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A think tank without walls
Updated: 57 min 17 sec ago

Progressives Should Support Open Borders — With No Apology

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 9:59am


When President Donald Trump claimed in his State of the Union Address that “wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders, while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards,” it was his latest of countless efforts to accuse Democrats and liberals of being “soft” on migration.

Like the entirety of Trump’s speech, this claim was misleading and outright false on many levels.

The notion, for example, that “liberal elites” support open borders while a billionaire president defends the working class from the migrant “threat” is outrageous. Among the many problems with the argument is that it ignores — or rather, intentionally obscures — the fact that the U.S. working class itself is composed in significant part by millions of migrants.

Far from immigrants being outsiders who endanger the working class of this country, they are part of its fabric — far more so than Donald Trump, who was born wealthy, ever was.

But Trump’s main argument, that there are those on the liberal end of Washington’s political class who advocate for free migration across borders, is simply a lie.

As the New York Times pointed out last year, the Democratic Party has repeatedly and expressly condemned open borders in word and supported border militarization in deed. In fact, Stacey Abrams distanced herself from the position immediately after Trump’s speech in the Democratic response, asserting that “compassionate treatment is not the same as open borders” and promising that “Democrats stand ready to effectively secure our ports and borders.”

genuine call for open borders is virtually absent from the debate between the White House and Capitol Hill, where the question has been not whether to militarize the border, but merely how many billions of dollars should be devoted to “border security,” or what specific physical infrastructure it should buy.

But open borders is more than an epithet for the right to attack its opponents with. It is a legitimate position, and the left should take it up as the only humane one.

Catching up with capital

For decades, critics of globalization have pointed out that the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization—institutions that are shaped and dominated by the United States—have helped create a world where capital moves freely, while human beings are stuck at borders. Numerous “free trade” agreements have accelerated this trend.

As asylum seekers at the border confront metal barriers, surveillance drones and armed guards barring their entry, trucks, trains and boats bring a high volume of shipping containers into the United States each day. Ports of entry have perfected clearing these goods through customs efficiently, and policy makers have regulated (and deregulated) international commerce to make the process as easy as possible.

If only the people migrating from Central America and elsewhere were commodities instead of human beings, they would enter the United States painlessly, be handled with care by workers who are experts at transferring goods quickly and carefully, and then transported overnight to all corners of the country through extensive commercial distribution networks.

Commercial goods aren’t the only things that move freely across borders. The U.S. military carries out operations all over the world with such regularity that it’s not even considered newsworthy in the United States.

It’s bitterly ironic that Trump constantly describes migrants in the Central American Exodus as an “invasion,” when the United States has carried out so many actual invasions of that region — operations which bear great responsibility for destabilizing those societies and pushing so many people to come north in the first place.

The right to movement

Systems and governments that invest tremendously in perfecting the movement of commerce and violence across borders, while investing at similar scale to stop the movement of people, aren’t being simply hypocritical. They’re also violating a fundamental human right.

People have the right to move freely. Human migration, and migration particular to the Americas, predates the United States or its borders. Indeed, many of the people coming north from Central America are Indigenous, belonging to groups of people whose histories stretch far before that of the U.S. nation-state.

The right to freedom of movement becomes only more important as growing numbers of people become uprooted and displaced. Conflicts over control of the planet’s resources, economic policies that devastate people the world over, and climate change — which creates more disasters and makes parts of the world uninhabitable for everyday life—are all increasing.

With those dynamics, the responsibility of governments to honor people’s freedom to move only grows, too—as does that of ordinary people to defend that right.

New political possibilities

We are living in a time, not only of darkness and repression, but also political possibility.

Medicare for All, previously a marginalized demand in the United States (though existing in practice throughout much of the world) is now a central demand of mainstream liberal politics.

The slogan “Abolish ICE”—first raised by grassroots migrant justice activists and lifted up by the Democratic Socialists of America—has been brought into official U.S. politics and even carried onto Capitol Hill by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The slogan has become so potent that the president and vice president have had to go out of their way to denounce it—something Trump did again in the most recent State of the Union.

Meanwhile, the majority of people in the United States oppose Trump’s wall. And three-quarters of Americans recently told pollsters they think immigration is “a good thing.”

These facts — evidence of a complicated political terrain, but one that has much promise for progressives and the left — show why supporting “border security” rather than centering the rights of migrants in the conversation about migration is not only wrong. It’s also out of step with the progressive trend in U.S. politics.

While demanding open borders may seem like a marginal position in U.S. politics now, keep in mind that “build the wall” was on the fringe until recently.

The right wing has been audacious in upsetting mainstream sensibilities regarding the treatment of asylum seekers, calling for—and enacting through the White House—the separation of migrant families and mass detention of migrants, all in highly public ways. It has also flouted U.S. law in using Mexico as a holding cell for asylum seekers, rather than honoring their right to enter the U.S. and to due process for asylum applications once here. And Trump has even called for the end of birthright citizenship, targeting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, won by Black people in the U.S. following the Civil War.

We should match—and go beyond—their boldness, in defending the right to migrate as fundamental to humanity. We should be calling for open the borders, without apology.

This article was produced in partnership with In These Times.

The post Progressives Should Support Open Borders — With No Apology appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Answering the Attacks on the Green New Deal

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 1:08pm


It’s become a common trope of the Trump era for columnists and commentators to attack the lunacy of the far right at the same time as castigating the “loony left.”

These pundits, who usually place themselves in a comfortable “moderate” position, adopt a tone of consummate reasonableness. The president is certainly an idiot, they say, but it would be a mistake to respond with comparable insanity from the other side of the political spectrum.

Much of this pox-on-both-houses commentary focuses its criticism on individuals: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (for being naïve), Rep. Ilhan Omar (for being anti-Semitic), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (for being fast and loose with the facts of her own background), Sen. Bernie Sanders (for being, well, Bernie).

These ad hominem attacks are irritating, but the false even-handedness has been especially disturbing at the level of policy. For instance, the so-called moderates let loose a volley against Trump’s power move to declare a national emergency in order to build his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Then they turn around and blast the progressive vision of a Green New Deal (GND). On the very same opinions page of The Washington Post last week, Max Boot called the GND the “left-wing version of Trump’s farcical promise that he would build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it,” while George Will opined that “President Trump has his wall, the left has its GND.”

Really? Really?!

Okay, I have my own laundry list of ridiculous positions that elements of the American left have taken over the years. But addressing climate change and economic inequality should absolutely be at the very center of any sensible, reasonable political program — left, right, or center. The first is an existential threat to the human race that requires an urgent response in the next dozen years or it’s basically game over for future generations. The second is an endemic problem that, in addition to causing much abject misery, has contributed to political polarization, the rise of dangerous right-wing populism, and the fraying of multilateral institutions.

And Max Boot and George Will compare the Democratic Party’s effort to address these major crises to Donald Trump’s ridiculous “solution” to a threat of his own creation? Talk about false equivalences.

And it’s not just Will and Boot (which, by the way, would make a great name for a right-wing sitcom). In The Washington Post alone, Roger Lowenstein criticizes the GND for being too socialist, Charles Lane argues that the GND cannot be democratic because FDR’s New Deal required a good deal of coercion, David von Drehle lambastes the GND as unrealistic and hyperbolic, Catherine Rampell calls it “lazy sloganeering,” and Megan McArdle piles on with her assessment that it’s “lunatic.”

Ah, the liberal-conservative echo chamber!

This is the mainstream media, mind you, not the Fox NewsDaily CallerLimbaugh axis of inanity. True, there have been a few dissenting voices who have praised the Green New Deal: Eugene Robinson in The Post, Liam Denning at Bloomberg, Al Gore on his own website. But the GND has emerged as the perfect opportunity for anyone who aspires to cultivate what passes for political credibility inside the Beltway to balance their anti-Trump jeremiads with a swipe at the left.

Let’s take a closer look at the GND proposals to see if they are as wildly off base as the Washington consensus suggests.

Reading the GND

The House resolution introduced by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez begins with a summary of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released last October. It’s a grim recitation of the costs — physical as well as financial — to the planet if global temperatures rise 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

Then the resolution identifies the economic problems afflicting the United States, from four decades of stagnation to the kind of income inequality not seen in 100 years. It briefly connects the two issues: climate change will, for instance, disproportionately affect the poor since the rich can use their money to cushion the effects. It then cites the example of the New Deal as an ambitious program to put Americans at work to rebuild the country.

Finally, it identifies the goals of the Green New Deal: to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by employing a large number of Americans to transform the infrastructure of the country and to do so in a just and equitable manner. This would require a 10-year national mobilization that builds up the capacity of renewable energy sources, makes buildings more energy-efficient, transforms manufacturing along sustainable lines, reduces carbon emissions from the agricultural sector, and expands clean and affordable public transportation. At the same time, the mobilization would be eco-friendly by cleaning up hazardous waste sites and restoring biodiverse areas.

In terms of addressing economic inequality, the GND calls for more funds for education and training in “frontline and vulnerable communities” along with focused job creation in those communities and fair-trade practices that encourage the growth of domestic manufacturing.

This is a nonbinding resolution. It doesn’t come with any budget requirements. It doesn’t create any agencies.

Critics dismiss it as a dream. But that’s precisely what it is. It’s visionary.

Hillary Clinton came under attack — from some of these same “moderate” pundits — for being too wonky, for not articulating a bold and transformative vision for the country.

Well, here it is folks, something that candidates for offices at all levels can hold up and say, “We’ve stuck to the status quo for years and that’s why we’re in this crisis. Americans voted for Trump because they wanted something new but they only got more of the same: corruption, lies, tax cuts for the wealthy. So, now here’s something new and big and bold. This is how American can lead. This is how we can help ourselves, our neighbors, our country, and the world.”

Go big or go home, America.

Answering the Critics

Much of the controversy surrounding the Green New Deal has nothing to do with the resolution itself. Conservatives in particular have focused on a “fact sheet” distributed to the press by Ocasio-Cortez’s office. They have quoted from this document to argue that Democrats want to get rid of cows, take away your car, and give money to people who don’t want to work.

The fact sheet clearly did not receive as much care and attention as the resolution itself. After a firestorm of criticism, Ocasio-Cortez’s office amended the document.

The rollout of the GND was reminiscent of the controversy surrounding the rollout of Obama’s health care initiative, when the website crashed on its first day. Yes, the administration should have handled the rollout more effectively — but the Affordable Care Act proved to be extraordinarily popular and effective (at least, until certain states and then the Trump administration began to take an ax to it).

Some speed bumps are to be expected with big initiatives like universal health care or a Green New Deal. Frankly, it’s amazing that a newly elected representative has managed to pull together so much support within the Democratic Party for such a proposal. Let’s not get worked up over a few poorly chosen words in a fact sheet.  

Still, some of the criticisms merit discussion because they help clarify the issues.

The major challenge for a proposal of this nature is how to pay for it. Here the critics complain that GND supporters want to just print money to pay for the program, that it will throw the country into deeper debt, that it will cause hyperinflation, that it will turn the United States into Venezuela.

Dealing with climate change is going to cost a lot of money. It will be equally costly to address economic inequality.

But the proponents of GND are far more fiscally responsible than either the George W. Bush or Donald Trump administrations, both of which combined tax cuts with increases in military spending. The Global New Deal is about marshalling both public and private resources to grow the economy. This is not welfare-state redistribution. This is expanding clean industries, creating jobs in sectors like retrofitting existing housing, and investing in new technologies that can make the United States more globally competitive.

Meanwhile, the costs of the current haphazard way of addressing climate change are mounting: a half a trillion dollars in lost economic output by 2100 plus another trillion dollars in damage to public infrastructure and coastline, according to the U.S. government’s own accounting in November 2018. Those are the minimum opportunity costs of continuing on the current path.

Critics argue that leaving nuclear power out of the equation makes it impossible to meet the goals of reducing carbon emissions. This is definitely an important debate. And it will no doubt be difficult for America to wean itself off nuclear power, which currently supplies about 20 percent of overall electricity generation.

But in 2000, nuclear power supplied Germany with nearly 30 percent of its electricity. Today it’s down to 13 percent, and the country plans to zero out nuclear power by 2022. Furthermore, it is doing so as part of a more ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gases than the United States has undertaken (though Germany will also likely fail to reach those goals in 2020 for reasons having little to do with nuclear power).

Critics also note the lack of a central role in the Green New Deal of either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. The fact sheet acknowledges the utility of both of these tools. But it rightly points out that these market mechanisms are woefully insufficient given the scale of the problem.

Will GND get rid of cows and cars? No.

Methane-producing cows are certainly a problem. Livestock produce more than one-quarter of U.S. methane emissions (which are far worse for climate change than carbon dioxide). It behooves us all to move toward a more plant-based diet for a variety of reasons, including climate change. But in the meantime, it makes more sense to talk about changing what cows eat — for instance, adding seaweed to their diet — than getting rid of them altogether.

The same can be said about cars — their diet, too, should shift, in this case from gas to electric. But America’s obsession with cars must also change. Beefing up public transportation makes eminent sense. Even replacing planes with high-speed rail is an appealing option for much of the country. The fact that California hasn’t been able to get its one proposed high-speed line up and running has nothing to do with the wisdom of the plan.

Compared to Asia and Europe, the United States is a transportation embarrassment. At minimum, Americans should not be flying between destinations on the East Coast or within California when rail would be much more energy efficient.

Time Running Out

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is doing the right thing. She’s not waiting around to get more experience of the legislative playing field before launching a major initiative. She’s keeping her eye on the essential issues even as her critics carp about a few miscues. As the youngest representative in Congress, she represents the hopes and frustrations of the next generation. Young people around the world are staging school strikes and launching lawsuits to protest the lack of action from their supposedly wiser elders.

In my new novel Frostlands, the main character, glaciologist Rachel Leopold, tries to explain to a group of schoolchildren in the year 2051 why her generation failed to solve the problem of climate change. She tells the story in the form of a fairy tale featuring a terrible monster.

“What did the monster look like?” the children ask.

“It was invisible, my dear children,” Rachel replies. “But we could feel its hot breath and see the terrible things it did. It could make the oceans rise. It could make the crops wilt in the fields. Still, we kept feeding this terrible beast.”

“But why?”

“It’s what the monster demanded. Some monsters want to devour little children. Others insist on young maidens. But this monster demanded tankers of oil and truckloads of coal. Even as it grew, it demanded more and more.”

The children are wide-eyed by now. “What did you do?”

Rachel tells them about the testimony she gave before Congress. But the legislators didn’t listen. So, Rachel gave up.

The children look disappointed. They know their fairy tales. They expect someone — a knight in shining armor, an orphan child with special powers — to appear suddenly and slay the monster.

“There was no knight,” I lament. “The monster still lives. We can feel its hot breath even today.”

“It’s not fair,” complains a little boy. “You should have killed it.”

“Why didn’t our grandparents run the factories every other day?” a bright young girl pipes up. “Why didn’t they drive those stupid cars just on the weekend?”

Why indeed.

But now it seems that someone in Congress is listening. The Green New Deal is America’s last best chance to get it right.

Otherwise, dystopia beckons…

The post Answering the Attacks on the Green New Deal appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus and the author of the new dystopian novel Frostlands.

What War Films Never Show You

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 12:25pm

Peter Jackson’s “They Shall Not Grow Old” (Shutterstock)

Newspapers on the other side of the world are calling it “the biggest U.S. cinema event of all time.”

Critical acclaim has poured in from all corners for the BBC production They Shall Not Grow Old, a technical and emotional masterpiece on the First World War — the war Woodrow Wilson said would “make the world safe for democracy.”

The way the film brings old footage, and therefore the soldiers, to life is almost magical and powerfully moving. But because of how director Peter Jackson defined his film, a critical element is virtually invisible: the wounded.

Jackson distilled the stories of 120 veterans who spoke on some 600 hours of BBC audio tape done in the 1960s and ‘70s. His goal was to have “120 men telling a single story…what it was like being a British soldier on the Western Front.” He artfully presents it, using no narration other than the archive of BBC interviews.

But since dead men tell no tales, nor do the severely wounded often live into their 70s and 80s, the film narrows its focus to the camaraderie and adventures of young men growing up with shared experiences of tinned rations, trench life, and rats. The dead flit across the screen in graphic but limited numbers of colorized photos of corpses.

The wounded receive mute witness with brief footage of gas attacks, and a classic photo of seven British troops carrying one wounded comrade through the knee-deep mud of Passchendaele.

Jackson’s team brilliantly turned herky-jerky, silent, monochrome youths into breathing, talking, living color, with compelling stories. But because of his cinematic goal, this assured award-winner misses the depth of feeling and realism it could have projected by giving similar treatment to the agony of the wounded.

Among the neglected images that failed to benefit from Jackson’s alchemy is footage of shell-shock victims filmed at Britain’s Netley Hospital in 1917. The footage would have retained its halting, jerking properties not from erratic frame speeds, but because the young men were tormented with nerve damage.

Nor did Jackson include footage of amputee veterans exiting Queen Mary’s Workshop, dozen upon dozen upon dozen, hobbling in rapid succession.

He might’ve added one or two photos from New Zealand doctor Major Harold Gillies’ groundbreaking book Plastic Surgery of the Face, showing how red-hot shrapnel can carve bone and muscle into monstrous forms.

My own experiences revealed the side of war that Jackson left out.

Ever since nursing GIs returning from Vietnam, I’ve firmly believed that no member of Congress should be allowed to vote on war funding until working for a month in the back ward of a VA hospital.

Let them vote only after emptying urine bags, turning sallow bodies, and daubing the bed sores of formerly healthy youths who will never move on their own again. Or after offloading wounded young people from a passenger jetliner with the seats removed and four vertical rows of stretcher hooks extending all the way down both sides of the aisle.

They Shall Not Grow Old allows the reminiscences of 70-year-old veterans to breathe life into the determined, youthful images Jackson shows us on screen. In so doing, we gain a much greater appreciation of “being a British soldier on the Western Front.”

But it could also have given movie-goers a glimpse into the part of war so rarely seen. It might then have been named, They Shall Suffer Horribly and Die Before Their Time. Hardly a formula for box office success… which is perhaps why war movies never go there, and why the next generation always signs up when their leaders beat the drum.

The post What War Films Never Show You appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Mike Ferner, a former president of Veterans for Peace, served as a corpsman on the neurosurgery and psychiatric wards of the Great Lakes Naval Hospital during the Vietnam war. He lives in Toledo. 

Remembering Harris Wofford, Who Dreamed of a ‘United States of the World’

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 10:33am

Harris Wofford (left) as a young aide to John F. Kennedy

“Count no man happy until he dies,” declared Sophocles 24 long centuries ago, in the immortal final line of Oedipus Rex. The sages of ancient Greece understood that the purpose, the meaning, the verdict on a life couldn’t be rendered until after it had run its course — and perhaps not until decades or centuries later.

The obituaries in The New York Times and The Washington Post for Harris Wofford Jr., who died on January 21 at 92, focused mostly on his work as an aide to candidate and President John F. Kennedy, and then later as a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. But it may turn out, in the very long run, that his greatest legacy was what Harris told me was “his first love in the world of ideas,” and the first great cause of his life.

Because in 1942, during the darkest days of the Second World War, teenage Harris Wofford founded a nationwide youth movement which proclaimed that after the end of that war the human race could abolish war, by creating a “United States of the World.”

The 1940s Student Movement for a World Republic

I met Harris seven years ago, in January 2012. He was speaking at a small, under-the-radar Ethiopian history event in Washington D.C. (He had served in the early 1960s as the first director of Peace Corps programs in Africa.)

I approached him afterwards, told him I knew a bit about his even more remote personal history, and asked him, well, if he still believed any of that stuff. “It’s totally still how I think about the direction of history,” he replied. “And you’re the first one to ask me anything about it in maybe 25 years.”

So he invited me to come by for a visit sometime in his Foggy Bottom apartment. Soon I did. And I invited myself back many times thereafter, pretty much every two or three months for the next seven years, to interrogate him about the almost completely forgotten movement in the 1940s to bring about One World.

One night early in 1941, Harris told me, as WWII raged prior to America’s entry, he was sitting in the bathtub in his family’s home in Scarsdale, New York, simultaneously trying to complete his Latin homework and listen to Mr. District Attorney on the radio. The crime drama reached its denouement, and the radio station switched to talking heads at the Waldorf-Astoria. “Had the contraption been within reach,” he said, “I would have quickly turned the dial.”

But the captive audience of one instead was forced to listen to a panel, including New York Tribune columnist Dorothy Thompson, Nobel laureate author Thomas Mann, and future congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce, all proselytizing for something they called “A World Federal Union of Free Men.”

“Democracies must do what our 13 states did long ago,” said Luce, “unite to face a common peril, form the nucleus of a world government … and expand around the world until it becomes the United States of all mankind.” Harris later wrote that “prophets and visionary statesmen had proclaimed the idea of a Federal World Republic for centuries. … But for me the idea was born that night.”

Harris recounted this origin tale in his 1946 book It’s Up to Us: Federal World Government In Our Time — written at age 19 while he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, published by Harcourt Brace, and edited by the legendary publisher Robert Giroux. It was well told again in Gilbert Jonas’s 2001 iUniverse book One Shining Moment: A Short History of the American Student World Federalist Movement 1942-1953.

A year later Pearl Harbor had brought America into the war, and that moved 15-year-old Harris to act. One evening early in 1942 he and classmate Mary Ellen Purdy set out on their bicycles, rode around Scarsdale, knocked on doors, missed their suppers — but enlisted themselves and eight other classmates as the inaugural chapter of the “Student Federalists.”

“Those of us who would later come under Wofford’s charismatic spell,” wrote Jonas, “know full well how difficult it must have been for his peers to resist.”

Harris Wofford’s Scarsdale home became the outfit’s bustling headquarters. A perpetual teenage conclave in the living room, backyard, and kitchen was mostly tolerated by his equanimous parents. His grandmother endured misadventures like a couple of stumbling boys bursting into her bedroom while she was half dressed, because “we thought this was the supply closet.” Nevertheless, magnanimously, she began to contribute $5 per month.

And the Student Federalists began to spread far beyond the boundaries of Scarsdale. Funds were raised. Speaking tours were organized. Literature was printed. Essay contests were launched. A “Model World Constitutional Convention” was undertaken just a few weeks before D-Day. TIME magazine published a flattering article on the organization’s founder on November 20, 1944.

During one cycle the National Debate Tournament topic for all American high schools was: “RESOLVED: That a federal world government should be established.” The chancellor of the University of Chicago, Robert Maynard Hutchins, assembled a group of eminent scholars and designated them “the Committee to Frame a World Constitution.” (Harris, by then a UofC undergraduate, served as advisor and chief bottle washer for the Committee.)

It must be admitted that the Student Federalists were hardly a model of diversity. Most of the members were white, well-off, and privileged. Harris made a point of telling me this the very first time I visited him at his home.

But that same fundamental flaw was not evident when it came to gender. The Jonas book is full of photographs of young women right in the thick of things, obviously not relegated to clerical duties. The Wellesley College Student Federalist chapter alone boasted 200 members. Indeed, one of the organization’s earliest leaders was a champion high school debater from Minnesota named Clare Lindgren, who went on both to serve as third president of the Student Federalists and to marry Harris Wofford in 1948.

By 1947, the Student Federalists had enlisted several thousand members — many of them battle-tempered WWII veterans — opened ten regional offices, and established chapters on 367 high school and college campuses around the country. In February of that year, they combined with a half dozen similarly thriving world government advocacy organizations to form the “United World Federalists” (UWF).

One of the leading brokers of the merger, by all accounts, was 21-year-old Harris Wofford. That organization has remained in continuous existence ever since — small, obscure, struggling, but endeavoring to keep the flame alive — and is known today as Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS).

A Brilliant Young Man’s Thinking on a World Republic

Two years after his 1946 book, Harris wrote a sequel monograph called Road to the World Republic. The foreword was written by Stringfellow Barr, longtime president of St. John’s College in Annapolis (and founder, with Wofford’s own greatest mentor Scott Buchanan, of the Great Books Program there) — who had resigned from St. John’s to become president of a new “Foundation for World Government.”

In these two works, Harris Wofford demonstrated that he possessed more than just the personal magnetism that Gil Jonas described, but a deep and probing intellect as well.

With the new United Nations only a few months old, Harris illuminated both its impotence and undemocratic character. “We should work to develop the General Assembly into a world law-making body by delegating it real powers,” he recommended. “Assembly delegates should be elected directly by the people of the respective nations.”

He emphasized the bedrock idea that world government would not eliminate local institutions or identities. “By becoming a world citizen we maintain citizenship in our city, province, and nation, and gain a higher and more precious title. … This means a world government that is federal, with power in all fields truly international in scope but with lower levels each continuing in the fields it can govern best … Only such a federal union can protect the diversity in the world and still secure the needed unity.”

Yet at the same time it might enact and enforce standards within states as well. How? “A World Bill of Rights … should include freedom of religion, thought, speech, press, assembly, elections, and fair trials. The world government must assure these rights to all its citizens everywhere, with no prejudice to race, nationality, class, or sex.”

That first sentence is quite similar to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which came into force in 1948 — though of course without any global mechanism to enforce it. When I pointed out to Harris that his second sentence would be greeted today as politically preposterous, he immediately agreed. But the alternative, he insisted, was to resign ourselves forever to the dismal fate of women in so much of the world, and of gay people in so many homophobic nations, and of political dissidents in authoritarian countries.

He recognized that what he proposed would mean epochal historical transformation. “World federal government would be the greatest political step ever taken by man. The idea of moving from the national to the world level of citizenship is the most revolutionary proposal in history. … A whole new world would open to man once he moved from his present confining nationalism into this great, truly global civilization.”

And he called unapologetically for philanthropists to step up. “Carnegies and Nobels are needed. There must be some men and women who will leave their millions to this cause instead of to private schools, libraries, or homes for stray cats. A share in building world federation would be the greatest memorial anyone could seek.”

During our many conversations in his apartment, I found that a couple of ancient episodes moved Harris Wofford still. In It’s Up to Us, he related that one classmate would shout “Union Never” whenever passing a Student Federalist in the hallways of Scarsdale High. This, Harris told me, is what he yearned to reawaken. An active debate about whether something like a world union might actually be a desirable destination, or whether instead it’s something that would on balance do more harm than good for the human condition. He very much lamented that the topic, in both the high school hallways and the digital public squares of today, has become conspicuous only by its absence from the debates of the 21st century.

Another was the tale he told in Road to the World Republic of Duncan Cameron, an 18-year-old boy who refused induction into the British Army, “preferring prison rather than violence in support of national interests.” But young Cameron was no pacifist. He declared his “determination never again to serve in the army of a nation-state,” but simultaneously announced “his readiness to serve in a World Police Force to enforce world law.” British authorities put him on trial for treason. Harris called it instead “loyalty to the world community.”

The Road to the World Republic

“The living owe it to those who no longer can speak,” said the great Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, “to tell their story for them.” That seems especially true when a Harris Wofford dies at a time when so many demagogues, both here and abroad, seek to divide our one humanity by race, class, gender, religion, and nation.

Every time we got together, I could tell that it meant a great deal to Harris that one person, during the twilight of his life, knew something about and asked him about and cared about his opening act on the stage of history. And he demonstrated his enduring commitment to the dream of a politically unified human race. We coauthored two articles about it for The Huffington Post and the Public Interest Report from the Federation of American Scientists. These pieces were decidedly not ghostwritten by me. We worked on them together for weeks, and at age 88 he haggled with me over every word.

We also made three joint speaking appearances together about it — at the Brearley School in Manhattan (which had maintained a thriving Student Federalist chapter seven decades earlier), at the Woman’s National Democratic Club in Washington, DC, and before the University of Chicago Alumni Club. And just about a year ago, he re-engaged with the organization he did so much to create, Citizens for Global Solutions, joining its newly reconstituting Advisory Council after I showed him the organization’s newly reconceptualized mission statement, committing to “a democratic federation of nations with the power to enact enforceable world law to abolish war, protect universal human rights, and restore and sustain our global environment.”

Nineteen-year-old Harris Wofford dedicated It’s Up To Us “To Jim, Tom, Bruce, Dwight, and all the sons of a fighting earth, who died so that democracy might live and mankind have a chance to move forward in our time to the United States of the World.” Classmates at Scarsdale High all, dispatched by their country to war but never returned. Dwight and Jim were killed in Germany, Bruce on Iwo Jima, and Tom on the USS Indianapolis — likely drowned or devoured alive by sharks in one of the most horrifying episodes of a horrible war — after delivering to Tinian Island the atomic bomb that would be detonated a week later over Hiroshima.

These young men all died in their early 20s, while their classmate Harris Wofford lived until his early 90s. And he died with the hope in his heart that the daughters and sons of our still fighting earth, today, might once again ignite a new youth movement for global citizenship and planetary patriotism and human unity. Might once again mount a campaign to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. Might produce a few more Duncan Camerons. And might generate an irresistible historical current, so that their own daughters and sons might someday be born into a united world.

The post Remembering Harris Wofford, Who Dreamed of a ‘United States of the World’ appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Tad Daley is the Director of Policy Analysis at Citizens for Global Solutions – an NGO co-founded in 1947 by the late Harris Wofford. He has served as a speechwriter, policy adviser, or coauthor for two Democratic members of the U.S. House and two more Democratic U.S. senators. He is author of the book APOCALYPSE NEVER: Forging the Path to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World from Rutgers University Press. Follow him on Twitter @TheTadDaley.

China is Flooding the Middle East With Cheap Drones

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 9:57am


The last great revolution on the world’s battlefields began with the advent of the drone era.

Particularly in the Middle East, the drone became the symbol of the U.S. empire operating in a legal vacuum. In the first decade and a half of the “War on Terror,” the U.S. still had a virtual monopoly on the risk-free execution from thousands of meters above — but once the genie is out of the bottle, every attempt to squeeze it back in is notoriously doomed to failure.

And so, quickly other countries in the region aspired after the financially — and politically — cheap execution by drone. The number of armies with their own drone fleet is growing rapidly. A multi-billion-dollar market with astronomical growth rates opened up — demand that’s essentially served only by one actor: China.

The U.S. has squandered its lead

The appearance of the Rainbow CH-4 — the driving force of Chinese combat drones — is almost identical to the notorious Reaper drone of the U.S. arms manufacturer General Atomics. While the CH-4 lags behind the Reaper in most performance parameters, it can keep up with or even outperform its competitor in some of them. Also, the CH-4’s weaponry, the AKD-10 warhead, is almost identical to the Reaper’s Hellfire missiles.

The striking similarity follows a strategy of Chinese engineering well-known from cell phones or cars: the look of a world-famous Western branded product is copied with an inferior but sufficiently good quality compared to that of the original — but at significantly less cost. Chinese drones are 50 to 75 percent cheaper than the originals from the U.S.

A late 2015 article published in the Asia Times suggests that this copying of U.S. technology is likely rooted in Beijing’s data theft. According to records by world-famous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, by 2010 alone “Chinese hackers had conducted more than 30,000 cyber attacks” on Pentagon computer networks and other U.S. military agencies in order to “exfiltrate [data on] sensitive military technology.” Although there is no final proof that data on drones were skimmed off too, Asia Times quotes then NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander, who suggests that it is highly likely that the Reaper blueprints were part of the Chinese data hack, while military experts and analysts largely share this view.

With the latest model — the CH-7, which is still in the development phase — China could possibly pull ahead the U.S. for the first time, military journal Defense One explains. The CH-7 “will be the sole option for buyers wanting to field stealth combat drones,” it predicts. “The United States had a decade-plus head start on [drone] technology,” says military expert Paul Scharre, “and has unfortunately squandered that lead.”

China captures the market

For a long time, it was only the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel that had combat drones and used them to execute alleged terrorists — something that has changed dramatically in recent years.

Meanwhile, the number of countries with combat drones has swelled to at least 29, as research organization New America identifies. And 10 countries have demonstrably used them to kill suspected enemies; in addition to the three mentioned, there is Iran, Azerbaijan, the UAE, as well as Nigeria, Iraq, Pakistan, and Turkey (the last four countries drone-killed people on their own soil).

Historically, Israel is the largest drone exporter, with a market share of over 60 percent in the last three decades. More recently, from 2008-2017, China exported a total of 88 drones to at least 12 countries, ranking third among the world’s drone exporters behind the United States (351) and Israel (186).

However, while the vast majority of U.S. and Israeli exports are made up of unarmed reconnaissance drones, China’s sales focus on armed drones. During the mentioned period, China exported 68 combat drones, putting it ahead of the U.S. (62) and Israel (56). Foreign Policy thus recently titled rightly: “China Has Already Won the Drone Wars.”

All of the armed forces of the Chinese military have large fleets of various drones, but Beijing has used them so far only for disaster relief, surveillance of domestic critics, and military reconnaissance — not to kill. (In 2013, Beijing considered executing by drone a Myanmar drug baron wanted in the murders of 13 Chinese sailors, but eventually caught and tried him.)

Rather, Beijing appears to be establishing a norm permanently prohibiting lethal drone strikes in East and South Asia. However, this no-shoot dogma does not prevent the Chinese arms industry from exporting their drones to states that are patently using them for killing elsewhere.

How China services U.S. clients

While the Pentagon continues to this day to deliver armed Reaper drones only to the UK, France, and Italy, purchasers of Chinese combat drones, according to Chinese manufacturers, include Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, the UAE, and Zambia. So far, the three largest buyers of Chinese drones are Pakistan (with a share of 25 percent) as well as Egypt and Myanmar (with 23 and 13 percent, respectively). Several of Beijing’s buyers are close strategic U.S. allies who have requested the sale of armed drones from Washington to no avail and have thus fallen back on Chinese products.

The U.S. is by far the largest arms exporter and usually sells military equipment to almost every country in the world. According to the SIPRI research institute, the U.S. sold $98 billion worth of weapons to as many as 112 countries in 2007-2017. Hence, on the face of it, it seems rather counterintuitive that it would hand over the lucrative battle drone market to China.

A recent report by the DIA, the Pentagon’s internal intelligence service, deals with this contradiction. “China is a niche provider of armed [drones]” in the Middle East, the report acknowledges, and correctly concludes that “China faces little competition” as it is not a member of international export control regimes. In fact, unlike the U.S. and the European arms-exporting countries, China is not a contracting party to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTRC), which strictly regulates the proliferation of combat drones and makes U.S. drone exports to the Middle East more difficult.

In addition to attempts by the Trump administration to amend the MTRC, Trump’s State Department published a new export policy in April 2018: “We will remove barriers to the global [drone] market and avoid ceding export opportunities to competitors where such self-imposed restrictions are unwarranted.”

Since the wording does not specify when restrictions are “unwarranted,” the new policy can be understood as blank approval for future drone exports. De facto, it was also made possible to buy combat drones directly from the manufacturer, without the government as a broker agent. “To date, however, that hasn’t led to any reported sales to the Middle East,” Forbes reported late last year.

So, in contrast to relatively strict regulations on U.S. drone exports, China’s “no questions asked” policy allowed it to quickly gain a foothold in the lucrative Middle East drone market and aggressively expand the course of the proliferation of cheap drones.

State-of-the-art technology perceived as revolutionary always comes with a certain adulation for its possessor. Thus, a recent report by London-based military think tank RUSI concludes that “national prestige and status is the main reason that most states” in the Middle East increasingly acquire drones, as Middle East Eye reports. However, in addition to their value as status symbols, in recent years they are more and more being used strategically on the battlefields of the region, which the RUSI report attributes largely to increased Chinese exports.

And so Chinese drones also recorded their first deaths: Besides fatal deployment by the Nigerian army against Boko Haram, since the end of 2015, the Iraqi military performed more than 260 air strikes against Islamic State targets with Chinese drones. They gained particular infamy on April 22 last year, when the UAE executed the de facto president of Yemen, Saleh Ali al-Sammad, with a Chinese drone, escalating the nearly four-year war in the country. The murdered Al-Sammad was seen as a promoter of the UN-mediated peace process in Yemen, whereas his successor, Mahdi al-Mashat, is an implacable, uncompromising hardliner and provocateur.

Pandora’s box is open

Of particular concern is China’s drone policy in Saudi Arabia.

A $ 65 billion economic program clinched between the two countries in spring 2017 includes the construction of a Chinese drone factory in Saudi Arabia — the first of its kind in the region. Initially, the license production of 300 drones was agreed, which represents a massive figure given the 88 drones that China has exported in the last decade altogether.

However, the license drones are not exclusively intended for the Saudi Royal Air Force — Riyadh can explicitly market them to other countries in the region. End-user certificates do not exist for deals with Beijing. In view of the fact that Saudi Arabia, along with supporting various jihadist groups in the region, is a close ally of Al Qaeda in Yemen, it is within the realm of possibility to envision some of these drones end up in terrorist’s hands. Fueled by Beijing’s export policy, the threat scenario of drone-armed jihadists has moved significantly closer.

Research by the Jamestown Foundation shows that we have already entered the era of “unmanned terrorism.” Groups commonly labelled as “terrorists” from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan to Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen are already using mini-drones to drop bombs, grenades, and incendiary devices onto enemy positions or civilian facilities. Further flooding the region with cheap combat drones from China will certainly heave these tactics to the next level in the future.

Since 2001, thousands of people, most of them civilians, have been killed by drone in the so-called “War on Terror,” changing the nature of war in its entirety and exposing civilians in all these undeclared war zones to a permanent threat on their lives. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama proved he could always escape punishment and international condemnation even after using drones to turn weddings and funerals into blood baths and mass graves. And so, the desires of local actors to acquire these practical killing tools were aroused, too.

The Chinese leadership is exploiting these developments without compromise and flooding the Middle East with cheap drones. The consequences of this expansionary policy cannot be foreseen.

Pandora’s box is already open.

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in German on NachDenkSeiten.

The post China is Flooding the Middle East With Cheap Drones appeared first on Foreign Policy In Focus.

Jakob Reimann is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. He runs the German website