Exactly how the COVID-19 virus found its way to humans isn’t entirely clear. But it is clear is that once the virus was out and people were dying, the communist Chinese regime did little to stop the world from getting sick. While they quietly locked down travel within China to limit spread of the virus, they did nothing to stop Chinese global travel that spread it and they employed the World Health Organization to support their claims that there was nothing to worry about. And when America locked down travel from China, they howled racism.
The communist regime also began hoarding medical supplies and equipment, while telling the world the virus wasn’t transmitted via human contact. Once more was known, China began to blame others — including Italy and the U.S. for the virus.
Everything they appear to do is motivated by gaining power and control over their own people and the world’s population. They see everything — not merely missiles, bombers and submarines, but also food, medicine, shipping, trade, etc. — as a weapon to be used to strengthen their stranglehold on power.
We must remember that this communist regime murders its own citizens in death camps and harvests their organs. It brutally oppresses the people of Hong Kong. It spies on its own people and tracks their movement so that it can punish them for worshiping or visiting the “wrong” friends.
These unpleasant truths have caused America to wake up and ask if it should be so dependent upon China for critically important things like medicine, medical equipment and other goods and services required in the high-tech world. The answer is now an obvious no.
We should also examine how China has been making America more and more dependent in other areas. We now understand this is not merely an economic issue, it goes to the very health, strength and sustainability of our nation’s long-term survival.
International trade is a huge driver of every nation’s economic health, and 90% of all global trade is transported by ship. It should not surprise you to learn that China has quietly made itself the dominant player in international shipping. They’ve purchased strategic ports around the globe and are by far the world’s largest subsidizer of shipbuilding. This is all part of the regime’s strategic plan to dominate world trade and make itself the world’s sole economic and military super-power. You can be 100% sure this power will not be used to promote freedom, opportunity or security. Look at Hong Kong and you know how that power will be abused.
The U.S. used to be a major player in international shipping and shipbuilding. But for a variety of reasons, the U.S. is now a minor player. Currently, China is building 1,291 ocean-going ships. The U.S. has only 8 under construction. Bangladesh meanwhile is building 56. Let that sink in. The U.S. now operates less than 1/2 of 1 percent of ocean-going maritime ships.
In the last several years, foreign powers and some domestic voices have been pushing for the U.S. to allow foreign shippers to take over domestic shipping routes within the territorial waters of the U.S. To do that, would require the repeal or substantial revision of the Jones Act, a move China would love. They could run their ships up and down the Mississippi with high tech electronics in our heartland gathering intelligence and at the same time make America entirely dependent upon them for our shipping and commerce.
This is why the Jones Act is needed now more than ever. It allows for any nation to ship goods to or from America, but within America and between its internal ports, shipping must be handled by American ships and American crews. These American ships and American crews work in our heartland and when the U.S. military needs their sealift capability, they stand at the ready. Do we really want to ask China to fill that role?
The purposes of the Jones Act are something that even free market champion Adam Smith endorsed in his seminal work, The Wealth of Nations. Moreover, the very first Congress, populated by signers of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence passed the first version of the Jones Act.
The idea that we should let China expand its power within the territory of the United States is simply insane. Standing by and letting China tighten its grip on international commerce will eventually be our downfall if we don’t wake up. If this wasn’t clear before this pandemic, it is now painfully obvious.
There are certain incidents, indelibly etched on the memory of the American people, that have done much to shape our national character. Some, like 9/11, are still fresh in our minds. Others, like December 7th, 1941, are slipping away into the mists of time as the number of those who heard the dramatic news bulletins or experienced the attacks dwindles towards its inevitable destination.
Further in the past, events like Lexington and Concord, Washington crossing the Delaware, and the Battle of Yorktown have become the thing of myths. No one alive and no one who knew anyone alive at the time they occurred stills walks among us. We must rely on the historical record, embellished though it may at times be, to teach us what happened there.
Why these events are important though is a matter left to our judgment. Things change over time, as can be witnessed in the ongoing struggle to interpret — and reinterpret — the justifications for the American Civil War and the reasons men on both sides chose to fight.
It remains a divisive point in our history. At its end some were led out of bondage and into a form of freedom while others were to a degree subjugated as punishment for having been on the losing side. This was not what history tells us Abraham Lincoln wanted.
The vision of our martyr-president, laid out so eloquently by him in so many manuscripts and speeches still with us, was of a nation where all men and women were free and equal. He wanted a gentle peace, one that brought the people of the Union together once again as brothers and sisters. He made this clear many times, but perhaps best at the dedication of a cemetery for soldiers fallen in around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The battle itself is regarded as the turning point of the war. It was certainly a time of heroics, from Chamberlain’s Mainers surge down Little Round Top, out of ammunition and bayonets affixed, to Pickett’s Charge and beyond. It was three horrific days of brother fighting brother yet, less than 100 years later, veterans of the North and veterans of the South came together again in this same place as one, in memory of fallen comrades and looking ahead to a nation once again knitted together by the toil and sweat and allegiance to the same Constitution.
Let us remember this on Memorial Day as we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country and of the freedoms for which it stands as a bright light, signaling the preeminence of liberty on our shores to all the world.
FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO OUR FATHERS BROUGHT FORTH ON THIS CONTINENT, A NEW NATION, CONCEIVED IN LIBERTY, AND DEDICATED TO THE PROPOSITION THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.
NOW WE ARE ENGAGED IN A GREAT CIVIL WAR, TESTING WHETHER THAT NATION, OR ANY NATION SO CONCEIVED AND SO DEDICATED, CAN LONG ENDURE. WE ARE MET ON A GREAT BATTLE-FIELD OF THAT WAR. WE HAVE COME TO DEDICATE A PORTION OF THAT FIELD, AS A FINAL RESTING PLACE FOR THOSE WHO HERE GAVE THEIR LIVES THAT THAT NATION MIGHT LIVE. IT IS ALTOGETHER FITTING AND PROPER THAT WE SHOULD DO THIS.
BUT, IN A LARGER SENSE, WE CAN NOT DEDICATE — WE CAN NOT CONSECRATE — WE CAN NOT HALLOW — THIS GROUND. THE BRAVE MEN, LIVING AND DEAD, WHO STRUGGLED HERE, HAVE CONSECRATED IT, FAR ABOVE OUR POOR POWER TO ADD OR DETRACT. THE WORLD WILL LITTLE NOTE, NOR LONG REMEMBER WHAT WE SAY HERE, BUT IT CAN NEVER FORGET WHAT THEY DID HERE. IT IS FOR US THE LIVING, RATHER, TO BE DEDICATED HERE TO THE UNFINISHED WORK WHICH THEY WHO FOUGHT HERE HAVE THUS FAR SO NOBLY ADVANCED. IT IS RATHER FOR US TO BE HERE DEDICATED TO THE GREAT TASK REMAINING BEFORE US — THAT FROM THESE HONORED DEAD WE TAKE INCREASED DEVOTION TO THAT CAUSE FOR WHICH THEY GAVE THE LAST FULL MEASURE OF DEVOTION — THAT WE HERE HIGHLY RESOLVE THAT THESE DEAD SHALL NOT HAVE DIED IN VAIN — THAT THIS NATION, UNDER GOD, SHALL HAVE A NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM — AND THAT GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE, SHALL NOT PERISH FROM THE EARTH.
NOVEMBER 19, 1863
Technologies such as the Electromagnetic Launch System (EMALS) support the U.S. military
With the nation’s attention largely focused on the coronavirus, less noticed are threats to our national safety and security that are both long-running and evolving throughout the world — on land, sea, air, and increasingly in cyber and outer space. Losing sight of these threats would be a grave mistake.
Now more than ever, our nation’s leaders must double down on strengthening our military and embracing innovation to protect America and project power when necessary in an unstable, dangerous world. To do so effectively, it is critical that we invest in and equip our men and women in uniform with the most technologically advanced tools and weapons of war available.
Make no mistake, global competitors like China and Russia and rogue states like Iran and North Korea are working diligently to enhance their military capabilities in the hopes of eroding America’s competitive edge.
Fortunately, President Trump has made re-establishing our military strength and global position in the world a national priority after years of neglect during the Obama administration. He has insisted that while the Department of Defense pursues and invests in next-generation technologies, it must do so with taxpayers’ money in mind. And with a defense-wide review underway, expect even more fiscally-minded reforms to materialize over the next several years.
For example, the Ford-class aircraft carriers currently under production are poised to significantly expand our military capabilities, improve the quality of onboard life for our deployed sailors — and exploit the benefits of cutting-edge technologies. The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the first of the Ford-class, returned to sea in January and has now completed aircraft compatibility testing, flight deck certification, and other critical milestones in making the carrier battle-ready.
Mr. Trump has paid keen attention to these new carriers — and he has continuously addressed costs associated with their production. In fact, earlier this year, the Trump administration doubled down on its commitment to the Ford-class by convening the “Make Ford Ready” summit to ensure CVN-78 meets its cost targets moving forward.
These modern carriers are equipped with the latest technologies that ensure our troops will be able to protect our nation at a moment’s notice, whether in the Strait of Hormuz or the South China Sea. They are faster, more lethal, more durable and more technologically advanced than any other carrier ever put to sea by any country. And one key advantage which will improve performance, save money and protect American lives (or take the enemy’s when needed) is the carrier’s electromagnetic launch system technology, which was conceived, developed and produced here in the U.S.
The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System — EMALS — had its initial skeptics, Mr. Trump among them. But its subsequent performance has spoken for itself. Because the system replaces old, steam-based catapult systems developed in the 1950s, the carriers are able to launch the full complement of planes in the Navy’s air wing. This includes the critically important lightweight and heavyweight drones that are increasingly being used in reconnaissance and battlefield operations. And unlike incumbent catapult systems, EMALS is designed to accommodate future aircraft that come into production in the years ahead.
By replacing the complex and large system of steam pipes on the carriers, this new catapult system delivers a 25 percent reduction in the number of crew members needed to operate and maintain the system. The Navy has estimated this will amount to almost $4 billion in savings from operating costs over the ship’s expected 50-year lifespan. And in line with Mr. Trump’s commitment to establishing greater cost discipline for large DOD contracts, more cost savings have been realized through the negotiation of multiple ship production contracts for EMALS.
The second and third Ford-class carriers are already seeing 16 percent to 27 percent production cost savings respectively. Manufacturing, supply chains, production schedules and jobs are becoming stabilized. As the current crisis has put in stark relief, reliable supply chains are critical, and negotiated, multi-carrier contract buys ensure the stability of U.S. jobs and equipment. For taxpayers, this means significant cost savings without compromising our ability to deliver the most modern equipment available to support our warfighters.
Predictably, however, our competitors are now racing to develop similar technologies. For example, China has reportedly commissioned its own electromagnetic catapult system for its aircraft carriers to allow them to launch more advanced planes and other weaponry. Yet, with America’s new carrier class moving further into subsequent production phases, and our allies wanting to benefit from U.S. military innovations like EMALS, we now have a huge advantage that the United States can and should fully embrace to ensure our military supremacy. Any global competitor seeking similar technologies with ill intent will not go unchecked.
These types of cutting-edge and innovative investments are critical in rebuilding our nation’s military. They also are firmly aligned with Mr. Trump’s commitment to ensure that our military professionals receive far more technology at less long-term cost to taxpayers. Our nation cannot afford to fall behind.
Important to get our priorities straight
There appear to be two major stories contending for coverage by the press and the attention of Congress at the moment, both related to the COVID-19 pandemic: the economic recovery and the culpability of China in the escalation of the coronavirus from a potentially local tragedy to an international pandemic.
On the one hand, the USA faces an almost insurmountable challenge to restore our recently booming economy from the depths of a Depression-like crash. On the other hand is the primal need to find a culprit for all the pain, sorrow, and deprivation we — and the rest of the world — have suffered in fighting this evil scourge and to punish that source accordingly. The issue at hand is how to accommodate both needs at the same time.
This issue arises because the two factors are on a collision course. The facts are increasingly obvious. While the federal government appropriately pursues an intensive investigation of the precise sequence of events in the discovery and dissemination of this strain of coronavirus, evidence from outside sources is rapidly emerging that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) consciously, deliberately, and with malice of forethought concealed from the rest of the world its early experiences with the outbreak of the plague and then schemed to spread the virus to all parts of the world. The motivation for this policy is not clear, although the working hypothesis is that the leadership was not about to suffer a severe economic catastrophe while the rest of the world looked on from the safety of having escaped the same fate.
The result of this news has been a surge of rage on the part of Americans, fueled principally by press accounts of these discoveries and speculation, some informed and some not so much. Responding to this national outrage, some Senators (the Republican Senate is in session and functioning while the Democrat House is still in its lengthy recess) have started proposing punitive measures against China. The attraction of this issue is obvious: it is emotional, not overly complicated and, most of all, potentially non-partisan. “Potentially” because there are close ties between leading Democrats, especially presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Joseph Biden, and China. In general, the Dems have been less aggressive on this issue than have the Republicans.
Compared to the progress in re-opening the American economy, the “blame China” issue is pretty straightforward. Economic recovery is proving complicated, spotty, and dangerous. The best summary comes from Governor Michael DeWine (R-Ohio), considered one of the most competent governors in the country.
“There is a risk in either direction”, says Governor DeWine. “The risk of re-opening the economy is the re-emergence of the pandemic. The risk of maintaining the strict mitigation is a prolonged Depression. So, my solution is to re-open CAREFULLY AND SAFELY.” (Fox News, 5/10/20).
There are now emerging a number of second guesses as to what the Public Health experts recommended (as this column predicted on March 22 (see “Trump’s Huge Gamble”). Prominent among medical critics has been the idea that the “shelter in place” requirement should have been applied only to the most vulnerable, namely to those over 65, and all who suffer from “underlying conditions”. Of course, these demographic details were not known when the shutdown was first announced. Little details like this do not stop the critics, however. Nor does the fact that immunity for young people does not appear as universal today as it once did.
The most common critique is that adopted by some Democrats, namely, that the strict mitigation policies should be continued much longer. But there are many areas in America, mostly the less densely populated regions, which are in fact relatively untouched (so far) by the pandemic.
Thus, the recovery is spotty, uncertain, and carries its share of danger. But so does every alternative. Like Governor DeWine, most of America is slowly, carefully venturing out of our self-imposed quarantine. Except the elderly and victims of “underlying conditions”. It seems apparent that the overwhelming need and desire of Americans is to get back to work – in spite of the risks. The final judgement, of course, will come from the American people who will vote with their feet
These risks are serious enough without adding to them the risk of alienating China. There are reasons to put aside our worse fears and anger at the recent behavior of the CCP until this current economic disaster has been put in the rearview mirror. Some of the reasons are:
1) We are still in a major trade agreement with China to provide billions in exports, most notably from American farmers. In addition, many of the intellectual property issues — our most important reason for negotiating with China – are yet to be resolved. It is vital to our national interests to disengage our technologies and our supply chains from Chinese control.
2) China still holds a significant portion of America’s national debt ($1.05 Trillion as of February 15, 2020). Although this holding represents a small percentage of America’s sovereign debt (5%), the Federal Reserve is going to market right now with an additional issue of several trillions of US dollars to cover the cost of the pandemic. This is not a good time to antagonize China into selling its US bonds at a discount just to make us suffer more.
3) China is a powerful, unpredictable rival for world domination. The Chinese also are very jealous of their international influence – and their massive financial stake in so many developing countries in Asia, Africa, and South America.
Even aside from humanitarian considerations, this is not a good time for us to provoke China. It is a time to return to the rapport we had before coronavirus and conclude our trade talks, disengage our technology and our supply chains from dependence on China – and save our anger for another day.
Facing the China threat requires new institutions and renewed alliances
You can’t beat something with nothing. But America seems determined to try.
America’s attempt to integrate China into the global economy as a “responsible stakeholder” failed. China’s economy has become more statist, its political system more repressive, its foreign policy more bullying, its ambitions more outsized than they were 20 years ago. China did not challenge American leadership directly. It altered the character of international institutions from within.
The multilateral institutions that comprise the American-led liberal international order have been decaying for some time. Coronavirus has accelerated the deterioration. NATO, the United Nations, the European Union, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization—they are unresponsive, unaccountable, divided, demoralized, defunct. The world is a more dangerous place.
We are used to autocratic domination of the U.N. General Assembly and the secretariat’s various commissions. No one bats an eye when Russia or China vetoes a Security Council measure. Less publicized were the concessions made to China as part of the Paris Climate Accord. Or the fact that the World Trade Organization treats the world’s second-largest economy as a “developing” nation. But the way Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director of the WHO, caviled and covered for Beijing as the coronavirus spread throughout the world is impossible to ignore. Drift, confusion, and chaos result.
There are three options. The first is to work within the system to revitalize the existing structures. The second is to build alternative institutions. The third option is to do nothing.
President Trump has tried a hybrid of options one and three. But with a twist. Where others might try a kind word or some quiet diplomacy to inspire reform and collaboration, he turns against the very institutions America created to force them to live up to their commitments. He browbeats NATO members into spending more on defense. He cheers for Brexit and supports the EU’s internal critics. He cripples the WTO’s arbitration mechanism and threatens to withdraw entirely. He suspends funding for the WHO.
It’s the “America First” foreign policy Trump promised. And the results have been mixed. NAFTA was replaced. NATO budgets are up (for now). Mexico agreed to have asylum-seekers wait on its side of the border while their claims are adjudicated. China signed a “Phase One” trade deal.
But there’s a cost. Allies may accede to your demands, but resentment builds. The foundations of the alliance weaken. Unpredictability inspires fear and caution. If sustained for too long, though, it conveys irresoluteness and fecklessness. Adversaries begin to probe. They buzz flights and collapse the oil price, resume shelling U.S. troops and harassing U.S. naval vessels, begin tailingcontainer ships in the South China Sea.
The democracies look inward. NATO is silent, the EU split, America distracted and distressed. China exploited this strategic vacuum. It launched a global disinformation campaign falsely assigning responsibility for the pandemic to the United States. Its agents pushed scurrilous and panic-inducing messages to U.S. cellphones saying that President Trump was about to impose a national lockdown policed by the National Guard. Its diplomatic “Wolf Warriors” enforce the party line whenever foreign governments challenge Beijing’s preferred narrative.
Chinese propaganda used to amplify achievements and repress criticism. Now it attacks directly overseas enemies of the state. The strategy, writes Laura Rosenberger in Foreign Affairs, “aims not so much to promote a particular idea as to sow doubt, dissension, and disarray—including among Americans—in order to undermine public confidence in information and prevent any common understanding of facts from taking hold.” It’s working.
China isn’t invincible. It is reaping the economic whirlwind of the coronavirus it hid from the world. None of its neighbors are thrilled about the growth of Chinese power. Its internal political situation may be unstable. But the speed with which it has used the pandemic for geopolitical advantage is extraordinary. Look at how it plays favorites with its distribution of pharmaceuticals and personal protective equipment, how it stepped into the breach with a new flow of cash for its friend Dr. Tedros. Confronting China’s rise requires “a common understanding of facts,” and partners with whom to share those facts in common. These days, America is lacking in both.
By all means, punish the World Health Organization for collaborating with China. But also be prepared to stand up another mechanism to do the good work its founders intended. Go ahead, demand allies live up to their commitments. But also recognize that partnerships of like-minded nations were critical to success in the First Cold War. This is the time to build new institutions that reflect the realities of a 21st century that pits liberal democracies against an authoritarian surveillance state. For every moment that passes without American leadership brings us closer to a world where the sun never sets on the five golden stars.
There is no doubt that China’s communist regime made the COVID-19 pandemic much worse across the globe by hiding the truth and affirmatively lying to the world about it. The totalitarian regime’s mendacity is highlighted by the fact that while it lied about the virus, it was collecting medical materials to deal with the pandemic.
Another impact of the pandemic is that it has distracted us from some other very dangerous and troubling things that the communist regime is doing. For example, China is conducting secret and illegal nuclear weapons tests. Likewise, China is developing a new generation of missiles that put Americans at much greater risk. And they’ve been acting provocatively on top of it all. If COVID-19 can fundamentally disrupt and destabilize American society, imagine what Chinese missiles could do.
We live in a nation of great research and development capabilities. At this very moment, the Pentagon is working with thousands of contractors to develop the next great development in defense weaponry on planet Earth.
Research and development are key to our survival and we should rest easy that we are the best at it in the world. As long as we are vigilant, we will keep ahead of the threats. But we cannot afford to set our eyes so far into the future that we fail to see the now. Puzzlingly, that is the exact situation our leaders are putting us in when it comes to our homeland missile defense capabilities.
As the global threat of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) is growing, the Pentagon recently committed to developing the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI). We have come a long way from President Reagan’s “Star Wars” and have developed reliable technologies and weapons to literally “intercept” and destroy a warhead in the air.
The NGI promises to not only address current threats we face from rogue actors like North Korea and Iran to world-power enemies like China and Russia, but will evolve with both enemy and American technologies.
Like any government initiative, the details are in the timeline. The NGI is estimated to be operational by 2026. We all know the Federal Government’s ability to miss deadlines, but we will give them the benefit of doubt on this one and say that America’s new missile defense to protect all of us will be operational in 2026. But some experts are speculating the technology will not be ready for as many as 12 years.
The possible mistake I foresee is the sacrifice of the “now” for the “next.” The gap between now and 2026 or perhaps 2032 is an unacceptable risk.
America has spent billions of dollars, tested and retested, and ultimately placed our homeland missile defense in our current Ground Based Interceptor (GBI) technology and infrastructure. Currently, the United States only has 44 interceptors in our arsenals based in Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
As Russia and China invest heavily in their military abilities, is it really in America’s best interest to leave the entire Eastern portion of our nation vulnerable and undefended? Sure, possibly in 12 years we can see a scenario where the technology can make up for that lack of defense, but to not place it there in the meantime?
It is purely American to desire a better technology than what we currently have, but it would be negligent to take funding and emphasis away from the proverbial basket in which we have placed our homeland defense. Actors like North Korea are not attempting to meet the technology we may or may not have in a decade, they are attempting to come up with ways to get around our current systems that we have in place.
Let’s think back to late last year when America was on the brink of war with Iran. We were not able to intercept the missiles that we knew were coming, targeting bases we have occupied for over a decade. That should sound alarm bells that we need to focus on beefing up our current GBI technologies across the board. The whole situation should offer mainland Americans a cold shiver when it comes to thinking about our current vulnerability.
Our desire to invest in building the better mouse trap should be met with equal investment in our current technologies and infrastructure. America does not have to choose between investing in current technology and charting a new future for missile defense.
Pre-coronavirus, America’s economy was booming. Now we have an economic pandemic but some proposed cures could be worse than the disease.
The economic stoppage has been as drastic as chemotherapy which harms healthy tissue in order to reach and attack cancer cells. We don’t need further dangerous treatments.
A key to terrific growth was how the Trump Administration freed commerce from stifling regulations. Continuing to cut red tape will once more be vital to recover from the COVID-19 shutdown
But some are misusing the term deregulation so they can slip in agendas that are not actually about economic recovery. Infamously, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted to tack pet causes and wish lists onto recovery legislation. Others are now trying something similar.
One idea floated and wrongfully labeled deregulation is to end the Jones Act. But that item belongs on China’s wish list, not America’s.
The Jones Act essentially requires domestic maritime shipping to use vessels that are American-owned, American-built and American-crewed. Undoing this 100-year-old standard would not create American jobs but instead would create jobs for the foreign interests that would rush in to take over.
The Jones Act is not about economic regulations; it’s about national security and homeland security. Even the father of capitalism, Adam Smith, promoted that we should not let foreign interests control our shipping and means of trade.
This is not about international trade—ships carrying goods between a U.S. port and a foreign port are not covered by the Jones Act. The issue purely involves domestic trade, traveling between U.S. ports, such as along our intra-coastal waterways, on the Great Lakes, and barge traffic on the Mississippi and other rivers.
Ending the Jones Act would not benefit free enterprise or free markets. As the world’s largest shipbuilder, thanks to its subsidized and state-run enterprises, cheap and even slave labor, China has the most to gain if our Jones Act were ended. Then they could expand to operate on America’s 25,000 miles of inland waterways.
That would be the feather in the cap for their Belt and Road Initiative which aims to control seaways and shipping all over the world. China already has spent a fortune to take over strategic ports and waterways on every continent except Antarctica, as well as the ships themselves. The global trade fleet is about 41,000 ships, and China builds almost 1,300 of them a year; the United States only builds 8.
Jones Act opponents argue that the issue is money. They argue that shipping will be cheaper if we let non-Americans also build and operate the non-ocean-going ships that handle our purely-domestic freight. This internal fleet involves 40,000 vessels (including barges). Allowing them to be built overseas, operated by foreign interests and crewed by non-Americans might indeed be cheaper, but it would reduce American security and American jobs.
We should not sell our security in the name of saving a few bucks.
Inviting a foreign takeover will worsen our struggling economy, not help it. Ending the Jones Act makes as little sense as claiming we could boost our recovery by inviting British Airways, Lufthansa, Aeroflot, Air China, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Scandinavian Airlines, Turkish Airlines and other airlines owned by foreign governments to fly routes between U.S. cities, which U.S. laws currently prohibit.
Ending the Jones Act makes as little sense as arguing that our recovery requires expanding our reliance on China for medical supplies, personal protective equipment, pharmaceutical ingredients, consumer goods, electronics and a host of other items.
Their philosophy would also repeal the Buy American provisions currently incorporated into our military purchasing statutes, homeland security laws and other acts of Congress. Can you imagine the U.S. Navy pursuing make-believe benefits by building its warships overseas?
This is not about money. The Jones Act is not an economic regulation; it is a national security standard.
By all means, let’s cut red tape to boost our rebound from the COVID-19 economic pandemic. But that’s no excuse for undoing laws that protect our national and homeland security.
Back in January, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was talking openly of the need to rebalance the allocation of U.S. forces around the world.
As he explained it, the need to address potential military threats from Russia and Chinese expansionism in the Pacific Basin may have to be given precedence over American commitments elsewhere.
Gen. Milley’s remarks were footnoted by the suggestion any changes were, at that point at least, notional and would be presented to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and through him to the president as options for the future. Nonetheless, many see his comments as foreshadowing a major change in the importance the U.S. has assigned the war on terror.
President Trump entered office vowing to bring home many of the U.S. troops pursuing terrorists and prosecuting “unwinnable” wars.
He can take pride in the fact he is keeping those promises, having successfully subdued if not eliminated ISIS, entered into continuing negotiations aimed at allowing the U.S. to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and, by using a drone strike to take out Iranian Revolutionary Guard leader and terrorist mastermind Qassem Soleimani, perhaps turned an important corner in Iraq.
None of that justifies a U.S. withdrawal from its commitments in the Middle East or North Africa. Both regions are rife with the kind of radical Islamic extremism from which anti-U.S. terror cells develop.
The raging conflagrations in these regions, feared by many, may have cooled to embers — but extinguishing those embers will take time and is linked inexorably to the same future conflicts to which Gen. Milley suggests the U.S. may need to shift its focus.
In Africa, we have assisted our allies there in the fight against extremism. The nations of North Africa have moved in our direction. Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco have vanquished terrorists within their borders and, with U.S. training and logistical support, proven themselves invaluable in the fight against those threatening the entire region.
To abandon them would be a mistake that would be, ironically, to Beijing’s benefit.
The Chinese, as we’ve most recently seen in the way they have conducted themselves through the coronavirus crisis, cannot be trusted. They operate by their own rules when it suits them, no matter what.
In many ways, they are economic partners with the West. They trade with us and we with them, but they are not our allies and cannot be treated as such.
From a national security perspective, we must remain vigilant – which is why reducing the limited U.S. troop commitments in North Africa would be a major mistake. If America leaves, China moves in – as it has been doing all over the developing world while engaging in rapprochement with Washington.
The current troop levels are small as such things go, fewer than 10,000 spread out among different countries on different missions. Merely by being there, however, the American military prevents the creation of a vacuum into which China would be glad to move to increase its economic and military presence on the continent.
This would fit perfectly into Beijing’s long-term strategic plans. Through its trillion-dollar “Belt and Road” initiative, the Chinese have been “helping” the developing world build commercial and civil infrastructure since 2013.
By acting as a predatory lender, China has gotten its hooks into nearly 70 counties and international organizations, saddling them with projects so expensive that the money borrowed cannot possibly be repaid.
The U.S. Agency for International Development has been pushing back against this initiative by sending teams of advisers into countries to demonstrate that anyone considering saying “yes” to China is making a bad deal. But that’s not enough.
To prevent the creation of satellite outposts available to further Beijing’s global ambitions requires something more than accountants and attorneys.
Any hopes we once had of the world becoming a safer place with the fall of the Berlin Wall must now, unfortunately, be held in abeyance.
A new global order is forming, something President Trump rightly recognizes and is preparing for militarily as well as economically.
Pulling out of commitments that don’t make sense and asking our allies to shoulder a greater burden of the cost of those that do are steps in the right direction. Pulling out of commitments that do make sense, like our limited but successful activities in North Africa, would be folly and we’d regret it later if we do.
According to the AFP, Gen. Milley said “economy of forces does not mean zero” and that Washington was not pulling out of Africa completely. Let’s hope Secretary Esper and the president affirm this soon.
Since the citizens of the People’s Republic of China had emerged from their Mao Zedong induced obsessive poverty slumber and have started to follow Deng Zhi Ping’s dictum about enriching themselves, creating wealth, combined with extremely racist nationalism, have become the overriding passion of the Chinese Communist Party, the government, and the people. Suddenly, in the early 1980s, everyone has been in business, including the most devout Communists, with a regime of utmost corruption that has become the model for the most powerful elite, also known as the new Communist bourgeoisie. Thus, in the subsequent four decades, the People’s Republic of China has established a large manufacturing base that has made its economy the second largest in the world. In addition, Beijing has invested heavily in building up a formidable military with special emphasis on its navy and air force. Finally, under the leadership of its newly minted dictator perpetuus Xi Jinping, the People’s Republic of China has set out to challenge the global dominance of the United States of America across the globe.
Domestically, the results of this growth in prosperity have triggered increases in earnings. Financial security and even luxury have spread through the urban population, while leaving the hundreds of millions in the countryside barely above the minimum subsistence level. Simultaneously, education has been expanding exponentially. Millions of young Chinese have been sent abroad, mainly to the United States of America and Europe, to study. Literature, art, renewed interest in history and ancient philosophy, and sciences have been opened up to the greater public. The only exception has been the domain of politics, remaining stricktly tabu for the masses, because it has been monopolized by the highest ranking members of the Chinese Communist Party.
Yet, good news is always intertwined with its opposite. The more enduring feature of China’s rise has been the spread of self-satisfied mediocrity. The resulting racist nationalism and the accompanying belief that the People’s Republic of China with its dictatorship is perfection itself, has become a general patriotic axiom. Adding political insult to the ubiquitous subordination of the entire population, this deliberate dumbing down of an entire society has brought about a fickle, impulsive, superficial, and mean citizenry. The eternal struggle between quality and quantity in the historically most populous nation on earth has caught up with President Xi and his colleagues in the Politburo when the novel COVID-19 virus appeared in the city of Wuhan.
Much has been written about the origin and the spread of this virus that culminated in a worldwide pandemic. Equally importantly, however, are the political signals that can be gleaned from the Chinese leadership’s global communication strategy and tactics in managing the international crisis that they alone bear responsibility for creating. The indisputable thesis of Communism and the various incarnations of Socialism is that all the parties associated with the Marxist ideology are infallible. Consequently, the Communist Party of China and its leadership, particularly its head Xi Jinping, cannot err. When mistakes do occur, they are, without exception, the faults of others. Yet, because of the customary “self-criticism” of every Communist or Socialist party of their previously failed leaders which assigns guilt to the individuals and not to the ideology, every reigning leader, while in power, jealously guards his perceived unblemished image.
President Xi is no exception. When he learned about the first cases that were caused by this virus he panicked. His first visceral reaction was to conceal and to lie. To conceal and to lie, because the entire Chinese regime has been based, since its inception in 1949, on an array of concealments and stupendous lies. In this politically artificial and fake environment human lives within China and beyond are irrelevant. Human beings are mere extras in a phony Chinese movie that in reality is a farce. Having based its rule on concealments and lies, President Xi has been operating in a blinding vacuum that with time will swallow his “Communism with Chinese Characteristics.”
Meanwhile, he and his colleagues have been busy to corrupt the easily corruptible semi-and full blown dictators across the globe. Doubtless, he could be successful in the short run. However, in the long run, democracy and capitalism will prevail, because these constructs generally have not been based on concealments and lies but on solid political, economic, financial, and cultural foundations. Moreover, the more people outside China will learn about the real nature of the Communist Party ruled politics in the People’s Republic the less attractive they will find it to emulate. The already existing and the predictably coming future revelation about the pandemic will clearly open many more eyes across the globe. The developing racist controversy between the People’s Republic of China and the African continent do not bode well for Chinese expansion in that continent and beyond.
Beijing escalating aggression in the South China Sea will be another test case for President Xi’s real intentions and the true nature of his regime. Although the final outcome will be in the not so near future, it can be predicted with certainty that it will not end well for the People’s Republic of China. Its “Belt and Road” initiative is already in trouble and will fall victim to President Xi’s self-induced pandemic. The same fate awaits his attempts to infiltrate Europe, more specifically the European Union. His seemingly promising attempts at forging closer relations with Putin’s Russia will come to naught too.What is needed now is not appeasement but toughness with reasonable compromises. The People’s Republic of China must be judged by its actions and not its words. Plainly, President Xi has long overplayed his hands both inside his country as well as internationally. It is high time to inform him that the United States of America’s and the rest of the world’s patience have run out with his boundless ambitions and silly hubris. By doing so, not just the world but also China and its people will benefit in the long run.
As the Jones Act enters its second century, much is still misunderstood about the law and its impact on the U.S. economy and national security. This forum provides a fact-based discussion on the practical effects of the reservation of coastwise cargoes for American vessels and provides insight into the practices of U.S. global competitors in supporting their maritime industries and preventing foreign domination of their coastwise and inland trades.
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Appearing on this program with Francis Rose, Government Matters Thought Leadership Network:
This sponsored program was created in conjunction with the Government Matters Thought Leadership Network. Government employees were not compensated and do not endorse any companies associated with this program.
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The innumerable pathways of history to successes or failures are richly paved with a plethora of knowledgeable, yet in many cases erroneous 20/20 hindsights by contemporary as well as future generations. A case in point is the stormy and acrimonious history of the novel state of Ukraine. Suffice it to say that the word “ukraina” had been used for almost a millennium to designate the outer territories of various states and empires but not a sovereign state. Throughout the 16th, the 17th, and the 18th centuries, most of today’s Ukraine was the regional name of the then existing border regions within the Polish Kingdom. From the end of the 18th century on, the word “ukraina” was replaced in the Russian Empire with its official designation as “Little Russia.”
World War I found the people who lived in the territory of today’s Ukraine in the crossfire between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Imperial Russia. Following the October Revolution in St. Petersburg, this territory was mired in a protracted civil war. Attempts at establishing a separate Ukrainian state failed both in Kiev as well as in Lvov. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles divided this territory among Poland, the Kingdom of Romania, the newly established state of Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union.
During World War II, the joint invasion of Poland by Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union expanded the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic’s territory westward. From 1945, and until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine remained an integral part of the Soviet Union. The subsequent Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine on August 24, 1991, established the independent Ukrainian state.
History matters. Calling the intervening three decades politically, economically, financially, culturally, socially, and ethically/morally tumultuous might be an understatement. Politically, a collection of lightweight political figures who used the presidential office to cement shameless corruption and indulged in personal enrichment, created a criminal state rather than a democratic republic promised in the constitution.
Economically, very few new enterprises of any national or international value were created. Profits were siphoned out of Ukraine faster than they were created. Financially, the value of the hryvnia was oscillating between total irrelevance and bare tolerance.
Socially and culturally, Ukraine is a veritable patchwork of about hundred thirty nationalities with their unique and separate languages and cultures. At least twenty two percent of the population is composed of ethnic minorities. Largest among them are the Russians, comprising at least seventeen percent of the population. Concentrating mostly in the southern and eastern parts of the state, they have built a fairly homogeneous and contagious ethnic enclave within the state. In addition, Romanians, Belorussians, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Polish, Armenians, and Hungarians rounded up the rich collections of larger ethnic groups inside Ukraine. The much hailed Euromaidan protests and the so-called February Revolution only deepened the historically existing divisions between the western and the eastern parts of Ukraine. Moreover, divisions among the smaller ethnic groups also have been exacerbated by the extreme fascist elements of the Ukrainian population. In particular, the Hungarian minority in the north-western corner of the state, with its unique language, have felt discriminated against and complained regularly about being oppressed by the majority ethnic Ukrainians.
Instead of mitigating and ultimately solving these problems, first the interim Yatsenyuk and then the elected Poroshenko governments failed to act upon the ethnic grievances of these minorities. By relying heavily on the Svoboda party, widely viewed as an ultra-nationalist, and even fascist political movement, which has espoused the late Bandera’s racist policies, and by turbo-charging corruption, both administrations failed miserably by forging Ukrainian national identity and state-wide prosperity.
As a result, Ukraine lost Crimea to Russia. Moreover, the separatist war in the south-eastern region of Ukraine has brought untold sufferings and the loss of human lives to the people since 2014. As a by-product, the all encompassing poison of corruption has enabled terrorists of many persuasions to use the territory of Ukraine to plot armed attacks against the whole of Europe and beyond.
Last spring, amid this total chaos, national elections were held. The reigning President Petro Poroshenko was soundly defeated and a popular actor Volodymyr Zelensky was elected President with an overwhelming majority in the Parliament (Rada), in Kiev. The new President’s mandate has included the total rejection of his predecessor’s policies, the ruthless elimination of corruption, the establishment of an honest and transparent government, and last but not least the restoration of peace and Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
On the last item, President Zelensky promised the voters during his campaign that if elected he would end the undeclared war with Russia. Once elected, first he began to push for the revival of the moribund Minsk Agreement of 2015. Predictably though, the irreconcilable interpretations of the agreement led both Russia and Ukraine into a complete political cul-de-sac. Next, President Zelensky moved to breathe new life into the equally moribund so-called Normandy Format of peace talks comprising the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany.
In order to bring about such a summit, President Zelensky pulled back the Ukrainian military from frontline positions in eastern Ukraine. Moreover, he committed his administration to implementing the so-called Steinmeier Formula, which designed a roadmap for elections in the separatist controlled territories of the Donbas region. These one-sided concessions sparked large-scale protest across the country. The subsequent summit that took place on December 9, 2019, in Paris, merely yielded three small commitments, including the exchange of prisoners, but no real tangible results. Since this summit, nothing of importance affecting the status quo has really transpired between Ukraine and Russia respecting the Donbas and Luhansk regions.
Beyond attempting to solve the civil war in the south-eastern region, President Zelensky has accomplished precious little domestically. Ukraine is still ripe for corruption. The economy has not been reformed and instead of developing, it has been regressing steadily. As a consequence, Ukrainians are leaving for Central and Western Europe in the hundreds of thousands. For all practical purposes, Ukraine is bankrupt. The IMF loan package is stuck in the Parliament, the Rada, the casualty of political and false patriotic squabbling among various interest groups. Even if the Rada would approve all the changes required by the IMF, the loan amount would only suffice to pay off some of Ukraine’s onerous mountain of debts.
Presently, Ukraine appears to be beyond redemption. The country’s political, economic and ethnic fragmentation is real and in the absence of a unifying national identity it seems to be unbridgeable. Ukraine’s breakup appears to be very likely. Whether such a breakup would occur peacefully or through a bloody civil war is still open to question.
Bringing Ukraine closer to the European Union and to NATO, or even elevating it to full membership in both organizations, are desirable objectives. However, such developments would surely raise strong resistance from the Kremlin. Realistically, excluding Russia from decisions concerning Ukraine’s future international orientation would only expedite its dissolution. Russia’s reaction to the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych in early 2014, and the subsequent political developments, should be an unambiguous warning for the United States of America as well as the European Union. Clearly, the international nonpartisanship of Kiev is of extreme importance to the Kremlin. Crossing this “red line” would certainly trigger another indirect, or even direct, military intervention by Russia.Ultimately, Ukraine’s problems must be solved by its citizens. The United States of America and the European Union could help Ukraine. Yet, the best solution would be if Washington and Brussels would join forces with Moscow in establishing a truly democratic, prosperous, and non aligned Ukraine between the western and the eastern parts of the European continent.
When Rear Admiral Mark Buzby, head of the U.S. Maritime Administration, testified before Congress last year about strategies for bolstering the maritime industry, a striking fact was embedded in his prepared remarks: the oceangoing carrier likely to become the biggest shipper of containerized cargo into U.S. ports is wholly owned by the Chinese government.
That’s a bit different from the case with Huawei, the Trump Administration’s bête noire in the rivalry for 5G leadership. Huawei is usually described as state-influenced or state-subsidized, but it isn’t owned outright by the Chinese government. For over a decade, though, Beijing has taken a direct role in building up every facet of China’s global maritime power while Washington, as usual, was distracted by other matters.
The results are startling. Chinese shipyards produce over a thousand oceangoing merchant vessels every year, and thanks to government subsidies are well on their way to eclipsing former industry leaders in Japan and South Korea. U.S. shipyards typically build less than ten such vessels even in good years.
Less than 1% of the world’s oceangoing merchant fleet of 44,000 ships flies the U.S. flag, and barely 1% of U.S. trade is carried on U.S.-flagged vessels—despite cargo preferences reserving shipments paid for or subsidized by the federal government for American ships.
Meanwhile, China has steadily expanded its control of commercial port facilities from South Asia to the Mediterranean to the Panama Canal. Beijing’s maritime footprint, part of a broader campaign to dominate global commerce, has grown inexorably even as the U.S. commercial presence in many ports has receded.
Even if China was not building new naval vessels at a furious pace—which it is—the growth of China’s commercial shipbuilding and shipping prowess and the retreat of America’s would call for a strategic review. The coronavirus crisis merely accelerates the process by providing new reasons for concern—such as the recent revelation that Chinese authorities are not allowing U.S. healthcare companies to export medical supplies like face masks from their plants in China (most of the antibiotics used in the U.S. originate in China).
The problem here isn’t that China is competing with U.S. maritime interests and winning. The problem is that official Washington has largely deserted the field, failing to frame policies that can maintain a reasonable balance of maritime interests. In a crisis, Beijing could leverage its commercial strength at sea to defeat America’s military before it even managed to reach war zones, for example by impeding port access, preventing access to third-party shipping, and leaving the U.S.-flag fleet with inadequate sealift for moving materiel.
This is not a new story. On the eve of World War One, only 10% of U.S. trade was carried on American ships, because U.S. yards had failed to make the transition from wood to steel construction of vessels (U.S. tariffs kept domestic steel prices well above the levels seen in other countries). So when other countries withdrew their merchant vessels from global commerce at the onset of war, U.S. economic and military activities were hobbled.
The Wilson Administration responded by setting up a shipping board that commissioned over a thousand merchant vessels from U.S. yards, but many of those ships were completed too late to play a part in the U.S. war effort. Similar shortfalls existed in World War Two—over 5,000 cargo ships and tankers had to be built—but Washington can’t count on having years to mobilize in a future confrontation with China. It will probably be a “come as you are” event.
That could be disastrous for the United States. In a major conflict, the U.S. might lack the capacity to import essential goods from other countries, it might lack the shipping tonnage to sustain a protracted sealift effort, and it might lack the merchant seamen to operate what vessels it does possess.
That latter concern, lack of merchant seamen, tends to be neglected in policy debates about how to arrest America’s maritime decline. Without a reasonably robust American-flagged commercial fleet, there won’t be enough experienced seamen to sustain a military lift operation in wartime. That is particularly true of the hundred or so ships in the Maritime Administration’s National Defense Reserve Fleet, because many are antiquated vessels relying on steam power that fewer and fewer of today’s merchant mariners are certified to operate.
It would be an exaggeration to say Washington has no plan to deal with this challenge. Over the last century, a complex collection of measures has been put in place to support retention of a minimal U.S.-flag fleet and pool of merchant mariners that the government can tap in emergencies. The most important such exertions are the Jones Act that reserves routes between domestic ports for U.S. made and manned vessels, and the Maritime Security Program that prepares U.S.-flag vessels engaged in international trade for mobilization in an emergency.
Such policies are helpful but inadequate. They have not arrested the gradual decline of U.S. commercial shipbuilding and shipping interests, and they certainly have done nothing to slow China’s rise to global dominance. What is needed is a comprehensive strategy for maintaining a global commercial maritime presence comparable to the military presence that the U.S. Navy exerts.
That will cost money, although nowhere near as much as China (a much poorer nation) is spending to build up its own maritime presence. For instance, Washington could bolster the American commercial oceangoing fleet and mariner community by raising the cargo preference requirement for all federally-assisted loads to 100%. At present, all military cargo must be carried on U.S.-flag vessels, but agricultural cargo depending on federal payments need only reach a 50% threshold. Perhaps that too should be raised to 100%.
Where the money would be most needed is to restore a construction differential subsidy abolished during the Reagan years so that U.S. shipbuilders can compete on a level playing field with the subsidized yards of Asian nations. Additional steps would be needed to defray the differential operating costs of U.S. ships once they went to sea, since some nations impose virtually no requirements on the credentialing and work conditions of merchant mariners.
The Maritime Security Program already does that for U.S.-flag ships operating on international routes, but if the goal is to rebuild the nation’s global maritime role rather than simply maintain a minimal fleet for meeting wartime needs, then the program will need to be expanded. Washington has let the commercial shipbuilding and shipping industry languish for too long, and as a result American commercial vessels have nearly disappeared from the world’s oceans. As policymakers rethink economic priorities in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, now would be a good time to recommit to being a first-class commercial seafaring nation.
Loren Thompson focuses on the strategic, economic and business implications of defense spending as the Chief Operating Officer of the non-profit Lexington Institute and Chief Executive Officer of Source Associates. Prior to holding his present positions, Loren was Deputy Director of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University and taught graduate-level courses in strategy, technology and media affairs at Georgetown. Loren has also taught at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He holds doctoral and masters degrees in government from Georgetown University and a bachelor of science degree in political science from Northeastern University.
“He who controls the sea controls everything.” -- Themistocles of Athens, circa 500 BC
INTRODUCTION: America Should Protect Its Own People and Interests
A national sentiment has recently revived which elitist for years have discouraged. This is the sentiment that America should promote its own interests, despite the globalist trend which gives the country’s needs a lower priority.
One example is the Jones Act. This long-standing law is under attack because the act favors U.S. interests within its own borders. The law essentially requires that cargoes traveling from one U.S. port to another must be carried on vessels that are American-owned, American-built, and American-crewed. But it does not apply to international shipping and trade.
The Jones Act must be appreciated in context. And it must be preserved.
The philosophy of “America First” is disparaged as being nationalistic; this ignores the key point that nationalism is not about money or military power. First and foremost, it promotes this country’s values and economic interests.
For instance, the coronavirus outbreak has increased awareness that it can be dangerous to depend on China to provide the makings of pharmaceuticals, and how risky it is when businesses large and small have their supply chains disturbed because factories abroad become idled. Overseas diseases can disrupt America just as surely as wars, political or social upheavals.
“America First” patriotism is not blind jingoism. It is not linked to any particular race. It encompasses all religions. It promotes national principles that include self-governance, equality before the law, and human rights. It promotes economic security for the people in the United States of America, and elevates their interest above those of foreign lands.
Globalism, however, considers all nations the same, treating oppressive regimes as deserving equal value with democracies, and totalitarianism as the moral equivalent of constitutional rights. Or it asserts that pursuing the well-being of a country’s own people is somehow immoral.
Critics of the Jones Act ignore the protection of American values and national interests, arguing as though U.S. law should only consider money. Their objection to the Jones Act is that some companies might save on shipping costs if foreign interests were allowed to handle domestic freight. The critics also ignore how China in particular has launched a massive plan to dominate the world’s oceans and to control the essential sector of transporting goods.
In short, America has become dependent on foreign countries to carry goods to and from the U.S., thus controlling global trade because 90% of global trade goes by ship. Only the Jones Act blocks countries from spreading their monopoly to include the waterways within U.S. borders.
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The Jones Act Is Being Attacked Although It Protects American Interests
For 100 years, a pro-American law known as the Jones Act has served national interests without controversy. But recently a campaign to challenge the Jones Act has been launched, based on claims that its pro-American requirements increase the costs of moving goods by ship between American ports.
The campaign disregards America’s national interests; it promotes a pure laissez-faire approach by the U.S. regardless of whether competing countries will support free trade. It ignores the enormous subsidies, protective tariffs, exclusionary tariffs and policies of other countries which disadvantage American businesses. Promoters oppose all forms of American tariffs, especially those of President Donald Trump, even when they are in response to tariffs enacted by other countries.
A Jones Act repeal would sacrifice America’s borders and America’s interests, allowing heavily-subsidized foreign shipping within domestic U.S. waters as well as international waters. The rationale is simplistic: Businesses might save money by using shipping offered by nations which undercut competition by subsidizing the building and operating of huge craft, and which offer foreign flags of convenience that often ignore safety and other standards.
This competition from other countries should not be labeled as free enterprise. For example, China dominates shipbuilding by using their state-owned enterprises and subsidies, weak labor protections and cheap or even slave labor, plus lavishing government money to subsidize operating costs of cargo ships.
For those whose sole criteria is lower costs, China has much to offer. China’s communism and human rights record can be disregarded if money is all that matters. According to the infamous quote attributed to Vladimir Lenin, capitalists would eagerly sell rope to the communists and then be hung by that rope.
For those who cherish America’s values and system of government, other issues are paramount. Protecting America’s shipping interests was promoted by that father of capitalism, Adam Smith. He wrote in The Wealth of Nations that a country should protect its maritime trade from foreign competition. Smith saw economies as a servant of national interest.
The principle extends beyond ships. Foreign air carriers can fly between U.S. airports and those in other countries but cannot fly purely-domestic routes. Foreign trucks face restrictions on operating within our borders.
The British author Joanne Rowling of the fantasy series Harry Potter has introduced the Dementors in Harry Potter and the Prisoners of Azbakan. These hooded humanoid characters have been depicted in the movies as skeletal figures with the ability to fly unconstrained by the laws of physics. They are the prison guards of Azbakan whose task is to create utter hopelessness and even suicidal self-hatred by the inmates. Their destructive energy can be spread like a virus through the air and also by invisible, yet direct contacts with humans. Arabella Figg, a character in OP8 describes them thus: “Everything went cold….and I felt…as though all happiness had gone from the world…and I remembered….dreadful things.”
Viktor Orban’s Hungary is Joanne Rowlings’s Azbakan and the metastasizing fatal cancerous tumor gnawing on the body politic of NATO and the European Union. He and his very small circle of co-conspirators, better defined as his accomplices in setting up and running his criminal enterprise, are the Dementors of the Hungarian people.
Since his party FIDESZ has been brought back to power by a two thirds majority in the Parliament in 2010, and have been kept in power through a new and taylor made constitution as well as election frauds in 2014 and 2018, Viktor Orban has had a deliberate plan to kill every aspect of Hungary’s fledgling democracy. His diabolical legal and extra legal schemes of demoralization of the population have been designed to reduce the entire nation to profligate imbecility. His so-called “illiberal democracy” has stripped the citizens of their chance to vote out his government by free elections devoid of voter fraud, ballot stuffing, and the forced inclusion of ethnic Hungarians in the local and national elections from the neighboring countries.
His and his accomplices shameful corruption has impoverished Hungary and has kept the bulk of the nation as near to abject poverty as seemed appropriate for a modicum of societal tranquility. Politically, Viktor Orban has pursued a host of tactical opportunities that has aimed at propping up his autocracy. His means have included every conceivable move, including cozying up to dictators from the east, such as the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Russia, Valdimir Putin, and a colorful assortment of really nasty authoritarians from the former Soviet Union. Domestically, the tactics that Viktor Orban has employed have been drastic. He and his accomplices have ruined the health industry and destroyed almost the entire educational system. As a result, most of the experienced physicians and qualified nurses have left Hungary, and teachers have lost their jobs in the thousands. Thus, the difference between the general condition of Hungary now and the days before 1990, is one of degree, the latter state might have been better than the former.
Yet, no economic decline or financial troubles appear to rattle the consciousness of Hungary’s Dementors. As in Rowlings’s masterpiece, Viktor Orban and his accomplices possess no soul and know no mercy. Stealing and embezzlement are continuing unabated. His boyhood body from his home village Lorinc Meszaros and his son in law Istvan Tiborcz have become billionaires. Clearly, they are Viktor Orban’s premier Strohmen. His previous financial guru Lajos Simicska fell out of favor years ago, because he became too powerful and knew too much about Viktor Orban’s and his accomplices’s shenanigans. For his alleged and actual sins, Simicska was destroyed as a businessman and completely ruined financially.
A lot already has been written about Hungary’s new emergency legislation due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to giving unlimited powers to Viktor Orban both in scope and duration, the legislation eliminates every vestige of democracy, freedom, independence, and individuality. Again, as in Rowlings’s masterpiece, Hungarians have been relegated to zombie existence. This condition will not change until Viktor Orban and his criminal gang continue to possess absolute powers.
Adding insult to injury, the European Union has never taken decisive actions against Hungary. However, if Brussels does not intervene, Viktor Orban will continue to weaken the cohesion of the organization. The founding values of the European Union are at stake. More importantly, he is not entirely alone. The states of the former Soviet bloc, with few exceptions, are as corrupt, if not even more, than Viktor Orban’s Hungary.
The United States of America has not fared better against Hungary than the European Union. The current administration has sent to Budapest an amateur whose understanding of Hungary is near zero. His only dubious accomplishment is that he has made a fool of himself by becoming the lapdog of Viktor Orban. In this manner, the White House and the State Department have been deprived of objective and unbiased information about the situation in Hungary. Clearly, Viktor Orban represents a very serious threat to NATO as well as the European Union. The time is running out for corrective actions. The Hungarian people are getting more and more desperate. The possibility of a bloody upheaval against VIktor Orban’s autocracy is real. To prevent it should be high priority for Brussels and for Washington too.
The opportunity exists for the Trump administration to do something now about Nigeria that would lead to real progress in the fight against religious persecution and repeated violations of the rule of law, would help to root out corruption, and deal a significant blow to the Boko Haram terror group.
The lever available to the U.S. government to do this is $300 million in stolen monies soon to come under U.S. control currently frozen in British and Crown of Jersey accounts at America’s request. Nigeria wants it back and, before America acts, the pressure it’s applying to President Muhammadu Buhari for reforms needs to be stepped up.
If successful, it would be a big win. U.S. authorities should be dubious about transferring monies back to Nigeria’s control considering there’s a good chance it would be passed back to back to ruling-party officials who were complicit in the original theft. More than that, considering the longstanding corruption in the government of Africa’s most populous nation and the disturbing pattern of human rights abuses committed by Buhari’s regime, it’s not clear the U.S. should turn the money over at all unless and until real reforms are adopted.
Look at the record. According to the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, over the past two years, thousands of Nigerian Christians have been murdered. The European Parliamentrecently blasted the government over ongoing human rights violations. Amnesty International issued a condemnation over the use of “security agents and (the) judiciary as a tool for persecuting people who voice dissenting opinions.” Innocent reform advocates like Grace Taiga, a retired civil servant and practicing Christian, and opposition Senator Shehu Sani have been targeted by the regime and journalists critical of it like Omoyele Sowore has been jailed.
These actions and others led the U.S. government to put Nigeria on a special watch list. Washington must now use its leverage to demand change. Instead, under a plan worked out with Buhari, America may soon green-light the release of these funds back to Nigeria where, in a defeat for the cause of justice, it ultimately may be disbursed to local projects run by contractors with a questionable and corrupt history in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Rather than allow this, the U.S. government must push Buhari to end his government’s blatant disregard for the rule of law, institute real anti-corruption efforts, and stop the ongoing attacks on Christians and other religious minorities by Boko Haram and other groups.
That the decision on the disposition of the funds in question rests with Attorney General William P. Barr rather than the U.S. State Department of State is comforting. Barr is someone for whom, criticism from the left notwithstanding, the rule of law matters. And he’s shown he can swing the hammer hard when he wants to.
Before deciding what to do, Barr should look at a similar case involving the Justice Department, which is refusing to hand over $100 million in stolen, laundered money it says can be traced back to Atiku Bagudu, the current governor of Nigeria’s Kebbi State and a prominent member of Buhari’s ruling APC party. In recent U.S. court filings, Nigeria asserted a 17-year-old deal could lead to the funds being given directly back to Bagudu. Another agreement, made by Buhari’s people in October 2018 would transfer a sizeable portion of an investment portfolio worth $155 million to Bagudu if it ever again came under Nigeria’s control.
Any agreement regarding the repatriation of these stolen assets must be carefully weighed against the escalating human rights violations and the corruption that persists throughout Nigeria. A detailed assessment is needed to determine whether the penalties allowed under the Global Magnitsky Act and Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act should be invoked to address the gross human rights violations spearheaded by President Buhari’s inner circle like those targeted at Christians and other religious minorities.
Attorney General Barr and the U.S. government have a powerful lever to use to move the Nigerians toward getting their act together. They should do so forthwith. The U.S. must uphold the rule of law to stop the persecution and send a signal to the Nigerian Government that human rights are essential and violations of such will be to the detriment of any strong government-to-government relationship.