Analysts from five Washington policy institutes have published a joint report asking (1) what should American defense strategy be? (2) what capabilities, investments, and force structure might that strategy require? and (3) what would such a military cost? (The five institutes are not of the same views, with the Cato Institute’s Benjamin H. Friedman notable for advocating fiscal and strategic restraint.)
 The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), The Cato Institute, The Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The Kremlin says that Russian President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Donald Trump have agreed in a phone call to work to improve U.S.-Russian relations.
The Kremlin says that Putin expressed readiness to establish a “partner-like” dialogue with Trump’s administration….
The Kremlin says that Putin and Trump agreed that U.S.-Russian ties are “unsatisfactory” and spoke for joint efforts to normalize them and engage in a “constructive cooperation on a broad range of issues.”
Hopeful wall-builders must be disappointed that Trump’s call wasn’t to threaten Mexican officials (really, to make a mere show of it while America pays for whatever barrier he devises against free markets in capital, goods, and labor).
No, it was a telephone call to Putin, bomber of innocents in Syria, tormentor of Ukranians, and friend of anti-Anerican hackers, that Trump so obligingly took.
One can guess – without guessing – that “partner-like” discussions involve terms to lift sanctions against Russia for her violence in Ukraine.
It says all one need hear that even the United Nations Human Rights Council, with several dictatorial members, found Russian conduct so egregious that they rejected her continued membership.
No matter, from Putin’s perspective: why should Russia worry about the U.N. when she was Trump by her side?
A single paragraph from Jacob Soll puts China in perspective:
There is no historical example of a closed imperial economy facing large capital-driven, open states and sustainably competing over a long term. That is not to say that China isn’t an economic powerhouse and a remarkable site of energy and potential. It is certainly both. But we also know Chinese debt — as secret as the state likes to keep it — is enormous, and that its financial system is like any other bubble. It is predicated on inflated earnings reports and expectations.
The great “Beijing Consensus,” China’s absolute commitment to showing 8% growth every year, is unsustainable, at least through legitimate means. And without it, China is beginning to look like an enormous totalitarian ponzi scheme — a phenomenon common enough in world history, but extremely dangerous to be near in the long run.
Goodness knows libertarians have had countless differences with Sen. John McCain, on domestic and foreign policy.
We could have no disagreement, however, with his condemnation of the CIA’s use of torture for interrogation of America’s enemies.
Our politics – including the acknowledgment of our own ethical failures -should be of the highest standards. To use the means of our murderous, nihilistic enemies isn’t simply ‘beneath’ us, but a fundamental rejection of America’s principled teachings on human rights.
Considering McCain’s long, difficult military service and captivity in Vietnam, and career in government afterward, he’s particularly situated to consider these issues.
(From the chat, Pei on the biggest myth about China: “The biggest myth about China is that the country has learned to do capitalism better than the West. You hear this from Western business people all the time. The reality is that China has learned to do “raw capitalism” or “crony capitalism” much faster than people can imagine. But I don’t think people in the West could tolerate that kind of capitalism.)
BEIJING — President of Hu Jintao of China has said that China must strengthen its cultural production to defend against the West’s assault on the country’s culture and ideology, according to an essay in a Communist Party policy magazine published this week. The publication of Mr. Hu’s words signaled that a new major policy initiative announced last October would continue well into 2012.
The essay, which was signed by Mr. Hu and based on a speech he gave in October, drew a sharp line between the cultures of the West and China and effectively said the two sides were engaged in an escalating culture war. It was published in Seeking Truth, a magazine that evolved from a publication founded by Mao as a platform for establishing Communist Party principles.
A defensive effort of this kind stems from weakness. It may score successes now and again, but irrestible state control of culture is possible only in places like North Korea.
Those who insist loudly and nervously that they ‘just have to get their message out’ are already losing the battle of ideas.
There’s a distinction between separation of church & state and secularization, although the distinction isn’t always grasped. America and France both have a separation of church from state, but France is the more secular society. Religion is more visible in American civil society, compared with France (if anything, that’s a considerable understatement).
There’s much worry among the religious about secularization in America, but I’d guess it’s unnecessary worry: America is and will remain a predominantly religious country.
Beyond America, this is even more true: religion, and particularly Christianity (yes, Christianity), is flourishing. Historians and demographers have noted this trend, among them Philip Jenkins, and Walter Russell Mead writes about it today in his fine blog:
A new report from the invaluable Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the most important source for information on religion in today’s world, will make a lot of people unhappy. The report looks at religious belief worldwide and finds that Christianity in the last one hundred years grew to become the world’s most widespread and diverse religion as well as the largest. Roughly one third of the world’s almost seven billion people are (or at least say they are) Christian. The second largest religion, Islam, claims about one fourth of the world’s population.
The demographic trends favor Christian expansion in Asia and Africa, and Mead speculates on the influence that expansion may have on democratization and human rights.
That important story is the topic of Mead’s post on a Conference Board report about China’s slowing growth rate:
….China’s growth is likely to slow to 8.7 percent next year, 6.6 percent in each of the four years after that, and then average 3.5 percent per year between 2017 and 2025. It has long been an article of faith inside China and among most China watchers that the country needs 9 percent growth per year to avoid widespread instability.
If China’s growth decelerates that fast, that far, the biggest question in world politics won’t be how the rest of us will accommodate China’s rise. The question will shift to whether China can last….
Hard to see clearly that far ahead, but if the Conference Board proves right, then Mead will surely be right.
I’ve no dislike for the Chinese people, yet every reason to dislike their oppressive government. Economic competition with China hasn’t been bad, but rather good, for America. She offers much, and spurs us to be more productive (her goods also being the fuel of our greater productivity).
And yet, and yet, there is not the slightest chance – none at all – that China’s meddlesome government can sustain genuine growth of the kind she’s claimed through year upon year of planning. Nor is there the slightest possibility that a one-party state is a moral option for her people, or any other.
I wouldn’t welcome China’s collapse, but I doubt anyone will have occasion to observe China’s supposed, perpetual advance.
We’ve played the phoenix before, and no matter how difficult conditions are today, I’ve no doubt that we will yet again. We’re successful and resilient because we’re free: Americans are versatile and creative, and bounce back well.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes about how America’s world position is likely to be stronger than some fret. Part of this, of course, is because some of our global competitors face even worse problems (some of which are demographic, and thus significantly intractable).
It’s liberty that makes our successes and recoveries possible. (The Koch-funded ‘Americans for Prosperity’ has the wrong name; it should be Americans for Liberty, the condition from which prosperity flows.)
We should — and God knows I and countless others will — write honestly about how difficult life is for so many today. For it all, and because of candid reflection, American is sure to find her best days yet ahead.
From Chris Preble, some remarks about an American troop departure from Iraq, with sentiments that seem sound to me:
….if the Obama administration carries through on its promise to remove U.S. troops by the end of the year, the president and his national security team will have heeded the wishes of the American people, not to mention abided by their promises, and those of their predecessor.
This costly and counterproductive war – launched under false pretenses, sold to the American people as a cakewalk and an operation that would be paid for by Iraqi oil revenues – may finally, mercifully, be coming to an end…”
America’s principal commitment should be the defense of over three-hundred million citizens on this continent.
For those Al Qaeda members killed, I’ve not the slightest sympathy. One would prefer fewer entanglements abroad, but that preference doesn’t alter the clear right of Americans to defend themselves, and exact retributive justice against those who have committed themselves to war with this republic.
The president was right to order the dispatch of Bin Laden, and he has been right to continue America’s legitimately defensive and wholly justified war against Al Qaeda.