipolar moment” in an increasingly multipolar world.

The foreign policy wing of the “Cathedral” desperately clings to Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol’s vision of the “new American century,” that is what they believed could have been: world domination, preventing the rise of another great power, the successful waging of multiple concurrent large wars, etc. They have only themselves to blame. George Bush, Barrack Obama, and Donald Trump were stupid to listen to these same neocons and blew America’s post-Cold War wad. The U.S. spent trillions of dollars, wasting untold capital, productive capacity, goodwill, and energy by killing, maiming, and displacing millions of people, and destroying Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, etc.

Had these administrations simply not launched and indefinitely continued the above various unconstitutional, illegal, aggressive, sometimes genocidal, often treasonous, and wholly unnecessary wars then the U.S. would be incomparably wealthier. But now the country is an imperial police state that is broke, still largely locked down, and falling apart. Thankfully Americans are rapidly losing their remaining faith and trust in our corrupt, increasingly totalitarian, exploiter class that maybe liberty, peace and prosperity have a chance.

However, in their bitterness, and to deflect from their countless failures, the corporate press, dutifully hype up copious distrust, fear, jingoism, and hatred against the Russians and Chinese. They concurrently sow similar rage and dysfunction amongst us and our fellow countrymen. This is done to distract the populace from uniting against the common enemy, namely them, the same American ruling class that impoverishes us is stoking this so called “great power competition,” leading potentially to, global scale, catastrophic wars.

From the imperialists’ point of view, mulcting the citizenry silly is a necessity. After all, global supremacy is a most expensive endeavor, our government doles out well over a trillion dollars of welfare every year to the Empire, the military, and its industrial complex ensuring the project continues with the absurd aim of forever controlling the “full spectrum”  battlespace on land, up in the air, across the seas, into outer space, and throughout the cybersphere. The American people must renounce the entire agenda.

The Pentagon Turns ‘Feminist’

The Pentagon Turns ‘Feminist’

For many years, male U.S. citizens have been required to register with the Selective Service, an independent agency within the Executive Branch of the U.S. Federal Government, so that they can be located in the event that it becomes necessary to reinstate military conscription. The most recent military draft was ended after the Vietnam War, in 1973, and ever since then people have proudly pointed to the “voluntary” terms of U.S. military enlistment. That soldiers are voluntary is also frequently invoked in passing by cynical civilians who dismiss complaints about the plight of soldiers during wars and their aftermath. Those wont to insist, “They freely chose to enlist!” not-so-slyly suggest that perhaps we should not care so much about the thousands of homeless veterans and the epic levels of suicides among distraught soldiers, who by 2019 were ending their lives at rate of about twenty per day.

In recent years, the question whether women should be permitted to serve as combatant soldiers has arisen, as more and more other professions have opened up to what historically has been regarded as “the gentler sex.” Until quite recently, the fighting forces of the military were always viewed as the province of men, but times have changed, causing some people to reconsider the longstanding association of the military with masculinity. There are essentially two standard arguments regarding female combatants.

First, according to what might be called the “traditionalist” approach, women are generally smaller and physically weaker than men. Their admission into the ranks alongside the physically strong males who have fought enemy soldiers one-on-one on bloody battlefields throughout history would severely compromise the military’s capacity to win its battles and, ultimately, the government’s wars. A second strand of the traditionalist view focuses on the idea that women should not be sacrificed needlessly. Women have historically been viewed as nurturing and less aggressive than men. If women were deployed evenly among the men fighting on the ground, then they would be more likely to perish than their male counterparts, not only because they are, on average, physically smaller and weaker, but also because they are less violent than men. But if women were eliminated, this would hurt society more generally, as women give birth to and often raise children.

The second approach, which might be termed “feminist,” holds that combatant selection should in no way depend on one’s possession or lack of a Y-chromosome. It may be the case that women on average are weaker and smaller and less aggressive than men, but that does not mean that all of them are. Over millennia, women have far more often filled the role of mother than that of breadwinner, but, again, times have changed. Today a woman can choose whether or not to be a wife and mother. Some women today serve as the CEOs of military weapons companies or even heads of state. What it means to be a liberated woman is to be able to choose between the full range of opportunities available to men. Furthermore, there are certainly examples of extremely powerful women, such as Serena and Venus Williams, who might, if they chose to fight rather than play tennis, do quite well on the battlefield. Accordingly, on this view, women should be permitted to train and compete with men for spots in even the most physically demanding of military roles, up to and including the Marines or special operations teams such as the Delta Force. The way to find out whether a woman qualifies for such a force is precisely the way in which men find out whether they qualify: through basic and advanced training which leads some candidates or their commanders to conclude that they may be better suited for less arduous roles.

In 2015, the Pentagon appeared to adopt the second, more progressive or feminist, approach, announcing that all combatant positions would henceforth be open to women. The reality, I believe, is quite a bit more crass, as evidenced by the fact that not long after women were invited to serve as combat warriors, people began discussing whether women should, along with men, be required to register for the Selective Service, so that they, too, could be called up should another military draft be instituted. This move, from permissibility to obligation, from a triumph of feminism to the severe restriction on liberty and potential enslavement of women, the prospect of their being demanded to serve in the armed forces against their will, is a curious non sequitur which seems to have gone unnoticed by the soi-disant feminists who support Selective Service registration for all. The Pentagon public relations wing naturally claims “woke” creds, but what is really going on here?

I am afraid that the traditionalist approach (which still has its adherents, for example, Fox News host Tucker Carlson), altogether misses the point of the Pentagon’s invitation to women to join the ranks of military killers. For most “combatants” in future war will not be found on the ground battling enemy soldiers in one-on-one fights to the finish. Instead, unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV), or lethal drones, will continue to be used, as over the course of the twenty-first century so far, to inflict death upon enemy “soldiers” who pose no direct threat to their killers. The risks in having both men and women fight in theaters such as the twenty-year War on Terror throughout the Middle East (which has also seeped into Africa) will become progressively less physical. Because of new technology, the primary harms suffered by future soldiers will be psychological and moral. This follows from the very logic of the use of drones to kill people abroad who cannot be threatening anyone with death because they are unarmed. Least defensible of all is the incineration of persons located in countries where there are no soldiers on the ground said to require force protection. Yet this is what drone operators are trained and required to do.

One of the most significant military discoveries in the twenty-first century, all but ignored by the warmakers themselves, is that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), does not emerge exclusively or always as a result of traumatic experiences on the battlefield, when soldiers are forced daily to face the specter of their possibly imminent deaths as they witness people dying all around them and move through dangerous territories where IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and snipers may be hiding any- and everywhere. Protracted fear and stress can be powerful factors in the onset of PTSD, but what we have learned from its high incidence among drone and laser sensor operators is that moral trauma and conscience also play an important role. Indeed, regret for what one has done is sufficient alone to induce profound PTSD, as evidenced by those drone operators who, in states of psychological and moral despair, have opted to abandon the profession at the termination of their initial contract, even when they have been enticed to stay by the provision of generous bonus offers.

On its face, the job of a drone operator may look like a good deal, and it did to those who later regretted and renounced their vocation: garner creds as a courageous warrior by donning a uniform and showing up to work in a trailer where one “fights” the enemy on a screen from thousands of miles away. No trenches, no IEDs, and no snipers—the drone operator himself remains unscathed, indeed, untouchable by the enemy. The physical job of a drone operator involves manipulating buttons and levers, observing the enemy on the screen and remaining alert, not as a way of saving one’s own life, but to make sure that the enemy does not get away. The images of what these soldiers see on those screens and have done to those people, however, sometimes come to haunt drone operators. Watching targets for hours, days, weeks, even months, before “splashing” them with a missile and witnessing them bleed out before dying, knowing in some cases that they are leaving behind widows and orphans, if not also first-order (physical) collateral damage, exacts a steep psychological toll on some of the push-button killers.

The military will continue to become progressively more lethal to the enemy but less deadly to its own combatant or killing forces because of the manifest rationality of not needlessly risking soldiers’ lives, and the development of technology which makes that possible. If a war can be won without sacrificing a single soldier, as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed President Barack Obama did when he ordered hundreds of missile strikes on Libya in 2011, then why would any commander choose to do otherwise? This risk-averse approach to war began in earnest with President Bill Clinton, whose combat pilots flew high above their targets in Kosovo in 1999 in order to protect themselves from harm, despite the fact that by doing so they increased the risk of killing civilians on the ground. Presidents, along with the populace, care more about their compatriots than “collateral damage” victims abroad, who, being out of sight, are also out of mind.

The Libya intervention was quite far from being a success story, much less an example of, as Clinton gushed, “smart power at its best,” but it is true that no combatants were killed during the 2011 ousting of then-President Muammar Gaddafi. Ironically, U.S. State Department employees were killed in the post-war mêlée, but that was after the bombing had stopped. The country of Libya is now in shambles, but the Benghazi debacle, along with everything else which ensued subsequent to the bombing campaign, is simply written off by its architects, including former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power (recently pegged to head up USAID), as unpredictable, unforeseeable consequences of a military intervention with purely humanitarian aims. In attempting to convince Obama to take action, Power compared the situation in Libya to that of Rwanda in 1994. Remarkably, having been initially disinclined to intervene, Obama was persuaded to believe Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton and Anne-Marie Slaughter, the women who rallied for that war—a veritable case in point for those who claim that women can be just as aggressive as men. But was the post-war scene in Libya completely unforeseeable and unpredictable, as Power glibly maintains in her memoir? We may beg to differ with those armchair warriors who failed to draw appropriate inductive conclusions from the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan or the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, but, alas, they seem keen to ply their bellicose trade wherever and whenever it becomes possible again.

Thousands of people at the Department of Defense work full time in public relations, producing texts and media to persuade taxpayers that the government’s wars are just and right. One might reasonably wonder why, if all of the ongoing wars were in fact worthwhile and necessary undertakings, there should be any need for public relations campaigns to support them, or to lure young people to enlist. But because the necessity and justice of the nonstop bombing of people in the Middle East is far from self-evident, those paying for the carnage must continually be made to believe, against all evidence, that the soldiers killing people abroad today are just like the courageous men who defeated the Nazis in World War II. Snafus such as the photographs from Abu Graib prison must be explained away, and the military’s image re-burnished to ensure that young people will continue to enlist.

The “feminist” turn at the Pentagon, I submit, is just another ploy to address the recruitment crisis at a time in history when the skills required of the latest supply of cannon fodder have become significantly less physical. More drone operators are trained today than regular combatant pilots, and at some point the idea of risking one’s own life for one’s country will be deemed anachronistic and quaint. Robots with “boots on the ground” have been deployed for years, especially to assist troops in landmine-infested territories. “Ground force” robots have also been used to blow up targets, as was done, unbelievably enough, to U.S. military veteran Micah Xavier Johnson, in Dallas, Texas, on July 8, 2016, after he killed five members of the local police force. The replacement of mortal soldiers by robots will be further precipitated by the inexorable production of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), which will take human beings completely out of the killing loop once robotic killers have been programmed to gather, sort, and analyze data before selecting targets and launching missiles. Until the military has become entirely automated, however, it will continue to need human operators, and that is why women have been enthusiastically invited to join in on the killing spree.

The invitation to women to serve in combat forces has been billed as progress, evidence of how “woke” the Pentagon is, along the lines of President Biden’s appointment of the first African American Secretary of Defense, General Lloyd J. Austin. But, as in the case of Austin, the admission of women into combat forces has a subtext. The far more relevant factor in the case of Austin is his connection to military industry, the fact that he is a former board member of a company (Raytheon) which stands to profit every time Syria or anywhere else is bombed. The surface “wokeness” is just a patina, a veneer, a bit of public relations polish on what is ultimately an intrinsically pragmatic policy. The fact that Austin is black is an effective distraction from the reality of the ever-more tentacular MIC or, to be precise, the military-industrial-congressional-media-academic-pharmaceutical-logistics-banking complex. Military industry, which is funded by the Pentagon, has also gloated over its female CEOs. Meanwhile the crisis levels of sexual abuse by fellow soldiers and commanding officers of female enlistees has been largely ignored by the military-infiltrated mass media.

The admission of women troops as combatants is not so much an affirmation of the worth of female human beings as it is a recognition that they, too, can be trained to serve as push-button contract killers. There is an ongoing, chronic military recruitment crisis because service in the bungled missions in Afghanistan and Iraq has seemed progressively less honorable as the quagmires have dragged on. Many people were willing to enlist after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but by now nearly no one (aside from war profiteers) seems convinced of the righteousness of the forever wars in tThhe Middle East. In order for those wars to continue on, new, psychological, cannon fodder must be found. Step right up, ladies, we have a splendid job for you, complete with benefits, pension and paid maternity leave!

The issue of maintaining Selective Service registration for men alone is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, and it would seem that, in consistency, the entire program must either be abolished or expanded to include women. Under a faux-feminist guise, some “patriots” among the U.S. Congress (an extremely important limb of the octopoid MIC) will likely rally for the expansion, which would be a severe blow to liberty lovers of all stripes, men and women alike. If it is unconstitutional to require men but not women to register for the Selective Service, now that women are permitted to serve in the armed forces, then the proper remedy can only be to abolish the Selective Service registration requirement, for involuntary service violates every person’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, whether or not they possess a Y-chromosome.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has raised the issue before the Supreme Court on behalf of a group of men, and it may well be that they favor abolition of the requirement. Nonetheless, should the current law, under the present circumstances, be struck down as unconstitutional, then the fact that the Supreme Court did not previously find the Selective Service registration of males alone to be unconstitutional will be invoked by hawks in the U.S. Congress to push for new legislation mandating universal registration, regardless of biological sex. The question which needs desperately to be debated now, however, is whether the creation of an entire society of push-button contract killers is something which anyone should support.

Return to Normalcy: Victoria Nuland Back To Managing the Empire

Return to Normalcy: Victoria Nuland Back To Managing the Empire

Some things never change in American foreign policy.

While there’s a lot of chatter about a “Great Reset” in terms of rebuilding society along technocratic lines in the wake of covid-19, U.S. foreign policy appears to be going through its very own “reset.” Specifically, it appears to be going back to the neoliberal interventionist order of pre-Trump administrations. One of the most palpable reversions to the neoliberal mean was President Joe Biden’s nomination of Victoria Nuland to the position of under secretary of state for political affairs at the State Department in early January.

Although she’s still going through the nomination process, the very fact that Nuland is being considered for this position at the State Department is a telltale sign that DC has no desire to change its foreign policy ways. Nuland is a neoconservative through and through. Her track record speaks for itself.

During the Bush administration, Nuland was a key foreign policy advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney and would later serve as the US ambassador to NATO, a role in which she frequently made the case for the military alliance’s members to strengthen their contributions to the US’s nation-building excursions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Her next move on the foreign policy ladder saw Nuland become the State Department spokesperson during the Obama administration, when then secretary of state Hilary Clinton was pushing for regime change in Libya and Syria.

Where Nuland truly stood out, though, was in her post of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, where she helped orchestrate a coup in Ukraine in 2014. Understanding American foreign policy since the Soviet Union’s collapse is key to realizing Nuland is a dangerous foreign policy selection. Post-Soviet Ukraine has been marked by repeated bouts of political instability and widespread corruption. These factors have made the country susceptible to interference from external actors such as Russia, the European Union, and the United States. From one administration to another, Ukrainian presidents have either made gestures toward the West or Russia.

One way the West has tried to extend its influence after the Cold War ended is by using the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a vehicle for eastward expansion in Russia’s traditional sphere of influence. In the early 1990s, the U.S. initially promised Russian leaders that NATO had no intentions of expanding eastward toward Russia’s backyard. But for a superpower intoxicated with the desire to spread its influence abroad at all costs, the promise of restraint in the ex-Soviet sphere was dubious at best.

NATO’s first geopolitical flex after the fall of the Soviet Union was the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, which left many in the Russian security establishment wary of NATO’s geopolitical ambitions in the region. Furthermore, the U.S. pulled an about-face and decided to advocate for the addition of countries such as Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Albania, and Croatia, among others, into NATO’s security umbrella. What started out as an alliance consisting of twelve founding members now comprises thirty nations.

Intoxicated by a triumphalist mindset typical of Western institutions in the post-Soviet era, NATO continued pushing the envelope by wooing countries in Russia’s orbit with the prospect of joining the military alliance. Like all expansionist ventures in geopolitics, NATO’s efforts eventually faced hard limits.

The cases of Georgia and Ukraine were instructive. The American government exerted its influence in both Georgia (2008) and Ukraine (2014) to bring them into the NATO fold. American hopes to add new NATO members were dashed when Russia countered these machinations with its own military actions in South Ossetia and Crimea, effectively ending the West’s monopoly on the use of force in world politics. For Russia, these countries are of strategic importance and within its traditional sphere of influence, therefore it felt justified in its actions to defend its strategic interests from Western influence.

In the latter case of Ukraine, Nuland was intimately involved in fomenting unrest while she was assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. What was rather ironic about that period was the Obama administration’s original desire to promote a “reset” in relations with Russia. However, Nuland’s machinations as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs threw a wrench into potential plans for a rapprochement between Russia and the United States.

Toward the end of 2013, Ukraine was mired in protests after the Ukrainian government under the leadership of President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union. Instead, Yanukovych opted to strengthen Ukraine’s relationship with Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union—a geoeconomic bloc made up of eastern European, Central Asian, and western Asian countries that Atlanticists are generally hostile toward. The Russian government attempted to sweeten the deal for Ukraine by offering discounted energy prices and $15 billion in economic aid.

Yanukovych’s move raised eyebrows in the West, with the likes of Nuland and associated foreign entities figuring out ways to capsize his government. Taking advantage of the protests that ensued, which were motivated by perceptions of corruption and political abuse by the Yanukovych government, Nuland and co. made sure to crank up the pressure on the sitting president. What started out as an otherwise organic set of protests, morphed into a geopolitical tug-of-war among external actors. In this process, Nuland gained notoriety after a phone call between her and then US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt was leaked to the public and became available on YouTube. During this call, Nuland and Pyatt had a discussion about who should be Yanukovych’s successor. On February 22, 2014, after protests had spiraled out of control and order had started breaking down across Ukraine, Yanukovych resigned and subsequently fled to Russia for refuge.

Regime change architects expected a smooth political transition in Ukraine but what ensued was anything but stable. Following Yanukovych’s departure, Russia proceeded to annex Crimea. Shortly thereafter, an armed conflict kicked off in Ukraine’s Donbass region. The latter region has substantial ethnic minority Russian populations along with a sizable number of Russophones, while the former is predominantly Russian in ethnolinguistic terms. The protection of its coethnics was a key factor that motivated Russia’s intervention in the aforementioned regions.

The possibility of Ukraine joining NATO following the Euromaidan demonstrations was a risk the Russian state was not going to entertain in light of the two decades of NATO enlargement in its own backyard. So far, the Russo-Ukrainian war has claimed the lives of more than 10,300 people, left 24,000 wounded, and displaced north of 1.5 million people. A crisis that could have been averted had the US not stuck its nose in the internal affairs of faraway lands, foreign policy mandarins like Nuland did not factor in Russia’s very real geostrategic interests and the lengths it would go to defend them.

Let’s ask ourselves this: How would the U.S. respond if rival countries such as China or Russia engineered a coup in Mexico with the intention of installing a preferred presidential candidate contrary to U.S. interests and the wishes of Mexican voters? Similarly, DC would likely go apoplectic if the emerging great powers installed client states right across the border in the Caribbean Basin. But US foreign policy operates on different standards. For the US government, the entire world is a petri dish for extravagant regime change experiments, blowback be damned.

Regime change delusions are deep-seated among the foreign policy class. So much so that orchestrating foreign policy blunders constitutes an example of “failing forward,” whereby political leaders are not held accountable for their failed policies and are instead rewarded with more prestigious sinecures. As a matter of fact, inflicting massive damage abroad is the best way to move up the foreign policy ladder in DC, as evidenced by Nuland’s nomination to under secretary of state for political affairs. Some things never change.

In a similar vein, foreign policy bungles turn out to be lucrative ventures for well-connected interest groups. The U.S.’ misbehavior in Ukraine has been a boon for the ravenous hawks in the Pentagon. Russia’s decisive victory in Crimea and a resurgent China have provided fertile ground for the Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy, which pivoted America’s foreign policy from combating terrorism to embroiling itself into great power conflict. This means more brinksmanship and fatter budgets for defense contractors.

As with all of the perfidy emanating from DC, there is substantial bipartisan buy-in. Despite Donald Trump’s prorestraint rhetoric on the campaign trail, his administration’s actions told a grimmer story. The Trump administration was more than willing to throw bones at Russiagate hysterics by installing a missile base in Romania, deployed additional troops in Poland, slapped significant sanctions on Russia, provided lethal aid in the form of Javelin antitank missiles to Ukraine, and even escalated tensions with Russian mercenaries in Syria.

Relations between Russia and the U.S. are already deteriorating, and with Nuland in the conversation as under secretary of state for political affairs nominee, we can only expect the status quo to remain firmly in place. It doesn’t help that Joe Biden’s current secretary of state, Antony Blinken, openly stated that the US government will not recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea.

Even worse, while in the nomination process for his current post, Blinken did not discard the idea of incorporating countries like Georgia into NATO’s security blanket. In a hubristic manner typical of US diplomats these days, Blinken glossed over Russia’s objections and previous demonstration of force to defend its interests from perceived Western encroachments in its historical sphere of influence. Blinken’s stances on Russia do not augur well for American relations with the Eurasian power.

The parties in power may change during any given election cycle, but the interventionist policies remain the same, much to the detriment of an American public exhausted after years of perpetual conflict. American policymakers would be wise to stop pretending we’re in Cold War 2.0 with Russia and instead to embrace a policy based on realism and restraint.

Frankly, a sober foreign policy will not materialize with Victoria Nuland in the picture.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

Biden White House’s First Meeting With China Blows Up

Biden White House’s First Meeting With China Blows Up

The U.S. and China began the first high-level in-person talks of the Biden administration in Anchorage, Alaska, on Thursday. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

As expected, the talks were contentious, and the two sides traded barbs in opening remarks in front of reporters. Blinken set a hostile tone and opened the talks by saying actions by China “threaten” the U.S.-led “rules-based order.”

“We will … discuss our deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, economic coercion of our allies,” he said. “Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability.”

Sullivan then chimed in and said, “Secretary Blinken laid out many of the areas of concern: from economic and military coercion to assaults on basic values that we will discuss with you today and in the days ahead.” Sullivan said the US does “not seek conflict” but will “always stand up for our principles.”

Yang hit back. “The United States uses its military force and financial hegemony to carry out long arm jurisdiction and suppress other countries,” he said. “It abuses so-called notions of national security to obstruct normal trade exchanges, and incite some countries to attack China.”

But Yang also offered an olive branch and said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping hope the US and China can cooperate. “The way we see the relationship with the United States is as President Xi Jinping has said, that is we hope to see no confrontation, no conflict, mutual respect and win-win cooperation with the United States,” he said.

According to Reuters, the two sides argued over when to dismiss reporters, and what is usually a few minutes of opening remarks in front of journalists for such high-level meetings lasted for over an hour. A U.S. official speaking with reporters after the exchange accused the Chinese side of “grandstanding.”

Since President Biden came into office, Chinese officials have been calling for better relations with the U.S. after the Trump administration’s hostile China policies left U.S.-China relations at their lowest point in decades. But Biden officials have had nothing but harsh words for China, and in the days leading up to the talks, the US took several measures that guaranteed they would be contentious.

Blinken visited Japan and South Korea with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin earlier this week. While meeting with his Japanese and Korean counterparts, Blinken slammed Beijing, accusing China of using “coercion and aggression” in the region. On Wednesday, the U.S. slapped sanctions on 24 Chinese and Hong Kong officials.

The Anchorage talks are expected to last through Friday night. Judging by how they started, little progress is expected to be made.

Earlier this month, Blinken named China as the “biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century.” He said China is the “only country” with power that threatens the current “international system,” making it clear that Washington sees Beijing as a threat to U.S. global hegemony.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Russia Recalls Its U.S. Ambassador After President Biden Refers to Vladimir Putin as a ‘Killer’

Russia Recalls Its U.S. Ambassador After President Biden Refers to Vladimir Putin as a ‘Killer’

Russia called its ambassador to the US back to Moscow on Wednesday after an interview of President Biden aired where Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “killer.”

In the interview, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked President Biden if he believes that Putin is a “killer,” to which Biden responded, “Uh-huh. I do.” Biden said he once told Putin that he believed the Russian leader had no “soul.”

Stephanopoulos and Biden also discussed an assessment from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that claimed Putin sought to hurt Biden in the 2020 election. Biden said Putin will “pay a price” for the allegations made by the ODNI.

Like most US claims of Russian meddling, no evidence has been presented to back up the latest allegations besides the intelligence assessment, and the ODNI report did not explain how the conclusion was reached. Russia dismissed the accusation as “baseless” and said the assessment was likely going to be used as a pretext for sanctions.

Announcing the recall of the US ambassador, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Moscow was hoping for better relations with the US.

“Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov has been invited for consultations in order to figure out what to do and where to move in terms of relations with the United States,” Zakharova said in a statement. “The main thing for us is to find out ways to improve Russia-US relations,” she added.

Also on Wednesday, the US slapped more sanctions on Russia over the alleged poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny. A report from CNN on Tuesday night said the US is expected to impose more sanctions on Russia next week over the ODNI report on the 2020 election.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Economic Sanctions Are State-Implemented Terrorism

Economic Sanctions Are State-Implemented Terrorism

Efforts to restore American and Iranian compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal—formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—are at an impasse.

President Biden has declared there will be no relaxing of smothering economic sanctions on Iran unless the country first returns to full compliance with the deal. Iran, which began exceeding nuclear enrichment thresholds in response to America’s total withdrawal from the deal under President Trump, wants the United States to begin easing sanctions first.

As that chess game continues, there’s something missing from op-ed pages, network news studios and the House and Senate chambers: a fundamental debate about the morality of economic sanctions.

If we reduce economic sanctions to a general characterization that encompasses both ends and means, we arrive at a truth that is as damning as it is incontrovertible:

Economic sanctions intentionally inflict suffering on civilian populations to force a change in their governments’ policies.

If that has a familiar ring, perhaps it’s because “the intentional use of violence against civilians in order to obtain political aims” is one definition of terrorism.

That’s not to say “sanctions” and “terrorism” are interchangeable terms. However, both practices center on willfully harming civilians to accomplish political goals.

Like Sanctioning Governments, Terrorists Have Political Objectives

Some resist the fact that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are principally motivated by political goals. That’s understandable, given establishment media grossly underreports terrorist motivations.

The resulting vacuum is filled with reflexive and false assumptions—for example, that Muslim terrorists are principally motivated by religion—or deliberately misleading government claims, like President George W. Bush’s baseless assertion that al Qaeda terrorists “hate our freedoms.”

Through various written and recorded pronouncements, Osama bin Laden made al Qaeda’s political motivations clear. His aims included the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Middle East, and termination of U.S. support of the region’s dictators and the government of Israel.

The political nature of terrorism was particularly apparent in the 2004 Madrid train bombings. The attacks came three days before Spain’s general election, and a video received by Spanish authorities said the attacks were punishment for the country’s participation in the occupation of Iraq.

On election day, the shaken Spanish population gave an upset victory to the Socialist party, and the newly elected prime minister immediately pledged to withdrawal Spanish troops from Iraq.

Those examples focus on al Qaeda and its kin, but terrorists of all religions, ethnicities and nationalities have political aims. An exhaustive study of worldwide suicide bombing by University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape found nearly all such attacks seek “to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.”

Like Terrorists, Sanctioning Governments Intentionally Harm Civilians

In a hearing earlier this month, Senate foreign relations committee chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who has been one of Capitol Hill’s most prolific authors of Iran sanction legislation, praised sanctions as part of “our arsenal of peaceful diplomacy.”

Perhaps it was a Freudian slip that led him to oxymoronically place his supposedly “peaceful” sanctions inside an “arsenal”—in their effect, there’s little difference between imposing economic sanctions and mining Iranian harbors.

Of course, “peaceful” isn’t the favorite adjective of sanction advocates. When boasting about their handiwork, Menendez and others invariably use a far more appropriate descriptor: “crippling.”

Officials assure us that sanctions are meant to cripple governments, but any honest observer understands that’s achieved by first crippling the country’s economy.

Since the concept of economic harm is somewhat abstract, it’s easy for Americans to limit their visualization of that harm to a downward slope on a gross domestic product chart, failing to appreciate what economic warfare means to the everyday lives of individual humans.

Occasionally, though, American media provides a window on the harms being visited upon the Iranian people.

Consider a 2019 Los Angeles Times story, “Middle-Class Iranians Resort to Buying Rotting Produce as U.S. Sanctions Take Toll.” Reading the title alone would give most Americans a far better appreciation of sanctions’ real-world impact. The article provides other examples, such as a single mother forced by skyrocketing prices into abandoning her apartment and moving into her mother’s one-bedroom dwelling.

While the U.S. sanctions regime provides exceptions for Iran’s import of food and medicine, other limitations on the flow of Iranian money—and vendors’ and bankers’ fears of accidentally running afoul of U.S. restrictions—often render those exceptions meaningless.

As a result, sanctions can have profound consequences for Iran’s sick. Among other observations, a 2019 report by Human Rights Watch found:

  • Iranian patients with rare diseases were finding it increasingly difficult to access essential, imported medicines
  • A pediatric cancer treatment center was unable to acquire medications deemed essential by the World Health Organization
  • Patients with epidermolysis bullosa—a rare disease that causes blistering— had their supply of a special kind of foam dressing cut off when a European producer ceased business in Iran due to U.S. sanctions. The domestic alternative dressing “often gets attached to the blisters, causing excruciating pain for the patients,” according to an attorney representing a health NGO.

The report also noted Iranians were finding it harder to acquire imported eye drops, “causing suffering for the large number of patients affected by chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war.”

Exasperatingly, many of those eye patients are being victimized by the U.S. government for a second time: During the Iran-Iraq War, American intelligence officials provided targeting information to the Iraqi military, fully aware Saddam Hussein’s forces would attack with chemical weapons.

U.S. sanctions also make civilian air travel in Iran riskier. When the 2015 JCPOA eased sanctions, Iranian airlines rushed to update their aging fleets, placing large orders with Boeing, Airbus and ATR.

However, when self-proclaimed “America-first” President Trump later abandoned the JCPOA and restored sanctions, he denied U.S.-based Boeing billions of dollars of business and forced Iranian airlines to continue patching old jets, often unable to buy replacement parts.

Officials Acknowledge Intent to Harm Civilians

Some readers might be tempted to liken civilian suffering under sanctions to so-called “collateral damage” in warfare, as may happen when a missile goes astray or a bomb target is incorrectly selected.

However, the harm to civilians under economic sanctions isn’t incidental, and those who impose sanctions fully understand they inevitably bring misery and sometimes death to innocents.

In occasional moments of candor, U.S. officials confirm economic sanctions are meant to take a toll on civilians. At a 2007 press conference, President George W. Bush said, “The whole strategy is that, you know, at some point in time leaders or responsible folks inside of Iran may get tired of isolation and say, ‘This isn’t worth it’” (emphasis mine).

When Congressman Tony Cardenas (D-CA) voiced his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, he argued that “lessening sanctions…would economically reward the Iranian people for supporting those who enslave them.”

If the withdraw of sanctions is an improper reward of Iranian civilians, it logically follows that Cardenas views the imposition of sanctions and their accompanying misery as rightful punishment.

Cardenas’s rationalization of civilian harm is indistinguishable from bin Laden’s. In a 2002 “Letter to America,” bin Laden offered this justification of aggression against civilians:

“The American people are the ones who choose their government by way of their own free will; a choice which stems from their agreement to its policies. Thus the American people have chosen, consented to, and affirmed their support for the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, the occupation and usurpation of their land, and its continuous killing, torture, punishment and expulsion of the Palestinians. The American people have the ability and choice to refuse the policies of their Government and even to change it if they want.”

Current Biden deputy Iran envoy and former Obama sanctions coordinator Richard Nephew wrote the book on sanctions—literally. At The Grayzone this week, Max Blumenthal explored various passages from Nephew’s 2017 book, “The Art of Sanctions: A View from the Field.”

Nephew celebrated the tripling of chicken prices “during important Iranian holiday periods,” admitted to having targeted manufacturing jobs, and boasted of having purposefully intensified wealth inequality by devaluing Iran’s currency, thus “depriving most people of the practical benefit of being able to purchase” humanitarian, consumer or luxury goods.

“The Price is Worth It”

When it comes to cold, calculating acceptance of civilian suffering under sanctions in pursuit of political goals, the most infamous example is Madeleine Albright’s 1996 interview on 60 Minutes.

At the time, Albright was ambassador to the United Nations in the Clinton administration, and surveyors had recently estimated that upwards of 576,000 Iraqi children had died because of malnutrition and deterioration of water and sanitation systems caused or exacerbated by UN sanctions promoted by the United States.

Lesley Stahl: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And…you know..is the price worth it?

Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it.

It’s important to note the survey’s particular child-death estimate has been credibly disputed. A subsequent study placed the combined toll of the Gulf War and subsequent sanctions between 100,000 and 227,000, with the majority attributed to sanctions.

It’s telling that Albright didn’t object to the premise of Stahl’s question. That’s not to say she was validating the “half million” number, but rather that she was stipulating that sanctions did inflict some ghastly toll on Iraqi children that was “worth it” to the U.S. government.

Notably, in a 2004 video, bin Laden listed Iraq sanctions among al Qaeda’s motivating grievances, claiming they inflicted “the greatest mass slaughter of children mankind has ever known.”

On 9/11, Bin Laden was party to killing nearly 3,000 civilians in an effort to alter U.S. policy in the Middle East. Even by many of the lower estimates, Albright was party to killing a far higher number—of children alone—in a purported effort to ensure Iraq had no chemical or biological weapons.

In both bin Laden and Albright, we see a calculated acceptance of civilian deaths to achieve political aims. While Bin Laden is rightly reviled for that calculus, Albright is wrongly revered.

For example, when my alma mater, Bucknell Universityannounced her as its 2019 commencement speaker, it lauded her for having “advocated for…human rights.” University president John Bravman said she led a “life of courageous service” that “left an indelible mark on the world.”

I suppose the tombs of Iraqi children do count as indelible marking.

Sanctions Are Fundamentally Immoral

Like terrorism, economic sanctions intentionally inflict suffering on innocent individuals in pursuit of political objectives. Americans should take no comfort in the fact that this suffering is neatly arranged by government officials using legislation, executive orders, UN resolutions and Treasury regulations.

After all, is it less villainous to kill someone by depriving them of cancer medicine, food or aircraft parts via economic restraints, as compared to blowing them up with a car bomb?

The difference is in the means, not the ends: Instead of using explosives, sanction-enforcing bureaucrats at the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) inflict their harms using phones and computer keyboards.

True, most harms imposed by sanctions aren’t lethal. However, that fact does nothing to buttress their moral standing or absolve their advocates and implementers from guilt.

By unjustly violating innocent individuals’ rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, economic sanctions are not only inhuman, they’re fundamentally un-American. It’s time for citizens and legislators across the political spectrum to demand their immediate, unconditional and universal termination.

This article was originally featured on Stark Realities and is republished with permission.

We Must Come Home from Korea

We Must Come Home from Korea

America’s military footprint abroad is unmatched in human history. With more than eight hundred military bases in over seventy countries across the globe, the US is in an ideal position to carry out all sorts of imperial adventures, though the emerging multipolarity on the world stage with the rise of Russia and China has thrown several wrenches into many of the regime change orchestrators’ wildest fantasies.

America’s overstretched presence abroad began to receive significant pushback after bungled nation-building experiments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Donald Trump’s election in 2016 initially created fears of a potential US retrenchment in global affairs. Many members of the foreign policy “Blob” genuinely feared large-scale troop withdrawals and disbandment of alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Trump’s previous statements during his presidential run did hint at a desire to significantly scale back the post–World War II liberal internationalist order, which had many in the Blob up at night.

Most of these fears turned out to be exaggerated once Trump left office. Although the regime change fanatics on the Potomac did not get any additional military excursions, they could rest easy knowing the overall foreign policy structure remained intact with regard to large military spending, US participation in NATO, and military bases abroad still running without any issue.

Although none of Trump’s potentially disruptive foreign policy moves came to pass, he was able to float the idea of having countries like South Korea pay more for the US to host troops on their soil. In its previous cost-sharing agreement with the US, South Korea paid $900 million for stationing roughly 28,500 US forces. South Korea has been a US client state since 1948, after the Korean peninsula was divided at the thirty-eighth parallel in the immediate aftermath of World War II. In the ensuing period, the East Asian country has relied on the US for military aid.

One of the least talked-about aspects of South Korea’s military relationship with the US is that Korea had traditionally been barred from acquiring the most up-to-date weapon technology. For their part, South Korean leaders have historically made attempts to build an autonomous defense structure knowing full well that Americans would not have troops in their country forever and that North Korea could still pose a threat to its security.

Starting under the authoritarian rule of President Park Chung Hee, who ruled from 1961 to 1979, South Korea launched a policy to promote security independence by focusing on domestic weapons production. Park’s policy would be known as self-reliant national defense (chaju kukbang). Subsequent presidential administrations, albeit more democratic in nature, have largely continued the course of gradually building South Korea’s domestic security capacity.

Of course, South Korea’s reforms were gradualist in nature given its humble starting point after the Korean War, when it stood among the poorest nations in the world, trailing even a good portion of African nations in the 1950s. South Korea would later regain its footing by embracing market reforms and progressively integrating itself with the rest of the world, unlike its northern neighbor. As it grew prosperous, South Korea gained the ability to use its wealth to begin building a respectable national defense apparatus.

Current president Moon Jae-In has not deviated from the national security policy of self-reliance. According to Korean affairs expert Peter Banseok Kwon, South Korea has been dialing up its defense spending under the leadership of Moon. While South Korea has ostensibly made easing tensions with North Korea a major policy priority. South Korea still plans on spending more than 80 percent of its $91.9 billion defense budget over the next five years on weapons made locally instead of relying on imports.

These new spending increases are very much in line with the self-reliant national defense consensus that has consolidated in South Korea. Trump’s previous comments about tweaking the US’s defense relationship with the East Asian nation have further validated the South Korean government’s pursuit for defense autonomy.

South Korea is no economic slouch, which augurs well for its emergence as a regional power. It’s a highly developed nation, with a per capita GDP approaching $32,000 and a total GDP north of $1.6 trillion, landing it in the top fifteen largest economies in the world. Policymakers would not be wise to view South Korea as a nation in an infantile state. In 2019, it rolled out the world’s first commercial 5G network service, it has established itself as a world leader in the electronics sector, and has entered the mix as a big player in the automotive industry.

Although it’s nowhere near the US’s renowned defense industry, South Korea has gradually come into its own as an arms exporter. According to the Defense Agency for Technology’s Global Defense Market Yearbook, it was ranked tenth among the largest arms-exporting nations in the world from 2015 to 2019, when it accounted for 2.1 percent of the globe’s defense exports.

South Korea’s economic prowess suggests it can use those resources to build a respectable defense infrastructure in a manner many great powers in the West and its Japanese neighbor (pre–World War II) had done so in the past. It stands to reason that with Korea’s multiple decades of robust economic growth it now possesses resources that can be allocated toward building a proper national defense. Said resources constitute what international relations theorist John Mearsheimer describes as “mobilizable wealth,” the resources a state can tap to build and maintain military forces.

Although none of Trump’s potentially disruptive foreign policy moves came to pass, the idea of having South Korea pay more for hosting troops on its soil is now part of the political discourse. The fact that a number of foreign policy wonks were sweating bullets about a possible withdrawal from the Korean Peninsula does indicate that a paradigm shift is brewing. Due to the suffocating dominance of neoconservative and liberal interventionism in foreign policy milieus, most change will have to come about in a gradual process that will perhaps appear messy at first.

Contrary to what the so-called experts would like us to believe, there are no free lunches when it comes to defense. For decades, foreign policy commentators have spouted off vacuous bromides about values, human rights, and friendships, completely ignoring how converging national interests are what bring nations together in international politics. Paraphrasing the British prime minister Lord Palmerston, countries have no permanent allies, only permanent interests. Sacred values hardly figure in these kinds of arrangements.

All told, South Korea is a First World nation with a robust economy. Given South Korea’s rapid ascendance into the First World, it’s not a stretch to suggest that it can start to assume more of its defense functions. With the US currently engulfed in so much social tension while concurrently experiencing the classic imperial overstretch that has repeatedly befallen overzealous empires throughout history, a good way to start scaling back its imperial footprint and focusing more on its domestic affairs is by implementing a gradual withdrawal from regions such as the Korean Peninsula.

Pace the fearmongers, such a withdrawal would not be so chaotic. A number of international relations experts argue that an end to the US–South Korea military alliance would place South Korea under a Sino-centric order in East Asia. Artyom Lukin, an associate professor at the Far Eastern Federal University Department of International Relations, argues that a rising China would become a de facto “protector” of the Korean Peninsula in a post–American occupation scenario. In this new role, China would work tirelessly to prevent North Korea from attacking its southern neighbor as a way of maintaining order in its tianxia, or sphere of influence.

South Korea should be allowed to decide its own political destiny. A country with its kind of wealth is more than capable of getting its defense house in order. Its self-reliant national defense initiatives demonstrate that it’s serious about building an autonomous national security infrastructure without the US constantly holding its hand. From there, the US can initiate a prudent retrenchment in global affairs that is in line with the restrained foreign policy outlook of the founding generation.

All things considered, pulling troops out of South Korea is the best way to change the conversation on American foreign policy, which is completely swamped in platitudes of promoting missionary enterprises abroad and finding new bogeymen to confront. With all this talk about an “America First” realignment taking place within the American right wing, any political leader who can call for a coherent reassessment of American foreign policy priorities can galvanize an interventionism-skeptical electorate and dramatically shake up foreign policy for years to come.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

News Roundup

News Roundup 4/14/21

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Last week, myself and a great group of antiwar veterans, led by BringOurTroopsHome.us testified before a committee of the Texas Senate in favor of new Defend the Guard legislation proposed by Rep. Bryan Slaton. (Admittedly, my statement was not so well received as a...

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Don't Tread on Anyone

What’s the #1 Cause of Homelessness?

https://youtu.be/SSX3jlsertI Whenever a third party coercively intervenes in a voluntary exchange, the voluntary parties are both worse off. "Any statute or administrative regulation necessarily makes actions illegal that are not overt initiations of crimes or torts...

Liberty Weekly Podcast

A Rothbardian Legal Order Ep. 159 ft. Law of Liberty

https://youtu.be/5uKAzDMvefI Dave of the Law of Liberty Podcast and I dissect Rothbard's specific views on fundamental legal concepts. Dave is a graduating law student and alumnus of Mises University. He is one half of the Law of Liberty Podcast with his cohost...

John Odermatt: Freedom Your Way Ep. 156

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYK-2A5Wo14 I had a great chat with John Odermatt about his work in criminal justice reform. We discuss, for the first time on air, how John became interested in criminal justice reform. We also discuss how we balance liberty activism...

Year Zero

Mind Control w/Keith Knight

Keith Knight joined Tommy to discuss his introduction to Anarcho-capitalism, playing Devil's Advocate, media, propaganda, and mind control. Donate Keith on Odyssey https://traffic.libsyn.com/secure/strangerencounterspodcast/keith_knight.mp3  

Libertarianism and Lockdowns w/Spike Cohen

Spike Cohen joined Tommy to discuss his history, the libertarian party, lockdowns, libertarian infighting, and cancel culture. Donate Spike YouTube https://traffic.libsyn.com/secure/strangerencounterspodcast/spike_cohen.mp3

The Border Crisis w/Josh Childress

Josh joins Tommy once again. In this episode they look at the news surrounding the southern border and the facilities children are being kept in. Donate Josh's Twitter https://traffic.libsyn.com/secure/strangerencounterspodcast/josh_final.mp3

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