Archive for October, 2018


October 31, 2018

Since 2003 to 2014 Brazil was in the hands of the Worker’s Party, a social democrat party of the left. The result has been chaos and decline in this the largest South American country.

Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, like the party itself, has become the face of all that has gone wrong in Brazil. The Petrobras Car Wash scandal happened on their watch. The economy is bad. Unemployment is rampant. Violent crime is through the roof. No wonder most Brazilians blame this mainly on the Worker’s Party because leftist parties have been in charge until 2014.

The worst year was 2014, as Dilma Rousseff of the Worker’s Party, was re-elected president after taking over from Lula. He had been accused of corruption. One year later Rousseff herself faced charges of her own of corruption. She was first suspended in 2016 until the Senate voted 61-20 in favor of her impeachment. She had been breaking budgetary laws.

Then vice president of the leftist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, Michel Temer, took over. Although somewhat more pragmatic Temer was charged with racketeering and obstruction of justice.

More than 200 Brazilian politicians and others, including Lula, have been convicted in a corruption investigation known as Operation Car Wash. The result has been that opinion polls show that only 17 percent of Brazilians had confindence in the national government. It was a decline from 51 percent around ten years earlier. It was not only a question of resulting economic decline. Public security failed in 2017 when there was a record of 63,880 homicides.

Brazil had become a synonym for chaos and leniency with criminals.

Lula ruled from 2003 to 2010. During that period he, his party and Metal Worker’s Union had close contacts with Sweden. Two of Lula’s main partners in Sweden were Stefan Loefven and Mona Sahlin. The former trade union leader Loefven was Swedish prime minister from 2014 to 2018. Mona Sahlin is a disgraced former leader of the Swedish Social Democrat Party.

The post-Lula period saw prosecutors open Operation Car Wash that revealed systemic embezzlement and bribery among scores of individual politicians. The prosecutors soon homed in on Lula too and he was convicted

When the future disgraced president was seven, his family emigrated to the industrial heartland of Sao Paulo state, where Lula worked for a Swedish owned company.

Lula became president of his trade union and a leftist politician. In 1980, he co-founded the Workers’ Party, and became a candidate for presidency of that party.

After taking power he had the good fortune to rule during the golden decade for Latin America, when China’s demand for raw materials resulted in an impressive growth of Latin American economy.

Already in the first term as president there were a series of scandals most notably a congressional vote-buying case. Still Barack Obama referred to Lula as “the man.”

In the summer of 2017 Lula was sentenced to 9.5 years in prison for accepting a luxury apartment from a construction firm in return for political favors.

After the 2018 election it remains to be seen if Brazil can recover from years of leftist corruption and mismanagement. One solution for Brazil could be privatization. This would include Banco do Brazil and the large oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA. Asset sales could help the federal administration to cut debt. Such sales could also be of great importance for local governments.


October 29, 2018

The New York Journal of Books has published a review by American geopolitician Francis P. Sempa of Robert D. Kaplan’s 2018 book ”The Return of Marco Polo’s World: War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-first Century”. Excerpts below:

Modern classical geopolitical thought dates from the late 19th century when the world, in the words of British geographer Halford Mackinder, became a “closed political system.” The territorial discoveries of the “Columbian epoch,” he noted, were complete.

Classical geopolitics includes the works of Mackinder, the American naval strategist and historian Alfred Thayer Mahan, the Swedish political scientist Rudolf Kjellen, the British scholar James Fairgrieve…and the Dutch-American international relations scholar Nicholas Spykman.

Robert D. Kaplan, in a series of books and articles—most notably, ”Monsoon”, ”Asia’s Cauldron”, and ”The Revenge of Geography”—has compellingly applied and updated classical geopolitics to current international relations. His latest book, ”The Return of Marco Polo’s World”, is a collection of articles written between 2001 and the present that combines elegant writing with a masterful grasp of global geopolitical realities.

What Kaplan calls the end of the “Long European War of 1914–1989” resulted in the dissolution of Europe as a geopolitical region and its unification with the “supercontinent” of Eurasia. Moreover, the interaction of technology, geopolitics, and globalization has brought to fruition Mackinder’s concept of the “World-Island”—the combined Eurasian-African landmass. “Who controls the World-Island,” Mackinder warned, “commands the world.”

Kaplan views China’s Silk Road policy toward Central Asia and Europe, and its development of a maritime network involving the Pacific Rim, the Indian Ocean, and the Middle East (the land and maritime routes that Marco Polo traveled in the 13th century) as an effort to attain political primacy on the World-Island. Twenty-first century geopolitics will be defined by how other Eurasian powers and the United States respond to China’s moves.

During the “Long European War,” U.S. national security policy sought to prevent the political consolidation of the key power centers of Eurasia by a hostile power or coalition of powers. This in essence was the geopolitics underlying the First World War, Second World War, and the Cold War.

That same U.S. geopolitical imperative applies to the 21st century. China potentially replaces Imperial and Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Her pressure on Central Asia and the spread of her maritime influence in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean threatens to diminish U.S. predominance in the coastal regions of Eurasia—what Spykman called the Eurasian Rimland.

Kaplan believes that American security can be maintained by investing in sea and air power to ensure U.S. command of the sea in the Eastern Hemisphere. “Here,” Kaplan writes, “is where the ideas of Alfred Thayer Mahan meet those of Halford Mackinder.”

He praises the foreign policy realism of Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, and the scholarly realism of Hans Morgenthau, Henry Kissinger, Samuel Huntington, and John Mearsheimer.

Realists understand, notes Kaplan, that in an anarchic world of states order precedes freedom and interests trump values. Utopianism can be dangerous and costly. History is not linear. Progress is not inevitable. Nations, as Thucydides noted long ago, still act based on fear, honor, and interests.

Comment: To understand the basics of classical geopolitcs a politician just has to look at a world map and the central mega-continent on that map (from the Channel in the West to the Pacific Ocean in the East, from the Arctic in the north to the southern tip of India in the south). It is one land surrounded by one Great Ocean. Outside this World Island of Halford Mackinder are the islands of Great Britain, Japan and three island continents: North America, South America and Australia.

As in the period of circa 1890 to 1989 focus must again be on the great mega-continent after a unipolar moment when the United States was the sole superpower. Great power conflict is once more back on the agenda. Among the present challenges of the West is the possibility of a Russian-Chinese condominium that must be prevented. One of the main strategies of the West must thus be to reach out to the smaller states in Central Asia. Russia must not be allowed to keep that part of the World Island as a ”sphere of influence”. Even if Russia presently most likely is in a continuing decline it is still one of the world’s largest nuclear powers on par with the United States. There are signs that also the West is in decline. A forward strategy to prevent the further rise of the three empires of China, Russia, and Iran is thus necessary. The possibility that the global North is in decline makes it necessary to include this matter in grand strategy planning in the West.

One or more powers must not control the World Island. This dictum of Mackinder in 1904 stands as a continuing, lasting warning for the West.


October 25, 2018

Washington Times on October 10, 2018 reported on China plans to use artificial intelligence warfare. Excerpts below:

Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley warned recently that China is rapidly developing artificial intelligence (AI) for use in warfighting capabilities.

“China is aggressively pursuing a 2025 strategy where they want to be the main driver of AI, not only for their economic but for their industrial transformation,” Gen. Ashley told a conference on Oct. 8.

“The character of war is constantly changing, and we see AI as we see some of these disruptive technologies that continue to change the character of war — the complexity and the speed of human interaction.

China also is using AI in a three-phase project of “human performance enhancement,” he said.

[There is] a move into artificial intelligence with neural networks, and then the next step — the integration of human and machines,” Gen. Ashley said.

China is working to integrate AI into its next-generation jet fighter with the aim of achieving air superiority. Other AI-powered weapons will include large formations of unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles, space combat systems and armored vehicles.

China also is developing AI-backed information warfare capabilities that combine influence operations with cyberattacks for use in future conflicts.

Comment: Since 1998 the West is well aware of how China plans to act in case of a conflict. It would according to the authors of a book on the subject by, two Chinese colonels be impossible to win against the United States with conventional warfare. Instead China would use financial warfare, drug warfare, psyvhological and media warfare, resource warfare and ecological warfare, which are some of unconventional methods suggested in the book.

China now, says Lt. General Ashley, is moving into the field of artificial intelligence for its information warfare capabilities. In Sun Tzu’s ”The Art of War” deception is the most frequently discussed theme. China seems prepared to use artificial intelligence in the field of deception.


October 23, 2018

Journal ”American Conservative” recently reviewed the 2018 book by prominent realist, Professor John J. Mearsheimer, ”The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities”, Yale University Press, 328 pages. Excerpts below:

…Mearsheimer does indeed revel in the uproars he causes (and he certainly appears to), he’s about to get a lot of enjoyment. His latest book, The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities, is a dagger pointed at the heart of America’s governing philosophy, progressive liberalism. His central thesis is that this philosophy has distorted U.S. foreign policy since America’s post-Cold War emergence as the world’s only superpower. The core of the problem, writes Mearsheimer, was America’s post-Cold War resolve to remake the world in its own image. The predictable result has been chaos, bloodshed, an intractable refugee crisis besetting the Middle East and Europe, increased tensions among major powers, curtailment of civil liberties at home, and generally an “abysmal record of failure.”

[There has been] a rare historical development—the emergence of America as a unipolar power. The country today enjoys the luxury of not having a single adversary capable of challenging its existence or global standing. Thus it can afford to indulge its relentless impulse to spread its own governing philosophy throughout the globe. But in the more normal circumstances of a multipolar world or particularly in a bipolar world, there would be no such luxury.

What’s new in The Great Delusion is Mearsheimer’s focus on nationalism and liberalism, as well as their relationship with realism. Exploring the three “isms” in tandem, he writes, led him to conclude that “this trichotomy provided an ideal template for explaining the failure of U.S. foreign policy since 1989.” Mearsheimer is known for his spare, muscular, unemotional prose, as well as his ability to marshal sturdy arguments that are intricately intertwined. In this book, true to form, he constructs a fortress of syllogistic argumentation.

There’s a paradox in his trichotomy: while progressive liberalism dominates American politics, including the country’s foreign policy, realism and nationalism ultimately are more powerful ideas. Mearsheimer notes, for example, that while liberalism and nationalism can coexist in any polity, “when they clash, nationalism almost always wins.” He adds that “liberalism is also no match for realism.”

Mearsheimer posits what he calls “two simple assumptions” about human nature. The first is that man’s ability to reason is limited, particularly when it comes to mastering the fundamental questions of existence. Enlightenment thinkers heralded man’s ability to reason to ultimate answers as humans worked their way toward their own perfectibility. This is the so-called Idea of Progress, so powerful in Western thought following the 18th century era of the French philosophes. Mearsheimer rejects it. “Reason does not rule the world,” he writes, adding that “people who believe their critical faculties can help them find moral truth are deluding themselves.”

The second assumption, related to the first, is that “we are social animals at our core.” Given that there can be no reasoning to core principles, there will always be disagreements on these fundamental and often emotional matters. That inevitably raises prospects for violence. For protection, mankind must divide itself into a great number of social groups, and the most fundamental of all human groups is the nation. “With the possible exception of the family,” writes Mearsheimer, “allegiance to the nation usually overrides all other forms of an individual’s identity.”

And this leads to Mearsheimer’s view of the essence of social groups—and, most particularly, of nations. He identifies six fundamental features of nationhood:

1) a powerful sense of oneness and solidarity
2) a distinct culture, including such things as language, rituals, codes, music, as well as religion, basic political and social values, and a distinct understanding of history
3) a sense of superiority leading to national pride
4) a deep sense of its own history, which often leads to myths that supersede historical fact
5) sacred territory and a perceived imperative to protect lands believed to be a hallowed homeland
6) and a deep sense of sovereignty and a resolve to protect national decision-making from outside forces

These features are found in all nation-states, and nation-states are where nearly all peoples of the world live. Hence these human impulses cannot be ignored or circumvented. And yet liberalism (here and hereafter, in using the term we’re talking about the country’s prevailing progressive liberalism) has declared war on many of these fundamental features of nationalism, emanating in large measure from human nature.

This universalist ideology has always been there, lurking in the liberal consciousness. Until recently it was seen most starkly in the humanitarian interventionism of Woodrow Wilson—hence the universally understood term “Wilsonism.” One of his biographers, August Heckscher, notes that he harbored a deep sense of national “honor” that he equated with America’s commitment to the rights of all peoples everywhere. Heckscher writes that “it was a vague concept…not necessarily identified with the basic interest of the [American] people.” Indeed, while Wilson took delight in the idea of deploying American power in behalf of humanity, the idea of using it in behalf of U.S. interests left him cold.

The universalist ideology presents a powerful allure, often leading to feelings among foreign policy liberals, per Wilson, that they are engaging in a monumental struggle of good and evil.

The result is that America has waged seven wars since the Cold War ended and has been at war continuously since the month after 9/11.

Can America pull its foreign policy away from liberalism and reclaim a realism-based approach? An end to today’s unipolar world would quickly upend liberal hegemony. But the only likely prospect for that would be the threat of a rising China, which of course would have the downside of necessitating a dangerous confrontation with that country. If China were to falter economically and thus be forced to abandon its pursuit of Asian hegemony, argues Mearsheimer, there would be little prospect that America would embrace realism. The foreign policy establishment is too wedded to hegemony and too entrenched at the pinnacle of foreign policymaking.

Mearsheimer does believe Donald Trump’s 2016 election demonstrated that liberal hegemony is “vulnerable.”

Although Mearsheimer doesn’t discuss the American elites in detail, he sprinkles into his argument several references to elite and establishment thinking as often being distinct from broader public impulses and sensibilities. “[I]t is important to note,” he writes, “that liberal hegemony is largely an elite-driven policy.” In another passage he notes that America’s foreign policy elites tend to be “cosmopolitan,” which isn’t to say, he adds, that most of them are like Samuel Huntington’s caricature of those Davos people “who have little need for national loyalty” and see “national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing.” But, adds Mearsheimer, “some are not far off.”

The reviewer is Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington, D.C. journalist and publishing executive, and a writer-at-large for The American Conservative.

Comment: Mearsheimer believes there is good reason to think that with the rise of China and the res¬urrection of Russian power great power politics will be back on the table. This will force the United States to concentrate foreign policy on the two great power challengers: China and Russia.

In classical geopolitics it means that the United States would have to go back to what has been it’s foreign policy since the 1890s. Halford Mackinder’s heartland and Nicholas Spykman’s rimland are both based on the ”world island”, that is Eurasia. The basis of the heartland-rimland theories is that world domination would reward the possessor of these areas. While the main challenger, China, is based in the rimland Russia controls the heartland.

Another challenger in the rimland is Iran, an old foe of the West. The present Iranian regime seeks domination of the Middle East. In reality the United States and all of the West are facing the challenge of three Eurasia-based empires: China, Russia, and Iran. There is good reason for the rest of the West (Canada, the European Union and Australia) to join the United States in meeting the present challenges in Eurasia.

Mearsheimer has earlier expressed the view that containment is the United States’ only way to prevent China from achieving regional hegemony. This means that there needs to be “a balancing coalition” with China’s neighbors, which would require the United States’ active coordination and military backing.

Containment in the view of Mearsheimer will howevere not prevent current tensions between the United States and China from escalating into a direct conflict.


October 22, 2018

Washington Times on October 17, 2018, reported on the new US Army manual on information operations. Excerpts below:

According a new manual, information operations are defined as the use during military operations of “information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.”

Weapons include military information support and deception activities, public affairs work, electronic warfare and cyberoperations.

Unlike Russian and Chinese information warfare, the Army manual indicates that U.S. information operations will be carried out under professional military rules and legal constraints and will be conducted “ethically.”

U.S. military information operations have been hamstrung by legal restrictions, according to military officials at the Central Command.

The Army plans to use military deception — what it calls “MILDEC” — to deliberately mislead enemy decision-makers, whether military, paramilitary or terrorist leaders.

“The intent of MILDEC is to feed information that deliberately misleads the enemy decision-makers as to friendly military capabilities, intentions and operations and lead the enemy to take actions (or inactions) that contribute to accomplishment of the friendly mission,” the manual says.

Deception can be a decisive tool in altering enemy actions in response to U.S. military operations, the manual says.

Tactical deception is used by commanders in planning operations that will cause enemies to act or react in desired ways by masking U.S. vulnerabilities or enhancing U.S. defenses.

Counterdeception is used to prevent human and automated decision-makers from being affected by enemy deception.

The Army manual identifies two secret types of information operations. The first is called “integrated joint special technical operations” — IJSTO — that use special technical capabilities to “gain a decisive advantage over an enemy or adversary.”

A second secret category is special access programs, or SAPs, that include sensitive acquisition, intelligence or operations that can be used in information warfare operations.

Chinese use of information warfare was outlined in a military publication titled “Unrestricted Warfare” that called for using all means necessary for winning.

Russian information warfare was outlined by Russian Chief of General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov in his 2013 book, “The Value of Science Is in Foresight.” The doctrine calls for extending traditional warfare to peacetime information warfare operations such as the campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Comment: The new US Army manual for information warfare is important. Modern warfare to a growing extent depends heavily on deception, public affairs work, electronic warfare and cyberoperations. These aspects have during the latest two decades not been given the attention needed in the United States.

The science of information warfare has in contrast been widely recognized in China and Russia. In ”The Art of Warfare” Sun Tzu stated that all warfare is deception. In a lengthy article (”Policy Review”, Hoover Institution) already in 2003 Tony Corn (”Clausewitz in Wonderland”) suggested that Carl von Clausewitz was outdated. He argued that as early as 1999 Clausewitzians should have understood that the military revolution of today is in irregular warfare and not in conventional warfare. One form of irregular warfare today is in what could be termed netwar or cyberwar. Clausewitz regarded irregular warfare as a mere ”support activity” of conventional warfare. It was Corn’s opinion that today Sun Tzu has much more to say on strategy than the 19th century Prussian general.

Sun Tzu emphasizes that mastering strategic warfare is a matter of survival for states. This view was shaped by the constant warfare during the Spring and Autumn period in China. Sun Tzu’s classical work is mainly about how to win decisive victories over enemies with deception, secret agents, and well-timed uses of overwhelming force. He advocates using force sparingly.

Sun Tzu’s aphorisms are highly applicable to the modern world. Former US Naval War College Professor Michael Handel has noted that the grand strategy approach of the Chinese general to warfare is more relevant today then Clausewitz’s tactical approach to warfare. Considering the costs of modern protracted wars undertaken with poor or incomplete intelligence, Sun Tzu’s emphasis on knowledge, caution, diplomacy, and strategic patience and efficacy in the use of force are still highly relevant.


October 18, 2018

National Interest in its November/December 2018 issue has an interesting article on bipolar world systems by Norwegian Professor Oystein Tunsjoe at the Defense University College, Norway based on his book ”The Return of Bipolarity in World Politics: China, the United States and Geostructural Realism” (2018). Excerpts below:

Xi Jinping is determined to take China into a new era that sets his country and the United States apart from other power…

…the United States and China are not rivals in a multipolar system. International politics has entered a new era in which the United States and China are the two lone superpowers in a bipolar system. China has risen to top-ranking status, and the both nations are much more powerful than any third state.

[It]resembles the stability that characterized the U.S.-Soviet Union superpower rivalry in the second half of the twentieth century.

With the return of bipolarity, we might expect another period of what historian John Lewis Gaddis termed “the long peace” of the previous bipolar system between the United States and Soviet Union…

While it is important whether the international system is bipolar or has some other structure, stability is heavily affected by geopolitics and how geography shapes the two superpowers and their relationship. Since the previous U.S.-Soviet bipolar system and the new U.S.-China bipolar system are concentrated on two different geographic regions, systemic effects differ. The likelihood of limited war and instability is higher in a new U.S.-China bipolar system in the twenty-first century compared to the old U.S.-Soviet Union bipolar system of the twentieth.

Two factors suggest that that the international system has returned to bipolarity. First, the power gap between the United States and China has narrowed considerably during the last two decades. China’s nominal GDP currently accounts for about 65 percent of that of the United States’ own GDP. This contrasts sharply with the early 1990s, when the U.S. nominal GDP was about fifteen times larger than China’s. Currently, U.S. military spending is about two to three times that of China’s. This differs from the year 2000, when the U.S. defense budget was more than ten times that of China’s, not to mention the early 1990s, when U.S. defense expenditure was more than twenty times higher. While China has not obtained power parity with the United States, the relative increase in China’s combined power places it in the top ranking with the United States, even if only barely. Similarly, the Soviet Union was never as powerful as the United States, but it was still regarded as a superpower and a pole in the old bipolar system.

Second, no other states match China’s power in the aggregate, and the top two states are now much more powerful than any third state. In 2018, according to the International Monetary Fund, China’s nominal GDP was about ten times larger than Russia’s and roughly five times larger than India’s. The Chinese economy is almost three times as large as Japan’s, more than three times as large as Germany’s, and more than four times as large as France’s and Great Britain’s. It is wrong to argue that the international system is multipolar when Russia has about one-tenth and India has about one-fifth of China’s nominal GDP while China has reached more than three-fifths of the U.S. nominal GDP.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimated in 2017 that China’s and Russia’s defense spending amounted to $228 billion and $55 billion respectively. China’s defense budget is roughly four times India’s, Great Britain’s and France’s and almost six times larger than Germany’s and Japan’s, also estimated by SIPRI. The power gap between China and the power next in rank has become so large as to warrant the notion of a new bipolar system.

The features of the previous bipolar system were stability, strong balancing, and strong competition and rivalry at the periphery. The contemporary bipolar system is characterized by instability, moderate balancing, and limited competition and rivalry at the periphery. A bipolar system concentrated on maritime East Asia in the twenty-first century is likely to be more unstable and prone to limited war than the bipolar system concentrated on continental Europe was in the twentieth century. Instability at the power center in East Asia is likely to foster more stability at the periphery than during the previous bipolar era since the superpowers are more likely to be preoccupied with rivalry in maritime East Asia and less likely to be involved in proxy wars in other regions. The new bipolar system is not destined for another “long peace.” While nothing is preordained in world politics, and the new structural conditions can be resisted, they are likely to push the United States and China toward a limited war for the control and access to sea-lanes in maritime East Asia.

Comment: Tunsjoe has presented a strong case for an existing bipolar system since about 20 years after the end of the Cold War. But the US-Soviet confrontation also involved China. In the same way Russia is also involved in the new bipolar system. The latest developments in China mean that the United States will have to focus on China. It is reasonable that this includes defense against China’s economic aggression. Europe and Australia should also take defensive measures against the Chinese use of the present trade system, which is unfair.

All classical geopoliticians (Mahan, Mackinder and Spykman) warned that China’s geographical position, resources, immense population, and access to the sea made her potentially a formidable power on the Eurasian landmass. They argued that American and Western national security depended on the political pluralism of Eurasia. China is the leading challenger to this Eurasian pluralism but there are two other challengers in Eurasia – Russia, the former heartland, and Iran.

The Eurasian landmass or “great continent,” contains most of the world’s people and resources. The “pivot state” or “heartland” of Eurasia was Russia according to Mackinder in 1904. Since the fall of the Soviet Union Russia, the heartland empire, is no longer the main challenger to the West. Surrounding the heartland is a vast crescent-shaped region or coastland, which included Western Europe, the Middle East, Southwest Asia, India, China, and the continental nations of the Far East, all of which was accessible to sea power.

Spykman warned that China would one day be a “continental power of huge dimensions,” and her size, geographic position, natural resources and population would force the United States into an alliance with Japan to preserve the Asian balance of power. The American geopolitician was correct in his view on the future rise of China.

In a bipolar system the United States has a number of Asian allies. Of those Japan is the most important in the North Pacific and Australia in the South Pacific.


October 15, 2018

Washington Times on October 10, 2018, reported on warnings by top security officials in the United States that China, not Russia, presents ”the broadest most complicated, most long term counterintelligence threat” to America. Excerpts below:

In separate letters, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, South Dakota Republican, and Sens. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, and Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, questioned top executives at Super Micro Computer, Apple and Amazon over reports that Chinese spies siphoned information from the U.S. tech giants and possibly others via tiny chips inserted on server circuit boards made by Super Micro.

The Chinese government and the firms in question have soundly rejected the claim, which first appeared in a Bloomberg BusinessWeek report…

“If this news report is accurate,” Mr. Rubio and Mr. Blumenthal wrote, “the potential infiltration of Chinese back doors could provide a foothold for adversaries and competitors to engage in commercial espionage and launch destructive cyber attacks.”

The backdoor hacking scandal was expanding even as Justice Department officials were announcing charges against a Chinese government operative who they said tried to steal secrets from U.S. aviation and aerospace companies, including GE Aviation.

Yanjun Xu, a senior officer with the Ministry of State Security, is accused of luring U.S. executives to China in order to steal their company’s technology, officials said at a press conference…Mr. Xu was arrested in Belgium in April and returned to the United States…

On Capitol Hill, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen offered their own warnings to the Senate Homeland Security committee about the long-term threat posed by China’s economic and military rise.

“Russia is in many ways fighting to stay relevant after the fall of the Soviet Union,” Mr. Wray said. “They’re fighting today’s fight. China’s is fighting tomorrow’s fight.”

Committee members grilled the two top security officials on President Trump’s accusation last month that China is trying to meddle in the upcoming congressional midterm elections. Mr. Trump said Republican voters were being targeted because of his aggressive trade policies targeting Beijing.

Ms. Nielsen said China was “exerting unprecedented effort to influence American opinion,”…

Mr. Rubio unveiled the Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s (CECC) annual report on human rights in China — a 300-page document that tracks what it calls a “downward trajectory” in human rights since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.

The CECC was created in 2000 and has long been critical of China’s economic, security and rights policies.

Comment: These warnings underline how important the American policies are in defending against China’s economic aggression. China seeks to supplant the U.S. as the world’s pre-eminent geopolitical power.

The longstanding assumption that America’s China policy of integration is good has been a problem since 2012, when Xi took power. During 2012 to 2016 the regime in Beijing was allowed to strengthen its position unopposed.

It is not only the question of Chinese economic aggression but also the rise of China as a more globally oriented military power.

The belief that China’s military challenge to the U.S. was regional in nature is clearly dangerous. Beijing now is seeking the capabilities that will allow it to project its own military power well outside its regional neighborhood.
China is however not the only challenger to the West in Eurasia. Two other empires, Russia and Iran, are also challengers. There seems presently no signs that these three empires are coordinating their efforts more in detail. China, for example, is exerting growing control in Siberia, which might worry Moscow. The nearest target of China is the Pacific. In the North Pacific closer cooperation between the United States and Japan is needed to oppose Chinese attempts at growing influence among the island nation states. As to the South Pacific partners of support against China would mainly be Australia and Chile.


October 14, 2018

American Greatness on December 21, 2018, recommended a number of books for those interested in understanding populism in the United States. Julius Krein, the editor of American Affairs, a quarterly journal of public policy and political thought, lauded a visionary book by James Burnham (1905 – 1987). Excerpts below:

In ”The Managerial Revolution: What Is Happening in the World” (1941), James Burnham explains the economic and intellectual history of the new “managerial” society that supplanted entrepreneurial capitalism over the course of the twentieth century. Closely connected with this economic transition is the shift from parliamentary and constitutional government toward administrative bureaucracy. Any work of this type will contain some anachronisms and mistaken predictions, but many of Burnham’s insights may seem more relevant now than at the time of writing, as the trends that he identified have only accelerated since then.

While rising “populism” receives significant attention today, our understanding of the composition and interests of the so-called “elite” is severely lacking. On one hand, “Conservatives” typically denounce the “adversary culture” and “postmodernism/relativism” of today’s intellectual elite, yet too often remain blind to the economic realities behind political and social transformations. “Progressives,” by contrast, protest rising inequality, yet ignore important differences between today’s elite and that of prior periods, specifically the separation between ownership and control that prevails in managerial arrangements and distinguishes them from classical notions of capitalism.

This failure to understand the nature of the current political and economic “elite” explains why so many politicians and intellectuals of the left and right have failed to understand voters’ dissatisfaction with the status quo. Reading Burnham is essential to correcting this misunderstanding and for developing better responses to present policy problems.

Comment: Burnham’s ”The Managerial Revolution” is a classic work in the field of elite study. He followed up in 1943 with another classic, ”The Machiavellians – Defenders of Freedom”. It was an account of a remarkable group of scholars who had studied how to preserve freedom in Western society. They were Gaetano Mosca, Georges Sorel, Robert Michels and Vilfredo Pareto. The original Machiavellian was of course the great Italian Niccoló Machiavelli. His method was the method of science applied to politics. It may be surprising to describe Machiavelli as a defender of liberty. He has incorrectly often been described as a proponent of tyranny. In reality he hated tyranny and believed that only out of the continuing clash of opposing groups could liberty flow. Liberty is the dominant ideal of the Italian master thinker. It is no wonder that the powerful throughout the ages have denounced the Florentine diplomat and writer. They can recognize an enemy who like Machiavelli will never compromise.

During the Cold War Professor Burnham was an important thinker on the threat of Soviet power and published three basic studies on American strategy in the conflict between Soviet totalitarianism and Western freedom.


October 12, 2018

Newsmax TV on October 10, 2018, reported that Asia expert Gordon Chang had told the network that Mr Trump is ”knitting together a coalition” to create leverage against China. Excerpts below:

“The USMCA [United States, Mexico, and Canada Agreement on trade] really is an indication that the Chinese are in trouble, because President Trump is knitting together a coalition…

“When you put that together with a handshake deal that he has with the Europeans and with the deal that eventually he’ll come to with Japan, it really means that China is isolated.

“That’s going to be a really important thing for us as we eventually — when we sit down and talk to Beijing about all of the grievances that we have. So, this is really good policy on the part of the Trump administration.”

“China right now looks increasingly fragile,” Chang told Winterble. “When their markets opened after the national week, they plummeted 4.8 percent, and that’s a real indication there’s a lack of confidence on the part of players: They don’t want to hold their stock; they don’t want to hold their own currency.

“So, President Trump has a lot of means to exert leverage…”

Comment: This is good news for all who believe it is important for the West to stand up against the rising superpower China (with North Korea) in Eurasia and the two other empires Russia and Iran.

Bad news for China was reported on October 11, 2018, by Geopolitical Futures, a leading US-based geopolitical think tank. The U.S. Treasury has presented plans to implement a review system concerning foreign investment in 27 different high-tech sectors that are critical to national security as for instance telecommunications and aviation bio-tech. Beijing thinks it will be possible to manage U.S. defensive moves against China’s trade aggression. If other major world economies start limiting Chinese investment, however, it will be a serious strike against China’s modernization plans. Other developments point to Chinese anxiety about being left out in the cold.


October 11, 2018

Washingtom Times on October 4, 2018, reported on the U.S. new counterterrorism strategy which is a total break with the Obama administration in this field. Excerpts below:

National Security Adviser John R. Bolton said the 25-page document argues that terrorism now occurs on a “landscape more fluid and complex than ever,” but that the U.S. must confront first and foremost the ideology of “radical Islamist militants” and the threat in particular from Iran.

The counterterrorism strategy is the first update since the Obama administration’s 2011 plan, which came before the rise of Islamic State focused heavily on defeating al Qaeda.

To pursue terrorists at their source, Mr. Bolton explained, meant isolating them from support networks. The strategy also notes the need for strong borders and secure ports of entry into the U.S.

In the 17 years since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. has “succeeded in disrupting large-scale attacks in the homeland since 2001 but has not sufficiently mitigated the overall threat that terrorists pose,” Mr. Bolton said

…the new strategy does not “focus on a single organization but will counter all terrorists with the ability and intent to harm the United States, its citizens and our interests.”

A fierce critic of Iran’s theocratic regime, Mr. Bolton also highlighted the threat from Tehran, which the State Department lists as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The new strategy is making its debut even as the Trump administration is reimposing economic sanctions on Iran after President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord this spring.

“We look at all of the threatening ideologies that we facing, including not just Sunni ideologies, but the Islamic Revolution of 1979 emanating from Iran,” Mr. Bolton said.
As for the Islamic State, Mr. Bolton argued that despite losing all but 1 percent of the territory it previously held across Iraq and Syria, it remains a powerful threat to America.

…the new strategy omits all reference to climate change as a threat to U.S. national security or a destabilizing force in volatile regions such as the Middle East.

“I don’t think climate change is a cause of international terrorism,” Mr. Bolton told reporters.