Tuesday 13th of April 2021

mr pickwick lives in the white house...

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It is becoming clearer, to a certain extent, what US President Joe Biden was referring to in his comments about the first conversation (since his inauguration on January 20, 2021) over the telephone with China’s leader Xi Jinping on February 11 of this year. During a discussion with US senators the following day, the new US leader made a strange statement. He warned that the PRC would eat USA’s lunch if America did not “step up its infrastructure spending”.

 

Even at the time, it was reasonable to assume that the President was, in some sense, concerned with PRC’s global Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This international infrastructure project can, in fact, be viewed as a real-life embodiment of the global socio-economic and philosophical concept – a “community of shared future”, described by Xi Jinping during his famous speech at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos.

In his remarks during the visit to the Delaware Air National Guard base in Wilmington DE on March 26, 2021, Joe Biden mentioned his telephone conversation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The US President said that they had talked about the PRC and the competition its was engaging in via its Belt and Road Initiative. He also suggested that a similar initiative coming from the democratic states could help “those communities around the world that, in fact, need help”.

At around the same time, an article in Reuters reported that Joe Biden was planning to unveil a multi-trillion – dollar plan to rebuild America’s infrastructure in Pittsburgh the following week. It seems that the word “infrastructure” has special significance for the current US leader. This article will, however, focus only on the foreign policy-related aspects of these plans.

To start with, it is important to note that the essence of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative could be (roughly) described in three points (using Joe Biden’s terminology). Firstly, the lunch does not belong to “USA” or its allies, i.e. to any particular group of nations, but to everyone (the entire human race). Secondly, its preparation is still in initial stages, and in order to successfully complete the “cooking” process, it is essential to work together. Thirdly, the lunch, once it is ready, has to be shared with everyone so that no one goes hungry.

In fact, given some imagination, one could even discern similar ideas in Joe Biden’s brief remarks about the initiative from democratic nations, aimed at helping those around the world who are most in need. Hence, the concept behind the “democratic BRI” deserves some attention.

First of all, it is worth noting that the strategy behind PRC’s One Belt One Road initiative (currently referred to as BRI) did not materialize in 2013 out of nowhere, i.e. it was not based on pure theory. By that time, China had already visibly successfully expanded its economic clout in nations referred to (quite arbitrarily) as “underdeveloped”, which are home to most of the world’s population.

In other words, the “assistance” that Joe Biden and Boris Johnson are planning (?) to provide has long been offered by the country that they both seemingly have issues with. At this point, it is worth pointing out that leaders of the “democratic world” should look for the source of these problems in their own countries too.

Continuously increasing assistance offered to the “underdeveloped” nations by the PRC was a recent topic of discussion in the New Eastern Outlook in connection with Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s tour of a number of African and Southeast Asian countries, his recent visits to the Greater Middle East are also noteworthy but they warrant a separate article.

Probably the main issue with the Biden-Johnson initiative is the fact that it is anchored on the idea of a potentially divided world and global confrontation, which will invariably occur on all fronts (including the economic, political and quite possibly military ones).

Several years ago, during a discussion about various projects aimed at developing infrastructure in Southeast Asia (which started as a result of PRC’s plans to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), it came to light that the sum required exceeded the worth of all the available financial assets in the region, which in theory, could have been used for these needs.

Still, the lack of necessary funds was bound to become an even bigger problem as decisions on how to allocate them would have to be made during the implementation of initiatives linked by similar aims.  And this was the situation leading up to forecasted global cataclysms, whose victims were, first and foremost, nations and people who the US President said were the most in need.

Is it possible that the idea of offering assistance to the aforementioned via the “democratic BRI” is nothing more than propaganda aimed at masking the political goal behind this initiative, which is to counter the growing popularity of USA’s and its allies’ key geopolitical opponent in the “underdeveloped” world? All in all, it would not be surprising if the answer to the aforementioned question was in fact a “yes”.

After all, the three previously defined points applicable to China’s BRI look, in all likelihood, as utter heresy in the eyes of current US and British elites, whose ideology appears to be based on that of Crusades and colonization and repression. Who would even come up with such an idea of “working together”, when it could be far simpler to just “come and take”.

Judging by a number of statements made by Joe Biden himself and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, an alliance of “democratic” nations will act as a counterweight to autocratic regimes, specifically that of China (together with Russia), i.e. the initiator and key implementer of BRI.

Taking into account the way the key exercise in democracy in the United States proceeded in 2020, the “democratic” values being promoted are unlikely to encompass, even in name only, the rule of the people. And the word “democratic” (which has positive connotations) will probably only be used to describe countries that are either current or potential allies of the US.

The idea of creating the aforementioned alliance is not new, in and of itself. In fact, it has, from time to time, been the topic of political debates and discussions. For instance, last year, Boris Johnson announced his plans to invite India, South Korea and Australia to the scheduled G-7 Summit, which, in 2021, will be held in Great Britain. It was not surprising that the Prime Minister of the host nation was able to make such a proposal, which, in turn, prompted political scientists to talk about the possibility of establishing the “democratic ten”.

It is also noteworthy that the idea of creating such an alliance must have arisen to counter the suggestion of former US President Donald Trump to invite Russia to the G7 Summit, probably, in order to breathe some life into this seemingly pointless organization.

However, it is unlikely that the (hypothetical) D-10 has any chance of becoming anything but a forum (i.e. yet another Pickwick Club or a platform for endless discussions). And as we are all aware, at present, it is easy to lose count of similar organizations. It is seemingly premature to talk about the Democratic 10 while the Quad is yet to expand beyond a forum (and may even fail to do so) for one obvious reason, in the author’s opinion, – different approaches of its participants towards China. And one of the main reasons, why various alliances, such as the Quad, Democratic 10, are being created is to counter PRC’s global influence.

In conclusion, it is worth pointing out the key difference between the current states of Xi Jinping’s BRI and Joe Biden’s hypothetical democratic alliance. The former is in the process of being actually implemented. In fact, this initiative was born at least ten years prior to the announcement about it by the Chinese leader. In contrast, little is known about the latter, other than the vague statements made about it by the current US President.

If the author were to ask what developments (if any) to expect from the idea behind the “democratic” BRI, the answer, at present, would include pure conjecture and not evidence-based forecasts. After all, there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the ever-changing factors that influence the way the current stage of the Global Chess Game is going.

 

 

Vladimir Terehov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 

 

Read more:

https://journal-neo.org/2021/04/06/president-joe-biden-s-answer-to-bri/

 

 

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deranged commentators...

 What would US-China war really mean?

 

By Paul Malone 

Apr 7, 2021

 

Do the commentators who talk of war with China actually think about what this would mean?

 

“Military conflict in the Pacific, which would certainly involve Australia, is becoming more likely,” Greg Sheridan, The Australian’s Foreign Editor proclaimed on the front page of the paper in March this year.

 

But what sort of a war with China is he and his like-minded cold-warriors trying to provoke with their constant stream of articles predicting a war?

Perhaps one like those war games you find online where the Chinese would line up in yellow and the United Sates troops, dressed in red, white and blue with Australia at its side, faces off  on the beaches of Taiwan?  Or maybe our cannon-armed sailing ships would take on their junks in the Taiwan Strait?

In continually writing about and promoting war Sheridan and others such as Peter Jennings of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), provide no depiction of the conflict they envisage. They seem to assume that the world would roll on as normal while these two nuclear-armed superpowers go to war.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimates that the United States has 5,800 nuclear warheads and China 320.   The Union of Concerned Scientists believes that fewer than a hundred Chinese warheads and bombs could reach the United States. But even a fraction of that number could kill hundreds of thousands of people. If only one was detonated over New York an estimated 583,160 people would die.

How can we be sure that the war that Sheridan, Jennings and others envisage, will not spiral out into a full nuclear conflict?

The US’s provocative action in sailing fleets of warships off the Chinese coast — euphemistically designated as “Freedom of Navigation” exercises — could provoke an incident that leads to war.

So too could a lone US warship manoeuvring in the region and bumping into a Chinese ship.  Collisions between US warships and other shipping have occurred in the past. In 2017 the USS Fitzgerald and a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, the ACX Crystal, collided south of Tokyo Bay in the East China Sea, costing the lives of seven US sailors.  Australians will also well remember the June 1969 tragedy when the USS Frank E Evans crossed the bow of the aircraft carrier Melbourne during a training exercise in the South China Sea. Seventy-four US sailors lost their lives.

The commentators most commonly foresee the war being fought over Taiwan. Jennings bluntly says “President Joe Biden’s first international crisis will likely be over the future of Taiwan.”  Sheridan, who takes his riding instructions from the US Pacific commanders, reminds readers that US Admiral Philip Davidson says Beijing could invade Taiwan within six years.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is always “the baddie” in these cold-war scenarios. After stating that military conflict with China is becoming increasingly likely Sheridan says his words are not hysterical, they are the implicit message in the words of President Xi at the March National People’s congress in Beijing.

But is President Xi really saying anything different to what the Chinese have said in the past? 

No! For decades the Chinese have stated their strong views on Taiwan without launching an all-out war. In 1995 then US President Clinton expressed an interest in visiting Taiwan. Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping responded in exactly the same way as Xi would today. He said the status of Taiwan was at the crux of Chinese-US relations. “If this question is not handled properly the result could be very explosive.”

Put simply the Chinese government has always said that Taiwan is part of China and for that matter the Nationalists who fled to Taiwan after the civil war and established government there also agreed that the island is part of China, claiming that they were still the legitimate government of the mainland.

Australia accepted the Taipei claim until the establishment of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1972. Australia’s Joint Communiqué with the PRC recognised the PRC Government as China’s sole legal government and acknowledged the PRC’s position that Taiwan was a province of the PRC.

Jennings says that in his view Xi thinks he can exploit a window of opportunity created by COVID-19 and the change of US president to accelerate China’s ambition to take over Taiwan.  But he also notes that the Chinese Communist Party’s objective is that Taiwan should be under its control by 2049, the centenary of the party’s takeover in Beijing.

2049! If that is true it hardly seems that the Chinese are intent on rushing to war. And it’s hardly likely that XI will still be president.

What such a timeline does suggest is a patient process, one that might see ever increasing trade and investment between Taiwan and the mainland, leading to closer co-operation and gradual integration. It’s certainly not in China’s interest to see the region that has flourished in recent decades torn apart by conflict.

Nevertheless another of the cold warriors, Clive Hamilton claims that the United States is not going to unilaterally undertake some sort of military action, but Beijing might do so.

Hamilton conveniently forgets Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam and a host of other unilateral US military operations around the world.

But could it suit the US to provoke turmoil in the seas off China? Might the US hawks believe, as US generals did during the Cuban military crisis,  that the US has the ability to knock out the enemy before the enemy has sufficient military strength to seriously threaten the United States?

During the Cuban missile crisis US General Curtis Lemay argued that the US and Soviet Union were approaching a nuclear weapons balance where war would bring mutually assured destruction. LeMay pushed President Kennedy to take out the missile sites the Soviet Union was constructing in Cuba, holding the view that the Soviet Union could be obliterated without more than normal US Strategic Air Command losses.

Might the US generals and admirals believe today that the United States could quickly and clinically wipe out China?  We can only hope that like Kennedy, Biden keeps a level head and tempers any such thinking.

 

Read more:

https://johnmenadue.com/what-would-us-china-war-really-mean/

 

 

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mad as a hypocrite blinken...

 

The U.S. hypocrisy to come will be even greater than anything tried by the Trump administration.

 

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News

 

For a time after Joe Biden took office not quite three months ago, among the questions raised was how the new administration would address the Syria question.

I do not think we will have to wonder about this much longer. It is early days yet, but one now detects the Biden’s administration’s Syria policy in faint outline. From what one can make out, it is bleak, it is vicious, it is unconscionably cruel to the Syrian people. 

And it may prove yet worse than anything the Trump administration came up with, the Bible-banging Mike Pompeo in the lead as secretary of state.

Will Biden’s national security people drop the covert coup operation Barack Obama set it in motion nine years ago, its failure long evident? Or will they reinvigorate American support for savage jihadists in the name of “regime changing” the secular government in Damascus? What about the American troops still operating illegally on Syrian soil? What about the oilfields the Trump administration took to “protecting” from the nation that owns them? What about the brazen theft of crude from those fields?

And what, of course, about the murderous sanctions that various executive orders have escalated on numerous occasions since the Bush II administration imposed the first of them 17 long years ago?  

What will Biden and his people do, in short, about the godawful mess the U.S. has made of the Syrian Arab Republic since it bastardized legitimate demonstrations against the Assad government in early 2012 (at the latest) by perverting them with Sunni extremists and hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons?

These were the questions. Answers now begin to arrive.

February Bombing

The first suggestion of things to come came in late February, when U.S. warplanes bombed sites inside Syria’s border with Iraq said to have been used by militias backed by Iran. This action coincided roughly with talks in Washington with senior Israeli intelligence and military officials, convened to determine whether and how the administration would re-enter the accord governing Iran’s nuclear programs. Those talks merely confirmed what was already evident: The Biden administration will make no move in Iran’s direction without Israel’s approval. Ditto in the Syrian case.   

As a long record shows, Israel wants to destabilize Syria as long as it is not governed by a pliant Western client; it continues to bomb Syrian targets, including Damascus, on a regular basis. With these realities in view, we can confidently surmise that the Biden administration does not actually have a Syria policy, just as it does not actually have an Iran policy. Apartheid Israel has a Syria policy it dictates to the professedly Zionist Biden administration.

 

“When I think of the suffering of the Syrian people, including Syrian children, I think of my own two children,” Antony Blinken tweeted last week. “How could we not take action to help them? Our common humanity demands it. Shame on us if we don’t.”

One already grows accustomed to our new secretary of state’s wildly disconnected remarks on social media and elsewhere. This guy has a troubled relationship with reality, we must begin to conclude. As The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal replied to this morbid hypocrisy, “If you treated your children like you treat the Syrian people you would be jailed for child abuse.”

But let us set aside the preposterous assertion that, while starving Syrians of bread, fuel, medicines and reconstruction funding other nations would otherwise provide, Blinken thinks of suffering Syrians as he does his children. As boilerplate propaganda this offensive stuff may seem trivial and worthy of no note. But in this case we are left with a question worth posing.

Why ‘Common Humanity’ Now?

Why would Blinken broadcast these things on social media at this moment? Why would he summon “our common humanity” when there is no shred of evidence that he or anyone else among Biden’s national security crew gives a tinker’s damn about those human beings commonly known as Syrians?

I have two answers, of equal importance.

One, the Biden administration appears to be preparing Americans for a round of Washington’s morally bankrupt, grossly illegal campaign to bring down the government of a sovereign nation because it does not conform to America’s imperial diktat (and because, as noted, this will please the Israelis). Liberal and “progressive” consciences must be eased. And among others a state of slumber must be maintained.

Two, Blinken has in all likelihood begun the work of keeping Washington’s “coalition partners,” notably the French and British, in the Syrian subversion game by providing cover for the savagery that is to come. Reading straight from the Vietnam-era script, Blinken wants America’s “allies and partners” — a favorite phrase of his — to be confident that when they bomb Syrian children the world will understand it is in order to save them.

Never go to Tony if you are in search of an original thought.

Reading into these matters, text and subtext, we can begin to brace ourselves for what is probably on the way in Syria. The coup operation is again on. American troops will remain on the ground, almost certainly to increase in number over time. The U.S., in concert with the same fanatics it has to date bankrolled, trained and supplied, will continue to sequester Syria’s oilfields and the fertile wheat fields that ought to be feeding the population.

The hypocrisy to come will be yet greater than anything the Trump administration tried on — a forecast I offer confidently. Here comes the bankruptcy of the “responsibility to protect” at its very worst. This will be liberal righteousness with a genteel veneer worthy of your grandmother’s mahogany dining table.

PBS Report

Another piece of the puzzle arrived just before Easter (of all times), when PBS broadcast an interview with Abu Mohammad al–Jolani, the head of Hayat Tahir al–Shalam, HTS, the latest among the name-changing cutthroats our mainstream press still refers to as Syria’s “moderate opposition.” Martin Smith’s exchange with Jolani is a piece of a full-dress documentary on Jolani that Frontline plans to air in the not-distant future. Herein lies a tale.

Alert readers will recall that Jolani was once an Islamic State commander who went on to found Jabhat al–Nusra, the worst of the worst among al–Qaeda’s shape-shifting affiliates operating in Syria. The State Department declared Jolani a “specially designated global terrorist” in 2013. This designation still stands.

Jolani now runs what he calls a “salvation government” in Idlib, the remaining retreat of Islamist extremists in northwestern Syria. Yes, he remains an Islamist theocrat determined to impose Sharia law on secular Syria. But (the big “but”) is that he is committed to fighting Assad and so shares “common interests with the United States and the West,” as PBS delicately puts it.

Human rights NGOs have implicated Jolani and HTS — videos, witness testimonies, interviews with victims — in numerous cases of torture, violence, sexual abuse, arbitrary arrests, disappearances and the rest of the inexcusable stuff these groups get up to. Jolani denies it all in his encounter with Smith: “There is no torture, I completely reject this,” he says on camera.

To be fair to Smith and Frontline, they have covered themselves carefully by laying out the record of Jolani’s and HTS’s crimes against innocent Syrians. But Smith also wants us to know of Jolani’s emergence “as a leading Islamist militant” — note the “Islamist” remains — “and his efforts, despite his history with al–Qaeda and allegations of human rights abuses, to position himself as an influential force in Syria’s future.”

As if to certify this judgment, PBS cites the noted remark recently of James Jeffrey, the self-confessed liar who served as President Donald Trump’s special envoy to Syria, to the effect that HTS is “‘an asset’ to America’s strategy in Idlib.”

What are we looking at here? There are two ways to consider this question.

One, PBS’s generous reporting on Jolani’s past is at bottom part of a rehabilitation job. It is once again a case of text and subtext. Read the PBS report accompanying the video of Smith’s interview. The list of HTS’s sins is a lengthy apologia, the intent of which appears to be to preclude the criticisms sure to arise along with Jolani’s emergence as “an influential force in Syria’s future.”

My conclusion: Syria may shortly get its version of Juan Guaidó and Alexey Navlany, the two Dummköpfe Washington has ridiculously elevated to some status of saintly democrats in Venezuela and the Russian Federation respectively. My verb is “may” because the Jolani project could prove so preposterous as to fail  before it gets airborne.  

Two, we watch the redeployment of a tried-and-disastrous strategy Zbigniew Brzezinski sold to President Jimmy Carter in late 1979. Paranoiacally anti–Soviet, Carter’s national security adviser persuaded the peanut farmer from Plains the best way to snooker the Soviets in Afghanistan was to finance and arm its adversaries. Osama bin Laden, al–Qaeda — indeed, the fundamentalist freak show that has unfolded in Syria for nearly a decade: Need one say more about the consequences of Zbig’s idiocy?

One would think the policy cliques in Washington would learn something once in a while, but no. They cannot learn because they cannot quite get to thinking.

This column concerns early signs of another foreign policy disaster that may be impending. Should these signs prove out, we will watch as an empire already on its back foot makes another desperate attempt to defend its fading hegemony. Let us, once again, bitterly hope for failure.

America could knock over whoever it wished long ago, and it could send men to the moon. No longer does it seem able to do either.

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. Follow him on Twitter @thefloutistHis web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site.

 

 

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