US Black Convert to Islam Working in Iran Arrested Upon Return to America – Marzieh Hashemi (Press TV) 16 Jan 2019

Marzieh Hashemi, a journalist and anchor working for Iran’s English-language Press TV television news network, has been detained and imprisoned in the United States for unspecified reasons.

American-born Hashemi, most famous for anchoring news programs and presenting shows for Press TV, was detained upon arrival at St. Louis Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Missouri, on Sunday, her family and friends said.

Press TV has learned that she was transferred by the FBI to a detention facility in Washington, D.C. The US officials have so far refused to provide any reasons for her apprehension either to her or her family.

The Associated Press (AP) said a call to the FBI rang unanswered early on Wednesday morning. The bureau did not immediately respond to a written request for comment, it added.

Hashemi, born Melanie Franklin, had arrived in the US to visit her ill brother and other family members.

Her relatives were unable to contact her, and she was allowed to contact her daughter only two days after her arrest.

Mistreatment in US jail

Hashemi, who has been living in Iran for years and is a Muslim convert, has told her daughter that she was handcuffed and shackled and was being treated like a criminal.

The journalist also said that she had her hijab forcibly removed, and was photographed without her headscarf upon arrival at the prison.

Hashemi has only been allowed to wear a T-shirt, and is currently using another one to cover her head.

Furthermore, she has been offered only pork as meal – which is forbidden under Islamic law – and even denied bread and any other halal food after refusing to consume the meat.

Hashemi told her daughter that the only food she has had over the past two days has been a packet of crackers.

Hashemi’s family members and media activists have launched a social media campaign with the hashtags #FreeMarziehHashemi and #Pray4MarziehHashemi in support of the detained journalist.



Why Excessive Consumption of Media Limits Your Creativity – By Srinivas Rao – 4 Dec 2017

“When a creative artist is fatigued it is often from too much inflow, not too much outflow” — Julia Cameron

If most of us, myself included, were completely honest about our balance between consumption and creation, we’d see that it’s pretty out of whack. We consume far more than we create when it should be the opposite. Every day our consumption diet includes any of the following

  • Articles on Web sites
  • Emails
  • Status updates
  • Netflix/Youtube/Hulu
  • Podcasts
  • Online Shopping

If you actually took inventory of all the digital content that you consumed over the course of a week, you would actually be horrified.

Because my upcoming book is about creative habits, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about my own consumption habits and my areas of weakness. One of those areas of weakness is inflow. We may not realize it, but managing our inflow is one of the best opportunities to design our environments for optimal performance and creativity. Excessive consumption and inflow inhibit creativity, negatively impacts our ability to do deep work and reduces our cumulative output. So let’s look at how and why this happens.

1. Excessive Consumption Causes Decision Fatigue

On average, we’re making over 300 decisions a day. A few months ago, I downloaded the dating app Bumble. After a few hours of playing with the app, I realized that every swipe was a decision. That was just the beginning of the decision fatigue that results from excessive consumption. And that made me think about all the other decisions that are made through our consumption habits.

  • Every time you click on, read, or comment on an article you make a decision
  • Every time you like, reply to or write a Facebook status update you make a decision
  • Every time you read, reply to or write an email you make a decision
  • Every time you browse and buy something online you make a decision
  • Every time you scroll through the queue on Netflix you make a decision

This is in addition to the other 300 decisions we’re making each day. The same willpower that could have been directed towards creation gets completely depleted by our consumption habits if we’re not careful about them.

2. Excessive Consumption is Harmful to Our Attention Spans

If you’ve ever sat in a Starbucks and watched a group of teenagers, you’ll see the definition of short attention spans. They’ll spend over an hour attempting to take the perfect selfie. This is between multiple status updates and check-ins to whatever social network they’re addicted to.

But where this becomes really apparent is in Cal Newport’s research around the concept of Deep Work. According to Cal, if your attention is constantly shifting to stimuli that are novel, when it comes time to do deep work, your ability to do deep work is going to suffer. It’s the cognitive equivalent of being an athlete who smokes.

3. Excessive consumption results in multitasking and attention residue

It might seem harmless to take a quick glance at your inbox ever ten minutes or so. Indeed, many justify this behavior as better than the old practice of leaving an inbox open on the screen at all times…. That quick check introduces a new target for your attention. Even worse, by seeing messages you cannot deal with at the moment (which is almost always the case), you’ll be forced to turn back to the primary task with a secondary task left unfinished. — Cal Newport

Just imagine how much harder it is to sustain attention for something like reading a book when you’ve spent your whole day jumping from one website to another, scrolling through articles and not doing much actual reading. You end up being mediocre at a bunch of things as opposed to being excellent at one thing.

4. Excessive Consumption could be Bad for Our Mental Health

Every email you receive, every notification, and every “like” you get on a post releases a shot of dopamine, thereby making the products and services that we use on a daily basis addictive as hell. The sense of fulfillment and satisfaction derived from this doesn’t last very long. As a result, we crave these dopamine hits all day long.

But what’s more disturbing is what it’s doing to our mental health. Simon Sinek’s research on this predicts that in young people we’re going to see a much greater likelihood of depression, social anxiety, and the inability to communicative effectively because their faces are buried in screens getting their dopamine fix from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to sleep.

According to Kelly McGonigal’s work and her book The Upside of Stress, people who use social media excessively experience a decreased sense of satisfaction with their lives. No matter what you accomplish, achieve or do, somebody is always up to something far more epic than you are if you live your life through the lens of your Facebook news feed.

As I’ve said before, you should treat the information you consume like the food you eat. And if you over-ate the way you over-consume you wouldn’t be alive very long.

5. Reduce Your Inflow

There are some really basic ways that anybody can reduce their inflow that won’t be disruptive to their lives or their work.

  • A Separate Email Address for newsletters, notifications , etc: As someone who spends the day scouring the web for insanely interesting people to interview on the Unmistakable Creative, I need to have a decent level of inflow. This is why I have two email addresses. One is for communication that’s essential. The other is for newsletters and things that I sign up for on the web. Cal Newport goes as far as to have separate email addresses for multiple purposes, which is another approach.
  • Facebook Newsfeed Obliterator: This is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a Chrome extension that removes the newsfeed from Facebook. About once a week I reenable Safari on my phone and see what everybody else is up to. But on a day to day basis I have no idea and I can focus all my efforts on what I’m there to do which is manage the community around Unmistakable Creative.
  • Go Analog: I believe there’s tremendous power to being analog in an increasingly digital world.Some of the best designers in the world don’t turn on their computers for days. Nearly every post I write is written by hand first. When you’re a writer, using pen and paper gives you a chance to truly hear the sound of your own voice.

When you limit the inflow, you increase the energy that can be directed towards your outflow. You create more than you consume.


Opinion:Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is freaking out the media. And it’s working for her. – by Margaret Sullivan (Washington Post) 14 Jan 2019

She’s been on the job for less than two weeks and already has generated more national press coverage than some members of Congress get in their whole careers.

Not that it’s been all positive, of course. Far from it.

The news media – and not just on the right – doesn’t quite know what to make of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old freshman representative from Queens who is a Democratic Socialist and proud of it.

Their inability to fit her neatly into a pre-existing mold has resulted in a barrage of dubious stories, out-of-touch tweets and cable-news weirdness, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

And, in just about every case, Ocasio-Cortez has flipped critical coverage on its head and continued to make her points – not always with perfect accuracy but with pitch-perfect tone and effectiveness.

Over the weekend, for example, she drew fire after she criticized CBS News’s spirited (if tone-deaf) announcement of its 2020 campaign team. A graphic showed 12 reporters and producers, not a single one of which was black.

She tweeted: “This WH admin has made having a functional understanding of race in America one of the most important core competencies for a political journalist to have, yet @CBSNews hasn’t assigned a *single* black journalist to cover the 2020 election.”

“Unacceptable in 2019,” she concluded. “Try again.”

Josh Kraushaar, politics editor at the National Journal, took his shot: “Another thing AOC has in common with Trump: media scold.” And, besides, he posited, the CBS group looked diverse to him, “with the exception of lacking an African-American.”

Her comeback was scathing: “Do you understand how fundamental the black experience is to American politics? And to American history? One race isn’t substitutable for another. It doesn’t work like that. It’s not about ‘quotas.’ It’s about understanding the country you’re living in.”

By the time the dust settled, CBS News was promising that the initial announcement was only the beginning of their still-growing team.  Do you think that expanded team will include some black journalists? I’ll happily take that bet.

But is her superior social-media skill really what defines an outstanding member of Congress, some seemed to be wondering.

“It’s gonna be awesome when @AOC turns Twitter vitriol into legislation,” offered Mike Murphy, deputy technology editor at Quartz.

Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t about to let that go unanswered (even though it was a kind of compliment), responding that she had already co-sponsored bills in support of D.C. statehood, comprehensive voting reform and more, and would be “dropping my first original resolution soon.”

Beyond social media there have been the incessant off-key stories about her wardrobe, her worries about affording rent in her district and in Washington, her college-age dancing caught on video, even – horrors! – her occasional nickname, “Sandy.”

When she made a significant factual error in stating that $21 trillion in Pentagon waste could cover Medicare for all, and then seemed to suggest on “60 Minutes” that such errors weren’t all that important, she was slapped down hard by media across the political spectrum.

Having lavished her with positive attention, commentators seemed to feel a palpable joy in taking her down a few pegs.

It’s all way out of proportion – powered, in no small part, by unacknowledged sexism. (How often do you hear the word “scold” applied to men? Not never, certainly, but not nearly as predictably as to outspoken women, the same ones who should modulate their voices and smile more.)

Just what is it about Ocasio-Cortez that is flipping everyone out?

The historian and author Rick Perlstein offered some answers in a recent New Yorker interview with Isaac Chotiner.

“It’s a profoundly generational phenomenon, and, clearly, it’s scary,” he said. Perlstein sees Ocasio-Cortez as part of a generation that doesn’t bear the lingering psychic wounds of a Democratic Party stunned into wimpiness by the Reagan era and its aftermath.

In the moments after President Donald Trump’s televised address to the nation last week – a barely disguised campaign pitch promoting his border wall – his Democratic opponents’ response was stilted and tepid.

Senate minority leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in the felicitous phrasing of James Poniewozik of the New York Times, were “looking unfortunately like a cross between Grant Wood’s ‘American Gothic’ and the twins from ‘The Shining.’ ”

Whatever it was that was needed in that crucial moment, they lacked: Spunk. Passion. Vitality.

A few minutes later, Ocasio-Cortez made her first appearance with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, and exhibited precisely those qualities. She practically jumped off the screen into the nation’s living rooms.

Yes, she’s green (in more than one sense). She has made some clumsy mistakes. But she’s authentic, fearless and unpredictable – with beliefs that seem to have, at their core, a moral humanity.

And in the jaded, pre-packaged world of Washington politics and media, that seems to make no sense at all.

Margaret Sullivan is The Washington Post’s media columnist. Previously, she was the New York Times public editor, and the chief editor of the Buffalo News, her hometown paper.


Is Bolton Steering Trump Into War with Iran? – by Patrick J. Buchanan – 15 Jan 2019

“Stop the ENDLESS WARS!” implored President Donald Trump in a Sunday night tweet.

Well, if he is serious, Trump had best keep an eye on his national security adviser, for a U.S. war on Iran would be a dream come true for John Bolton.

Last September, when Shiite militants launched three mortar shells into the Green Zone in Baghdad, which exploded harmlessly in a vacant lot, Bolton called a series of emergency meetings and directed the Pentagon to prepare a menu of targets, inside Iran, for U.S. air and missile strikes in retaliation.

The Wall Street Journal quoted one U.S. official as saying Bolton’s behavior “rattled people. … People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

Bolton’s former deputy, Mira Ricardel, reportedly told a gathering the shelling into the Green Zone was “an act of war” to which the U.S. must respond decisively.

Bolton has long believed a U.S. confrontation with Iran is both inevitable and desirable. In 2015, he authored a New York Times op-ed whose title, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” said it all. He has urged that “regime change” in Iran be made a declared goal of U.S. foreign policy.

When Trump announced his decision to withdraw the 2,000 U.S. troops now in Syria, Bolton swiftly imposed conditions: ISIS must first be eliminated, Iranian forces and allied militias must leave, and the Kurds must be protected.

Yet enforcing such red lines would require a permanent presence of American troops. For how, without war, would we effect the removal of Bashar Assad’s Iranian allies, if he declines to expel them and the Iranians refuse to go?

Bolton has an ally in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In Cairo last week, Pompeo declared it U.S. policy “to expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria.

And though Hezbollah has been a “major presence” in Lebanon for several decades, “we won’t accept this as the status quo,” said Pompeo, for Hezbollah is a “wholly owned subsidiary of the Iranian regime.”

But how does the secretary of state propose to push Hezbollah out of Lebanon peacefully when the Israelis could not do it in a month-long war in 2006?

Pompeo’s purpose during his tour of the Middle East? Build a new Middle East Strategic Alliance, a MESA, an Arab NATO, whose members are to be Egypt, Jordan and the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

There are other signs a confrontation is coming soon. The U.S. has objected to Iran’s pending launch of two space satellites, saying these look like tests of missiles designed to deliver nuclear warheads. Yet Iran has never produced weapons-grade uranium or plutonium and never tested an ICBM.

Pompeo has also called for a conclave in Poland in February to bring together an anti-Iran alliance to discuss what is to be done about what he calls “our common enemy.”

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu boasted of Israel’s latest strike in Syria: “Just in the last 36 hours, the air force attacked Iranian warehouses with Iranian weapons at the international airport in Damascus. The accumulation of recent attacks proves that we are determined more than ever to take action against Iran in Syria, just as we promised.”

Israel brags that it has hit 200 targets inside Syria in recent years. The boasting may be connected to Bibi’s desire to strengthen his credentials as a security hawk for the coming Israeli election. But it is also a provocation to the Iranians and Syrians to retaliate, which could ignite a wider war between Israel and Syrian and Iranian forces.

What does the U.S. think of the Israeli strikes? Said Pompeo: “We strongly support Israel’s efforts to stop Iran from turning Syria into the next Lebanon.”

In short, forces are moving in this country and in Israel to bring about a U.S. confrontation with Iran – before our troops leave Syria.

But the real questions here are not about Bolton or Pompeo.

They are about Trump. Was he aware of Bolton’s request for a menu of targets in Iran for potential U.S. strikes? Did he authorize it? Has he authorized his national security adviser and secretary of state to engage in these hostile actions and bellicose rhetoric aimed at Iran? And if so, why?

While Trump has urged that the U.S. pull out of these Mideast wars, Pompeo has corrected him, “When America retreats, chaos often follows.”

Is Trump looking for a showdown with Iran, which could result in a war that might vault his approval rating, but be a disaster for the Middle East and world economy and do for him what Operation Iraqi Freedom did for George W. Bush?

One thing may confidently be said of the rhetoric and actions of Bolton and Pompeo: This is not what brought out the new populists who made Donald Trump president, the people who still share his desire to “stop the endless wars.”


Steam Punk Starship – Steam-powered spaceship could cruise the solar system without running out of fuel – By Brandon Specktor (Live Science) 14 Jan 2019

Developers say the microwave-sized craft would suck its watery fuel right out of the asteroids, planets and moons it’s exploring.
Image: Artist's concept of a near-Earth object.

Illustration of a near-Earth object. The proposed craft could revolutionize the exploration of asteroids like this and other celestial objects.NASA/JPL-Caltech

/ Source: Live Science

Come one, come all and behold the future of space travel: steam power!

steam 21

No, seriously; half a century after the world’s first manned space mission, it seems that interplanetary travel has finally entered the steam age. Scientists at the University of Central Florida have teamed up with Honeybee Robotics, a private space and mining tech company based in California, to develop a small, steam-powered spacecraft capable of sucking its fuel right out of the asteroids, planets and moons it’s exploring.

steam 2

By continuously turning extraterrestrial water into steam, this microwave-sized lander could, theoretically, power itself on an indefinite number of planet-hopping missions across the galaxy — so long as it always lands somewhere with H20 for the taking.

“We could potentially use this technology to hop on the moon, Ceres, Europa, Titan, Pluto, the poles of Mercury, asteroids — anywhere there is water and sufficiently low gravity,” Phil Metzger, a UCF space scientist and one of the chief minds behind the steampunk starship, said in a statement. Metzger added that such a self-sufficient spacecraft could explore the cosmos “forever.”

steam 0

Metzger and his colleagues call the lander WINE (short for “World Is Not Enough”), and a prototype of the craft recently completed its first test mission on a simulated asteroid surface in California. Using a compact drilling apparatus, the lander successfully mined the fake comet for water, converted that H20 into rocket propellant and launched itself into the air using a set of steam-powered thrusters.

Image: By using steam rather than fuel, the World Is Not Enough (WINE) spacecraft prototype can theoretically explore "forever," as long as water and sufficiently low gravity is present
By using steam rather than fuel, the World Is Not Enough (WINE) spacecraft prototype can theoretically explore “forever,” as long as water and sufficiently low gravity is presentUniversity of Central Florida

While the phrase “steam-powered spaceship” might initially evoke images of a rusty, gear-laden, fog-belching bucket of bolts, the technology behind WINE is far more complex than it sounds. To get the prototype working just right, Metzger spent three years developing new steam propulsion computer models and equations to help WINE optimize its operations in response to the varying gravitational demands of its surroundings. If a WINE-like robot ever makes it to space, built-in solar panels could provide it with the initial energy needed to start its off-world drilling operations.

The successful test run is a big feather in WINE’s proverbial steampunk top hat, but there’s a long way to go before the lander can be tested in an actual space environment. NASA sees value in the potentially self-sufficient starship and helped fund the early stages of the project; now, the developers are seeking new partners to help take WINE out of the lab and onto another world.

Originally published on Live Science.

steam 34

U.S.-Sino Relations at 40: How to Deal with China While Avoiding War – by Doug Bandow (National Interest) 31 Dec 2018

January 1st marks the 40th anniversary of U.S.-China ties. What happens next?  

China Hammer

Richard Nixon famously “went to China” in 1971, ending the hostile silence between the two governments. But Jimmy Carter completed the bilateral relationship, formally recognizing the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Official relations were established on January 1, 1979.

The move was controversial, at least to conservatives who backed the Republic of China (ROC), Chiang Kai-shek’s rump state located on the island of Taiwan. The ROC matched the PRC in claiming to be the legitimate government of all China, but without the slightest chance of fulfilling that ambition. After the Nixon trip, Taipei lost not only its seat on the United Nations Security Council but also its membership in the UN. Numerous nations switched their recognition to Beijing. America’s 1979 flip left only a gaggle of smaller states behind Taiwan, many of which have since defected.​

Four decades ago the PRC’s potential was obvious but seemed far more limited and distant. Mao was little more than two years in his grave. The so-called Gang of Four—radicals who supported the violent Cultural Revolution—had been arrested but not yet tried. Deng Xiaoping had been in power little more than a year and economic reforms had barely begun. Recognition was an uncertain investment in the future.

Even a decade or so later, when I first visited the mainland, the PRC still was markedly poor. Even in Beijing and Shanghai, the roads were filled with bicycles and scooters. There were some new buildings, but no one would imagine Beijing challenging America for global leadership. The “China threat,” as it were, seemed very modest.

Fast forward to January 1, 2019. The United States remains ahead economically, but using purchasing power parity instead of exchange rates puts Beijing in first place. The PRC still lags America in military spending but is number two in the world. Even before President Donald Trump’s misdirected global assault on free trade, China was the world’s greatest trading nation, far outdistancing America in Asia. Beijing is using its economic clout to gain political influence through the “Belt and Road” infrastructure investment program.

The good news is that hundreds of millions of people have escaped immiserating poverty. The Chinese also are largely free to work, marry, travel, study, and much more. The deadening personal uniformity and political conformity under the “Red Emperor” is gone. The Chinese people enjoy a degree of individual autonomy and liberty unknown to most of their ancestors.
However, the bad news is extremely bad. Although the Trump administration can be faulted for its tariff tactics, the PRC has manipulated trade and investment rules, stolen intellectual property, targeted foreign firms, and forced technology transfers. Such practices are ever less tolerable as China grows wealthier and more assertive.​

Worse, Beijing appears to be racing back to its ignoble past. Xi has eliminated the two-term limit on the PRC president—a limit that was imposed to discourage the rise of another Mao. Under Xi censorship has been intensified, Western contacts have been limited, dissent has been targeted, human rights have been restricted, religious believers have been persecuted, political education has been recreated, and economic reform has been stifled. A million or more Muslim Uighurs have been placed in re-education camps. The Xi government has increased pressure on both Taiwan, which retains de facto independent, and Hong Kong, which retains many British liberties despite its return to PRC control in 1997.​

Moreover, Beijing has become more aggressive in pressing its territorial claims throughout East Asian waters. Were the PRC’s claims to the Paracel, Spratly, and Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands accepted, the entire region would be a Chinese lake. The Xi government has abandoned its earlier strategy of “peaceful rise” and used its growing military to press for international concessions. One objective of the Belt and Road plan is to create and access facilities with military value.

Overall, this is a very different China than the one of January 1979. Or the one envisioned when diplomatic relations were established.

The problem is not that economic liberalization and prosperity did not create important pressures for a freer society. Personal autonomy greatly expanded. Employment opportunities and economic choices multiplied. Freedom to worship expanded. Space opened for intellectual debate and voices were heard in favor of institutionalizing the rule of law and more. Young, educated Chinese criticized censorship and dictatorship. The problem is such gains were not institutionalized, and have been dramatically rolled back by a competent and committed authoritarian—in this case, Xi Jinping—who is now serving his second term as president.

Xi is the most powerful Chinese leader since Deng and perhaps Mao. Still, whether he is at the summit or on the precipice—or both simultaneously—is unclear. In fact, the ongoing economic slowdown and the negative impact of the Trump trade war have spurred barely muffled dissent in official circles. However, in the short-term, at least, Xi faces no obvious challenge. So the regime continues to channel its increasing power into very ill pursuits.


What to do?

The United States and friendly states, most notably the Europeans and East Asian democracies, should cooperate and adopt a broadly uniform approach to the PRC. On economics, they should press Beijing to live up to non-discriminatory economic rules. The issue is not the trade deficit, but the use of access to Western markets to advantage Chinese concerns and especially the Chinese state. President Trump’s tactics so far have been maladroit, and his rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership extremely foolish, but Washington got China’s attention.

Little can be done directly on human rights, since no government willingly yields power to its opponents, but democratic states, led by America, should regularly raise the issue and emphasize that Chinese international leadership will be stunted so long as it imprisons people for seeking to influence their own government and make decisions over their own lives. Washington should aid efforts to improve Chinese access to information and break through China’s great firewall. The West should point out that historically war on religion ensures increased social instability since it pushes believers into active opposition. Mass repression of the sort practiced in Xinjiang against Muslims should face broad, sustained criticism. Major powers should warn that enhanced restrictions in Hong Kong raise questions as to Beijing’s willingness to live up to solemn commitments made to other nations.

Dealing with the security aspect of the PRC’s challenge may be the most difficult. The frictions between rising and falling powers, famously termed the Thucydides Trap, are well-known. The United States should not overreact to China’s rise: America remains much wealthier than China. Beijing also faces significant obstacles to becoming a superpower. For instance, the long-time one child policy badly distorted China’s demography; the country may grow old before it grows rich. Moreover, growth has slowed and political mismanagement of the economy has created a commercial minefield including inefficient state enterprises, heavy indebted government firms, bank bad loans, property bubbles, “ghost” cities, politically-motivated regulation, and fake economic statistics.

Indeed, Beijing is not and will not be, at least in the foreseeable future, in a position to threaten the United States. The American military’s lead is significant and its ability to deter attack is overwhelming. The real struggle between the two nations is over Washington’s dominance of East Asia. That is possible only so long as the PRC is weak and America is willing to spend lavishly to project power.

China has far to go militarily but has an equal incentive to strengthen its armed forces. Imagine a world in which the Chinese navy patrolled America’s east coast and the Caribbean, the PRC lectured America on policy toward Cuba, and the potential of war with the United States was routinely discussed in Beijing. Few Americans would passively acquiesce to China’s dominance.

Today Americans are unlikely to sacrifice what is necessary to defeat the PRC in its own neighborhood. After all, it costs far more to build and man a carrier and supporting vessels than a missile or submarine to sink it. The United States faces annual deficits of a trillion-plus dollars and fiscal pressures will explode as the baby boom generation continues to retire. Who will want to sacrifice their Social Security and Medicare benefits to protect Taiwan?

Washington should emphasize the importance of friendly democratic states investing in their own defense, creating militaries capable of deterring China from aggressive action. The goal is not to defeat the People’s Liberation Army, but to make the cost of any attack too great. America also should encourage nations, such as Japan and India, to take on greater regional responsibilities. Rather than jealously safeguard its dominant role, Washington should indicate its willingness to share influence.

America also should stop pushing Russia and China together. Successive U.S. administrations have adopted policies—such as the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the dismantlement of Serbia, and encouraging color revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine—that are seen as threatening in Moscow. Whatever America’s intentions, Russia could not easily ignore American policy. Imagine the Soviet Union staging a coup against a democratically elected Mexican government and inviting Mexico to join the Warsaw Pact. Officials in Washington would not be amused.

Although China and Russia have very different interests, the two have drawn together in response to U.S. pressure. Washington and Brussels should pursue a diplomatic modus vivendi with the Putin government. They would drop NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine and revoke economic sanctions in return for Russia halting support for separatists, ending harassment of Kiev, and stopping interference in American and European elections. The West would informally accept but not formally recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Moscow then could see its future with the West. That would tip the international balance a bit more against an aggressive China.

The most important objective should be to avoid conflict between the two governments. In the nineteenth century, Great Britain faced two rising powers. It accommodated one, America, and confronted the other, Germany. Out of the first grew a warm partnership. Out of the second developed two global wars. It is obvious which example the United States should follow.

Nevertheless, how to best maintain peace while seeking to constrain the harm that might result from a nation that is simultaneously becoming more powerful and oppressive is not obvious. Most important are better economic practices at home and greater military restraint abroad. Washington should enhance its strength and husband its influence.

Moreover, the United States should look to others to help constrain the PRC’s reach and channel its growth. As China ultimately finds its new place in the world order, other states will have to adapt while forcing Beijing to adjust as well. The last four decades have highlighted one of the greatest national transformations in history. Changes over the next forty years might not be as dramatic but ultimately could prove to be even more consequential. Getting policy toward China right matters for the entire world.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire 


Middle East Refugees Are in the English Channel Thanks to the Actions of the Western Imperialists – by Patrick Cockburn – 12 Jan 2019

rubber boat
A black rubber inflatable boat was found abandoned earlier this week on the shingle at Dungeness on the Kent coast. Eight men, reportedly Iranians or Kurds, were later found close to the beach or in the nearby village of Lydd.  An Iranian living in south London was later charged with helping the migrants to cross the Channel illegally from France to the UK.  Sea crossings by small numbers of asylum seekers are highly publicised because the short but dangerous voyage makes good television.

The number of migrants over a period of months is in the low hundreds, but politicians believe that the impact of their arrival is high, as was shown by the home secretary, Sajid Javid, rushing back from holiday and declaring the crossings a major incident”.

Nobody forgets the effect of pictures of columns of Syrian refugees, far away from UK in central Europe, had on the Brexit referendum in 2016.

Three days after the little inflatable boat beached at Dungeness, the US secretary of state Mike Pompeo made a speech in Cairo outlining the Trump Middle East policy, which inadvertently goes a long way to explain how the dinghy got there. After criticising former president Obama for being insufficiently belligerent, Pompeo promised that the US would “use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria; and that sanctions on Iran – and presumably Syria – will be rigorously imposed.

Just how this is to be done is less clear, but Pompeo insisted that the US will wage military and economic war in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria, which inevitably means that normal life will be impossible in all of these places.

Though the US and its allies are unlikely to win any victories against Iran or Bashar al-Assad, the US can keep a permanent crisis simmering across a swathe of countries between the Pakistan border and the Mediterranean, thereby ensuring in the long term that a portion of the 170 million people living in this vast area will become so desperate that they will take every risk and spend the last of their money to flee to Western Europe. Keep in mind that these crises tend to cross-infect each other, so instability in Syria means instability in Iraq.

Given the seismic impact of migration fuelled by war or sanctions in the Middle East and North Africa on the politics of Europe over the last seven or eight years, it shows a high degree of self-destructive foolishness on the part of European governments not to have done more to restore peace. They have got away with it because voters have failed to see the linkage between foreign intervention and the consequent waves of immigrants from their ruined countries.

Yet the connection should be easy enough to grasp: in 2011, the Nato powers led by UK and France backed an insurgency in Libya that overthrew and killed Gaddafi. Libya was reduced to violent chaos presided over by criminalised militias, which opened the door to migrants from North and West Africa transiting Libya and drowning as they try to cross the Mediterranean.

In Syria, the US and UK long ago decided that they would be unable to get rid of Assad – indeed they did not really want to since they believed he would be replaced by al-Qaeda or Isis. But American, British and French policy makers were happy to keep the conflict bubbling to prevent Assad, Russia and Iran winning a complete victory. A result of prolonging the conflict is that the chance of the 6.5 million Syrian refugees ever returning home grows less by the year.

The economic devastation inflicted by these long wars is often underestimated because it is less visible and melodramatic than the ruins of Raqqa, Aleppo, Homs and Mosul. I was driving in northeast Syria last year, west of the Euphrates, through land that was once some of the most productive in the country, producing grain and cotton. But the irrigation canals were empty and for mile after mile the land has reverted to rough pasture. Our car kept stopping because the road was blocked by herds of sheep being driven by shepherds to crop the scanty grass as the area reverts to semi-desert because there is no electric power to pump water from the Euphrates.

The British and other governments try to distinguish between refugees seeking safety because of military action or because of economic hardship; yet they increasingly go together. Syria and Iran are both being subjected to tight economic sieges. But the casualties of sanctions – as was brutally demonstrated by the 13-year-long UN sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq between 1990 and 2003 – are not the members of the regime but the civilian population. Mass flight becomes an unavoidable option.

Iraq never truly recovered from a period of sanctions during which its administrative, education and health systems were shattered and its best-educated people fled the country. The first casualties of sanctions are always on the margins and never those in power, who are the supposed target. An example of this was the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran in 2018, which led to the exodus of 440,000 low paid Afghan workers who are not going to get jobs back in Afghanistan (where unemployment is 40 per cent) and who in many cases will therefore try to get to Europe.

Wars that are not concluded trigger waves of migrants even when there is no fighting because all sides need to recruit more soldiers from an unwilling population. In Syria, families are terrified of their sons of military age being conscripted not only by the Syrian army but by the Kurdish YPG military forces or al-Qaeda type militias.

There is a clear connection between western intervention in the Middle East and North Africa and the arrival of boat people on the beaches of southeast England. But much of the media does not highlight this and, by and large, voters do not seem to notice it.

David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy never suffered political damage from their ill-advised role in destroying the Libyan state. A couple of years later Cameron was pressing for Britain to join the US in air attacks on Syria, which would certainly not have got rid of Assad without a prolonged air campaign similar to those in Iraq and Libya.

The outcome of these interventions is not just the outflow of refugees from zones of conflict: the weakening or destruction of states in the region enables groups like al-Qaeda and Isis to find secure base areas where they can regroup their forces. A fragmented Syria is ideal for such purposes because the jihadis can dodge between rival powers. Pompeo’s bombast will be a welcome development for them.

The only solution in northeast Syria is for the US to withdraw militarily under an agreement whereby Turkey does not invade Syria, in return for the Syrian government backed by Russia absorbing the Kurdish quasi-state so hated by the Turks and giving it some degree of internationally guaranteed autonomy. Any other option is likely to provoke a Turkish invasion and two million Kurds in flight – a very few of whom will one day end up on the pebble beaches of Dungeness.