Shakey World Order
#1
Will COVID-19 Kill The Liberal World Order? 

The COVID-19 pandemic is driving the tectonic plates of great power competition, weakening the already wobbly international system.

For a brief moment it seemed that the worst global pandemic in a century might lead to increased comity between the United States, China and Russia after years of geopolitical eye-gauging. As the virus spread there were early signs of a pause in the escalating cycle of military brinksmanship, cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns and trade wars that has badly shaken the rules-based international order in this era of great power competition.

Beijing seemed to initially embrace a spirit of cooperation when it donated protective gear and testing equipment to hard hit countries in Europe. President Trump for months was uncharacteristically effusive in his praise of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts to combat the virus. Russian President Vladimir Putin got into the soft power act in early April when he dispatched an An-124 military transport to New York filled with donated masks and ventilators. (Of course, you can also argue it was a highly effective information operation designed to undermine U.S. standing in the world.)

That moment was short lived.

“Unfortunately, this crisis is likely to unfold in three consecutive waves, with a public health crisis followed by an economic crisis, quite possibly followed by a security crisis,” said David Kilcullen, author of the recent book “The Dragons and Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West,” and a former special adviser to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, and the U.S. Secretary of State. The United States is already experiencing high levels of domestic unrest at a time of paralyzing partisan rancor, he noted, and the discord will certainly increase as the presidential election nears in November. Adding to that combustible mixture is likely to be a second wave of the virus expected to hit in the fall, and foreign actors like Russian and China determined to use disinformation to stoke domestic divisions during the election.

“Given the likelihood of internal instability and anti-government anger here and around the world, there will be a huge incentive for leaders who personalize politics like Trump, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and [Chinese President] Xi Jinping to look for external scapegoats for their domestic troubles, which has already started to happen,” said Kilcullen. “This crisis also comes at a point when the international system that we’ve known since the end of World War II was already rotting and weaker than it appears. It may only take one big shock to bring that whole structure down, and, if we’re not very careful, the pandemic could be that shock. So this is the most dangerous geopolitical dynamic I have seen in my entire career.”

As it became clear the Chinese Communist Party covered up the initial outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, wasting precious time and allowing it to blossom into a global pandemic, Beijing launched a campaign of intimidation and economic threats to mute international criticism. Borrowing a page from Russian disinformation operations, Beijing posited the conspiracy theory that the virus originated with the U.S. military. Both China and Russia pushed alarmist narratives about the pandemic on social media to sow division and panic inside the United States. Much of the protective equipment Beijing “donated” to the West carried a price tag and turned out to be defective.

In his own campaign of blame shifting and heated rhetoric, President Donald Trump accused China of being responsible for an attack on the United States that “is worse that Pearl Harbor,” and “worse than the World Trade Center” that fell in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Chinese incompetence in dealing with the virus, Trump tweeted this week, is responsible for “mass Worldwide killing!”

Trump darkly hinted in mid-April that he had information that a virology lab in Wuhan played an important role in the virus’ creation, even though the U.S. Intelligence Community consensus was that the virology lab in Wuhan had nothing to do the virus’ creation or origins.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeoinsisted there is “enormous evidence” the coronavirus originated in that lab. “We greatly underestimated the degree to which Beijing is ideologically and politically hostile to free nations,” Pompeo told reporters this week, after sending a rare, high-level message of congratulations to recently reelected Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, who has rejected the “one country, two systems” construct that has kept the peace between China and Taiwan for nearly half a century. 

As the Trump administration weighs retribution against China, it has continued to ratchet up the rhetoric and provocations, angering and worrying allies by cutting critical funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of the pandemic, and boycotting a virtual meeting of G-20 nations that attempted to coordinate an international response to the crisis, leaving a leadership gap that China was happy to help fill.

On the Russian front, the Trump administration has reportedly decided to withdraw from the three-decade old Open Skies Treaty that allows 34 countries to fly over each other’s territory with sensors to confirm they are not preparing military action. The trump White House says the Russians are violating the accord by forbidding flights over military exercises and using its own flights over the United States to identify critical infrastructure that can be hit by cyberattacks.Meanwhile, populist leaders and autocratic regimes around the world are using the threat of the pandemic to assume extraordinary powers and crack down on their political opposition in what the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Counterterrorism and Human Rights called an “an epidemic of authoritarianism,” according to the The New York Times.

Shaky World Order

Even before the pandemic the post-WW II international order that the United States constructed and led for more than half a century was on shaky ground. The global institutions, alliances and rules governing international relations has been challenged by assertive autocratic regimes like China and Russia, and eroded from within by inward-looking nationalist-populists movements spreading throughout the Western democracies.

The liberal international order has also been largely abandoned by its leader as Donald Trump’s administration retreats further into “America First” isolationism. The Trump doctrine in international affairs actively seeks to undermine the institutions of global order, whether it’s the World Health and Trade Organizations, the UN, the European Union or NATO. The administration has rejected or abolished all manner of multilateral agreements and treaties designed to peacefully constrain international rivalries, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the Paris Climate Agreement, the Iran nuclear deal, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, and quite possibly next year the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

A Dark History

History is rife with cautionary examples of natural disasters or economic crises conflating with geopolitical tensions, with cataclysmic results. The catastrophic 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed more than 20 million victims worldwide, was accelerated and spread by troop movements during World War I. With many Americans disillusioned by the war and loss, the United States turned insular and isolationist during the 1920s, rejecting the League of Nations, dramatically curtailing immigration and erecting steep tariff barriers to trade. Much of the rest of the world followed suit.

The U.S. stock market crash of 1929 was compounded the next year by one of the worst droughts in history. When the Japanese invaded China two years later, and Adolf Hitler became German chancellor soon after, there was no League of Nations nor stabilizing trading systems to contain the war fever that swept the globe and became World War II.

“When you think back to 1918 and the Spanish flu, it’s worth remembering that more people died in the second wave than the first, and the Great Depression and the 1930s taught us that bad economic conditions can be transformative,” said Joseph Nye, a professor emeritus and former Dean of the Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, speaking recently on a videoconference organized by The National Interest. “The point is, in the current pandemic we’re likely only in Act 1 of a multi-act play.”

Combustible Leadership

The very real potential for the pandemic crisis to propel the major powers towards outright military conflict was noted recently by the Chinese Ministry of State Security, Beijing’s top intelligence agency. In a report for  Xi Jinping and the senior Chinese leadership it reportedly concluded that global anti-China sentiment being stoked by the Trump administration has reached its highest peak since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, and as a result China needs to be prepared for a worst-case scenario of armed confrontation with the United States.

Despite the warnings, Xi Jinping has doubled down in recent months on provocative military maneuvers in its neighboring seas, sending its Liaoning carrier battle group and military flights off the coast of Taiwan; conducting anti-submarine exercises in contested areas of the South China Sea; ramming and sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat near the disputed Paracel Islands; dispatching a fishing boat “militia” to harass Philippine counterparts near the contested Spratly Islands; andharassing a Malaysian drillship.

Some analysts see those moves as an attempt by Xi Jinping to show strength and bolster his image at home among a Chinese populace wearied by the pandemic shutdowns and economic disruptions. Those provocations are exactly the kind of saber-rattling that can escalate dangerously in a time of crisis.

George Beebe is a former director of the CIA’s Russia analysis section, and author of the book “The Russia Trap: How Our Shadow War with Russia Could Spiral into Catastrophe.” “My concern is that the major power leaders Putin, Xi and Trump all tend to personalize international relations and politics. They are all going through severe economic and political distress. Each of them is convinced that their rivals are trying to exploit the pandemic crisis, and not one of them is dealing from a position of strength and confidence,” he told me.

Putin has long felt betrayed and threatened by the United States, Beebe noted, and Xi Jinping is convinced that America is trying to thwart China’s rise. One of the few constants in Trump’s worldview is the conviction that China has taken advantage of the United States with trade going back decades.

“So there’s a lot of fear and emotion and very little trust in the relationships between these leaders during a time of great strain, and their communications and diplomatic mechanisms to manage a crisis if one occurs have atrophied,” said Beebe. “Given that personalities and personal relationships among national leaders are far more important in international affairs than a lot of people appreciate, I do worry that we’re entering a very dangerous period when cooler heads may not prevail among the great power leaders.”

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Oh, where are the snows of yesteryear!
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  • Teresa Agrorum
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#2
From Vox's Twitter feed. Buchanan weighs in:

What Does Winning Mean in a Forever War?
May 22, 2020 
Patrick J. Buchanan

When a Wall Street Journal editorial warned this week against any precipitous U.S. withdrawal that might imperil our gains in Afghanistan, an exasperated President Trump shot back:

“Could someone please explain to them that we have been there for 19 years. … and except at the beginning, we never really fought to win.”

Is that true? Did we “never really” fight to win during our 19-year war in Afghanistan, except when we first ousted the Taliban in 2001?
At one point in this longest American war against al-Qaida and the Taliban, Barack Obama surged 100,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan.


The issue here is with the terminology.
In the forever wars of the Middle East, what does “winning” mean?


To those of us who grew up in the mid-20th century, victory was Gen. MacArthur standing on the deck of the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay as top-hatted Japanese diplomats signed the articles of surrender.


Victory was unmistakable and irreversible.
Five years after V-J day, however, came Korea, a war that lasted three years and ended in deadlock, stalemate and a truce along the 38th parallel, where the North-South war had begun in June of 1950.


Vietnam also came to be called a “no-win war.”


Though U.S. troops never lost a major battle, and every provincial capital was in Saigon’s hands when we departed in 1973, the United States is said to have “lost the war” when the North Vietnamese army overran the South and Saigon in the spring of 1975.

That was a geostrategic defeat but not a military defeat.

America’s problem, in this century, lies in our concept of “winning.”


While U.S. military forces can crush any Middle East adversary, as we showed in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, we have been unable to realize the fruits of the victories our armed forces produced.
We have failed to reorient the defeated nations to our way of thinking. We have failed to win the peace.


While we can defeat our enemies in the air and on the seas and in cyberspace, we cannot persuade them to embrace secular democracy and its values any more than we can convert them to Christianity.


John Locke means nothing to these people. As for our Bill of Rights, why would devout Muslims, who believe there is but one God, Allah, and that Muhammad is his only Prophet, tolerate the preaching of heresies in their countries that can cause Muslims to lose their souls?


Millions of Muslims are familial, tribal, nationalistic, resistant to foreign intervention and proudly anti-Enlightenment.


With our “democracy crusades,” we have been trying to conquer and convert people who do not wish to be converted. Moreover, we lack the patience and perseverance to change or convert them.


As imperialists, we Americans are conspicuous failures.


Moreover, with us, the national interest inevitably asserts itself.


When it comes to spending lives and treasure indefinitely we find we have no vital interest in whether these lands we occupy are ruled by monarchs, democrats, dictators or demagogues, and we lack the staying power to occupy these countries until they accept our ideas and ideals.

If they don’t attack us, why do we not just leave them be?

Our enemies in the Middle East do not defeat our military. They outlast us. They apparently have an inexhaustible supply of volunteers willing to give up their lives in suicide attacks. They are willing to fight on and trade casualties endlessly. They do not subscribe to our rules of war.

They tire us out, and, eventually, we give up and go home.


They refuse to surrender and submit because it is their beliefs, their values, their faith, their traditions, their tribe, their God, their culture, their civilization, their honor that they believe they are fighting for in what is, after all, their land, not ours.


They are not trying to change us. We are trying to change them. And they wish to remain who they are.


Woodrow Wilson famously declared of our neighbors to the south, “I am going to teach the Latin American republics to elect good men!”


Quote:Wilson forgot the kernel of truth in the ethnic slur of his era, that you cannot grow bananas and democracy on the same piece of land. If it is a contest between armed forces, America wins. We can impose our will on the country but cannot win their assent. They resist until we tire of trying to educate them. Historically, the Afghans are fundamentalist, tribal, and impervious to foreign intervention.

What will the Taliban do when we leave? They will not give up their dream of again ruling the Afghan nation and people. And they will fight until they have achieved that goal and their idea of victory: dominance.

And if 100,000 Americans fighting beside the Afghan army could not force them to surrender, then why should they settle for half a loaf and accept a compromise now?

https://buchanan.org/blog/what-does-winn...war-138585
Qui me amat, amet et Deum meum.
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#3
Have we managed to prove that even 'a virtuous people' cannot rule themselves?

I suppose many Americans, even believers, hope that we can somehow recover and restore democracy. It appears the truth, however, isn't merely we can't go back, but that the seeds of destruction were already present in our beginning. The desire to 'do it my way' is a recipe for disaster, whether you are an American or not.

We're learning we need God.
Qui me amat, amet et Deum meum.
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#4
(05-22-2020, 06:18 PM)Teresa Agrorum Wrote: We're learning we need God.

Exactly, and as Ronald Reagan said, which I believe includes the entire west including Australia, UK etc -



Democracy without God is Anarchy, Capitalism without God is deception, monopoly and greed. Christ is the cornerstone the builders reject at their own peril.

God Bless You
Jesus to St Faustina:

"For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let my Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart." (Diary, 1485)

"Remember My Passion, and if you do not believe My words, at least believe My wounds." (Diary, 379)

"It is in My Passion that you must seek light and strength." (Diary, 654)
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#5
Engraved above Reagan's tomb-

++++++++++++++

I know in my heart that man is good.

That what is right will always eventually triumph.

And there's purpose and worth to each and every life


++++++++++++++

Pretty simple really.
Oh, where are the snows of yesteryear!
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#6
Quote:The United States is already experiencing high levels of domestic unrest at a time of paralyzing partisan rancor, he noted, and the discord will certainly increase as the presidential election nears in November. Adding to that combustible mixture is likely to be a second wave of the virus expected to hit in the fall, and foreign actors like Russian and China determined to use disinformation to stoke domestic divisions during the election.

Deja vu all over again?

Quote:“This crisis also comes at a point when the international system that we’ve known since the end of World War II was already rotting and weaker than it appears. It may only take one big shock to bring that whole structure down, and, if we’re not very careful, the pandemic could be that shock. So this is the most dangerous geopolitical dynamic I have seen in my entire career.”

He's saying there are leaks springing up all over. How much more incentive do we need?

The push back to God could come when politics fails to solve these worldwide troubles. (The solution does sound frightening, but look how bad the disease is.)
Qui me amat, amet et Deum meum.
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#7
(05-23-2020, 01:54 PM)Teresa Agrorum Wrote:
Quote:The United States is already experiencing high levels of domestic unrest at a time of paralyzing partisan rancor, he noted, and the discord will certainly increase as the presidential election nears in November. Adding to that combustible mixture is likely to be a second wave of the virus expected to hit in the fall, and foreign actors like Russian and China determined to use disinformation to stoke domestic divisions during the election.

Deja vu all over again?

Quote:“This crisis also comes at a point when the international system that we’ve known since the end of World War II was already rotting and weaker than it appears. It may only take one big shock to bring that whole structure down, and, if we’re not very careful, the pandemic could be that shock. So this is the most dangerous geopolitical dynamic I have seen in my entire career.”

He's saying there are leaks springing up all over. How much more incentive do we need?

The push back to God could come when politics fails to solve these worldwide troubles. (The solution does sound frightening, but look how bad the disease is.)

I thought it was a well written piece yet I dont necessarily agree with everything he says. He does do a good job of pointing out the fallacies yet stumbles by his jumping on the blame trump bandwagon. Oh well. Some of the comments suggest he's bias. Who isn't?

Post election many were lockstep with Trump, (probably from the shock of his actually winning), much like when the post 9/11 world was lockstep in Bush's grip. I feel more comfortable when there is some dissension floating about.

God Bless Donald Trump and his family.
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