Korea (FPIF) – Attacking North Korea now would undermine the very reason U.S. troops have been stationed on the peninsula for seven decades: to protect the South Korean people. “Let me be very clear: The policy of strategic patience has ended,”…
This year’s lowlights from world politics, the culture wars, and the military-industrial complex.
Each year Conn Hallinan gives awards to individuals, companies, and governments that make reading the news a daily adventure. Here are the awards for 2016.
The Golden Lemon Award had a number of strong contenders in 2016, including:
General Atomics for its MQ-9 Reaper armed drone, which has a faulty starter-generator that routinely shorts out the aircraft. So far, no one can figure out why. Some 20 were either destroyed or sustained major damage last year. The Reapers costs $64 million apiece.
Panavia Aircraft Company’s $25 billion Tornado fighter-bomber that can’t fly at night because the cockpit lights blind the pilot. A runner up here is the German arms company Heckler & Koch, whose G-36 assault rifle can’t shoot straight when the weather is hot.
The British company BAE’s $1.26 billion Type 45 destroyer that breaks down “whenever we try to do too much with them,” a Royal Navy officer told the Financial Times. Engaging in combat, he said, would be “catastrophic.”
In the typical time travel story, an enterprising person from the future goes back to 1922 to assassinate young Hitler, or to 1963 to interrupt Lee Harvey Oswald in the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas.
This time, however, the smarter denizens of the future world didn’t save us from the horrors of the present.
Instead, Donald Trump somehow got control of the time machine and used it for the opposite purpose. He brought in voters from the past who remembered (or misremembered) a more prosperous, more homogenous, more imperially confident America. He also transported in a few denizens of the Jim Crow South and Nazi Germany to dust off their ugly anachronisms and rally the alt-right.
As refugees take the Olympic stage, the wars that sent them running for their lives continue apace.
It was after midnight when the small refugee Olympic team strode into the stadium in Rio, the very last before host country Brazil’s huge contingent danced in to the samba-driven opening ceremonies. Ten amazing athletes, originally from four separate countries but sharing their status as unable to return home, marching under the Olympic flag.
It was an extraordinary sight — moving and powerful far beyond the cheering for the national teams.
Some of them — the young Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini in particular — had become familiar to many, her story told and retold in the run up to the games. It was an amazing story indeed. She and her sister, both top swimmers in their native Syria, had been forced by the brutality of the civil war to flee. Like so many hundreds of thousands before and after them, they managed to find places on an overcrowded rubber dinghy for the last leg from the Turkish coast to safety in Greece.
One week after British voters decided to exit the European Union, the UK Supreme Court was set to decide the fate of a small group of British citizens who had no such vote when the UK and U.S. governments forced the people to exit their homeland beginning in the late 1960s.
Known as the Chagossians, these little known refugees have long been denied the kind of democratic rights exercised in the Brexit referendum. Instead, Britain and the United States forcibly removed the Chagossians from their homes during the construction of the U.S. military base on the isolated Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. Over nearly 50 years, the base has become a multi-billion-dollar installation, playing key roles in the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the same period, the people have lived in impoverished exile, mostly on the western Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles.
Far-right nationalists and neoliberal capitalists will survive the demise of institutions like the EU. What about the rest of us?
This week might represent the beginning of the end for international cooperation. All the treaties, alliances, and unions that have incrementally strengthened the ties between nations over the last several centuries have suddenly been revealed as a house of cards, which a wayward puff of air known as Brexit might suddenly blow away.
Surely this must be an overstatement. The decision this week of British voters to stay inside the European Union or make the unprecedented move to leave can’t be that important. Brett Arends writes in MarketWatch that’s it’s really all a bit of a scam: If the voters decide to leave, the British government will negotiate “a face-saving formula that gives the illusion of Brexit without much substance.”
Tensions are ratcheting up between China and the United States over maritime boundaries in Asia.
Two recent close encounters between US spy planes and Chinese jets spell trouble for relations between Washington and Beijing. The first, between a US EP-3 spy plane and two Chinese jets over the South China Sea (SCS) near China’s Hainan Island, was strikingly similar to the 2001 incident in the same area in which a Chinese jet and an EP-3 collided, resulting in the death of the Chinese pilot, the forced landing and detention of the US crew, and a tense diplomatic row. The second involved a US RC-135 plane that was closely tracked by a Chinese jet over the East China Sea (ECS).
Such incidents, which also bring US and Chinese ships in close proximity, are happening with greater frequency these days. There are two reasons for this. China is backing its claims of “indisputable sovereignty” over the islands—the Spratlys (Nansha) and Paracels (Xisha) in the SCS, Diaoyudao (Senkaku) in the ECS—with military construction and personnel. And US naval and air maneuvers are deliberately challenging Chinese activity. Leaders of both countries are now issuing thinly veiled warnings, demanding acceptance of their respective positions, and disputing details of the encounters.
There’s still hope for the “pink tide” that swept aside Latin America’s right-wing dictators. But in Venezuela, Chavismo is on its last legs.
Venezuela is at the mercy of its fluids.
For a country that depends on oil for 95 percent of its exports, the prolonged drop in the price of crude has been a serious financial blow.
If nothing else, though, Venezuela should be able to use its oil resources to keep the lights on and the factories going. After all, Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. It has more than Saudi Arabia. It has more than Africa, Eurasia, and Asia combined. Only Russia and Iran are sitting on more overall energy resources.
But most of Venezuela’s energy is slated for export or is hard to access. Not to worry: Some years ago, the country diversified its electricity supply to rely more on renewables. Hydroelectric power now supplies 60 percent of the country’s energy.
Ordinarily, diversifying away from fossil fuels is a smart move.
From the comfortable alt-rock of PJ Harvey to the hypnotic antagonism of Anohni, new protest music offers a relief from the official rhythms of war and peace.
If foreign policy had a soundtrack, it would be the opposite of easy listening.
Really, could anyone listen to a symphony of war and peace all the way through? In the first movement — devoted to death and destruction and played presto and fortissimo — the electric guitarists step to the front of the orchestra to strum power chords, scream hate-filled lyrics, and deliver cacophony instead of melody. Only headbangers and the hard-of-hearing could bear the onslaught.
The U.S. conducts drone strikes worldwide with relative impunity. But when the first strike hits the United States, the real blowback will begin.
The targeted assassination of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour last weekend wasn’t just another drone strike.
First of all, it was conducted by the U.S. military, not the CIA, which has orchestrated nearly all drone strikes in Pakistan.
Second, it didn’t take place in Afghanistan or in the so-called lawless tribal region of Pakistan known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA. The guided missile turned a white Toyota and its two passengers into a fireball on a well-traveled highway in Balochistan, in southwest Pakistan.
Prior to this particular drone strike, Pakistan allowed the United States to patrol the skies over the northwest region of FATA, a Taliban stronghold. But President Obama decided to cross this “red line” to take out Mansour (and a taxi driver, Muhammad Azam, who had the misfortune to be with the wrong passenger at the wrong time).