Global Warming & Capitalism

Global warming is the greatest challenge of the 21st century.  Total amount of primary energy used during the last 30 years has increased 60%.  It is expected to increase by 50% in the next 30 years, driven largely by developing countries.  Despite the growth in renewable energy from wind and solar, fossil fuels provide 83% of primary energy, a larger portion than they did 30 years ago, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

All nations, including the United States, should utilize capitalism and the market economy to effectively reduce carbon emissions that are accelerating global warming.  Carbon taxes would stimulate investment and research into finding solutions for reducing carbon and for capturing carbon.  Carbon taxes are far less costly than subsidies currently provided by the U.S. and other governments.  Also, carbon taxes can be adjusted up or down to best achieve the desired results. 

The carbon tax has been used effectively in Norway since 1991.  Their greenhouse gas emissions have declined over 30 years while U.S. emissions have increased.  The evidence supports Climate economists’ argument that a carbon tax is more effective in reducing carbon than tax subsidies.  The U.S. still relies on regulations and subsidies rather than a carbon tax.

The wealthy nations are addressing global warming to varying degrees in their own countries.  The poorer nations have estimated that they will need a combined total of $750 billion annually from the wealthy nations to address global warming.  Very little is provided to the poor nations today and the wealthy nations do not yet have plans to solve the global warming problem in poorer nations.  Solutions developed by the incentives of carbon taxes should help reduce the cost in poorer nations.

When we look back 30 years from now, the extreme hurricanes, floods and fires of 2020 and 2021 will likely make these years look among the best of the 30-year period.  A U.N. climate change reports states that our planet is on track for an increase in average temperatures of 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.9 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of this century.  At that increase, rising sea levels would force billions of people to move to higher elevations.  Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country, is already planning to move its nation’s capital from Jakarta to a higher elevation.

NASA has found evidence that Venus may have supported life 700 million years ago.  Since then, Venus has undergone considerable global warming.  The current temperatures on Venus are 475 degrees Celsius (900 degrees Fahrenheit).  We should avoid the path taken on Venus.

We also should call climate change what it is, “Global Warming.”  We should not lessen the importance by calling it by a lesser name.  Global Warming is the most important issue in our lifetime.

Aliens Visit to Earth: Their View of Humanity in Six Paragraphs ©

A team of aliens from a distant planet studied Earth for a decade. They learned several languages and other information from their interpretation of intercepted communications. This team decided to visit Earth. Here is the report they sent back to their planet.

Humans are the dominant specie on this planet and they control everything. They have divided their planet into 193 countries with boarders largely determined by the winners of wars. These humans have not developed a global government for their planet. Therefore, to resolve differences among countries, the humans either negotiate or conduct wars. They spend enormous amounts of resources on defense and have killed millions of other humans rather than settling differences in global courts. (Note: Humans have created something they have mislabeled, “United Nations.” It is not a government; it does not legislate; it cannot enforce.)

 To “protect” themselves and threaten others, nine countries have developed nuclear weapons. They have a combined total of 15,000 of these nuclear weapons. Most of their own experts agree that use of these weapons in a major nuclear war would end human life on this planet.

 Nuclear weapons are not the only device humans have developed for destroying their own existence. They have been burning carbon fuels for a century, which has increased the density of their atmosphere, contributing to the warming of their planet. Some humans comprehend this problem, but are unable to agree and implement the necessary action to avoid their ultimate extinction. Humans should study the history of life on their sister planet, Venus, where recent temperatures have risen to more than 800 °F (427 °C) due to the increasing density of their atmosphere.

 If humans were to create a global government to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and protect the environment necessary to support their lives, they might continue to inhabit their planet for centuries. Achieving this success may require an accelerated evolution of their mental capacities.

 In summary:

  • Humans, who dominate the planet Earth, remain a barbaric specie.
  • Humans have created multiple ways to destroy the environment required to support their own life.
  • While we have enjoyed our interactions with humans, their collective decision-making reveals a vast over-estimate of their own intelligence.



Foreign Aid Mythology

Foreign Aid Mythology

Polls show that, on average, Americans believe that 28% of the Federal Budget is spent on foreign aid, according to Brookings Institution. Also, on average, Americans believe that the U.S. should spend only 10% of the Federal Budget on foreign aid. Actually, the U.S. spends less than 1% of the Federal Budget on foreign aid.

Foreign aid can also be measured as a percent of GDP. Wealthy countries have committed to spend 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid to poor countries. Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark and the U.K. regularly exceed that benchmark. On average, wealthy countries spend 0.4% of GDP on foreign aid. The U.S. spends only 0.2% of GDP on foreign aid, ranking near the bottom.

In addition, many Americans fear that foreign aid goes to corrupt governments. Only 21% goes directly to foreign governments. The largest share goes to multinational organizations, including World Health Organization, the World Bank and the World Food Program plus USAID and others.

World Government, Sovereignty and China

World Government, Sovereignty and China

The greatest problems facing civilization are (1) global warming and (2) global governance. This report explores the need for global governance.

For nearly eighty years, the World Federalist Movement has promoted the concept of a democratic federal world government to eliminate wars and control nuclear weapons. Under such a world government, individual countries would lose a considerable degree of sovereignty. For Americans, loss of sovereignty has been the greatest barrier to the creation of a federal world government. In the choice between world government and sovereignty, the vast majority of Americans chose sovereignty.

In 21st century, the roll of sovereignty in this choice will diminish significantly. China will become the dominate world power with more relative military power than the United States and the Soviet Union at their combined peak.

The arithmetic is simple and it is on China’s side. China has more than four times the population of the United States. When China’s per capita income reaches half that of the U.S., their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be double the U.S. (½ x 4 = 2) When China’s per capita income reaches parity with the U.S., their economy will be four times the size of the U.S. Therefore, their defense department can be four times the size of the U.S. Defense Department and Chinese autocracy will rule the world.

China will pass the U.S. in nominal GDP before the middle of this century according to forecasts by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD), the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). According to the IMF, China has already passed the U.S. in GDP at purchasing Power Parity (PPP), but not yet at nominal GDP.

China’s economy has grown at the rate of 9.5% over the past 30 years. This incredible success has brought nearly one million people out of poverty. Chinese leaders see this validating their style of autocratic leadership. While China’s growth rate is slowing, they will likely continue growing at higher rates that the developed countries due to their lower base of per capita income.

World domination by China should motivate nations to join together and find a better solution to world government. Reforming the United Nations, with its one-nation, one-vote, will not solve this problem. The United States and other OECD countries should initiate and fund a study to find a solution to global governance.


Impacts of Climate Change

Global Warming & the Impacts of Climate Change

The Paris Accord climate agreement, signed on Earth Day 2016, hoped to restrict global warming to two degrees centigrade. The United States withdrew from the Paris climate agreement on June 1, 2017.

Studies show that 93% of increased temperatures are absorbed by the ocean. The earth and air absorb the remaining 7%. NASA and NOAA predict that oceans could rise up to two meters (6.6 feet) by the end of the 21st century and continue rising into the 22nd century.

Historically, climate scientists have underestimated the impact of climate change to avoid damaging their forecasting credibility. In addition, scientists underestimated the magnitude of methane gas and carbon dioxide released from Siberia and the Artic as the tundra thaws. Methane has 20 times the impact of carbon dioxide on global warming.

The rise in sea levels from a two-degree centigrade increase in warming would mean the abandonment of some island nations in the Pacific Ocean plus parts of Persian Gulf countries. It would also result in the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs. A two-degree increase in temperatures is now the best-case scenario.   A recent study, reported in the New York Times 8/1/18, predicted there is only a 5% chance of holding the temperature rise to two degrees are and a 95% chance it will go higher.

A three-degree warming would mean the loss of most coastal cities, plus the loss of more ocean island nations and arctic forests. This has become the more realistic outcome.

A four-degree rise would put Europe in permanent drought and large areas of China and India would be claimed by desert.   Polynesia would be under water and the American Southwest would become largely uninhabitable.

The New York Times reported that “The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.”

Four recent surveys showed that 97% of climate scientists attributed global warming primarily to human activity. (Burning carbon fuels produces carbon-dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas.) A Gallop poll in March 2018 found that only 45% of Americans think global warming will pose a serious threat during their lifetime, including 18% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats. The American Association for the Advancement of Science released a statement saying: “Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.”

In 1850, there were 150 glaciers in Glacier National Park. Today, there are 25. Sea ice off the cost of northern Greenland is the oldest and thickest in the Artic and scientists expected it to remain frozen year around. It has been replaced with miles of open water. Sunlight entering the atmosphere is normally reflected back into space by ice, but is now absorbed by the dark blue ocean where ice has melted, further heating the ocean water.

Rising ocean levels are not the only problem created by global warming. From 1950 to 2017, floods have increased 15 times, droughts increased ten times and major wildfires have increased seven times. In the United States, heavy rainfalls are accelerating the loss to topsoil required to grow crops. Rising oceans are poisoning rice paddies with salt water. The accelerated shrinkage of the Himalayan glaciers provides less water for vast agricultural areas in Asia.

Scientists expect global food production to start declining in 15 to 20 years and population is expected to grow from 7.5 billion to over 11 billion by the end of this century.

How is the U.S. Government addressing the climate change issues? The EPA’s proposed budget “discontinues funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts.” The State Department budget proposal “eliminates the Global Climate Change Initiative and fulfills the President’s pledge to cease payments to the United Nations’ (UN) climate change programs by eliminating U.S. funding related to the Green Climate Fund and its two precursor Climate Investment Funds.” The budget also cut several NASA programs designed to study climate change. Joel Clement, award-winning climate scientist in the Department of Interior, was involuntarily reassigned to collecting royalty fees from oil producers operating on Government land. He resigned. In a recent press briefing, Mick Mulvaney, the head of the President’s Office of Management and Budget, stated, “We’re not spending money on that (climate change) anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.”

Nevertheless, global warming is the greatest challenge facing civilization in the 21st century. The United States, with the largest economy in the world, should play a leadership role in meeting this challenge.

China vs. U.S. in Objectives

China vs. United States

Differences in Objectives

China and the U.S. have some significantly different objectives.  This is a limited look at some of those differences.

China Objectives

China wants to be Number 1 in renewable energy production.  China now generates nearly twice as much renewable energy (wind & solar) as the U.S.

China wants to be Number 1 in the production and use of electric cars.  China now produces nearly twice as many electric cars and hybrids as the U.S.

China intends to be Number 1 in high-speed rail, which is electric.  China now has more than 15,000 miles of high-speed rail, more than eight times the number 2 country, Spain.  The U.S. has none.

China plans to be Number 1 in artificial intelligence (AI).   Eric Schmidt, former chair of Google, said, “By 2020, China will have caught up in AI.  By 2025, they will be ahead of the U.S.  By 2030, they will dominate the industry.”

China wants to be Number 1 in quantum computing.  According to NASA and Google, quantum computers can outperform today’s supercomputers by more than 3,600 times and today’s personal computers by 100 million times.  Who is leading is hard to measure.  China is building the world’s largest quantum research facility and intends to be the global leader.  China has already launched a satellite than utilizes quantum computing.

U.S. Objectives

One U.S. objective is to “bring back coal” by relaxing or eliminating regulations on the production and use of coal.  Since 1980, coal production has been level at approximately 800 million short tons every year.  In 1980, the coal industry employed 242,000 people.  This year, 53,000 work coal mining according to the Bureau of Labor Standards. This decline in employment is due to technology.  The energy secretary proposed subsidizing coal because natural gas and renewable energy costs have fallen below coal in generating electricity.

Another U.S. objective is to bring back manufacturing jobs.  In 1987, General Motors employed 877,000 worldwide.  At the end of 2017, GM employed 180,000 worldwide and GM produced more cars.  The decline in employees is primarily due to the use of robots and other manufacturing technologies.

Manufacturing employment in the US peaked in 1944 at 38% of total US employment.  At the end of 2016, it amounted to 8% of total employment.  More than 80% of the job losses in manufacturing have been due to technology.

The Administration wants to control immigration with a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.  During the last three years, more immigrants have entered the U.S. from Asia than from Latin and South America.  The illegal Asians have simply overstayed their visas.

Just as a footnote, the U.S. has always dominated the list of the top 1,000 universities in the world.  In 2000, China had none of this list.  Today, the U.S. remains the clear leader with 221 universities on this list, but China is now in second place with 136.  Also, the International Monetary Fund and Pricewaterhouse Coopers have both forecast that China’s economy will be 50% larger than the U.S. in 2050.  The U.S. will be in 3rd place behind India.

Canada & the Milky Facts

Trade with Canada:  The Milky Facts

Canada guarantees a minimum price for milk for its dairy farmers, just is the U.S. does for its farmers on 13 agricultural products, including milk. Canada uses tariffs on milk to limit the supply and keep milk prices from falling, which would increase the Canadian government’s cost of subsidies. These tariffs only apply to shipments above the Canadian quota. The U.S. does not exceed the quota and therefore pays no tariffs.

The U.S. ships significant quantities of unfiltered milk to Canada. It is used to product cheese and is free to tariffs.

In 2017, the U.S. sold five times as much dairy products to Canada ($792 million) as Canada sold to the U.S. ($149). Total U.S. exports to Canada were $341 billion in 2017 and imports were $333 billion, which produced a U.S. trade surplus in goods and services of $8 billion.

Finally, Canada agreed to end its dairy quotas as part of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). In fact, eleven nations reduced or ended tariffs on 14,000 American made products under the TPP Agreement. The Trump Administration withdrew from TPP agreement.

North Korea: The Least Undesirable Solution

North Korea: Encouraging Wisdom

North Korea continues to advance its nuclear weapons program and its missile technology. Negotiations are the only realistic solution to these problems. Military action would cause catastrophic damage and loss of lives. Continuing on the current path will allow North Korea to increase its arsenal of weapons.

Today, one of the most critical potential threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program is the sale of the technology or weapons to ISIS or Al Qaeda or some other terrorist organization. Terrorist organizations have the capacity to smuggle bombs into Mexico and use a drone to deliver them to cities in the southwestern part of the United States. It would be even easier for terrorists to use a drone to drop a bomb in Israel. Drones that can carry 2,000 pounds are now available on the international market. A 2,000-pound nuclear bomb can produce an explosive force of one million tons of TNT.

The risk of an attack on the U.S. from a location in Mexico underscores the importance of a strong relationship with Mexico. Anything less could compromise national security.

To mitigate risks, negotiations with North Korea are the only viable solution. Currently, the precondition of U.S. negotiations with North Korea is the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. This precondition is a non-starter for North Korea. Kim Jung-un believes his nuclear weapons are necessary for the survival of his regime. Having observed the demise of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi after they gave up their nuclear weapon program, he will not relinquish his nuclear weapons.

To get all parties to the negotiating table, there cannot be any preconditions. A potential outcome from such negotiations might include:

  1. North Korea agrees to freeze its nuclear and missile programs.
  2. North Korea allows inspections by the IAEA.
  3. North Korea agrees to ban the export nuclear weapons, materials and technology.
  4. U.S. agrees to cease regime change plans and rhetoric.
  5. U.S. and U.N. agree to phase out sanctions as compliance is verified.
  6. U.S. agrees to a gradual reduction of its presence in the Korean Peninsula.

While this type of negotiated settlement is not ideal from either the American perspective or the North Korean perspective, it is better than a devastating war and better than allowing North Korea to increase its arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Norman Cousins, author, professor and editor of the Saturday Review wrote, “Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences.” Let’s encourage wisdom.

Islamic State: Solutions & Consequences

Islamic State: Solutions & Consequences           Revised 2/12/16

Some relevant history in the Middle East is a worthwhile starting point in evaluating alternative strategies, tactics and solutions to the challenges of the Islamic State. For decades, Arab governments have engaged in harsh authoritarianism, substantial human rights violations and profound intolerance.  The Arab governments provided conditions for Islamic terrorism and the American invasion of Iraq became a catalyst, leading to the significant growth of Islamic terrorism.

President Obama’s stated objective for the US led coalition is to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.” Most strategies for defeating the Islamic State have significant negative consequents, which must be considered in evaluating strategies for solutions.  In addition, there must be a plan for what happens after the Islamic State is defeated.  Will the Sunni land that the Islamic State has conquered be given back to the non-Sunni governments in Syria and Iraq?  Ryan Crocker, former US Ambassador to Iraq, stated, “There is no political architecture that will convince any Sunni over the age of three that he or she has a future with the Iraqi state.”  None of the candidates for President from either party have articulated a plan for what happens after the Islamic State is defeated.

Just to keep perspective, it may be useful to remember that none of the five countries with the largest Muslim population are Arab countries and none are in the Middle East. The five are Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria.  It is also important to note that the Islamic State is a radical Islamic organization that does not represent the vast majority of Muslims around the world.  In fact, the majority of the victims of the Islamic State are Muslims.


Afghanistan is relevant to the discussion of the Middle East. Lawrence Wright, author of Looming Tower and leading expert on al Qaeda, said that in early 2003, al Qaeda had been reduced to 40 to 50 people, including women and children, living in Afghanistan.  The United States knew where they were, and, with the necessary resources, could have killed or captured all remaining members.  If the US had completed that task, Larry Wright said there would have been no “Global War on Terror.”  Instead, the U.S. redeployed assets to Iraq and al Qaeda grew into a multi-national organization with operations in Europe, Asia and Africa in addition to the Middle East.  This is an important lesson.

How has the US done in Afghanistan? Today, the Taliban control more of Afghanistan than they did in 2011 when the US invaded.


Prior to the US invasion of Iraq, the number of Islamic terrorist attacks around the world was relatively small. The number of people killed remained under 1,000 per year until the attacks on 9/11/01.  (Al Qaeda stated reason for the 9/11 attacks was (1) the US continued maintenance of “temporary” military bases near Mecca and Medina and (2) American support for Israel and corrupt authoritarian dictators in Muslim countries.)  After 9/11, the numbers dropped back to under 1,000.  Then the combined total surged to more than 23,000 per year by 2007.

In Iraq, Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provision Authority, “de-Baathified” the Iraqi civil and military services, leaving hundreds of thousands of Sunnis without jobs.  Some of them formed al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and waged an insurgency against US troops.  During the US “surge” in 2007, the Americans enlisted and paid 98,000 Sunnis in what was called the “Awakening.”  The Sunnis on the American payroll successfully fought and virtually destroyed AQI.

The US defeat of Saddam Hussein converted Iraq from a Sunni state to a de facto Shiite state. The new Shiite government implemented strong sectarian policies and produced deep-seated Sunni opposition.  This government discontinued payment to the Sunnis recruited by the US.  This and other anti-Sunni actions fostered the birth of the Islamic State from the ashes of AQI.  The conversion of the Iraqi government from Sunni to Shia also dramatically changed the balance of power in the Middle East

Some politicians have argued that results in the Middle East might have been better if President Obama had left some American troops in Iraq. This ignores relevant facts.  Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al Maliki wanted the US military out of Iraq so that he could purge the Sunnis from the government and discontinue paying the 98,000 Sunnis recruited for security and paid by the Americans during the “surge.”  In addition, Iran, Iraq’s closest ally, threatened to reduce their support of Iraq if any American combat troops remained in the country.

Consequently, the Iraqi Government demanded that the “American invaders” withdraw all troops. The Bush administration negotiated and signed the Status of Forces Agreement on November 17, 2008, which required that all American combat forces be removed from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009 and all combat forces be removed by December 31, 2011.

Politicians take credit for anything that they perceive as “good” that occurs during their watch, even if they had nothing to do with it. Barrack Obama took credit for the American withdrawal from Iraq, but, in fact, he merely executed the Bush Administration’s Status of Forces Agreement.  The Iraqi government was unwilling to consider any option and Obama had no choice.  When the combat troops left, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced that he had gotten rid of the American invaders.  In addition, General David Petraeus recently said (on the Charlie Rose Show) that there is no assurance that keeping American troops in Iraq would have produced a better outcome.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the home to the birthplace of Islam – Mecca and Medina. Most Saudis are Sunnis. Sunnis make up about 85% of Muslims worldwide.  The Sunnis are divided into four schools of jurisprudence:  Hanafi, Shafii, Maliki, and Hanbali.  The Hanbali latter spawned the Wahhabi and Salafi movements in Saudi Arabia.  (The Shia also have four schools:  Alawi, Twelver, Sevener and Zaydi.)

The dominate minority in Saudi Arabia are Salafis, who are an ultra-conservative religious sect within Sunni Islam. The Royal family is Wahhabi, which is similar to Salafi.  Most of the Islamic terrorist groups are Salafi, including al Qaeda, the Islamic State, Boko Haram and al-Shabaab.  These groups have been funded by Saudi families and tribes.  It should also be noted that Hezbollah is a Shia terrorist organization funded by Iran.

The Saudis have been the primary sponsors of Islamic terrorism around the world for the last half century. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists who attacked the United States on 9/11 were Saudi citizens.  Osama bin Laden was a Saudi citizen.  The Saudis have very active social media sites, which are dominated by radical Islamists.  Saudis have funded madrassas around the Islamic world that teach intolerance and Jihadism.

Although frequently referred to as America’s friend, Saudis have values that are very different from Americans. Saudi Arabia is not a democracy.  It is not a market economy.  The rights of women are severely restricted in Saudi Arabia.  (Women have recently been allowed to run for and vote in elections of municipal councils, largely powerless positions.)

Hudud is the most severe and barbaric form of punishments in Islamic countries. It has been abandoned in most Islamic countries, but it still exists in Saudi Arabia.  Saudis execute criminals for a wide range of crimes, including apostasy, blasphemy, drug smuggling, homosexual acts and sorcery.  Beheading is their primary means of execution, although death by stoning is used for women who commit adultery.

In the summer of 2014, the Islamic State generated extensive publicity when they beheaded five foreign hostages and published these beheadings on social media. During the same period, the Saudis beheaded 19 people, with little publicity or outrage. In 2015, the Saudis executed a record number of people and started 2016 by executing 47 “criminals” including the Shiite cleric, Nimr al-Nimr.

The Islamic State practices the same brand of ultraconservative Islam, including Hudud, with the same penalties for the same crimes as the Saudis. When the Islamic State needed textbooks for school children, they printed and distributed copies of Saudi text books found on-line.

The Saudi government views the Shiite governments in Iran, Iraq and Syria as their primary enemies. Currently, the Saudis are focused on fighting the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen rather that fighting the Islamic State.  The Islamic State and Saudi Arabia have nearly identical Wahhabi interpretations of Islam, making it difficult for the Saudis to fight the Islamic State without undermining their own authority.

The Saud family has remained in power for nearly a century, in part, by giving citizens large subsidies instead of political rights. With the significant drop in oil prices, many undertakings have become a drain on their Government.  These include the subsidies to citizens, support for Egypt and Pakistan, involvement in Yemen and funding for madrassas and others around the world.  Ironically, Jihadists funded by the Saudis may someday destroy the Saudi government.

United States

For 180 years up through WWII, the United State won all of its wars. Then the US failed to win four of the next five wars in which it became engaged.  Military solutions have not produced expected outcomes.  Instead, they produced unintended consequences.

There were certainly unintended consequences to the invasion of Iraq. Approximately 258,000 Iraqis died in war and 7.8 million were displaced.  Iraq became the most anti-American country in the Arab world.  The U.S. invasion of Iraq motivated Iran and North Korea to restart their dormant nuclear program.  And, the winner of this war, according to most experts including Robert Gates, was Iran.  The U.S. removed Iran’s worst enemy, converted Iraq into a close ally of Iran, and turned the country over to Iraqi leaders who were exiles in Iran.  Conservative columnist, George Will, called the American invasion of Iraq, “the worst foreign-policy decision in US history.”

Donald Rumsfeld asked, rhetorically, “Are we creating more terrorists than we are killing and capturing?” The answer is that the invasion of Iraq led to a significant increase in the numbers of Islamic Jihadists around the world.  The Iraq war will ultimately cost the US more than $2 trillion.  .   .   .  The bottom line is that the US must give far more consideration to unintended consequences.

The Sunni/Shia Divide

The Sunni/Shia divide was very combative in the late 7th century.  For the next 13 centuries, it was mostly peaceful, with a few notable exceptions.  A major divide restarted in 1979 and 1980 with the Iranian Revolution and the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq.  Today, the Sunni/Shia divide is probably the worst it has been since the 14th century.

The divide between Sunnis and Shias bares some similarity to the divide between Catholics and Protestants during the Christian Reformation. The wars during that divide covered more than 200 years and included two Thirty Years’ Wars, 1618-1648 and 1733-1763.  Ultimately, all of these wars between Catholics and Protestants took the lives of an estimated 50 million Europeans.  (Some estimates are much higher.)  The population of Germany, alone, declined from 20 million to 7 million.  .   .   There are no easy solutions to the religious intolerance in the Sunni/Shia divide.

Alternative Strategies and Tactics

The current American solution is US air strikes. US air strikes may slow and reverse the advancement of the Islamic State, but they will not provide a permanent solution to Islamic terrorism.  History has also shown that 162,000 US boots on the ground in Iraq did not solve the problem.  Defeating AQI led to the birth of the Islamic State.

Arming Sunni tribes is a popular tactic, but it does not guarantee these tribes will fight for our side.  Sunnis distrust Shiite governments in Damascus and Baghdad.  Some Sunnis have supported the Islamic State and others may join the Islamic State as the lessor to two evil.

Ambassador Dennis Ross has said that only Sunnis can discredit the Islamic State. Saudi Arabia, the largest Sunni state in the Arabian Peninsula, has not engaged the Islamic State militarily in more than nine months through the end of 2015.

Arming the Kurds is another popular tactic among Western nations.  Kurds are more secular and tolerant than Arab groups.  However, Kurds are more interested in fighting the governments in Damascus, Bagdad and Ankara than fighting the Islamic State.  The Kurds want to establish an independent country in Kurdish areas of Syria and Iraq and possibly Turkey and Iran.  Our ally, Turkey, is engaged in a small scale war with Kurdish groups inside Turkey. Consequently, Turkey opposes arming the Kurds who want their own state.  In addition, our quasi allies – Iraq and Iran – oppose arming the Kurds for the same reasons.

Arming and training the soldiers of the government in Baghdad is an element of current American and coalition strategy. However, Sunni countries object to bolstering this Shia government, which is likely to reinforce their sectarian policies that alienated their Sunni citizens and contributed to the creation of AQI and its successor, the Islamic State.

Sending in a large contingent of American troops is a strategy supported by some politicians.  History in Viet Nam and Iraq has shown that this policy is unlikely to maintain long-term public support.  In both cases, it failed to succeed. Sending in a large contingent of American troops has a further downside.  It would foster a significant growth in Islamic terrorists around the globe, just as it did when the US invaded Iraq.  This would stimulate the growth in terrorist attacks against Americans inside the US and around the globe.

Finally, there is the important and troubling question that politicians have not addressed:  What happens after the Islamic State is defeated?  Will the land they occupy go back to Syria and Iraq?  The governments in both countries have killed many of their own Sunni citizens.  History has shown that when one Jihadist group is defeated militarily, as was AQI, it is replaced by a new and worse Jihadist group, such as the Islamic State.

Former UN Ambassador, John Bolton, recommended that a new Sunni state be created.  This seems like a better solution than giving back land to Syria and Iraq, but the probability of implementation seems extremely low.  It would be opposed by Iraq, Iran, Syria, Russia and Turkey. In addition, Western powers do not have the authority to redraw borders of countries in the Middle East.  Historically, the only way that borders have changed is through wars, with winners gaining territory and the losers losing territory.

Nevertheless, redrawing borders by the Arab League (with possibly others participating) is the solution most likely to provide a long-term solution. Redrawing maps was ultimately the solution of the wars of the Christian Reformation.  It took more than two centuries and killed about as many Europeans as World War I and World War II combined.

The other solution is for religious tolerance to become imbedded in the laws and customs of the countries in the Middle East. This seems even less probable than redrawing borders without wars.  Nevertheless, the United States could tie American support for each country to progress in their religious tolerance.  Without changing the harsh authoritarianism, substantial human rights violations and profound intolerance of Middle East governments, it is unreasonable to expect an enduring solution to the Islamic State.

The Islamic State is an Arab problem created by Arabs, led by Arabs and funded by Arabs. The Islamic State requires an Arab solution, not an external solution imposed on the Arab world by the U.S. or any coalition of western countries.  The US can provide advice and training, but the solution will require extensive involvement by Arab countries.


For more information, the recent book, “The ISIS Apocalypse,” by William McCants is informative, well written and well documented.



The Greatest Challenge of the 21st Century: Global Governance

The Greatest Challenge in the 21st Century:  Global Governance

Some Chinese philosophers believe that when China dominates the world, there will be no borders.  There will be one great nation with great harmony.  China will create a more just world.  The capital would be in Beijing.  The first part of this – China dominating the world – is very likely to come true in this century.  Great harmony and more justice is very questionable.

The U.S. economy has been the global leader since overtaking Great Britain in 1872.  The Chinese economy will become the global leader during this this century.  The impact on global affairs will be profound.

Although the media has paid very little attention to this event, China will pass the United States this year in the size of their economy, according to the World Bank, based on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).  PPP is a measure used to compare economies by factoring in differences in the cost of goods and services among countries.

In addition to China’s new position, India will pass Japan this year in PPP to become the third largest economy.  What about a comparison based on nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP), that is, a comparison at current exchange rates?

The Economist magazine’s Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that it will be ten years before China passes the U.S. in nominal GDP.  Even then, U.S. per capita GDP will be much higher than China.

China has a population of nearly 1.4 billion.  The U.S. has a population of 319 million, which is less than one-fourth the population of China.  Consequently, when China’s per capita GDP reaches half that of the U. S., China’s economy will be more twice the size of the U.S. due to their larger population.  (If you are not interested in the numbers, skip to the paragraph that begins with “Consequently.”)

An examination of the historical data may be helpful in contemplating the future.  GDP in China changed very little during the 27 years that Mao Zedong led China.  When Deng Xiaoping took over the leadership of China in 1978, per capita GDP was $90.[i]  In that same year, 1978, U.S. per capita GDP was $10,225, which was 114 times greater than China.

By 2014, Chinese per capita GDP increased 81 times to $7,333.  U.S. per capita GDP increased 5.4 times to $54,980.  Hence, US per capita GDP is now only 7.5 times that of China.  This reflects a vast improvement in life style for Chinese people.

China’s economic policies are a major contributor to their rapid economic growth rate.  The other major contributor is that China started from a very low base.  China still has a low base compared to the U.S.

Consequently, China’s economy may be double the size of the U.S. economy, in nominal dollars, by the middle of the century.[ii]  If China spends the same percent of GDP on defense as the US, they will be spending twice as much as the US.  This will significantly impact global leadership.

Some question this raises are these:  What actions should nations take now to insure protection from the world’s dominate economic powers in 2050?  What should China and the U.S. do to avoid the Thucydides Trap?[iii]  Certainly, this subject is worthy of Government funded study of our alternatives and best course of action.  China is studying various forms of government, focusing on Singapore, Sweden and Chile, but not the U.S.   World Federalists have advocated solutions since the 1940s.

Global governance will be the greatest challenge in the 21st century.  As obvious as this is, few Americans grasp the significance.  Politicians cannot see beyond the next election.  Consequently, little action is likely to occur until it is too late.


[i] Source:  IMF’s “April 2014 Edition, GDP per Capita” in nominal dollars.

[ii] Assumes 2.5% growth rate for the US and 7% growth rate for China for next ten years, declining ½% each subsequent decade.

[iii] See “The National Interest”, July-August 2014, “Thucydides Trap 2.0:  Superpower Suicide?”