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Written in History: The Death of America’s Hyper-Power Fantasy

Written in History: The Death of America’s Hyper-Power Fantasy

Written in History: The Death of America’s Hyper-Power Fantasy

In 1987, Paul Kennedy, a British professor of history at Yale University, unleashed a political and intellectual firestorm with the publication of his great (677-page) book, “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.” Kennedy produced a magisterial overview of the competition for global power over the past 500 years from 1500 AD to the present.

Kennedy proposed the thesis that any power that achieved, imagined it had achieved or sought to achieve and maintain a dominant hyper-power role of global dominance was doomed to lose it and then rapidly decline in overall power, wealth, prosperity and influence.

Kennedy argued – with a wealth of detail drawn from different nations over his vast period of half a millennium – that the very attempt to achieve and maintain such power forced every nation that attempted it into a ruinous pattern of strategic overstretch.

This demanded every major global empire in their turn to devote ruinously far too many economic resources to unproductive military power and ever more costly global commitments and conflicts.

The more ambitious the commitments, the quicker came military defeat, economic ruin and national collapse, Kennedy documented.

Kennedy published his book however at exactly the wrong moment for its abundantly documented conclusions and arguments to be taken seriously in the United States. The Cold War was just ending. The heroic actions of the Russian people in rejecting communism and leading in the dismantling of the Soviet Union were being misinterpreted as an eternal and lasting victory for the United States and for the forces of free market capitalism and minimum government regulation.

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Risky Business

“In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, a B-52 bomber carrying two Mark 39 thermonuclear bombs accidentally crashed in rural North Carolina. A low technology voltage switch was the only thing that prevented a 4-megaton nuclear bomb with 250 times the yield of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima from detonating on American soil. In addition to killing everyone within the vicinity of the blast, the winds would have carried radioactive fallout over Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City. It is not inconceivable to imagine that, at the height of cold war, a weapon of that magnitude exploding randomly on the eastern seaboard would have triggered immediate accidental retaliation against the Soviets resulting in full scale Armageddon and the end of humankind as we know it. This is just one of many nuclear accidents during the cold war. Peace has a dark side.”

  • From Volatility and the Allegory of the Prisoner’s Dilemma by Chris Cole of Artemis Capital Management, October 2015.

Say what ? Here are more details:

The date was 24 January 1961. The plane was a United States B-52 Stratofortress carrying two nuclear bombs, which lost altitude over Goldsboro, in rural North Carolina. With the plane having sustained a fuel leak in its right wing, the crew were advised to maintain a holding pattern along the coast while they burnt off as much fuel as possible. On reaching their assigned position it transpired that the leak had worsened and they were now running out of fuel. The crew were advised to return immediately to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

They never made it. They lost control of the plane at 10,000 feet as they began their descent. Five of the crew ejected and landed safely. One crew member ejected but was killed on landing. Two crew members died in the crash.

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The New Global Tinderbox: It’s Not Your Mother’s Cold War

shutterstock_725886793

When it comes to relations between Donald Trump’s America, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and Xi Jinping’s China, observers everywhere are starting to talk about a return to an all-too-familiar past. “Now we have a new Cold War,” commented Russia expert Peter Felgenhauer in Moscow after President Trump recently announced plans to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The Trump administration is “launching a new Cold War,” said historian Walter Russell Mead in the Wall Street Journal, following a series of anti-Chinese measures approved by the president in October. And many others are already chiming in.

Recent steps by leaders in Washington, Moscow, and Beijing may seem to lend credence to such a “new Cold War” narrative, but in this case history is no guide. Almost two decades into the twenty-first century, what we face is not some mildly updated replica of last century’s Cold War, but a new and potentially even more dangerous global predicament.

The original Cold War, which lasted from the late 1940s until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, posed a colossal risk of thermonuclear annihilation. At least after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, however, it also proved a remarkably stable situation in which, despite local conflicts of many sorts, the United States and the Soviet Union both sought to avoid the kinds of direct confrontations that might have triggered a mutual catastrophe. In fact, after confronting the abyss in 1962, the leaders of both superpowers engaged in a complex series of negotiations leading to substantial reductions in their nuclear arsenals and agreements intended to reduce the risk of a future Armageddon.

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Russia Planning Series Of Missile Tests Amid NATO’s “Largest Military Exercise Since The Cold War”

As 50,000 NATO troops mass in Scandinavia for the military alliance’s annual “Trident Juncture” military exercises, an annual affair that has been expanded to become the largest NATO exercise since the end of the Cold War in reflection of the deepening hostilities with Russia, it appears President Vladimir Putin has decided to flex some military muscle of his own.

As Radio Free Europe reports, the Russian Navy has alerted NATO that it is planning to test missiles in international waters off Norway’s coast this week. And while the missiles Russia will be testing aren’t of the hypersonic variety that Russia is planning to introduce in the coming years, NATO commanders will undoubtedly seize on Russia’s decision to help justify even more aggressive displays of military force in the future.

Russia

For what it’s worth, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg tried to play down the missile tests as part of routine activity by the Russian military.

“Russia has a sizable presence in the north, also off Norway,” Stoltenberg told the Norwegian news agency NTB.

“Large [Russian] forces take part in maneuvers and they practice regularly.”

Russian officials did not immediately comment on the planned missile tests, which come amid persistent tension between NATO and Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists in an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine but accuses the alliance of provocative behavior near its borders.

A spokesman for Avinor, the organization that operates Norwegian airports and air-navigation services, told RFE that Russia had informed them about the tests in a NOTAM (a type of “routine message” to pilots about potential hazards along a flight route). The tests are set to take place between Nov. 1 and Nov. 3 west of the coastal cities of Kristiansund, Molde, and Alesund.

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Military Escalation in Europe Is Like Runaway Train: It’s Time to Slow It Down

Military Escalation in Europe Is Like Runaway Train: It’s Time to Slow It Down

Military Escalation in Europe Is Like Runaway Train: It’s Time to Slow It Down

Much has been said about the Trident Juncture 2018 NATO exercise being held in the immediate vicinity of Russia’s borders. This is the largest training event since the Cold War, but it’s only part of a broader picture, in which military war preparations targeting Russia are in full swing. Exercises are being coordinated, along with infrastructure facilities that are being built, expanded, and modernized. For instance, last week the construction of an aircraft maintenance hangar at Estonia’s Amari Air Base, the first military project fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), was completed. The event was celebrated by US and Estonian air force officials with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. More than $38 million in EDI funds are being invested in that base. Beyond the training, a joint maintenance facility will also support the NATO aircraft that are conducting air policing in Eastern Europe. The Air Force Times cited US Air Forces Europe Commander Gen. Tod Wolters, who promised that even more funding was coming down the pipe for other projects. “Looking into fiscal year 2019, we are proposing a [European Defense Initiative] budget that demonstrates the US commitment to NATO,” he noted. According to him, “Our total [US European Command] request includes a significant funding increase from $4.7 billion to $6.5 billion.”

The NATO infrastructure modernization plans include upgrades to the Kecskemet Air Base in Hungary so that it can accommodate US F-15 fighters, A-10 attack planes, and C-5 transport aircraft, in addition to building a munitions storage facility at Malacky Air Base, Slovakia and a taxiway at Rygge, Norway. These steps are part of a larger effort to prepare for offensive operations against Russia.

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America’s Nuclear Death Wish – Europe Must Rebel

America’s Nuclear Death Wish – Europe Must Rebel

America’s Nuclear Death Wish – Europe Must Rebel

The Trump administration’s declared scrapping of a crucial arms control treaty is putting the world on notice of a nuclear war, sooner or later.

Any such war is not winnable. It is mutually assured destruction. Yet the arrogant American rulers – some of them at least – seem to be deluded in thinking they can win such a war.

What makes the American position even more execrable is that it is being pushed by people who have never fought a war. Indeed, by people like President Donald Trump and his hawkish national security advisor John Bolton who both dodged military service to their country during the Vietnam War. How’s that for macabre mockery? The world is being pushed to war by a bunch of effete cowards who are clueless about war.

Trump announced last this week that the US was finally pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a move confirmed by Bolton on a follow-up trip to Moscow. That treaty was signed in 1987 by former President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It was a landmark achievement of cooperation and trust between the nuclear superpowers. Both sides removed short and medium-range nuclear missiles from Europe.

With Trump intending to rip up the INF Treaty, as his predecessor GW Bush had done with the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002, Europe is now facing the disastrous prospect of American missiles being reinstalled across its territory as they were in the 1980s. However, a big distinction between then and now is that after years of expansion by NATO, European territory is at an even sharper interface with Russia’s heartland.

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How the media encourages – and sustains – political warfare

Since his inauguration, President Donald Trump has been waging war against the American press by dismissing unfavorable reports as “fake news” and calling the media “the enemy of the American people.”

As a countermeasure, The Washington Post has publicly fact-checked every claim that Trump has labeled as fake. In August, The Boston Globe coordinated editorials from newspapers across the nation to push back against Trump’s attacks on the press. The Associated Press characterized this effort as the declaration of a “war of words” against Trump.

News organizations might frame themselves as the besieged party in this “war.” But what if they’re as much to blame as the president in this back-and-forth? And what if readers are to blame as well?

In an unpublished manuscript titled “The War of Words,” the late rhetorical theorist and cultural critic Kenneth Burke cast the media as agents of political warfare. In 2012, we found this manuscript in Burke’s papers and, after working closely with Burke’s family and the University of California Press, it will be published in October 2018.

In “The War of Words,” Burke urges readers to recognize the role they also play in sustaining polarization. He points to how seemingly innocuous features in a news story can actually compromise values readers might hold, whether it’s debating the issues further, finding points of consensus, and, ideally, avoiding war.

A book born out of the Cold War

In 1939 – just before Adolf Hitler invaded Poland – Burke wrote an influential essay, “The Rhetoric of Hitler’s ‘Battle,’” in which he outlined how Hitler had weaponized language to foment antipathy, scapegoat Jews and unite Germans against a common enemy.

After World War II ended and America’s leaders turned their attention to the Soviet Union, Burke saw some parallels to Hitler in the way language was being weaponized in the U.S.

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Russian Diplomat: “Yes, Russia Is Preparing For War, I Can Confirm It”

A week after Russian president Vladimir Putin doubled-down on a warning to Russia’s geopolitical foes first made earlier this year by declaring that Russia would use its “unstoppable” nuclear weapons in response to an incoming missile attack shortly after US president Trump announced the US would pull out of the INF Treaty, , a Russian diplomat has both confirmed (and denied) what US war hawks have been calling out: Moscow is preparing for war, he said, just in case the US starts one.

Speaking at the UN on Friday, Andrey Belousov, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department of Nonproliferation and Arms Control, echoed Putin’s comments from last week that Russia is indeed readying itself for war, but only so it can defend its people against American aggression.

“At a recent meeting, the US stated that Russia is preparing for war. Yes, Russia is preparing for war, I can confirm it”, Belousov said adding that “We are preparing to defend our homeland, our territorial integrity, our principles, our values, our people.”

Russia’s military build-up and large-scale drills, which have often been painted in the Western media as preparations for all-out war, are a defensive necessity, he said.

Russia doesn’t seek a confrontation, he said, unlike the US. “Why else would the United States pull out of the [INF] Treaty, increase their nuclear potential, adopt a new nuclear doctrine that lowers the threshold for nuclear weapons use – that’s the question for us all.”

Belousov’s words came after a Russian draft resolution to reinforce the INF Treaty, which bans intermediate-range nuclear weapons, was overwhelmingly rejected at the UN First Committee.

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The Anti-Russia Cold War in the Arctic is Heating Up

The Anti-Russia Cold War in the Arctic is Heating Up

Photo Source Official U.S. Navy Page | CC BY 2.0

Britain’s Daily Mail is a strident rag that is bought daily by over a million people who agree with its stance that most foreigners are inferior to Brits. Two years ago the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance reported that the Mail and some other papers indulged in “offensive, discriminatory and provocative terminology”, and the Commission’s chairman observed that “the Brexit referendum seems to have led to a further rise in ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiment”.

The highly-respected Economist noted that “unsurprisingly, the Daily Mail spreads more EU-linked lies than anyone else” and that its website “garners 225 million visitors each month”, which is amazing and disturbing, given its campaigns of bigotry and intolerance.

The Mail knows its readers and tells them what they want to hear, and one of its targets is Russia, which it regularly maligns and berates.

On October 23 a main story noted approvingly that on October 25 “some 50,000 troops will kick off NATO’s biggest military exercises since the Cold War in Norway, a massive show of force that has already rankled neighboring Russia. Trident Juncture 18, which runs until November 7, is aimed at training the Alliance to mobilize quickly to defend an ally under attack.” The US 6th Fleet stated that among other major deployments for the maneuvers, the aircraft carrier Harry S Truman and guided missile destroyers of the Eighth Carrier Strike Group moved in to dominate the Norwegian Sea for the first time since 1991.

According to US Air Forces Europe, Trident Juncture is partially funded by the European Deterrence Initiative, and US F-16 strike aircraft and KC-135 Stratotankers have deployed to operate from an air base in neutral, non-NATO Sweden.

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NATO Sends 50,000 Troops to Largest Exercise Since Cold War

NATO Sends 50,000 Troops to Largest Exercise Since Cold War

Operations centered on Arctic and Scandinavia

US Marines are landing in Iceland and warplanes are flying overhead in Scandinavia, just days ahead of the kickoff of Trident Juncture. The annual exercise, focused on the Arctic Circle and Scandinavia, is set to be the largest operation since the Cold War.

31 countries are involved, 29 NATO members and Finland and Sweden. They will overall be sending 50,000 troops, 10,000 vehicles, 150 warplanes and 65 ships. Starting Thursday, the exercise will last a month.

And while officials insist it’s not strictly along the Russian border, Russian military officials say it is close enough, and clearly targeted at growing Russian interests in the Arctic Circle, as warmer temperatures open up new route.

NATO officials are being two-faced about this, however, on the one hand insisting this is just an annual exercise, and on the other hand presenting it as a “response to Russian aggression,” the same excuse for every massive exercise along the Russian frontier.

Russia Signals Renewed Arms Race, Says Scrapping INF Would Force It To ‘Restore Balance’

Now that President Trump has officially declared his intention to scrap the INF arms control treaty to remove constraints preventing the US from countering China’s menacing military presence in the Western Pacific, as well as what many military officials see as an increasingly belligerent Russia, Russian officials have predictably responded by repudiating accusations that Russia had violated the treaty. One official warned that, by scrapping the treaty, the US could force Russia to “restore the balance”, a veiled reference to developing even more dangerous weapons that would confirm fears that a modern “arms race” between the three global superpowers – the US, China and Russia – has already begun.

Missile

Per RT, Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said scrapping the deal would make the world “a more dangerous place.”

“Such steps [US quitting the deal], if they are undertaken, will make the world a more dangerous place.”

Peskov said Moscow remains committed to the accord and added that the US hasn’t taken any formal steps to abandon the agreement yet – though the New York Times has reported that the US government is preparing to officially notify Russia about the withdrawal some time this week. Following reports that National Security Advisor John Bolton had been pushing Trump to withdraw (ironically, Bolton is currently visiting Russia and a handful of other post-Soviet states), arguing that Russia had been violating the agreement with impunity for years. “We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement,” Trump said Saturday after a campaign rally in Elko, Nevada. “We’re going to terminate the agreement.”

The US insists that Russia breached the deal by developing its Novator 9M729 ballistic missile, also known to NATO as the SSC-8. The 9M729 would allow Russia to launch a nuclear strike at NATO countries at a very short notice.

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Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun

Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced what could already be described as the beginning of World Cold War II, with Washington and Beijing as the first belligerents but soon the stage will be global.

Pence spoke at the Hudson Institute, a think tank specializing in interdisciplinary issues related to international relations, culture, defense, economics, technology, and other strategic issues. Like most NGOs in the U.S., the Hudson Institute is funded by tax-deductible contributions from large taxpayers.

There Pence formulated what many observers compared to Winston Churchill’s 1946 “Iron Curtain” speech. The U.S. Vice President, recognizing, in fact, Washington’s defeat in the current trade confrontation with China, proclaimed what amounts to a declaration of cold war:

“China now spends as much on its military as the rest of Asia combined and has prioritized capabilities that erode U.S. military advantages on land, sea, air, and space. China wants to drive the United States out of the Western Pacific and prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies. We hoped that economic liberalization would lead China to greater partnership with us and the world. But it opted for economic aggression, which in turn encourages its growing army. (…) Beijing is conducting a comprehensive and coordinated campaign to undermine support for the President, his agenda, and our nation’s most cherished ideals. (…) China is also applying this power more proactively than ever before to influence and interfere in this country’s domestic politics and politics. Worst of all, China has embarked on an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections, and the environment leading up to the 2020 presidential election. To put it bluntly, President Trump’s leadership is working and China wants a different American president. (…) There can be no doubt: China is meddling in America’s democracy.”

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Time Out for Nukes!

Time Out for Nukes!

With 122 nations having voted last summer to adopt a treaty for the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons, just as the world has banned chemical and biological weapons,  its seems that the world is locked in a new Cold War time-warp, totally inappropriate to the times.  We were warned last week from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that prior calculations about the risk of catastrophic climate change were off, and that without a full scale immediate mobilization humanity will face disastrous rising sea levels, temperature changes, and resource shortages.

Now is an opportunity to take a time-out on nuclear gamesmanship, new threats, trillions of wasted dollars and IQ point on weapons systems that Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev acknowledged, back in 1987 at the end of the Cold War, could never be used, warning that “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”   Now in 2018, more than 30 years later, when 69 nations have signed the treaty to ban the bomb and 19 of the 50 nations required to ratify the treaty for it to enter into force have put it through their legislatures, the US and Russia are in an unholy struggle to keep the nuclear arms race going with the US accusing Russia of violating the Intermediate Nuclear Force treaty which eliminated a whole class of  land-based conventional and nuclear missiles in Europe, and Russia planning new weapons systems in response to a whole stream of US bad faith actions, the most egregious of which was President Bush walking out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty negotiated with the Soviet Union to ratchet down the nuclear arms race.

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Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF

Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF

Photo Source White House Photographic Office | CC BY 2.0

The Trump administration has decided to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), the most comprehensive disarmament treaty ever negotiated between Washington and Moscow.  National Security Adviser John Bolton, a long-time opponent of arms control, reportedly will inform Russian President Vladimir Putin this week that the United States will do so. The Trump administration will also be briefing our key European allies on the decision, which will complicate relations with Germany and France who favor maintaining the treaty.  This is the latest in a series of U.S. steps over the past 20 years that have put the Russians on the defensive, and led Russian President Vladimir Putin to be more assertive in protecting Moscow’s interests in East Europe.

The INF treaty actually eliminated an entire class of intermediate-range missiles from the U.S. and Soviet arsenals in 1987.  The Pentagon opposed the treaty, and Secretary of Defense Weinberger and his deputy for arms control and disarmament, Richard Perle, resigned in protest over President Ronald Reagan’s decision to go forward.  The Pentagon has opposed all presidential decisions to pursue disarmament, although—in the case of INF—the Soviets destroyed more than twice as many missiles as the United States, and the European theatre became safer for U.S. forces stationed there.  The treaty and the improved bilateral relations actually led to a slowdown in military spending in both the United States and Russia.

In 2002, President George W. Bush created the worst of all possible strategic worlds when he abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM), the cornerstone of strategic deterrence and one of the pearls of Soviet-American arms control policy.

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Trump: the Resurgent Cold War President

Trump: the Resurgent Cold War President

Trump: the Resurgent Cold War President

Some of the world’s hottest points of conflict during the Cold War are, once again, in the headlines because of Donald Trump’s erratic and bombastic saber-rattling antics. Even a military pact between North and South Korea, one worked out between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their third summit in Pyongyang in September is being actively opposed by Trump’s pompous Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. In remarks in the South Korean parliament, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung said that Pompeo wanted Seoul to go slow on its talks with North Korea. It is known that Trump wants another summit with North Korea’s Kim. Little resulted from the first Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore, which was largely a much-ballyhooed photo op, but was heralded by some myopic Trump supporters as an epic event rivaling President Richard Nixon’s trip to China.

Trump is likely opposed to the inter-Korean agreement, which would see a moratorium on military drills, removal of land mines and guard posts within the Demilitarized Zone and establish a no-fly zone around it, and other major steps, because he was not part of the talks between the two Korean leaders that brought about the deal. No world leader who is interested in any sort of peace deal would want the bellicose and mentally-imbalanced Trump, a self-described “deal maker,” involved. Trump’s ego and his ignorance of world history and international relations serves as an impediment to any meaningful multilateral talks, whether they are between the two Koreas or further south between China and Taiwan.

Cross-Strait relations between China and Taiwan have grown tense since the Trump administration announced that it was increasing military relations with Taiwan.

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