11 July 2017   Leave a comment

So far the strategy toward dealing with North Korea and its nuclear program seems to consist of two policies: put pressure on China to get North Korea to stop the program and threaten “severe” consequences (presumably a military attack) toward the same end.  The end objective of both policies is to get North Korea to “denuclearize” (a dreadful word).  The objective is a fool’s errand:  there is absolutely no reason to believe that any nuclear state would voluntarily destroy its arsenal without similar actions on the part of other nuclear states.  There is, however, a third policy which does not seem to be considered at all:  to sit down and talk with North Korea about what measures would offer security guarantees sufficient to persuade North Korea to stop its program to develop further its capabilities.  It seems as if that option should be explored more vigorously. 

Kim Jong-un

We know that the US is considering sending 4,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan to supplement the 9,800 soldiers already there in order to help the Afghan government defend territory against Taliban attacks.  It is not clear how these troops will accomplish more than the 110,000 who were there in 2015.  But there also seem to be serious considerations in using private contractors deploy mercenary forces to aid the US military effort.  Erik Prince is the former head of Blackwater, a private military corporation that was used extensively in Iraq after the US invasion in 2003.  The historical use of mercenaries is a story that is best described by Niccolò Macchiavelli:

“…if one holds his state on the basis of mercenary arms, he will never be firm or secure; because they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, unfaithful; gallant among friends, vile among enemies; no fear of God, no faith with men; and one defers ruin insofar as one defers the attack; and in peace you are despoiled by them, in war by the enemy.”

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, Ed. Angelo M. Codevilla.  1997 Yale University Press, Chapter 12 (“How many are the kinds of militia, and mercenary of soldiers”), pp. 45-46.

The lesson on private soldiers is a warning to anyone who wishes to defend civil society.

It is likely that the Trump Administration will soon make a decision whether to place tariffs on imported steel.  Free trade is one of the most important rules of the liberal international system, but it is also a rule that is often violated.  The US has been the strongest champion of free trade since 1945 and its defection from the system might undermine confidence in the system as a whole.  The two largest beneficiaries of the free trade regime are Germany and China so we should expect the strongest opposition to come from them.  But the significance of trade has been declining in recent years as the graph below suggests.

Posted July 11, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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