Posts Tagged ‘Geopolitics’

Afghanistan, Iran and U.S. power

April 19, 2021

This is from a message by my e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey.  It’s as good an analysis as I’ve seen lately. .

Whether my speculation on the continuing US presence in Afghan has much to do with their intransigence there, I can’t see the pressure-on-Iran angle as water under the bridge, whatever the status of the nuclear deal.

There are at least these factors: –

Long-time obsession, certainly 1979 on, with Iran for many of the people with a say in making the decisions. –

Iran’s role in MEast:

US fealty to Israel.

US- Saudi relationship, though not as firm as it used to be, remains in operational high gear.

Iran’s reach throughout the region-  Hezbollah; the Houthis; the Palestinians; the Assad regime; the ascendant position of the Shias in Iraq, courtesy of the Bush II gang.

What am I missing?

Yes, there’s the pivot to Asia where I agree our greater focus should be, but these factors in MEast won’t be overlooked any time soon.

– Iran in US-Europe entanglements- finance capital and energy policy, where the US squeeze on Europe has all but slipped away. And NATO, which has taken a hit recently from Trump (even a broken clock is right twice a day), will continue to be a sore point, especially when the Afghanistan post-mortems begin and many European commentators will be asking “How did we ever get into THAT?”

– Iran itself has been and continues to be a big plum for imperial gazers. In addition to all the other factors I list here: oil; other resources?  – natural gas in the field in the Gulf and co-administered with Quatar is the largest reserve in the world; 75 million relatively prosperous (or could be) souls- quite a market opportunity (The Burger King in Pristina, tennis shoes, movies, bank loans for mega-dams…); and quite a few hands to work the small assembly industry that once was growing in Iran; yet another “threat” for military producers and their flunkies to use to gas up Congress (as if they need it). … …

– Internal Iranian politics- properly speaking, not a factor for this list, but a factor: Who in Iran, of whatever political persuasion, could sensibly trust the US on anything?

– THE UPSHOT: The imperialists are between a rock and a hard place. Everywhere their options are limited by the will of others and most of those limited options have obvious unhappy downsides for them. Their stumble-bumbling is rooted in this predicament. It’s dangerous.

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Barack Obama, a master of geopolitics?

September 16, 2015

Many of my Democratic friends think of Barack Obama as a well-meaning but naive and weak reformer.  I think of President Obama as a shrewd and strong defender of the status quo.

Alfred McCoy wrote a good article for TomDispatch arguing that this is just as true of his foreign policy as his domestic policy.

The greatest threat to American world power is the rise of China.  While the USA is dissipating its power through failed military interventions. China is extending its power by economic policies that add to its economic strength.

Obama hopes to counter China by leveraging American economic power through the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which will create a global trade bloc from which China and also Russia will be locked out.

The question is how long this will be feasible.  China’s economic power is growing.  American economic power is a legacy from the past.

President Obama has been using America’s status as the planet’s number one consumer nation to create a new version of dollar diplomacy.

His strategy is aimed at drawing China’s Eurasian trading partners back into Washington’s orbit.

china_central_asia_infrastructure_large

While Beijing has been moving to bring parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe into a unified “world island” with China at its epicenter, Obama has countered with a bold geopolitics that would trisect that vast land mass by redirecting its trade towards the United States.

During the post-9/11 decade when Washington was spilling its blood and treasure onto desert sands, Beijing was investing its trillions of dollars of surplus from trade with the U.S. in plans for the economic integration of the vast Eurasian land mass.

In the process, it has already built or is building an elaborate infrastructure of high-speed, high-volume railroads and oil and natural gas pipelines across the vast breadth of what Sir Halford Mackinder once dubbed the “world island.”  [snip]

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China’s power is more than military

June 5, 2014

I can remember when people in the West feared invasion by starving hordes from an overpopulated China.   In more recent years we have come to fear China’s growing economic power, which is now being transformed into assertive military power.

In an article in Foreign Affairs entitled The Geography of Chinese Power, the military journalist Robert Kaplan describes how China is building a strong navy with the intention of dominating the South China Sea, much as the USA dominates the Caribbean Sea.

Kaplan stated the Chinese within the next 10 or so years will be in a position to attack U.S. allies in eastern Asia, including Taiwan (which is in international law a part of China, but in fact an independent US ally).   He called for a U.S. naval buildup to counter growing Chinese naval power.

us-chinaBut the USA cannot counter China’s strength merely by building more ships.  We Americans have a trade deficit with China.  We depend on foreigners, including the Chinese, to finance a significant portion of our national debt.   Our economic position in the world depends on the willingness of the Chinese and other nations to do business in dollars.  Much of our electronics production, which is crucial to national defense, is outsourced to China.

The Chinese are increasing their control of the world’s food supply, but not by invasion or immigration.  Chinese corporations are buying up land in Africa, Australia and other parts of the world, and importing the food.

The weakness of China in the 19th century and the breakup of China in the early 20th century were aberrations.   During most periods of history, China has been one of the world’s most powerful nations  by reason of its geography, its demography and its patriarchal culture.

It is the world’s third largest nation in area, behind Russia and Canada.  It has reserves of coal sufficient to maintain its industrial economy for many decades and maybe centuries, and it has access to the resources of central Asia and Russia.

It is the world’s largest nation in population, comparable to Europe or to the entire Western Hemisphere.  This  gives it a flexibility beyond what is possible to smaller nations.   China could surpass the USA, Japan or Germany in the number of scientists and engineers, and in the number of highly-skilled technical workers, and still have reserves of more low-paid sweatshop workers than Bangladesh or Indonesia.

Finally China has a cultural unity based on patriarchal loyalties.  These consist of, on the one hand, the filial obligation of the son, the subject and the student to obey the father, the ruler and the teacher.  In return, there is the partenal obligation of the father, the ruler and the teacher to rightly guide their sons, their subjects and their students.

These cultural values have served the Chinese people well.  Through more than 2,000 years, they have come together, after the fall of each dynasty, to form a strong and united state, which is what happened in the 20th century.

That’s not to deny that the Chinese have problems or that China’s continued rise is inevitable.  There is a great deal of labor unrest, and there have been many strikes in sweatshop factories.   Chinese companies may have expanded too fast, and may be unable to sell all that they can produce.  The Chinese economy is subject to the same boom and bust economic cycle as ours is.   I don’t claim to predict the future, except to say that China will be an important country no matter what.

The problem for us Americans is not the growing strength of China, but the eroding strength of our own country.   Our power is a legacy of the past.  As a nation, we are becoming like an old retired person who no longer earns wages and lives on savings.

We are not building for the future by investing in education, public health, scientific research and physical infrastructure.  Neglect of vital needs is a worse threat to American power, including military power, than the size of the Chinese navy or anything else that foreigners are doing.

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Why China and Russia draw closer together

May 29, 2014
One possible pipeline route

A possible gas route

If a problem cannot be solved, it may not be a problem, but a fact.
    ==Donald Rumsfeld

In April President Obama visited nations on the rim of eastern Asia to reassure them of U.S. support against China, whose government has aggressively laid claim to islands in the East China Sea that these nations regard as their territory.

China’s response has been to strengthen its ties with its inland neighbors, especially Russia and Russia’s client states in central Asia.   Last week China announced a $400 billion deal to buy natural gas from Russia.

At the same time President Xi Jinping called for greater military co-operation among China, Russia and Iran.

Another possible route

Another possible route

Guests at the Russian-Chinese conference included Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Nasr al-Maliki of Iraq and Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.  Ironically, their presence together was made possible by the U.S.-backed regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan.  If Saddam Hussein were still in power in Iraq, he would not be found in the same room with a leader of Iran.  And the Taliban in Afghanistan, before the invasion, were much more anti-Russian than anti-USA.

Pepe Escobar, who has long reported on these developments for Asia Times, says that the most important event of the 21st century will be the economic integration of the Eurasian continent.

Many things could go wrong with this.  Just because something is announced doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen.  But I don’t have any specific reason for doubting this will come true.

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