Author Topic: US Foreign Policy & Geopolitics  (Read 280300 times)

Crafty_Dog

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George Friedman: Methodology and Empathetic Analysis
« Reply #1000 on: January 25, 2020, 08:56:19 AM »
   
    Methodology and Empathetic Analysis
By: George Friedman

I have spent a great deal of time trying to lay the groundwork for an approach to understanding the relations between nations. I was not searching so much for a methodology as for a sensibility for considering and understanding these relations. A methodology is a highly disciplined system of extracting essential variables and creating a predictive model. The subject of international relations does not lend itself to a simplistic methodology (a term I do not intend as dismissive but simply descriptive). Rather it requires a sensibility. The causes of conflict, for example, are rarely rooted in a neat model. They may emerge but out of a sense of complexity and disorder that permits us to grasp the whole, rather than out of a model that simply extracts the causes. The key word here is “simply.” Causation is so intricate that a general model is impossible. I will argue that a system based on sensibility must be created.

Let’s begin with a smaller and therefore more manageable unit, the nuclear family, using my own family as an example. It’s what I know best, and it highlights the layers that have to be understood and respected when dealing with human beings. Most important, the truth can be hidden even from the speaker.

My father’s family came from the western foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and moved west into Hungary late in the 18th century. My father and his half-brother, born before World War I, became enemies in the 1930s. My father was a social democrat and his brother was a communist. Others have told me that after this time they never spoke directly to each other again. Both were forced into Hungarian labor battalions attacking the Soviet Union. My uncle was captured by the Soviets, taken to Moscow for training as a Soviet apparatchik, and returned to Hungary as a minor Communist official after World War II. My father refused to surrender to the Soviets and returned to Hungary after a terrible journey walking back from the Russian front to Budapest in the middle of winter. The silence endured. Yet when the Communists came to power and my father was to be arrested, my uncle got word to him to flee. We ended up in the United States. When the 1956 revolution came, my father hired smugglers to go into Hungary and rescue his half-brother from the wrath of the momentarily triumphant revolutionaries. As my father had been saved by his brother, he tried in turn to save him. But his brother refused to leave Hungary.

The point is that the silence was far more complex than the words they spoke about each other. There was a depth that had to be understood.

The two boys had the same mother but different fathers. My father was younger so for a while his father likely favored him over his half-brother who was not of his blood. My grandfather fought in World War I and died of complications after the war, and so my grandmother was widowed for a second time. The brothers grew into adolescence with their mother, but the years in which my uncle lived under the rule of his step-father had to be painful. The love of a father for his own blood is real and frequently unrestrained. We do not know whether the step-father influenced his wife to put distance between her love for her first and second sons, but my father belonged to both of them and it is likely he was favored. Many families have such dark episodes, their memory hidden even from themselves. Often the memory is so painful that the animosity can’t be hidden, but must be given a more sophisticated and less honest explanation for its origin.

The formal family explanation for the hatred between the two half-brothers has to do with political ideology. A methodology that argues that different views alienate people is both true and utterly insufficient in this case. After everything that each of them went through, with so many in the family dead, could ideology really cause this abyss? Methodology is too antiseptic to grasp the real origins of human malice. It wants a clear, replicable process, but human existence does not yield to that. Its truth is in the dark corners that we can grasp only through empathy, and not by method.

Empathetic analysis is not sympathetic analysis. It is simply the process of imagining yourself in someone else’s position and the pressures that have come to bear in shaping them. Imagine two boys living in the poverty of the Carpathian foothills who both lose their fathers. That must have plunged them deeper into hunger and despair. After the first husband’s death, the mother remarries. Women were in high demand in those days, given the rate of death during childbirth. Men married later to earn enough money to support a family.

When my grandfather, older than my grandmother, married her, he saved her and my uncle from poverty. But her new husband naturally wanted his own family, and my grandmother gave birth to my father, two girls and another boy. My grandfather was poor by most standards, and he probably favored my father (his first son) over the older step-son, both materially and emotionally.

I take this analysis not from anything I was told but from the simple facts. A half-brother is likely to get the short end of the stick, and his mother must protect her vulnerable newborn and allow her older child to make his own way.

The anger was expressed ideologically, but it was not about ideology. The anger was the force driving a division between a mother, her second husband and their children on one side, and her son from her first marriage on the other. My uncle’s sense of having been hurled into the ranks of the inessential and my father’s commitment to protecting his sisters from his brother (and that is what he said he had to do) provides a more empathetic analysis of the situation.

Is the analysis correct? The explanation that the split was due to ideology is after all these years hard to believe. And there are some key questions that could lead one to a different explanation: Were the half-brothers still bound by a degree of love? My uncle saved my father’s life, and my father tried to save his, both at great risk to themselves. What could it have felt like to have your father die when you’re so young? How did it feel to have him replaced by a stranger who wants his own family? What does it feel like to see your mother having his children and loving them? How do two boys, surviving the hardship of the Carpathians, as tough and unforgiving as the countryside, deal with each other when there are no family therapists to tell them that hunger doesn’t matter?

The family is the foundation of the nation. It is also the laboratory within which human behavior can be modeled. But it is not modeled as you would model the economy or build a war game. Human beings cannot be blended together as a mathematical abstraction; they must be analyzed empathetically, by telling their story and understanding how little choice they had. By grasping the imperative and constraints that controlled their lives, and observing empirically what they did to each other, it is possible to take the ideological explanations both used and understand that the real limits and constraints rest in a different place. But to do this work you must be naive, you must see the obvious, believe what you see and refuse to be diverted by inconsequential sophistication. And above all, you must tell the story.

Now, explaining Iranian foreign policy is enormously more difficult than this, but it begins with some of the same core principles. We are all caught in a web of needs and relationships that force us in certain directions. We can choose to go where we want, when we are rich and safe. Otherwise you have fewer choices and a much higher penalty if you ignore the dangers. And the more power you have accumulated, the less room for maneuver you have, as power slips away with each misstep.

Therefore, the key to geopolitical analysis is understanding the constraints and imperatives, and being a good story teller. In “Speaker for the Dead” by science fiction writer Orson Scott Card, Ender Wiggin takes it on himself to explain with empathy, but without saccharine sympathy, the lives men have lived. I try to do that with nations. We both believe that we have choices, but they are few, and because they are few, our lives, families and nations are in some sense simpler and less mysterious than they appear.

There is a conventional methodology built around constraints (being born in the Carpathian foothills, being poor, having a father die), and then there is a sensibility that serves as a different methodology, called empathetic analysis, built around imperatives (eating, being safe, being loved). For that you must see the story, accept the story’s uniqueness and understand how it compels action. And then you can tell how people live and behave. It requires that you see clearly what has happened and neither condemn nor excuse.

A couple makes a family, a family builds a business, the business creates an industry, and all constitute a nation. One cannot be understood without the others, and no one truly understands or tells the truth as to why he did what he did. When looking at the United States and Iran, diplomacy hides the truth on both sides. Only empathy can reveal it, and empathy is the foundation of geopolitical analysis. We are humans whether peasants or kings, and neither fully understand why they do what they do. But they must be spoken for. Methodology reduces reality to the manageable. Empathy welcomes its complexity.   




Crafty_Dog

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George Friedman: Returning to the Beginning
« Reply #1001 on: January 25, 2020, 09:07:17 AM »
second post

   
    Returning to the Beginning
By: George Friedman

In recent weeks, I have been writing on the very ordinary but precious moments of my life. I wrote about the complexity of my family’s holidays and of a vacation, with what I hope came across as humor. All this is in preparation for my return to my original project: to place geopolitics in the philosophical tradition. There may seem to be no connection between the ordinary moments of life and something as exalted as philosophy, but they are intimately connected.

Ordinary life is extraordinary. The task of philosophy and geopolitics is to find the sacred in everyday life, and to do so with deep irony, which requires being able to laugh heartily. For who are we humans to speak of our lives and the sacred? Anyone who tries must do so with a deep sense of its pretentiousness. In elevating a rum punch during a beach vacation to a subject worthy of deep thought, we do three things: We elevate the ordinary, force ourselves to realize that there is little that is ordinary there, and face the chasm separating our attempt to understand the world and the absurdity of the attempt. But in that rum punch, in the game it plays with your mind, there is a freedom to both elevate yourself and mock yourself.

The problem of philosophy is that it tends to be boring. It is boring because it is complex and because it is abstracted from the lives that people live. The great philosophers give you a window through which to see yourself. That window is irony or, for those of us less elevated, humor. The entire idea of philosophy is humorous. Here we are, human beings who know many things, being told that we do not know the most important things. But humans know well the most important things: doing one’s duty, nurturing children, battling nature and society to provide for them, being just without being a martyr, being kind and being forgiving, even to those who won’t forgive.

This is a random list, and many things can be refined and added, but if philosophy is the study of the true and beautiful, then it at best makes elegant the things we already know. Philosophy holds no surprises, except for one profoundly important one: that human beings, in the course of their lives, should contemplate such matters without holding an advanced degree. And with that, philosophy contributes its most important gifts: irony and caution.

Irony is telling a truth in such a way that we can see it through the veil of laughter. As Plato infers, who are we mere humans to dare to think such exalted thoughts? I think of my father, who survived the Mauthausen concentration camp and a Soviet occupation, whom life had crushed too many times, who still had the ability to hope for something better and laughed at me, saying I was such a scrawny child to place his hopes in. He had faced Hitler’s and Stalin’s ideas directly and survived them, yet could still know that all homes, especially the most urgent, must be clothed in laughter.

Philosophy must also cloak the best and worst from the world. A philosopher is not someone with an advanced degree. It is someone who has confronted the best and worst of the world, and discovered that it takes courage to face both. I have an advanced degree and wrote books and articles that were designed not to enlighten but to demonstrate my brilliance through their obscurity. Later, doing other work, I discovered that philosophy does not live in the academy where justice is discussed but in the world, where justice must be lived.

Geopolitics is not recognized as a field, so I made it a business. But geopolitics is at the heart of philosophy. If we agree that all the examples I cited can be summed up by the question “who is man?” then the first answer is that humanity is divided into two parts: man and woman, and all that follows from this. The first discussion of duty must somehow revolve around this.

Geopolitics is a field that tries to define, explain and forecast the relationship among communities. The story it tells is a story of greatness and horror, but it begins in the simplest things that make us human. The first question I have raised in other places is, what creates a community or nation? The answer is the love of one’s own, the love of the things you were born to, and being brought up to know that their loves are yours and their hates are yours as well. But where does the love of one’s own come from? The irreducible truth is that the love of one’s own must be preceded if not with love then at least with lust. To have a child you must have sperm and an ovum. However we reengineer the human being and reproduction, and whatever journey in life the child undertakes, it begins with the sperm and ovum, and most usually the man and woman, retelling the oldest story there is.

Philosophy ought not to be about pontificating, and certainly not advocacy of policies, although listening to a professor discussing the just war is a hoot. But it is a hoot meant not to reveal hidden things but to set rules unrelated to reality. He is saved by the grace of indifference.

This may strike you as pointless or obvious. But that is the purpose of philosophy, to hold up to the light things that you are intimately familiar with and suddenly see something you never imagined you would see there. And those things are easiest to see when you see how preposterous it is for you to be seeing them. Next week, I will try to start climbing the mountain.   




Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor Decade Forecast
« Reply #1002 on: February 12, 2020, 07:52:04 PM »


Decade Forecast: 2020-2030
19 MINS READ
Feb 12, 2020 | 02:59 GMT

(Shutterstock)

Table of Contents
OVERVIEW
An Overview of the 2020s
Factors Shaping the 2020s
View As Multi Page

Overview

Over the next 10 years, the world will revert to a multipolar power structure that will encourage constantly shifting alliances and create a more contentious global system. In the midst of this dynamic change, pockets of economic opportunity will emerge. ...

SECTION
An Overview of the 2020s
7 MINS READ
Jan 29, 2020 | 15:48 GMT

Over the next 10 years, the world will revert to a multipolar power structure that will encourage constantly shifting alliances and create a more contentious global system. In the midst of this dynamic change, pockets of economic opportunity will emerge. ...

Toward a Multipolar World   

As the decade dawns, the world system is moving toward a more "normal" state of affairs, a return neither to the bipolar blocs of the Cold War nor to the brief hegemonic interlude that followed. Rather, we see a return to a world with several competing poles of power, both large and small, with less defined and more fluid alliances and partnerships. Over the decade, the United States and China — buoyed by their economic, political, military and social power — will be the most significant poles, with Russia and Europe each playing important, albeit less powerful, roles. Numerous smaller alliances and alignments will emerge, regionally or topically focused, seeking to use their shared interests and pooled resources to better maneuver among the larger powers.

The United States will remain the single largest power in holistic terms through the decade, but its comparative share of power is waning. China will continue to expand its global role, but domestic issues will limit its overall attention and power. Russia faces increasingly severe demographic and economic challenges, and by the end of the decade, the Russian-Chinese relationship will likely undergo significant strain as the power balance tips in Beijing's favor. Europe, meanwhile, will struggle to forge a new identity as it grows more apparent that the dream of a pan-national Europe does not match the reality of the differing social, economic and political models spread across the Continent.

The travails of the European Union, in plain view since the global financial crisis, are a precursor of the future across much of the world. The challenges posed by the spread of technologies, the revival of economic nationalism and stresses over economic expectations will likely lead to an increase in localized and regional conflict. With neither a global hegemon nor a bipolar system to try to force stability, the globe's shifting allegiances and alliances, changing trade arrangements and flows, and increasing social and political instability will produce a more fluid and contentious world over this decade.

Amid that volatility, pockets of economic opportunity and growth will emerge. Southeast Asia, East Africa and South America are but some the areas where expanding populations, rising urbanization, infrastructure development and growing social expectations will provide those opportunities. If they are able to capitalize on technology trends, and not be bypassed, these areas are poised to be engines of global growth. They stand in contrast to the global north, where populations are graying and stagnating, or even declining, slowing the rate of consumption and available capital. The demographic dichotomy will invigorate nationalist sentiments, even as migration may be the very thing needed to ease the social burdens in both the north and the south.

It is a decade where resistance to the ideals of extreme globalization will be even more manifest and where the assertion of national and local self-interest will clash with trends of regionalism and globalism. Amid demographic and economic challenges, the tendency will be to think local and act local, despite the identification of global problems.

Political Framework: The Limits of Alliances   

Without a singular global hegemon, or clearly defined competing blocs, nations will be freer to pursue relationships of benefit to their unique interests, leading to looser alignments, rather than comprehensive alliances. Nations will resist singular political, economic, security and social partnerships, preferring flexibility. It will be more common to have economic ties with one partner and security ties with another, straddling competitors among the larger powers. Despite calls for regional and global solutions, the nation and even subnationalism will be the dominant expression during the decade.


The United States and Europe will continue to diverge as the latter struggles with its own internal cohesion and the former moves to a less interventionist pattern. This will play out not merely in the realm of NATO and military activity, but in trade and taxation models, global climate initiatives, cyberspace policies and other aspects of global governance.

Meanwhile, during the first half of the decade, Russian-Chinese cooperation will continue to expand in the military, economic and technological realms. But China and Russia remain wary of one another's strength and motives. Russia will begin to resist China's initiatives by the latter half of the decade as Moscow prepares for a significant demographic crunch in the 2030s and sees Chinese infrastructure and connectivity stretching through the old Soviet Central Asia and Eastern Europe, through the Indian Ocean Basin and north across the Arctic as a threefold envelopment of its former sphere of influence.

Economic Framework: The Limits of Globalization   

Demographic, economic and technological developments are creating the pressures and the space for reshaping the global trade patterns that have been the norm since the late 1980s. While globalization will not go away, and complex supply chains will remain, there will be moves back toward more regional and local supply chains, and tighter intraregional trade. Comprehensive multilateral trade agreements have reached their limits due to their complexity and inflexibility, and they will be replaced with bilateral and minilateral trade arrangements. Coupled with surges in economic nationalism, this will prove a more complex environment for large multinational corporations, forcing the navigation of multiple systems or a choice to operate only in one.

We see a slower overall economic growth over the next decade, as the structures of trade and demographic dynamics evolve, though there will be localized pockets of high growth in less developed areas. The broader economic stagnation will have social implications as expectations of a continual rise in prosperity remain unfulfillable and youths find employment and upward mobility elusive, whether due to population bulges in the south or greying populations in the north not making way for new workers. The U.S. dollar is unlikely to lose its primacy in the international system during the next decade, though its centrality will continue to erode. China is simply not prepared to take on the cost and risk of promoting the yuan as the global reserve currency, and intra-European challenges will continue to weigh down the euro. Where China and Russia may make progress will be in exchange mechanisms, as they build redundancies and bypasses to blunt U.S. sanctions power.

Security Framework: The Limits of U.S. Power   

Attempts by the United States to shift from counterterrorism to a focus on peer and near-peer competition will be only partially successful over the next decade, as terrorism, whether inspired by global ideals or local issues (or more often than not a combination of the two), will not fade away. But even the United States has finite resources, and prioritization will have to be made. We expect the United States, actively or by default, to encourage local and regional actors to take up security responsibilities, with Washington intervening only occasionally where deemed strategically important. Europe will see a continued evolution of its security role beyond the confines of NATO. A shift in U.S. posture on the Middle East and South Asia, and the ripple implications into Central Asia, will ultimately pull Russia and China to take a more active approach, compelling Beijing to finally break from its reticence to use its military forces abroad.

Technological advances will distribute capabilities, reducing the military dominance of the "big powers." Automated systems, information operations, cyber actions with kinetic consequences and advances in communications will facilitate actions by even smaller states and nonstate actors. First- and second-tier powers will accelerate competition for space dominance, and long-anticipated advanced systems, including hypersonic and energy weapons, will reach operational stages. Following North Korea's example, we also see a further erosion of nuclear containment this decade.

SECTION

Factors Shaping the 2020s

12 MINS READ
Jan 29, 2020 | 15:51 GMT

Over the next 10 years, the world will revert to a multipolar power structure that will encourage constantly shifting alliances and create a more contentious global system. In the midst of this dynamic change, pockets of economic opportunity will emerge. ...

Reshaping Global Norms   

The existing international system is built on the back of a North Atlantic consensus — effectively among the United States, Canada and Western Europe. The basic economic, political and security architecture was put in place when this represented the bulk of global trade and economic activity and military and political power. But the world has changed substantially since the end of World War II, and particularly in the post-Cold War era. The rest of the world is now staking its claim to shape global norms, regulations and standards, and their champion is China. This trend will only accelerate over the decade.

Competition over global governance isn't just about the relation between nations, it is about trade and technology. China has expanded its position in global regulatory and standards-setting bodies and will continue to take a more active role. Coupled with China's sheer size and market, this can have lasting impact on the development and deployment of new technologies, from electric vehicles to artificial intelligence, telecommunications infrastructure and the internet of things.
 


The spectrum of differences is seen particularly in areas where social, economic and national security considerations overlap (telecommunications), but also in places as varied as agriculture policy and phytosanitary standards, and conflicting desires for global standards and national independence. In this, we see continued divergence not only between the United States and China, but also between each of them and Europe. While there are many areas of cooperation between or among these three, the decade will see a further fracturing of global consensus, and the emergence of competing but not completely divergent standards and regulations.

One large question for the decade is the role of the United Nations, and more specifically that of the Security Council. The council's five permanent members are no longer representative of the distribution of global power and influence, and as competition for global norms and standards heats up, reform of the Security Council is likely to be a contentious issue in the decade. Similar questions of relevance will dog the World Trade Organization, driven by the continuing shift away from multilateral trade arrangements.

Shifting Trade Patterns   

Containerization revolutionized the shipping industry, driving major new investments in ports and ship design and even requiring alterations in physical geography, including the expansion of the Panama Canal. But the growth of global containerized shipping may be nearing its limits, and while it will not necessarily decline, even a slowdown to that growth could create economic difficulties for the numerous new or expanded port facilities built over the past few decades.
 


Rising labor costs will reduce China's role as the center of global manufacturing. Few other locations can singly fill the huge space it currently occupies. Instead, the sector will become more distributed, much of it to nearby Southeast Asia. But if overall trade patterns begin to contract, the space for these countries to take advantage of their growing labor pools to move up the value chain will shrink.

A combination of shifts in technology, purchasing and labor patterns, climate awareness, and rising economic nationalism will contribute to a further reformation of global trade patterns, with growing levels of regional trade versus continued expansion of long supply chains. Further disruptions will stem from shifts in energy and commodity trade patterns, the expansion of new sea and land routes (driven by China's Belt and Road Initiative), and economic nationalism. Breakthroughs in additive or advanced manufacturing could compound the contraction of complex global supply chains.

Cyber Fragmentation   

We expect a further fragmenting of global communications and information infrastructure over the next decade. These systems sit at the intersection of matters of national security, information sovereignty, business continuity and personal freedom. Europe, the United States and China represent differing approaches to creating a balance among these interests, and as each creates differing regulatory environments, it will prove more difficult for companies to operate freely across all three, leading to reshaped technology supply chains. Over the decade, these trends can compound to create differing spheres of technology infrastructure.

Economic competition, differing regulations and national security concerns will also affect research and development initiatives, making it more difficult for ideas to freely flow between the private and state sectors and across geographies. Developments in artificial intelligence and other big data projects will diverge based on regulations over the collection and storage of data. Fragmentation will increase the pace and scope of cyberespionage in the private and state sectors.


Despite fragmenting systems, the low bar for entry will leave the cyberdomain vulnerable to state and nonstate actors conducting theft, espionage, disruption and information operations. States will struggle with managing information technologies that facilitate organization and mass movements within and across borders. The expansion of applications for the internet of things increases the likelihood that cyber actions will more frequently have kinetic implications. Should a major disruption to power, communications or financial systems occur, government responses will lead to further tightening of cybersovereignty.

Technology Impacts   

Technology is a massive bucket, but for this forecast, we will focus on three key areas: information systems, power generation and manufacturing.

The expansion of information systems can create educational opportunities, allowing distributed instruction and adaptable training and reducing the overconcentration of educational opportunities in key cities. In effect, this growth can redistribute opportunity, potentially slowing the pace at which developed economies are hollowed out and increasing access in developing nations. But the pace of technological change also requires rapid adaptability, and some areas will struggle to keep pace, particularly in the global south, where rising populations and limited government resources may leave them playing catch-up in training and adoption.


Advances in alternative energy production, large-scale energy storage and smart grid technology may do for energy production and distribution what cellular services did for telecommunications. These technological developments will allow the construction of smaller scale localized transmission grids that could, by the end of the decade, facilitate a rapid expansion of rural electrification, bringing new educational, health and employment opportunities to more places. This will have significant effects on social and political patterns, bringing disruption along with opportunity to areas of India, Central Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America where such connectivity had previously not been viable.

Advanced manufacturing techniques will facilitate the further near- or onshoring of manufacturing after decades of labor arbitrage. Advanced and additive manufacturing can reduce material and storage costs, facilitate just-in-time on-demand manufacturing, and allow smaller scale distributed facilities. While we do not expect a wholesale shift in manufacturing patterns over the decade, we do see experimentation that blends techniques such as 3D printing with on-demand purchasing and delivery services such as those offered by Amazon.com — an expansion of existing on-demand book printing to other simple tangibles. If such production were to grow faster than expected buoyed by advances in materials science and the expiration of key patents, it could undermine the opportunity for developing nations to move up the value chain as centers of manufacturing for global consumption.

A final feature of the decade will be the acceleration of the space race, with states, private industry and hybrids of the two competing over launch technologies, telecommunications systems and experimental space-based manufacturing. Since satellite systems fill critical roles in communications and information infrastructure and national security, as the space race heats up, so will the militarization of space.

Climate Issues   

Over the next decade, the most significant physical impacts of climate change will be an increasing volatility of extreme weather events, along with more acute water stress, shifts in maritime foodstuff resources and evolving accessibility to the Arctic. But the most immediate impacts will be felt at the political and social levels. Shifting energy production and transportation priorities will drive changes in the energy, automotive and infrastructure sectors. Europe will be the test bed of the economic effects of taking more aggressive measures to change the energy and transportation mix, but this may also exacerbate national and regional differences.

Increasing weather volatility, including shifting monsoon patterns, and expanding urbanization, with its attendant increase in animal protein consumption and concentrated water usage, can be expected to create several spreading agricultural challenges, punctuated by acute short-term crises. The developing world remains far behind the developed world in per capita meat consumption, but reduced poverty is driving rising rates, compounding water and land demand for food production. Water stresses can limit urbanization initiatives and strain hydropower production. In places like India and Central Asia, we expect water stress to have significant social and political ramifications over the decade.


Changing ocean temperature patterns are already affecting the location and robustness of stocks of fish and other marine foods. These resources are particularly significant both to the Asia-Pacific as a key source of animal protein and among localized areas elsewhere. As marine resource concentrations migrate, they cross artificial borders and contribute to clashes over territorial seas and maritime resources. We expect greater competition over maritime resources to strain relations not only along the Asia-Pacific rim but also along the Arctic and Antarctic frontiers.

Climate shifts have created the most profound and immediate changes in the Arctic, with sea ice patterns now effectively altering geography as much as human-made canals did in the past. With growing technological capabilities, competition over future resources and strategic concerns, the Arctic will be a focal point for great power competition, for challenges to global governance and norms, and for testing the limits of cooperation over climate mitigation with competition over resources and strategic advantage.

Beyond Hydrocarbons   

As climate change and economic and technological advances drive shifts in energy production and storage, hydrocarbon-based power will wane in overall significance — but it is unlikely to be surpassed by other methods over the decade. Neither will demand for oil peak before 2030. The continued expansion of liquefied natural gas infrastructure will shift global energy trade flows, as it offers new ways of being both green and diversifying suppliers for energy security.
 


Competition over strategic minerals for new energy applications will open investment opportunities and geopolitical competition in South America, Africa and along the Arctic fringe. Frontier locations, such as seabed mineral extraction, will draw continued interest but are unlikely to reach significant economic viability during the decade. However, they will reopen debates over global governance in the Arctic and Antarctic, with implications toward future developments in space exploration.

Shifting technology priorities risk driving boom-or-bust cycles in key new resource commodities, and rising economic security concerns will lead to increased political competition over key producer regions. The exploitation of new energy resources is unlikely to lead to development patterns driven by a concentration of easy access to a commodity in high demand akin to those experienced in the Middle East. But opportunities will emerge for nations able to exploit and retain control over in-demand mineral resources.

Demographics   

Much of the developed north is already facing graying populations and stagnating or declining natural population growth. The impacts of this trend will be felt keenly over the next decade. The financial burden will begin to strain social safety nets, and underfunded pension systems will force governments to further increase retirement ages, reducing space for entry to younger workers and making it harder for those wishing to exit the labor pool to afford retirement. As retirees move from storing up savings to spending on basic needs, the amount of available capital in the banking and finance system will begin to shrink. These challenges will be most pronounced in Europe, Japan and South Korea, though the United States will not remain unscathed.

In the global south, aside from China and soon India, populations are still growing, creating pools of available labor and, when paired with urbanization, rising consumption rates. These growing populations, with rising expectations, may prove a mixed blessing. If countries can harness the available labor, they can become pockets of economic growth and consumption. But if they are unable to meet expectations, they are vulnerable to social disruption and political turmoil. The contrast of demographic trends between the "north" and "south" is already playing into political and economic nationalism in Europe and the United States, often characterized as anti-immigrant. But by the end of the decade, this may shift to competition for select immigrants to counter demographic declines.


Technological advances have the potential to exacerbate or ameliorate these challenges. If advanced manufacturing techniques, lower energy costs and shorter transportation routes (or politically motivated economic policies) lead to more near- or onshoring, many of the countries poised to step into the low- and mid-end manufacturing and arbitrage their large labor pools may find themselves bypassed. But advances in telecommunications connectivity that provide significant decreases in lag time could begin to open a new space for outsourcing control of physical manufacturing without needing to move factories. In either case, the challenge of technological change against the current demographic backdrop will be one of reskilling — and the countries most adept at this will have the advantage.

Poverty and Health   

In part, health care advances, the increasing percentage of women in the workforce, smaller families and poverty alleviation efforts over the past half-century will drive the demographic shifts in the coming decade. Populations are skewing older because people are living longer. Birth rates have dropped in part because there is less expectation of high child mortality rates.

With less poverty and longer lifespans, the demand for resources will increase, including energy, agriculture, available land and clean water. Within countries, this can strain government resources and, if poorly managed, increase social instability. Among countries, the competition for resources or global attempts to shape conservation and climate mitigation initiatives can stir contention and accusations of imperial unfairness.
 


Reduced poverty, improved nutrition and preventative health care have also contributed to a global increase in societal expectations, whether for access to jobs, housing and education, or government social services. Rising expectations can drive economic intervention or nationalism, as governments seek to provide more and better quality domestic jobs. It also creates challenges for governments as the rising middle class becomes more politically active. This is even more pronounced as communication technologies allow rapid coordination of like interests, and greater access to alternative ideas, information and expectations. As more challenges are made to the political order, the likelihood that efforts toward building greater national digital sovereignty and security to reduce information flow will increase.

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Re: Stratfor Decade Forecast
« Reply #1003 on: February 13, 2020, 05:51:23 AM »
We should all do our 10 year forecast.
---------------------------------------
6 Reasons for Optimism in 2020
https://fee.org/articles/how-the-prague-spring-led-to-the-fall-of-communism/
https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-2010s-have-been-amazing-11576540377
1. Extreme Poverty Is Plummeting
2. More Than Half the World Is Middle Class
3. Global Life Expectancy Is Rising
4. Climate-Related Deaths Are Falling
5. Life Is Getting Better in the World’s Poorest Countries
6. The Cost of Starting a Business Has Plummeted in Developing Economies
(much more at link)
« Last Edit: February 13, 2020, 07:15:48 AM by DougMacG »

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Turkey and Ukraine (and Russia) Serious Read
« Reply #1004 on: February 14, 2020, 01:39:14 PM »


Some really important maps in the original, too bad they do not print here!


Ukraine and Turkey: The Foundations of a Strategic Partnership
By: Ridvan Bari Urcosta

Last week, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky met with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Kyiv. During the visit, Erdogan promised to strengthen military and economic cooperation with Ukraine and emphasized his support for the Crimean Tatars. After all, Crimea has long been central to Turkey’s relationship with Ukraine.

Another key factor in this relationship is a common adversary: Russia. Ankara has sought to use Ukraine and its long-standing connections there to its advantage as it engages with Moscow. Erdogan’s trip to Kyiv happened to coincide with a recent shift in Turkey-Russia relations, particularly in Syria, where the two countries appear to be getting closer to a potential confrontation in Idlib, and in Libya, where they support opposing sides in the civil war. Erdogan knows that Ukraine is an especially sensitive issue for the Kremlin, which sees a partnership between its critical buffer to the west and its historical rival to the south as a threat to its strategic interests in the Black Sea. By building closer ties to Kyiv, Ankara sees an opportunity to block Russian expansion in a strategic region historically known as the Pontic Steppe.
 
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Turkey’s Interests in the Pontic Steppe

At its peak, the Ottoman Empire stretched from the Atlas Mountains in the west to the Zagros Mountains and the Persian Gulf in the east, and to the Balkans and the Caucasus in the north. Former Ottoman territories still play a large role in contemporary Turkish foreign policy, particularly in Erdogan’s ambitious agenda to re-establish Turkish influence in the Persian Gulf, Levant, Black Sea, Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. As GPF forecast, Turkey has already begun to expand its presence in some of these areas, but while its involvement in places like Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean has garnered much attention of late, its relationship with Ukraine seems to have been mostly overlooked.
 
 
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Crimea is at the heart of Turkey’s engagement with Ukraine. Beginning in 1475, the Crimean Peninsula came under Ottoman rule, though it still had some autonomy. The Crimean Khanate was useful to the Ottomans as a bulwark against the Russians in the Black Sea for three centuries. With the Ottomans’ help, the khanate controlled strategically important chokepoints in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. These chokepoints are still an integral part of modern-day Turkey’s geopolitical strategy and are crucial in understanding Turkey’s quest to expand its influence north. The Ottomans also controlled three regions north of Crimea that now belong to Ukraine: Odessa, Nikolayev and Kherson. When the Ottoman Empire lost the Crimean Khanate in 1783, it was forced to retreat from many other theaters, particularly the Caucasus and the Pontic Steppe. The Russian Empire then took over these areas that had been occupied by the Turkic people for centuries.

Following the Russo-Crimean Wars in the 16th century, competition between the Ottomans and Russia in Crimea expanded. After the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, Crimea was officially handed over to the Russians with the signing of the 1774 Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca, regarded as a watershed moment marking the beginning of the Ottoman Empire’s protracted decline. After years of revolt against Russian rule, the Russian Empire annexed Crimea in 1783 and began to Slavicize Crimea and the surrounding areas. (Interestingly, Russia’s revival of the Novorossiya, or New Russia, concept in 2014 included claims to the Pontic Steppe. Russia used this concept to justify its incursion into Donbass in eastern Ukraine, though Novorossiya extends beyond Donbass to include Kharkov to the north and Odessa to the west.)

Russia had realized that without destroying the Crimean Khanate, it would have been nearly impossible to carry out military operations deep into the Balkans because the Turks and Crimean Tatars would have been able to sever Russian communications and lines of supply in central Ukraine. With Crimea under Russian control, Russian expansionism was formidable and could be stopped only with the emergence of the Russian Revolution in 1917. The Russian Empire thus expanded in two directions: into the Caucasus and into the Balkans.

For Turkey, the loss of Crimea once again reinforced the geostrategic importance of the Pontic Steppe (present-day Ukraine). Though Russia has failed to regain control of much of this area, it has managed to bring Crimea under its jurisdiction, which Turkey will inevitably see as a threat to its security. Turkey’s strategy in Ukraine, therefore, has been to support not just the Crimean Tatar nation but also Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. So long as the Tatars – who, for the most part, opposed Russian annexation and pledged their support to Kyiv – remain a factor in Crimea, Ankara will have some degree of influence on the peninsula.

Turkey-Ukraine Relations After 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin once called the Soviet Union’s collapse “a major geopolitical disaster.” And it’s not hard to see why. Russia had lost access to Crimea’s strategic ports, controlled just a small portion of the Black Sea coast and required access to the Turkish-controlled Bosporus just to be able to conduct maritime trade beyond the Black Sea. Turkey, on the other hand, had superior naval forces, control over strategic waterways (namely, the Turkish Straits), and more sovereignty over a larger portion of the Black Sea coast than any other country in the region. Suffice it to say, Turkey was satisfied with this state of affairs.
 
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That is, until 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea. Since then, Moscow’s position in the Black Sea has strengthened, and the possibility of confrontation between Turkey and Russia in the Black Sea has intensified. Indeed, without control of Crimea, Russia likely would not have been able to conduct military and naval operations in its Syrian campaign through the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey was alarmed over the rapid geopolitical developments in the region and expressed its support for Ukrainian territorial integrity from the very beginning of the Ukraine crisis, even sending then-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to Kyiv for talks in early 2014. To this day, it has not recognized Crimea as part of Russia and maintains close relations with the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, a body that represents Crimean Tatars and was banned by Russia in 2016. Turkey and Ukraine have also expanded military cooperation; they held joint naval exercises in the Black Sea in March 2016, just a few months after Turkey’s downing of a Russian military jet near the Syrian border. For Ankara, showing that it has a presence in Russia’s critical buffer is a way of increasing pressure on Moscow.

However, military cooperation between the two countries goes back further than 2014. In fact, Turkey has some of the closest ties to Ukraine’s defense industry of any NATO member. Ukraine’s state-owned defense firm Ukroboronprom has collaborated with Turkish companies Hevelsan, ASELSAN and Roketsan, among others. Last year, the two countries set up a joint venture focused on precision weapons and aerospace technologies. They also participated in joint projects to create An-188 and An-178 military transport aircraft, active defense systems for armored vehicles and radar systems. In 2019, Ukraine acquired Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones, armed with high-precision MAM-L bombs purchased from Roketsan. Ukrainian experts are expected to help Turkey develop a new, indigenously built battle tank. They even discussed collaborating on corvettes and surface-to-air missiles. One could argue that Turkey is using Ukraine to sidestep collaborating with Russian defense companies and also to bolster its own defense industry to reduce its dependence on NATO. In the process, the Ukrainian defense sector, which was hurt by the complete disengagement with the Russians, is also benefiting from collaborating with a NATO member, bringing its industry into line with NATO standards.

Economic cooperation has also been growing. During last week’s meeting, Erdogan and Zelensky agreed to complete talks on a free trade agreement, negotiations for which began under former President Petro Poroshenko. Zelensky appears ready to sign a trade deal, even though the benefits to Ukraine, as the weaker of the two economies, are still uncertain. With a deal in place, the two countries hope to bring trade turnover to $10 billion. Turkey also promised to give Ukraine $36 million in military support. Zelensky, in return, promised to help Erdogan on security issues, instructing Ukraine’s Security Service to look into Ukrainian educational centers linked to Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan has accused of orchestrating a coup attempt against him.

In an effort to attract more foreign capital, Zelensky has said he wants to lift a moratorium on farmland sales, raising the issue last year during a speech in Istanbul. (The Ukrainian parliament has since passed a bill that would allow the sale of land to foreigners, except Russian citizens and corporations, beginning in 2024.) Ukraine has also welcomed the Trans-Anatolian pipeline project, which could bring natural gas from Azerbaijan via Turkey to Ukraine, as well as other parts of Europe. Alternative sources of energy are becoming increasingly important as Russia becomes more reluctant to deliver energy to Turkey and Europe via pipelines that pass through Ukraine, such as the Trans-Balkan pipeline.

In addition, Crimea has continued to play a key role in Ukraine-Turkey relations. As part of Turkey’s quest to promote the concept of Neo-Ottomanism, Turkish officials have emphasized the historical and ancestral links between Turkey and the Crimean Tatars. Former Foreign Minister Davutoglu even regularly met with leaders from the Crimean Tatar community. Before 2014, this may have irritated Kyiv, but since the Russian annexation, Crimean Tatar representatives have been included in delegations on official visits. As Davutoglu once put it, Crimea is now considered “a bridge of friendship” between the two countries.

Turkey is also the top trade partner for the three regions of Ukraine north of Crimea: Odessa, Nikolayev and Kherson (all part of the Pontic Steppe). And Turkish ally Qatar recently won a bid to develop Olvia port in Nikolayev region, which will be the biggest foreign investment in a Ukrainian port in history.

Immediately after Crimea’s annexation, Turkey and the Crimean Tatars asked Kyiv for permission to build ethnic settlements in Kherson (once part of the Crimean Khanate) for Tatars who had fled Crimea. Poroshenko avoided making a decision on the issue, but Zelensky has pledged his support. Russia will likely stir up anti-Tatar sentiments among locals there to try to convince them to oppose it.

There are between 1 million and 3 million Crimean Tatars in Turkey, most of whom tend to be pro-Ukraine. Erdogan, therefore, has a political incentive to woo the region. In 2017, he spoke with Putin on behalf of two Crimean Tatar leaders who were jailed for opposing the annexation. And recently, Zelensky asked Erdogan to intervene in a case over Crimean Tatars convicted on extremism charges after Russian authorities accused them of being followers of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group that has been banned in Russia.

In addition to political, economic and military links, the two countries have religious connections. In 2019, the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople approved the official decree splitting the Orthodox Church of Ukraine from Russia. Erdogan has declined to comment on religious issues in Ukraine but has met with Bartholomew I of Constantinople, who signed the decree.

It’s worth noting, however, that within the Ukrainian political elite, there is some concern over Turkey’s true intentions and loyalties, especially considering that Ankara has not joined the West in applying sanctions against Russia over Crimea. Ukraine has viewed with suspicion the budding relationship between Putin and Erdogan, which continues despite their countries' disagreements. When Ukraine hoped to import liquefied natural gas through the Black Sea to reduce its reliance on Russian energy, Turkey refused passage of LNG tankers through the Turkish Straits. Turkey has meanwhile kept the straits open to Russian warships that could be used to threaten Ukraine. However, Kyiv hopes the proposed new Istanbul Canal may be blocked for Russian naval ships since, according to Ukraine, it won’t be governed by the Montreux Convention, which regulates transit through the Turkish Straits.

Both countries have benefited from military cooperation and continue to pursue economic ties, including the proposed free trade deal. Turkey sees Ukraine as a key part of its goal to restore its once overwhelmingly dominant position in the Black Sea, and Ukraine sees Turkey as a counterbalance to Russian influence and leverage in the Black Sea. Their relationship is driven by their own strategic interests. So long as they need allies in the Black Sea, they will look to each other as strategic partners.   


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George Friedman: New US strategy and tech
« Reply #1005 on: February 18, 2020, 01:37:42 PM »
February 18, 2020   View On Website
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    New US Strategy and Technology
By: George Friedman
The world is facing a fundamental strategic and technical shift in both the geopolitics of war and its dynamic. The shift is being driven by the United States’ decision to change its global strategic posture and the maturation of new classes of weaponry that change how wars will be fought.

U.S. Posture

The U.S. has publicly announced a change in American strategy consisting of two parts. The first is abandoning the focus on jihadists that began with al-Qaida’s attack on the U.S. in 2001. The second is reshaping and redefining forces to confront China and Russia. For a while, it had been assumed that there would no longer be peer-to-peer conflicts but rather extended combat against light infantry and covert forces such as was taking place in Afghanistan. After every international confrontation, including the Cold War, the absence of immediate peer threats leads strategists to assume that none will emerge, and that the future engagements will involve managing instability rather than defeating peers. This illusion is the reward of comfort to the victorious powers. Immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union, the belief was that the only issue facing the world was economic, and that military strategy was archaic. The events of 9/11 changed that, but the idea of national conflicts was still seen as farfetched.

The United States is now shifting its strategy to focus on peer-to-peer conflict. Peer-to-peer conflict is not about two equal powers fighting; it’s about two powers that field similar forces. So the war in Afghanistan was between a combined arms force and a totally different, light infantry force. As we saw in Vietnam, the latter can defeat a far more advanced force by understanding the political dimension more clearly than its opponent. Peer-to-peer conflict involves two forces conceiving of war in the same way. Germany invaded Poland and was by far the more powerful force, but Poland conceived of war the same way the Germans did. In this sense, they were peers.

The United States is a global power. Russia cannot wage war in the Atlantic or Pacific. China cannot project decisive power into Europe. The United States can do both. It is not nearly as geographically limited in its warfighting as the other two are. But were the United States to confront them within the areas where they can operate, the question then is the quality of forces, in terms of command and technology.

China’s national interest pivots on its ability to use sea lanes to sustain international trade. Its ability to project land power is limited by terrain; to its south are hills, jungles and the Himalayas, and to its north is Siberia. It could attack westward through Kazakhstan, but the logistical challenges are enormous and the benefits dubious. For China, then, the fundamental problem is naval, deriving from the threat that the U.S. could use its forces to blockade and cripple China.

Russia’s strategic interest rests in regaining the buffer zone from Latvia to Romania. The loss of these states in 1991 eroded the main defense line of an attack from the west. Russia’s primary goal, therefore, is to recover these buffers. Of secondary but still significant importance is holding the North Caucasus south of the Russian agricultural heartland. The threat to this region is insurgency in areas like Chechnya and Dagestan, or an American move from the South Caucasus.

Neither a U.S. naval blockade of China nor an attack on Russia proper from the west are likely scenarios. But national strategy must take into account implausible but catastrophic scenarios, because common sense can evaporate rapidly. Thus the Russians must maintain sustained pressure primarily to the west but also to the south. China must press eastward, in the South and East China seas, to demonstrate the costs a blockade would impose.

The focus for each is not necessarily action but creating the possibility of action and thereby shaping the political relationship. The danger is that the gesture will trigger what had been seen as an unreasonable response. The problem for the United States is that it cannot be sure of Russia’s or China’s reading of American intentions, and therefore, it must be prepared to counter both. War is rarely about hunger for conquest; it is about the fear of being conquered. For Russia, it is fear that the U.S. will try to achieve what Napoleon and Hitler failed to achieve, given the loss of its buffers. For China, it is a fear of strangulation by American naval forces. For the United States, it is fear that Russia will return with force to Central Europe, or that China will surge into the Western Pacific. All such fears are preposterous until they mount to such a point that doing nothing appears imprudent.

A New Class of Weapons

World War II was first waged between German armor and Soviet infantry, and then it became a war of armor against armor. In the Pacific, the decisive war was not of battleships against battleships, but of aircraft against naval vessels and, toward the end, airpower. Much of the battles on islands like Saipan and Guadalcanal were intended by both sides to secure them for air bases. The Cold War, had it turned hot, was conceived of as an upgraded World War II, of armor and air power against armor and air power.

From World War II until the end of the Cold War, peer-to-peer conflict focused on three classes of weapons: armored vehicles, aircraft carriers and manned bombers. After 1967 and the introduction of precision-guided weapons, the survivability of these weapons declined, and massive resources had to be allocated to allow them to survive. Armor had to be constantly upgraded to defeat far cheaper projectiles that were unlikely to miss. Aircraft carriers had to be surrounded by carrier battle groups consisting of anti-air cruisers, anti-submarine destroyers and attack submarines, all integrated into complex computer systems that could counter attacks by precision-guided weapons. Manned bombers flying into enemy airspace could be confronted by sophisticated surface-to-air missiles. The solution was to try to build bombers invisible to enemy radar. The cost of defending these systems that emerged in World War II surged as the cost of destroying them began to decline.

Counters to precision-guided weapons inevitably emerged, and we have reached the threshold of a new class of weapons: hypersonic missiles. These munitions, which can travel at five to 10 times the speed of sound, maneuver in flight and carry sufficient explosives, including sub munitions (smaller projectiles designed to hit multiple targets), make the survival of tanks, surface vessels and manned bombers increasingly problematic. Their speed, maneuverability and defenses against detection decrease the probability that all incoming hypersonic missiles can be destroyed, while they retain the precision of previous generations of weapons.
 
(click to enlarge)

Russia, China and the U.S. are all working on these weapons. Sometimes they exaggerate their limited capabilities; sometimes they minimize their substantial capabilities. But all have them and are developing better ones if they can. And this changes war from the way it was conceived in World War II and the Cold War. A new system of weapons is beginning to emerge.

The key to the development of hypersonics is range. The shorter their range, the closer the attacker must come. The longer the range, the more uncertainty there is over its location and the more likely it is to survive and be fired, maneuvering in excess of the ability of defending system. So in the South China Sea, it will not be carriers facing carriers. They will be neutralized by hypersonic missiles. Nor will it be armored brigades engaging. The tanks will be neutralized long before they engage. The goal will be to locate and destroy an enemy’s missiles before they are launched and before they can approach their target.

The key will be the ability to locate and track hypersonic missiles and then destroy them. The solution to this is systems in space. The Chinese will not engage the U.S. Navy with its carriers. It will try to destroy them with well camouflaged missiles from land bases. To do this, they must locate the target, which is mobile. Its own platforms being vulnerable, they will rely on space-based reconnaissance. The United States’ primary mission therefore will be to destroy Chinese satellites, find the location of Chinese launchers and launch saturated attacks on them, likely from space.

Modern war, like all war, depends on intelligence and targeting information. Precision-guided munitions move older platforms toward obsolescence, and hypersonics closes the door. The battle must be at a longer range than most missiles have now, and will be dependent on a space-based system for targeting. This means that victory in war will depend on command of space.
Note that the U.S. has now established the U.S. Space Force, which integrated the space fighting capabilities of other services into one. This represents the realization that dealing with peer powers now depends on the command of space. Therefore, the United States’ strategic turn away from jihadists toward Russia and China also constitutes a shift away from the primacy of older platforms. A new strategy and the recognition of the importance of space mean that the decisive battle will not be fought on Earth’s surface.   




Crafty_Dog

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Walter Russell MeadL Euros try to have it both ways
« Reply #1006 on: February 18, 2020, 02:51:06 PM »
Europeans Try to Have It Both Ways
They expect American protection but aren’t prepared to defend their own countries.

By Walter Russell Mead
Feb. 17, 2020 4:20 pm ET

How solid is the West? At last weekend’s Munich Security Conference, the world’s largest gathering of security policy makers and officials, the theme was “Westlessness,” referring to the sense of disorientation that many Europeans feel in this age of America First.

Since the 1940s, U.S. leadership in the service of a united and secure Europe has been the one unchanging feature in the Continental landscape. For generations, the U.S. committed to protect Europe from Russia, maintain bases in Germany to prevent it from threatening its neighbors, and promote European integration. Now Europeans don’t know where they stand, and a mixture of bafflement, anger, disappointment and fear fills the atmosphere at conferences like the one in Munich.

There’s little doubt that Trump administration policies, ranging from trade wars to toughness on Iran, have tested trans-Atlantic relations to the breaking point. But to understand the growing weakness of the Western alliance, Europeans need to spend less time deploring Donald Trump and more time looking in the mirror. A good place to begin is with a Pew poll released earlier this month on the state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Superficially, the poll looks like good news. In 14 European countries plus Canada and the U.S., a median 53% of respondents said they had a favorable view of NATO, while only 27% saw the alliance unfavorably. Despite double-digit declines in NATO’s favorability among the French and the Germans, these numbers aren’t bad. Mr. Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel are all less popular in their home countries than NATO is.

So far, so good—but that support is thin. When asked if their country should go to war with Russia if it attacked a NATO ally, 50% of respondents said no, and only 38% supported honoring their commitment to NATO allies.

Let those numbers sink in. Only 34% of Germans, 25% of Greeks and Italians, 36% of Czechs, 33% of Hungarians and 41% of the French believe their country should fulfill its treaty obligation if another European country is attacked. Only the U.S., Canada, the U.K., the Netherlands and Lithuania had a majority in favor of honoring the NATO commitment to mutual defense.

Europeans often contrast the “nationalism” of backward political cultures like Russia, China and the U.S. with their own supposedly enlightened attitude of cosmopolitan solidarity. Yet if these numbers are accurate, Europeans haven’t replaced nationalism with European solidarity. They have replaced nationalism with fantasy: the belief that one can have security and prosperity without a strong defense.

That vision leaves Europe vulnerable, and it is threatening to let the West unravel. European leaders believe they are trading parochial loyalties for higher and broader commitments, when in truth their countries lack the solidarity that makes international order possible. Those who dream that they can have security without the willingness to fight for it are slowly turning NATO into the paper tiger that its enemies hope it will become.

Meanwhile, Europeans still, mostly, trust America. Seventy-five percent of Italians believe the U.S. would rally to NATO’s defense if Russia attacks, as do 63% of Germans and 57% of French. Despite European ambivalence about fulfilling NATO obligations, the alliance is held together by their confidence that America—Mr. Trump’s America—will fulfill its obligations.

Europe’s problem isn’t Mr. Trump. It isn’t nationalism. It isn’t that others aren’t wise or enlightened enough to share Europe’s ideals. It is that too few Europeans stand ready to defend the ideals they claim to embrace. That young Germans no longer dream of fighting and dying to conquer Poland is an excellent thing, but it is a bad and even a dangerous thing that so few young Germans think Europe is important enough to defend and, if necessary, to risk their lives for.

This problem won’t be easy to solve. For many Europeans, the essential purpose of European integration was to end war. For centuries, the restless nationalisms of European peoples plunged the Continent into one wretched war after another. The European Union was meant to bury those national antagonisms and end the cycle of war. To love Europe was to enter a posthistorical age of perpetual peace. For voters who grew up in the European cocoon, the military defense of European ideas sounds like a contradiction in terms. How can you build peace by making war?

In contrast, Americans continue to believe that Europe is worth defending. We must hope that over the next few years more Europeans will come around to that position; otherwise, the prospects for “Westlessness” will only grow.


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GPF: George Friedman: Back to the Future, China and the US
« Reply #1011 on: May 18, 2020, 11:05:06 AM »
May 18, 2020
Back to the Future: China and the US
By: George Friedman

The COVID-19 disease, which seems likely to be with us for a long time, has done its part to define history. But it has not suspended history. Though there is much we still don’t know about the disease, we do know that all nations have been affected by it. The death toll is significant but does not threaten to annihilate populations as other diseases have. It has, however, inflicted damage on economies that will take years to repair. Either science will defeat it or the world will adjust to living with it.

But that branch in the logic will not come for a while.

Since nations continue to exist, the distrust between them remains – in many cases, it has intensified. As things evolve, the relationships between nations will return to their traditional role. As there is little more to be said for now about the virus that has not been said already, we need to return to the consideration of geopolitics, which like diseases can cause massive casualties. Were this the bubonic plague, we would be returning to the relationship between Rome and Florence. Today we will return to the relationship between the U.S. and China.

When we last visited these two nations, the United States had placed tariffs on some Chinese exports to the U.S., hurting and angering China and leaving it no effective counter. The Chinese built their economy the same way the United States had between 1890 and 1929: by exporting cheap manufactured goods and agricultural products. The international system needs cheap products, and the exporter must export to increase domestic prosperity and create a self-sustaining society. The advantage of an exporter is it makes money. The disadvantage is it depends on the willingness and ability of its customers to buy. So when, for example, the post-World War I depressions took hold of Europe, Europe’s ability to buy U.S. products became a major cause of the Great Depression.

China suffered a blow in 2008, when the global recession following the subprime loan crisis cut into China’s exports dramatically. More recently, tariffs imposed by the U.S. threatened to create a massive imbalance in the Chinese economy.

Chinese industry vastly outgrew domestic Chinese demand, producing more than Chinese consumers could buy. The U.S. move was designed to destabilize China, which had been emerging as a major power suffering a major vulnerability. The U.S. took advantage of it.

At roughly the same time, it was revealed that the Chinese were operating concentration camps of sorts for Uighurs, Turkic Muslim minority populations in far western Xinjiang province, as demonstrations and riots broke out in Hong Kong. Try as it might, China’s excellent propaganda had a harder time convincing the world that it was passing the U.S. as a great power. China’s gross domestic product was about $14 trillion and the United States' was just under $22 trillion, and China has many more people. The U.S. military is able to operate globally. The Chinese are trying to find a lever in the South China Sea.

Propaganda aside, China was to the U.S. what the U.S. was to Britain in 1900. Looked at from that point of view, the U.S. could be ambitious but had to be cautious. Britain could be contemptuous at its own risk.

China is not in any way the equal of the U.S., either economically or militarily. Propaganda is not trivial but it can not be decisive. Or more precisely, it could not be decisive yet. Britain in 1900 was celebrating its very real glory. By the 1920s, it was defaulting on its vast debt to the United States, in the midst of economic agony, struggling to hold its position in Europe, fearing reasonably that its empire was in danger.

There are of course many differences between the three countries, but the core dynamic had similarities. One of these similarities is that British investment in the United States was a centerpiece of both nations’ economic strategies. British capital was critical to U.S. industrialization and to ranches in the West. Similarly, U.S. investment in China was critical to China’s industrial development, as was the import of Chinese goods. The United States and China were linked economically as were the U.S. and Britain. And we should remember that when Britain fought in World War II to save its empire, it was the United States that compelled the British to follow a military strategy that made its loss of empire inevitable. Winston Churchill accused Franklin Roosevelt of trying to destroy the British Empire. Roosevelt was shocked and offended by the charge.

China remains inferior to the U.S. in all measures, but it has risen to the point where the U.S. can no longer accept China’s military ambitions nor finance the Chinese economy. China wants badly to resume the economic relationship it had with the United States, while having the U.S. accept its need to dominate first the South and East China seas and then the Pacific, while also projecting economic power and later military power globally. The United States is dominant in North America. It fought for control of the Pacific and the Atlantic in World War II. From China’s point of view, the geography of the Western Pacific and the ability of the U.S. to blockade China is an existential threat.

China has little appetite for risk. Starting a war carries with it the chance of losing. Nor can China trust the U.S. So it is laying the groundwork for an opportunity or an aggressive decision by the United States. Facing historically hostile enemies like Japan and South Korea and, more recently, Taiwan and Indonesia, the Chinese lack a meaningful alliance structure. North Korea is a useful but dangerous tool with which to goad the United States. Other than that, it has a strategy of making random investments around the world to demonstrate its growing power. As propaganda, it works. The use of investments in, say, Serbia is less clear strategically.

China therefore has three core strategic problems. Challenging the U.S. for command of the sea is a dangerous game. While countries such as Russia might fear the U.S. as much as China does, geography prevents cooperation, so China lacks a meaningful alliance structure. Finally, China’s main adversary, the U.S., is also indispensable for the Chinese economy.

China’s solution to this dilemma, bravado aside, is twofold. The first is to hope that the U.S. gets involved in a war like World War I, as Britain did. The other is to confront the U.S. in another domain: space. Success in the latter might create an opportunity for the former. Thus for China, space and missiles provide a military option but don’t solve the economic problem.
The U.S. is obviously aware of the military challenge. It has announced a massive withdrawal of forces from the Middle East to devote more time and attention to Russia and China. Patriot missiles have been removed from Saudi Arabia and bases in Iraq have closed. At the same time, the U.S. has withdrawn B-52s from Guam, indicating it is focusing on a space-based missile option against China. But in the end, both nations are in deterrence mode. Neither can afford losing a war against the other.
The major U.S. weapon against China is economic. Here the virus opens opportunities. The U.S. is dependent on China for vast amounts of products, a supply chain that gave the U.S. the benefit of low-cost manufacturing, and the Chinese an industrial base. The Chinese move is to expel and block the U.S. supply chain, but Beijing can’t do it while also maintaining social stability. And the U.S. has options to replace the Chinese supply chain.

The solution on both sides is to hurl insults. The Americans hint that the Chinese are responsible for the coronavirus. The Chinese have a global effort to show that the virus has crippled the United States permanently and that China is now the leading power. Propaganda wars may be fun to watch, and hurling insults should perhaps be an Olympic sport, but power is not a matter of perception, at least not when bombs start landing and bankruptcies mount. The U.S. will continue to hurl insults while undermining the Chinese by shifting the supply chain. China will continue seeking a military advantage.

China and the U.S. have been hammered by the virus. The hopes, imperatives and constraints of both countries relative to each other have been bent but not broken by the epidemic. As it was before so it will be in the future.   




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The Role of Attrition in War
« Reply #1012 on: May 26, 2020, 10:10:35 AM »
Wars Are Not Won by Military Genius or Decisive Battles
We place the battle on a high pedestal, but attrition has a far greater impact on the war.
AeonCathal J Nolan



War is the most complex, physically and morally demanding enterprise we undertake. No great art or music, no cathedral or temple or mosque, no intercontinental transport net or particle collider or space programme, no research for a cure for a mass-killing disease receives a fraction of the resources and effort we devote to making war. Or to recovery from war and preparations for future wars invested over years, even decades, of tentative peace. War is thus far more than a strung-together tale of key battles. Yet, traditional military history presented battles as fulcrum moments where empires rose or fell in a day, and most people still think that wars are won that way, in an hour or an afternoon of blood and bone. Or perhaps two or three. We must understand the deeper game, not look only to the scoring. That is hard to do because battles are so seductive.

War evokes our fascination with spectacle, and there is no greater stage or more dramatic players than on a battlefield. We are drawn to battles by a lust of the eye, thrilled by a blast from a brass horn as Roman legionaries advance in glinting armour or when a king’s wave releases mounted knights in a heavy cavalry charge. Grand battles are open theatre with a cast of many tens of thousands: samurai under signal kites, mahouts mounted on elephants, a Zulu impi rushing over lush grass toward a redcoat firing line. Battles open with armies dressed in red, blue or white, flags fluttering, fife and drums beating the advance. Or with the billowing canvas of a line of fighting sail, white pufferies erupting in broadside volleys. Or a wedge of tanks hard-charging over the Russian steppe. What comes next is harder to comprehend.

The idea of the ‘decisive battle’ as the hinge of war, and wars as the gates of history, speaks to our naive desire to view modern war in heroic terms. Popular histories are written still in a drums-and-trumpets style, with vivid depictions of combat divorced from harder logistics, daily suffering, and a critical look at the societies and cultures that produced mass armies and sent them off to fight in faraway fields for causes about which the average soldier knew nothing.

Visual media especially play on what the public wants to see: raw courage and red days, the thrill of vicarious violence and spectacle. This is the world of war as callow entertainment, of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009) or Brad Pitt in Fury (2014). It’s not the world of real Nazis or real war.

Battles also entice generals and statesmen with the idea that a hard red day can be decisive, and allow us to avoid attrition, which we all despise as morally vulgar and without redemptive heroism. We fear to find only indecision and tragedy without uplift or morality in trench mud, or roll calls of dead accumulating over years of effort and endurance. Instead, we raise battles to summits of heroism and generals to levels of genius that history cannot support. Though some historians might try, celebrating even failed campaigns as glorious. Prussia is wrecked, yet Frederick is the greatest of Germans. France is beaten and an age is named for Louis XIV, another for Napoleon. Europe lies in ruin, but German generals displayed genius with Panzers.

Whether or not we agree that some wars were necessary and just, we should look straight at the grim reality that victory was most often achieved in the biggest and most important wars by attrition and mass slaughter – not by soldierly heroics or the genius of command. Winning at war is harder than that. Cannae, Tours, Leuthen, Austerlitz, Tannenberg, Kharkov – all recall sharp images in a word. Yet winning such lopsided battles did not ensure victory in war. Hannibal won at Cannae, Napoleon at Austerlitz, Hitler at Sedan and Kiev. All lost in the end, catastrophically.

There is heroism in battle but there are no geniuses in war. War is too complex for genius to control. To say otherwise is no more than armchair idolatry, divorced from real explanation of victory and defeat, both of which come from long-term preparation for war and waging war with deep national resources, bureaucracy and endurance. Only then can courage and sound generalship meet with chance in battle and prevail, joining weight of materiel to strength of will to endure terrible losses yet win long wars. Claims to genius distance our understanding from war’s immense complexity and contingency, which are its greater truths.

Modern wars are won by grinding, not by genius. Strategic depth and resolve is always more important than any commander. We saw such depth and resilience in Tsarist Russia in 1812, in France and Britain in the First World War, in the Soviet Union and the United States during the Second World War, but not in Carthage or overstretched Nazi Germany or overreaching Imperial Japan. The ability to absorb initial defeats and fight on surpassed any decision made or battle fought by Hannibal or Scipio, Lee or Grant, Manstein or Montgomery. Yes, even Napoleon was elevated as the model of battle genius by Clausewitz and in military theory ever since, despite his losing by attrition in Spain, and in the calamity of the Grand Armée’s 1812 campaign in Russia. Waterloo was not the moment of his decisive defeat, which came a year earlier. It was his anticlimax.

Losers of most major wars in modern history lost because they overestimated operational dexterity and failed to overcome the enemy’s strategic depth and capacity for endurance. Winners absorbed defeat after defeat yet kept fighting, overcoming initial surprise, terrible setbacks and the dash and daring of command ‘genius’. Celebration of genius generals encourages the delusion that modern wars will be short and won quickly, when they are most often long wars of attrition. Most people believe attrition is immoral. Yet it’s how most major wars are won, aggressors defeated, the world remade time and again. We might better accept attrition at the start, explain that to those we send to fight, and only choose to fight the wars worth that awful price. Instead, we grow restless with attrition and complain that it’s tragic and wasteful, even though it was how the Union Army defeated slavery in America, and Allied and Soviet armies defeated Nazism.

With humility and full moral awareness of its terrible costs, if we decide that a war is worth fighting, we should praise attrition more and battle less. There is as much room for courage and character in a war of attrition as in a battle. There was character aplenty and courage on all sides at Verdun and Iwo Jima, in the Hürtgen Forest, in Korea. Character counts in combat. Sacrifice by soldiers at Shiloh or the Marne or Kharkov or Juno Beach or the Ia Drang or Korengal Valley were not mean, small or morally useless acts. Victory or defeat by attrition, by high explosive and machine gun over time, does not annihilate all moral and human meaning.

Cathal J Nolan teaches military history at Boston University. He is the author of The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost (2017).


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GPF: George Friedman: Why there won't be a war with China
« Reply #1013 on: May 29, 2020, 10:03:48 PM »
   
    Friedman’s Thoughts In and Around Geopolitics: Why There Won’t Be a War With China
By: George Friedman

Jacek Bartosiak, a close friend and collaborator, wrote a piece earlier in the week that concluded with a discussion of U.S.-China relations. He and I don’t so much disagree on this as arrive from different perspectives, one Polish and the other American. In that sense, I’m not responding to him; I’m creating a parallel universe.

At the end of the article, Jacek calls for American collaboration with China. It reminds me of calls for detente with the Soviet Union. The argument for detente was reasonable, had the foundation for it not been so tenuous. It treated the Soviet Union as a peer power. It also assumed that there was a danger of war. In retrospect, neither claim was true.

The United States feared a Soviet invasion of Europe. Washington counted the number of divisions Moscow could field, the number of tanks it had and the technology it proudly left available for viewing. All of these were real. It presented a glamorous force. But the Soviets’ weakness was in far less glamorous form. Their ability to supply advancing forces with needed petroleum was severely limited. The command structure, particularly at the company level and lower, was chaotic. They lacked a noncommissioned officer cadre that all modern armies have as the backbone of their force. There were officers and draftees cycling through the system. A lack of sergeants or the ability to fuel tanks during an attack excited intelligence officers far less than the appearance of a new armored personnel carrier. But the men in the APC needed noncoms to lead them and fuel flowing as they attacked.

The United States overestimated the Soviets for a number of reasons. First, a key principle of war is to never underestimate the enemy. It is a principle that should be used prudently. Second, the Americans underestimated their own capabilities. They saw their weakness without understanding that war is a confrontation less of strength and more of comparative weakness. They were blind to the Soviet weakness and were frightened by their own.

But the Americans had another problem: Pearl Harbor. It was not the attack itself but the fact that the United States had vastly underestimated the Japanese. The generation that emerged from World War II was raised in the doctrine of “never again.” The U.S. would never again underestimate an enemy. The U.S. was afraid of a nuclear confrontation with the Soviets during the Cuban missile crisis. Yet, the Soviets had no strategic air force, even as the U.S. had the B-52 fleet. The United States had surrounded the Soviet Union with bases housing shorter-range missiles. The Soviet intermediate missiles could not reach the U.S. from Russia, and besides there were no nearby bases to launch them from. The Soviets tried to build nuclear bases in Cuba so they could hit the U.S. while their intercontinental ballistic missiles were deployed. The world was on the verge of nuclear war, but only if the U.S. decided to start one.

The U.S. took away the wrong lesson from Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor was not a Japanese victory but a catastrophic defeat. The political purpose of the attack was to destroy the American fleet at Pearl Harbor and force the United States into a truce that allowed Japan to hold the Western Pacific. The attack succeeded but the political goal was lost. Pearl Harbor led to the devastation and occupation of Japan. This was inevitable. Japan was not an American peer in an economic sense. It could not possibly produce the weapons that were needed to engage the U.S. The Japanese failed to learn the first rule of war: You can lose.

It was because of this that the Soviets never attacked Europe or the United States, and that the United States never attacked the Soviet Union. In the end, the Soviet Union collapsed because of its own inadequacies. The Soviets spent a fortune on weapons they could not afford or use.

This comports with the Russian operating principle of Maskirovka – the masquerade that makes small men look large and weak countries look strong. It worked so well that the U.S. spent the 1980s creating weapons it could afford and for which it had troops who could operate them. It’s the competition that broke the Russians.

And now we come to China. China has always been there, even if some couldn’t see it. It is a vast universe unto itself. To the west are endless grasslands that no mechanized army can cross. In the southwest are the Himalayas, and to the south are hills and jungles, both of which are barriers to war. To the north is Siberia, to the east the sea. China is isolated by geography. It may on occasion move a bit south or north, but it has not since the 15th century moved into the sea. Its last naval engagement was fought in 1895, and its fleet was destroyed by the Japanese. Since then, no Chinese admiral has had to refuel his ships a thousand miles from home, while under fire.

I am making two points. The first is that, as with the Russians, the core of a military force is not the technology but the soldiers who man the guns and the command structure that manages them. Great militaries come from a great tradition. Even as technologies evolve, the principles of leadership and of war-making are central. The British have a long tradition, as do the Americans. It is a tradition of war handed down to generations who have not yet fought one. The Chinese memory of war is of their civil war. The American is of glorious victories and losses as well. Historically, China’s great battles have been waged in China against the Chinese (or the Mongols). This was dictated by geography. Power projection has always been too difficult and risky.

China is an isolated nation, most of whose citizens live in enormous poverty west of the strip along the ocean. Mao called on these peasants to rise and fight Chiang Kai Shek. They died by the millions but won against their countrymen. It is a noble tradition of war, but not one that suits a nation whose only potential battlefield is the sea, or command of the sea from air and space. That culture of war is lacking.

It must also be remembered that before the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. gross domestic product was $22 trillion. China’s was $14 trillion, its GDP being reported always two weeks after the new year. China has 1.5 billion people enjoying the wealth, and the U.S. only 330 million. The point is that the economy, however honest or inflated the numbers are, is a fraction of that of the United States.

China is a country where there is great poverty, and to bring it back to Jacek’s point, pioneering a space force is a staggering effort even for an economy twice China’s size. Recall, too, that China can build its wealth only by exporting goods. The United States is its largest customer, while the U.S. exports little to China. Even now the U.S. is looking for other suppliers. Such a shift would be a catastrophe to China. There is a rule in business: Never create a conflict with your best customer when he can take his business elsewhere. China must export to sustain itself. The Chinese have a merchant tradition that does not align with a war with the United States.

I agree that the next war will be in space, but no one wants to undertake another Pearl Harbor. Everyone knows how Pearl Harbor ended. Assuming that a brilliant strike would blind the U.S., the Chinese can look at American history to know that that would not be the end of the war. The attack at Pearl Harbor was followed by a relentless and brutal crushing of Japan. War has many dimensions, and a skilled and motivated enemy can overcome defeats that would crush others.

Never wound your enemy. Kill him or leave him alone. Assuming that China is capable of denying outer space to the U.S., which I strongly doubt, the Chinese are too smart to believe that would be the end of the game. We Americans oddly believe we cannot fight a long and muddy war. The Chinese saw the U.S. crush Japan, saw it absorb over a million casualties against a relentless American enemy, and saw the U.S. fight for seven years in Vietnam and for 18 years in the Middle East. Win or lose, wise or not, the United States embraces war as it did in the Revolutionary or Civil wars. Americans see themselves as a pacific people. History tells a somewhat different tale. The Chinese have seen America at war and the price its foes have paid.

Think of the Chinese space capability as we failed to think of the Soviets’ military. China is a master of deception. It does everything it can to make itself appear an equal of the United States. But in fact, there will be no war between the two. The United States has no interest in controlling China, and China cannot take the Japanese risk and lose. It knows that the biggest risk in war is losing, and it knows that no matter how well played the first inning is, the risk of the outcome is too great.

For any country dealing with America, the ultimate risk is a successful Pearl Harbor. For China, it’s having your best customer do his shopping elsewhere. The danger to China is that the U.S. will take being blinded as a preface to a nuclear attack, and will therefore preempt it. A massive nuclear exchange would certainly be a problem for both. But under any circumstance, even the hint of a conflict would be a massive economic blow to China.   




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Re: US Foreign Policy & Geopolitics
« Reply #1014 on: June 03, 2020, 08:43:05 AM »
   
    Mother Nature as a Geopolitical Force
By: Alex Berezow

History is biased, and not just because the victors tend to write it. The study of history is largely the study of humankind – specifically, the geopolitical events that have shaped human actions (and vice versa) over millennia. It’s true that to learn from the past, we must study ourselves. But what if we’re missing a large part of the story? What if Mother Nature plays just as large a role in shaping the course of human events as mankind? After all, any force that compels specific actions by nation-states is necessarily geopolitical.

It has long been understood that geography imposes substantial imperatives and constraints on nations. Russia, for example, will always be obsessed with securing warm water ports and access to the Mediterranean via the Black Sea because accidents of geography placed the country adjacent to potential adversaries on one side and the Arctic Ocean on another, making it essentially landlocked.

But geography is just one piece of the puzzle, one that fails to account for the vagaries of natural disaster. To understand just how potent a force Mother Nature can be in geopolitics, we must expand our understanding beyond basic geography to include transitory disasters. But this raises questions that are difficult to answer. How can a geopolitical model such as ours, designed to forecast the predictable behavior of nation-states, incorporate unpredictable forces? Is there some threshold that a natural event must cross in order to be considered geopolitically relevant? Is there a way to determine if a natural event plays a determinative role in shaping events or simply accelerates a preexisting trend? Are certain nation-states, cities or societies particularly vulnerable to natural disaster?

Throughout history, Mother Nature has radically altered the course of events, far beyond simply causing structural and economic damage and personal hardship. Indeed, natural forces have helped topple governments and destroy empires. For example, in 1755, Lisbon was slammed by an enormous earthquake and tsunami and then engulfed in an ensuing fire.

According to science writer Robin Andrews, the country immediately lost roughly one-third to one-half of its gross domestic product, and the European balance of power shifted decisively away from Portugal to Britain and France. But was this event truly determinative? Perhaps not. Britain and France were already powerful, and Portugal’s empire was sunsetting.

Adding a layer of complexity, Mother Nature doesn’t always have to act locally to change geopolitics. Rather, its impact can have effects on locations far from the natural event’s origin. In 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted, spewing so much ash into the atmosphere that it has been blamed for the bizarre climate of 1816, which became known as “the year without a summer.” Crops failed all across the Northern Hemisphere, and famine and disease were rampant. It is widely believed that the unusually gloomy year helped inspire, at least in part, the invention of the bicycle and Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein,” the former being a new form of transportation and the latter leaving a lasting imprint on our culture. Once again, Mother Nature’s impact is evident but not fully clear. Surely, somebody somewhere would have invented a bicycle at some point. And “Frankenstein” was a story about the immoral and irresponsible use of technology, a story that could just as easily be written today.

Fast forward nearly 200 years, and another cataclysmic event in the Asian Pacific served as a catalyst for major geopolitical events. In 2011, an underwater earthquake triggered a massive tsunami, inundating Japan and causing a meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility. On the other side of the planet, Germany responded by phasing out its nuclear power plants, which in turn increased that nation’s reliance on Russian natural gas. About 22 percent of Germany’s energy needs are met by natural gas, and about 50 to 75 percent of it comes from Russia. This, in turn, has deepened divisions within the European Union, particularly angering some members of the Central and Eastern bloc that believe reliance on Russian natural gas poses a national security threat. But to what extent can we really blame Mother Nature for the EU’s problems? Europeans are quite capable of creating controversy all by themselves.

Geological catastrophes aren’t the only trick Mother Nature can use to influence geopolitics. Biology provides fertile ground for meddling in international affairs. In his book “Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World,” professor Irwin Sherman explains how genetic and infectious diseases radically altered the course of history. Consider Queen Victoria, a carrier of hemophilia, a disease that causes uncontrollable bleeding due to inadequate clotting. The disease can be so severe that a tiny cut or bruise becomes a life-threatening wound. While she did not suffer from the disease herself, she passed on a bad gene to her children and grandchildren. Victoria’s granddaughter, Alexandra, married into the Romanovs, becoming the wife of Czar Nicholas II and the empress of Russia. Her son, Alexis, suffered from hemophilia. Sherman argues that, after Nicholas II was forced to abdicate, Alexis’ illness prevented him from becoming a constitutional monarch. The resulting chaos opened the door to the Bolshevik Revolution. Obviously, Queen Victoria’s genetics didn’t cause Bolshevism, but perhaps they provided the opportunity for the Bolsheviks to seize power.

The diseases that have had the greatest impact on history, of course, were infectious rather than genetic. Sherman goes on to describe how potato blight, cholera, smallpox and myriad other diseases triggered chains of events whose consequences are still apparent today. For example, the fungal pathogen that destroyed potatoes and caused starvation in Ireland drove a massive immigration of Irishmen to America, forever changing its political landscape. The devastation of Native Americans by smallpox and other diseases facilitated the exploits of the Spanish conquistadors and aided colonization by the British. Some infectious diseases came with a silver lining. Though it is responsible for the deaths of untold millions of people, the death wrought by cholera helped inspire the establishment of global public health institutions, which have played a leading role in preventing or even eradicating infectious disease. Here, Mother Nature arguably has played a much larger determinative role.

What can we learn by applying this new way of thinking to the current coronavirus pandemic? Like a lightning bolt, Mother Nature is powerful and unpredictable. Yes, we know lightning occurs during storms, but we can’t predict when and where it will strike. Likewise, microbiologists and epidemiologists have long worried about an infectious disease pandemic, but few if any thought it would be a coronavirus in the year 2020. A report from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy makes that clear:

“When severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) – the virus that causes COVID-19 – first emerged in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, even the most experienced international public health experts did not anticipate that it would rapidly spread to create the worst global public health crisis in over 100 years. By January 2020, a few public health officials began sounding the alarm, but it wasn’t until March 11, 2020, that the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic.”

By then, we now know, it was too late. The virus was everywhere. In the flash of an eye, Mother Nature commandeered the global agenda, ruthlessly and inconsiderately upsetting the lives of billions, indiscriminately wrecking democracies and dictatorships alike. She reminded us that she is still active and even mercurial in geopolitics. Our airplanes have conquered the skies, but Iceland’s volcanoes can keep them on the ground. Our doctors can save lives, but a new virus can end them. In retrospect, it is often clear to discern a chain of causal events linking nature to major geopolitical events – such as an undersea earthquake leading to friction in the EU. But such revelations only occur in hindsight. That’s why forecasting Mother Nature has been left to soothsayers and the local weathermen. Perhaps it’s time for geopolitical analysts to give it a try.   




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NS Advisor Robert O'Brien: Why the US is moving troops out of Germany
« Reply #1016 on: June 22, 2020, 09:10:48 AM »
Why the U.S. Is Moving Troops Out of Germany
Forces are needed in the Indo-Pacific. And Berlin should contribute more to European security.
By Robert C. O’Brien
June 21, 2020 12:39 pm ET

To counter China and Russia, two great-power competitors, U.S. forces must be deployed abroad in a more forward and expeditionary manner than they have been in recent years. This is the main reason the U.S. will reduce its permanently stationed force in Germany from 34,500 troops to 25,000.

President Trump confirmed the plans on June 15, but details remain under development and no formal public announcement has been made. The secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are working diligently to provide the president with options to carry out this plan.


The Cold War practice of garrisoning large numbers of troops with their families on massive bases in places like Germany is now, in part, obsolete. Modern warfare is increasingly expeditionary and requires platforms with extended range, flexibility and endurance. While air bases and logistics hubs remain important, the Cold War-style garrisoning of troops makes less military and fiscal sense than it did in the 1970s.

Several thousand troops currently assigned to Germany may be reassigned to other countries in Europe. Thousands may expect to redeploy to the Indo-Pacific, where the U.S. maintains a military presence in Guam, Hawaii, Alaska and Japan, as well as deployments in locations like Australia. In that theater, Americans and allies face the most significant geopolitical challenge since the end of the Cold War. And the remainder will return to bases in the U.S.

After these redeployments, America will still maintain 25,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in Germany. The U.S. relationship with Germany will remain strong, as will American commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It is time, however, for all European nations to contribute their fair share in defending their homelands. Germany has the world’s fourth-largest economy yet spends only 1.4% of gross domestic product on its own defense—despite NATO member countries’ longstanding commitment to a 2% target. American taxpayers contribute 3.4% of GDP toward defense.

Since Mr. Trump took office, NATO allies have increased defense spending substantially, by $130 billion through 2020. Burden-sharing has reinvigorated the NATO alliance, bolstering its mission of defending Europe and North America from external threats while also playing a constructive role in hot spots such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Berlin still has time to step up and show leadership. The Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline isn’t complete; a German decision to stop the project would strengthen Europe’s energy security. Berlin hasn’t yet selected its 5G telecommunications provider. A trusted European company, such as Nokia or Ericsson, would be safer for this role than China’s Huawei. And Germany can accelerate its plan to harden its defenses, which would more than offset U.S. troop redeployment.

Under Mr. Trump’s leadership, America continues to lead the free world. The U.S. military’s global posture demonstrates this commitment and provides the maximum security for the American people.

Mr. O’Brien is White House national security adviser.

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