“Fire & Fury” or “Shock and Awe”: it is always the start of a Quagmire

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

If we weren’t talking about two nuclear-armed states with unhinged leaders, the war of words between the US and North Korea would be hilarious. Trump’s threat Tuesday that “”North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” was empty rhetoric and the government of Kim Jung-un knows it, which is why they immediately teased Trump that they were going to hit Guam with a missile strike. The counter-threat was just as absurd as the initial one.

This sort of over-heated rhetoric is hardly unprecedented and always weakens the United States.

North Korea is a country with a $17 billion gross domestic product (nominal) and a population of 25 million. I’m sure it has its virtues, but military weight in world affairs isn’t one of them. It is in a league with Nepal, Gabon and Iceland economically. Population-wise it is in the same league as the Cameroons and Madagascar. The US has a population of 320 million and a GDP of $18.5 trillion.

When I heard the phrase “fire and fury,” I couldn’t help thinking of George W. Bush’s threat of “shock and awe” against Iraq in March of 2003.

The threat was intended to convince Saddam Hussein and other embers of the Iraqi elite to flee the country without preconditions.

It did not work. The US failed to find Saddam, and failed to decapitate the regime.

The American Air Force did rain down destruction on Baghdad, but Baghdad did not surrender.

The army was sent in, grunts on the ground having to fight Iraqi armor and other units. Increasingly the military realized it had been duped by W.’s rhetoric. As Iraqi soldiers discarded their uniforms the better to engage in a guerrilla war, one general got into trouble with the highly scripted White House when he admitted that this was not the war they had gamed for.

The shock and awe that was supposed to make Saddam surrender without a shot, and to cow the Iraqis into submission, Instead the US was drawn into an Iraqi quagmire that continues to this day.

When they start talking shock and awe in Washington, friends, it is time to hunker down for the long haul.

——

Related video:

AP: “Trump: NKorea Will Be Met with ‘Fire and Fury'”

Scientists Leak Study on Global Heating Impact b4 Trump can Suppress it

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

A draft report on the current impact of global heating on the United States, produced by 13 Federal agencies, has been leaked to the New York Times. The scientists who leaked it are afraid that the anti-science Trump administration will suppress the findings to help its friends in Big Oil.

One of its central findings is that man-made climate change (driving your car, air-conditioning your house on fossil fuels so that you release toxic CO2) is already having an impact on the United States. For instance, the West is hotter, which exacerbates droughts.

One of the findings that alarmed me is that just in the next few decades average temperatures in the US will go up 2.5 degrees F. But by 2100, only 80 years from now, the average temperature will be 5 to 8.5 degrees F. higher! Remember, average surface temperature includes the cold Great Lakes and cold North Dakota. So in any particular place, say Savannah or Atlanta or Phoenix, the temperature could go up even higher than 8.5 degrees F. The scientists are saying that unusual record temperatures will become normal. Some whole cities (we’re looking at you, Tucson) could become uninhabitable in the old age of my grandchildren!

Screen Shot 2017-08-08 at 3.08.58 AM

The report says,

“The world has warmed (globally and annually averaged surface air temperature ) by about 1.6 °F (0.9°C) over the last 150 years (1865 – 2015), and the spatial and temporal non-uniformity of the warming has triggered many other changes to the Earth’s climate.

*Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans.

*Thousands of studies conducted by tens of thousands of scientists around the world have documented changes in surface, atmospheric, and oceanic temperatures;

*melting glaciers;

*disappearing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea level; and an increase in atmospheric water vapor.

*Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate changes.

*The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related, weather extremes,

*as well as the warmest years on record for the globe.

In the beginning of the Executive Summary, the government scientists have managed to refute all the talking points of their current ignoramus or venal bosses, Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt. And a simple little chart shows that the idea that there hasn’t been dramatic heating already (especially in the American West) is daft:

heating

The report is good on regional differences. The US Northeast has had an unusual amount of heavy precipitation lately. These extreme rain events and the consequent danger of flooding will increase.

The West, in contrast, risks long-term drought and declining snow packs.

The oceans around the US are rising, warming and becoming more acidic. You take a Gulf coast fishing town and this is bad news. The town itself could be flooded out and disappear. Warmer Gulf waters mean more extreme hurricanes, so it could be leveled. And an acidic ocean will kill off a lot of the fish on which they depend.

The report is concrete, careful and scarier than any horror movie you’ve ever seen. It gives upper and lower estimates, depending on whether humankind gets its act together. Given the oil-drenched buffoons now in charge, you’d want to bet on the higher and more dangerous numbers in each case.

Appendix:

Let’s see if my coding abilities are up to embedding the report here:

Can a General ‘Unchaos’ the White House? – Juan Cole Interview

Warren Olney | KCRW. | (To the Point Radio Show) | – –

Can a general ‘unchaos’ the White House?

“With the President away, his White House Staff will play — unless former General John Kelly can establish rules of order in his new role as chief of a group he himself has called “dysfunctional.” We hear about his challenges and his record.”

Juan’s Interview on John Kelly at KCRW, Warren Olney’s To the Point:

(Click the arrow in the audio console below to listen):

* * *

To the Point Logo:

Kelly

Gov.’s branding Mosque bombing ‘terrorism’ astonishes US Press

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

This Saturday, a Bloomington, Minnesota mosque was attacked with an improvised explosive device, which destroyed an office with fire and blew out windows but luckily no one was injured. Some members of the congregation were shaken up pretty badly.

On Sunday, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton visited the complex, and said,

“What a terrible, dastardly, cowardly terrible act this was that was committed yesterday.. . As someone said in the meeting, if the roles were reversed, it would be called a terrorist attack. And that’s what it is, an act of terrorism.”

I admire the hell out of Mark Dayton, who voted against the Iraq War when he was in Congress. He did the right thing in visiting the damaged house of worship. So in analyzing his words I am not criticizing him at all.

But note that he quoted ‘someone at the meeting’, possibly a member of the congregation, as saying that ‘if roles were reversed’ . . . . ‘it would be terrorism.’ That is, if a Muslim had, God forbid, bombed a Christian church, then it would immediately be labelled terrorism in our society.

In other words, it is usually only terrorism in today’s America if the perpetrators are brown and/or Muslim.

To his credit, Gov. Dayton cut through this bigotted b.s. and said, that is what this attack was, it was terrorism.

And that became a headline this morning. The corporate media hadn’t really reported on this story much. There were few national organs that wrote a headline about the actual mosque bombing. But the headline on Monday at USA Today, WaPo and other news outlets was, “Governor calls bombing of mosque ‘terrorism.'” It is as though they were amazed he would say such a thing.

As usual, the Tweeter-in-chief stayed silent about this issue, even though he tweets on every act of “terrorism” that is brought to his attention. The message seems to be that it is all right for Muslims to be attacked for no good reason.

Back in the 1990s the US Federal Code defined terorism as a non-state actor committing violence against civilians in order to achieve a political purpose. By that definition, the mosque bombing was definitely terrorism.

After 9/11, terrorism became politicized. One state prosecutor tried to charge a set of bank robbers with terrorism along side criminal charges. The judge rightly threw it out. Robbing a bank scares the teller and the customers, but it isn’t terrorism because it does not have an obvious political motive.

Then ‘terrorism’ became racialized, so that white people typically aren’t charged with terrorism. A white supremacist terrorist cell in Kansas busted for planning a massive mosque bombing was rolled up last year by law enforcement. The discourse around them was not that of terrorism.

Dayton reversed this trend. He insisted that mosque-goers are human beings. Kudos!

But it is sad that his statement itself is so newsworthy.

—–

Related video added by Juan Cole:

WCCO CBS: “‘Terrible, Dastardly, Cowardly’: Dayton, Ellison Condemn Mosque Bombing”

As Trump leaves Paris Accord, Wind jobs are fastest growing in US next Decade

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

CBS News reports that jobs in the wind energy field will grow 108 percent in the next 7 years. Working on wind turbines, in short, is the fastest-growing job sector in the United States now and in the foreseeable future.

One of the characteristics of wind turbines is that they can be refurbished and software can be installed in them to improve their integration into the grid. Alete is putting $80 mn into refurbishing 350 turbines in Minnesota and Iowa. That project translates into jobs.

Wind produces 37% of Iowa’s electricity, contributing to a steep decline in the state’s dependence on coal (though it still uses too much coal).

About 17% of Minnesota’s electricity comes from wind.

Most of this wind generation capacity was added in just the last decade.

The two biggest private energy players in this industry are Xcel (6,686 megs of wind power capacity) and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway energy (6,405 megawatts of wind capacity).

Xcel is busy adding 11 new major wind farms, totaling 3,400 megawatts of capacity, and wind will account for 34 percent of its electricity generation mix by 2021, up from 19 percent now.

All this is one reason that coal jobs are not coming back, no matter what that blowhard Trump says. On the other hand, a lot of coal workers will be retrained to work on wind turbines. China has a program to help Wyoming coal workers make this transition.

In California’s poverty-stricken ‘Inland Empire’ region alone, green energy since 2010 has generated 36,000 jobs and $9.6 billion in business investment. Riverside and San Bernardino counties are among the smoggiest in the state, so moving to renewables will not only benefit the economy but will also combat respiratory and heart disease produced by breathing air polluted by coal and gas emmissions. Not to mention that those emissions are producing global heating that could threaten California’s prosperity.

Nation-wide, the electric power industry directly employs 2.66 million workers, and indirectly supports 7 million US jobs. It adds $880 billion to our gross domestic product annually, which amounts to 5% of the whole. Much of the system needs to be redone, which is a labor-intensive project.

—-

Related video added by Juan Cole:

VICE News: ” Iowa Wind Power Industry (HBO)”

UN Report: Muslim Youth going to fight in Syria mostly not Motivated by Islam

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Lizzie Dearden at The Independent reviews a new report by the United Nations Office of counter-terrorism report.

Some 25,000 young men are said to have made their way from Europe to fight the regime in Syria, and as the war winds down, many will return. Understanding what drove them will help in designing programs to help with reintegration.

The report itself makes it clear that the young Muslim men who went off to fight on the rebel side in the Syrian Civil War were not motivated by a detailed knowledge of Islam. In fact, they knew little about their religion.

They say that they did not seek to become terrorists and did not want to commit acts of terrorism in Europe on their return.

Why did they go? They are Sunni Muslims and felt that the Alawite-dominated regime of Bashar al-Assad is mistreating Sunni Muslims.

Many studies have found that those who run off to join terrorist or guerrilla groups are well-educated and middle class. Not this study. For whatever reason, its respondents were mostly poor, urban and hopeless. Most said they hoped to leave that dysfunctional home forever when they went to Syria.

Some one third of those who went to Syria were unemployed, a high rate. The rest had jobs, though in many cases menial ones.

They confirm an earlier study that although their sample was from a poverty-stricken background, they were not radicalized by mere poverty but rather by what they perceived as the lack of a ladder of self-advancement:

“Our results suggest that it is not so much the lack of material resources that is important for terrorism but rather the lack of economic opportunities: Countries that restrict economic freedom experience more terrorism.”

Neither religion nor family motivated the group in this study. Rather it was the guys they hung around with:

“The validation of the influence of friendship in motivating individuals to become FTF s supports the ‘bunch of guys’ theory of terrorism put forward by the psychologist Marc Sageman, 81 who argues that the decision to join a terrorist group ‘was based on pre – existing friendship’ ties and ‘that the evolving group of future perpetrators seemed more akin to’ such networks ‘ than a formal terrorist cell, with well – defined hierarchy and divisi on of labour .’ This theory has led some observers to call for a ‘social network approach to terrorism’

friends

Only ten percent thought ideology motivated them, and only 30% said that religion did (though they most often knew little about their religion).

The take-away appears to be that if you want to tamp down Muslim discontent in Europe, give young people more opportunity to make something of themselves. It is those who feel irrevocably blocked who turn to radicalism.

——

Related video:

CNN: “UAE diplomat warns Muslims of Islam ‘ignorance'”

Trump’s Worst Nightmare: Mueller’s Grand Jury Subpoenas Russia Documents

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has empaneled a grand jury in the investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia. The Grand Jury in turn has already issued a subpoena with regard to the meeting of Don Trump Jr. and other senior Trump advisors June 9 of 2016 with Natalia Veselnitskaya. Trump is clearly under investigation for obstruction with regard to the latter meeting, since he allegedly wrote a statement for Don Jr. to be read out for the public, in which he had his son deny that the meeting was campaign oriented, saying it was about adoption.

The mention of adoption is a tell. When Congress enacted a law permitting the sanctioning of high Russian officials around Vladimir Putin (the Magnitsky Act) in 2012, Putin’s response was to forbid Americans from adopting Russian babies. When Trump senior had his son say the meeting was about adoption, he was revealing that it was in part about the repeal of the Magnitsky Act. The Russians who set up the meeting, the Agalarovs, promised Trump Jr dirt on Hillary Clinton (presumably gathered by hackers, whom Putin once called “patriotic.”)

It now seems clear that Don Jr. released the email chain around that meeting in order to protect himself from going to jail, since his father had been imposing on him press releases about the meeting that distorted what happened and so may have involved obstruction of justice.

The Emoluments clause of the Constitution forbids politicians to accept anything of value from a foreign power. Some legal analysts have suggested that if the Trump campaign did receive significant help from Russia, even in the form of information, it could meet the definition of an emolument.

Mueller appears to think there is something to the story of Trump’s collusion with Russia during the campaign. The Veselnitskaya meeting alone is pretty strong evidence in this regard. But Mueller is also investigating Trump’s finances, including the possibility that Trump used his New York real Estate holdings for money laundering for Russian concerns. For Mueller to zero in on Trump’s business affairs is The Donald’s worst nightmare, and he tried to make it a red line, to no avail.

Ironically, Trump was just forced by Congress to sign new tough sanctions on Russia into law. The Putin team seem to have been hurt and confused. It is almost as though they knew nothing about the separation of powers and expected Trump to erase the Magnitsky Act by presidential fiat.

According to Interfax/ BBC Monitoring, Igor Sechin, the head of the Russian oil corporation Rosneft, complained, “Even the US president has said that the bill [on sanctions] is wrong. He objects it but signs it. What else can I add? Of course, the law is wrong, they understand it themselves,” Rosneft and Sechin are both under US sanctions.

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev lamented this state of affairs on Facebook [BBC Monitoring]:

“the Trump administration has demonstrated complete impotence, handing over executive powers to Congress in a most humiliating manner. This changes the balance of forces in US political circles.”
“What does this mean for them? The American establishment has comprehensively outplayed Trump. The president is not happy over the new sanctions, but he could not not sign off the law. The new sanctions move is, above all, yet another way of reining in Trump. There will be more moves, the ultimate purpose of which is his removal from office.”

So Medvedev is putting his money on Mueller to dig up the kind of dirt that will get Trump impeached. And there is something guilty about his performance.

—–
Related video:

CNN: “Mueller is investigating the Trump money trail”

Top 5 Great Power Realist Reasons Trump is Wrong on Immigration

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Many of the reactions to Stephen Miller’s announcement of Trump’s proposed immigration policies have pulled at the heart strings. People on social media have been remembering their own grandparents, who came to the US without knowing English and without higher degrees but made something of themselves. It turns out that Donald Trump’s own mother grew up speaking Gaelic in a Scottish village and knew little English before she came to the US. I can’t imagine that Trump’s German grandfather knew English before arriving, either, and it is not as if he had a degree or anything. Miller’s grandparents came in the same way in 1902.

But arguments from the heart will not be persuasive to the Trump voters or most of the Republican Party.

Here I’d like to set aside those considerations, of fair play and appeals to emotion and make a different set of arguments about the plan presented. What would it mean for American power in the world?

1. Sen. Tom Cotton, who spent years as a notorious illegal alien in Iraq, said that the US admits about 1 million legal immigrants a year, phrasing it as “an Arkansas every three years.” This argument is, like most of Cotton’s rhetoric, full of fallacies. First of all, the magnitude of the immigration is not important in and of itself. Arkansas is population-wise a small state mainly because it does not have a very good economy. It is 49th in the country for median household income. Its work force is only 3% agricultural, but whatever else they are doing does not appear to pay very well and maybe doesn’t generate a big demand for workers. Arkansas largely lacks what economists call absorptive capacity, States that do have a good economy might be able to absorb that many immigrants, indeed need that many immigrants to continue to grow. Again remember that they are less expensive than babies. Someone else has already paid for their basic education. They arrive ready to work and pay taxes and social security, and to serve in the military. Whether it is good or bad to bring in a million immigrants a year or a population increase from that source of 0.31% annually (not counting their natural increase once here) can’t be decided by mentioning the absolute number.

2. The fertility rate in the United States is collapsing and we may be on the verge of a demographic crisis.. Women in their teens and early twenties, i.e.Generation Z or Centennials, stopped having children at the rate of the predecessors. If they have postponed childbirth, then the alarm may be a blip. But if this development is a sea change, and Trump stops immigration, then the US will gradually shrink, as Japan is expected to. In 2007 we had 4.4 million live births. Last year it was 3.98 mn. And remember you have to subtract the death rate. These are complicated calculations since immigrants tend to come as adults. I don’t think Cotton has carried them out.

So actually we may need those 1 million immigrants every year to avoid shrinking and losing our status as a Great Power. Or as we will see, we might need them to compete with populous emerging Great Powers.

3. Shrinking would be bad, very bad, from the point of view of geopolitics. I know it could have benefits environmentally, but Cotton does not care about that anyway. Let us argue to someone who cares about American power. How big a population a country has tells you how big an army it can raise. It tells you how many workers it can put to work if it has the factories or laboratories or fields to employ them.

The rising powers in the world are China and India, both with over a billion in population. As they catch up technologically to the US and that advantage falls by the wayside, the sheer size of army they can deploy becomes crucial. The US at a dinky 320 million is only not at a disadvantage now because of that technological advantage.

4. Consider the fate of Japan, which will shrink from 130 million to 90 million over the next few decades. Who will pay into social security? How seriously can the world take a country dominated by little old retired people? Who will serve in the 100,000 strong Japanese Self-Defense Force? How innovative will Japanese science and engineering be under these circumstances? Who will work in factories and make Toyotas? You’ll say they can site the factories in Vietnam, but why shouldn’t Vietnam over time just make its own car? And who will buy Japanese-made goods at home? How to have an economy with only a geriatric consumer base? I once jokingly advised a friend to invest in whatever corporation makes the most popular adult diapers. He was grossed out.

One of the reasons Russia is acting so weird is that it imploded as a Great Power. Half the population of the Soviet Union hived off into new republics. Of the 150 mn. Russia was left with they lost 10 million to over-drinking, suicide, depression and a collapse of the birth rate. Losing the Cold War was hard on them. White Supremacy ironically could push the US into a disaster similar to that of Russia’s after 1991.

5. As for admitting only people who speak English and have higher degrees, this idea is based on yet another set of fallacies. Working class immigrants in the United States generally do not compete with native-born workers for jobs. They occupy different niches. In part this is because the immigrants don’t have good English.

So guess what. If you go down to admitting 500,000 educated English-speakers a year, you may a) produce the Japan effect of decline, 2) you will cut out the ability to harvest strawberries, and 3) you will actually start bringing in many more immigrants who can compete for jobs against native-born Americans.

6. CNN’s Jim Acosta accused Stephen Miller of a Whites only immigration policy, saying he was angling only for Australians and British. The charge is actually probably true, but like most racist immigration policies, it would get subverted.

The fact is that not very many people immigrate to the United State from developed countries like Britain or Australia. So you know what would happen if this law were passed in the form reported by Miller?

Desi paradise. The largest pool of English-speakers with BAs and higher degrees recognized by the United States lies in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. From each according to current law up to 25,000 can come each year, not counting later loved ones who join them. The next largest pool is former British Africa– Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, etc. etc.

I hear Steve Bannon doesn’t like Indian-Americans and once asked of Silicon Valley, ‘Why are these people here?’ Bannon and Miller have managed to craft an immigration proposal that would replace Central Americans and Mexicans with highly skilled Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Nepalese, Sri Lankans, and huge numbers of people from African countries. Remember, unless they change it, up to 25,000 can legally come from each of these countries annually. They’d get that many qualified applicants from 20 Commonwealth countries annually without any difficulty. India’s middle class just doubled to 250 million or so and is set to double again by 2025. You think they’d even miss 250,000 if they came over the next 10 years?

Here are the English-speaking Commonwealth countries whose degree holders Miller and Bannon and Sessions want to import wholesale. More bad news for Bannon and Miller: A lot of these countries are Muslim-majority or Buddhist or Hindu, or have large Muslim minorities (who might have a special reason to want to leave).

So I really don’t think this outcome is the one the Trumpies were going for. But some other time I’ll tell you how our current system was crafted by Southern white supremacists in Congress and how reality subverted their white bread designs.

Commonwealth Countries:

Republics:

Bangladesh
Botswana
Cyprus
Cameroon
Dominica
Fiji
Ghana
Guyana
India
Kenya
Kiribati
Malawi
Maldives
Malta
Mauritius
Mozambique
Namibia
Nauru
Nigeria
Pakistan
Rwanda
Samoa
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Singapore
South Africa
Sri Lanka
Tanzania
Trinidad and Tobago
Uganda
Vanuatu
Zambia

monarchies with heads of state other than the Reigning Monarch of England:

Brunei
Lesotho
Malaysia
Swaziland
Tongo

Commonwealth Realms
Antigua and Barbuda
Australia
The Bahamas
Barbados
Belize
Canada
Grenada
Jamaica
New Zealand
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Solomon Islands
Tuvalu
The United Kingdom

Related video:

Exchange between Stephen Miller and Jim Acosta on Statue of Liberty & Immigration (C-SPAN)

The Dragon Arrives: 1st Chinese overseas Military Base in Djibouti

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

China has just inaugurated its first military base abroad, in the tiny Red Sea country of Djibouti. Beijing has a long way to go to catch up with the United States, which is estimated to have some 800 military bases around the world. In fact, you will not be surprised to discover that the US already has a base in Djibouti, Camp Lemonnier. So too do Japan and France. Djibouti had been an Ottoman possession until the late 19th century and then was made a colony by France, becoming independent in 1977.

Still, the Djibouti base is a milestone in the gradual emergence of China as a great power, coming as it does after the commissioning of their first aircraft carrier battle group.

I lived in the Horn of Africa in my teenager years, in Asmara (then in Ethiopia; it is now, after a bitter war of independence, in Eritrea). Asmara was then an inland port for the seaport of Massawa. If you follow the coast south from Massawa, you get to the next country over along the coast, Djibouti. Then you get to Somalia. The three of them hog the shore, leaving the big country of Ethiopia (population 90 million) landlocked. Because of severe and long term frictions between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Ethiopian elite in Addis Ababa stopped trusting Massawa as their port and turned to Djibouti. This development killed the Eritrean economy (along with one of the worst ruling classes in the world). Eritrea’s bad fortune is Djibouti’s good fortune.

Djibouti is about the size of New Jersey or New Hampshire with regard to area, but it has a little less than a million people, around the population size of South Dakota.

Just off the Djibouti coast lies a huge international sea route through which 10 percent of global trade goes. Because international fishing operations have depleted fishing grounds off Somalia, depriving local fishermen of their livelihood, some of them turned to piracy. Across the Gulf of Aden in Yemen, some al-Qaeda cells have also sometimes attacked naval vessels.

China was asked by the UN Security Council to play a part in the naval policing of this corridor and in fighting piracy and terrorism. Xinhua News Agency explained of the People’s Liberation Army base last week: “It will fulfill China’s international obligations regarding humanitarianism aid and escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia. The PLA support base in Djibouti … will be conducive to China fulfilling its international commitments.”

There is, as usual in these matters, a strong economic underpinning to China’s new military base. Since Djibouti has become the port of choice for Ethiopia, it has received enormous investments in infrastructure. It already receives 15,000 containers a year, and this number is set to increase substantially. China has made major investments in Port Doraleh, a major container port there, as a conduit for African raw materials to China’s hungry factories, and for Chinese manufactured goods to Africa’s markets. China also built an electric rail link from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa to Djibouti, turning the trip into a 12 hour journey; it had been four days by truck.

China sees its new outpost in Djibouti as part of its globe-spanning New Silk Road international trade project. There is an overland Silk Road through Central Asia and Iran to Europe (Syria may be incorporated into it).

Then there is a maritime Silk Road, including East Africa. These new transportation routes ramify from China and depend on new rail links and ports that will make trade easier and less expensive, in hopes of increasing its volume.

The Chinese are of course also very interested in raw materials. But they have a world-commerce model. Their focus is on increasing the volume of trade in both raw materials and manufactured goods.

When is the last time the US or a US concern built an railroad in Africa? China has just built three, in different parts of the continent.

That is, Trump’s pledges to rebuild US infrastructure only focused inside the US, and while the good Lord knows that US bridges and other facilities need investment, that project would not necessarily increase US gross domestic product. Trump in any case will likely renege on this pledge, as he has reneged on most of his others.

China is not only investing in its own infrastructure, it is investing in that of Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, etc. etc. Its leaders are convinced that the resulting increase in volume and velocity of world trade will benefit China. Security is only one of many planks for the Maritime Silk Road project. Things like sustainable, green development, innovation, cooperation in exploiting marine resources, and combating climate change are central to China’s goals. Trump and the US elite want to disregard climate change in order to make a few final billions from fossil fuels.

The investment in local infrastructure differentiates China’s base from Camp Lemonnier. The US has a raw material security model for bases. They are there to protect US access to oil and other primary commodities. You see the difference in Pakistan, where the US invested $8 billion but mostly just sold them American weapons. China is building them solar farms and railroads. The US has a primitive, nineteenth-century notion of imperialism as claiming someone else’s resources and then standing over them with a gun. Trump epitomizes this philosophy when he says that the US, having invaded and occupied Iraq, “should have taken their oil.”

China is up to a different sort of great power model entirely. This is why Jack Ma, the CEO of Alibaba and one of the richest men in the world, expressed amazement and dismay that the US had wasted trillions on wars when it could have been investing the money in expanding its economy.

———-

Related video:

AfricaNews: “Djibouti hosts first Chinese overseas military base”

Top 6 Falsehoods Embraced by new WH Chief of Staff John Kelly

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

John Kelly will get a lot of good will from having fired the foul-mouthed Anthony Scaramucci. But should he? At least Scaramucci had been gunning for Steve Bannon, the scary far, far right wing white nationalist who serves as White House strategist. You have a sense that while Kelly is just very, very conservative, there are lots of things about Bannon he is comfortable with. That isn’t a comforting thought.

1. Kelly thinks we are under siege:

“We are under attack from failed states, cyber-terrorists, vicious smugglers, and sadistic radicals. And we are under attack every single day. The threats are relentless.”

As Michael Cohen wrote in response at the Boston Globe, “Cyber-terrorists have never killed an American citizen, no failed state threatens America and more Americans are killed by lightning strikes than sadistic radicals.”

2. Kelly said that construction on Trump’s border wall would begin by the end of this summer. It won’t.

3. Nor is the wall needed or wanted by a majority of Americans. Kelly is almost delusional about US immigration enforcement: “Nothing’s been done in the past eight years to to enforce the border rules and regulations, not to mention many of the immigration laws inside of the United States…”

Fact: The Obama administration deported at least as many people as the Bush administration had, if you use the same definition for deportations in both administrations. By sheer reported numbers, Obama deported some 2.5 million people during his 8 years while Bush deported 2 million. They probably actually deported about the same number. Kelly’s bizarre notion that the laws were not implemented since 2009 is flat wrong.

4. Kelly wanted to prioritize deportation of undocumented people who use marijuana on the circa 1910 grounds that it is a “gateway drug.” It is not, or Colorado would be nothing but heroin addicts. Legalization of marijuana tracks with lower crime rates.

5. Kelly said of reports that Jared Kushner had met with the Russians during the campaign, before these reports were confirmed, that “any channel of communication” with Russia “is a good thing.” .

6. Not to mention Kelly’s bizarre performance during Trump’s first attempt at a Muslim ban, when he gladly acted without any regard to the US constitution and claimed to have authored the policy (Bannon and Miller sprang it on him). The most dangerous thing of all is that Kelly is a good soldier and will do as he is told by Trump.

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Related video:

The Young Turks: “Why The Media Worships John Kelly”