International Relations

We’re All Going to Die: Making America Great Again!

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The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America promised the end of America as we knew it. He brought the hope of a new America. America for the American people. President Trump is going to Make America Great Again.

So he says. Although many may doubt him, he means it. And the President has a plan.

Scores of Americans are apprehensive about this plan and retain stern skepticism about the greatness of America under the administration of Donald Trump. Especially as the President has had tremendous difficulties in shepherding his vision of America into reality.

Yet the President will not be deterred. President Donald Trump will Make America Great Again. The old vestiges of the American oligarchy will be destroyed. Before the new America the old must end. Existentially.

While the President’s method seemingly lacks method, it’s a process. It’s a fairly simple process.

Drastically cut spending on domestic programs so as to take away the safety net of many Americans. Ruin the environment via significant cuts to the EPA and massive steps towards deregulation. Abolish the healthcare of millionsRoll back financial regulations intended to protect people from predatory practices and stabilize the economy. Disadvantage many Americans in the job market. Further widen the chasm of partisanship which engulfs the United States. Alienate even the United States’ most staunch allies and isolate America from the world.

Only the strong survive.

Then, finally, the United States of America is no more. Only those with the demonstrated ability to endure perpetual waves of malady, survive the miasma of the heavens forcefully opened by carbon emissions, remain gainfully employed despite chronic job wars, and to stave off the intolerance of those of dissimilar political mind will abide.

These lucky few get to go to Mars. This is where the new America, the great America, will be established.

Donald Trump will Make America Great Again, he just needs to first eliminate the weak.

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Clinton and Trump on foreign intervention: Vote for War

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The United States has active military interventions in Iraq and Syria and has thousands of military personnel stationed in over 100 countries around the world. These ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Syria as well as potential conflicts involving North KoreaIranChinaRussia and especially ISIS have been heated subjects of debate throughout the course of this election cycle. And each promises to continue to be have tremendous ramifications long after November 8th. With support of U.S. intervention abroad waning it becomes essential to consider the foreign policy stances of Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as it relates to possible U.S. military intervention in any of these potential conflicts.

Judging from their policy positions  and rhetoricon national defense  and foreign policy it would appear as though each may favor foreign intervention. Neither Clinton nor Trump are non-interventionists. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are likely to intervene overseas if elected president, albeit for different reasons.

And this would accord with the historical record. Both Democrats and Republicans intervene in foreign conflicts. What changes are the reasons. So when voting on November 8th, if your vote in partially contingent on foreign policy and national defense don’t vote for the “anti-war” candidate, because there isn’t one. Vote for the candidate who’s reasoning for war most approximates that which you believe is in the best interests of the United States.

Independence vs. Interdependence: A False Dichotomy

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In the past Donald Trump has declared that if elected he would “rip up” all existing free trade agreements the United States has with other countries, with particular focus on NAFTA and the TPP. While this is impossible due to a variety of legal constraints and would also be catastrophic for the U.S. economy, this is not the most troubling aspect of Trump’s proposed action. Ripping up all existing U.S. free trade agreements (which there are the U.S. has in force with 20 countries) would severely threaten the security of the United States.

Donald Trump has declared that existing free trade agreements are bad for American workers, bad for the U.S. economy and bad for U.S. independence. As he describes, the U.S. is engaged is trade wars with foreign countries, wars which the U.S. is losing. The trade deficit is out of control. His economic vision will once again put the U.S. on top.

Donald Trump’s vision for U.S. foreign policy and national defense is to achieve “peace through strength”. By strengthening America at home he will be able to more readily and forcefully “advance America’s core national interests, promote regional stability, and produce an easing of tensions in the world”. Furthermore, Trump wants to strengthen the United States military via increasing their size and technologically capabilities.

The problem, however, is that free trade agreements increase national security. Research demonstrates that “nontrade issues such as human rights, democracy, environment, corruption, and labor standards are increasingly linked” to free trade agreements, especially preferential trade agreements, of which the United States is party to many. Ripping up trade agreements will harm U.S. diplomatic relationships and make it much more difficult to influence these non-trade issues. Additionally, the United States manages its hierarchical relationships, and thereby influence, via contracts, such as trade agreements. It has also been empirically proven that a loss of entrenchment in a foreign country via loss of influence denotes an inability to manage the economic and security processes in those countries.

In other words, Donald Trump’s economic vision is at odds with his foreign policy and national defense vision. Withdrawing from existing agreements means a decline in diplomatic relations. A decline in diplomatic relations decreases influence. A decrease in influence connotes an inability to effect the economic and defense policies of foreign countries. Not being able to effect these processes means the United States may be unable to regain any economic and military power lost as a result of the withdrawals. As a result, the United States is worse off economically and less secure than it was previously.

Not to mention that any loss of wealth makes it more difficult to spend more of the U.S. budget on the military without significantly increasing the trade deficit.

Unicorns in International Relations

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As the presidential campaign season slowly inches towards the inevitable day of election on November 8th, it is important to consider not just what the candidates say and what they propose but also the feasibility of that rhetoric. It’s fine to agree with the positions and policies of one candidate over another. It’s necessary to vote. But don’t just consider if you agree, consider if that position, if that policy can actually happen.

Presidents are never able to fulfill all their campaign promises. Some because of political considerations: political capital, financial feasibility, partisan polarization, divided government, etc. However, some things will not get done simply because they can’t be done. It is not a question of a president’s will or ability. Some things won’t get done no matter how hard a president and his government tries.

This is especially true when it comes to foreign policy because foreign policy necessarily relies on other people. A lot of time and effort goes into foreign policy and its problems. And for years different presidents have promised solutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict, to nuclear weapons, to American allies, and more recently to terrorism. But don’t get distracted and enticed by solutions which will never be. Don’t vote based on policies which will never come to fruition.

Don’t vote for unicorns.

North Korea unironically tests a nuke

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Earlier this week North Korea fired three ballistic missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan in an apparent signal of North Korea’s displeasure with ongoing G-20 talks being held in Hangzhou, China. These missile launches, which were “in flagrant disregard” to North Korea’s international obligations as well as international sanctions, brought a strong condemnation from the United Nations Security Council and threatened “further significant measures” if North Korea refuses to halt future nuclear and missile tests. North Korea responded with it’s own statement:

“The DPRK categorically rejects this as an intolerable act of encroaching upon its dignity, right to existence, sovereignty and right to self-defence.”

Early Friday it was reported that North Korea conducted a nuclear weapons test as a magnitude 5 earthquake was detected near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in northeastern North Korea. A South Korean Defense Ministry official, who refused to be named because of office rules, said that an estimated explosive yield of 10 kilotons was detected and it was assessed to have come from a nuclear test. A test later confirmed on North Korea state television.

This is the fifth such test by North Korea since 2006, all in violation of United Nations resolutions and denounced by foreign officials. South Korean President Park Geun-hye condemned the  test, saying North Korea demonstrated “fanatic recklessness“. China released a statement which said they were, “resolutely opposed to North Korea’s latest nuclear test and strongly urges North Korea to stop taking any actions that will worsen the situation”. Ned Price, spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council, said, “we are aware of seismic activity on the Korean Peninsula in the vicinity of a known North Korean nuclear test site. We are monitoring and continuing to assess the situation in close coordination with our regional partners.”

The concern for many is that these nuclear and missile tests by North Korea indicate a furtherance of North Korea nuclear and missile technology in a pursuit to be able to reach the United States homeland. In the statement on state television confirming the most recent nuclear test North Korea also said it was “now capable of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets”Recently North Korea has threatened a “preemptive nuclear strike” in the face of any perceived U.S. or South Korean aggression.

And while such North Korean threats may be dismissed by some due to Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s propensity for provocative rhetoric, the threat posed by North Korea to it’s neighbors and to the United States should be taken seriously. Especially as Jong-un has banned sarcasm.

Kim Jong-un shown on North Korean TV today.

The U.S. should invade North Korea

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North Korea is a “rogue” country. It’s autocratic leader, Kim Jong-un, who inherited the leadership of the state from his father, Kim Jong-il, who himself had inherited the title of supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from his father, Kim Il-sung who was the founder of the DPRK, is a dictatorial leader who rules North Korea via a cult of personality and disinformation about the outside world. Even as Jong-il comes under intense international scrutiny for his threats of a preemptive nuclear attack and his continuation of ballistic missile launches which further unrest in the region and fuel specualtion regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, he solidifies his power at home via executions and purges of presumed challengers.

In the past efforts by foreign states such as the United States to effectively impose sanctions and other forms of coercive diplomacy were hindered by China, as they have an alliance with North Korea. However, it would appear even China has grown tired of Jong-il’s increasing provocative and seemingly reckless rhetoric and posturing. The difficulty becomes that as Kim Jong-il continues to remain in power he continues to consolidate his hold on the country. To reference selectorate theory, his “winning coalition” grows smaller and smaller as his tenure endures. The smaller the winning coalition the more difficult it is to depose the leader. This bodes ill or not only foreign relations with North Korea but for the people of North Korea as well.

New research from Scott Abramsom and Carlos Velasco Rivera, forthcoming in the Journal of Politics, demonstrates that in autocracies leader tenure as a non-institutional source of stability is a crucial point of political power. Exploiting the random times of natural deaths the authors show “that leaders with longer tenures tended to be succeeded by their sons and had successors that were less frequently deposed and less likely to face parliamentary constraints”. In other words, constraints on autocratic power must come from external forces.

In a separate article, also forthcoming in the Journal of Politics,  Colin Krainin and Thomas Wiseman find that as a country’s military strength varies stochastically over time war becomes inevitable given state patience. That is to say that as the military strength (or power) of a country, such as the United States, naturally varies over time this strength is likely to reach a state of parity with another country, or countries. Applying existing evidence that states which approach power parity are more likely to be conflictual (which these authors substantiate), this means that over time war becomes more likely unless power inequalities can be sustained. Therefore, unless actions are taken to continue power inequalities, or at least sustain peace between two states of relatively equal power, war will occur.

These two articles describe two opposing forces: 1) State power naturally ebbs and flows over time due to endogenous sources, causing power parity; 2) Autocratic leaders increase their power over time as the consolidate their standing at home. While these two processes are not absolute and there is no guarantee North Korea would ever become equals in strength to the United States, it is an empirical possibility. Also, it is a possibility whose outcome may increasingly favor North Korea. This is not to say North Korea would ever win a war against the United States, but in time may be able to inflict greater damage.

So as North Korea continues it’s belligerence and damages its reputation with both enemies and allies, and seems intent on demonstrating its capabilities to the outside world, when is the proper time to take action? And what action is adequate in order to stem Kim Jong-il’s contentious foreign policies and ruinous domestic policies? Sanctions thus far do not appear to have had much effect, and historically many times do not work, and in some cases actually harm the sanctioner. Other forms of coercive diplomacy have similarly failed. And to this point China seems unwilling or unable to place enough pressure on Kim Jong-il to make him alter his actions and his rhetoric.

Thereby, the case for war.

Cache of ISIS documents shows just how much worse things could be

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As ISIS continues to lose territory in Iraq and Syria the organization is redoubling its efforts in Europe and abroad. As demonstrated by the attacks in Belgium and France, as well as continued attacks by ISIS in Turkey, this lose of territory may mean ISIS is being becoming an even greater threat to the United States.

However, ISIS documents recently obtained by CNN show those European attacks were originally planned to be much more extensive. The documents also demonstrate the elaborate and well-planned operations of ISIS in Europe.

As the United States and its allies make a concerted effort to take away ISIS territory and to “defeat” ISIS, these documents show just how feckless such a plan may be.