Loyalty or Fear?

The last two posts dealt with situations arising in the coming year, but not Asia-Pacific. Two thousand twenty-two rings in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP. Maybe, you didn’t notice. A 15 nation trade agreement that will govern trade between 2.3 billion people includes a who’s who in the Asia-Pacific area, including the Peoples Republic of China. The notable exception is the United States. What does this mean for influence in the region?

The RCEP is the successor to the US-sponsored Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Trump withdrew the US from the Treaty, claiming it was unfair upon taking office. Everyone else found it fair and desirable, and they continued without us.

As I have written, this was a high point in the Obama administration handling the China problem. Initially negotiated by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it promised to bring those threatened by China together to provide alternative supply chains and trading partnerships. The hope was China would feel the pain of exclusion and be encouraged to adhere to trade norms and move towards an open society.

The Trump campaign’s chief economic advisers, Larry Kudlow and Steve Moore, longtime free-traders, backed TPP but could not dissuade the protectionist Trump. It never became a campaign issue because Hillary Clinton strangely abandoned her work rather than defend it. Nor did President Obama mount a rebuttal to Trump. The truth is Democrats beholden to protectionist unions always needed massive Republican votes to pass trade treaties.

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Mirror, Mirror…

Rather than list the litany of woes we are experiencing, we might be better served by looking at some underlying causes.

It’s strange Russia is threatening Ukraine in the face of NATO opposition. After all, just the Western European NATO allies have vastly greater resources than Russia. Germany alone has a GDP of 2 1/2 times Russia’s. Theoretically, Russia would stand little chance waging an offensive war against those with much more means. All it would take is resolve by our European allies.

Therein lies the rub. Donald Trump recognized something was wrong. Western Europe is comfortable letting the U.S. defend them instead of taking their proper place in protecting shared principles of free societies. We spend 3.7% of our GDP on defense. Germany provides all of 1.4%. Trump demanded all the NATO allies meet the 2% they agreed on.

In light of this dereliction, it’s fair to ask what Germany is up to. Is that nation committed to free countries or just feathering its own nest? To date, Germany hasn’t come close to the 2%. Under former Chancellor Andrea Merkel, not only didn’t it keep its defense obligations, but it joined Russia in building the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline. Merkel was seen as putting German trade above all else. By pumping natural gas under the Baltic directly from Russia to Germany, it undermines the energy security of Eastern Europe.

President Trump, exasperated with Merkel, blocked completion of the pipeline. Unfathomably, upon taking office, Biden reversed the Trump stand, allowing completion. We have every right to know the stance on the issue of the new German Chancellor.

Olaf Scholz must be put on the spot and explain precisely where Germany stands. Given its central geographic and dominant economic position, it’s necessary to deliver unwavering support for NATO and our shared ideals. Otherwise, our 320,000 military personnel in Europe are at risk of a stab in the back.

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’22 In View

At this time last year, things were looking up. Covid Vaccines are coming online with the economy on a solid upward trend. The erratic Trump is on his way out, and the dull but middle-of-the-road Biden is taking over. A nation on house arrest is about to get sprung. Hopes for a great 2021 abound.

It Didn’t turn out that way. Rather than being a moderate, Biden proved to be a Bernie Sanders clone. Worse, the Biden Administration is proving to be one of most inept, giving Buchanan a run for his money in less than a year.  

Biden is making Trump look capable with the war on fossil fuels and trillions in unnecessary spending, giving us the worse inflation in decades, a border crisis, and a disastrous Afghan pullout encouraging our enemies.

Trump’s Project Warp Speed was already putting a million Covid shots in arms and accelerating when Biden took over. By taking an infusion and quickly recovering, Trump showed the worth of monoclonal antibodies in preventing terrible outcomes. Trump left vaccines and treatments promising control of the pandemic. We now have disarray on the Covid front. 

After this year’s results, one has to stretch to find reasons to be hopeful in ’22. Inflation continuing and hostilities threatened in Ukraine, Taiwan, and the Middle East engenders more fear than cheer. With everybody accenting the negative, I don’t need to echo their concerns.

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Some Year

It’s the time of year to assess where I was right and wrong. When you have a blog where everything you’ve written since 2014 is available, you have no place to hide.  

To a large extent, Trump’s election loss appeared to me to have been self-inflicted. A bizarre debate performance coupled with tirades against early voting showed a lack of balance. He was the one ranting while Biden remained cool. Discouraging his supporters from early voting meant they had to show up on election day. That’s not always possible. Uncast votes could turn the results. In the crucial states, 2020 was close.

What I didn’t foresee was the degree of his derangement. Even in the face of recounts conducted by his party showing he lost, Trump refused to accept the outcome. Bill Barr, his attorney General, found nothing to change the results. His inability to accept defeat led directly to the loss of the two Georgia Senate seats and the 1/6 Capital Riot.  

As an octogenarian, I’ve seen how age affects one’s perception. Where Trump previously avoided significant errors, reality and those recognizing it became his enemy. Maybe, I should’ve been more aware of possible age-related changes. Biden has lost several steps; why not Trump? As we can see. not realizing our limitations can be dangerous.

I predicted Covid would reach its apogee in early January. The 10th of the month marked the pandemic high point. Even with variations, including Delta, we haven’t yet come close. With so many people already having Covid, infusions, and new vaccines coming online, the data looked favorable for a topping out. To date, that is the case:

Early on in the Biden administration, I observed its comprehension of Operation Warp Speed, and indeed the pandemic was lacking. This absence raised the issue of overall competence—the multitude of the undocumented crossing our border without an answer confirmed my suspicion. 

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Job Description

From packages taken from the doorstep to luxury stores hit by gangs, crime is taking on a life of its own. Even the Fox Christmas tree burnt down. Our greatest cities suffering from lawlessness and filth no longer are tourist draws—many experiencing out-migration. The situation only seems to be getting worse.

How did we get to this point? We have to ask how we have departed from civilized norms. To understand the problem, we must revisit what we expect from our elected governments—at a minimum, going about our business without fear for our person or property. Walking down the street or opening for business shouldn’t be an act of foolhardy courage. We pay taxes to enforce the laws allowing civilized society.

In my series “The Long Journey to More,” I observed the only way to get an increase from present circumstances was to take it from someone else, trade for it, or innovate. As we innovate and trade our way to “More,” the idea of taking it from others should become unacceptable. Our military and law enforcement must keep predators from taking what we value.

Limited food, clothing, and shelter meant getting from others before they got from you for most of human history. The strong subjugated those weaker and left most at subsistence. The powerful got “more” and fought to preserve what they had and to extend their sway over others.

The Vikings used their versatile ships to both raid and trade. In an earlier time, they were an example of how things worked. In our era where more people live well above subsistence every day, the tolerance for those preying on others should be diminishing. Instead, we appear heading in the opposite direction.

When we have all sorts of programs to feed, clothe and shelter those in need, what if anything justifies anyone taking from someone else? If government programs weren’t enough, we have a multitude of charities providing aid. One would have to work hard to starve to death. Only exceptional circumstances result in malnourishment. Never in history have we had more support for the unfortunate, yet we find the news now dominated by lawlessness.

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