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Diplomacy & Crisis News

What Charity Should You Give To?

The National Interest - 9 hours 50 min ago

Joseph Stinn

economy, Americas

Rewarding charities that scrimp is less strategic than it sounds.  The end of the year is a popular time to give to charity.

Historically, Americans have made 30% of their annual donations in December. Many of them get a head start on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving during the global online fundraising campaign known as Giving Tuesday.

But no matter what time of year it is, donors want help deciding which charity to support.

Because I conduct research about nonprofit evaluation methods, I’ve been studying the approach of ranking charities depending on how much of their budgets they spend on everything from paperclips to insurance.

A dangerous obsession

Known as the overhead ratio, this metric encompasses expenditures that might appear to be unrelated to work that advances a charity’s mission. Such money, the argument for low overhead ratios goes, might be wasted.

Nonprofits typically have overhead ratios of around 20%, meaning that they spend about 1 out of every 5 dollars on fundraising expenses, accounting, publicity and everything else needed to operate. Some salary and benefits expenditures count as well, depending on what the employee does.

Pressure from donors, charity watchdogs, the media and even lawmakers to keep overhead costs low can conspire to deprive nonprofits of the money they need to run smoothly. In some cases, pressure to keep overhead low can depress pay and bring about skimpy staffing and benefits, making it harder for charities to hire strong job candidates and keep their best employees on board.

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The Tale of Harriet Tubman's Faith-Based Survival

The National Interest - 9 hours 50 min ago

Robert Gudmestad

History, Americas

She remained fearless as she rescued slaves.

Millions of people voted in an online poll in 2015 to have the face of Harriet Tubman on the US$20 bill. But many might not have known the story of her life as chronicled in a recent film, “Harriet.”

Harriet Tubman worked as a slave, spy and eventually as an abolitionist. What I find most fascinating, as a historian of American slavery, is how belief in God helped Tubman remain fearless, even when she came face to face with many challenges.

Tubman’s early life

Tubman was born Araminta Ross in 1822 on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. When interviewed later in life, Tubman said she started working when she was five as a house maid. She recalled that she endured whippings, starvation and hard work even before she got to her teenage years.

She labored in Maryland’s tobacco fields, but things started to change when farmers switched their main crop to wheat.

Grain required less labor, so slave owners began to sell their enslaved people to plantation owners in the the Deep South.

Two of Tubman’s sisters were sold to a slave trader. One had to leave her child behind. Tubman too lived in fear of being sold.

When she was 22, Tubman married a free black man named John Tubman. For reasons that are unclear, she changed her name, taking her mother’s first name and her husband’s last name. Her marriage did not change her status as an enslaved person.

Five years later, rumors circulated in the slave community that slave traders were once again prowling through the Eastern Shore. Tubman decided to seize her freedom rather than face the terror of being chained with other slaves to be carried away, often referred to as the “chain gang.”

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F-117 Stealth Fighters Are Playing the Enemy (Taking on F-22s, F-15s and F-16s)

The National Interest - 10 hours 20 min ago

David Axe

Security,

“I witnessed an F-117 along with four F-16s go up against F-15s and F-22s. The F-117's callsign was KNIGHT, the F-16s were GOMER and MIG, and they were communicating on the aggressor frequency.”

Eleven years after the U.S. Air Force officially retired the type, an F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter has made yet another public appearance.

Plane-spotter Kris Tanjano was posted up outside the Nellis Test and Training Range in Nevada on Dec. 3, 2019 when he witnessed an aerial exercise play out overhead. F-117s apparently flying from Tonopah Test Range were in the mix along with F-16s, F-15s, F-22s and possibly B-1 bombers coming from Nellis Air Force Base.

The Lockheed-made stealth fighters apparently were acting as radar-evading adversaries in a mock battle with other plane types, Tanjano told Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone. “I witnessed an F-117 along with four F-16s go up against F-15s and F-22s. The F-117's callsign was KNIGHT, the F-16s were GOMER and MIG, and they were communicating on the aggressor frequency.”

“First, the F-16s came in pairs attacking the blue force (F-22s, F-15s, and maybe a B-1) then an F-117 came in at low-level just behind the F-16s towards the blue force,” Tanjano added. “They all fought it out for about five to 10 minutess then restarted for a second push. Once again the F-16s came high overhead, followed by a low-level F-117. Several times the aggressors called out a target which was a low-level heavy aircraft which I believe was B-1, but I am not certain.”

The sighting seems yet again to confirm what Rogoway long has suspected. “Having a small aggressor force of F-117s available for putting our and our allies' latest radars, infrared search and track and electronic emissions detection system to the test, as well as to develop tactics for defeating such threats, seems like a perfect job for the F-117.”

The first of 59 front-line F-117s became operational in the mid-1980s and most famously led deep strike missions targeting Iraqi forces during the 1991 Gulf War. F-22 stealth fighters in 2008 assumed the F-117s’ strike role pending the 2016 introduction of F-35 stealth fighter-bombers.

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China's Plan for 6 Aircraft Carriers Just 'Sank'

The National Interest - 10 hours 50 min ago

David Axe

Security,

China reportedly is slowing its plan to acquire two aircraft carriers for each of its regional fleets. Instead of speeding ahead with the development of a six-carrier fleet -- two each for the northern, eastern and southern fleets -- the Chinese navy could stop after acquiring flattop number four.

China reportedly is slowing its plan to acquire two aircraft carriers for each of its regional fleets.

Instead of speeding ahead with the development of a six-carrier fleet -- two each for the northern, eastern and southern fleets -- the Chinese navy could stop after acquiring flattop number four.

“Plans for a fifth [carrier] have been put on hold for now, according to military insiders,” the Hong Kong South China Morning Post reported. “They said that technical challenges and high costs had put the brakes on the program.”

The possible pause in carrier-production could cement the yawning capability gap between the U.S. and Chinese fleets.

Song Zhongping, a military expert and T.V. commentator, in late 2018 told Global Times that China needs at least five aircraft carriers to execute its military strategy. Wang Yunfei, a retired Chinese navy officer, said Beijing needs six flattops.

The Chinese defense ministry declined during a November 2018 press conference to specify how many carriers it ultimately planned to acquire.

But leaving aside the high cost, six flattops would have made sense. Equipping each of the three regional fleets with two flattops would have allowed one carrier from each fleet to deploy while the other underwent maintenance.

In 2019, each fleet possesses between 20 and 30 major surface warships, at least a dozen submarines and a handful of amphibious vessels. Just one, the Northern Theater Navy headquartered in Qingdao, operates an aircraft carrier -- Liaoning, China's refurbished, former Ukrainian flattop, which commissioned in 2012.

The second carrier Shandong, a slightly-improved copy of Liaoning and China’s first home-built flattop in late 2019 is completing sea trials. Carrier number three, a bigger vessel than Liaoning and Shandong, is under construction in Shanghai. Flattop four presumably would be similar in design to number three.

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U.S. General: Space Is Where Russia and China Are Most Dangerous

The National Interest - 11 hours 50 min ago

David Axe

Security,

The greatest threat that Russia and China pose to the United States is in space, Gen. David Goldfein, the U.S. Air Force’s chief of staff, said at an event in California in early December 2019.

The greatest threat that Russia and China pose to the United States is in space, Gen. David Goldfein, the U.S. Air Force’s chief of staff, said at an event in California in early December 2019.

“Russia is a rather dangerous threat because it’s an economy in decline and the demographics are challenging for [Vladimir Putin],” Goldfein said, according to Defense News. “But China is the face of the threat. China has the economy."

Goldfein’s assessment comes as U.S. lawmakers prepare to authorize a new military service for space warfare.

In addition to ground-based jammers, lasers and rockets that can mute, blind and destroy low-flying satellites, Moscow and Beijing are working on small, maneuverable satellites that can tamper with American spacecraft.

"Our adversaries are increasingly leveraging rapid advances in technology to pose new and evolving threats — particularly in the realm of space, cyberspace, computing and other emerging, disruptive technologies," the U.S. intelligence community concluded in its 2019 strategy report.

"No longer a solely U.S. domain, the democratization of space poses significant challenges for the United States and the I.C.,” the report explained. Russian and Chinese anti-satellite weapons could “reduce U.S. military effectiveness and overall security."

Between 2013 and 2015, the Russian government launched several mysterious satellites into low orbit. Zipping across orbital planes hundreds of thousands of feet above Earth, the nimble little Kosmos-2491, -2499 and -2504 spacecraft — which apparently were the size of mini-refrigerators -- were able to approach within just a few feet of other satellites.

"You can probably equip them with lasers, maybe put some explosives on them,” Anatoly Zak, a space historian, said of the Kosmos triplets. “If [one] comes very close to some military satellite, it probably can do some harm."

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China's 3 Greatest Dynasties

The National Interest - 12 hours 50 min ago

Akhilesh Pillalamarri

Security, Asia

What can Chinese history tell us about China today?

Key Point: China has a long, proud history going back thousands of years.

Chinese civilization is one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations. Indeed, unlike Western, Islamic, and Indian civilizations, China has managed to remain politically unified for much of its history.

Contrary to the common perception of China being historically isolated and weak, many Chinese dynasties were very powerful and have had a profound impact on global history. Yes, it is true that during the Ming Dynasty, China ships conducted multiple voyages of exploration (1405-1433) before abruptly stopping. But this hardly dented the enormous economic and political influence China wielded for most of its history in East, Southeast, and Central Asia. Although the people of these regions pursued their own interests as best as they could, China was always the major power to be dealt with.

Nonetheless, not all Chinese dynasties were created, and these three stood above the rest.

The Han Dynasty

The Han Dynasty ruled China for a solid four centuries, from 206 B.C.E. to 220 C.E. Although the preceding Qin Dynasty unified China, it was the Han Dynasty that kept it together and developed the institutions that characterized most of Chinese history since.

The Han Dynasty was able to maintain its bureaucracy and military through a more efficient and thorough system of taxation than many contemporary empires. Additionally, to gain increased revenue, the Han created monopolies on iron and salt. The salt monopoly has been a traditional source of revenue for Chinese states since, one that apparently lasted until 2014.

The Han’s large coffers allowed it to expand China’s boundaries outwards from its traditional heartland in the Yellow River valley toward what is today southern China. Southern China would prove to be very important to China in the future since it can support a large population through the rice crop. Thanks in part to southern China’s wealth, China’s sociopolitical development was usually greater than its neighbors, allowing China to easily incorporate or defeat them.

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How to Use the Language of Success

The National Interest - 13 hours 50 min ago

Patricia Friedrich

economy, Americas

A recent study shows that women were more likely to be introduced by their first names rather than by their titles.

If you work in medicine, does it matter if you are called by your title? Is it all right if patients, colleagues, and others call you by your first name?

The answer of course depends on whom you ask. However, for many doctors who are women, that is not necessarily the central concern. It is more worrying that they and their male counterparts receive different forms of address. Women are more often referred to by first name, even when the situation of communication is formal. The same does not happen to doctors who are men.

Women in medicine may wonder whether or not those variations in how they are addressed might have far-reaching consequences for their careers. Do they reflect a systematic difference in attitude?

As a linguist, writer, and professor who teaches mostly sociolinguistics content, I have always been fascinated by the ways in which we use language. Linguistic categories and beliefs can affect different areas of our lives.

When my colleagues and I became curious about the use of titles, we conducted a study. It is part of a number of efforts by researchers interested in the social aspects of gender in medical fields. Our study shows that women are indeed less often called “doctor” than their male equivalent, and by a large margin.

Informal feedback by online readers reveals that the practice leads to concerns about everything from career advancement to professional respect.

Not quite ‘little lady,’ but not quite right

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This is the Future of Eco Architecture

The National Interest - 14 hours 50 min ago

Jenny Roe

Environment, Americas

Access to the shoreline is great, but what about places not on the coast? 

Officials are increasingly recognizing that integrating nature into cities is an effective public health strategy to improve mental health. Doctors around the world now administer “green prescriptions” – where patients are encouraged to spend time in local nature spaces – based on hundreds of studies showing that time in nature can benefit people’s psychological well-being and increase social engagement.

Much of this research to date has focused on the role of green space in improving mental health. But what about “blue” space – water settings such as riverside trails, a lake, a waterfront or even urban fountains?

You probably intuitively know that being close to water can induce feelings of calm. And many poets and artists have attested to the sense of awe and magic that water can evoke. But can it deliver the same wide-ranging benefits that urban green infrastructure brings to mental health? A few studies have shown that water bodies score just as well – if not better – in supporting psychological well-being as compared with “green” nature.

So far the evidence is sparse, though, and mostly limited to coastal settings in Europe. What if you’re in one of the 49 countries in the world, or 27 American states, that are landlocked with no ocean shore? For natural capital to deliver health benefits to people, it needs to be right next to them, integrated into the everyday fabric of their world.

Targeting everyday well-being

If you do have access to blue space, it can make you happier, reduce your stress levels, improve your quality of life and make you more sociable and altruistic.

This was the finding from one study my collaborators and I carried out in West Palm Beach, Florida. A short walk along a downtown waterfront with a design intervention we devised improved both perceived and physiological stress, as measured by heart rate variability.

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America Needs A Navy Base In Australia

The National Interest - 15 hours 50 min ago

James Holmes

Security, Americas

For more than just countering China.

Key point: The advantages of basing forces Down Under are legion, the case for doing so increasingly captivating—for both allies.

Some ideas are worth broaching even when it’s plain no one will act on them instantly, in whole, or even in part. They make sense even when vagaries of politics or strategy may rule out implementing them. They force people to think—and on occasion, the times catch up with the idea. Case in point: back in 2011 my wingman Toshi Yoshihara and I bruited about the idea of basing U.S. naval forces in Australia. We went big. Under our proposal, an aircraft-carrier expeditionary strike group or another heavy-hitting fleet contingent would call some Australian seaport home.

That would make Oz a U.S. naval hub on par with Japan, where Yokosuka and Sasebo play host to the U.S. Seventh Fleet.

The idea occasioned some buzz in policy circles, and it was more than whimsy. There is a historical precedent. After all, Australia acted as an unsinkable aircraft carrier during the Second World War. It was a staging point floating just outside imperial Japan’s “Southern Resource Area” in the South China Sea. Fremantle, in Western Australia, offered safe haven to U.S. Navy submarines sent forth to raid Japanese mercantile and naval shipping. The ledger of Australian contributions to Allied victory unrolls virtually without bound.

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Should Military Force Be Used For Ill-Defined Economic Goals?

The National Interest - 16 hours 50 min ago

Donald L. Losman

Security, Americas

The elevation of economics from a supporting role to that of a war aim is morally very questionable. 

The role of economics in America’s National Security Strategy (a document mandated by Congress upon the Executive branch in the 1980s) has undergone a remarkable, yet wholly unnoticed metamorphosis.  An examination is long overdue to unmask this evolution and question its validity, and particularly so with U.S. troops now maintaining oil fields in Syria.

President Trump’s strategy document has four pillars.  The first is a rather traditional ‘protecting the homeland,’ with border security being a new, added point.  Pillar III, ‘advancing peace through strength,’ is hardly new.  And Pillar IV, ‘advancing American influence,’ is similarly traditional.  Pillar II, however, ‘promoting prosperity,’ is a purely economic goal, the likes of which has not been seen in years.   Further, its subtitle, “Economic Security is National Security,” is a highly dubious claim. 

Clearly, supply availabilities have always been a concern to military planners.  A strong economy, however, was traditionally deemed an enabling mechanism to finance a war rather than a war goal. The concept of a defense industrial base, another enabling mechanism (and one noted in the Trump strategy), became more prominent in the U.S. in the post-World War I period and demonstrably clear after World War II because it was America’s ‘arsenal of democracy’ which had propelled the Allies to victory.   But it was the Arab oil embargo of October 1973 – deemed the cause of oil shortages, inflation, and recession – that launched the economic component toward morphing into a desired goal in itself.  When oil prices spiked again after the 1979 Iranian revolution, Jimmy Carter subsequently announced that any attempt to control the Persian Gulf would be addressed by all means necessary.  In March 1980, the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, the precursor to the U.S. Central Command, was activated.  

The 1980s security strategy documents focused on the Cold War, with Reagan’s 1988 document noting “America's economic strength sustains our other elements of power,” a clear designation of economics as a war-supporting mechanism.   George H.W. Bush’s 1991 strategy broadened the definition of national security, with a concerted effort to expand the concept to include economic health.

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What Does the Indictment Against Netanyahu Portend?

The National Interest - 17 hours 50 min ago

Paul R. Pillar

Politics, Middle East

Netanyahu’s government has pursued policies toward Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians that have been increasingly and blatantly indefensible in terms of peace, justice, and international law.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under indictment for corruption, has been launching vociferous counterattacks that sound quite familiar to anyone (including editorial pages of the mainstream U.S. press) who has been following a parallel story of high-level wrongdoing in the United States. Netanyahu said that earlier reports of the conduct that led to charges against him were “fake news.” He has labeled investigations into the matter a “witch hunt”.  Now he is saying that the indictments are part of an “attempted coup.”  The similarities between a beleaguered Netanyahu and Donald Trump extend beyond such rhetoric to larger habits of never admitting wrongdoing and constantly attacking their accusers. Their common objective has been the retention of power free of any introspection about larger values.

Both heads of government have long histories of demagoguery, with an apparent disregard for possibly violent consequences. Netanyahu’s history includes stirring up hatred against political rivals who participated in the Oslo peace process—rabble-rousing that the family of the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin believes, with good reason, was partly responsible for Rabin’s assassination by a right-wing Jewish Israeli. More recently, Netanyahu’s racist rhetoric has featured warnings about Arabs turning out to vote “in droves”. 

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Save the Open Skies Treaty

The National Interest - 19 hours 15 min ago

Mary Chesnut

Security, Europe Middle East

Established in the wake of the Cold War, the Open Skies Treaty has provided the United States, Russia, and dozens of other countries in Europe with reassurance regarding each other’s intentions and capabilities. What happens when it goes away?

Established in the wake of the Cold War, the Open Skies Treaty has provided the United States, Russia, and dozens of other countries in Europe with reassurance regarding each other’s intentions and capabilities. Signed in 1992 and entering into effect in 2002, the treaty provides for overflight rights by surveillance aircraft on short notice over the territory of the signatories. These overflights help the signatories identify deployments of military equipment and infrastructure, thus providing early warning of impending attack and transparency with respect to military buildups. Together with a raft of other treaties (including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), New START, and the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE)), Open Skies helped create an architecture for managing security concerns in post-Cold War Europe.   

Recently, however, the treaty has come under attack from opponents within the United States. Other parts of the security architecture have already fallen away, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, the CFE, and most recently the INF. Every arms control agreement crystallizes a particular strategic and technological reality, and not every agreement can survive geopolitical and technological changes. The Open Skies Treaty, however, represents a low-cost answer to an age-old problem of international security, providing a mechanism for monitoring deployments of military forces and providing assurance to vulnerable nations. Discarding the treaty would represent a surrender to anti-arms control fetishism, rather than to a careful assessment of the security interests of the United States.

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Why the White House Has Its Eyes Wide Shut on China

The National Interest - 19 hours 16 min ago

Patrick Mendis

Security, Asia

The West can excoriate China all it wants on its debt traps, lack of transparency, and pernicious diplomacy. But unless the West comes up with better solutions, that dirt road, for the developing world, is still a dirt road.

Ever since President Xi Jinping announced China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) strategy—now called the Belt Road Initiative (BRI)—in 2013, the United States has sought to thwart, obstruct, or counter the Beijing initiative. The latest of these efforts comes in the ambiguous form of the Blue Dot Network (BDN) scheme, which was announced on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok, Thailand on November 4, 2019.

Leading the U.S. delegation, with the conspicuous absence of President Donald Trump at the summit, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross told in a conference call with reporters that “we have no intention of vacating our military or geopolitical position” in the Indo-Pacific region. To illustrate President Donald Trump’s commitment, U.S. officials launched the administration’s BDN blueprint in several ways at different times and venues of the ASEAN Summit. Initially, the BDN was officially announced by a representative of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Bangkok, which was attended by some one thousand people, including more than two hundred American corporate executives.

Driven by the Washington-based OPIC, in partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), the BDN was meant to serve as a multi-stakeholder initiative that will harness governments, private sector, and civil society to “promote high-quality, trusted standards for global infrastructure development in an open and inclusive framework.”

The details of BDN were later unveiled in a panel discussion of representatives from OPIC, DFAT, and JBIC. U.S. Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach claimed that “this endorsement of Blue Dot Network not only creates a solid foundation for infrastructure global trust standards but reinforces the need for the establishment of umbrella global trust standards in other sectors, including digital, mining, financial services, and research” in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world.

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Damage Done: Georgia's Effort to Embrace Democracy Is Failing

The National Interest - 19 hours 16 min ago

Denis Corboy, William Courtney, Kenneth Yalowitz

Security, Eurasia

A flawed presidential election, use of force against protesters, and political manipulations by the secretive billionaire who heads the ruling Georgian Dream Party have strained public confidence and brought mounting public protests.

Georgia’s status as a post-Soviet democratic leader is under challenge. A flawed presidential election, use of force against protesters, and political manipulations by the secretive billionaire who heads the ruling Georgian Dream Party have strained public confidence and brought mounting public protests. Domestic calm may hinge on improving political dialogue and conducting free and fair parliamentary elections in fall, 2020.

Independent Georgia has made substantial democratic progress, aided by multiparty elections, robust civil society organizations, and media freedoms. In 2003 the Rose Revolution—a peaceful uprising against political stagnation—accelerated democratic momentum.  Now Georgians may again be tiring of poor governance and lack of transparency. A National Democratic Institute poll last July found that 60 percent of respondents evaluate the performance of the current government as “bad.” 

Democratic momentum persisted until last year’s presidential election. National Democratic Institute observers cited aggressive, personalized, and unprecedented attacks by senior state officials against the country’s most respected civil society organizations, “abuse of administrative resources,” and the lack of a level playing field, even though “fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, and association” were largely respected.

Some hoped the flawed election was an aberrant democratic setback, but perhaps not.

Last June, Interior Ministry forces used disproportionate force, including rubber bullets, against anti-government protesters, partially blinding two. More than one hundred participants were hospitalized. In an insensitive step last September, the ruling Georgian Dream party promoted the interior minister to prime minister rather than hold him accountable for the June excesses. 

Beyond these measures what has caused unrest and democratic backsliding?

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Donald Trump and the Art of Currency Manipulation

The National Interest - 19 hours 50 min ago

Farok J. Contractor

economy, Americas

Is Argentina intentionally weakening the peso?

President Donald Trump slapped new tariffs on Brazil and Argentina after accusing them of manipulating their currencies to boost exports.

It wasn’t the first time Trump has labeled another country a “currency manipulator” for supposedly meddling to keep its own currency weak or undervalued. China received that epithet from the president long before it felt the pain of his trade war.

But the truth is more complicated than Trump makes it out to be.

Everyone does it

The first thing to understand is that government efforts to influence their exchange rates – which is often dubbed currency manipulation – is extremely common, as I’ve seen firsthand in my work as an international business professor.

All but 31 of the International Monetary Fund’s 189 members meddle, in a mild or total fashion, to influence or fix their exchange rates. Only a few major currencies, such as the dollar or euro, are allowed a “free float” based on market forces of supply and demand with minimal or no government intervention.

Other governments have a variety of ways to manage their currencies. Some peg their currencies to a fixed rate, as long as they can afford to keep it there. Others tie their currencies to a major but stable currency like the euro or a basket of different ones. For example, the Lebanese pound is tied to the dollar at a fixed rate of 1,507.5 to 1.

About 16% of IMF members use a “managed float,” in which they allow market forces to play a role but with the government buying or selling their own currency as needed to bias the exchange rate upward or downward. Argentina and Brazil both adhere to a managed float system.

Why weaken a currency

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Trilateral Troubles: Is America Ready for China's Latest Geopolitical Tricks?

The National Interest - 20 hours 50 min ago

Lyle J. Goldstein

Security, Asia

A new trilateral exercise with South Africa may be a sign of coming attractions, but the United States should not overreact.

These are heady days for strategists tracking the development of Russia-China relations. Nearly every day brings a new surprise. Some are inclined to see the relationship as a mere “marriage of convenience”—fleeting in time and lacking in substance. More and more, however, this “quasi-alliance” seems quite durable and also to have legs. 

Rather concrete developments in the relationship may range from the seemingly mundane, but actually ultra-critical completion of the first-ever bridge across the Amur, finally connecting the twin cities of Blagoveshensk and Heihe in the interior of Northeast Asia. But almost a thousand kilometers to the north, a Chinese-made super ice-hardened LNG tanker plies Russia’s Northern Sea Route (NSR), even in the wintertime—an unprecedented feat of engineering and navigation.

Strategists focusing on the military domain also find a rather full plate. Back in the fall, the South Korean Air Force sortied en masse and warning shots were even fired to indicate displeasure with the first-ever joint aerial patrol by Russian and Chinese strategic aviation. Tokyo was also not amused by this stunt, of course. Then, at Valdai, Russian president Vladimir Putin made the interesting announcement that Beijing and Moscow would cooperate in the critical sphere of early warning systems—a rather important tool for advanced military establishments. Now, the Russian and Chinese navies are carrying out the first-ever naval exercise with a third country: South Africa. One could dismiss the exercise as another ploy to gain attention without significant strategic meaning, but that might also be a mistake when viewed in a larger context.

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To Have Success, NATO Summits Must Go Beyond The Status Quo

The National Interest - 21 hours 50 min ago

Dalibor Rohac

Security, Europe

Low expectations have led to poor outcomes.

Make no mistake, the half-day meeting of NATO leaders in London is a minefield. Most observers will be relieved if the alliance can get it over with without explosive rhetorical exchanges, tweetstorms, or other mishaps. President Trump, in particular, has been long distrustful of the usefulness of the alliance for the United States — though today he said (correctly!) that NATO “served a great purpose.”

Yet, it is troubling that for a NATO summit to qualify as a success these days, it is simply necessary to avoid larger fallouts and to preserve the status quo, or at least its appearances. The “soft bigotry of low expectations” means that long-standing problems continue to fester, making transatlantic security architecture more fragile than it may seem from the rising levels of defense spending in Europe and the military build-up on NATO’s eastern flank.

One of such long-standing issues is the continuing failure of the alliance to confront authoritarians in its midst. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the alliance has been defined not so much by its enemies as by its values. Yet, countries such as Erdogan’s Turkey continue to violate those values — and act against the US and Europe’s interests in practical ways, including through its behavior in Northern Syria and through its purchases of Russian military equipment.

Likewise, Orban’s Hungary has moved markedly in the authoritarian direction during recent years, while simultaneously seeking to undermine the alliance’s efforts to help Ukraine, inviting the Cold War-era, Russian-led International Investment Bank to move its headquarters to Budapest, and normalizing relations with Assad’s Syria.

To tolerate such excesses is to encourage them further. And insofar as authoritarian regimes do indeed behave differently and less predictably in the international arena than democracies, keeping Turkey and Hungary unchallenged, under the alliance’s fold, represents a ticking time bomb.

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Can the Police Be Trusted to Apply This Arrest Tactic?

The National Interest - Sun, 08/12/2019 - 23:30

Henry F. Fradella

Security, Americas

‘Stop-and-frisk’ can work, under careful supervision. In mid-November, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg apologized publicly for his backing of a practice intended to reduce violent crime that had for years been criticized as racially biased. “I realize back then I was wrong, and I’m sorry,” he said.

But his apology, made at a predominantly black church in Brooklyn, puzzled many observers. That included scholars of criminal justice like ourselves.

Bloomberg has long been a vocal supporter of a policy the city police department officially called “Stop, Question, and Frisk,” including during his time as New York’s mayor. In an effort to control crime, police aggressively and indiscriminately stopped and questioned people on the streets or in public housing projects. Police also often patted down suspects to check for weapons.

His apology was confusing because that phrase, often shortened to “stop and frisk,” is used to describe two different things.

As we wrote in our book, “Stop and Frisk: The Use and Abuse of a Controversial Policing Tactic,” one is a legitimate, constitutionally sanctioned tactic, grounded in a police officer’s reasonable suspicion that a particular person is engaged in criminal activity.

The other is an illegitimate, broad crime-control strategy that, more often than not, ignores the law’s requirement that a particular person be reasonably suspected of breaking the law.

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Think America Is Safe? A Nuclear ICBM Could Destroy Us In Half An Hour

The National Interest - Sun, 08/12/2019 - 23:00

Michaela Dodge

Security, Americas

A movie tells us what we can do about it.

Key point: The threat of nuclear annihilation is ever-present.

The Heritage Foundation’s documentary “33 Minutes” may not be the most cheerful holiday season film, but its warning to the American public about the risk of nuclear attack could not be more timely.

In recent years, North Korea’s missiles have grown in range and capability. The most recent missile it tested, the Hwasong-15, can reach anywhere in the continental United States. This is a deeply alarming development.

When the documentary was first released in 2007, and then updated in 2016, the idea of a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile being able to reach the entire United States remained a fearful yet still unrealized possibility.

Now that North Korea has signaled its intention to continue developing long-range ballistic missiles capable of threatening the U.S. with nuclear warheads, it is all the more important for the Trump administration’s Ballistic Missile Defense Review to fund comprehensive missile defense.

The documentary’s title, “33 Minutes,” refers to the maximum amount of time the U.S. government would have to respond to an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile from anywhere in the world. Beyond showing this short response time, the film vividly depicts the threat of a nuclear attack and its destructive consequences.

The first and most well-known form of attack is the use of a nuclear weapon to physically destroy a major city like New York. The second is the use of such a weapon to generate an electromagnetic pulse.

The bomb that leveled much of central Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945 had an explosive yield of 15 kilotons. North Korea’s nuclear test in October was the equivalent of 250 kilotons of TNT.

As the film’s narration observes, the 9/11 terror attacks, which used commercial airliners as weapons, resulted in 3,000 deaths and $80 billion in damage. A nuclear bomb dropped on Manhattan would cause hundreds of thousands of casualties and trillions in damage.

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American 5G: Why Public-Private Partnerships Are the Secret Sauce to Beat China

The National Interest - Sun, 08/12/2019 - 22:00

Military and Aerospace Electronics

Technology, Americas

The race is on.

WASHINGTON – As the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) scrambles to keep ahead of China, it’s relying more and more on public-private partnerships called consortia to connect it to innovative high-tech firms. Breaking Defense reports. Continue reading original article

The Military & Aerospace Electronics take:

5 Dec. 2019 -- The latest example comes in an announcement Monday that only members of the National Spectrum Consortium can bid on pilot projects to install prototype 5G networks to manage radar and radio spectrum, “smart warehouse” logistics, and other functions on four military bases.

Writ large, over the last three years, as the Pentagon has nearly tripled spending on streamlined Other Transaction Authority (OTA) prototyping contracts, more than half that money has gone to consortium members.

Some 49 percent went to consortia administered by a single management contractor, South Carolina-based Advanced Technology International (ATI). And future prospects look good. One group, the Space Enterprise Consortium – run by ATI – may even see its Air Force funding increase 24-fold.

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