With Astonishing Suddenness.

            Walter Russell Mead is a political scientist who writes for the Wall Street Journal; not a journalist whose idea of the “long-term” is the next presidential election.  Mead’s chief academic interest lies in international relations and American foreign policy.[1]  Like the historian Paul Kennedy,[2] Mead emphasizes the underlying bases of national power as well as the will and wisdom involved in using that power.  For him, economic dynamism, innovation, world trade in a globalized economy, and strong multi-faceted alliances all form the building blocks of strength. 

For some time, he has been critical of the direction of China’s policies foreign and domestic, and of America’s China policy.  In February 2020, Mead wrote a column very much in this vein for the Wall Street Journal.  An editor titled it “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”  The government of China denounced the title as racist and demanded an apology.  Various American academics attacked the article as insensitive and reinforcing stereotypes.[3]  The Wall Street Journal refused to apologize.[4]  In March 2020, China expelled three WSJ journalists.  Rupert Murdoch, the feisty owner of the Journal (and many other things) has had the paper beating the tar out of the Chinese government ever since. 

            Mead doesn’t respond well to authoritarian-figures.  He penetrates to the heart of China’s current problem.  At least since the beginning of this century, China has used a part of its great economic power to develop great military power.  The instinct of Xi Jinping (and perhaps the whole leadership group) has been to use China’s strength to threaten its neighbors, rather than to use its power to entice.   Having re-taken Hong Kong and stifled freedom there, Xi now is fixed on Taiwan.  China is the largest single market for Taiwan’s exports.[5]  Various impediments to trade now can be expected as China seeks to make the Taiwanese and its allies recognize their dependence.  The naval exercises, air force flights into Taiwanese airspace, and the missiles were hardly necessary as a riposte to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit.  It just shows how Xi instinctively responds to a challenge. 

Mead is equally critical of democratic leaders who fail to sustain the foundations of their own nations.  Thus, he lashes “the strategic passivity and incompetence that blinded a generation of American political leaders to the growing threat of great-power war in the western Pacific.”[6]  In particular, “the U.S. and its allies allowed their overwhelming military superiority in the region to fade slowly away.”  (There’s a little “if they had only listened to me” in this.)    

One pressing question is whether American leaders can focus the American people on the dangers at hand in time.  Our domestic problems and divisions are so dauting.  Or, even more grimly, is there still time, at least before we have to re-run the Cuban Missiles Crisis? 

[1] See: Walter Russell Mead – Wikipedia 

[2] See: Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987) and Preparing for the 21st Century (1993). 

[3] The phrase “Sick Man of…” originated with the Russian tsar Nicholas I in 1852.  He labeled the Ottoman Empire “the sick man of Europe” because it was disintegrating through remarkably bad government and economic stagnation.”  The term came into widespread use.  In 1863 the phrase “sick man of Asia” got applied to the equally rotten Qing dynasty.  The term never had the connotation of deriding the people who lived in these failing states.  Xi Jinping probably knew exactly what Mead meant; his American critics probably didn’t because they were in fields like ethnic studies rather than history. 

[4] “Refused to apologize” as in Barry Lyndon – The Duel – YouTube Start at 1:17 if you want to cut to the chase. 

[5] Some 42 percent of Taiwan’s exports go to the mainland, another 15 percent to the United States. 

[6] Walter Russell Mead, “A Costly Passivity Toward China,” WSJ, 9 August 2022. 

A Time of Change.

            A history of government intervention in the economy might run something like the following.  “Liberal” (small government, free markets, free enterprise, free trade, and devil-take-the-hindmost) economics dominated the world during the 19th Century.  Then, from 1914 to 1945, a series of crises made this system intolerable to most in a democratic age.  All advanced countries witnessed a dramatic expansion of government power and responsibility.  From 1945 to 1980, a new system developed in which government managed the broad performance of the economy and insured against various individual catastrophes, while leaving markets free to do what they do best.  Along the way, however, the state regulated and taxed more and more, while failing to master new problems.  In the 1980s and 1990s, ideas and political interests came together to rebalance the relationship between governments and markets.  Thatcherism, Reaganism, and Monetarism culminated in Britain’s “New Labor” and Bill Clinton’s “the era of big government is over.” 

            That didn’t last long.[1]  It ran counter to popular expectations whenever a crisis hit.  The share of Americans who favored a more active problem-solving state rose from 32 percent in 1995 to 57 percent in 2020.  The government responded to new problems by jettisoning the new conventional wisdom.  On the one hand, the 21st Century began with a series of ever-greater economic crises.  First came the bursting of the “tech bubble” almost the instant Clinton was out of the White House; then the bursting of the “housing bubble” and a huge financial crisis less than a decade later; and then the covid pandemic which derailed much of the world economy a decade after that.  The government repeatedly flooded the economy with money (loans, credits) to stave off recession, bankruptcies, and high unemployment. 

On the other hand, the increasing salience of more fundamental problems of American society and economy also pushed for bigger government.[2]  The Obama administration expanded the role of government by passing the Affordable Care Act in health care and pushing through a rationalization of the automobile industry.  The rise of China as an economic rival led the Trump administration to impose, and the Biden administration to maintain, tariffs.  The Trump administration spent prodigiously to pay for the development of Covid vaccines, while the Biden administration has added $280 billion of funding for the semi-conductor industry.  Climate change has elicited a large government intervention ($234 billion) in the form of tax credits for “green” energy generation and consumption (electric vehicles).[3]  Similarly, the effort to roll-back the regulation-writing state also has gone by the boards.  The annual average of “economically significant new regulations” has risen from 20 under Reagan; to 45 under Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II; to the low 60s under Obama and Trump, to the high 60s under Biden. 

Industrial policy always turns into industrial politics.  Established industries defend themselves against threatening new-comers.  They have the deep pockets to lobby politicians for what they want.  Political intervention can increase inefficiencies.  “We’re going to have bad [economic] growth” warns one critic.  Security and freedom can be antagonists. 

[1] Jon Hilsenrath, “Recent Legislation Expands Role of Government in Private Markets,” WSJ, 13-14 August 2022. 

[2] I’m a fool not to label the financial services industry as a “fundamental problem.” 

[3] The use of tax credits forms part of another longer pattern.  Adjusted for inflation, tax credits have risen from $729 billion in 1996 to $1.4 trillion in 2021. 

The Journal of Trump Studies v 1 #1.

            It’s bad enough that there are Republicans at all.  It’s worse still that—inexplicably except through gerrymandering and voter suppression—they win so many elections.[1]  It’s just beyond belief that Donald Trump could win the White House in 2016 thanks merely to the antiquated Electoral College clause in the Constitution; and that he could survive repeated investigations that some how failed to turn up evidence of wrong-doing by the Wrong-Doer in Chief.[2]  But what really smokes my ham is that the whole Republican elite[3] rallied to the elected President merely because he gave them the means to achieve their long-term goals. 

Some people, scummy Republican word-smiths mostly, would argue that these goals were to put a stop to government by Executive-branch rule-writing, end the making of international commitments by executive agreements that didn’t have to be submitted to the Senate for ratification, and to pack the Federal courts for a generation to come with judges who had been curry-combed by the Federalist Society.  In their analysis, beginning in Summer 2016, mainstream Republicans[4] faced a choice between accepting or rejecting an alliance with the “MAGA true-believers.”  They could have renounced Trump and all his works and his pomps.  They could have urged Republican voters to sit out the election, even if they didn’t vote for the better candidate.[5]  Faced with the daunting challenge of having fielded two losers in races against Barack Obama and now facing the formidable Hilary Clinton, they opted for a “big tent.” 

Then they were “shocked, shocked to discover” that clowns came with the circus.  Rather than recoiling in horror at the “pure and feral rascal,” they decided to try to hem-in Orange Man with adults.  This failed of course.  Any Democrat could have told them that it would.  Once elected, he went on a tear.  The response of the Republican elite?  “It was always rationalization followed by capitulation and then full surrender.”[6]  Meanwhile, they focused on getting their judges and tax cuts

            The truth is, in my opinion,[7] that their long-term goals are to live in Washington, have a nice house, wear excellent suits, and play a lot of golf.  In the words of journalist Mark Leibovich, they are “saps and weaklings” and “careerists who capitulated to Trumpism to preserve their livelihoods.”   

Happily, a few principled Republicans redeemed themselves.[8]  At least until the danger of Trump has disappeared and their basic commitment to Evil can be acknowledged once again. 

[1] Note to self: how do you gerrymander a Senatorial or Presidential election?  Must ask Chuck. 

[2] I tried WOTUS, WdOTUS, and WDOTUS.  Just didn’t seem to work.  Sigh. 

[3] Note to self, “Republican elite” is redundant because only Republicans have an elite.  Democratic “politicians, leaders, fixers and influence-peddlers,” along with community-organizers, activists, and spiritual advisers are all simply “doing the People’s business.”  Further note to self: edit this before posting.  In Mario Puzo, The Godfather, one of Don Corleone’s henchmen reflects that “doing the business” is a metaphor used both for murder and sex. 

[4] “Normies” as the Proud Boys et al called them. 

[5] Like all those Alabama Republicans who sat out the election between Roy Moore and Doug Jones. 

[6] Mark Leibovich, Thank You for Your Servitude: Donald Trump’s Washington and the Price of Submission (2022).  There’s an admiring review by Geoffrey Kabaservice, NYTBR, 7 August 2022.  Coincidentally, Kabaservice wrote Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party (2013). 

[7] “And I am unanimous in this”—Mrs. Slocombe (Molly Sugden) in “Are You Being Served?” many times between 1972 and 1985.    

[8] The Graceful Loser, Liz Vader, and the Maverick. 

The AK-47 of Missiles.

            Before and during the Second World War, Germany made dramatic advances in rocketry and missiles.  At the end of the war, the Americans, British, and Soviets grabbed up as many German scientists, technicians, and samples as they could lay hands upon.  In the competition of the Cold War the military rocket programs of all three advanced by leaps and bounds.  All passed beyond German capabilities by the late 1940s. 

            By 1951, the Soviet Union had developed nuclear weapons.  The strategic question became how to use these weapons in war.  The German V-2 had a flying range of 200 miles.  Soviet missiles based on the V-2 would have to be fired from western East Germany and Czechoslovakia to bring Western Europe under fire.  In fixed firing position, they would be highly vulnerable to air attack; in a Red Army advance, they would need to follow the frontline forward.  Thus, mobile launchers offered the best solution.  The V-2 launchers had been very cumbersome, so something more svelte would be welcomed.[1] 

            In 1951, the Soviet high command issued a requirement for a V-2, but half as big.  By mid-1955, the new missiles were starting to become available.  Western intelligence agencies that figured out that the missiles were manufactured at the SKB-385 factory in Chelyabinsk oblast designated the new weapon as the SS-1B, and—I’m guessing–called it the Scud A.  In any event, it could carry a nuclear warhead, but not very far: maximum range was 100 miles. 

            With this weapon in hand, the Soviets then got to work on a more robust successor.  By 1964, the SS-1C Scud B had begun to enter service.  It had double the range (c. 180 miles), much greater accuracy, and could be armed with a wide range of warheads for varied purposes.  Over the years, the Soviets manufactured 7,000 Scud-Bs. 

            The Soviets transferred Scuds to clients.  As part of their build-up of Egyptian forces in the early 1970s, the Soviets transferred some Scud-Bs for use against Israeli forces.  Beginning in 1974 and continuing to 1988, the Soviet Union transferred over 800 Scud-Bs to Iraq. 

            Recipient countries then transferred them elsewhere.  In 1979 or 1980, the Egyptians transferred a Scud-B to North Korea.  The North Koreans then figured out how to make them for themselves.  They tweaked the original design to improvement it, then called their missile the Hwasong-5. 

            In 1985, North Korea transferred to Iran perhaps 100 Hwasong-5s.  The Iranians then did the same reverse-engineering as had done the North Koreans.  They called their missile the Shahab-1. 

            In 1989, the Soviets transferred a large number of Scud-Bs to their client-state in Afghanistan. 

            Reverse-engineering is an education in itself.  It enhances the technical capabilities of the people doing the work.  If you put smart people to work, they start having ideas of their own.  As a result, both North Korea and Iran have developed more highly capable successor generations of the original Scud-B.  These, too, have been transferred. 

            So far, the AK 47 has killed more people in Third World Wars than has the Scud.  So far. 

[1] Kyle Mizokami, “How Soviet SCUD Missile Launchers Took the World By Storm,” The National Interest, 21 December 2021 How Soviet SCUD Missile Launchers Took the World By Storm | The National Interest; Sergio Pecanha, “Concerned About North Korea?  The List of Missile Powers Keeps Growing,” NYT,11 February 2018. 

The Gaza Fighting.

            In 1979, Egyptian Islamists formed the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ).  The EIJ wanted to overthrow the Egyptian dictatorship and set up an Islamist regime.  The EIJ included a faction of Palestinians living in exile.  In 1981 the EIJ participated in the assassination of Egyptian dictator Anwar Sadat.  Many EIJ members fled the subsequent repression, while the Palestinians were expelled to Gaza.  They re-branded themselves as Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).  PIJ aims at the destruction of the state of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state encompassing all of pre-partition Palestine.   

            By the late 1980s, PIJ had moved into the orbit of Iran through its client in Lebanon, Hezbollah.  Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have opposed PIJ.  Between 1987 and 2002, PIJ claimed 17 attacks (mostly bombings and ambushes of public transport buses); from 2002 and 2014, PIJ claimed 14 attacks (mostly bombings of public places). 

Mid-stream in the second period of PIJ attacks, another, larger Islamist movement, Hamas, won the Palestinian elections.  Hamas evicted the defeated Fatah-led faction from Gaza.  Fatah then evicted Hamas from government positions in the West Bank.  Since then, Hamas and PIJ have maintained an uneasy relationship, competing for advantage within Gaza while co-operating against Israel. 

The co-operative stance of the two parties may be eroding.[1]  On the one hand, the on-going Muslim civil war between Shi’ite and Sunni forces people to take sides.  Hamas is a Sunni Islamist movement.  Iran and Hezbollah are Shi’ite.  Since 2014, Iran has greatly increased its financial and arms support to PIJ, leading to a growing role for PIJ in Gaza and the West Bank. 

On the other hand, the responsibilities of governing Gaza may be sapping the intransigence of Hamas.  The government led until recently by Benjamin Netanyahu slammed tight economic constraints on Gaza in response to Hamas attacks.  It repeatedly pounded the living daylights out of Gaza in retaliation for rocket attacks.  Those restrictions–generally supported by Egypt, so no one is coming to help the Gazans–have made life in Gaza miserable for the two million people trapped there.  Since the fall of Netanyahu, Israel has modified its policy.  It has eased restrictions on imports and exports.[2]  It has also offered work-permits for 14,000 people.  It has dangled the possibility of raising the number of permits to 20,000 under the right security conditions.[3]  With a 50 percent unemployment rate in Gaza, Hamas may see some benefit in greater co-operation.  As more and more Sunni Arab states normalize relations with Israel, it must be occurring to many Islamists that the “Jewish entity” isn’t going anywhere. 

That is one way of understanding the recent outbreak of fighting in Gaza.  In April and May 2022, PIJ launched a new round of attacks inside Israel.  Israel responded with arrests of PIJ leaders on the West Bank.  PIJ countered with rocket attacks directed at Israel.  Israel countered with attacks on PIJ members in Gaza.  In all this, Hamas did not involve itself in the fighting and Israel did not target any Hamas sites.  The West Bank government did not interfere with arrests. 

Slowly, radicals may be getting shoved to the margins.  Or perhaps not. 

[1] See: Isabel Kershner, “After Three-Day Conflict In Gaza, Cease-Fire Holds,” NYT, 9 August 2022. 

[2] Not necessarily by a lot.  The recent fighting led to a cut-off of imports for a week.  By the end of that time, Gaza was almost out of fuel for its electric generators. 

[3] The limits on Arab workers in Israel sprang from the Arab terrorism, especially suicide bombings, of past times. 

The Taiwan Clock.

            For much of the Thirties, some foreign observers of Germany posited that “Nazis” could be best understood as an umbrella term under which gathered “radicals” and “moderates.” Adolf Hitler arbitrated their differences while keeping a wary eye on what traditional elites would tolerate.  Eventually, it became apparent that Hitler utterly dominated German policy.[1]  It seems apparent that Xi Jinping utterly dominates Chinese policy.  Moreover, he intends to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. 

            Taiwan now garners close attention.  The island had long been a province of historical China.  In 1895, a Westernizing Japan had seized the island as a prize of war with the decaying Qing dynasty.  Japan held Taiwan until its own defeat in 1945.  Then China, in the form of the Kuomintang (KMT) government of the Republic of China, regained possession.  Having regained the island province, the KMT then lost the mainland to the Communists by 1949.  Taiwan became the “last ditch” of the KMT.  The Korean War (1950-1953) brought the United States squarely in opposition to the Communist Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) and in support of the defeated KMT.  The Americans built a chain of strong societies around their chief Asian enemy.  Over time, these American allies became prosperous and democratized their governments.  Then, the Nixon Administration’s opening to China compelled all parties to live with a situation of “strategic ambiguity.”  China maintained its claim to Taiwan, but did nothing to make good on it.  The United States acknowledged China’s claim on Taiwan, so long as Beijing did nothing to make good on it.  Taiwan asserted its independence while trying hard not to provoke China.  In short, all agreed to kick the can down the road.[2] 

            The PRC has never–formally or informally–accepted the weakening of central authority over peripheral areas or the loss of traditional Chinese territory to foreign imperialists.  Hence, both Tibet and Xinjiang have been heavily repressed.  Hence, China has been determined to recover Hong Kong and Macao.  Taiwan hits both those buttons. 

            These efforts have greatly intensified under Xi Jinping.[3]  Under his direction, China asserted its claims over the seaways and airways of the South and East China Seas.  Under his direction, China ruptured its agreement with Britain on the special status of Hong Kong. 

China’s support for Russia during its attack on the once-Russian Ukraine shows where Xi’s intentions lie.  The Russo-Ukraine War may have created an opportunity to speed up the pace of recovering Taiwan for China.  In June 2022, Xi denounced the very idea of the Taiwan Strait as an international waterway.  China’s harassing air and naval operations led President Joe Biden to state that the United States will defend Taiwan if it is attacked. 

Nothing daunted, Xi seized upon the visit to Taiwan by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to order military operations around Taiwan.  These operations threaten not only Taiwan, but also the United States and its other Asian allies.  Is the clock ticking down? 

[1] The tedious historical novel by Robert Harris, Munich (2017) nevertheless asks the fascinating question “What would Western leaders have done at Munich in 1938 if they had known about the Hossbach Memorandum of 1937?”  That record of a conference of Nazi leaders made it clear first, that Hitler had a profound grasp of European politics and, second, that he was bent on war in the near future, if not immediately. 

[2] Mostly.  In the mid-1990s, President Bill Clinton ordered a show of naval force to cool Chinese assertiveness. 

[3] Tiffany May and Mike Ivey, “A Drumbeat of Pressure on Taiwan, Explained,” NYT, 9 August 2022. 

Biden on a Roll, with Mayo.

            The New York Times crows that “Now Biden Is on a Roll…. Policy Paralysis Ends With Midterms Near.”[1]  Deeper in the paper, cooler heads offer a more serious appraisal.[2] 

            President Joe Biden’s original tax plan called for undoing the tax cuts passed in 2017 during the administration of President Donald Trump.  Corporations and high-income earners would bear the brunt of plans to reap an additional $1.5 trillion in revenue.  Most of this fell by the wayside.  The final bill set a minimum 15 percent tax on corporations and a just-for-show 1 percent tax on stock buy-backs by companies. 

President Biden’s original social policy program sought to greatly expand federal spending to support families at either end of the life spectrum.  It proposed federal paid family and medical leave, expanded child-care, and home care (for aging adults).  It also hoped to spend a lot on financial aid for college students.   The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives added money to extend the payments to families with children which had been introduced during the Covid emergency.  The total cost of these programs was designed to meet the demands of “reconciliation” legislation.  It came in at $2.2 trillion.  “Need” would not factor in eligibility for most of these programs.  The entire package had to be scrapped. 

            President Biden’s original climate proposals were intended to reduce emissions of green-house gases by 50 percent below the 2005 levels by 2030.  Administration plans included limits on off-shore drilling for oil and gas in order to limit the availability[3] of carbon-based fuels; plans to close coal and gas-fueled power generation plants; and plans to encourage individual and corporate consumers to shift toward “renewable” energy sources (solar, wind).  In November 2021, the House of Representatives passed a bill allocating $555 billion to support these proposals.  The law allocates less than $400 billion. 

            President Biden’s original medical proposal sought to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing care.  It also sought to beef-up the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed during the administration of President Barack Obama.  In particular, it planned to expand subsidies for insurance premiums under the ACA and to enroll an additional four million people in Medicaid.[4]  In the end, the program will extend the current subsidies for the ACA premiums for three years (2023-2025).  In addition, Medicare has been granted a limited right to negotiate on drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.  The expansion of Medicare has been dropped. 

            What went wrong?  The Constitution, that’s what.  Laws must pass both houses of Congress, then be signed by the President.  The Democrats have a small, but real, majority in the House of Representatives.  The Senate is divided 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting a deciding vote.  Senate rules allow this sort of majority to operate only on “reconciliation” votes.  Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema gave Republicans the majority in the Senate until they got the changes they wanted.  See: sausage-making. 

[1] Peter Baker, NYT, 9 August 2022, page 1, above the fold.  The story is labeled “News Analysis,” but it more hopeful speculation.  Not to be mean, but perhaps they might call the paper the “New Yorkie Times”?  See: Yorkshire Terrier – Wikipedia 

[2] Emily Cochrane, “Path of a Shrunken Bill: From Grand Ideals to Compromise,” NYT, 9 August 2022. 

[3] Thus artificially raising the price.  We could just tax carbon, but Americans love their cars and air conditioning. 

[4] The ACA had tried to coerce states into expanding Medicaid to provide coverage for poor people.  The Supreme Court had clapped a stopper on this, so a bunch of Republican states had refused to expand Medicaid. 

National Security and the Economy.

            Seen in historical perspective, different concepts of international trade and economic prosperity have served as organizing principles of national policy.  In the Early Modern Period (c. 1450-1750), Western governments pursued “mercantilism.”  They sought to enhance national prosperity through self-reliance.  During the Modern Period (c. 1750-2020), Western governments reversed course to pursue an open world economy based on comparative advantage and the exchange of goods and services.  Now, the Trump Era seems to have ushered in a movement toward semi-mercantilism. 

Are the tariffs slammed on China by the Trump administration, and maintained by the Biden administration, and the subsidies for American-made semi-conductors promised in the recent bipartisan bill a bad idea?  The answer to those questions depends upon context.[1] 

On the one hand, the Covid pandemic sent shock waves through the world economy.  Economic fluctuations disrupted global supply chains.  Some, perhaps much, of what we are seeing is transient and the product of accident, rather than long-term and of enemy action. 

On the other hand, to batter its enemies of the moment, Russia and Iran, the United States has resorted to its favorite moral equivalent of war, economic sanctions.  States like Russia and China have responded in kind by exploiting their own economic advantages for political ends. 

Semi-conductors, the key component of so many modern products, have become a center of attention.  Most countries that produce them—or want to produce them—have long been subsidizing the producers.[2]  The European Union is headed down this path as well.  To ignore reality in favor of ideological purity seems a fool’s game.  One purpose of the China tariffs imposed by the Trump administration,[3] was to force American companies away from Chinese suppliers and toward other sources.[4] 

The path is not without real dangers.  First, there is the danger that every other industry is going to show up in Washington to argue that it, too, is an “essential” industry.  “If we’re going to protect micro-chips, then why not potato chips as well?”  Second, and much more seriously, there is the danger that many countries will sponsor national chip industries, leading to a huge glut of chips, sooner rather than later.  This prospect leads observers to foresee some kind of international cartel involving the United States, the EU, and other willing participants.[5]  Third, the recent bill on micro-chips deals with one essential component of a larger and highly-complex set of industrial products.  American discussion and financial support have focused on high-end products like artificial intelligence and robotics.  There is a much larger low-end range of products touching things like magnetic resonance imaging and automobiles.  The recent bill does nothing about Chinese dominance in these areas. 

            So, are we at a tipping point? 

[1] Greg Ip, “China Changes the Calculus on Free Trade,” WSJ, 28 July 2022. 

[2] Regardless of the substantial profits earned by such producers.  It’s like subsidizing steel-makers during the era of the World Wars.  If you didn’t want to end up having to learn German, then…  You can’t help thinking that Bernie Sanders objects to corporate subsidies because he objects to corporations.   

[3] Whether President Trump himself understood this is still an open question. 

[4] As a result, since 2017, US imports from Mexico have risen 52 percent, imports from South Korea have risen 67 percent, imports from Taiwan have risen 124 percent, and imports from Vietnam have risen 195 percent. 

[5] With Taiwan joining from considerations of military security more than economic interest. 

Drive By 7 August 2022.

See the source image

Bulletproofing kit for cars woos middle class in Brazil – BBC News 

Guy Trebay had a story in the NYT on 4 August 2022.  “Seeking Flair At the Gate: A touch of fashion stands out inside airports, where dressing down is so rampant.  Some miss travel’s luster before the onslaught of athleisure.”  How about before the onslaught of flight cancellations, shoving in more rows of seats per plane, endless security lines, and baggage fees?  Thing is, aspiring passengers need to start treating air travel like what it has become.  Think about the news-value of lines of thousands of people all dressed this way.   


Trump Was Right 1.

            “[I]n critical areas, the Biden administration has not made big breaks [from the Trump administration], showing how difficult it is in Washington to chart new courses on foreign policy.”[1]  Nonsense.  It isn’t hard to change course.  Trump broke with the long-established policies without breaking an orange-tinged sweat.  It enraged many people, but their opposition didn’t matter to the president or the people in put in charge of things.  So, if President Biden is following many of President Trump’s policies abroad, it is because people have come to see that Trump was right about many things.  It is hard for most people to come right out and say. 

            Take Europe.  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) had grown up in the aftermath of the Second World War and in the specific context of the European front of the Cold War.  NATO had been created to “Keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down.”  Twenty years after Western victory in the Cold War, none of these elements appeared to make much sense.  Germany had become the dominant economic power in the EU, but it was deeply committed to de-militarization.  Russia seemed to have become little more than a major petro-state.  The Americans had “interests” all over the world, but their chief interest seemed to be in Asia.  NATO no longer served a purpose. 

As for the EU, it had become the very model of the modern administrative state (of Republican nightmares).  Unable to compete on cutting-edge technologies, the EU has taken to trying to regulate big American tech companies.  If Russia is a petro-state, it is Germany’s petro-state.  All the pipelines from Russia, but especially the most recent one, have been built in defiance of American recommendations.  The shift of power away from elected national governments toward a (German-dominated) bureaucracy has given pause to many newer member states.  The British have already bolted, and the migrant crisis of several years ago has put Poland and Hungary on a collision course with the EU.  Neither France nor Germany wanted Ukraine admitted to either the EU or NATO.  It would anger Russia while increasing the “Eastern” orientation of the EU.[2] 

            There is a difference between allies and free-riders.  Most of NATO, but especially Germany, had become free-riders.  All of this is to say that Trump wasn’t off target in giving Angela Merkel the cold shoulder.  Biden would likely be doing the same if Russia had not invaded Ukraine.[3]  That got the attention of the NATO members, even of Germany.  No free riders in this situation.  However, it appears that it is the EU dissidents Britain and Poland who are making most of the European effort.  France and Germany, not as much as you might have expected.  Will NATO stay revived—and worth an American commitment—after the war ends?    

[1] Edward Wong, “Biden Is Charting a Similar Course to Trump on U.S. Foreign Policy,” NYT, 25 July 2022.  Both the Biden administration and the New York Times are embarrassed by the similarities.  One can read Wong’s article as part of a campaign to rationalize the liberal collapse before Reality. 

[2] This is reminiscent of Bismarck not wanting the German-speakers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire included in a united Germany in 1866-1871.  It would create a rival, Habsburg pole of loyalty when Bismarck wanted the Prussian Hohenzollerns to rule the Empire.  It would greatly increase the number of Catholics inside Germany, when Prussia was overwhelmingly Protestant.  Or See William Walkers hopes of bringing Central American and Caribbean territories into the American union to offset the industrial, abolitionist North. 

[3] Whether Trump would now be doing what Biden is doing in support of Ukraine/opposition to Russia is an open question.