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Who Would Win a Third Sino-Japanese War?

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 16:33

James Holmes

Japan, East Asia

Tokyo seeks to conserve the U.S.-led order in East Asia, while Beijing wants to overturn it.

Here's What You Need to Know: The outcome may come down to who wants it more. Will China or the transpacific alliance muster more, and more sustained, enthusiasm for its cause?

Let's not understate the likelihood of war in East Asia or kid ourselves that the United States can remain aloof should China and Japan enter the lists. It's tough for Westerners to fathom the nature of the competition or the passions it stokes. From an intellectual standpoint, we have little trouble comprehending the disputes pitting the Asian rivals against each other. For example, both Tokyo and Beijing claim sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, a tiny archipelago near Taiwan and the Ryukyus. China covets control of offshore air and sea traffic, hence its new East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and its efforts to rewrite the rules governing use of the nautical commons. Undersea energy resources beget frictions about where to draw the lines bounding exclusive economic zones (EEZs). And so on.

The facts of these cases are outwardly simple. They're about how to divvy up territory and stuff. Outsiders get that. But therein lies a danger -- the danger of assuming that tangible, quantifiable things are all there is to an impasse. That's doubly true when the territory and stuff under dispute command trivial worth. By strategist Carl von Clausewitz's cost-benefit logic, the Senkakus or Scarborough Shoal merit minimal time or resources from any of the protagonists. Hence commentators wonder why compromise appears so hard when the stakes are so small by objective standards. They find it baffling that great powers would risk war over "uninhabited rocks in the East China Sea.” Some Asia-watchers strike a world-weary tone at the willingness of societies to struggle over "intrinsically worthless" geographic features.

Why, they ask, can't the contenders just split the difference -- restoring regional harmony in the bargain, and sparing others needless entanglements and hardships? To cling fast to objects of little obvious value seems obtuse, if not irrational and self-defeating.

Is it? Sci-fi master Robert A. Heinlein might jest that Westerners understand these matters but don't grok them. Great questions encompass not just the concrete interests at issue but also larger principles. Heinlein coined the term grok for his classic Stranger in a Strange Land. It means "to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed." It means feeling something in your gut, not just knowing it intellectually. He appeared to despair at one person's capacity to truly know another. To grok "means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science." But such "deeper understanding," vouchsafes Heinlein, eludes most people as color eludes "a blind man." The result: an unwitting empathy deficit toward allies and prospective adversaries alike.

Yet grok grim strategic realities we must. This competition is about more than islets or ADIZs. Nothing less than the nature of the Asian order is at stake. Making the world safe for democracy, or oligarchy, or whatever regime holds power at home constitutes a basic impulse for foreign policy. From the age of Thucydides forward, nations have spent lavishly to preserve or install regional orders hospitable to their own national interests and aspirations. By surrounding itself with like-minded regimes, a nation hopes to lock in a favorable, tranquil status quo. As it was in antiquity, so it remains today. Imperial Japan upended the Asian hierarchy in 1894-1895, smashing the Qing Dynasty's navy and seizing such choice sites as Port Arthur on the Liaotung Peninsula. It began making Asia safe for a Japanese empire.

Military triumphs often underperform their political goals. But as my colleague and friend Sally Paine notes, the first Sino-Japanese War was a limited war whose effects were anything but limited. The Qing regime remained in place following its defeat, but the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which terminated the conflict, signified Japan's eclipse of China as Asia's central power. The treaty's terms -- in particular its transfer of Taiwan to Japan -- modified the regional order in ways we still live with today. Indeed, Professor Paine points out that Chinese foreign policy since 1895 has striven to repeal Shimonoseki, while Japanese foreign policy has sought to reaffirm it.

In short, Imperial Japan ousted China from its place atop the Asian hierarchy through limited war. China would like to repay the favor, regaining its rightful -- to Chinese minds -- station through similarly limited coercive diplomacy. Classical strategist Sun Tzu instructs commanders to look for opportunities to achieve disproportionate effects through minute amounts of force. Beijing evidently discerns such an opportunity in the East China Sea. It hopes to make Asia safe for its brand of communism-cum-authoritarian capitalism.

But the geometry of any future conflict will be more complex than the one-on-one Sino-Japanese War. Curiously, the United States is a not-so-silent partner in guaranteeing the remnants of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, as modified by the outcomes of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), and the Pacific War (1941-1945). American officials insist that Washington has no particular stake in whose flag flies over the islands and atolls dotting Asian waters. That's true. But it has a strong interest in preserving the system it has presided over since 1945.

Permitting any one coastal state to change the rules by fiat -- to abridge freedom of the seas and skies, or wrest territory or waters from another -- would set a dangerous precedent. If Beijing gets away with amending the system once, why not again and again? And if China, why not regional powers elsewhere in the world? For the United States, then, this is a quarrel not over flyspecks on the map, but over principle. That's why the Senkakus and the ADIZ matter to Americans. Call it entrapment if you must. But it's doubtful any U.S. administration could lightly abstain from a Sino-Japanese trial of arms.

So Tokyo, Beijing, and Washington all have vital stakes in this contest. What does that imply about a hypothetical war? Clausewitz urges statesmen to let the value they assign their "political object," or political aims, govern the "magnitude" and "duration" of the effort they mount to obtain those aims. The more important the goal, the more lives, treasure, and hardware a combatant expends -- and for longer. Massive interests warrant massive investment. All three Asian stakeholders thus may prove willing to spend heavily, and for a long time, to get their way.

Here's the rub: Clausewitz prophesies that each contender, mindful that it could be outdone, will apply more force than the bare minimum to avoid surrendering the first-mover advantage to the adversary. Leaders fear letting the opponent get the drop on them. Doing more, sooner, helps a protagonist stay ahead of the competition and bolster its prospects of victory. An escalatory dynamic takes hold if everyone does more than simple cost-benefit logic dictates. Washington and Tokyo should acknowledge this in their internal and joint deliberations.

Clausewitzian fatalism represents the beginning of strategic wisdom. It's safe to assume the contestants will all strive to achieve their goals through minimal force -- preferably without fighting at all. No one relishes the hazards of war. It's equally safe to assume that they see yielding territory, status, or maritime freedoms as even worse than war.

A fight over seemingly minor stakes, then, could mushroom into a major conflagration arraying China against the US-Japan alliance. How much passion would an East China Sea imbroglio rouse among the combatants? China and Japan would be all in. Disputes involving sovereignty -- particularly territory and resources -- tend to drive the perceived value of the political object through the roof. Tokyo and Beijing, moreover, are acutely conscious that the post-1895 status quo is in play. In Clausewitzian parlance, goals of such value merit open-ended efforts of potentially vast magnitude.

American fervor is the key unknown. The United States could be conflicted about its part in a protracted endeavor. It could confront a mismatch between compelling yet seemingly abstract interests, and popular apathy toward these interests. Freedom to use the global commons is indubitably a vital U.S. interest. So is standing beside friends in peril. Everyman would doubtless agree if you put these questions to him. But how many rank-and-file citizens truly grok the system's importance to their daily lives? Few, one suspects.

If so, two antagonists attaching immense value to their objectives will face off in the East China Sea, one backed by a strong but faraway ally whose commitment could prove tepid. Clausewitz -- yep, he speaks out on contemporary affairs once again -- alleges that no one attaches the same urgency to another's cause that he assigns to his own. The ally with less skin in the game makes a halfhearted commitment to the cause, and looks for the exit when the going gets tough.

If the old skeptic is right, the U.S.-Japan alliance could come under stress in wartime. Tokyo and Washington share the same immediate goal, conserving the US-led order in East Asia. Consensus about the surroundings and how to manage them would seem to cement allied unity. But as Clausewitz reminds us, the importance assigned to a goal -- not just the goal itself -- matters. One ally can place so-so value on a goal that another prizes dearly. Tokyo has status and territorial interests at stake, riveting its attention and energies on the dispute. Yet it's far from clear that the American polity -- state and society -- values custodianship of the maritime order or the defense of Japanese-held lands that highly. Suspicions could seep into allied consultations, with Tokyo questioning Washington's devotion and Washington resenting being dragged into war.

In the end, then, the outcome may come down to who wants it more. Will China or the transpacific alliance muster more, and more sustained, enthusiasm for its cause? Thucydides reminds posterity that fear and honor -- not just objective interests -- propel human affairs. Scottish philosopher David Hume seconds the thought, adding that "Interest and ambition, honour and shame, friendship and enmity, gratitude and revenge, are the prime movers in all public transactions; and these passions are of a very stubborn and intractable nature."

Philosophers thus maintain that passions color the most rational calculations. Nearby threats to crucial interests concentrate minds. Threats to remote, seemingly ethereal interests elicit less ardor, and thus less political support, from the man on the street -- even if he agrees on the need to combat such threats. If U.S. leaders take the nation to war in the Western Pacific, quite a salesmanship challenge awaits them. War or no war, it's worth rallying support behind America's responsibilities. Now would be a good time to start.

Where does this all leave us? Sino-Japanese war could break out over matters Westerners deem inconsequential. It would be a coalition war, and it could be big, bad, and long. The US-Japan alliance might appear solid in the early going, obscuring subterranean fractures within the alliance. Yet transpacific unity might dissipate should the struggle wear on and American resolve flag -- exposing these fissures. These are matters worth clarifying in allied circles now, before things turn ugly.

Let's grok strategic reality. Heinlein would expect no less.

James Holmes is Professor of Strategy at the Naval War College. The views voiced here are his alone.

This article first appeared in January 2014 and is being reprinted due to reader interest.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Can Britain’s Royal Navy Be Saved?

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 16:11

James Holmes

Great Britain, Europe

That domestic politics intercedes in strategy and fleet design hardly constitutes a novel observation.

Here's What You Need to Know: If operating two Queen Elizabeth ships and their stealth aircraft proves pricier than forecast—hardly an unlikely prospect—the carriers themselves might come under scrutiny. Having reduced the Royal Navy to a couple of fleet units to save money, lawmakers might deploy the same bean-counting logic to justify dismantling the fleet units themselves. Allied effectiveness would suffer.

Talk about role reversal. A long century ago, starting in 1909, Great Britain entreated its Pacific dominions—Canada, New Zealand, Australia—to construct “fleet units” to supplement a Royal Navy that confronted multiple challengers in multiple theaters. A fleet unit was a modular task force composed of a cruiser and its coterie of destroyers. Naval potentates such as Adm. Jacky Fisher expected each dominion to construct and maintain one. It would serve as the national navy while doubling as a module in an imperial navy. In peacetime each fleet unit could perform routine functions on its own, acting as a standalone armada. Or dominion navies could merge into a grand Pacific fleet alongside Royal Navy forces when storm clouds gathered. Having massed for action, the imperial fleet would face down some predator—presumably the Imperial Japanese Navy, a force casting covetous eyes on maritime Asia.

The fleet unit, then, was a strategic concept for a mass-production age. Fleet units comprise building blocks of a multinational navy. In theory they’re interchangeable, featuring standard hardware, training and doctrine. A common language, cultural heritage and worldview helps. Plug and play!

Assembling an interoperable imperial navy while conscripting dominion governments to help bear the burden represented Britain’s way of regenerating its naval posture in the Pacific Ocean. In those days Europe was choosing up sides for the Great War. The Kaiser’s Germany was bolting together a battleship fleet hard by the British Isles, and menacing British shores with each keel laid. The German High Seas Fleet taking shape in the North Sea thus beckoned Royal Navy ships homeward from distant stations, there to run a naval arms race in defense of the homeland. Evacuating Britain’s Pacific holdings to compete with Germany left a power vacuum, tempting an Imperial Japan flush with high-seas victories over Russia and China. The fleet-unit concept purported to fill that vacuum—applying counterpressure to offset Japanese ambitions.

Today, though not in so many words—and, in fact, perhaps with little deliberate strategic design—Britain is reconfiguring its Royal Navy as a fleet unit for service in an imperial fleet. America is the liberal imperium now under strain. It’s in need of material aid in the Far East to offset another would-be hegemon, namely China.

That seems an unlikely role for a Royal Navy in decline. London is reportedly set to divest the Royal Navy of its “gator” fleet, the amphibious transports and support vessels that land Royal Marines on foreign shores. Much of a navy’s capacity to exploit control of the sea resides in amphibious ships and marines—the very forces now on the chopping block. In effect top political leaders are demoting amphibian power projection to an afterthought in British strategy. Others will project power onto foreign shores after the Royal Navy helps win fleet battles. No longer will Great Britain possess the wherewithal to conduct maritime campaigns as an independent great power. It is relegating itself to supporting-actor status.

Decommissioning the amphibious contingent will leave behind a specialist surface navy centered on two Queen Elizabeth-class supercarriers now preparing to join the fleet. The Royal Navy is morphing from a balanced fleet into something less.

We can consult a Briton for insight into these matters. Crudely speaking, Britain’s homegrown sea-power theorist, Julian S. Corbett, partitions naval warfare into two phases. Two fleets fight for “command” of important waterways. Command of the sea means driving off or sinking rival fleets, and thereby creating a safe nautical sanctuary from which to wage war at sea, on land, or aloft. Antagonists try to deny command to each other while wresting it away for themselves.

And afterward? Success entitles the victor to exercise command of waters scoured of enemy forces. Command represents an enabler for such workmanlike missions as policing the sea, raiding enemy merchantmen, pummeling targets on foreign shores, or landing forces on dry ground to project power inland. These are the dividends of maritime command. Seamen think in terms of garnering glory on the high seas, yet boots slogging across muddy battlegrounds are what win wars. And depositing troops, equipment, and stores on land in bulk demands amphibious transports—ship types whose days appear numbered in Great Britain.

In that sense the Royal Navy appears destined to become a partial navy: it will excel at fleet-on-fleet combat while boasting minimal capacity to exploit the gains from fleet combat. The revamped Royal Navy will fall short after the fight.

Why the turnabout in British maritime strategy? It owes to a mix of financial constraints and strategic considerations, but cost-cutting seems to predominate. It’s been decades since Britannia ruled the waves. Having gotten by for so long without a globe-spanning navy, it seems British leaders have concluded they no longer need to fund a balanced fleet—in other words, a force equipped and trained to execute missions throughout the continuum from peacetime to wartime missions.

To shed costs, accordingly, Parliament and Prime Minister Theresa May’s government are consciously unbalancing the Royal Navy. Rather than disperse finite resources in an effort to maintain ever-dwindling numbers of all ship types, they are concentrating resources on a few specialist capabilities—chiefly those comprising carrier aviation forces—alongside traditional strengths in undersea warfare and mine countermeasures. They’re refocusing Britain’s navy on functions associated with battling for and holding command of the sea, while soft-pedalling capabilities associated with exercising nautical command.

British seafarers, in other words, will concern themselves mainly with blue-water operations, mainly with fleet-on-fleet duels, and mainly with the early stages of marine conflict.

Now, this is largely unobjectionable from my parochial ‘Mercan standpoint. The United States is struggling to “rebalance” enough naval forces to the Pacific to offset China’s swelling military might. The U.S. Navy could use the help in sea fights, whereas it can probably satisfice with the gator fleet it fields.

The Royal Navy could render direct aid, returning to regional seaways decades after withdrawing from east of Suez. Once there, British task forces could help shore up deterrence vis-à-vis China. Three U.S. Navy carrier strike groups just operated together in Northeast Asia. In the future a Royal Navy flattop might join in—helping constitute a formidable striking arm while telegraphing a powerful message about allied solidarity.

Or, more plausibly, allied leaders could draw up a geographic division of labor. British seamen could assume more responsibility for maritime defense in the Atlantic theater, making sure the Atlantic remains tranquil while American carrier forces ply Far Eastern waters. In the process the Royal Navy would free up U.S. forces for East Asia.

Either way, fleet-unit logic remains as compelling today as it was a century ago. Direct or indirect, British help with managing high-seas affairs would prove invaluable to the common cause. True to the fleet-unit approach, the Royal Navy should shape naval forces that are as interoperable with their U.S. Navy counterparts as possible. An aircraft-carrier flotilla able to plug-and-play into a U.S.-led carrier task force, or even take command of such a task force, would be ideal. That the Queen Elizabeth carriers will deploy air wings centered on the same aircraft as U.S. Navy nuclear-powered flattops—F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters—augurs well for combined naval operations.

The advent of a modular Royal Navy, then, represents a good-news, bad-news story for those of us on this side of the Atlantic. A carrier-centric navy can contend for mastery of the sea, the first and foremost mission for any sea service. Its specialty, open-seas combat, is something the U.S. Navy and other allied forces can sorely use. Presumably, though, the Royal Navy will delegate the job of projecting power ashore to allies. Dismantling the Royal Navy’s gator fleet will swivel British maritime strategy away from land toward managing events on the high seas—and in the process foreclose strategic options for Britain as a freestanding great power.

Thus London will need allied support to prosecute any major seaborne campaign. If no help is forthcoming, Britain might forfeit worthwhile goals. Or Britain’s allies might join an enterprise solely to preserve alliance relations—and thus with little fervor for the enterprise. Popular disillusionment with the transatlantic special relationship could result. Such are the quandaries of entangling alliances—which is why America’s founders warned against them. Seemingly technical questions about navy budgets and fleet design in Great Britain thus raise larger questions about the health and longevity of transatlantic ties.

Denuding the Royal Navy of its capacity for amphibious warfare, then, could give rise to self-defeating entanglements. If London saw the need to act in, say, North Africa yet lacked the capacity to land marines, that might tempt Washington to join in—lending U.S. Navy and Marine Corps capabilities to a venture that might not suit American interests, or that might siphon off resources from U.S. sea services that are already scattered across the seven seas for manifold purposes. U.S. leaders must exercise some self-discipline to avoid further overextending the services.

Domestic politics, moreover, can upset the soundest strategic schemes. Alliances are fissile things, dependent on the vagaries of domestic politics among their members. It remains unclear whether the fleet-unit approach is popular enough in Britain to endure changes of party. Indeed, it’s unclear whether officialdom has even explained the approach to ruling elites and rank-and-file Britons in strategic terms. If not, an Anglo-American division of labor has little political ballast to it. If a cost-cutting exercise—not conscious strategic choice—brought London to its new fleet design, then future rounds of budgetary debate could see the concept discarded on similar penny-pinching grounds.

That’s what happens when saving money takes precedence over strategic effectiveness. If operating two Queen Elizabeth ships and their stealth aircraft proves pricier than forecast—hardly an unlikely prospect—the carriers themselves might come under scrutiny. Having reduced the Royal Navy to a couple of fleet units to save money, lawmakers might deploy the same bean-counting logic to justify dismantling the fleet units themselves. Allied effectiveness would suffer.

That domestic politics intercedes in strategy and fleet design hardly constitutes a novel observation. Adm. J. C. Wylie points out that lawmakers make strategic decisions through what they choose to fund—and not to fund—all the time. Heck, dominion governments didn’t submit meekly to Great Britain’s modular fleet design a century ago. Mindful of Canada’s modest GDP and bicoastal geography, for instance, Canadian leaders protested the expense of a cruiser/destroyer force. And they objected to British plans to base the Royal Canadian Navy fleet unit in the Pacific. A westward orientation, they complained, would leave Canadian interests in the Atlantic unguarded except through the good graces of Britain’s navy. What made sense for imperial defense made a tough sell with Canadian constituents.

Carl von Clausewitz would nod sardonically at all of this. The martial scribe observes that everything in strategy is simple, yet “the simplest thing is difficult.” Minor difficulties “accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction” that impairs rational strategy-making and operations. And Clausewitz is alluding to friction within a single state’s military and diplomatic apparatus. Trying to orchestrate multinational strategies, forces, and doctrine only compounds friction in the machinery’s innards.

In particular, half-heartedness bedevils allied ventures. “One country may support another’s cause,” contends Clausewitz, “but will never take it so seriously as it takes its own. A moderately-sized force will be sent to its help; but if things go wrong the operation is pretty well written off, and one tries to withdraw at the smallest possible cost.” Tepid political commitment begets lackluster strategic results. Clearly, then, a modular transatlantic fleet design will not come together or sustain itself of its own accord—any more than it did within the British Empire in days of yore.

Executing such a design will take constant, painstaking effort. Like all alliances, coalitions, and ententes, an Anglo-American navy—if indeed one is in the offing—will demand careful tending from diplomats and senior commanders on both sides of the Atlantic. Let’s not entrust alliance-building and maintenance to shipwrights and tacticians.

James Holmes is a professor of strategy at the Naval War College and coauthor of Red Star over the Pacific. The views voiced here are his alone.

This article first appeared some time ago and is being reprinted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters,

How Finding China’s Nuclear Sites Upset Pro-Beijing Trolls

Foreign Policy - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 15:00
Online propaganda doesn’t help solve China’s nuclear dilemmas

Afghanistan’s Collapse Is a Rude Awakening for South Korea

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 15:00

Jong Eun Lee

South Korea, Indo-Pacific

The U.S. disengagement from Afghanistan likely would not seriously affect South Korea, which is distant from the region. What should concern South Korea, however, is the future of U.S. foreign policy toward China.

After twenty years, the war in Afghanistan has ended with the Taliban’s victory. Multiple U.S. analysts are already writing commentaries on what has gone wrong with the U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan, but far fewer are assessing what the end of the war signifies for South Korea.

Currently, there is an ongoing historical debate within South Korea on the origin of the Republic of Korea (ROK), with critics challenging its political legitimacy (allegation of pro-Japanese, authoritarian characteristics). However, it should be noted that during the Korean War, most of the South Korean populace and soldiers continued the fight in defense of the ROK state, even when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) forces were initially victorious. Why did the South Korean public now switch allegiance to DPRK, another “Korean” regime?

In fact, the DPRK was surprised when their quick capture of Seoul did not trigger the collapse of the ROK government or popular uprising in favor of communist liberation.

Despite its political controversies, the early ROK government led by President Syngman Rhee achieved an accomplishment in establishing a political state, which its citizens and soldiers perceived as sufficiently legitimate to be worth defending.

Why did the United States decide to withdraw from Afghanistan? Perhaps the simplest answer is, “The United States no longer saw a need to stay in Afghanistan anymore.” To be even blunter, at a certain point, Afghanistan lost its usefulness as a partner for the United States, prompting various U.S. administrations to decide the impact of a withdrawal on U.S. foreign policy interests would be limited, even with the fall of the Afghan government. 

For the past seventy years, South Korea has been a military ally of the United States. How did the bilateral alliance last for so long? Because of the memory of the blood and sacrifice of U.S. soldiers during the Korean War? The binding legal commitment from the U.S.-ROK defense treaty? Certainly, those are two important factors, but the U.S.-ROK alliance lasted this long in large part because most U.S. policymakers saw strategic value in keeping the ROK as an ally.   

For the ROK government, the importance of an alliance with the United States has been clear since its creation. The ROK government, however, faced the task of proving the value of its alliance to the United States. And for the past seventy years, the ROK has achieved this task, and henceforth the alliance continues today.

South Korea’s dilemma, however, from the lesson of the Afghanistan War, is that U.S. foreign policy experiences a cycle of intervention and disengagement. For the past twenty years, U.S. foreign policy advocated intervention into Afghanistan and encouraged participation from U.S. allies. South Korea, too, played a limited role in the peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan.

The U.S. disengagement from Afghanistan likely would not seriously affect South Korea, which is distant from the region. What should concern South Korea, however, is the future of U.S. foreign policy toward China.

U.S. administrations are currently engaging in assertive foreign policy moves to restrain the revisionist behaviors of rising China. The United States is also encouraging U.S. allies to participate as well, such as through the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue framework. But for how long will the United States engage in confrontation with China? Would future U.S. administrations eventually feel “hegemonic fatigue” and negotiate with China to withdraw from the Asia-Pacific, or at least partition China’s sphere of influence in the region? The United States might tactically retreat from its rivalry with China, but what about South Korea, China’s geographic neighbor? What price could South Korea pay for being perceived as an active participant of the so-called “China containment” strategy if its main architect suspends this endeavor in the future?

Currently, within South Korea, there is a consequential foreign policy debate between policymakers (and policy experts) in favor of a U.S.-aligned, assertive policy toward China and those in favor of strategic ambiguity or hedging between China and the United States. While there is merit in the argument favoring the strengthening of the U.S.-ROK alliance and collaboration, it is also critical for South Korean policymakers to be certain of the United States’ long-term commitment in the region. How solid is the U.S. commitment to counter China’s regional expansion? While some analysts warn that South Korea’s risks lagging behind U.S. foreign policy, the lesson from the end of the Afghanistan War might be a warning for South Korea to also avoid prematurely getting ahead of U.S. foreign policy in the areas of geopolitical conflict.

Recently, Dr. Heungkyu Kim from the U.S.-China Policy Institute at Ajou University observed that the prevailing fallacy within South Korea is to assume the immutability of U.S. foreign policy. In fact, U.S. foreign policy has, and will likely continue to, alternate between active and passive approaches. Concerning its policy toward China, Kim warns, “US foreign policy could in the future become more confrontational toward China, or in reverse, become more accommodating of its strategic rival.” South Korea’s future challenge then is to respond well to the “tide and ebb” flow of its major ally’s foreign policy, also flexibly alternating between active and passive diplomacy toward China.

Jong Eun Lee is a Ph.D. Candidate and is also an adjunct faculty at the American University School of International Service. He holds an M.A. in political science from Fordham University. His research interests include U.S. foreign policy, South Korean politics and foreign policy, alliance management, East Asian regional security.

Image: Reuters.

Britain’s Infantry Fighting Vehicle Packs Both Power and Armor

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 14:33

Charlie Gao

Infantry Fighting Vehicles, Europe

Britain’s FV510 Warrior IFV has never had a good record as an infantry fighting vehicle.

Here's What You Need to Know: On paper, the WCSP Warrior is a proper modern IFV, featuring a powerful main gun, good mobility, and modular armor. Unfortunately for the British Army, 280 WCSP Warriors is a rather small number compared to the original fleet of Warriors, which numbered over 700.

Britain’s FV510 Warrior IFV has never had a good record as an infantry fighting vehicle. While its protection and mobility are decent, the armament has long been maligned by analysts and its users. Compared to contemporary American and Soviet IFVs, the Warrior’s turret lacked any kind of FCS or stabilization. The 30mm gun was also clip-fed compared to the box or tray fed American and Soviet designs, limiting the practical rate of fire, making switching ammunition types difficult, and often causing jams.

The peace dividend delayed any upgrades to rectify these issues, and the performance of the Warrior during the GWOT was often considered “good enough.” Limited modernization occurred primarily with drop-in thermal sights and additional armor packages. But these upgrades didn’t address the primary issues with the Warrior’s turret.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) started looking into modernizing the Warrior’s turret in 2009 with the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP), an in-depth modernization of the vehicle meant to keep it in service until the 2040s. Lockheed Martin UK and BAE Systems are the primary contractors competing in the programme. Competition continued until 2011 when the Lockheed Martin bid was officially selected by the MoD and was funded.

The final WCSP as selected consisted of multiple sub “programmes.” Warrior Fightability Lethality Improvement Programme (WFLIP) was the main one, the installation of a new turret with proper thermal sights, FCS, and new 40mm autocannon. Armor was also to be improved via the Warrior Modular Protection System (WMPS), which builds upon prior experience uparmoring Warriors during Operation Desert Storm and the GWOT to make a proper modular armor package, similar to that fitted to the German Puma. Finally, Warrior Enhanced Electrical Architecture (WEEA) would provide internal networking and power systems to tie all the new sensors and equipment together.

However, despite continued investment by the UK, the WCSP kept plodding along with continual delays and cost overruns. Not all of these can be attributed directly to the Lockheed Martin turret, as the design was reliant on many components made by other contractors that were not “ready” yet in 2011. For example, the CT40 cased-telescopic gun was not yet fully qualified and tested in 2011, and would only reach that stage around 2017.

In 2017, the first “production” WCSP Warrior rolled out of the factory, ready for trials. But again, the program suffered delays and overruns. Progress on the WCSP now is dictated by the performance of trial vehicles in what are called the Reliability Growth Trials (RGTs), evaluations of the capabilities of the vehicles on the Bovington proving grounds.

Recently, at DSEi 2019, it was announced that the WCSP trial vehicles were performing well at these RGTs and that a push for procurement of 280 WCSP modernized Warriors was likely to happen as there is no other plan for a modern British IFV.

On paper, the WCSP Warrior is a proper modern IFV, featuring a powerful main gun, good mobility, and modular armor. Unfortunately for the British Army, 280 WCSP Warriors is a rather small number compared to the original fleet of Warriors, which numbered over 700. But it squares with the modernization and downsizing of the rest of the force. The number of Challenger 2 MBTs in service is likely to see a similar reduction if recent upgrade programs are followed through on.

Charlie Gao studied Political and Computer Science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues.

This article first appeared in September 2019.

Image: Reuters.

Killing Syria: How the Delta Defense Group Sent Pistols Off to War

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 14:33

Charlie Gao

Syrian Civil War, Middle East

​The battlefields of Syria see handguns from every corner of the globe.

Here's What You Need to Remember: There are two known varieties of Delta Defense Group pistols, the full-size C6 and the compact C5. Both appear to be based on modern CZ-75 derivative designs, such as those made by the Turkish Sarsilmaz, Italian Tangfolio, or Israeli IWI. All of those implement the CZ-75’s Double Action/Single Action hammer-fired action into a cheaper metal rail in polymer frame design similar to the Glock. This lowers the costs versus metal-framed CZ-75s.

The battlefields of Syria see handguns from every corner of the globe. The massive demand created by the war has led Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish, and Chinese manufacturers to pump new production handguns into the region. While the deliveries of these pistols can be overt, sometimes efforts are taken to hide the origin of these pistols.

An interesting example of this is the “Delta Defense Group” pistols that have recently shown up in Syria. No known firearms manufacturer utilizes the “Delta Defense Group” moniker and logo as seen on the pistols, suggesting that someone is attempting to clandestinely supply pistols to forces in the region.

There are two known varieties of Delta Defense Group pistols, the full-size C6 and the compact C5. Both appear to be based on modern CZ-75 derivative designs, such as those made by the Turkish Sarsilmaz, Italian Tangfolio, or Israeli IWI. All of those implement the CZ-75’s Double Action/Single Action hammer-fired action into a cheaper metal rail in polymer frame design similar to the Glock. This lowers the costs versus metal-framed CZ-75s.

Such plastic-framed CZ derivatives are sold around the world, with Sarsilmaz B6Cs being common on the American market. But the Delta Defense Group guns were linked to the Israeli Bul Armory, which produces CZ and 1911 clones. The Delta Defense Group C6 is almost identical to the Bul Cherokee Full Size, and the Delta C5 is almost identical to the Bul Cherokee Compact. The only visible difference apart from the markings is solid pins are used on the Bul Cherokee guns and roll pins are used on the Delta Defense Group guns. While the Bul guns are marked “Made in Israel”, the DDG guns are marked “Made by DDG”.

Bul Armory guns are sold legitimately worldwide under Bul branding, including in Europe, the Americas, and Asia, so it’s unclear why they were rebranded as “Delta Defense Group”. It could be possible that they were rebranded as Delta Defense Group to be sold without the stigma of being attached to an Israeli company on the Arab market. By the Silah Report account, the pistols were imported legally into Iraq before being moved onto the black market, so it’s unlikely that they were rebranded for more nefarious purposes.

As for the shooting characteristics, end-users interviewed by Silah Report said that the Delta Defense Group pistols had favorable shooting characteristics compared to Ukrainian Fort-14PP and Russian MP-446 pistols also present in the region. It’s also likely superior to the Chinese Norinco NP-20 due to the more ergonomic shape of the grip. That being said, it’s unlikely that the pistols are better than other modern pistols like Glocks, though those carry a prestige premium in the region. For the average SDF fighter or Iraqi militiaman, a Delta Defense Group pistol may be a cheap, light, reliable alternative to more expensive options on the market.

The author would like to thank AnalystMick for assistance and original reporting on Delta Defense Group pistols.

Charlie Gao studied political and computer science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national-security issues. This first appeared earlier in 2019.

Image: Reuters.

Waiting for that Child Tax Credit? Remember these Dates

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 14:00

Ethen Kim Lieser

economy, Americas

Due to that highly ambitious stimulus bill, eligible households can now collect as much as $3,600 per year for a child under the age of six and up to $3,000 for children between ages six and seventeen.

Here's What You Need to Remember: As for families who have yet to see their checks land in their bank accounts, they should make sure to take advantage of the Non-filer Sign-up Tool that will give the tax agency the necessary information—such as a valid address and routing and bank account numbers—to promptly disburse the money. 

Over the past two months, well over thirty-five million American families have been able to enjoy their recurring monthly checks from the expanded child tax credits that were approved under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.  

Due to that highly ambitious stimulus bill, eligible households can now collect as much as $3,600 per year for a child under the age of six and up to $3,000 for children between ages six and seventeen. The total figures amount to a $250 or $300 cash payment per child each and every month through the end of the year. 

Pay Dates 

Meantime, take note that the remaining dates that families can expect the funds are September 15, October 15, November 15, and December 15. Keep in mind that for this current month, the payment was made on the thirteenth because the usual pay date of the fifteenth fell on a weekend day.  

However, know that there is an array of options available to eligible parents regarding how they want to be paid or to opt-out altogether, which could make them potentially eligible for a one-time lump sum check during the next tax season.  

These changes must be made known to the Internal Revenue Service by a certain date to take effect the following month. These are the deadlines: August 30 for September 15 payment, October 4 for October 15 payment, November 1 for November 15 payment, and November 29 for December 15 payment.  

Missing Payment?  

As for families who have yet to see their checks land in their bank accounts, they should make sure to take advantage of the Non-filer Sign-up Tool that will give the tax agency the necessary information—such as a valid address and routing and bank account numbers—to promptly disburse the money. 

The IRS also recently launched a brand-new feature that enables any eligible family to update their mailing address using the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, which can be found on IRS.gov. Moreover, it can be used to change their bank account information for any future direct deposits.  

“This feature will help any family that chooses to receive their payment by paper check avoid mailing delays or even having a check returned as undeliverable,” the IRS notes in a press statement.  

If an individual chooses to change their mailing address on the portal, then “the IRS will use this updated address for all future IRS correspondence so the address change feature can also be helpful to taxpayers that are receiving payments by direct deposit.”  

The agency added that future enhancements to the portal will likely include being able to add or remove children, report a change in marital status, and report a significant change in income.  

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeekand Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn. This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

America Failed Afghanistan. Now It Must Stand By Taiwan.

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 13:50

Bob Fu, Arielle Del Turco

Taiwan,

Watching the unfolding tragedy and pain has caused American allies and enemies to wonder where the United States stands regarding other longstanding U.S. commitments. After the withdrawal from Afghanistan, can America be trusted to keep any of its promises?

The consequences of the Biden administration’s hasty and poorly managed withdrawal from Afghanistan have devastated the millions of Afghans who will now live under Taliban rule. And unfortunately, the consequences reach far beyond the Afghan borders. U.S. allies around the world, especially those who have relied on our partnership, must have felt fear and shock watching the fall of Afghanistan. Taiwan is one such ally, and we must not abandon them as well.

Many Afghans—including women, who enjoyed greater opportunities after the United States helped free much of Afghanistan from the Taliban’s grip in 2001—feel betrayed by the United States. The situation is even direr for the Afghans who worked for the U.S. military as translators or in other capacities, as they are now fearing retribution from the Taliban.

Watching the unfolding tragedy and pain has caused American allies and enemies to wonder where the United States stands regarding other longstanding U.S. commitments. After the withdrawal from Afghanistan, can America be trusted to keep any of its promises?

The threat is not simply speculation from American pundits. Chinese state media has alluded to how the fall of Afghanistan might make Taiwan more vulnerable. Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Chinese state news agency Global Times stated on Twitter, “After the fall of the Kabul regime, the Taiwan authorities must be trembling. Don’t look forward to the US to protect them.” The Global Times also declared, “Taiwan will be tomorrow’s Afghanistan being abandoned by the U.S.”

But Chinese state propaganda outlets will always seek to diminish U.S. global influence and have proven they will use intimidation and lies to do so. American leaders must prove that such lies never become true.

Off China’s coast, Taiwan is pivotally located between Northeast and Southeast Asia. Having control over Taiwan would empower the Chinese government’s reach across Asia. Taiwan also sits along the so-called “first island chain” in Asia, which the United States hopes will help contain China and protect vital trade routes. The estimated annual goods transported through or flown over the Taiwan strait constitute over forty percent of the world’s GDP. Thus, protecting Taiwan is vital to the economic security of the free world.

Taiwan is a critical strategic ally, but it is also a democracy that shares our values. With robust protections for basic human rights and religious freedom, the island stands in stark contrast with the Chinese mainland. Taiwan serves as a powerful example of what a culturally Chinese nation with both political and economic freedoms can look like.

Since the fall of Afghanistan, President Tsai Ing-wen remains committed to strengthening Taiwan and enabling its self-defense. In an address, she said, “Taiwan’s only option is to make itself stronger, more united, and more determined to defend itself.”

Yet, for Taiwanese leaders and citizens, protecting their independence isn’t merely about power but about values. President Tsai went on to say, “Taiwan has to become indispensable to the upholding of democracy and freedom, and to the international community’s collective security and prosperity.”

Now, more than ever, the United States must reaffirm its commitment to Taiwan and take practical steps to that end. We ought to continue to sell defensive arms to Taiwan and encourage and enable Taiwan to build up its defenses to protect against Chinese aggression.

The United States should fully utilize the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which Congress passed to strengthen U.S. support for Taiwan. The Biden administration should also invite senior leaders, such as the Taiwanese president and vice president, to visit Washington D.C., and address a joint session of Congress. These simple acts will go a long way toward solidifying support for this vulnerable democracy that the Chinese Communist Party would love to exert complete control over. 

We failed the Afghan people, and now many of our allies are worried. Let’s not fail Taiwan, too.

Bob Fu, founder and president of ChinaAid, is senior fellow for the International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council. Arielle Del Turco is the assistant director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council.

Image: Reuters

When Will Social Security Become Insolvent?

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 13:47

Stephen Silver

Social Security,

In as soon as eight years, according to one expert. 

Earlier this summer, a report by the Congressional Budget Office, in its 2021 Long-Term Projections for Social Security, stated that the Social Security Trust Fund is on track to become depleted in 2032, eleven years from now. 

That listed date is a year later than the date listed in the 2020 version of the report, although it’s three years sooner than the date in the 2020 Social Security trustees report. It is also, of course, merely a projection. 

Now, there’s an argument that Social Security’s funds could run out even sooner. 

Brett Arends wrote for Marketwatch this week that Social Security could run out of money “within eight years,” according to an expert he quoted. 

“It seems that the date of insolvency of SS has crept sooner—perhaps as early as 2029,”  Olivia Mitchell, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and director of their Pension Research Council, said on a recent podcast, as quoted by Arends. 

“So that’s in eight years. And that’s partly a function of a lot of people who have lost their jobs, so they’re not paying in [to] Social Security. Some people have retired early, so they’re claiming earlier and therefore drawing down.”

Arends and Mitchell also noted that Social Security trust fund administration is late with their annual report about the condition of the trust fund. That would mark the first report of its kind since the start of the pandemic. 

Of course, the depletion of the fund does not mean that Social Security will cease to exist before the decade is out, or even that benefits would be drastically cut. Congress could make changes to shore up Social Security’s finances, which it did previously, during the Reagan Administration. Social Security is a popular program, and politicians would be unlikely to want to face the consequences of failing to save it. 

Arends addressed that in his column. 

“Then there’s the odd crazy person who thinks we could, for example, save the system by making the richest people in the world pay tax like the rest of us, or just by running America’s biggest pension fund like pretty much every other pension fund on the planet,” he wrote. “Both of these weird, wacky, impossible ideas would put Social Security on a sound footing without raising payroll taxes or cutting benefits at all.”

Independently of whether Social Security is actually running out of money, many Americans worry that it is. 

Nationwide’s 8th Annual Social Security Consumer Survey, recently run by the Harris Poll on behalf of the Nationwide Retirement Institute, found that “Seventy-one percent of American adults believe that the Social Security program will eventually run out of money.”

 Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters

Has the Time Come for a Large Brazilian Navy?

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 13:42

James Holmes

, South America

History may yet call on Brazil to play its part in South Atlantic or hemispheric defense.

Here's What You Need to Know: The lesson of the nineteenth-century United States for twenty-first-century Brazil is this: holidays don’t last forever. Use them

“We have no concept of war,” confides a strategy professor at the Escola de Guerra Naval, or Brazilian Naval War College, in Rio de Janeiro—my home-away-from-home for part of 2018 and a place that unsucks, as the great Anthony Bourdain might say. Say what? Navies are fighting forces. They exist to duel rival navies. A navy that confronts no prospect of war is a force without purpose or direction. It’s rudderless.

Right?

Well, not exactly. The Marinha do Brasil, or Brazilian Navy, has more work to do than it can do. It is far from purposeless. But its work is noncombat work for the most part. That’s because Brazil has the good fortune to inhabit what Pentagon denizens call “permissive,” non-menacing strategic surroundings. The South Atlantic is free of great-power enmity. A friendly superpower navy, the U.S. Navy, furnishes a backstop should things abruptly go awry.

For the time being, anyway. The strategic setting as it exists today governs the service’s outlook. The naval leadership should cultivate what geopolitics maven Robert Kaplan terms “anxious foresight” about the future—and prepare accordingly.

Rather than gird to battle rival navies, the Brazilian Navy has long dedicated itself to constabulary duty. In effect it’s a super empowered coast guard, a combat service whose chief occupations consist of enforcing domestic law, guarding offshore natural resources from poachers, and helping Africans suppress piracy.

Concentrating on police duty makes perfect sense from Brasilia’s standpoint. If battle against high-seas foes appears far-fetched—if a navy has no concept of war but needs none—few governments would waste finite financial, material and human resources on preparing for it. The upshot: the Brazilian Navy dwells in a different strategic and mental universe from the U.S. Navy, and from any sea service that readies itself for war first and executes constabulary missions on a not-to-interfere basis with war preparations.

Countries, institutions and individuals oftentimes inhabit different mental worlds. Analyst Robert Kagan once penned a tract opining that Europeans hailed from Venus while Americans were from Mars. The United States, noted Kagan, spearheaded Europe’s defense throughout the Cold War. Europeans came to believe that security was something others supplied. They even insisted that a world ruled by international law and institutions had arrived. For them martial history had ended. If force no longer had any use, it made sense to disarm. And so they did, more or less—leaving themselves even more reliant on superpower protection.

However congenial the strategic environment appears, inhabitants of the South Atlantic should refuse to succumb to such illusions. History may yet call on Brazil to play its part in South Atlantic or hemispheric defense. It should make itself ready in intellectual and material terms.

The prospect of armed conflict is easy to overlook amid tranquil surroundings. As seagoing constables, Brazilian mariners track down non-state scourges rather than confront hostile armadas. Poachers infesting national fishing grounds constitute a particular irritant. Indeed, Brazil’s last nautical “war” was the “Lobster War” against France in the early 1960s.

The controversy broke out after French fishermen took to scooping up spiny lobsters skittering along the Brazilian continental shelf about one hundred nautical miles offshore. Brasilia mounted a show of naval force off its coasts, and Paris agreed to curtail fishing in this offshore preserve. Yet memories of the Lobster War linger—and color Brazilian maritime strategy half a century hence. They affirm the navy’s constabulary focus.

Brazilian commanders also fret about protecting natural resources underneath the seafloor. Like most coastal states, Brazil now claims an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) reaching two hundred nautical miles off its shorelines. Brasilia recently added a northerly sliver of the continental shelf, which extends still farther out to sea, to what officialdom styles the Amazônia Azul, or “Blue Amazon”—the seaward extension of the Amazon River basin.

The leadership now wants to bump out its EEZ to the south, incorporating even more marine territory into the Blue Amazon. That adds up to a lot of sea space for the Brazilian Navy to patrol. Nor are waterborne challenges all offshore. Indeed, Brazil’s navy looks inward to degree rare among navies. It’s not just a coastal or oceangoing force but a riverine force with distended inland waterways and adjacent shores to oversee. This is no small chore.

Rivers are usually a blessing. Alfred Thayer Mahan touted the Mississippi River and its tributaries for putting the interior of North America in contact with oceanic commerce. Maritime geography made it easy to ship export goods from the continental interior to foreign buyers. But the muddy Mississippi is wide and, in general, friendly to navigation. The Amazon River is no Mississippi. In some places switchbacks are so tortuous that the river is barely navigable, even for experienced riverboat skippers.

Worse, Brazilian seafarers report that the Amazon watercourse has a perverse habit of shifting from year to year. Shapeshifting terrain plays havoc with inland traffic. But because overland transport between coastal Brazil and the interior remains even more tenuous, the navy acts as the government’s humanitarian arm in the backcountry. Naval vessels commonly render medical care, for example. U.S. Navy craft seldom provide such services at home except after natural disasters—after a Hurricane Katrina or Maria. For the Marinha it’s a matter of routine.

Nor do the challenges stop with the EEZ, continental shelf, and internal waters. Despite their homeward mandate, Brazilian sailors do look beyond their maritime near abroad. But they defy expectations even when they do. Look at the map. Sea lanes transiting the region flow mainly north-south. Merchantmen and warships steam hither and yon between Atlantic seaports and the Pacific or Indian oceans, rounding Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope along their way.

By contrast, Brazilians’ mental map of the South Atlantic has an east-west orientation to it. They gaze mainly eastward toward Africa, where pirates prey on shipping in the Gulf of Guinea. The horizontal axis to Brazilian strategy is at right-angles to vertical shipping patterns.

It’s doubtful the contagion of maritime brigandage will spread westward across the Atlantic Ocean to afflict South America. So why—when the navy has plenty to do at home—would Brasilia go to the effort of attacking piracy at its source, and far from Brazilian coastlines? Multiple motives drive Brazil, like all societies. Accepting partial custodianship of the regional maritime order lets the Brazilian Navy portray itself as a South Atlantic force for good while preventing corsairs from distorting regional shipping lanes—and perhaps driving insurance rates so high that shipping firms reroute commercial traffic around the area.

The business of seagoing peoples is business. Suppressing lawlessness that imperils trade, commerce, and resource extraction represents sound strategic logic and helps Brasilia burnish its image as a responsible steward of South Atlantic security. What’s not to like?

Naval officialdom has made some peculiar fleet-design choices as it strives to discharge its mandate to enforce sovereignty, render social services and quash piracy. To name one, the Marinha and its political masters consider aircraft carriers a cornerstone of maritime strategy. Brasilia recently decommissioned its French-built flattop São Paulo, only to strike a bargain with British leaders to replace it with the retired amphibious carrier HMS Ocean.

Brazilian naval commanders regard flattops not as capital ships or platforms for storming hostile beaches, but as roving airfields for policing the Blue Amazon. They aren’t high-value units in carrier or amphibious expeditionary groups. They roam the sea without the familiar retinue of cruisers, destroyers, and submarines to ward off an aerial, surface, or subsurface attack. Corvettes and kindred small combatants comprise the bulk of the surface fleet.

In short, surface groups in the South Atlantic are different creatures from those in the Western Pacific or Mediterranean Sea. It’s jarring for those of us representing battle-minded navies to see pictures of a Brazilian flattop cruising with few if any sentry vessels alongside to stand guard. That’s a fleet begging to get pummeled!

Except it’s not. Thankfully.

Don’t get me wrong: aircraft carriers of humble scale do make sense for constabulary work. In fact, a flotilla of winsome “sea-control ships” resembling those envisaged for the U.S. Navy in the 1970s would fit the Marinha do Brasil’s peacetime needs better than the two fifty-thousand-ton behemoths naval proponents reportedly covet. In all likelihood a clutch of helicopters or jump jets flying from multiple light carriers dispersed offshore would provide better geographic coverage than would a bigger air wing operating from a single flight deck. After all, even the largest flight deck can only be in one place at a time.

And if Brasilia sees no need to fight for mastery of the South Atlantic, then it has little need for flattops larger than World War II fleet carriers. Why invest heavily in capital ships when lesser ones will do?

Another idiosyncrasy: the naval leadership wants a flotilla of nuclear-powered attack subs (SSNs). Again, though, it wants them for reasons alien to the U.S. Navy. (Brazil’s navy will be lucky to get so much as one attack boat any time soon. Scandal has engulfed the Brazilian presidency, throttled the nation’s GDP, and forced drastic cuts to the defense budget. Check out Netflix for a fictionalized account of this sorry affair that Brazilians are watching.)

There are advantages to such an acquisition. Nuclear propulsion grants SSNs virtually boundless seakeeping ability, letting them prowl their patrol grounds for months at a time. Long on-station times explain SSNs’ allure with Brazilian navalists. However, it remains unclear precisely what they expect a nuclear-attack boat to do after detecting unlawful fishing, drilling, or undersea mining. If patrol craft are constables who tote nightsticks, then SSNs are infantrymen who brandish battle-axes meant to split skulls.

Clobbering a fishing boat with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, typical submarine armament, would amount to overkill—and pricey overkill at that.

Bottom line, Brazil’s navy craves ships normally meant for conventional naval warfare—but it craves them for eccentric reasons. In one sense the Marinha resembles the U.S. Navy after World War I, which is when imperial Germany had been vanquished but no competitor had yet taken its place as the focal point of U.S. naval strategy. In 1919 Captain Harry Yarnell quipped that trying to design a fleet with no enemy in sight is like forging a machine tool without knowing whether its users intend to manufacture hairpins or locomotives.

In other words, strategic drift prevails when a service has no foe to impart direction to force design and operations. But there is an upside to Brazilians’ offbeat fascination with high-end carriers and subs: if the navy ever needs a concept of war, then some of the platforms needed to put a warlike concept into practice will already reside in the inventory. The navy can and should experiment with them, honing battle doctrine and skill lest more forbidding times come.

As they may. Perpetual peace has not come to the South Atlantic any more than it came to Europe under U.S. military protection. In reality Brazil is enjoying a holiday from history courtesy of the U.S. Navy—a silent partner in its maritime defense.

And there’s justice to that: the United States free-rode on maritime security furnished by Great Britain’s Royal Navy for most of the nineteenth century, and benefited immensely from the respite from great-power rivalry. The republic was able to subdue a continent, fight its civil war, and foster an industrial revolution precisely because British naval mastery staved off predatory empires—sparing Washington from fielding a pricey navy or army to defend its shores and interests.

Resources that might have gone into a large standing military went to economic development, or stayed in private hands. Industry flourished.

But the lesson of the nineteenth-century United States for twenty-first-century Brazil is this: holidays don’t last forever. Use them well.

British maritime supremacy came under duress toward the nineteenth century’s end. The advent of new industrial powers—Germany, Japan, the United States—cut into Britain’s material advantage. And when one of those competitors, imperial Germany, decided to construct a great battle fleet hard by the British Isles, the leadership in London felt compelled to being warships home from the Far East and Western Hemisphere.

The Americas’ external protector started withdrawing. American republics had to provide for their own defense, or go undefended.

Starting in the 1880s, happily, the United States had laid the keels for its first steam-propelled, armored, big-gun fleet. The U.S. Navy took up the burden of maritime security as the Royal Navy drew down its American Station and went home to run its arms race against Germany. By the dawn of the twentieth century Washington had built up a surplus of naval might that enabled it to guarantee nautical freedom in the Western Hemisphere.

It could do all this because London had given it a holiday from history.

But the surplus of U.S. sea power could prove perishable, like all things. China’s rise, Russian troublemaking, and sundry Eurasian challenges now beckon U.S. attention, policy energy, and martial resources to distant waters and shores. Whereas German sea power pulled the Royal Navy home, great-power mischief-making siphons U.S. naval power away from home. Eurasian adventures could expose the Americas to fresh dangers in their naval protector’s absence.

So, Brazil, by all means experiment with aircraft carriers and nuclear-powered subs. You may need them—along with a concept of how to use them in combat. Hemispheric defense could use a joint custodian under all circumstances, not just congenial ones.

Enjoy Venus—but spend some time on Mars.

James Holmes is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and coauthor of Red Star over the Pacific. The views voiced here are his alone.

This article first appeared in May 2018 and is being reprinted due to reader interest.

Image: Flickr.

Want Another Stimulus Check? These States Have Good News for You

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 13:33

Ethen Kim Lieser

economy, Americas

Despite the fact that the White House and Congress haven’t hinted at any concrete steps toward making another round of stimulus checks a reality, several states have already sent out or are in the process of issuing direct cash payments to their residents.

Here's What You Need to Remember: In Florida, lawmakers are using federal funds from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan to deliver $1,000 stimulus checks to teachers and educators in the state. Georgia, Michigan, and Tennessee also are giving out cash payments to those working in schools.  

The highly transmissible Delta variant has spread to more than one hundred forty countries and has continued its relentless trek across the United States. It now represents more than 95 percent of all coronavirus cases.  

This precarious situation has understandably made millions of still cash-strapped Americans uneasy and has only made the calls for a fourth or even a fifth round of stimulus checks even louder.  

One of the more highly publicized and passionate calls is being orchestrated by a Change.org petition, which has already garnered more than 2.8 million signatures, just two hundred thousand short of its goal.  

“I’m calling on Congress to support families with a $2,000 payment for adults and a $1,000 payment for kids immediately, and continuing regular checks for the duration of the crisis,” states the petition, which was started by a Colorado restaurant owner. 

Despite the fact that the White House and Congress haven’t hinted at any concrete steps toward making another round of stimulus checks a reality, several states have already sent out or are in the process of issuing direct cash payments to their residents. Here’s a quick rundown.  

Maryland 

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed the $1 billion RELIEF Act of 2021 in February, which approved a $500 stimulus check to families and $300 to individuals who filed for the Earned Income Tax Credit. 

California 

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed the 2021 California Comeback Plan last month that included $8.1 billion for stimulus payments. Taxpayers earning between $30,000 and $75,000 annually will receive a $600 check. Parents and guardians will be eligible for $500 for each dependent child and undocumented migrant families will also get $500. Roughly two-thirds of the state’s total population can expect to receive a stimulus payment.  

Florida 

Lawmakers are using federal funds from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan to deliver $1,000 stimulus checks to teachers and educators in the state. Georgia, Michigan, and Tennessee also are giving out cash payments to those working in schools.  

New Jersey 

New Jersey’s legislature approved a $46 billion state budget that green-lighted tax rebates of up to $500 for nearly eight hundred thousand households in the state.  

Colorado 

Gov. Jared Polis (D) issued an executive order that included $375 checks for residents who received at least one weekly unemployment benefit check from March to October 2020. More than four hundred thousand residents qualified for the money. 

New Mexico 

The New Mexico Human Services Department announced in June that more than four thousand low-income individuals will receive a check of up to $750.  

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn. This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

Have No Regrets: You Can Unclaim Those Social Security Benefits

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 13:00

Trevor Filseth

Social Security,

Social Security is paid out in full when a person reaches their “full retirement age” (FRA), an age at which the average American will have retired.

Here's What You Need to Remember: Usually, once the decision to claim Social Security is made, there is no going back—one’s payments remain basically the same for life. However, if less than a year has passed, a person can un-claim the benefits by reimbursing the Social Security Administration for the checks that they already cashed. Doing so will remove them from the SSA’s system, and they can reclaim them later at a higher level.

The Social Security Administration (SSA), established in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is responsible for paying retirement benefits to America’s senior citizens and retirees. By most accounts, the program has been vastly successful throughout its existence; it remains one of the most popular federal programs in the United States, and so far, all attempts to privatize or otherwise reform it have failed. While the program is gradually running out of money—the trust fund that pays for it is scheduled to run out in 2035, after which benefit cuts will kick in—it is very likely that Congress, motivated by the voting power of elderly Americans, will take action to protect the payments before this happens.

Social Security is paid out in full when a person reaches their “full retirement age” (FRA), an age at which the average American will have retired. For most Americans retiring now, this age is sixty-six and some number of months; for people born in 1960 or later, the age will increase to sixty-seven. At this point, a person’s full benefits will kick in, theoretically providing them with around forty percent of their pre-retirement income in benefits.

This does not mean, however, that one must wait until FRA age to claim benefits. Starting at the age of sixty-two, anyone can claim his or her benefits—if they are willing to take a substantial cut, usually around thirty percent. On some level, this is understandable: given the choice between having money now and having it later, most people would rather have it now. But most financial planners strongly recommend against taking the benefits early, noting that waiting until FRA age will quickly pay for itself if a person lives a relatively long life. This is not always the right decision—some people want to enjoy retirement, even if it means they have less money—but many Americans file for Social Security at age sixty-two without fully understanding what they are giving up.

Usually, once the decision to claim Social Security is made, there is no going back—one’s payments remain basically the same for life. However, if less than a year has passed, a person can un-claim the benefits by reimbursing the Social Security Administration for the checks that they already cashed. Doing so will remove them from the SSA’s system, and they can reclaim them later at a higher level.

If more than a year has passed, it is also possible to suspend benefits for a certain period of time. If a person contacts the Social Security Administration and asks them to suspend their benefits, they will stop receiving monthly checks until they request them again—or when they turn seventy. The SSA will give the person “delayed retirement credits,” increasing the size of their monthly checks by around eight percent per year.

This would not save a person as much money as if they had simply waited to file—but it would still amount to a substantial increase over a longer period of time.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest. This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

Why Social Security Increases aren’t Really ‘Raises’

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 12:33

Stephen Silver

economy, Americas

Motley Fool recently noted that Social Security has been overly stingy in the past with the COLA adjustments. 

There are strong indications that, due to rising inflation, next year’s cost-of-living raise for Social Security recipients will be the largest in years.

The latest estimate from the Senior Citizens League found a possible 6.2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security recipients for 2022. That was up from the organization’s previous estimate of a 6.1 percent increase.

“The estimate is significant because the COLA is based on the average of the July, August, and September CPI data,” Mary Johnson, a Social Security policy analyst for the Senior Citizens League, said in a statement. The COLA in 2021 was only 1.3 percent, which represented only a negligible increase for most beneficiaries.  

Motley Fool recently noted that Social Security has been overly stingy in the past with the COLA adjustments. 

“Seniors on Social Security are entitled to an annual raise known as a cost-of-living adjustment or COLA. The purpose of COLAs is to help seniors maintain their buying power when living expenses inevitably rise,” according to Motley Fool.

However, the question is whether it’s actual proper to refer to such increases as a “raise.” One expert says no.

Retirement expert Elizabeth Bauer said in an op-ed published this week in Forbes that “raise” is not a term that should be used for Social Security’s annual increases.

“The reality, of course, is this is not actually good news,” Bauer wrote, in reaction to several news headlines positioning the expected benefit increase as a “raise.”

“These adjustments to Social Security benefits are merely meant to keep benefits in line with inflation, and workers themselves will expect pay increases that match inflation to be owed to them, and deem a raise at CPI level to be no real ‘raise’ at all,” Bauer said.

She also noted that the inflation that’s leading to the increased benefits are not actually a good thing for Social Security recipients.

“Despite the decline in pensions for new workers, traditional defined benefit pensions remain an important source of retirement income, with 56% of retirees reporting a pension in a Federal Reserve study in 2017," she wrote. “Although states like Illinois are notorious for their guaranteed, fixed annual increases, not all states offer CPI adjustments, and CPI adjustments are exceedingly rare in the private sector.”

Bauer also noted that the 6.1 percent increase in CPI also represents a “loss in value, in fixed pensions and investments, of 6.1%.”

“The bottom line is that a high Social Security annual increase is not something to celebrate,” Bauer wrote. “It’s time to stop calling it a ‘raise’ and treat it as what it is, an adjustment meant to hold retirees harmless, which may or may not be effective at its goal depending on personal circumstances.” 

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver. 

Image: Reuters

Bennett Attempts U.S.-Israel Reset

Foreign Policy - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 12:18
The new Israeli prime minister will attempt a softer tone than his predecessor as he visits Biden’s White House.

Should You Take Social Security ‘Early’ at 62?

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 12:00

Ethen Kim Lieser

economy, Americas

Millions have already done so and many do have legitimate reasons for that decision.

Here's What You Need to Remember: “Once you reach your (full retirement age), you can contact the Social Security Administration and ask it to suspend your benefits,” Hagen said. “If you do this, you won’t receive any more Social Security checks until you either request that the Social Security Administration start sending them again or you turn seventy.”  

Despite the ubiquitous warnings from financial planners, the world will not come crumbling down if one decides to claim Social Security benefits at age sixty-two, the earliest age to do so. 

In fact, millions have already done so and many do have legitimate reasons for that decision. However, know that this isn’t for all soon-to-be retirees, as each person’s financial standing is a bit different.  

Eyeing Bigger Checks 

The one clear fact is that it could be a prudent money-related decision to delay filing for as long as possible—and that advice is fully supported by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  

“Workers planning for their retirement should be aware that retirement benefits depend on age at retirement. If a worker begins receiving benefits before his/her normal (or full) retirement age, the worker will receive a reduced benefit. A worker can choose to retire as early as age sixty-two, but doing so may result in a reduction of as much as 30 percent,” according to the SSA website.  

“Starting to receive benefits after normal retirement age may result in larger benefits. With delayed retirement credits, a person can receive his or her largest benefit by retiring at age seventy,” according to the website.  

Meanwhile, the AARP website notes that “your monthly payment will be 76 percent higher if you wait to start benefits at seventy rather than sixty-two, the earliest possible age.”  

Do-Over Possible? 

But what if one already signed up at age sixty-two? Is there a way to change one’s mind?  

Kailey Hagen, an expert finance site Motley Fool noted that “you can change your mind about claiming Social Security as long as it’s been less than one year since you signed up and you return all of the benefits paid to you and any of your family members based on your work history.” 

“If you do this, the Social Security Administration will treat you as if you’ve never claimed Social Security, and when you sign up again later, your checks will be larger,” Hagen said.

But be aware that there is a deadline for one to make this decision. If it has been more than a year since filing, then the individual will have to live with his or her decision. Also, some people just aren’t in the financial position to be able to pay back all of the benefits they have already received.  

There is, though, another smart route one can take.

“Once you reach your (full retirement age), you can contact the Social Security Administration and ask it to suspend your benefits,” Hagen said. “If you do this, you won’t receive any more Social Security checks until you either request that the Social Security Administration start sending them again or you turn seventy.”  

“In the latter case, your benefits will start automatically in the month you turn seventy. Doing this will earn you delayed retirement credits, which increase your future checks,” she added.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn. This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

Democrats Advance $3.5 Trillion Reconciliation Bill, But Obstacles Remain

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 11:33

Trevor Filseth

Infrastructure Bill,

The Senate is likely to be busy in September, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) still needs to put together a spending bill that conservative Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Krystin Sinema (D-AZ), find agreeable.

On Tuesday, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives advanced its $3.5 billion budget plan to the Senate. The vote was briefly delayed while ten Democratic representatives indicated they would not support it until a vote was held on a smaller bipartisan infrastructure deal negotiated in the Senate. After Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) committed to bringing it up for a vote within a month, the ten Democrats approved the larger bill, and it passed along partisan lines, with 220 votes in favor and 212 opposed.

The roughly $1 trillion bipartisan bill contains roughly $500 million in new spending for conventional infrastructure, including roads, bridges, the electric grid, railways, and public transit. A number of provisions related to climate were left out of this bill, eliciting complaints from progressive Democrats. Many of these were later added to the larger $3.5 trillion bill. This bill also includes universal pre-K education, Medicare expansion, and increased funding for eldercare.

The issue of passing the smaller, bipartisan bill without passing the larger one has been a point of contention on Capitol Hill. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), an alliance of progressive Democrats, indicated in an August survey that most of its ninety-six members would not vote to approve one bill unless the other would be approved as well. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), the CPC’s chairwoman, confirmed on Tuesday that this remained the group’s position.  

The Senate is likely to be busy in September, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) still needs to put together a spending bill that conservative Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Krystin Sinema (D-AZ), find agreeable. Because of the Senate’s 50-50 split, and the Republicans’ strong opposition to the proposed reconciliation bill, any dissenting Democrat in the chamber could kill the bill. Both senators have agreed to the $3.5 trillion spending proposal, substantially increasing its prospects for success.

While most bills can be “filibustered,” or blocked by a single senator until sixty or more vote to continue, reconciliation is a procedural method that exempts bills from filibusters. The March 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, which provided the third round of $1,400 stimulus checks as well as the incoming Child Tax Credit advance payments, was passed through reconciliation. However, Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, has declared that Democrats will only receive one more reconciliation bill during the current legislative session—which Schumer and other Senate Democratic leaders are using for this bill.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.

Image: Reuters

Take Note: Biden Has Passed a Second ‘Child Tax Credit’

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 11:00

Trevor Filseth

Child Tax Credit,

July’s checks have mostly arrived by now, and August’s are on their way, with the next round of checks set to be distributed on Wednesday, September 15.

Here's What You Need to Remember: Under the old rules, parents could claim $3,000 in expenses for up to two children, for a maximum credit of $6,000. The American Rescue Plan Act nearly tripled this payout, allowing families to claim up to $8,000 per child, or $16,000 in total.

The American Rescue Plan Act, passed by President Joe Biden in March 2021, provided for an expanded version of the Child Tax Credit. Before the plan, the credit provided a tax credit of $2,000 to parents for each of their children, with no distinction based on age. The credit could only be claimed on one’s tax return, and if a family owed less than $2,000 in taxes, the credit could not be claimed in full.

The American Rescue Plan Act changed all of this. The credit was raised to $3,000 or $3,600 per child per year, depending on the child’s age; it was made fully refundable, meaning that it would still be paid to families who could not discount all of it from their taxes; and, most importantly, half of it is being sent out in advance, in the form of monthly checks from July until December. July’s checks have mostly arrived by now, and August’s are on their way, with the next round of checks set to be distributed on Wednesday, September 15.

This tax credit has proven to be very popular with American families, to the extent that some are pushing for the credit to be made permanent. However, the American Rescue Plan Act also raised another significant tax credit that has received far less attention: the “Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit,” which, according to a recent Bipartisan Policy Center survey, roughly half of all Americans are completely unaware of.

As they sound very similar and fulfill a similar purpose, the two tax credits are sometimes conflated, but they are substantially different in their details. While the Child Tax Credit is intended to cover general child-associated costs, the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit reimburses parents for specific expenses that they can show they spent on their children, although the rules for how this money can be spent and what expenses can be deducted are somewhat stricter.

Under the old rules, parents could claim $3,000 in expenses for up to two children, for a maximum credit of $6,000. The American Rescue Plan Act nearly tripled this payout, allowing families to claim up to $8,000 per child, or $16,000 in total. This is substantially more than the Child Tax Credit provides; for example, a family of two high school-aged children could receive only $6,000 directly from the Child Tax Credit.

And, like the Child Tax Credit, the American Rescue Plan made the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit fully refundable, meaning that families without tax liabilities can still claim the payments as cash.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest. This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

Glitches Can’t Stop It: The Child Tax Credit Is Coming Home

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 10:33

Ethen Kim Lieser

Child Tax Credit,

There are still reports abound that parents have yet to see the funds in their respective bank accounts.

Here's What You Need to Remember: Do take note that after sending out last month’s Child Tax Credit payments, the IRS admitted that some “mixed-status” families—those with one parent who is a U.S. citizen and the other who is an immigrant—didn’t immediately see the funds in their bank accounts.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Treasury Department have confirmed that they are in the process of successfully disbursing the second batch of advance monthly payments worth approximately $15 billion from the expanded Child Tax Credits, but there are still reports abound that parents have yet to see the funds in their respective bank accounts.

According to the agencies, one glitch is due to an unspecified issue, and that up to fifteen percent of families who received the payment in July via direct deposit now will be getting a paper check via the post office this month.

“Like the first payments, the vast majority of families will receive these payments by direct deposit,” the IRS noted in a release. “For those affected, no additional action is needed for the September payment to be issued by direct deposit. Families can visit the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to see if they’re receiving a direct deposit or paper check this month.”

Getting one’s hands on the Child Tax Credits via traditional mail could potentially take a week or longer. “Be sure to allow extra time for delivery by mail through the end of August,” the agency advised.

Glitch No. 2

Do take note that after sending out last month’s Child Tax Credit payments, the IRS admitted that some “mixed-status” families—those with one parent who is a U.S. citizen and the other who is an immigrant—didn’t immediately see the funds in their bank accounts.

The agency confirmed that the nonpayment was indeed a mistake and proper steps have been taken to rectify the matter. 

Lacking Necessary Information

Other eligible parents who may have not received their tax credits might not have the required information—such as an address and routing and bank account numbers—on file at the tax agency. Due to this issue, a recent report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has indicated that roughly four million children from low-income families are at risk of not receiving any funds from the expanded credits.

For months, the IRS has asserted that the fastest way for Americans to get their hands on the credits or any of the three stimulus checks is to file a federal tax return as soon as possible. The public can also take advantage of the recently launched Non-filer Sign-up Tool, which will help disburse the credits promptly.

The expanded Child Tax Credits, approved under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan last spring, now allow eligible parents to collect as much as $3,600 per year for a child under the age of six and up to $3,000 for children between ages six and seventeen. Broken down, that means a $250 or a $300 payment for each child will be deposited each month through the end of the year.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn. This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

Will the Child Tax Credit Help the Poor? Only if the IRS Can Find Them

The National Interest - Thu, 26/08/2021 - 10:00

Ethen Kim Lieser

economy, Americas

The latest estimates suggest that about thirty-six million American families are currently receiving the monthly payments, but the agencies have made it known that it isn’t too late to sign up for the recurring funds.  

Here's What You Need to Remember: A recent report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities revealed that approximately four million children from low-income families are at risk of not receiving the monthly payments if the tax agency doesn’t have the required personal and financial information.

The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department already are two months into the disbursement of the expanded child tax credits that were approved under President Joe Biden’s ambitious American Rescue Plan

The latest estimates suggest that about thirty-six million American families are currently receiving the monthly payments, but the agencies have made it known that it isn’t too late to sign up for the recurring funds.  

Bigger Monthly Checks 

In fact, if a person chooses to sign up now, then the remaining payments would indeed be even bigger compared to those who have been receiving the checks since July.  

The chief reason is that the money is an advance on tax credits—of which half is to be delivered this year and the rest to arrive when individuals file their federal tax returns next year. Therefore, even if a person signs up late for the credits, the agencies will try to issue the entire first half of the credits by the time 2022 rolls around.  

For example, if a family missed the child tax credit payments in July but was able to sign up this month, there would indeed be a slight bump in the monthly checks.  

“This means that the total payment will be spread over five months, rather than six, making each monthly payment larger,” the IRS noted in a statement.  

“For these families, each payment is up to $360 per month for each child under age six and up to $300 per month for each child ages six through seventeen,” it continued.  

For weeks, the IRS has been urging potentially eligible Americans to take advantage of the Non-filer Sign-up Tool that will give the tax agency the necessary information—such as an address and routing and bank account numbers—to promptly disburse the funds.  

The IRS has also launched a brand-new feature that enables any eligible family to update their mailing address using the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, which can be found on IRS.gov.  

“This feature will help any family that chooses to receive their payment by paper check avoid mailing delays or even having a check returned as undeliverable,” the IRS says in a release.  

Focus on Low-Income Households  

Being able to reach the nation’s poorest households has become a primary goal of the agency.  

“This important new tax change affects millions of families across the nation, and the IRS wants to do everything it can to help people get the payments,” IRS Wage & Investment Commissioner Ken Corbin, who also serves as the agency’s Chief Taxpayer Experience Officer, said in a statement

“Many people miss out on tax benefits simply because they don’t file a tax return,” he added. 

A recent report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities revealed that approximately four million children from low-income families are at risk of not receiving the monthly payments if the tax agency doesn’t have the required personal and financial information.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn. This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

‘Charlie Wilson’s Playbook’: Lawmaker Pushes Biden to Back Anti-Taliban Resistance

Foreign Policy - Wed, 25/08/2021 - 23:56
Administration remains focused on evacuation efforts for now.

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