Closing Thought-06Aug18

Slavery is alive and well!

The US does more to support modern day slavery than most Americans know……support may be the worse word to use but it still tells the story.

A new survey on modern slavery around the world pegs the number of people in the US who fall into that category at about 400,000, reports the Guardian. The new Global Slavery Index also puts the number worldwide at 40.3 million and rising. While modern slaves in the US make up just a fraction of that figure, the group behind the survey—the Walk Free Foundation—says America plays a deeper role in the problem as the biggest importer of goods produced by suspected slave labor. The 2016 estimate was $144 billion worth of such goods. Other report highlights:

  • Worst offenders: North Korea has the highest concentration of modern slaves, who account for 1 in 10 of the population, or 2.6 million people, reports CNN. Then comes Eritrea, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Mauritania, South Sudan, Pakistan, Cambodia, and Iran.
  • Women hit hardest: The vast majority of modern slaves, 71%, are women, reports Axios. The usual route is through forced marriages.
  • Solutions: The foundation calls for outlawing forced marriages, setting a minimum marriage age of 18, setting up a database of human trafficking cases, and bringing greater transparency to the world’s supply chain.
  • One victim: “Over 40 million people … they are not numbers,” says North Korean defector Yeon-mi Park, who escaped to China only to be forced into a marriage, per the AP. “It could be anyone. It was me. It was my mother. It was my sister. Even now, there are 300,000 North Korean defectors in China, and 90% of them are being trafficked. They are being sold by Chinese men for a few hundred dollars.”

Human trafficking is a blight on this world…..every civilized nation should be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

My week begins and Monday comes to an end….at least my posting… well, be safe….chuq

Death From Above In Venezuela

Over the weekend while I was lounging with my honey, daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law news came about that the elected president of Venezuela had been a target of an assassination attempt…..

“This was an assassination attempt, they tried to assassinate me,” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said in blaming a drone attack Saturday on a far-right plot. As Reuters reports, an explosives-laden drone detonated at a military event in Caracas as Maduro was speaking, leaving the leftist leader unharmed but injuring seven members of Venezuela’s National Guard.

The event was to celebrate the 81st anniversary of the National Guard. Maduro said he saw a “flying device” that he thought might be part of a fireworks display in his honor; the AP describes him as “visibly shaken” after two explosions were heard. Maduro is blaming rightist detractors he says are linked to Colombia and Florida; he says some “material authors” of the attack are in custody.

My first thought was….”did the Trump people try to assassinate Maduro?”

I mean why would that come to mind?  Well to answer that question with a post from last month here on IST……

That post has a bunch of historical facts in it……especially the Monroe Doctrine…..but let’s look at the US and its involvement in conflict in the hemisphere…..

The US has a long rich history of interfering in the affairs of South and Central America… this incident just another?

Trade And National Security

Our Dear Leader has decided that the way to extend what is left of his legacy is by declaring a trade war on allies and foes alike……but what does this do to our national security?

The US has a military advantage around the world……if so then what will these trade wars do to that advantage?

Is the United States undermining the foundations of its military advantage by initiating trade wars with most of the known world?

The connections between trade and innovation are complicated, but generally speaking freer trade tends to generate more technological innovation than autarky, although much depends on the specific legal and structural conditions under which trade is conducted. During the Cold War, the United States derived immense military advantage from the global trade system that it constructed. This trade system tied the world’s most powerful economies to the United States with private and public binds, and also ensured that American producers would find consumers. While the system had drawbacks (exposure to international shocks, limitations on national economic policy) it provided a sounder basis for long-run economic growth than the autarkic policies undertaken by the Soviet Union and its Eastern European subject states.

Alright let’s say that you agree with Dear Leader’s stand on trade wars and tariffs……can we justify tariffs from a national security point of view?

Economists nearly unanimously support open and free trade among nations.1 The arguments for free trade are not new, dating back at least to Adam Smith’s famous book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776 and David Hume’s series of essays, On Commerce and On the Balance of Trade in 1752. Free trade increases wealth in a nation by promoting the division of labor, thereby increasing the quantity of goods and services in the economy. This increased division of labor benefits people in two main ways. First, it expands the range of goods and services available to people. For example, many spices that are not native to the United States would be unavailable without international trade. Second, it allows people in a nation to buy goods of a given quality that are made more cheaply—that is, produced with fewer or cheaper resources. In short, free trade allows people to minimize their own use of scarce resources to achieve their desired ends.

Let me hear what my readers think……both pro and con on tariffs are welcome.

Afghanistan–Still Crazy After All These Years

You know if you watch the news with any regularity you might not be aware that we are still fighting a war in Afghanistan some 17 years on…..and since I try to keep my readers abreast of all our many wars I will update the Afghan theater……

We have done as much as we could to help the US friendly government stay in power….but what is it like, the government, even with all our help……

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani faces an unprecedented cross-ethnic challenge threatening political stability in Afghanistan. The Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan (CSA) – a powerful opposition alliance – created the Grand National Coalition of Afghanistan on July 26. The CSA is led by key powerbrokers including recently returned First Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum, former Balkh Province Governor Mohammad Atta Noor, Deputy Chief Executive Officer Mohammad Mohaqiq, and Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani. The Grand National Coalition brings together Afghanistan’s main ethnic minorities – Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara – with leaders from the ethnic majority Pashtun. The coalition’s alignment against Ghani could destabilize – if not topple – the current Afghan government and undermine U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.

Shaky ground?  There are those that see a worse scenario…….

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) issued its latest quarterly report to the US Congress on Tuesday and stated that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) views the situation in Afghanistan as “consistent with a largely lawless, weak, and dysfunctional government”.

And I do not see that changing even after the next election……and the US continues to pour money, taxpayer money, into q worthless, hopeless cause…..time for a change.

As a foreign policy wonk I hear all the time about this strategy or that….but you know I have a hard time finding one for our Afghan problem…..

At the end of June, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of the ninth American commander in Afghanistan and the 17th commander of that war overall. The U.S.-led coalition has been fighting there for 16 years and ten months. Senior commanders and political leaders have acknowledged the war is a stalemate. Years of Department of Defense reporting and senior leader hearings testify to the difficulties with the war and the reasons for the stalemate. Many open source articles and books explain why, what at first looked like, a successful war, with the Taliban taking flight, then saw the regeneration of the Taliban and the onset of a protracted war of attrition with increasingly grisly bombings and violence year after year. Civilians have been victims of much of the violence. A strategic stalemate after almost 17 years of war is disconcerting.

During the 2016 election candidate Trump made noise about getting the US out of Afghanistan….not much movement since….but the question is if Dear Leader found the will could he find a way?

Last week the White House ordered its top diplomats to seek direct negotiations with the Taliban, the latest foreign relations about-face from an administration that seems to be specializing in them. After early escalation and record-setting bombs , President Trump is looking for a way out of Afghanistan. The Taliban is far from defeated, but negotiations may offer America a means to ending our participation in an intractable war in an irrelevant country.

Earlier this month, during a surprise trip to Kabul, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the claim that the Taliban “cannot wait us out.” Evidence suggests otherwise.

Terrorism update…..ISIS fighters surrendered to government forces after a total rout by Taleban fighters…….

While the Afghan military has struggled to make lasting changes in their fighting against ISIS, the militant group looks to have suffered a serious blow in northern Afghanistan in recent days, as two top Afghan ISIS commanders and between 200 and 250 fighters voluntarily surrendered to Afghan security forces.

ISIS agreed to the surrender after a two-day fight with Taliban forces around Mazar-e Sharif. ISIS suffered heavy casualties, with at least 40 reported killed. ISIS ultimately decided it would be better to surrender to the government than be captured by the Taliban.

ISIS and the Taliban are often on hostile terms. This new fighting was likely precipitated by an ISIS attack in Sar-e Pul in mid-July, where ISIS gunmen assassinated a Taliban commander and around 20 others at a prayer ceremony.