One almost wonders if the Supremes are working towards a Christian version of Sharia law–by Sue Dewar at the Ottawa Sun June 28:
Theme song: “Stop In the Name Of Love”:
Funny how the biggies will almost all have their HQs in the D.C. area–at Aviation Week and Space Technology:
Graham Warwick June 10, 2022
VIEW FROM THE BELTWAY
Virginia Snags Another Aerospace Giant
Raytheon Technologies will move its global headquarters from suburban Boston to Arlington, Virginia, this summer, making it the last of the Big Five U.S. defense contractors to base its operations in the Washington region. The move into an existing Raytheon office tower near the Potomac River “increases agility in supporting U.S. government and commercial aerospace customers,” the aerospace giant says. But it is not expected to result in a large number of job shifts. Boeing announced last month that it is moving its home base from Chicago to Northern Virginia, following Northrop Grumman (2011) and General Dynamics (1991). Lockheed Martin is headquartered in nearby Bethesda, Maryland.
Capitalism at its finest hard at work. eh?
(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Chinese President Xi Jinping, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, and their wives by a Chinese ship in the Panama Canal, December 3, 2018. LUIS ACOSTA/AFP via Getty Images”.)
Further to this 2015 post,
the pace of the PRC’s embrace just keeps accelerating–below from a major article at Business Insider June 6 ( via Canadian Military Intelligence Association). The US military does seem to be rather hyping the defence worry factor at this point; the huge Chinese economic influence is worrying enough it its own right:
*US officials and lawmakers have for years voiced concern about growing US influence in Latin America.
*For military and national-security leaders, that influence has security implications for the US.
*Despite US warnings about dealing with China, many leaders in the region see little on offer from the US.
As the US increases its focus on global competition with China, officials have singled out Beijing’s inroads into Latin America as a growing threat to countries there and to US interests in the region.
At recent congressional hearings and public events, those officials have cautioned that China is investing in digital and physical infrastructure, natural resources and extractive industries, and in political and military relationships across Latin America and the Caribbean in a multipronged effort to secure access and influence and gain leverage over countries there in order to advance its own commercial and strategic interests.
Although China’s engagement with the region has focused on economic ties and it has not established a military presence there [emphasis added], US military commanders, national-security officials, and lawmakers believe Beijing’s investments have implications for US security.
At an August 2021 hearing on her nomination to lead US Southern Command, which is responsible for Central and South America, Gen. Laura Richardson said China comes to the region “with very sophisticated plans in order to capture the interests of the countries, willing to loan billions of dollars.”
“I look at that from the military lens of projecting and sustaining military power for the [Chinese People’s Liberation Army] with this expansion,” Richardson said at the time.
Richardson’s remarks echoed those of her predecessor, Adm. Craig Faller, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2021, his final appearance as commander, that China was “rapidly advancing” toward its goal of “economic dominance” in Latin America within the next decade [emphasis added].
Beijing “is also seeking to establish global logistics and basing infrastructure in our hemisphere in order to project and sustain military power at greater distances,” Faller told lawmakers [evidence?].
At a hearing on China’s presence in the region in April, Sen. Marco Rubio, citing a report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, said China is using its economic heft and political ties to convince countries there to make decisions that favor Beijing and “undermine democracy and free markets.”
The same report, Rubio added, said China’s military seeks “to deepen its engagement in the region by funding the construction of ports, space programs, and other dual-use infrastructure that frankly is pretty clear it appears to have a limited economic purpose but could serve as future operating bases, even of rotational bases, for a hostile navy close to our nation’s shores [note that “could”].”
China has become the top trading partner for many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and is second-biggest, behind the US, for the region as a whole. Its trade with the region has risen from $18 billion in 2002 to $180 billion in 2010 and to $450 billion last year [emphasis added].
The region’s largest countries have attracted Chinese investment in agricultural commodities as well as in ecommerce and other technology, including surveillance technology. Smaller, resource-rich countries in Latin America have attracted Chinese interest in mineral wealth and oil exploration.
Chinese firms have also pursued infrastructure projects across the region — many as part of Beijing’s sprawling Belt and Road Initiative — but especially in areas that facilitate access into or around the continent.
Richardson has said the Chinese presence around the Panama Canal and near the Strait of Magellan are her “two greatest concerns, strategically.”
The canal is one of the world’s most important trade corridors, particularly for goods flowing between the US and East Asia. It is “a strategic line of communication that we want to keep free and open for the global economy but also for our global war plans,” Richardson told senators in March.
China has invested billions of dollars in projects around the canal and Chinese state-owned enterprises are present “on either side [emphasis added],” Richardson said. “What I worry about Chinese state-owned enterprises that have capability and infrastructure there is that they can be used for dual use, which means civilian but also military.”
The Strait of Magellan sees less traffic but remains an important route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, including aircraft carriers too big for the canal, and is close to resource-rich Antarctica. China’s presence in ports and other projects “around the tip of the southern cone” of South America is worrisome [emphasis added], Richardson said…
Richardson’s counterpart at US Northern Command, which is responsible for North America and parts of the Caribbean, has expressed similar concerns. “China’s very aggressive in the Bahamas right now,” Gen. Glen VanHerck told the House Armed Services Committee in April 2021.
“They have the largest embassy in the Bahamas right now, and they continue to buy up [the] tourism industry to have access and influence,” VenHerck said at the time, adding that those Chinese projects “do have access right now to an overwatch, if you will, of our Navy test and training facilities, which is very, very concerning.”..
Chinese military basing in Latin America is still “rather hypothetical” [indeed!] [Margaret] Myers [director of the Asia and Latin America Program at the Inter-American Dialogue] told Insider, “but there’s a sense that based on the sorts of investments that we see in areas of strategic interest to the US and some of the investments that we see in ports with potential dual-use capacity that things are headed in that direction.”..
China will likely “explore what it looks like to establish more significant military relationships in Africa or in the Pacific before they try something like that in the Western Hemisphere [emphasis added] because of how much more likely a strong US reaction would be,” the analyst said, requesting anonymity because of professional commitments.
… [Many] Latin American leaders…fear the paternalism that has often characterized US policy toward the region. Many leaders want to avoid taking sides in the competition between Beijing and Washington but welcome Chinese engagement because they see it as offering what the US is unable or unwilling to provide, like expanded trade, coronavirus vaccines, or infrastructure investment.
Richardson often notes that 21 of the 31 countries in Southern Command’s area of responsibility have signed onto China’s Belt and Road Initiative [emphasis added] and told the House Armed Services Committee this spring that several of its multibillion-dollar projects were particularly worrying, among them a $5.6 billion highway in Jamaica and a $3.9 billion metro project in Colombia, a close US ally.
“This region is rich in resources, and the Chinese don’t go there to invest. They go there to extract,” Richardson said of those projects.
At an event in Washington, DC, in April, Jamaica’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, said US concerns about Chinese projects there were “totally unwarranted” and that China has pursued investments in Jamaica for “a long time while the US has been looking all over the place.”
“We would want to see more US investment in Jamaica, but Jamaica can’t postpone its development needs until the US decides to come in [emphasis added],” Holness said.
Sergio Guzmán, director of Colombia Risk Analysis, a political risk consultancy, said that when Colombia has issued tenders for infrastructure projects, “US companies are completely AWOL.”
“So how can the US blame Colombia for giving them over to Chinese bidders, who are, by the way, the lowest bidders?” Guzmán told Insider.
The Biden administration’s signature international development effort, Build Back Better World, has foundered, and US private-sector investment has been hard to attract to the region, either because of the overall environment or because the opportunities, particularly infrastructure projects, aren’t well suited for American firms.
“There are efforts to try to increase and incentivize US investment in Latin America and the Caribbean now. The problem is that a lot of these initiatives are private-sector-led,” Myers said, “and in a moment in time when the investment environments aren’t necessarily improving in Latin America, it’s very difficult to generate that interest [emphasis added].”..
Richardson and other officials say the US military’s best asset for engagement is security cooperation — military education, training, and other exchanges that build on the US’s already extensive partnerships in the region [those “partnerships” in the past have not always had happy results for local populations, something they remember]…
China’s defense cooperation with Latin American countries “is far less” than that of the US, “but it does exist and the overall trend line has been going up,” Daniel Erikson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Western Hemisphere, said at a conference in May…
The PRC in this hemisphere, as in Africa and Asia, is able to take a much longer and coherent approach to executing policies than the US, especially economic ones in light of the Americans’ reliance on the private sector.
Relevant earlier posts:
Theme song of sorts, by Canadian band Joe Hall and the Continental Drift–“Nos Hablos Telefonos”:
Excerpts from two opinion pieces at the NY Times (now aka “The Rainbow Lady”–or should that be “Person”? Full texts available at headline links):
1) The latter part of a column by the conservative regular at the “Sunday Review”):
June 11, 2022
By Ross Douthat
…As the media geared up to cover the Jan. 6 committee hearings, a young man seemingly motivated by liberal causes — a constitutional right to abortion and gun control — crossed the country with the apparent intention of assassinating Brett Kavanaugh at the justice’s Maryland home. He was an isolated figure, but it was not an isolated act: Since the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion on abortion, justices have faced protests outside their homes and threats of violence, and pro-life organizations, especially crisis pregnancy centers, have been hit with arson and vandalism. (The Washington, D.C., center where my family used to donate diapers was one of the targets.)Yet the coverage of this campaign in mainstream news outlets has been limited, perfunctory. Kavanaugh’s would-be assassin did make the pages of this newspaper and The Washington Post. But neither that specific threat — a constitutionally substantial one, given that an assassination really could tip the balance of the court — nor the general intimidation campaign has been treated as really big news, something that merits the intensive coverage that equivalent tactics from the right would undoubtedly receive.
It’s a similar pattern to what you saw around the George Floyd protests in 2020, when much of the ostensibly neutral press found it politically difficult — as New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait put it recently — to use “clear language to describe the rioting and looting that was springing up around some demonstrations or the effects of the de-policing that took place in some areas in response.” Again and again, the spirit of emergency has converged with pre-existing ideological bias to both downplay and tacitly encourage radicalization on the left.
This has pernicious effects on how liberals understand the world. Just as a lot of Fox News viewers don’t know what they should about Jan. 6, I encountered many high-information liberals across late 2020 who had literally no idea about the scale of damage from the spring and summer rioting [emphasis added, CNN is an agitprop disgrace–just not on the scale of Fox].
But more important, it has effects on Americans who do see the fuller story, who are extremely aware that there’s more beyond the liberal media than just “disinformation” — and who are thereby drawn back toward a general skepticism, the everybody’s implicated sensibility, no matter what you tell them about Trump.
Those voters will keep the former president politically viable until one of two things happen. He could be defeated within his own coalition in 2024. Otherwise, the liberal establishment somehow needs to change into a power that stands outside the gyre of polarization, rather than just widening it even more.
2) The start of an opinion piece by the conservative regular in the weekday Times:
June 7, 2022
This column has been updated to reflect news developments.
Is a decade of destructive progressive ideology finally coming to an end?That San Franciscans, some of America’s most reliably liberal voters, chose on Tuesday to recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin, one of America’s most leftward D.A.s, is a sign of hope.
Voter patience for what Mayor London Breed of San Francisco calls “all the bullshit that has destroyed our city” — aggressive shoplifting, rampant car burglaries, open-air drug use, filthy homeless encampments, sidewalks turned into toilets — is finally running thin [“bullshit” that many Democrats around the country are unaware of or just don’t take seriously–see part 1) of this post].
Progressive overreach has its price. Even for progressives.
What’s going on in San Francisco is happening nationwide, and not just in matters of criminal justice and urban governance. In one area after another, the left is being mugged by reality, to borrow Irving Kristol’s famous phrase. Consider a few examples:
Bret Stephens has been an Opinion columnist with The Times since April 2017. He won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary at The Wall Street Journal in 2013 and was previously editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post. Facebook
A sad, sorry state of democratic affairs. Related posts:
The Biden Presidency, or, Democrats Going over the Cliff? [featuring Maureen Dowd}
An Indian Navy commodore (ret’d) gives a succinct review of the country’s regional positions at Rediff.com India (it is striking that Russia, up until now India’s largest supplier of arms, is not mentioned one):
India has the ability to be a great power and address our security challenges in the best national interests.
Our foreign policy has come of age and will stand the test of time in the days ahead.
It is best to keep out of geopolitical power games with due consideration to the foundations of our foreign policy…
The geopolitical canvas in our immediate neighborhood is changing rapidly and this has put India in a dilemma on the efficacy of our stated policy of strategic autonomy.
There is a fundamental apprehension in policy circles as to whether our stand will enable us to face security challenges in the foreseeable future.
The combination of sub-conventional violence from Pakistan and land border tensions with China has triggered concerns within the political and military establishment.
Although I would not categorise South Asia as a volatile region in the current juncture, it has its share of uncertainties caused by the rise of China, instability in Pakistan, terrorism and asymmetric warfare, and the extent of engagement by China in the Indian Ocean region through their BRI projects and last but not the least the future of Afghanistan under the Taliban [given India’s perpetually strained relations with Pakistan, the troubles in Kashmir, and the two countries’ nuclear weapons, I would suggest that South Asia is inherently volatile].
These aspects are beyond our control and hence the need for a counter-strategy to meet the challenges.
The fact that China shares a long land border with India is a geographic factor that cannot be changed.
It is also important to note that China considers India as a challenger to its supremacy in the region.
An arms race to equal the Chinese juggernaut would only incur heavy costs and drain the coffers.
At the same time, we need to ensure and maintain credible deterrence levels at the border to thwart any border incursions by Chinese troops.
Alliances with other nations would at best provide diplomatic support to our stand on contentious issues [emphasis added, i.e. no direct military support likely], but it cannot provide a permanent solution to our bilateral issues.
The situation in Kashmir has improved considerably in the recent past, however, isolated incidents of terror do take place.
There is no reduction in the trust deficit between the two countries [emphasis added].
Pakistan continues to build up militarily with assistance from China.
Although our military modernisation programme is progressing albeit slowly, there are critical deficiencies in assets faced by the three services.
One such example and challenge for the Indian Navy is in our submarine force levels.
Currently, the Pakistan navy has three Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) conventional submarines which give them an advantage in undersea warfare.
The future induction of eight Yuan class boats (with AIP) from China would increase the number to 11 by 2035.
This is not a comfortable situation and can create an asymmetry in our maritime domain as we are way behind the starting blocks of our Project 75 I submarine construction programme [emphasis added, more here].
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan has created a vacuum in that country from a security perspective.
The waters look murky at the moment and it would be advisable to wait and watch as the situation evolves.
Big Power games in the Indo Pacific region
Security in the region cannot be viewed in isolation or exclusively from India’s prism.
It is important to factor in the influence of big powers and their competition to project power and gain influence in the region.
The question in this regard is what should be India’s stand in this power play? To maintain our policy of strategic autonomy or to team up with the Western alliance? There cannot be a third option [emphasis added].
Containment of China
The US had ignored the growth of China’s economic and military might during the last two decades which ironically was ignored by India too.
US foreign policy is desperately in need of a counter to China’s power potential lest it loses its unipolar status in the world.
Although then Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo floated the idea of Quad in 2007, the movement fizzled out till 2017 when then US president Donald J Trump revived the concept.
The reasons could be many, but the most important factor is that there was no convergence of strategic objectives between the member countries.
Regrettably even now, little or no work has been done towards achieving that aim.
Terms like the Rule-Based International Order, shared democratic values and free and open Indo Pacific etc do not have any essence or meaning in the absence of clearly defined strategic objectives [emphasis added].
China has not been named for its hostile actions in any of the joint statements following a Quad summit thus far (one exception being when then US secretary of state Mike Pompeo singled out China in October 2020).
Why is this hesitation? The answer is very simple — China is an important trading partner for all members of Quad.
Hence, it is important to realise that behind the shadows of Quad, member countries continue to maintain bilateral relations with China in accordance with their national interests.
Is there any point in sailing in a rudderless, coxswain-less boat towards an unknown destination [emphasis added]? Hence there is a need to deliberately analyze the advantages/disadvantages before taking a call.
One sincerely hopes that we do not fall into the trap of being a pawn and get Ukrained in the bargain.
Importance of Alliances in Our Context
As per the foundations of our foreign policy, acceding to any security alliance is not an option unless there is a paradigm shift in our grand strategy (if there is one). A counterargument could be that the Quad is not [in reality] a security grouping or a counter-China initiative [emphasis added, in any event the US has long had bilateral treaties with Australia and Japan].
Then, what is its objective? Why is it ambiguous and open-ended? There are no free lunches in international relations and it is very likely that Quad will insist member countries to contribute significantly towards infrastructure development and other initiatives in Indo Pacific region.
Do we have the economic clout to invest in the region at the cost of our development? Therefore at some stage, we will have to take a call in the foreseeable future on whether this arrangement suits us or not.
Hope the establishment at Delhi is not contemplating that piggy banking on a loosely formed group like Quad is the best solution to project India as a big power [emphasis added]? If that is so, it will be a big blunder in the long run.
US’ Indo Pacific Strategy: Where do we fit in?
Although the name changed from Asia Pacific to Indo Pacific, nothing much has changed in US policy of demarcation of the world to suit its area of influence, provide a security umbrella for their allies and for power projection.
The term Indo Pacific brought about a euphoria amongst India’s strategic community about India’s centrality in US strategy which in a way is a false assumption [emphasis added]. Strategically, the US interest is centered on the South China Sea, the Far East and Oceania which is the fulcrum of its Indo Pacific strategy in order to check or counter Chinese influence and challenge to the unipolar world order.
The region to the west of the Malacca Straits and South Indian Ocean till MENA (Middle East and North Africa) is of less strategic importance to the US as has been seen post World War II.
We cannot expect that India’s security concerns in South Asia will be addressed by the West and therefore it is pragmatic to avoid any false sense of security [emphasis added].
Our engagement in the SCS — Practicality
Chinese engagement with countries bordering the South China Sea is deep-rooted and currently, we do not have the economic clout or resources to make a dent in that arrangement.
Continuous military presence in the region is neither desired nor warranted and it is quite possible that some of the ASEAN countries may object to our permanent presence if all it happens in the future.
In effect, there is a big gap between our Look East policy and Act East policy [emphasis added].
It is well known that about 50% of our inbound and outbound trade transit through the South China Sea, but there have been no instances of any trade being hampered by the Chinese navy or coast guard.
China has objected to ‘Freedom of Navigation’ patrols by the US navy through contested waters which have only increased the volatility in the region and increased tensions. India has not participated in such patrols thus far and is unlikely in the future too which is a wise decision.
Moreover, it is very unlikely that our trade would be hampered by China in the South China Sea fearing a backlash towards their safe energy flow through the south Indian Ocean which is within close proximity to India [emphasis added].
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that India has the ability in all respects to be a great power [but still it will be slowly, slowly] and address our security challenges in the best national interests.
Our foreign policy has come of age and will stand the test of time in the days ahead.
There is no requirement of toeing the line of any country to suit their national interests or be a client State [emphasis added].
It is best to keep out of geopolitical power games with due consideration to the foundations of our foreign policy.
The need of the hour is to give an added impetus to our indigenisation efforts as our national policy and support it with a long-term vision and goals.
If South Korea which was in the same state as India two decades ago attained a high degree of indigenisation and self reliance, we too can achieve it.
YES, WE CAN!!
Commodore Venugopal Menon served in the Indian Navy for 29 years in operational roles, including commands at sea, and training and staff assignments at Naval HQ.
In addition to the staff and war courses in the Indian Navy, he underwent the executive course at the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies, Honolulu.
A very substantial round-up of the Indo-Pacific/South Asian strategic situation from a widely-held Indian point of view. The US in particular should bear in mind these words of Scots poet Robbie Burns:
Note this tweet from a retired most senior Indian diplomat:
UPDATE: June 12 tweet from the retired commodore with a rather different tone:
India–Leaning even Closer to US to Balance PRC but at same time Keeping in with Russia (tous azimuts of a sort) [Dec. 2020, based on article by a ret’d Indian Air Force air marshal]
(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Town council leader and lawyer Khalid Salman by the graves of his sister and her children, who were among the twenty-four Iraqi civilians killed by US Marines in the 2005 Haditha massacre, Haditha, Iraq, 2011”.)
How squeaky must a country itself be? Extracts from an article by the indispensable Fintan O’Toole at the NY Review of Books–very much my own line of thinking, far too many Americans are incapable of recognizing the frequent hypocrisy of their “exceptionalism” in the eyes of much of the rest of the world:
The US’s history of moral evasiveness around wartime atrocities undermines the very institution that might eventually bring Putin and his subordinates to justice: the International Criminal Court.
There is the war, and then there is the war about the war. Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine is being fought in fields and cities, in the air and at sea. It is also, however, being contested through language. Is it a war or a “special military operation”? Is it an unprovoked invasion or a human rights intervention to prevent the genocide of Russian speakers by Ukrainian Nazis? Putin’s great weakness in this linguistic struggle is the unsubtle absurdity of his claims—if he wanted his lies to be believed, he should have established some baseline of credibility. But the weakness of the West, and especially of the United States, lies in what ought to be the biggest strength of its case against Putin: the idea of war crimes. It is this concept that gives legal and moral shape to instinctive revulsion. For the sake both of basic justice and of mobilizing world opinion, it has to be sustained with absolute moral clarity.
The appalling evidence of extrajudicial executions, torture, and indiscriminate shelling of homes, apartment buildings, hospitals, and shelters that has emerged from the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and from the outskirts of Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy gives weight and urgency to the accusation that Putin is a war criminal.
By late April, the UN human rights office had received reports of more than three hundred executions of civilians. There have also been credible reports of sexual violence by Russian troops and of abductions and deportations of civilians. According to Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, by April 21 Russia had committed more than 7,600 recorded war crimes.
Yet the US has been, for far too long, fatally ambivalent about war crimes. Its own history of moral evasiveness threatens to make the accusation that Putin and his forces have committed them systematically in Ukraine seem more like a useful weapon against an enemy than an assertion of universal principle [emphasis added]. It also undermines the very institution that might eventually bring Putin and his subordinates to justice: the International Criminal Court (ICC).
There have long been two ways of thinking about the prosecution of war crimes. One is that it is a universal duty. Since human beings have equal rights, violations of those rights must be prosecuted regardless of the nationality or political persuasion of the perpetrators. The other is that the right to identify individuals as war criminals and punish them for their deeds is really just one of the spoils of victory. It is the winner’s prerogative—a political choice rather than a moral imperative…
It is hard to overstate how important it is that the war crimes that have undoubtedly been committed already in Ukraine—and the ones that are grimly certain to be inflicted on innocent people in the coming weeks and months—not be understood as “a flexible instrument in the hands of politicians.”
…If accusations of Russian war crimes are seen to be instrumental rather than principled, they will dissolve into “whataboutism”: Yes, Putin is terrible, but what about… Instead of seeing a clean distinction between the Western democracies and Russia, much of the world will take refuge in a comfortable relativism. If war crimes are not universal violations, they are merely fingers that can point only in one direction—at whomever we happen to be in conflict with right now. And never, of course, at ourselves.
Even before Putin launched his invasion on February 24, the Biden administration seems to have had a plan to use Russian atrocities as a rallying cry for the democratic world.
…on April 4 he went beyond deeming Putin a criminal by calling specifically for him to face a “war crime trial.” Then on April 12 he pressed the nuclear button of atrocity accusations: genocide. “We’ll let the lawyers decide, internationally, whether or not it qualifies [as genocide], but it sure seems that way to me.” He also referred to an unfolding “genocide half a world away,” clearly meaning in Ukraine.
…When asked about genocide on April 22, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “No, we have not documented patterns that could amount to that.” Biden’s careless use of the term is all the more damaging because, however inadvertently, it echoes Putin’s grotesque claim that Ukraine has been committing genocide against Russian speakers in Donbas.
The problem with all of this is not that Biden is wrong but that it distracts from the ways in which he is right. This overstatement makes it far too easy for those who wish to ignore or justify what the Russians are doing to dismiss the mounting evidence of terrible crimes in Ukraine as exaggerated or as just another battleground in the information war. In appearing overanxious to inject “war criminal” into the international discourse about Putin and making it seem like a predetermined narrative, the US risked undermining the very stark evidence for that conclusion. By inflating that charge into genocide, it substituted rhetoric for rigor and effectively made it impossible for the US to endorse any negotiated settlement for Ukraine that leaves Putin in power: How can you make peace with a perpetrator of genocide [emphasis added; easy these days, talking point it away]?..
What makes these mistakes by Biden truly detrimental, however, is that the moral standing of the US on war crimes is already so profoundly compromised. The test for anyone insisting on the application of a set of rules is whether they apply those rules to themselves. It matters deeply to the struggle against Putin that the US face its record of having consistently failed to do this.
On November 19, 2005, in the Iraqi town of Haditha, members of the First Division of the US Marines massacred twenty-four Iraqi civilians, including women, children, and elderly people. After a roadside bomb killed one US soldier and badly injured two others, marines took five men from a taxi and executed them in the street. One marine sergeant, Sanick Dela Cruz, later testified that he urinated on one of the bodies. The marines then entered nearby houses and killed the occupants—nine men, three women, and seven children. Most of the victims were murdered by well-aimed shots fired at close range.
The official US press release then falsely claimed that fifteen of the civilians had been killed by the roadside bomb and that the marines and their Iraqi allies had also shot eight “insurgents” who opened fire on them. These claims were shown to be lies four months later, when Tim McGirk published an investigation in Time magazine…
In his memoir Call Sign Chaos (2019) the former general James Mattis, who took over as commander of the First Marine Division shortly after this massacre and later served as Donald Trump’s secretary of defense, calls what happened at Haditha a “tragic incident.” It’s clear that Mattis believed that at least some of the marines had run amok…
Mattis nowhere uses phrases or words like “war crime,” “massacre,” “atrocity,” or “cover-up.” He was determined, too, to exonerate the lower-ranking soldiers who participated in the violence at Haditha that day [emphasis added]…
…One of the most prestigious arms of the US military carried out an atrocity in a country invaded by the US in a war of choice. No one in a position of authority did anything about it until Time reported on it. No one at any level of the chain of command, from senior leaders down to the soldiers who did the killings, was held accountable. And such minor punishments as were imposed seem to have had no deterrent effect. In March 2007 marines killed nineteen unarmed civilians and wounded fifty near Jalalabad, in Afghanistan, in an incident that, as The New York Times reported at the time, “bore some striking similarities to the Haditha killings.” Again, none of the marines involved or their commanders received any serious punishment.
…When bad things are done by American armed forces, they are entirely untypical and momentary responses to the terrible stresses of war. The conditioning that helps make them possible, the deep-seated instinct to cover them up, and the repeated failure to bring perpetrators to justice are not to be understood as systemic problems. Nowhere is American exceptionalism more evident or more troubling than in this compartmentalizing of military atrocities [emphasis added].
The brutal truth is that the US abandoned its commitment to the ICC not for reasons of legal principle but from the same motive that animated Putin. It was engaged in aggressive wars and did not want to risk the possibility that any of its military or political leaders would be prosecuted for crimes that might be committed in the course of fighting them…expediency rather than principle was guiding US attitudes…
…the US has alternately endorsed the legitimacy of the ICC in prosecuting Africans and called the same court corrupt and out of control when it explores the possibility of investigating war crimes committed by Americans.
…A yawning gap has opened between Biden’s grandiloquent rhetoric about Putin’s criminality on the one side and the deep reluctance of the US to lend its weight to the institution created by the international community to prosecute such transgressions of moral and legal order [emphasis added]. It is a chasm in which all kinds of relativism and equivocation can lodge and grow. The longer the US practices evasion and prevarication, the easier it is for Putin to dismiss Western outrage as theatrical and hypocritical, and the more inclined other countries will be to cynicism…
—April 28, 2022
Sigh. Very much to the point. Sad country.
Note 4 PM May 24 online event on the report mentioned in tweet by Thomas Juneau towards bottom of this post–registration here.
Further to this January 2022 post,
now that message, and several others–but how seriously if PM Trudeau’s government likely to take them, and then act on them. Fairly slim chance I would think unless our Five Eyes allies (that is the three save New Zealand) put some really heavy pressure on us. From a Globe and Mail Story:
Robert Fife Ottawa Bureau Chief
Canada has become complacent and neglectful of national security and urgently needs to revamp its thinking to counter Russia’s aggression, China’s growing influence and the rise of right-wing extremism in Canada and the United States, according to a major new report.“We are living in a time of intense global instability when the security of Canada and other liberal democracies is under growing threat,” says the report, A National Security Strategy for the 2020s, released Tuesday [May 24, available via this link]. “Canada is not ready to face this world. As a country, we need to urgently rethink national security.”
It was prepared by the University of Ottawa Graduate School of Public and International Affairs with input from four former national security advisers, two Canadian Security Intelligence Service directors, academics and retired ambassadors and deputy ministers [see list of members at end of the post].
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine underscores the direct threat to Western interests, while China is potentially an even more serious, long-term challenge, the report says.
“China and Russia will continue to pose a significant threat to Canada through foreign interference, disinformation, espionage, hostage diplomacy and cyberattacks [emphasis added],” it says. “Our lack of a firm response, moreover presents a serious risk for our allies, and could affect security and intelligence relations with them.”
Canada needs to crack down on university research collaboration with China in areas such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology and quantum computing, the report urges [see this post: “Government Actually Acting vs PRC/PLA Infiltration of Canadian Universities–not so “Wow!” UPDATE (note Australian UPPERDATE)“]…
A far-ranging national security review must also examine the rise of the far right in Canada and the U.S. The truck convoy protests that led to border blockades and the closure of much of downtown Ottawa had direct links to U.S. extremists but also support from conservative media outlet Fox News and some Republican politicians, the report notes.
“This may not have represented foreign interference in the conventional sense since it was not the result of a foreign government. But it did represent, arguably, a greater threat to Canadian democracy than actions of any state other than the United States,” it says. “It will be a significant challenge for our national security and intelligence agencies to monitor this threat since it emanates from the same country that is by far our great source of intelligence.”
The report was put together under the direction of Vincent Rigby, who was recently a national security adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Thomas Juneau, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affaiirs.
Both warned that Canada needs to figure out how it should respond to democratic backsliding in the U.S. and how it should deal with the possible re-election of Donald Trump.
“If Trump comes back or someone like Trump comes to power in 2024, which is not far-fetched,” Prof. Juneau said in an interview, “does the U.S. stay in NATO? Does it become more unilateral and unpredictable?”
Mr. Rigby said political polarization in the U.S. is “something Canada must watch extremely closely [emphasis added, see this October 2020 post– note my comments towards end and following tweets: ”US Presidential Election Unrest (if not more)–What might Happen to Canada? PM Trudeau says Government Preparing“]…
The report calls for a thorough public review of national security policy, including the CSIS Act, Emergencies Act and Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. It says Canada needs to embrace modern spy tools being used by many of its Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partners, the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.
It calls for the creation of a standalone unit to collect and analyze open-source intelligence [emphasis added–how would its product be incorporated into national level all-source intelligence assessments? won’t current contributing organizations still want to do their own open-source analysis as part of their report drafting?], set up a national counter foreign interference co-ordinator, as Australia has done, and establish a financial crimes agency to handle sophisticated digital crimes and money laundering [see this post, note one on hapless RCMP listed at end: “PM Trudeau’s Government vs Financial Crime/Money Laundering: “Kid- Glove Treatment”].
Parliamentarians should be given more classified briefings on files such as foreign interference operations, and cabinet should set up a national security committee, chaired by the Prime Minister. The report also recommends that the intelligence assessment secretariat in the Privy Council Office be merged with CSIS’s Terrorism Assessment Centre under the Prime Minister’s national security and intelligence adviser…
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Whole lot of sensible and serious things to consider. But such matters are just not the, er, bag of progressive PM Trudeau and his ministers (nor of our chattering class). But one can hope.
Tweet by a co-chair of the task force:
Task Force Members
Thomas Juneau – Co-chair, Associate Professor, GSPIA
Vincent Rigby – Co-chair, former National Security and Intelligence Advisor to the Prime Minister; Senior Fellow, Norman Paterson School of Public and International Affairs, Carleton University
Margaret Bloodworth – Honorary Senior Fellow, GSPIA, former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister and former Deputy Minister of National Defence
Kerry Buck – Senior Fellow, GSPIA; former Ambassador to NATO
Madelaine Drohan – Senior Fellow, GSPIA; former Economist correspondent in Canada
Ward Elcock – Senior Fellow, GSPIA; former Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and former Deputy Minister of National Defence
Richard Fadden – Senior Fellow, GSPIA; former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, former Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and former Deputy Minister of National Defence
Masud Husain – Senior Fellow, GSPIA; former Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation
Daniel Jean – Senior Fellow, GSPIA; former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister and former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
Margaret McCuaig-Johnston – Senior Fellow, GSPIA; former Executive Vice-President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council
John McNee – Senior Fellow, GSPIA; former Ambassador to the United Nations
Roland Paris –Director, GSPIA; former Senior Advisor on Global Affairs and Defence to the Prime Minister
Morris Rosenberg – Senior Fellow, GSPIA; former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
Nada Semaan – Senior Fellow, GSPIA; former Director and Chief Executive Officer of FINTRAC
Research Assistant: Fernando Aguilar
…the risks of becoming “Dizzy with Success“, as Stalin put it. Extracts from two opinion pieces at the NY Times “Sunday Review”:
1) By a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books:
By Tom Stevenson
Mr. Stevenson is a journalist specializing in energy, defense and geopolitics who reported from Ukraine during the first weeks of the war.
…The U.S. secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, has said the goal is “to see Russia weakened.” The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said Ukraine is defending “democracy writ large for the world.” Britain’s foreign minister, Liz Truss, was explicit about widening the conflict to take in Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia, such as Crimea, when she spoke of evicting Russia from “the whole of Ukraine.” This is both an expansion of the battlefield and a transformation of the war.
…Negotiations between Ukraine and Russia were always fraught but contained moments of promise. They have now stalled completely. Russia bears its fair share of responsibility, of course. But European channels to Moscow have been all but severed, and there is no serious effort from the United States to seek diplomatic progress, let alone cease-fires.
When I was in Ukraine during the first weeks of the war, even staunch Ukrainian nationalists expressed views far more pragmatic than those that are routine in America now. Talk of neutral status for Ukraine and internationally monitored plebiscites in Donetsk and Luhansk has been jettisoned in favor of bombast and grandstanding.
The war was dangerous and destructive enough in its initial form. The combination of expanded strategic aims and scotched negotiations has made it more dangerous still. At present, the only message to Russia is: There is no way out. Though President Vladimir Putin did not declare general conscription in his Victory Day speech on May 9, a conventional escalation of this kind is still possible.
Nuclear weapons are discussed in easy tones, not least on Russian television. The risk of cities being reduced to corium remains low without NATO deployment in Ukraine, but accident and miscalculation cannot be discounted. And the conflict takes place at a time when most of the Cold War arms control agreements between the United States and Russia have been allowed to lapse.
A weakened Russia was a likely outcome of the war even before the shift in U.S. policy. Russia’s economic position has deteriorated. Far from a commodity superpower, its undersized domestic industry is struggling and is dependent on technology imports that are now inaccessible.
What’s more, the invasion has led directly to greater military spending in second- and third-tier European powers. The number of NATO troops in Eastern Europe has grown tenfold, and a Nordic expansion of the organization is likely. A general rearmament of Europe is taking place, driven not by desire for autonomy from American power but in service to it. For the United States, this should be success enough. It is unclear what more there is to gain by weakening Russia, beyond fantasies of regime change.
Ukraine’s future depends on the course of the fighting in the Donbas and perhaps the south. The physical destruction of the east is already well underway. Ukrainian casualties are not insignificant; estimates of the number killed and wounded vary widely, but it is certainly in the tens of thousands. Russia has destroyed whatever sense of shared heritage remained before the invasion.
But the longer the war, the worse the damage to Ukraine and the greater the risk of escalation. A decisive military result in eastern Ukraine may prove elusive. Yet the less dramatic outcome of a festering stalemate is hardly better. Indefinite protraction of the war, as in Syria, is too dangerous with nuclear-armed participants.
Diplomatic efforts ought to be the centerpiece of a new Ukraine strategy. Instead, the war’s boundaries are being expanded and the war itself recast as a struggle between democracy and autocracy, in which the Donbas is the frontier of freedom. This is not just declamatory extravagance. It is reckless. The risks hardly need to be stated.
2) And by the “Sunday Review’s” house conservative:
By Ross Douthat
Our success…yields new strategic dilemmas. Two scenarios loom for the next six months of war. In the first, Russia and Ukraine trade territory in small increments, and the war gradually cools into a “frozen conflict” in a style familiar from other wars in Russia’s near abroad.
Under those circumstances, any lasting peace deal would probably require conceding Russian control over some conquered territory, in Crimea and the Donbas, if not the land bridge now mostly held by Russian forces in between. This would hand Moscow a clear reward for its aggression, notwithstanding everything else that Russia has lost in the course of its invasion. And depending on how much territory was ceded, it would leave Ukraine mutilated and weakened, notwithstanding its military success.
So such a deal might seem unacceptable in Kyiv, Washington or both. But then the alternative — a permanent stalemate that’s always poised for a return to low-grade war — would also leave Ukraine mutilated and weakened, reliant on streams of Western money and military equipment, and less able to confidently rebuild…
There is…[a] scenario…in which…the stalemate breaks in Ukraine’s favor. This is the future that the Ukrainian military claims is within reach — where with sufficient military aid and hardware they are able to turn their modest counteroffensives into major ones and push the Russians back not just to prewar lines but potentially out of Ukrainian territory entirely.
Clearly, this is the future America should want — except for the extremely important caveat that it’s also the future where Russian nuclear escalation suddenly becomes much more likely than it is right now.
We know that Russian military doctrine envisions using tactical nuclear weapons defensively, to turn the tide in a losing war [emphasis added, see post noted at the bottom of this one]. We should assume that Putin and his circle regard total defeat in Ukraine as a regime-threatening scenario. Combine those realities with a world where the Russians are suddenly being routed, their territorial gains evaporating, and you have the most nuclear-shadowed military situation since our naval blockade of Cuba in 1962.
I’ve been turning over these dilemmas since I moderated a recent panel at the Catholic University of America with three right-of-center foreign policy thinkers — Elbridge Colby, Rebeccah Heinrichs and Jakub Grygiel. On the wisdom of our support for Ukraine up till now, the panel was basically united. On the question of the war’s endgame and the nuclear peril, however, you could see our challenges distilled — with Grygiel emphasizing the importance of Ukraine’s recovering territory in the east and along the Black Sea coastline in order to be plausibly self-sufficient in the future, but then the more hawkish Heinrichs and the more cautious Colby sparring over what our posture should be in the event that rapid Ukrainian advances are met with a Russian tactical nuclear strike.
That question isn’t the one immediately before us; it will only become an issue if Ukraine begins to make substantial gains. But since we are arming the Ukrainians on a scale that seems intended to make a counteroffensive possible, I sincerely hope a version of the Colby-Heinrichs back-and-forth is happening at the highest reaches of our government — before an issue that matters now on academic panels becomes the most important question in the world.