China

At PCFR: The Royals; Fleeing Central America; Brazil's new strongman; Threatening Taiwan

"A Good Riddance" cartoon from    Punch   , Vol. 152, 27 June 1917, commenting on King George V’s order to relinquish all German titles held by members of his family.

"A Good Riddance" cartoon from Punch, Vol. 152, 27 June 1917, commenting on King George V’s order to relinquish all German titles held by members of his family.

Mark your calendars for some exciting upcoming talks at the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations (thepcfr.org; pcfremail@gmail.com). Consult thepcfr.org for information on how to join the organization and other information about our organization.

Our speaker on Thursday, March 14, will be Miguel Head, now a fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center. He spent the past decade as a senior adviser to the British Royal Family. He joined the Royal Household as Press Secretary to Prince William and Prince Harry before being appointed in 2012 as their youngest ever Chief of Staff.

Previously, Mr. Head was Chief Press Officer at the UK Ministry of Defense, and worked for the Liberal Democrat party in the European Parliament. While at the Shorenstein Center, Mr. Head is doing research into how social inequalities in Britain are fomenting the politics of division (which helped lead to the Brexit vote) and how non-political leadership, working collaboratively with traditional and digital media, can play a role in bringing disparate communities together. At the PCFR, he’ll talk about those things as well comment on the past and current role of the Royal Family, and, indeed, life with the Royals.

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At the April 4 Providence Committee on Foreign Relations (thepcfr.org) dinner, James Nealon, the former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, will talk about Central America in general and Honduras in particular, with a focus on the conditions leading so many people there to try to flee to the United States – and what the U.S. can and should do about it.

A career Foreign Service officer, Nealon held posts in Canada, Uruguay, Hungary, Spain, and Chile before assuming his post as Ambassador to Honduras in August 2014; Nealon also served as the deputy of John F. Kelly, while Kelly was in charge of the United States Southern Command.

After leaving his ambassadorship in 2017, Nealon was appointed assistant secretary for international engagement at the Department of Homeland Security by Kelly in July. During his time as assistant secretary, Nealon supported a policy of deploying Homeland Security agents abroad. He resigned his post on Feb. 8, 2018, due to his disagreements with the immigration policy of Donald Trump, and, specifically, the withdrawal of temporary protected status for Hondurans.

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Then, on April 10, the speaker will be Prof. James Green, who will talk about the political and economic forces that have led to the election of Brazil’s new right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro – and hazard some guesses on what might happen next.

Professor Green is the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Professor of Latin American History, director of Brown’s Brazil Initiative, Distinguished Visiting Professor (Professor Amit) at Hebrew University, in Jerusalem, and the Executive Director of the Brazilian Studies Association (BRASA), which is now housed at the Watson Institute at Brown.

Green served as the director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Brown University from 2005 to 2008. He was president of the Brazilian Studies Association (BRASA) from 2002 until 2004, and president of the New England Council on Latin American Studies (NECLAS) in 2008 and 2009.

Additional speakers for the season will be announced soon. They will include a June event on Taiwan’s tense relations with expansionist China.

Explaining Putin; Will China and U.S. go to war?

The friendly face of Vladimir Putin.

The friendly face of Vladimir Putin.

To members and friends of the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations (thepcfr.org; pcfremail@gmail.com).o.

With Russian intrusion into American politics and government such an issue, we thought it would a good idea to recruit a Russia expert to start off our season. Thus we have the distinguished Prof. David R. Stone of the U.S. Naval War College lined up for Wednesday, Sept. 13.

He'll explain Putin  and the new Russian nationalism and how it affects us.

Professor  Stone received his B.A. in history and mathematics from Wabash College and his Ph.D in history from Yale University. He has taught at Hamilton College and at Kansas State University, where he served as director of the Institute for Military History. He has also been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. His first book Hammer and Rifle: The Militarization of the Soviet Union, 1926-1933 (2000) won the Shulman Prize of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies and the Best First Book Prize of the Historical Society. He has also published A Military History of Russia: From Ivan the Terrible to the War in Chechnya (2006), and The Russian Army in the Great War: The Eastern Front, 1914-1917 (2015). He also edited The Soviet Union at War, 1941-1945(2010). He is the author of several dozen articles and book chapters on Russian / Soviet military history and foreign policy.

 
On Wednesday, Oct. 11, Graham Allison, who has been running Harvard’s Belfer Institute, will talk about, among other things, Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea.   He'll talk about his new book Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? 
 

China uses money to try to curb free speech about it at American colleges

Adapted from Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com.

Americans should worry about the increasing efforts of Chinese interests to try to curb free speech about that nation at U.S. and other Western colleges and universities, including some prestigious New England schools, such as Harvard. This push for self-censorship includes financial incentives by big donors linked to these regimes and threats to curtail access to the hugeChinese market.

There was at least a modest victory against the march of the dictators when Cambridge University Press reversed itself and decided to republish hundreds of articles on its Chinese site that the university had previously supinely blocked at Beijing’s request.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Cambridge had “blocked more than 300 articles dealing with sensitive topics ranging from pro-democracy Tiananmen Square protests to Tibet on its Chinese site.’’

In reinstating the articles after academics denounced the self-censorship, Cambridge University Press said: “Academic freedom is the overriding principle on which the University of Cambridge is based.’’ Good to hear, if belated!

Of course,  severe Chinese government censorship of the Internet in that nation will continue, as will efforts by Chinese interests to silence criticism of the regime wherever they can around the world. Those who believe in liberty and free inquiry shouldn’t be encouraging these authoritarian aggressions.

John Pomfret, former Beijing bureau chief of The Washington Post,  described the regime’s efforts in a Post essay headlined “China’s odious manipulation of history is infecting the West’’.  Among his remarks:

“China’s move to demand self-censorship {by Cambridge} is not an isolated case. It’s just one of many the Communist government has taken in recent years to mold history and historians to serve the needs of the Chinese Communist Party. Party boss Xi Jinping has led a campaign against what he calls ‘historical nihilism,’ the party’s shorthand for attempts to write honestly about the past and mistakes committed by China’s Communist leaders. As part of that campaign, historians and writers have been silenced and jailed, books have been banned and party censors have launched a nationwide campaign to expunge any positive mention of Western political ideas from Chinese college textbooks.’’

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Llewellyn King: America's vulnerability to China's not-so-secret weapon -- rare earths

Rare earths are used in the manufacturing of wind turbines.

Rare earths are used in the manufacturing of wind turbines.

In October 1973, the world shuddered when the Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries imposed an oil embargo on the United States and other nations that provided military aid to Israel in the Yom Kippur War. At the same time, they ramped up prices.

The United States realized it was dependent on imported oil — and much of that came from the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia the big swing producer. It shook the nation. How had a few foreign powers put a noose around the neck of the world’s largest economy?

Well, it could happen again and very soon. The commodity that could bring us to our knees isn’t oil, but rather a group of elements known as rare earths, falling between 21 and 71 on the periodic table. This time, just one country is holding the noose: China.

China controls the world’s production and distribution of rare earths. It produces more than 92 percent of them and holds the world in its hand when it comes to the future of almost anything in high technology.

Rare earths are great multipliers and the heaviest are the most valuable. They go into many of the things we take for granted, from the small engines in automobiles to the wind turbines that are revolutionizing the production of electricity. For example, rare earths increase a conventional magnet’s power by at least fivefold. They are the new oil.

Rare earths are also in cell phones and computers. Fighter jets and smart weapons, like cruise missiles, rely on them. In national defense, there is no substitute and no other supply source available.

Like so much else, the use of rare earths as an enhancer was a U.S. discovery: General Motors, in fact. In 1982, General Motors research scientist John Croat created the world’s strongest permanent magnet using rare earths. He formed a company, called Magnequench. In 1992, the company and Croat’s patents were sold to a Chinese company.

From that time on it became national policy for China to be not just the supplier of rare earths, but to control the whole supply chain. For example, it didn’t just want to supply the rare earths for wind turbines; it insisted that major suppliers, such as Siemens, move some of their manufacturing to China. Soon Chinese companies, fortified with international expertise, went into wind turbine manufacture themselves.

“Now China is the major manufacturer of wind turbines,” says Jim Kennedy, a St. Louis-based consultant who is devoted to raising the alarm over rare earths vulnerability. A new and important book, Sellout, by Victoria Bruce, details how the world handed control of its technological future to China and Kennedy’s struggle to alert the United States.

At present, the rare earths threat from China is serious but not critical. If President Trump — apparently encouraged by his trade adviser Peter Navarro, and his policy adviser Steve Bannon — is contemplating a trade war with China, rare earths are China’s most potent weapon.

A trade war moves the rare earths threat from existential to immediate.

In a strange regulatory twist the United States, and most of the world, won’t be able to open rare-earths mines without legislation and an international treaty modification. Rare earths are often found in conjunction with thorium, a mildly radioactive metal, which occurs in nature and doesn’t represent any kind of threat.

However, it’s a large regulatory problem. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency have defined thorium as a nuclear “source material” that requires special disposition. Until these classifications, thorium was disposed of along with other mine tailings. Now it has to be separated and collected. Essentially until a new regime for thorium is found, including thorium-powered reactors, the mining of rare earths will be uneconomic in the United States and other nuclear non-proliferation treaty countries.

Congress needs to look into this urgently, ideally before Trump’s trade war gets going, according to several sources familiar with the crisis. A thorium reactor was developed in the 1960s at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Tennessee. While it’s regarded by many nuclear scientists as a superior technology, only Canada and China are pursuing it at present.

Meanwhile, future disruptions from China won’t necessarily be in the markets. It could be in the obscure but vital commodities known as rare earths: China’s not quite secret weapon.

Llewellyn King (llewellynking1@gmail.com) is host and executive producer of White House Chronicle, on PBS, and a veteran publisher, columnist and international business executive. This first appeared in Inside Sources.

 

Hosting a Chinese propaganda agency

Hassenfield Common and the Unistucture & Globe Dome at Bryant University, in Smithfield, R.I. Bryant has a unit of China's controversial Confucius Institute on its remarkably attractive modernistic campus.

Hassenfield Common and the Unistucture & Globe Dome at Bryant University, in Smithfield, R.I. Bryant has a unit of China's controversial Confucius Institute on its remarkably attractive modernistic campus.

Adapted from Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com

As the United States withdraws from speaking out for human rights and democracy, the Chinese dictatorship moves in with piles of money. That money is already having sad effects.

Consider that Greece has vetoed a European Union statement denouncing Chinese human-rights abuses in the wake of Greece recently getting billions of dollars in infrastructure investments from Beijing. Croatia and Hungary (the latter run by a semi-fascist president), also the beneficiary of massive Chinese spending, have also blocked E.U. statements on Chinese actions, including China’s attempt to take over the entire South China Sea. Each E.U. nation has veto power over statements meant to be the official E.U. position.

Here at home we have the Confucius Institute problem. The Institute is affiliated with China’s Education Ministry and hasthe official aim to promote Chinese language and culture.  But it is really a propaganda and intelligence office, a handy base for industrial and other espionageand a sturdy platform for the increasingly aggressive and expansionist dictatorship to keep in line Chinese students studying abroad.  Their very presence tends to constrain intellectual freedom regarding things Chinese.

Some U.S. colleges and universities, such as Rhode Island’s Bryant University, have partnered with the Institutesatellites for the money and business connections they provide after they set up shop on American campuses. These Confucius Institute operations provide free (to the colleges) teachers and textbooks and cover operating costs.   Some administrators and faculty members like them because they help bring in full-tuition-paying Chinese students and provide freeand luxurious junkets to China to some administrators and faculty members.  Such operations are inappropriate on American college campuses.

Rachelle Peterson, director of research at the National Association of Scholars, a conservative group, has accurately complained: “Confucius Institutes export the fear of speaking freely around the world. They permit a foreign government to have intimate influence over college classrooms. It’s time to kick them off campus.’’ Ms. Peterson quoted former Chinese Communist Party propaganda chief Li Changchun as calling the on-campus Confucius Institute satellites “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda efforts.’’

 

 

Llewellyn King: Trump's foreign policy: Punish friends, reward enemies

 

The Great Rift Valley extends from Syria down through east Africa to Mozambique. It is a huge depression with volcanic action, lakes and steep-sided gorges. Think of the Grand Canyon and start multiplying.

When contemplating President Trump’s foreign policy, I think of the Great Rift Valley: the largest gash in the Earth’s surface.

The president, in the incoherence of his foreign policy, is creating great gashes between traditional allies that will leave scars down through history. He also appears to be set on empowering our putative enemies, Russia and China.

Many of us White House watchers think that  it is quite possible that some of those around the president had questionable relations with the Russians both during the campaign and after the election. Their motivation remains unclear. Also unclear is why Trump is so pro-Russian.

Russia’s motivation is known: It wants the United States to lift the sanctions imposed after Russia invaded Crimea and started a surrogate war in eastern Ukraine.

It is also clear that Russia has an interest in destabilizing Europe, whether it is by manipulating its energy supply or interfering in its elections, as it tried to do most recently in France. Russia has a policy and it is hostile to European and North American interests from the Arctic to the Balkan states.

Trump could end the whole Russian business very quickly by finding out — if he doesn’t already know — who in his immediate circle did what, why and when. He could tell us himself of his involvement.

China is another Trumpian riddle. He campaigned against China for job snatching, currency manipulation, the trade deficit and its incursions into the South China Sea.

In a classic East meets West scenario, Trump, the self-styled dealmaker, was going to sit opposite Chinese President Xi Jinping and negotiate. But when they met at the White House, all points of contention evaporated; even freedom-of-navigation operations by U.S. warships in international waters near contested reefs in the South China Sea were curtailed. Either there was no negotiation, or Trump folded.

There is a Potemkin village quality to Trump’s claims to have opened opportunities for U.S. firms in China. China has not abridged its local participation laws, so U.S. companies doing business there still have to have a Chinese partner, which must have equity control. It is a system the Chinese use to steal U.S. expertise and technology. As to Trump’s claim of Chinese currency manipulation, it has disappeared — maybe it was a dubious issue all along.

If all of this is in the hope that China might stop North Korea building nuclear weapons and delivery systems for them. Well, that has been a vain hope of other presidents. China has no interest in curbing Kim Jong-un for its own reasons and because of the leverage, paradoxically, it gives China with the United States.

But what history might judge as the more egregious Trumpian folly in Asia is his abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a carefully crafted deal to keep the economies of United States and 11 other Pacific nations growing without China, which would not have been a partner. Now the gap left by the United States is being filled by China, as are other gaps. Europe, deeply disturbed by U.S. softness to Russia, climate-change policies, protectionist rhetoric, and vitiation of past practices and agreements, is looking reluctantly to China for stability in a crumbling world order.

The goals of Trump’s foreign policy are obtuse, subject to stimuli known only to him — examples include his unexplained enthusiasm for Saudi Arabia, and his complete hostility to everything done by President  Obama, including the Cuba opening. The results, though, are not in doubt: gladness in Moscow and Beijing and sadness and confusion in London, Paris, Berlin and among our  other (former?) friends worldwide.

So far Trump’s exploits are not only capricious, but also very dangerous, slamming those countries that share U.S. values and encouraging those who oppose our interests. These rifts will not heal quickly. Once a nation is labeled untrustworthy, it is distrusted long after the creator of the distrust has left the field. The rifts remain, great gashes in global confidence.

Llewellyn King (llewellynking1@gmail.com) is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS. 

The Chinese love Boston

The gate at the entrance of Boston's Chinatown.

The gate at the entrance of Boston's Chinatown.

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' in GoLocal24.com

The Chinese were the number one source of foreign tourists in Greater Boston last year, taking first place from the British. The Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau estimated that 230,000 Chinese visited the area last year (compared to 224,000 Brits), drawn particularly by its history and its great educational institutions (and maybe by the opportunity to do a little industrial espionage in the region’s huge high-tech sector). The Chinese are especially eager to see MIT and Harvard, which many Chinese attend.

It’s too early to tell how much the Trump administration crackdown on immigrants might reduce the flow.  Meanwhile, The Boston Globe reported that a U.S.-China climate summit slated to be held in Boston this year has not been scheduled, raising suspicions that that’s because of the Trump administration’s opposition to doing anything about global warming.

China to an appeasement-minded U.S.: 'You die, I live'

These words by my  friend of 54 years, Arthur Waldron, as published in the Oct. 31 Wall Street Journal, have  rightfully gotten a lot of attention. They come from his remarks at an Oct. 2 conference in New York.

Today the People’s Republic has decided to abandon even talk of liberalization. She wants a Party dictatorship without end. She has no interest now in the United States.

We Americans do not yet entirely recognize that this change of course has been determined in China. . . . We believe other cultures will understand our gestures as we mean them: our hand proffered for a handshake, our attempt to walk a mile in their moccasins, our gestures of restraint, will signal desire for peace and understanding, even friendship. That is the message we are trying to send.

How does the Chinese government receive it? Not at all as intended, but as the opposite.

The official Chinese reaction will be, “We have successfully intimidated Washington to the point she won’t even mention us. The Americans are weak, irresolute, and when it comes to it, craven. We can deal with them and drive them out of Asia.”

“Compromise” is a scarce concept in Chinese theories of conflict. Rather the phrase they use is ni si wo huo—“you die, I live.” That is not “win-win.” …

Let me conclude with my deepest worry, which is the {U.S.} acceptance and normalization, as it were, of the …hideously oppressive PRC.

The Dalai Lama comes in past the garbage cansto the White House. We are the United Bloody States of America, as Churchill might have put it. …So since when does Beijing get to tell us how to treat our guests? We should tell them—write a protest, hand it to our deputy under assistant secretary and we will file it. And the Dalai Lama should go in from the front door and into the Oval Office.

David Warsh: Of Ross Perot, Donald Trump and 'the China shock'

 

Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party is nearly complete. I was as slow as the next guy to see in coming.  But now that the fox is almost in charge of the chicken coop. I have some ideas about why it happened, and why just now.

Let’s go back to the last time a billionaire decided to run for president. That was 1992, when software entrepreneur H. Ross Perot ran as an independent candidate. I was able to refresh my memory thanks mainly to a useful conference volume, Ross for Boss: The Perot Phenomenon and Beyond (SUNY Press, 2001), edited by Ted G. Jelen, of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.  This comparison last September by John Dickerson of Slate was prescient.

Perot was born in Texarkana, Texas, in 1930, the son of a cotton broker. An Eagle Scout, an Annapolis graduate, a star salesman for five years for IBM Corp., he quit in 1962 to found a software firm, Electronic Data Systems.  In 1984 he sold the company to General Motors Corp., its principal client, for $2.4 billion. Four years later he and his son started a second firm, Perot Systems Corp. They sold it to Dell Inc., in 2009, for $3.9 billion

During the 1980s Perot became absorbed in POW/MIA issues in Vietnam. By the early ’90s, he had become involved in many of the larger controversies of the day.  During 1991, he appeared regularly on popular television talk shows, criticizing presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush for having failed to balance the federal budget. He portrayed Washington as being in the grip of lobbyists, many of them working for foreign interests. He criticized trade agreements.  He denied having presidential ambitions.

In February 1992, Perot appeared on Larry King Live to encourage citizens to nominate him by petition in 50 states as presidential candidate of the Reform Party.  He proclaimed his lack of political experience as an asset. He promised to spend as much as $100 million of his own money – more than either party could expect to raise in those days  well before the Supreme Court struck down spending limitations – and argued that meant he couldn’t be bought. By June, he was running even with Bush and Bill Clinton in most polls.

That same month he got in an argument with two high-profile political consultants who urged him to immediately launch an expensive advertising campaign, and, when one of them resigned, Perot asserted that he, too, would withdraw, explaining that he felt that he had revitalized the Democratic Party by threatening to enter the contest. A barrage of negative publicity followed. Perot was ridiculed as eccentric and judged to be a quitter.

In late September Perot returned to the race, “for the good of the country,” in time for three televised debates among the candidates in October.  This time he emphasized opposition to the pending North American Free Trade Agreement, and warned of the “giant sucking sound” accompanying jobs lost overseas. He spent nearly $50 million in a month on “infomercial” advertising, much of it in states  that he had no hope winning.

Perot received 19 percent of the popular vote in the November election, but failed to win a single state and received not a single vote in the Electoral College. Clinton slipped past Bush with 43 percent of the popular vote. Martin Nolan, chief political correspondent for The Boston Globe for  30 years, remembers, “Perot did not defeat GHWB electorally, but more by draining attention. He made the incumbent president a ‘low-energy’ candidate.”

Four years later Perot was back, this time as the official nominee of his Reform Party.  This time he polled fewer than half as many votes.  He left politics and returned to the relative obscurity of the business world.

Perot’s role in galvanizing support for budget-balancing measures is still hotly debated. The Clinton administration, the Federal Reserve, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission all played a part (the FCC by facilitating the rapid build-out of communications technology and the Internet).

In any case, by the end of the ’90s, the federal budget was balanced. Perot’s criticism of trade-liberalization measures found little traction, though. The North American Free Trade Agreement became law in 1994, and the following year the World Trade Organization replaced the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. 

Perot’s  greatest influence was probably that described by his running-mate in 1992, Adm.  James Stockdale: “Ross showed you don’t have to talk to [ABC’s] Sam Donaldson to get on television…. American candidates can now bypass the filters and go directly to the American, people.” Subsequent independent presidential candidates have included Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader.

Fast forward to 2016 and Donald Trump.  Much has changed since 1992.

Exhibit A is an important new essay by a trio of labor economists, arguing that trade theorists didn’t well understand what was happening in the world these last  35 years – particularly the last 10.  Read The China Shock,’’ by David Autor (of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), David Dorn (of the University of Zurich), and Gordon Hanson (of the University of California at San Diego) is headed for the authoritative Annual Review of Economics. They argue that theorists failed to anticipate how extensive dislocations would be, especially in the U.S.:

“Just as the economics profession was reaching consensus on the consequences of trade for wages and employment [that they would be modest], an epochal shift in patterns of world trade was gaining momentum. China, for centuries an economic laggard, was finally reemerging as a great power, and toppling established patterns of trade accordingly. The advance of China…has also toppled much of the received empirical wisdom about the impact of trade on labor markets.  The consensus that trade could be strongly redistributive in theory but was relatively benign in practice has not stood up well to these new developments.’’

Talk about an inconvenient truth!  Is Donald Trump right? Were we fools to liberalize so quickly?  I don’t think so. The short-term and medium-run costs are clearly greater than had been expected: Poorer cities are remarkably slow to adjust, with wages and labor-force participation rates remaining depressed, and unemployment rates high, for a decade and more.

But is the world a better, safer place than when it was divided into market economies, communist nations, and Third World growing ever-so-slowly, if at all? Steven Radelet, of Georgetown University, makes the case in The Great Surge, the Ascent of the Developing World (Simon and Schuster, 2015).  In Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization (Harvard/Belknap Press, 2016), Branko Milanovic, for many years lead economist at the World Bank, describes the stresses

In any event, it appears that most of the hectic global transition is over.  Today it is China that is contemplating layoffs. The greatest gains from trade almost certainly lie ahead – but for whom?

Meanwhile, Peggy Noonan, the former Reagan/George H.W. Bush speechwriter who for many years has been an influential columnist for The Wall Street Journal, describes the new contest as between the “protected” and the “unprotected.” She recently told Karen Tumulty, of The Washington Post, “We are witnessing history.  Something important is ending.”

What has already ended, I think, were the  50 wonderful years after 1945 in which the United States, having emerged less scathed from World War II, was more or less unchallenged as the world’s only economic superpower – a long splendid day in which the eight years of the Reagan administration constituted the late afternoon.

How might Trump do with issues like these in the general election? Again, Marty Nolan:  “In ’92, Perot prospered in cold, remote country: Maine, Minnesota, Alaska. He was zip in the late Confederacy.”  If you look at the maps of exposure to industrial competition in The China Shock,’’  it’s the Midwest and the Southeast where the trade shocks have hit hardest.  Slim chance that Trump would, like Perot, go away with a goose-egg, if he is the nominee.

That said, I fully expect Hillary Clinton to win in November. She has the right language to succeed: The task now is to fill in what has been hollowed out.  If Trump is its candidate, the trick for the GOP to learn as much as possible from this election to shed the heavy burden of ideology that Trump has lampooned, to abandon the absolutism of recent years in favor of practical compromise – either that or fade into history.

So it seems possible, even likely, that Trump’s campaign will prove helpful to straightening things out between the parties. I think Paul Krugman got it exactly right when he wrote the other day: “We should actually welcome Trump’s ascent. Yes, he’s a con-man, but he’s also effectively acting as a whistle-blower on other people’s cons. That is, believe it or not, a step forward in these weird, troubled times.”

To which I can only add, yes, that’s so, as long as Trump is defeated soundly enough to discourage a third such billionaire in the future, one who might be smarter than the first two.

David Warsh, a longtime financial journalist and economic historian, is proprietor of economicprincipals.com.

Robert Whitcomb: FBI right about terrorist's iPhone

 

The U.S. government has the stronger argument in its battle with Apple over obtaining access to possible information about terrorism in the iPhone of Syed Rozwab Farook. That Islamic fanatic and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, murdered 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., last Dec. 2 before police killed them.

The fact is, as Microsoft founder Bill Gates told the Financial Times, “This is a specific (emphasis is mine} case where the government is asking for access to information.’’

 “They are not asking for some general thing; they are asking for a particular case.”

“It is no different than [the question of] should anybody ever have been able to tell the phone company to get information, should anybody be able to get at bank records” to investigate a crime, Mr. Gates added. 

The government's case, backed by a federal judge, rests on  long-established law holding that "no item -- not a home, not a file cabinet and not a smartphone -- lies beyond the reach of a judicial search warrant"  in investigating crimes, Manhattan District Atty. Cyrus Vance has noted.

There exists no "right of privacy" to withhold evidence of a crime. The idea that the cellphone is a privileged device off-limits to law enforcement is absurd.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym is not telling Apple to create a “backdoor’’ that puts all users in new danger of being electronically violated. She has told Apple to help the FBI get into a single iPhone to obtain information that might save people from being murdered by ISIS-related terrorists.

We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land,” FBI Director James Comey has said.

Judge Pym has ordered Apple to create temporary software to let the FBI try many passwords on the phone without its data disappearing, which it normally would after 10 tries because of the company’s security walls.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook complains that such a “backdoor” could be used on other phones. But it stands to reason that Apple could control its software to unlock specific  devices, after the government obtained warrants detailing compelling circumstances.

Apple’s hypocrisy in this is impressive.

Consider its close cooperation with China, a police state. There, Apple has moved its local user data onto servers run by state-owned China Telecom, which mines such information with abandon. And Apple submits to security audits by Chinese officials. But then, Apple hopes to continue enjoying 40 percent profit margins by expanding further in China -- the company’s second-largest market.

Apple – at least for public consumption -- worries that if the U.S. government forces it to let authorities into Farook’s phone that China will demand the same right, which might scare away some potential iPhone buyers there. But there’s little indication that Apple will not continue giving the dictatorship whatever it wants.

James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted in the Los Angeles Times:

"What's driving this is Apple's desire to persuade the global market, and particularly the China market, that the FBI can't just stroll in and ask for data.  {But} I can't imagine the Chinese would tolerate end-to-end encryption or a refusal to cooperate with their police, particularly in a terrorism case."

Law enforcement must have the tools to keep up with criminals, who increasingly use such tools as encryption, Bitcoin currency and disappearing messages. In this case, Apple, rather than worrying that the publicity connected with letting the U.S. government get into a criminal’s cellphone might hurt profits, should focus on saving lives. (Do tech execs, shielded by wealth and gated communities, not feelquite as threatened by terrorists as the poorer people (e.g., in San Bernardino) who are usually the victims?)

Meanwhile, let’s worry more about how private-sector organizations such as Apple, Microsoft,  Google and Yahoo, invade our privacy and follow us wherever we go. As Fortune magazine columnist Stanley Bing wrote: “It's just the beginning, guys. Every breath you take. Every move you make. Every bond you break, every step you take, Apple will be watching you.’’

Robert Whitcomb, a fellow of the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy, in Newport, R.I., is overseer of New England Diary and a former editor at the International Herald Tribune and The Wall Street Journal.

Gregory N. Hicks: U.S. must stay at the trade table

  The Boston Tea Party remains one of the seminal events in American history, and it continues to resonate among political elites, because most Americans believe that the “Tea Party” was a protest about taxation without representation.

It really wasn’t. It was actually about the setting of rules for international commerce without representation. John Hancock, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, merchant, ship owner and one of wealthiest men in the colonies, along with the Sons of Liberty, instigated the Boston Tea Party because the British government had given the British East India Company a monopoly to transport tea to the colonies and sell it there, effectively excluding American merchants from competing in a trade in which they had been profitably engaged. From the very beginnings of our republic, Americans have demanded the opportunity to compete internationally on a level playing field.

Two thousand years ago, Roman Senator Marcus Tullius Cicero said “the sinews of power are money, money, and more money.” This observation is as true for the 21st Century as it was in the First Century BCE. National power comes from national prosperity.

Fifteen years into the 21st Century, it is clear that the international economy has entered a transition period similar to the change that occurred a century ago, when the United States emerged as the world’s leading economic power. When that occurred, the United States did not use its economic power to influence global events, instead adopting a foreign policy of isolationism and international disarmament.

“The business of America is business,”  said President Coolidge, and America’s insistence on repayment of World War I debts contributed to economic instability in Europe. Isolationism led to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, the Great Depression and World War II.

Fully cognizant of this history as well as the necessity of rebuilding the world’s economy after World War II, the U.S. government  leveraged America’s overwhelming post-war economic superiority to establish the dollar as the dominant currency of international finance and trade and to found the multilateral institutions that are the girders of today’s rules-based international economic system. The relatively level playing field for international commerce that was created has led to 70  years of economic growth and prosperity that has lifted millions from poverty.

Economies rose from the ashes of World War II by adopting key aspects of the American economic model, but in 1990, the United States was still the world’s largest economy. Our nearest competitor, Japan, had a GDP only 40 percent the size of America’s; China’s GDP was less than one-sixth the size of ours.

Today, the United States is no longer the world’s largest economy; that status belongs to the European Union. Most economists project that China will soon overtake the United States as the world’s largest national economy, although some argue that milestone has already been passed. Meanwhile, India’s economy is not too far behind.

Despite the emergence of multiple global economic competitors, the United States remains the acknowledged leader and fulcrum of the international economy. Five major trends in the global economy – the internet impact on international commerce, the emergence of global value chains, the oil exploration technology revolution, the rebound in U.S. manufacturing, and the resilience of the dollar after the 2008 financial crisis – illustrate the centrality of the United States to both the international economy and international relations.

We’re all familiar with the Internet’s impact on our daily lives, and at work, we experience the internet’s effects on productivity, but on a larger scale, it is also transforming international trade opportunities. For instance, E-bay and Amazon are fostering an Internet-based international retail revolution. The first company makes it possible for any individual to engage in an international commercial transaction. Any American who offers a good on E-bay could find that it has been purchased by someone from Ghana or Fiji; and the reverse transaction is equally possible. For its part, Amazon, based on its global warehouse network and relationships with modern logistical companies, has built a virtual mall in which customers can buy almost anything and have it delivered to their doorstep within a few days.

Internet communication has also made cross-border vertical integration of production, or global value chains, possible. Pioneered by Nike and improved by Apple, the process is perhaps epitomized today by Gilead, a San Francisco-based pharmaceutical company that is saving thousands of lives by developing and lowering consumer drug prices through innovative production arrangements with pharmaceutical producers in a number of developing countries.

Global value chains are inducing a reconsideration of the statistical analysis of international trade, which is changing perspectives on international economic policy. Analysts are grasping the importance of trade in intermediate goods, i.e., components or partially finished goods that are moving across borders through vertically integrated production processes. For the United States, one-third of exports and three-fifths of imports are intra-firm trade in intermediate goods.

A recent International Monetary Fund study looked at the major economic powers from the standpoint of domestic value-added (DVA) and foreign value-added (FVA) in their national output. The study found that China’s economy is the most dependent on foreign value-added content of any of the major economies, while the United States is the least dependent. The study also suggested that if China let its currency, the Yuan, appreciate, it would both move up the value chain and reduce the dependence of its economy on foreign inputs. Perhaps tellingly, China’s leaders have been allowing the Yuan to appreciate steadily over the past decade.

“Fracking,” that uniquely American technological innovation, is also changing the international policy landscape, and if the U.S. resumes exporting oil and natural gas, could have an even greater impact. The current policies of Arab oil-producing states clearly reflect their unease with growing American energy independence, while Europe, through employing fracking to develop its own energy resources or importing American oil and gas, has the potential to reduce its energy dependence on Russia by substantial amounts.

The manufacturing sector provides the tools of national power, and a newly released Congressional Research Service study suggests that all the talk of the demise of U.S. manufacturing is premature. While China became the world’s top manufacturing country in 2010, the United States remains second by a wide margin. In addition, U.S. manufacturing output grew between 2005 and 2013 by 5 percent, despite the Great Recession. Much of this growth was powered by inward foreign direct investment, 39 percent of which has been landing in the manufacturing sector.

Despite setbacks to the dollar’s reputation arising from the international financial crisis, the dollar continues to symbolize American economic strength and prowess. The dollar’s central role in international finance and trade provides unique avenues for the United States to use economic power in lieu of military intervention or other forms of pressure to resolve international problems. Yet that unique role is under competitive pressure as China, the European Union, Japan, Russia, India and Brazil all seek to put their currencies on an equal footing with the dollar.

International economic policy offers the U.S. government a range of tools to advance U.S. foreign policy and commercial interests in an increasingly competitive, multipolar environment. Among those tools, preferential trade and investment agreements positively affect more aspects of economies than any other. Not only do trade agreements lock-in existing trading and investment patterns, they create new links by eliminating trade barriers through reducing taxes and writing new trade and investment rules that go beyond those found in the 1994 World Trade Organization agreement.

In  national power, trade agreements not only generate economic growth, jobs, and tax revenue, but they also create economic interdependence among agreement parties. The voluntary acceptance of that interdependence is an unambiguous symbolic foreign-policy statement. In a multipolar world, such agreements are essential to economic competitiveness and peaceful coexistence.

Our competitors understand these characteristics very well, including the axiom, illustrated by the 1773 Tea Act that sparked the Boston Tea Party: “He who writes the rules, wins.” They are aggressively negotiating trade pacts around the world, changing the terms and rules of trade in their favor. Currently, the European Union, formed itself by a trade agreement, has 32 preferential trade agreements in place with 88 countries, and it is currently negotiating 12 agreements covering an additional 36 countries. India’s existing preferential trade network includes 26 countries via 14 agreements, and it is negotiating four new agreements covering 37 additional nations. Japan has implemented 14 agreements with 16 countries, and is negotiating three trade agreements covering 35 nations. China has 12 preferential trade pacts in force with 21 countries, and is negotiating three more agreements that would cover 14 additional states.

Completing both the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations would expand the U.S. preferential trade network consisting of 14 agreements covering 20 countries to an additional 33 nations. TPP and TTIP involve three of the world’s top four economies and cover a majority of the world’s existing trade.

Moreover, they seek to write new trade rules that facilitate the growth of 21st Century international trading patterns such as e-commerce, global value chains, and foreign investment, among others. As importantly, they revitalize longstanding strategic relationships with our Asian and European allies, an important signal to both China and Russia that the United States intends to remain a competitive actor in Asia and Europe. Conversely, failure to complete these agreements would be an act of unilateral economic-policy disarmament with long term consequences for U.S. economic growth and national power.

In a 21st Century world that is more multipolar, more complex, more integrated and more competitive than the United States has ever experienced in its history, U.S. competitors and strategic allies alike – Brazil, China, the European Union, Japan, India, and Russia – are seeking to amass economic power and to deploy it as a leading element of their foreign policies. In many cases, they seek  strategic advantages through these efforts, often at the expense of U.S. interests.

International economic-policy tools such as trade negotiations provide an effective, peaceful means to compete with these challenges.   If we do not participate in making the rules for international trade, others will write our companies out of the competition, many jobs will be lost and many more never created, and our national prosperity and national power will decline. If they were alive today, John Hancock and the Sons of Liberty would support the negotiation of TPP and TTIP. We should too.

Gregory N. Hicks is State Department Visiting Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington; an economist and a veteran U.S. diplomat. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.  This piece stems from Mr. Hicks's remarks at the June 9 meeting of the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations (thepcfr.org)

 

 

Robert Whitcomb: Another trap in the energy cycles

A few years ago I co-wrote a book, with Wendy Williams, about a controversy centered on Nantucket Sound. The quasi-social comedy, called Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Energy, Class, Politics and the Battle for Our Energy Future, told of how, since 2001, a company led by entrepreneur James Gordon has struggled to put up a wind farm in the sound in the face of opposition from the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound — a long name for fossil-fuel billionaire Bill Koch, a member of the famous right-wing Republican family.  An amusing movie, Cape Spin,  directed by John Kirby and produced by Libby Handros, came out of this saga, too. Mr. Koch's houses include a summer mansion in Osterville, Mass., from which he doesn’t want to see wind turbines on his southern horizon on clear days.

Mr. Koch may now have won the battle, as very rich people usually do. Two big utilities, National Grid and Northeast Utilities, are trying to bail out of a politicized plan, which they never liked, forcing them to buy Cape Wind electricity. They cite the fact that the company missed the Dec. 31, 2014, deadline in contracts signed in 2012 to obtain financing and start construction. Cape Wind said it doesn’t “regard these terminations as valid” since, it asserts, the contracts let the utilities’ contracts be extended because of the alliance’s “unprecedented and relentless litigation.” Bill Koch has virtually unlimited funds to pay lawyers to litigate unto the Second Coming, aided by imaginative rhetoric supplied by his  very smart and well paid pit-bull  anti-Cape Wind spokeswoman, Audra Parker,  even though the project has won all regulatory approvals.

It's no secret that it has gotten harder and harder to do big projects in the United States because of endless litigation and ever more layers of regulation. Thus our physical infrastructure --- electrical grid, transportation and so on -- continues to fall behind our friendly competitors, say in the European Union and Japan, and our not-so-friendly competitors, especially in China. Read my friend Philip K. Howard's latest book, The Rule of Nobody, on this.

With the death of Cape Wind, New Englanders would lose what could have helped diversify the region’s energy mix — and smooth out price and supply swings — with home-grown, renewable electricity. Cape Wind is far from a panacea for the region’s dependence on natural gas, oil and nuclear, but it would add a tad more security.

Some of Cape Wind’s foes will say that the natural gas from fracking will take care of everything. But New England lacks adequate natural-gas pipeline capacity, to no small extent because affluent people along the routes hold up their construction. And NIMBYs (not in my backyard) have also blocked efforts to bring in more Canadian hydro-electric power. So our electricity rates are soaring, even as many of those who complain about the rates also fight any attempt to put new energy infrastructure near them. As for nuclear, it seems too politically incorrect for it to be expanded again in New England.

Meanwhile, the drawbacks to fracking, including water pollution and earthquakes in fracked countryside, are becoming more obvious. And the gas reserves may well be exaggerated. I support fracking anyway, since it means less use of oil and coal and because much of the gas is nearby, in Pennsylvania. (New York, however, recently banned fracking.)

Get ready for brownouts and higher electricity bills. As for oil prices, they are low now, but I have seen many, many energy price cycles over the last 45 years of watching the sector. And they often come with little warning. But meanwhile, many Americans, with ever-worsening amnesia, flock to buy SUV's again.

Robert Whitcomb oversees New England Diary.

Giving the dictatorships a pass

Why do people defending Edward Snowden and denouncing the National Security Agency seem to have nary a word about the cyber-attacks  and physical threats by the murderous North Korean regime meant to disrupt the showing of a  Sony movie about depraved dictator Kim Jong-un? And why do they say nothing about the cyber-attacks and Internet spying by the milder but  very corrupt and bigger dictatorships Russia and China?

 

Maybe it's because these hypocrites fear North Korea, China and Russia but don't fear a democratic and infinitely more humane nation like the United States. The double standard remains staggering.

 

-- Robert Whitcomb

 

 

 

Promises, promises

  In 1997 the Communist dictatorship in Bejing promised the people of Hong Kong that they'd have local autonomy, including electing their own officials, after the British colony was forced to rejoin China. In 1994, Russia, then a corrupt democracy and now a corrupt dictatorship, promised not to use force or threaten to use force against Ukraine in return for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons.

We know how both these promises worked out. You can bet that no country is going to give up its nuclear weapons. any time soon. And Taiwan is even more unlikely than before to join  China on the basis of the promise that Beijing would allow the people of Taiwan their own democracy.

Dictators think promises are a joke.

 

 

Tripartite march of the thugs

While the U.S.  focuses on confronting the perverts of the Islamic State, the fascist dictatorship in Russia continues to try to eat away at adjacent states and the other big fascist dictatorship, China, continues its attempt to take over the entire South China Sea. Their  neighbors waver between appeasement and something a bit braver as the thuggery gets worse.

Francis Fukuyama's idea in the '90s of the inevitable triumph of liberal democracy seems more frayed than usual this year.

 

 

Llewellyn King: Habits to develop and monsters to avoid

No one having asked me to give their commencement address this year, I have decided to give it anyway. Here. I have been reading reports of these addresses, mostly given by public figures, some stirring debate, demonstrations and boycott. All in all, the passion is wasted because most of these addresses are not worth the fuss, the fee or the honorary degree. They occupy the unhappy space between a Sunday sermon and a sales meeting. Having exhorted the students to heights of moral rectitude they urge on them a manic menu for striving; of getting to the top of the class of life by making a lot of money and keeping America in front of China, India and, on a good day, Germany.

To read these addresses is to be told that life is a marathon in which most of the participants are from Asia and the United States is on the slippery slope to oblivion, and it missed the starter’s pistol shot.

With fine irony, it is many of those who have made a hash of national policies and foreign adventures who feel the most obliged to urge the bewildered young people of the class of 2014 to sally forth and do great things. I would humbly suggest they sally forth and live their lives: less striving, more living.

My commencement wisdom:

Do not be defined by where you work, but by what you do. Working for the dominant institution in your field may sound swell at a cocktail party, but it is almost guaranteed to be less fun and less invigorating than a lesser institution, which is not inhabited wholly by strivers. Strivers can be very tedious.

The same goes for the institution you are leaving. Worry less about where you studied and more about what you learned.

The best thing I can advise any young person is to have a well-stocked mind. It is a bulwark against adversity, a comfort in disaster, and a place where you can find strength all the days of your life; in success and disaster, in helping to heal a broken heart – and there are going to be broken hearts aplenty in this class, as there have been in all the preceding graduating classes.

Life has stages and it is worth knowing them, without being dictated to by them. In your twenties you will suffer Cupid’s arrow, the ecstasy and pain of love, make your professional mistakes, and begin the intriguing business of finding out who you are.

The thirties are the great decade: The idealism is intact, most of the mistakes are in the past, and you have the enthusiasm and energy to make your move in life. It is a golden decade when everything starts to come into focus.

The forties are for consolidating, watching children grow and deciding what is possible.

From age 50 on, you are in the harvest years. Harvest the rewards of being good at what you do, the respect of your peers, while as ever stocking your mind -- the permanent joy of learning, and especially of learning that you have not taken the human pilgrimage alone.

I have known too many people who do not know the reward and sanctuary of reading. Prodigious readers, such as Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, would read in the five minutes before a meeting, or while waiting for a call to come through. It was the secret life that balanced the public life.

My father was not a lettered man, and reading was not something that came easily for him. As result, he missed the great community that is open to all with the good fortune to know how to read.

Do not fence yourself in — and do not let others do it for you. Do not believe that you have aptitude for this or that on a hunch: Please find out.

I have made a living as a public speaker and broadcaster for many decades. But a lawyer, in a traffic case, once told me that she would not put me on the stand because she felt I was not good at speaking in front of people. The terrifying truth is that I accepted her judgment – and lost the case.

Besides being corralled by false knowledge of ourselves, the other great monster lying in wait for you is rejection. We all dread rejection, not just those who meet it constantly like writers and sales people. Fear of rejection is a great disabler; fight it, you are not unique that way. Treat “no” as the prologue to “yes.”

Good luck.

Llewellyn King, of Washington, D.C. and Rhode Island, is executive producer and co-host of  White House Chronicle, on PBS. His e-mail is lking@kingpublishing.com.

Moment of truth for the West

russianart At the Museum of Russian Icons, in Clinton, Mass., in the show "The Tsars' Cabinet,'' which highlights 200 years of decorative arts under the Romanov dynasty. Russian oligarchs around Vladimir Putin also love to collect these items.

(Respond via rwhitcomb51@gmail.com)

In September 1938, at the Munich Conference, Adolf Hitler promised French and British leaders, who felt compelled to appease him, that Czechoslovakia’s mostly German-speaking Sudetenland region would be ”my last territorial demand in Europe.’’ Within a few months, of course, the Nazis occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia and then invaded Poland.

Vladimir Putin is a power-mad political mobster of extreme cynicism and considerable paranoia, albeit not the world-historical sociopath that Hitler was. I have little doubt that the Russian dictator  plans to try to seize more land in eastern Europe, perhaps part of Moldova and all of Ukraine and not just the eastern part, where, he and his associates like to say, they might need to “rescue’’ Russian speakers from virtually nonexistent “mistreatment’’.  In the same way, Hitler often cited the need to “rescue’’ German speakers who lived in countries that Hitler wanted to seize in the pursuit of his “Thousand Year Reich’’.

Putin, like Hitler, seems obsessed with “encirclement’’ by perceived foes. Of course, most people in neighboring nations, who see close-up what goes on in Putin’s kleptocratic police state, would certainly not want to be absorbed by it. Meanwhile, why don’t more journalists and others note that Russia is far and away the largest country by square mileage.  Without the powerful vector of Russian imperialism (which includes Soviet imperialism), it might seem passing strange that Russia would want/need to get even bigger.

But for a thug, no power or money or acreage is enough. Thus former KGB official Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th Century.’’ He’s talking about a regime that murdered tens of millions of people and that for a couple of years was a Nazi ally.

But a regime as nasty as Putin’s is not exactly good for business investment, and so Russia, for all its size, remains remarkably weak, if aggressive. Of course, the Chinese regime is also corrupt and brutal, but China has an entrepreneurial and disciplined people who have made the country an economic powerhouse anyway. The Russians, burdened by bad government and the associated alcoholism, despair and fatalism, and thus without a vibrant, diversified entrepreneurial culture, don’t have it. Without copious supplies of oil and gas, they would hardly have an economy at all.

Those fossil fuels give Russia a lot of power to get temporizing Europeans to tolerate Russian imperialism. It’s yet another reason to move faster to home-grown renewable energy – and gas exports from the U.S. What will it take to get the Germans, etc., to accept some short-term pain in return for the long-term security that would come from the demise of Putin’s dictatorship? That short-term European pain could include a cutoff of Russian gas supplies in response to sanctions on the Putin regime.

Many of Putin’s cronies and maybe the dictator himself have Riviera real estate, bank accounts, money-laundering operations and other assets in the West. Indeed, something that the West has going for it now that it didn’t have in Soviet days is that the Russian regime and the former Soviet functionaries who stole state assets under the drunken Boris Yeltsin have so much property abroad.  And Russian oligarchs like to travel in and indeed live in the West. They should be squeezed very hard.

The Russians have far more to fear from tough Western sanctions than the West has to fear from the Putin regime. The question is whether the West has gone too soft and complacent to act firmly.

The sanctions by the Obama administration to squeeze some of Putin’s fellow mobsters are a start but far from enough.  And the Europeans have not yet shown much backbone. Rhetoric is cheap. Western security demands that everything possible be done to weaken Putin’s regime. Now.

When George W. Bush did little when the Russians invaded  tiny Georgia, a democracy, and stole some of its land,  it emboldened Putin, who, like most bullies, is quick to sense weakness. He probably laughed his cynical laugh when Bush said early in his presidency that he had “looked into his {Putin’s} soul’’ and saw a man he could trust.

NATO must step up its military assistance to members Poland and the Baltic Republics and provide arms, air-defense technology, military intelligence and other defensive military support to Ukraine to make Putin think twice before marching on Kiev.

In 1956, President Eisenhower did virtually nothing when the Russians moved in to quash the Hungarian Revolution, killing tens of thousands of people. In 1968, President Johnson did nothing when the Russians quashed Czech attempts to wrest themselves from Soviet/Russian dictatorship. In 2008 President G.W. Bush did virtually nothing when the Russians invaded Georgia and stole some of that democracy's land. But these days, we do have potent weapons to discourage further Russian expansionism. But they require our will and patience.

Meanwhile, many Ukrainian leaders must profoundly regret that their nation gave up its nuclear arms in 1994 in return for security guarantees from the U.S., Britain and Russia. The hope then was that Russia would not go back to its traditional oriental despotism. One of Russia’s fellow tyrannies, Iran, which is hurrying to make nuclear bombs, will take a lesson from the Ukrainian crisis.

Robert Whitcomb (rwhitcomb51@gmail.com) is a former editor of these pages and a Providence-based editor and writer. He runs the www.newenglanddiary.com site. He is a former editor at the International Herald Tribune and The Wall Street Journal.