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Six Chinese Cities End Daily Coronavirus Updates

The National Interest - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:23

Mitchell Blatt

Health,

They will only make further updates if any new cases develop, but they claim there have not been any new cases for days or weeks.

Six cities in China that consider the coronavirus situation to have been locally resolved have announced they will no longer publish new daily announcements.

The six cities are located in Henan province, which borders Hubei to the north, and Anhui province, which borders Hubei to the east. They are Kaifeng, Shangqiu, Xinxiang, and Hebi in Henan, and Fuyang and Chuzhou in Anhui, according to a report by The Beijing News. They will only make further updates if any new cases develop, but they claim there have not been any new cases for days or weeks.

Also, according to Da He Bao, a local Henan newspaper, Henan agriculture officials have announced the opening of live poultry markets.

Shangqiu, Kaifeng, Xinxiang, and Hebi are prefecture-level cities in the north of the province that all border one of the others. Shangqiu, the ancient capital of the Shang dynasty, one of China’s first, and Kaifeng, home to a small community of Chinese Jews whose ancestors came along the Silk Road, are both home to many historic sights.

According to official numbers, Shangqiu, has not had a new case in the past 19 days. Among the 91 cases that had been announced in the Shangqiu, which has an urban population of 1.5 million and 7.3 million in the prefecture, 88 have recovered, and 3 have died. Xinxiang, with a prefecture population of 5.7 million, has had 57 cases. Kaifeng and Xinxiang both reported less than 30.

According to officially-reported numbers, the entire province of Anhui had no new cases on March 5, and Fuyang and Chuzhou, neighboring prefectures with a combined population of 7.1 million, had 4 and 3 people released from the hospital respectively.

Across the country, many provinces had also announced days of no new cases in the past few weeks. The number of cases in the whole country increased by less than 1,000 from March 1 to March 6, according to the data cited on the Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard, with almost all of them being in Hubei province, while the number of cases in the rest of the world has increased by 13,000 during that same time frame.

Previously, when no new cases had been reported, People’s Daily or local propaganda outlets would create graphics to be shared on social media to celebrate. For example, on February 22, People’s Daily’s graphic claimed 21 of the 27 provinces had suffered no new cases for at least one day. Now, the policy of some cities to curtail daily updates might indicate a shift in messaging to try to move to the next stage.

Cities in Zhejiang that were previously on lockdown have been moved from red to yellow or green level. Full-service restaurants are starting to reopen in Hangzhou. Intraprovince bus service in Jiangsu, the province to the east of Anhui, has resumed.

Currently based in China, Mitchell Blatt is a former editorial assistant at the National Interest, Chinese-English translator, and lead author of Panda Guides Hong Kong. He has been published in USA Today, The Daily Beast, The Korea Times, Silkwinds magazine, and Areo Magazine, among other outlets. Follow him on Facebook at @MitchBlattWriter.

Why Is Everyone Running for President So Old?

The National Interest - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:22

Chelsea Follett

Politics, Americas

Better life expectancy.

Every remaining major candidate vying to become a nominee for the U.S. presidency is a septuagenarian. While the aged field of candidates comes with its own set of concerns, it is a sign of the country’s progress toward keeping people alive and healthy for longer than ever before.

In the race for the highest office in the land, the so‐​called Silent Generation is making itself heard. Senator Bernie Sanders (D‑VT), the oldest candidate, is 78 years old, as is former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, who dropped out of the race this morning. Former vice president Joe Biden is 77 years old. President Donald Trump is 73 years old. At 70 years old, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D‑MA) is the youngest of the major candidates. She was born in mid‐​1949.

Several major candidates have birthdays coming up before the Election Day. By November 3rd, Senator Sanders will be 79, President Trump will be 74 and Senator Warren will be 71 years old. Biden will turn 78 shortly after the election, on November 20th.

When the current President was sworn into office at the age of 70, he was the oldest president ever inaugurated in the United States. It looks like he or whoever assumes the presidency in 2021 will beat that record.

Even among the minor candidates still in the race, septuagenarians are represented. Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, who is challenging the president for the Republican nomination in a protest campaign, is 74 years old. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D‑HI), who is polling at less than 2 percent nationally, is the only remaining candidate born after 1950. She is 38.

When the septuagenarian candidates were born, the polio vaccine was yet to be created, there were no commercial computers, no human being had yet been to outer space and interracial marriage was still illegal in several U.S. states.

In 1950, U.S. life expectancy stood at 68.2 years, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The U.S. life expectancy has soared since then and a temporary dip over the last couple of years due to the opioid epidemic has since reversed. The CDC’s most recent figures estimate that the U.S. life expectancy reached 78.7 years in 2018—an increase of 0.1 year from 2017. That means that just within the lifetime of Senator Warren, the youngest major candidate, U.S. life expectancy has expanded by over a decade.

“Healthy life expectancy” or the number of years one can expect to enjoy good health, has also increased significantly. An American can expect to enjoy around 68 and a half years of good health, on average, according to the World Health Organization’s most recent estimate, for 2016.

The actuarial tables suggest that whichever septuagenarian wins in November, he or she will likely survive the next four years. Based on the average for their age, that’s a 76.8 percent chance for Sanders; 79.2 percent for Biden; 84.8 percent for Trump and, reflecting that women tend to outlive men, a 91.8 percent chance for the relatively youthful Warren. Still, there is no doubt that the vice presidential candidates will matter more than usual this election cycle.

The country’s Founding Fathers likely could not have imagined a future with such remarkable longevity. The septuagenarian field of major candidates has sparked concerns over the state of the various candidates’ health and mental acuity. While those worries should be taken seriously, the fact that so many septuagenarians are running reflects the broader demographic trend of Americans living longer, healthier lives and remaining active for many more years—a fact that should be celebrated.

This article by Chelsea Follett originally appeared in the CATO at Liberty blog in 2020.

Image: Reuters.

Is Turkey's Military a Drone Superpower?

The National Interest - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:07

Charlie Gao

Security, Middle East

We know at least one thing: the weapons they carry can cause some serious damage.

The success of Turkish armed drones and its push into Syria in February and March 2020 has shone a spotlight on Turkey’s indigenous drone and armament industry. Turkish drones reportedly destroyed multiple Russian-made but Syrian-operated air-defense vehicles, though Russian sources dispute this. However, their effectiveness at pummeling other targets is undisputed.

Just as the characteristic weapon of American MQ-1 Predator drones has been the AGM-114 Hellfire missile during the global war on terror, Turkey has also developed a drone-ideal weapon in the MAM-L missile. However, unlike the Hellfire which remains the similar in its drone and helicopter variants, the MAM-L was significantly redesigned from its parent missile to be a drone-specific weapon.

The MAM-L is derived from the Turkish L-UMTAS anti-tank missile. But as it is designed to be dropped from drones, the MAM-L omits the rocket engine of the L-UMTAS, allowing it to be around half the length and lighter than the L-UMTAS. However, seeker, control surface, and warhead technology are borrowed from the L-UMTAS. The MAM-L is also available with more types of warheads than the L-UMTAS, which only has a tandem HEAT warhead. The MAM-L is offered with high explosive fragmentation, thermobaric, and tandem HEAT warheads, probably with the anticipation that it might be used against a wider variety of targets. This is in line with other micro drone munitions, which make up for the small size of the warhead by offering specialized variants that are optimized for specific target types, as opposed to larger warheads which can be decent at both fragmentation and HEAT effect if the warhead is designed with a fragmentation rings.

However, the MAM-L does have some drawbacks. Broadly, the missile is comparable to the American AGM-176 Griffin, with both weighing less than 25 kilograms and being around 1 meter long. But the MAM-L’s fixed fins limit it to usage as a drone weapon. The Griffin features jack-knife fins that pop out, allowing it to be carried and launched from tubes. This allows for more Griffins to be carried in a specific unit, and allow for innovative mountings that allow for firing from the ramps of cargo aircraft.

It’s possible that these features will be added to the MAM-L with time, but Roketsan, the MAM-L’s manufacturer appears to be focusing more on the MAM-C, a thinner but longer munition that retains fixed fins. Regardless, the MAM-L proves that Turkey’s investment into building its arms industry has paid off. It’s proven to be able to produce analogs to other modern systems quickly and effectively, adapting existing technology and earlier designs.

Charlie Gao studied political and computer science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues.

Image: Reuters.

See This Old Picture: Meet Russia's Rocket Artillery That Beat Hitler

The National Interest - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:07

Victor Kamenir

History, Europe

A World War II legend that still exists. 

The fighting at Orsha saw the first battlefield use of the Red Army’s experimental battery of BM-13 multiple-launch rocket systems. Later in the war, these fearsome weapons were lovingly nicknamed Katyusha (Little Kate) after a popular wartime song.

The development of these weapons began well before the war, in 1938, with a small trial run of 40 systems built by the time of the German invasion. The prototypes of BM vehicles had mounted launchers at right angles to their long axes; however, this proved very unstable and the launch rails were remounted lengthwise.

First Combat for Stalin’s Organ

The command staff of the first field battery, headed by Captain Ivan A. Flerov, included two civilian advisers to train the crews, A.I. Popov, one of the creators of the launch platform BM-13, and D.A. Shytov, one of the developers of the M-13 round. The first battery consisted of nine launch systems in three firing platoons, a fire direction platoon with one 122mm howitzer for fire correction, an ammunition platoon, a transportation platoon, a POL (petroleum, oil, and lubricants) platoon, and a medical detachment. One volley of this battery delivered 112 132mm M-13 rockets with high explosive or fragmentation rounds. The highly mobile battery numbered 44 trucks, allowing the transport of 600 rounds of ammunition and enough fuel, POL, and food for at least three days of operations.

The first application of the Katyusha’s firepower was directed at Orsha’s railroad station. While not intended for pinpoint accuracy, the new weapon system delivered a devastating amount of fire over a wide-area target, destroying several trains and causing significant German casualties. The success of its first combat deployment kicked the production of BM-13 systems into high gear, and close to 10,000 systems of all types were produced by the end of the war. In addition to the original BM-13 models, there were multiple variations of 81mm BM-8 systems, some of them mounted on jeeps, and heavy BM-31 launchers for 310mm rockets. The special place of the Katyushas in the Soviet arsenal earned them the official title of Guards Mortars. The Germans called them Stalinorgel, meaning Stalin’s Organ.

In the early stages of the war, the Soviets took great pains to safeguard these weapons, with the immediate security of Katyusha batteries provided by detachments of NKVD (secret police) troops. In cases when a launch vehicle became disabled and retrieval was impossible, it was blown up in place to deny the Germans an intelligence coup. Battery commanders were responsible with their lives for the destruction of disabled launch vehicles. Just such a fate befell Captain Ivan Flerov’s battery. Caught in a cauldron at Vyazma in October 1941, with his vehicles immobilized by marshy terrain and out of ammunition, Flerov ordered them blown up. When fewer than a third of the battery’s soldiers made it out of the encirclement alive, Captain Flerov was not one of them.

Further Development of the Katyusha

Katyushas were inexpensive and uncomplicated to produce and easily mounted on many platforms, initially including only trucks but quickly progressing to tanks, tractors, armored trains, and even small naval vessels. Later in the war, many Lend-Lease tanks, which the Soviet specialists did not consider to be up to the task of armored warfare on the Eastern Front, were used as mounting platforms. However, American Studebaker two-and-one-half- ton trucks were highly regarded for their off-road performance, and thousands of them were used as mounting platforms for Katyushas.

The end of World War II did not end the Katyushas’ service. Thousand of them were exported to Soviet client states during the Cold War and were built in several countries under license. American forces faced them during the Korean War and decades later in Iraq.

This article by Victor Kamerin first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: A battery of Katyusha rocket launchers firing at the enemy, German forces, during the Battle of Stalingrad in 6 October 1942, during the Eastern Front which lasted from 1941-1945, part of World War II. 6 October 1942. RIA Novosti.

How the Legendary F-35 Was Born a Winner

The National Interest - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:05

Kris Osborn

Technology, Americas

Unstoppable.

Key point: With better sensors and integration, the F-35 can see further than previous planes. In fact, it can engage from a distance before the enemy even knows it is there.

As 60 enemy fighters closed in on a US Air Force 4th Generation fighter aircraft, blinding the jet with electronic warfare attacks, an experienced pilot faced unseen life threatening attackers closing in -- during an air-combat Red Flag exercise closely replicating actual warfare scenarios.

Yet, in a life-saving flash, the endangered 4th pilot was told to “turn around” by an F-35 operating in the vicinity who radioed an instant warning. The 5th-Gen, multi-role stealth fighter then used its long-range sensors and weapons to “kill” the enemy aircraft, according to an Air Force news report.

This first appeared in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Air Force Col. Joshua Wood, 388th Operations Group Commander was part of the exercise.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before. My wingman was a brand new F-35A pilot, seven or eight flights out of training. He gets on the radio and tells an experienced, 3,000 hour pilot in a fourth-generation aircraft. ‘Hey bud, you need to turn around. You’re about to die, There’s a threat off your nose,’” Wood explained in the service report.

The Red Flag exercise, and annual live combat-like training event, drew from an unprecedented amount of advanced threat scenarios, representing "near peer" threats. Red Flag aggressors, according to the Air Force report, included “advanced integrated air-defense systems, an adversary Air Force, cyber-warfare and information operations.”

Red Flag pilots also flew in GPS-denied environments where communications were jammed or rendered inoperable by enemy EW attacks, according to the Air Force report. Taking place at Nellis AFB in Nevada, they exercise included 3,000 personnel from 39 units, including the US Navy, US Air Force, Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force.

“The F-35 ‘redefines’ how you go to war with a platform. it fuses data at a very core level, providing pilots with information to be lethal in the battlespace,” Edward “Stevie” Smith, F-35 domestic business development director, Lockheed Martin, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Developers explain that the F-35 is, by design, intended to draw upon its stealth configuration to “Suppress Enemy Air Defenses” while monitoring air-to-air and air-to-ground threats.

An engineer familiar with F-35 technology explained it this way - “There is a FLIR (Forward-Looking Infrared) built into the airplane. The DAS (Distributed Aperture System with 360-degree cameras) and the EOTS (Electro-Optical Targeting System to track and attack long range targets) can see things in midwave IR at pretty significant ranges, tracking them from a long way.”

Describing F-35 weapons engagements, Lockheed F-35 pilot Billie Flynn said F-35s could fire Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles without being seen by adversaries - operating at the margins of detectability.

"We could launch and leave," Flynn explained.

At last year’s exercise, the Air Force and Navy explored a range of similar threats, including efforts to refine F-22 dogfighting skills. The F-22 at last year’s exercise, from the 27th Fighter Squadron, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, performed air interdiction, combat search and rescue, close air support, dynamic targeting and defensive counter air operations in mock combat scenarios.

Confronting simulated “Red” force ground and air threats, F-22s attacked targets such as mock airfields, vehicle convoys, tanks, parked aircraft, bunkered defensive positions and missile sites.

Although modern weapons such as long-range air-to-air missiles, and the lack of near-peer warfare in recent years, means dogfighting itself is less likely these days. As the service prepares for future contingencies against technologically advanced adversaries, maintaining a need to dogfight is of great significance. For instance, the emerging Chinese J-10 and Russian 5th Gen PAK-50 clearly underscore the importance of this.

Advanced dogfighting ability can greatly expedite completion of the Air Force’s long-discussed OODA-loop phenomenon, wherein pilots seek to quickly complete a decision-making cycle - Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action – faster than an enemy fighter. The concept, dating back decades to former Air Force pilot and theorist John Boyd, has long informed fighter-pilot training and combat preparation.

If pilots can complete the OODA loop more quickly than an enemy during an air-to-air combat engagement, described as “getting inside an enemy’s decision-making process,” they can destroy an enemy and prevail. Faster processing of information, empowering better pilot decisions, it naturally stands to reason, makes a big difference when it comes to the OODA loop.

Connectivity with air and ground combat assets, drawing upon emerging data-link technology, has been a key part of the exercise as the Air Force strengthens efforts to work with other services on cross-domain fires operations.

The OODA Loop is of equal importance to the F-35 which, while engineered to dogfight as well, is built to draw upon its long-range sensors to complete the process - before ever seen by an enemy.

The Air Force plans to actualize key aspects of this with, for instance, LINK 16 upgrades to the F-22 that enable it to improve data-sharing with the F-35 and 4th-generation aircraft in real-time in combat.

First operational in 2005, the F-22 is a multi-role fighter designed with stealth technology to evade enemy radar detection and speeds able to reach Mach 2 with what is called "super-cruise" capability. Supercruise is the ability to cruise at supersonic airspeeds such as 1.5 Mach without needing afterburner, a capability attributed to the engine thrust and aerodynamic configuration of the F-22.

The F-22 is built with two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners, Air Force statements said. The aircraft has a 44-foot wingspan and a maximum take-off weight of more than 83,000 pounds.

Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has a Masters in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. This first appeared in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

Our Top Weekend Reads

Foreign Policy - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:00
Stories on the European role in Iraq, Islamophobic pogroms in India, and possible Iranian threats to U.S. interests in Latin America.

Mozambique Is a Failed State. The West Isn’t Helping It.

Foreign Policy - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 12:34
Donor countries and international organizations are propping up a corrupt government rather than criticizing it—leaving millions of Mozambicans mired in poverty.

Why Evangelicals Voted for Donald Trump in 2016

The National Interest - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 12:33

Randall J. Stephens

Politics, Americas

Clearly, Baptists, pentecostals, charismatics, and others were willing to overlook Trump’s myriad sins: the misogyny, the implicit and explicit racism, the religious bigotry, his remarks about never having asked God for forgiveness.

Evangelicals, or born-again Christians, account for approximately 25.4% of the US population – and Donald Trump should thank them for their support. Exit polls show that roughly 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump. That percentage is even higher than what George W. Bush received from the faithful in 2000 and 2004.

Clearly, Baptists, pentecostals, charismatics, and others were willing to overlook Trump’s myriad sins: the misogyny, the implicit and explicit racism, the religious bigotry, his remarks about never having asked God for forgiveness. On the whole, they thought, Trump would uphold their values.

He would appoint Supreme Court justices who had strong pro-life credentials. Trump promised to support religious liberty laws, which allow private businesses to deny service to individuals they deem sinful (read: homosexual).

Trump’s running mate Mike Pence fought a hard battle as governor of Indiana to maintain that state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which relaxes anti-discrimination restrictions on businesses. The Pew Research Center reports that “evangelicals also overwhelmingly prefer Trump to Clinton when it comes to handling a wide variety of specific issues, from gun policy to the economy, terrorism, immigration and abortion”.

White evangelicals made their decision as the American political landscape darkened noticeably. Sure, mudslinging, character assassination, and downright nastiness have long been part of the dark art of politics in the US since the days when candidates wore knee breeches and powdered wigs. What’s different now is that the nastiness emanates from the candidate himself. In years gone by, largely anonymous party hacks did the dirtiest work; in 2016, Trump did it himself.

And yet, millions of conservative white Christians turned out for him. Why?

Willful ignorance

Their willingness to forgive Trump his sins was no secret. During the firestorm over the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about his sexual prowess and lewd attitudes towards women, Jerry Falwell, Jr. proclaimed: “We’re all sinners, every one of us. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t.”

To further allay fears of those within the fold, Franklin Graham, son of famous evangelist Billy Graham, assured fellow believers that everyone has sinned, and that God had used many individuals in the Bible who had deep flaws, including King David and Moses. Perhaps they now hope the Trump presidency will turn out to be little short of a true Biblical epic.

Franklin Graham’s bus on tour in Austin, Texas. Robert Cicchetti/Shutterstock.

After the election, Graham’s Facebook page said that the massive Republican victory had divine roots. “Political pundits are stunned,” he wrote triumphantly. “Many thought the Trump/Pence ticket didn’t have a chance. None of them understand the God-factor.”

But there was something else at work besides the “God-factor”, something that doesn’t get covered in the press all that much: Trump is as committed a knowledge-denier as many of the evangelicals are.

Another world

For years, evangelical Christians stood firm on the front lines of the culture war, which they regarded as a fight against the agents of secularism, pluralism, political correctness and science. To paraphrase Michael Gove, Britain’s former justice secretary and staunch Brexit campaigner, evangelicals have long been saying: we have had enough of experts.

With the far-right Breitbart News Network in his corner, Trump grounded his campaign in conspiracy-driven politics and bold-faced lies. Before voting in the primaries even began, the University of Pennsylvania’s FactCheck.org reported that:

In the 12 years of FactCheck.org’s existence, we’ve never seen [Donald Trump’s] match … He stands out not only for the sheer number of his factually false claims but also for his brazen refusals to admit error when proven wrong.

Approximately 64% of white evangelicals reject human evolutionary science; like Pence has done, many of them also promote what’s known as “conversion therapy”, pseudoscientific treatments purported to “cure” people of homosexuality; and they lash out at the “liberal media” and the professorial overlords of left-leaning colleges and universities. Evangelicals believe that Trump will protect them from the onslaughts of secularism at a time when traditional Christianity is losing ground in the US.

In 2015, 37% of evangelicals polled said “there is no solid evidence that the earth is getting warmer”. Another 33% believed that global warming is happening, but that it is not caused by human activities. They probably cheered at the sight of a notorious Trump tweet from 2012, which read: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”

 

Perhaps not wanting to disappoint the devout, Trump has just named arch-climate change denier Myron Ebell to head his Environmental Protection Agency transition team. White evangelicals may also be elated to know that fellow Christian conservative and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, of “drill, baby, drill” fame, is being considered for Secretary of the Interior.

And so here we are, at the end of what the New York Times recently called an “exhausting parade of ugliness”. That’s an apt description – but this particular parade has now been extended by at least four years. We can expect Trump to stay vulgar, cavalier and ill-informed once he’s sworn in as president in January 2017. He will keep up his brazen denials of truth, keep pandering to the bitter angels of the white mob’s nature, and keep piling on the invective.

Evangelicals, like many others who voted Republican on Tuesday, see in Trump a powerful, non-establishment figure, who will shake up Washington and champion their values. In a matter of months, the scales may fall from their eyes.

Randall J. Stephens, Reader in History and American Studies, Northumbria University, Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

Why Trump and the Republican Party Should Fear AOC

The National Interest - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 12:16

Peggy Nash

Politics,

AOC is shaking up politics.

The youngest woman ever elected to the United States Congress, Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is a force to contend with. With clear and forthright language, she speaks the truth of people’s reality – and one that is rooted in her own lived experience.

With a megawatt smile and a wink to her demographic, she also has verve and style. Two days after she debated 10-term incumbent congressman Joe Crowley last June during the primaries, she tweeted her lipstick shade, which promptly sold out on the Stila and Sephora web sites.

Social media powerhouse

AOC, as she is popularly known, has more than three million followers on her Instagram account and four million follow her @AOC Twitter account, a 600 per cent increase from last June and more than 2.6 million gained in the past eight months. How does she do it?

Unlike other politicians, she speaks the language of now, especially to her generation. She is down-to-earth and personable. In some of her video postings, she shares her life both in Congress and at home, as if you are getting caught up with a friend.

As a former member of Parliament in Canada, I can tell you, it would be a mistake to brush AOC off a just the flavour of the month. She is no lightweight. AOC’s social media presence is based on trust and authenticity. Her messages are about taking action. And they are a perfect foil to what U.S. President Donald Trump represents.

The fury of the U.S. public

On Nov. 8, 2016, the U.S. elected a president who bragged about sexual assault and racism. In addition, right-wing parties were on the rise in Europe and inequality in the U.S. had intensified. People were angry.

The Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration has been called the largest one-day demonstration in U.S. history. There followed Trump’s attacks on immigrants and refugees  and the spectacle of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford. The proceedings echoed the Clarence Thomas hearings, which discounted the testimony and courage of law professor Anita Hill. The committee even had some of the same members as a generation earlier.

The fury of the American public led to the greatest number of diverse candidates to ever run in the U.S. midterm elections last fall. Many of those candidates lost. But several of them won.

Indigenous, queer, Muslim, Black and women candidates are now represented in greater numbers than ever before. And many of those who lost had a strong showing. This means they have teams in place, voters identified, name recognition and often money in the bank. They just have not won yet.

AOC’s appeal drives Republicans crazy

Enter Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She campaigned in a safe Democrat seat but argued that milquetoast Democrats were enabling the growing divide between the one per cent and the 99 per cent. Her campaign video blew up the internet and thrust her into the lives of New Yorkers like a force of nature. That she could beat a congressman as powerful as Crowley shows that she tapped into the reality of her fellow New Yorkers.

Most importantly, Ocasio-Cortez began shaking up the Washington establishment with her bold proposal to reshape America with her Green New Deal, in the spirit of President Roosevelt’s New Deal to get the U.S. out of the Great Depression. Her stimulus plan aims to phase in renewable energy sources and rebalance the social and economic pie in the United States with a proposed tax hike on the richest Americans.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez@AOC

 · May 11, 2019

Replying to @AOC

US GDP is at an all-time high. As a nation, we are more prosperous than we ever have been.

But that’s simply not the lived truth. Even now, I’m paid similar to a doctor or corporate lawyer - many who‘d think they are “rich,” but it’s nowhere near what we actually mean in policy.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez@AOC

When we say “tax the rich,” we mean nesting-doll yacht rich. For-profit prison rich. Betsy DeVos, student-loan-shark rich.

Trick-the-country-into-war rich. Subsidizing-workforce-w-food-stamps rich.

Because THAT kind of rich is simply not good for society, & it’s like 10 people.

123K

12:54 PM - May 11, 2019

Twitter Ads info and privacy

38.7K people are talking about this

She is also advocating for free tuition, universal single-payer health care, a job guarantee with decent wages and benefits and transitioning the U.S. economy to 100 per cent renewable energy sources. Her vision is far to the left of the cautious and ultimately uninspiring Hillary Clinton, but current Democratic presidential hopefuls are falling over themselves to endorse her plan.

Both her audacious goals and her bold style drive her Republican opponents crazy. They believe that her socialist politics will lose the Democrats the votes of more moderate Americans so they have fixed a negative spotlight on her.

Alternatively, AOC might just be tapping into the anxiety of Americans across party lines as they struggle to make ends meet while harbouring anxieties about climate change.

Women’s rising power in politics

One thing is clear, Ocasio-Cortez is making an imprint on a generation of Americans, especially young women, with a message to get informed, get organized and get involved. Young women in the U.S. are becoming more politically engaged, from the Parkland students to the #MeToo movement.

Here in Canada, we can see a similar pattern in the number and diversity of candidates running for election and applying to programs like Women in HouseDaughters of the Vote and the Institute for Future Legislators at Ryerson University and UBC.

To old-style politicians, AOC supporters say “step up or step aside.” She may not be a vampire slayer or have an army or a quiver of arrows. Nevertheless, she’s as fierce a fighter inspiring young Americans to seek change as any cultural superhero, a combination of Buffy, Okoye and Katniss.

In addition to her bold platform, her real superpower seems to be her fearless confrontation, her spirited style and her ability to inspire others to action.

The test will be if it continues to spread beyond the Bronx.

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id="_x0000_i1025" type="#_x0000_t75" style='width:11.4pt;height:11.4pt'>

, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Community Services, Ryerson University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters.

 

Christopher HILL, The Future of British Foreign Policy. Security and Diplomacy in a World After Brexit


 Christopher HILL, The Future of British Foreign Policy. Security and Diplomacy in a World After Brexit, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2019Spécialiste de politique étrangère aux nombreux ouvrages de référence (Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century, 2015), et co-éditeur (avec Christian Lequesne) de la European Review of International Studis (ERIS), Christopher Hill nous offre une synthèse éclairée de ce que pourrait être, désormais, la diplomatie britannique, ses priorités, ses marges de manœuvre, après la sortie du Royaume-Uni de l'Union européenne.
Après un récapitulatif analytique de ce que fut la relation des britanniques à l'Europe, l’ouvrage passe en revue la portée possible de l’action extérieure de la Grande-Bretagne, ses cartes possibles, insiste particulièrement sur les deux relations bilatérales privilégiées avec la France et les Etats-Unis. Dans la lignée d’autres travaux (M. Kenny et N. Pearce, Shadows of Empire, 2018 ; D. Owen et D. Ludlow, British foreign policy After Brexit, 2018), mais à sa manière et avec l’expérience qui est la sienne, Christopher Hill porte un regard sceptique sur le « Global Britain » promis par les partisans du Leave, aujourd’hui au pouvoir à Londres.
Quatre cartes, selon lui, s’offrent à présent à la stratégie de Whitehall, toutes difficiles à exploiter : 1- un renouveau de l’activisme britannique aux Nations Unies, 2- explorer davantage le réseau du Commonwealth, 3- se focaliser sur la solidarité de l’ « anglosphère », 4- se concentrer sur la relance de partenariat bilatéraux privilégiés.
Mais les Nations Unies ont montré à plusieurs reprises que Londres n’y ferait plus la pluie et le beau temps, en dépit de son droit de véto. Un échec du Royaume-Uni à se faire élire à la Cour International de Justice en novembre 2017, un soutien de l’Assemblée générale à une motion de l’île Maurice contre le Royaume-Uni sur les îles Chagos la même année, en sont autant de signes. Par ailleurs, la position de Londres en tant que membre permanent, comme celle de Paris, est critiquée, et le couple franco-britannique devra rester soudé pour maintenir son statut, ce qu’il a certes les moyens de faire. Le Commonwealth est un club réel, mais dont les membres sont devenus très hétéroclites, dont on imagine mal qu’ils se plient à la volonté d’une ancienne puissance coloniale qui a vu son influence se réduire en Asie comme en Afrique de l’Est. En outre la sortie de l’UE affaiblira Londres dans ses négociations avec les pays ACP (Afrique Caraïbes Pacifique), qui ont tissé des liens étroits avec l’Europe, notamment depuis les conventions de Lomé/Cotonou. L’anglosphère (principalement Etats-Unis, Royaume-Uni, Canada, Australie, Nouvelle Zélande) fournit des coopérations précieuses (les Five Eyes pour le renseignement, ou le Five Power Defence Agreement de 1971 avec la Malaisie, Singapour, l’Australie et la Nouvelle Zélande), mais que Christopher Hill ne voit pas se transformer en structure plus globale ni plus permanente. Enfin, les partenariats bilatéraux offrent l’embarras du choix, sans pour autant constituer une panacée, à l’heure où les BRICS dérivent vers le nationalisme autoritaire.
On aurait aimé davantage de développements sur cette solitude britannique à l’heure de Donald Trump, qui pose un véritable problème à tous ses alliés. Mais l’auteur cherche à s’extraire du conjoncturel, pour proposer une analyse durable, comme il l’explique de façon convaincante dès l’introduction.
L’exercice est réussi. On comprend, à la lecture de ce travail, ce que fut la complexité de la relation euro-britannique, ce que sera la difficulté du Royaume-Uni à l’avenir, et à quel point il restera indispensable, pour les européens du continent, à commencer par la France, d’imaginer les cadres permettant de maintenir des liens étroits avec ce partenaire indispensable que reste la Grande-Bretagne.

Israel's 'Shield' for U.S. Army Tanks Isn't Working So Well

The National Interest - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 12:07

Charlie Gao

Security,

How come? And can it be fixed?

Active protection systems (APS) are rapidly becoming a must-have feature for heavy armored vehicles on the modern battlefield. Experiences from Syria and Ukraine have shown that anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) are lethal threats for even prepared crews. Hard-kill APS are one of the strongest counters to these ATGMs, they are designed to detect and neutralize them with a spray of projectiles.

The U.S. Army has long planned to fit APS onto their Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) and Main Battle Tanks (MBTs). However, these projects have been slow going due to expenditure on Iraqi and Afghan operations until the recent push to rearm for conventional wars and the entry of U.S. troops into Syria. APS are also rarely “drop in'' upgrades, requiring positioning of bulky sensors and interception modules with (ideally) 360 degree coverage of the vehicle. This can result in APS systems interfering or blocking the line of sight or fields of fire of auxiliary weapons or sights on the top of a vehicle.

However, the Army’s plan to integrate the Israeli Iron Fist onto the Bradley has proven difficult, and faces major delays in 2020. Many technical programs were revealed during the program being “fast-tracked” in 2019, and the lack of technical maturity has led to the Army delaying the program.

Joseph Trevithick covers one issue with Iron Fist on the Bradley in detail in an article for The Drive, the current versions of the Bradley don’t have enough power to run the Iron Fist’s suite of sensors and interceptors, requiring an add-on auxiliary power unit (APU) to function. This is a rather critical limitation, APUs add complexity, repair difficulty, and fuel consumption. Also, they are typically mounted on the outside of a vehicle, though the details about the add-on APUs on the Bradley are scarce. This can possibly result in hits to the APU knocking out the APS capability of the vehicle, or power to other critical systems in the Bradley.

Iron Fist, as installed on the Bradley, was also found to have issues with internal power management. The Army’s program manager, in an interview with Defense News, emphasized that this was not related to the Bradley’s general inability to power Iron Fist, power failures occurred on a test vehicle which was modified to provide sufficient levels of power to allow Iron Fist to function effectively. Iron Fist was also found to have problems with missing or “dudding”, when the hard-kill interceptors failed to fire or hit their target.

These issues lead the Army to cut funding for the project, preventing simultaneous production and testing in FY2021. But it’s important to note that Iron Fist is only an “interim” APS, with the Army developing more advanced systems which will likely be better integrated for its next-generation IFVs.

The issues with Iron Fist on the Bradley are illustrative of how retrofitting modern technology to older chassis can prove to be far more complicated than it would appear. APS’ need to be fully integrated into the design of a vehicle to function optimally.

Charlie Gao studied political and computer science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues.

Image: Reuters.

Greenland Is Rapidly Losing Ice - 3.8 Trillion Tonnes Since 1992 to Be Exact

The National Interest - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 11:45

Inès Otosaka, Andrew Shepherd

Environment, World

A disaster in the making. 

Greenland has lost 3.8 trillion tonnes of ice since 1992, according to our latest research. It can be hard to imagine a number that big: 3.8 trillion tonnes is 3,800 billion tonnes or even 3.8 million billion kilograms. If you put all that ice into a single cube it would be 16 kilometres along each side and twice the height of Mount Everest.

But what’s really important here is the impact this has globally. All that ice making its way into the ocean has already caused the sea level to rise by more than a centimetre, and future sea level rise will mean lots more coastal flooding.

For example, a rise of 60cm by the year 2100, as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), would put 200 million people at risk of permanent inundation and 360 million people at risk of annual flooding. And 60cm is only the IPCC’s “central estimate” – in that period the sea could rise by as little as 28cm or as much as 98cm.

By far the largest uncertainty in sea-level projections concerns the ice stored in Antarctica and Greenland, both of which have complex interactions with the climate system and are difficult to model. Greenland alone holds enough frozen water to raise the sea by 7.4 metres were it to melt. Therefore, finding out how much ice it has lost so far is hugely important for us scientists who are trying to determine how much it will contribute to sea level rise in future.

The rate of ice loss is increasing

This is why we used satellites to measure Greenland’s ice loss between 1992 and 2018. Our assessment, now published in the journal Nature, is produced by an international team of scientists who combined the results of 26 different surveys as part of a programme known as the ice sheet mass balance inter-comparison exercise (IMBIE). In all, measurements from 11 different satellite missions launched by the European Space Agency and NASA were used to track changes in the ice sheet’s volume, speed and gravity.

We found that the Greenland ice sheet lost around 3,800 billion tons of ice in that 26-year period. This is enough water to cause the sea level to rise by around 10.6mm.

Although Greenland has been losing ice since the early 1990s, the rate has increased dramatically over time and peaked at 335 billion tons per year in 2011 towards the end of a period of intense surface melting. In fact, almost half of the ice loss occurred between 2006 and 2012 and, although cooler atmospheric conditions – associated with a shift of the North Atlantic Oscillation – followed, the rate of ice loss has remained high since then.

Snowfall can’t keep up with melting

How does an ice sheet actually “lose ice”? In Antarctica, almost all the losses come from glaciers being warmed to the point where they slide slightly faster into the ocean and “calve” into icebergs. This happens in Greenland too. But Greenland also has much warmer summers than Antarctica, and this means around half of its ice is also lost through summer melting exceeding winter snowfall.

Periods of extreme melting have become more frequent in Greenland, with record air temperatures being repeatedly broken. In summer 2019, unusually warm air caused widespread melting across the entire ice sheet. Satellites revealed new ponds of surface meltwater and bridges collapsed after the intense runoff swelled proglacial rivers. If glacier speeds remain high, 2019 could be a record year for total ice loss from Greenland.

Sea level rise from Greenland according to this new study (black line) is matching the IPCC’s upper estimate (red). Shepherd et al / Nature, Author provided

In its fifth assessment report, the IPCC included a range of projections for Greenland ice sheet losses. Our study shows that the ice sheet has been tracking the upper range of these projections – the worst case scenarios – which predicts an additional 10cm of global sea level rise by 2100 over and above the central estimate. This would place a further 60 million people at risk of annual coastal flooding and suggests that a reassessment of the impacts of climate warming is urgently needed.

Click here to subscribe to our climate action newsletter. Climate change is inevitable. Our response to it isn’t.

Inès Otosaka, PhD Researcher, Climate Science, University of Leeds and Andrew Shepherd, Professor of Earth Observation, University of Leeds

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

Coronavirus vs. the Flu: Which Is Worse?

The National Interest - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 11:30

Sebastien Roblin

Health,

What should you fear the most?

Every morning of late I wake up and hear a series of grim new statistics on the radio—the number of persons infected with COVID-19 (short for “coronavirus disease 2019”) and the number of deaths attributed to it.

The disease’s progression around the globe and its potential to continuously spread inspires a palpable psychic toll of dread and despair.               

Yet homo sapiens have a difficult time evaluating the relative severity of threats to our lives. We are captivated by rare but novel diseases and shocking incidents such as terrorist attacks and airliner crashes while filtering out mundane dangers, even when they represent a threat several orders of magnitude greater. 

Statistically, a swimming pool is over a hundred times more likely to kill you than an extremist with an online manifesto. And for years now, we have endured seasonal flu epidemics averaging higher annual death tolls than U.S. casualties in the entire Korean War.   

By March 6, 2020, COVID-19 has infected over 100,000 persons and claimed the lives of 3,404 persons across the globe. But between October 1 and February 29, the Center of Disease Control estimates a minimum of 19,000 people, and as many as 52,000, died of the seasonal flu in the United States alone.

Certainly, it’s sensible to be concerned about COVID-19 for reasons explained below.  Aggressive, proactive measures to contain its spread are justified despite their disruptive economic effects.

But understanding how we already cope with existing diseases can put our risks in perspective.

Routine but ever-evolving influenza strains kill between 290,000 and 650,000 persons annually across the globe. On average, each infection causes 1.3 other infections—a measure of disease contagiousness called R0. 

In the United States, only 1 percent of those infected with influenza require hospitalization, and the disease proves fatal in .01 percent of cases, or one in every ten thousand persons infected.

While annual flu deaths in the United States tend to hover around 40,000 annually, factors both internal and external to the flu strains, such as weather or the effectiveness of flu vaccines, lead to significant variation in the number of deaths each year.  In 2017/2018, deaths surged to an estimated 61,000, for example, whereas only an estimated 23,000 died from 2015/2016 flu.

So how does COVID-19 compare?

Typical symptoms of COVID-19 include sneezing, coughing, fever, a runny nose and a sore throat. However roughly one out of every five infections escalates into more severe conditions with symptoms including pneumonia, breathlessness and even organ failure.

On the whole, each COVID-19 infection is significantly more likely to be fatal than a flu infection. Some studies place the mortality rate for infected persons between 1 and 2.8 percent. A March 3 briefing by the World Health Organization (WHO) claimed mortality rate as high as 3.4 percent but that figure may be inflated due to the authorities being more aware of only the most serious cases. Countries with broader testing COVID-19 testing regimes tend to report lower fatality rates.

Even a mortality rate of 1 percent, however, implies each coronavirus infection is a hundred times more likely to prove fatal than the seasonal flu. Deaths from the virus are also dramatically more common in those over the age of sixty.

Another worrying factor about COVID19 is its comparatively high transmission rate, with an estimated R0 of 2 or 3.

However, not all authorities appear to agree with that figure. The March 3 briefing by the WHO claims COVID-19  “does not transmit as efficiently as influenza, from the data we have so far. With influenza, people who are infected but not yet sick are major drivers of transmission, which does not appear to be the case for COVID-19.”

This may be because coronavirus is believed to primarily spread though airborne droplets—in other words, an infected person coughing or sneezing fluids which physically contact another person. Surfaces touched by infected fluids may also be contagious, though the virus’s longevity in such circumstances is unknown. Disposable face masks are worn by infected persons, or those living/working near them, can significantly mitigate (though not eliminate) risk of transmission. Healthcare workers tending COVID-19 patients are advised to use more sophisticated N95 masks.

All in all, coronavirus is apparently individually deadlier than the flu—but it hasn’t infected nearly as many people so far. However, the seasonal flu is a relatively known quantity that routinely peters out by the middle of the year, whereas the extent and duration of COVID19’s propagation remain hard to predict. Furthermore, vaccines are not yet available for coronavirus, though they are under development.

COVID-19 may have the potential to cause more deaths than seasonal flu but it has yet to do so. This explains the importance of efforts to curb and contain the disease’s spread before it can have that wider impact. 

As for measures one can take on an individual level to minimize risk of exposure and transmission, the CDC’s recommended preventative measures include repeated washing of hands during the day for at least twenty seconds; avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; avoiding close contact with sick individuals; and staying home from work when sick.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

Image: Reuters

Expert Explains Lyme Disease - the Same Disease Justin Bieber's Been Battling

The National Interest - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 11:22

Hany Elsheikha

Public Health, World

Lyme disease can have a considerable impact on many aspects of the lives of the patient and their families.

Justin Bieber recently announced that for the last couple of years he’s been battling Lyme disease. Lyme disease, which is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, can be transmitted to humans if they’re bitten by an infected tick. In fact, it’s one of the most common tick-borne diseases in the west. An estimated 300,000 people in the US are diagnosed with it every year. The disease causes a range of debilitating symptoms, which can include severe headaches, neck stiffness, arthritis, joint pain and rashes. These symptoms can last for months or even years.

After being bitten, most people develop a red, circular rash, which may slowly expand beyond the bite site. Only around 20-30% of people will develop the characteristic bullseye rash. Without prompt treatment, the bacteria will spread from the bite site to tissues and organs, leading to additional skin lesions and a range of debilitating and persisting symptoms, such as pain, fatigue, memory problems and arthritis.

Perhaps alarmingly, instances of Lyme disease have actually become more common. In England and Wales the number of cases has increased from 1,134 in 2016 to 1,579 cases in 2017. The increase might be explained by a number of factors, including global warming (ticks survive better in warm weather) and increasing wildlife populations. Better diagnostic tools and increased awareness might also explain the surge in Lyme disease diagnoses.

Lyme disease can have a considerable impact on many aspects of the lives of the patient and their families. In severe cases, patients can be bedridden or wheelchair-bound for years without knowing if they will recover. Affected people may also experience anxiety, depression or distress, which can reduce their quality of life and deeply affect their mental wellbeing – potentially even resulting in thoughts about suicide.

In most cases, a person will be diagnosed with Lyme disease based on whether they have the illness’s characteristic skin lesions – especially if they live in an area where ticks carry Lyme disease. Although blood tests can also be used, these tests might only be 30-40% effective at detecting the disease in its early stages. But if the disease has already spread throughout a person’s body, these results can be 100% accurate.

Difficult diagnosis

Giving a clear diagnosis of Lyme disease can be difficult, however. This is because many patients have a range of non-specific clinical symptoms, such as fatigue, malaise, headache, fever, sweats, joint aches and brain fog. Disease test results might also be similarly difficult to interpret, especially in patients that do not have the hallmark skin rash of Lyme disease and lack a recent history of exposure to tick bites. This makes dealing with the lingering infection difficult, especially where tests give inconclusive results.

In fact, people suffering from Lyme disease can also suffer from other tick-borne illnesses, such as babesiosis, which can be transmitted with Borrelia burgdorferi during the tick bite. This makes treatment even more complicated. As well, there is still some controversy about the right length of effective antibiotic therapy to treat patients with persistent, chronic Lyme disease. As a result, patients can, and usually do, feel helpless amid conflicting medical advice in fighting the disease.

Lyme disease is primarily treated with antibiotics. Early skin lesions and symptoms can be treated with the oral antibiotic doxycycline, usually for anywhere between ten to 21 days. Patients with neurological symptoms (including meningitis and encephalitis), heart inflammation or arthritis, are usually treated with a two-week course of intravenous ceftriaxone therapy. In most cases, timely diagnosis and prompt antibiotic treatment can improve symptoms.

But a misdiagnosis or late diagnosis can result in long-term illness, excessive use of antibiotic therapy, and expensive healthcare costs. Ignorance of the complex nature of this illness, especially the associated mental health issues, will further delay recovery. Dealing with these psychosocial problems – regardless of whether they were triggered by Lyme bacteria or not – can complement treatment and promote a quicker recovery.

Continued research and awareness about Lyme disease will be important for improving treatment and diagnosis. Developing more reliable diagnostic tests, identifying which patients are most likely to benefit from which antibiotic treatments, and taking measures to control tick populations will all be important for reducing instances of this disease in the future.

People can cut down on their risk of contracting Lyme disease by covering their skin in tall, grassy, wooded areas where disease-carrying ticks thrive. If you think you’ve been bitten by a tick, contact a doctor or health professional.

Hany Elsheikha, Associate Professor of Parasitology, University of Nottingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

What Does Super Tuesday Mean for U.S. Foreign Policy?

Foreign Policy - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 11:13
Either Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders will face Donald Trump in November. Here's how their views of U.S. power could reshape the world.

Bernard BAJOLET - Le soleil ne se lève plus à l’est

Le soleil ne se lève plus à l’estPublié le 24/07/2019 par Politique EtrangèreCette recension a été publiée dans le numéro d’été de Politique étrangère (n° 2/2019). Frédéric Charillon propose une analyse de l’ouvrage de l’ancien ambassadeur Bernard Bajolet, Le soleil ne se lève plus à l’est. Mémoires d’Orient d’un ambassadeur peu diplomate (Plon, 2018, 464 pages).Ambassadeur en Jordanie (1994-1998), en Bosnie-Herzégovine (1999-2003), en Irak (2004-2006), en Algérie (2006-2008), en Afghanistan (2011-2013), coordonnateur national du renseignement, directeur de la DGSE… : sans avoir occupé les postes dits « consacrés » (Washington, New York, Moscou, Bruxelles…), mais parce qu’il a assumé les plus délicats dans des périodes pour le moins difficiles, Bernard Bajolet compte parmi les grands de la Carrière.Ses mémoires portent la marque d’une passion pour le monde musulman, et l’ouvrage s’ouvre d’ailleurs, d’une façon qui peut surprendre, par un long exposé pédagogique, teinté de souvenirs, de rencontres et de conversations, sur les nuances de l’islam, ses branches, et sur les chrétiens d’Orient. L’auteur s’y confie avec pudeur, mais suffisamment pour brosser son portrait : celui d’un Lorrain fidèle à des convictions, au franc-parler rugueux, quitte à traverser, pour prix de son insolence, quelques déserts. Il en traversera au sens figuré du fait de son caractère entier, puis au sens propre : la France pouvait-elle se passer d’une telle expertise dans l’Orient compliqué ?Les pays traversés font l’objet d’une remise en perspective historique et politique plus qu’utile. Les leaders rencontrés (la famille Al-Assad et son entourage, Ytzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat, le roi Hussein de Jordanie et la reine Nour…) y ont leurs portraits fins. Beaucoup d’hommages, quelques coups de griffe, dans cette fresque claire qui s’étire des années 1970 à la fin des années 2010, et dont, étrangement, le débat public français (ce qui en dit long) a surtout retenu les pages consacrées à l’Algérie et les critiques prémonitoires (juste avant les manifestations algériennes du printemps 2019) à l’encontre du régime FLN. Pourtant, de la Syrie à la Bosnie, des pourparlers israélo-palestiniens jusqu’au drame irakien ou aux affaires d’otages, c’est un cours d’une rare densité que nous offre ce livre. Un cours sur des pays et des sociétés, sur des cultures, sur les relations internationales aussi. Les erreurs de jugement y sont montrées, comme le choix américain de débaasifier l’Irak sans compensations pour une communauté sunnite soumise au nouvel ordre chiite.L’épilogue prodigue quelques conseils prospectifs, brefs mais pertinents. L’écriture est fluide, à la fois précise comme peut l’être un télégramme diplomatique, et empreinte de sensations, de sensibilité, de détails, par amour pour cet Orient qui n’est plus. Cet Orient qui vit naître l’espoir d’un processus de paix aujourd’hui défunt, né pourtant après 1993, à l’époque où Bernard Bajolet allait bientôt prendre ses fonctions comme ambassadeur de France en Jordanie. C’était l’époque où les membres de l’ambassade (et leurs coopérants), sise Mutanabbe Street, se rafraîchissaient à l’ombre des arbres de l’hôtel Hisham tout proche.Les voyeurs, toutefois, seront déçus : nulle révélation indécente pour cet ancien patron des services, qui n’est pas du genre à finir sur des « Un espion parle ». Peu d’évocation de ces fonctions-là, par sens du devoir sans doute. Plutôt un attachement à des êtres, à des moments. Une analyse, un récit (y compris sur le danger qui l’a menacé plusieurs fois), un regard qui se veut à la fois clinique et humain, comme une invite à découvrir le monde, à partir, encore et toujours. Après un tel parcours, ses mémoires étaient attendus, et son expertise reste indispensable.Frédéric Charillon

Why the New Dune Movie Could Be a Disaster

The National Interest - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 11:01

James Jay Carafano

Culture,

Dune is destined to be another crashing bore, because the actual characters in the story are not very relatable or likable.

True story. Years ago, even before dudes wanted a Dell, a gaggle of Army generals gathered to ponder how to integrate computers into military operations. One prefaced his prognosticating by admitting to being a “Trekkie,” having grown up watching the 1960s TV-series. He went on to talk about the future of warfare as though they would all be Captain Kirks firing photon torpedoes from the command deck.

Science fiction and the future have a messy relationship. Much science fiction either meditates on the present or mines the past. The technology may be mundane (taken from the pages of Popular Mechanics) or magical (casting aside the laws of physics).

Since it’s often not really about the future, using science fiction to plan the land of tomorrow is life imitating bad art. Yet, good science fiction, like all good fiction, can tell us much. We should not ignore the entire genre.

Which brings us to the new film version of Frank Herbert’s classic 1965 sci-fi novel Dune, slated to come out later this year.

This sprawling story first hit the silver screen in 1984. It was a mind-numbingly bad adaptation. Then came two so-so TV mini-series: Dune (2000) and Children of Dune (2003). The latter was largely inaccessible to those who had not already read the books.

Will Hollywood’s latest try be a hit or a flop? Time will tell if it’s the next Star Wars (1977) or just another Jupiter Ascending (2015).

The makers of this Dune start with a serious advantage. The original book sparked decades of writing by the author, his son and a co-author. At last count there are about 18 books on the Dune universe spanning from when humans started to exploit space travel to their scattering to the ends of the universe. The original Dune book sandwiches somewhere in the middle of the story. Thus, the screenwriters start with the advantage of understanding the whole saga, being able to reflect and foreshadow on everything that ever happens. This would have been like George Lucas starting Star Wars knowing who Luke’s father was.

The history of Dune is particularly important. The past turns out to be a vital driving force in Herbert’s version of science fiction. Technology is a bit player. There are no robots, no computers, and a lot of sword play. That is because of a much earlier event called the Butlerian Jihad, when humans destroyed all the “thinking machines.” No Terminators (1984) here.

The lack of advanced weaponry significantly impacts the nature of governance and war in the Dune universe. Great houses compete for power using weapons of intrigue like spying, disinformation, diplomacy, double-dealing, assassination, and troops that look suspiciously like special forces.

Contemporary audiences may relate more to Dune than Cold War audiences identified with the original novel. The interstellar politics of Dune feel a lot like the geopolitics of our age of “great power competition.”

The environment is also a key component of the Dune mythology. That, too, should resonate given our own debates over climate change.

And, like the world of Dune, everyone is fighting over the great substance that controls the universe. In Dune it’s called the “spice melange”—a drug necessary for space travel that is a billion times more powerful than opioids on steroids. In our world, it’s data. The power that can collect, analyze, manipulate, and exploit the most data is on its way to becoming the master of our universe.

Here is the big disconnect between us and Dune. Our future is inextricably intertwined with technology. Unless the screenwriters can figure out how to bridge that divide, Dune will be no more relatable than the dragons in the Game of Thrones.

In the real world, how we handle technology could dramatically impact the course of great power competition. If those challenges are woven into the film, it might well provoke some serious thinking about our future—making the movie truly great science fiction.

Otherwise, we’ll have to hope it has terrific special effects and a music score equal to what John Williams produced for Star Wars. Lacking that, Dune is destined to be another crashing bore, because the actual characters in the story are not very relatable or likable.

A Heritage Foundation vice president, James Jay Carafano directs the think tank’s research into matters of national security and foreign relations.

Image: Creative Commons.

Forget Trump: Why Coronavirus Could Be the Chinese Military's Greatest Foe

The National Interest - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 10:30

Charlie Gao

Security,

As it could impact arms production.

The disruption that COVID-2019 coronavirus has inflicted on China’s industry is well documented. Wuhan, a major industrial center, is still in lockdown as of early March 2020. Many factories have gone to a standstill, with major effects on the supply of goods around the world. However, less talked about is the effect the coronavirus has had on the Chinese military industry. While this is understandable, given how China has restricted information about the coronavirus’s effects and the general opacity of the Chinese military industry, some information has come out.

Evidently the effect on the military industry is waning, as announcements of resumption of production of certain items have come out. On February 21, Shenyang Aircraft Corporation announced that it was resuming production of J-15 fighters after a short pause due to coronavirus fears. This follows announcements earlier that other aviation industry firms had resumed full production. Measures against further coronavirus infections were also included in speeches in which productions were resumed, including regular temperature checks among the workforce. In other sectors, such as shipbuilding, major efforts have taken place to resume full pace production, including the use of reserve manpower to replace those who are sick.

However, there remains the issue of Wuhan, which is still on lockdown. Wuhan houses many firms related to the Chinese defense industry, being part of China’s “Optics Valley” dedicated to electro-optical equipment. Despite not being on the coast, Wuhan also hosts many naval engineering firms and institutes. Statements by Chinese analysts suggest that work is being minimally affected, as none of the staff at military-related institutions at Wuhan are said to be infected. But there is the admission that there could be an impact on productivity as well as security risks as the number of workers working from home with sensitive information increases.

The implications of the minimal impact, if true, are interesting. It suggests that China’s military industry’s supply chain is relatively insulated from that used to supply the factories that produce goods for export. Articles discussing the start of Wuhan’s civilian industry are not optimistic, saying materials may run out as other sectors of the Chinese economy remain disrupted. Chinese authorities appear to be aware of this, and have initiated pushes to restart production from the bottom up in military industries. A quote provided to the South China Morning Post reinforces this: “Other state-owned enterprises like steel plants have also resumed production, and it’s impossible for the aircraft and naval industry to slow up production once the heat treating furnaces are turned on,”

Whether the return to norms in the military industry will boost the rest of China’s economy has yet to be seen. But their relative insulation from the original shocks of coronavirus suggest that while they may be quicker to recover, their recovery will be isolated.

Charlie Gao studied political and computer science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues.

Image: Reddit.

The Civil War's Little-Known Turning Point: The Battle of Shiloh

The National Interest - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 10:22

Roy Morris Jr.

History, Americas

And it led to the rise of Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant...

No one expected this—not the fiercest “fire-eater” in South Carolina or the flintiest abolitionist in New England. By the time the guns fell silent at Shiloh on the night of April 7, 1862, soldiers on both sides of the battlefield realized that they had endured something never before seen in American history. Nearly 24,000 men had fallen dead or wounded among the peach orchards and tangled woods in southwestern Tennessee, more than the total loss from all three of America’s previous wars combined. Small wonder that New Orleans writer George Washington Cable, himself a former Confederate, would later write: “The South never smiled again at Shiloh.” 

Neither, for that matter, did the North—at least not for another three long years. Shiloh was the first truly disorienting battle in the national experience, a battle in which large numbers of poorly led troops stumbled into one another, blazed away, fell back, came together again, and stopped butchering each other only after darkness, rain, and exhaustion put an end to the fighting. There would be other battles like Shiloh in 1862, many of them commemorated in this special issue of Civil War Quarterly.

Where America’s Childhood Ended

But there would never be another Shiloh, for that was where America’s childhood ended. After Shiloh, all cocky talk of bloodless victories and cowardly foes gave way to the sickening realization that a war started almost cavalierly one year earlier would not be ending easily—or any time soon. It was no coincidence that the two generals destined to lead the main armies of the opposing regions rose to prominence in 1862. For the North, it was an unprepossessing, rumpled officer from the Midwest, Ulysses S. Grant, a man who had failed at almost everything he touched since graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point two decades earlier. Grant began his improbable march to high command with his stunning victory at Fort Donelson in February 1862 and his hairbreadth survival at Shiloh six weeks later. For the South, the rising star was Robert E. Lee, also a graduate of West Point, but a man from a very different background than Grant. The patrician son of old-line Virginia royalty, Lee would lead the Army of Northern Virginia through some of its bitterest battles in 1862: Second Manassas, the Battle of Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Two of those would be overwhelming Confederate victories, but the third—Antietam—would be a crushing defeat (and the bloodiest single day in American history). Grant and Lee would begin their long march toward each other in 1862, although it would be another two years before they met for the first time on the battlefield.

A Watershed Year for Both Sides

In the meantime, there were other battles to be fought in 1862, including the significant Union victory in the western theater of the war at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, in March. Sandwiched between them were other Union victories, these on the water, when Admiral David Farragut successfully seized the South’s largest city, New Orleans, and a Federal ironclad, Monitor, fought off the Confederate behemoth Virginia at Hampton Roads, Virginia, ushering in a new era in naval warfare. For both sides, 1862 would be a watershed year, a time in which the amateur armies raised so hastily the previous spring would learn how to fight, and kill, each other with increasing efficiency. From the men in the ranks to the officers on horseback, the war would progress with a grim inevitability. The only certainty was that there would be even worse days to come. Shiloh had seen to that.

This article by Roy Morris Jr. first appeared at the Warfare History Network in February 2019.

Image: "Plenty of Fighting Today": The 9th Illinois at Shiloh by Keith Rocco. The National Guard.

Why the Senate Might Censure Chuck Schumer Over His Supreme Court Comments

The National Interest - Sat, 07/03/2020 - 10:01

Fred Lucas

Politics, Americas

A big deal?

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer may become only the ninth senator in the body’s history to be censured by his colleagues. 

Lawmakers in the Senate and House introduced resolutions to censure him Thursday, a day after Schumer made inflammatory comments that seemed to some to advocate violence if two Supreme Court justices did not rule his way in an abortion case.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced a measure in the Senate that 14 other Republicans so far have co-sponsored

In the House, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., introduced a similar resolution of censure

During a pro-choice rally Wednesday on the steps of the Supreme Court, Schumer, D-N.Y., spoke directly to Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both appointed to the high court by President Donald Trump.

“I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh,” Schumer said, according to video of his remarks. “You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

The eight senators previously censured in U.S. history were censured by their Senate colleagues, not by the House. Although no rule prevents the House from censuring a senator, it’s not likely in a Democrat-controlled House.

Hawley’s censure resolution in the Senate states, in part: 

Senator Schumer has acknowledged that threatening statements can increase the dangers of violence against government officials when he stated on June 15, 2017, following the attempted murder of several elected Members of Congress, ‘We would all be wise to reflect on the importance of civility in our [N]ation’s politics’ and that ‘the level of nastiness, vitriol, and hate that has seeped into our politics must be excised.’

Republican senators who signed on to the Hawley resolution include Steve Daines of Montana, Mike Braun of Indiana, Rick Scott of Florida, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas, David Perdue of Georgia, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, and Martha McSally of Arizona. 

Biggs, in introducing a similar resolution in the House, said in a written statement:

Threats towards any elected or appointed member of the three branches of our constitutional government are wrong and cannot be tolerated. 

Minority Leader Schumer is the leader of his [Democratic] conference, and, while he may offer public criticism about decisions with which he disagrees, he should not use rhetoric that is threatening and intimidating towards members of our independent judiciary.

The Arizona Republican added that amid public criticism, including from Chief Justice John Roberts, Schumer didn’t back down.  

“Even after he was called out by many of his own colleagues and the chief justice, Leader Schumer would not apologize for his threats,” Biggs said. “I am introducing this resolution today to send a message that this threatening rhetoric has no place in the U.S. Congress—especially from a leader of one of our parties.”

Roberts, in a formal statement Wednesday, called Schumer’s comments “dangerous.”

Schumer did not apologize Thursday in remarks on the Senate floor, but said he should have used different words.

“I shouldn’t have used the words I did. But in no way was I making a threat,” the Senate’s top Democrat said, adding: “And Republicans who are busy manufacturing outrage over these comments know that too.”

Many of the previous censures of senators involved corruption or ethics cases.

The notable censure of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., on Dec. 2, 1954, said he did not cooperate with a 1952 investigation conducted by a Senate subcommittee on privileges and elections and “abused” a Select Committee to Study Censure.

The first member of the Senate to be censured was Sen. Timothy Pickering, a Federalist from Massachusetts, on Jan. 2, 1811. His offense, according to the Senate, was “Reading confidential documents in open Senate session before an injunction of secrecy was removed.”

The most recent Senate censure came on July 25, 1990. Colleagues said Sen. David Durenberger, R-Minn., engaged in unethical conduct by “his structuring of a real estate transaction and receipt of Senate reimbursements in connection with his stays in his Minneapolis condominium, his pattern of prohibited communications respecting the condominium, his repeated acceptance of prohibited gifts of limousine service for personal purposes, and the conversion of a campaign contribution to his personal use.”

Condemnation of Schumer was especially harsh in legal circles.

“This is an outrageous statement that amounts to a threat against sitting Supreme Court justices,” said David Rivkin, who worked at the Justice Department and the White House Counsel’s Office during the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. 

“It is designed to intimate them,” Rivkin said in a written statement. “This behavior cannot be countenanced. Indeed, it has to be condemned as an unconstitutional conduct.”

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, a liberal, lashed out on Twitter, calling Schumer’s comments to Gorsuch and Kavanaugh “inexcusable.” 

Even the left-leaning American Bar Association criticized Schumer.

Among rare defenders was Daniel Goldberg, president of the left-wing legal group Alliance for Justice, who criticized Roberts instead.

“It’s unfortunate that Chief Justice Roberts’ attempt to defend the integrity of the Supreme Court instead highlighted his own partisan biases,” Goldberg said, adding: 

Sen. Schumer has been a stalwart champion for health care rights, including defending the right to abortion from constant legal threats. His comments reflected widespread concern that the court is considering overturning a ruling it issued just four years ago, as demonstrated by the massive rally he was speaking to. … Schumer wasn’t wrong that if the Supreme Court violates its own precedent simply to advance the conservatives’ partisan agenda, there will be a significant public backlash. 

Schumer should know better and likely does know better, Elizabeth Slattery, a legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told Fox News

“Sen. Hawley is right that censure would be appropriate,” Slattery said Thursday. “Sen. Schumer took to the Senate floor earlier today. He said he was offering an apology. In my view, he seemed to be saying, ‘Sorry, but I’m not sorry.’” 

“Clearly, enough people didn’t know what Schumer purportedly meant,” Slattery added. “An opinion writer for The Washington Post, the American Bar Association, all sorts of institutions that are not exactly conservative, have come out to condemn what Sen. Schumer has done.”

This article by Fred Lucas originally appeared at The Daily Signal. This article first appeared in 2020.

Image: Reuters

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