Open Fire and Open Markets: The Asia-Pacific Pivot and Trans-Pacific Partnership

January 22, 2014

Excellent, concise analysis of the link between the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the U.S. military’s Asia-Pacific Pivot, published by our colleagues at Foreign Policy in Focus. The author is the always right-on Christine Ahn, who in addition to her attributions listed below is a Peace Action Advisory Board member.

Thomas Friedman once said the hidden hand of the market needs the hidden fist of the military. The TPP and the Obama administration’s Pacific Pivot pack both.

By , January 14, 2014.

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By increasing U.S. market access and influence with China’s neighbors, Washington is hoping to deepen its economic engagement with the TPP countries while diminishing their economic integration with China. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The struggle for food sovereignty in the Pacific got a major boost last December when Billy Kenoi, mayor of Hawai’i’s Big Island, signed a law that prevents farmers from growing any new genetically engineered crops (with the exception of papaya). This follows a successful push on Kauai, at the other end of the islands, to force large growers to disclose the pesticides they use and which genetically engineered crops they are growing.

This is a major step in the battle for more ecologically sustainable agriculture in Hawai’i, which has suffered for over a century under the heavy weight of U.S. corporate and military domination.

Yet like other local, state, and national regulations intended to protect the public and the environment, these anti-GMO laws can be swiftly overturned if President Obama signs the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the world’s most ambitious and far reaching free trade agreement yet. On January 9, the U.S. Congress introduced “fast-track” legislation allowing the Obama administration to sign the TPP without undergoing public debate. Fast-track authority would grant the White House the power to speed up negotiations, while giving Congress only 90 days to review the TPP before voting.

The TPP spans 12 countries — including the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam — comprising 40 percent of the world’s economy. Like nearly all trade agreements signed since NAFTA, the TPP is almost to certain to allow multinational corporations from anywhere in the bloc to sue governments in secret courts to overturn national or local regulations, such as Hawai’i’s recent GMO laws, that could limit their profits. So it’s not just Hawai’i’s food sovereignty that’s at risk.

“This is not mainly about trade,” explains Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “It is a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade.” More than 600 corporate lobbyists representing multinationals like Monsanto, Cargill, and Wal-Mart have had unfettered access to shape the secret agreement, while Congress and the public have only seen a few leaked chapters.

But the TPP is even more than a corporate Trojan horse. It’s a core part of the Obama administration’s Asia-Pacific Pivot, which is centrally about containing China.

A New Cold War?

Ahead of the fall 2011 Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) meeting in Hawaii, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined a plan to transfer U.S. military, diplomatic, and economic resources from the Middle East to the Pacific, in what she called “America’s New Pacific Century.” Describing the pivot in militaristic terms as “forward-deployed diplomacy,” Clinton hailed the TPP as a “benchmark for future agreements” leading to “a free trade area of the Asia- Pacific.”

Yet the TPP excludes China, which has become the second largest economy in the world and is poised to outpace the U.S. economy in a matter of years — a fact that is none too pleasing to U.S. elites accustomed to unrivaled hegemony.

Like the United States, the future of China’s economic growth lies in the Asia-Pacific region, which by all indicators will be the center of economic activity in the 21st century. By 2015, according to a paper from the conservative Foreign Policy Research Institute, “East Asian countries are expected to surpass NAFTA and the euro zone to become the world’s largest trading bloc. Market opportunities will only increase as the region swells by an additional 175 million people by 2030.”

Enter the TPP. By increasing U.S. market access and influence with China’s neighbors, Washington is hoping to deepen its economic engagement with the TPP countries while diminishing their economic integration with China.

Obama’s “Pacific Pivot” also seeks to contain China militarily. By 2020, 60 percent of U.S. naval capacity will be based in the Asia-Pacific, where 320,000 U.S. troops are already stationed. The realignment will entail rebuilding and refurbishing former U.S. facilities in the Philippines, placing 2,500 marines in Australia, transferring 8,000 marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam and Hawai’i, and building new installations like the one on the tiny Pacific island of Saipan. Meanwhile, the U.S. military regularly stages massive joint military exercises involving tens of thousands of troops and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with its key allies — and China’s neighbors — Japan and South Korea. It has been regularly conducting Cobra Gold exercises with Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and even Myanmar.

Official Washington seems to believe that these are necessary precautions. According to theRAND Corporation, for example, 90 percent of U.S. bases in the region are “under threat” from Chinese ballistic missiles because they are within 1,080 nautical miles of China. But who is threatening whom? The Chinese have precisely zero bases in the Asia-Pacific outside of their own borders.

Some U.S. analysts insist that a more robust U.S. military presence is necessary to curb China’s ambitious territorial claims in the region. Without a doubt, China has recently taken a more aggressive stance in regional territorial disputes over dwindling natural resources, angering many of its neighbors. But by turning to the United States as a check against China, less powerful nations invite a bargain with the devil as Washington will advance its own strategic interests. And by getting itself involved, Washington risksencouraging China’s rivals to behave more provocatively, as well as angering China itself. According to Mel Gurtov, “While accepting that the United States is a Pacific power, Chinese authorities now resist the notion that the United States has some special claim to predominance in Asia and the western Pacific.”

A One-Two Punch

“The hidden hand of the market,” as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman famously wrote in the 1990s, “will never work without a hidden fist.” The Asia-Pacific Pivot, a one-two neoliberal-militaristic punch, packs both.

Of all people in the world, Hawaiians know this especially well. Once a sovereign nation, Hawai’i was the starting point for America’s century of imperialism and conquest in the Pacific. Most people don’t know this critical history, but what fueled the overthrow of Hawai’i’s monarchy was trade. During the 1800s, American merchants were profiting handsomely from exporting sugar from Hawai’i to the United States. When faced with new tariffs that the U.S. government imposed to protect the domestic sugar industry in the American South, the exporters orchestrated a coup with the U.S. marines to overthrow the islands’ queen and annex Hawai’i so that Hawaiian sugar would not be subject to tariffs.

With the world facing the pressing issues of global climate change, biodiversity loss, rising food prices, and declining sources of fossil energy, what is now needed more than ever are policies that promote local, sustainable economies that ensure the well-being of their people and protect the ecosystems upon which all of our lives depend.

Local communities seem to get it — new laws like the GMO restrictions recently passed in Hawai’i are a step in that direction. But with multinational elites and the U.S. government pushing undemocratic monstrosities like the Pacific Pivot and the TPP, prospects for a more genuine security appear more distant than ever.

Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Christine Ahn is a Senior Fellow of the Oakland Institute and Co-chair of Women De-Militarize the Zone (DMZ).


Statement on North Korea’s Nuclear Test

February 12, 2013

This statement, which I participated in the drafting/editing of, comes from the Working Group for Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific, which Peace Action participates in, especially to lend solidarity to peoples’ peace struggles in the region and in opposing the U.S. military’s Asia-Pacific “pivot.” Feel free to distribute or use as you see fit.

Kevin Martin

Executive Director

Friends,
North Korea’s nuclear test takes us deeper into dangerous nuclear weapons proliferation and certainly adds to the dangerous tensions in Northeast Asia and between the U.S. and the DPRK.
That said, as the following statement by the Working Group for Peace and Demilitarization in Asia indicates, the contexts in which the test took place are complex, and there are actions that we and our governments can take to contribute to peace and denuclearization of Northeast Asia. including the need for the U.S. and other nuclear powers to cease their nuclear double standards and calling a halt to provocative war games, including those now under way.
The way forward is diplomacy, not still more threats and  sanctions.
Please read and circulate the statement to your lists.

For peace and nuclear weapons abolition,
Joseph Gerson

Convener, Working Group for Peace & Demilitarization
in Asia and the Pacific

U.S. Working Group for Peace & Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific
Statement in Response to Third DPRK Nuclear Explosive Test

1)      We come from diverse backgrounds and hold a range of analyses (or perspectives) approaching the North Korean nuclear weapons test and the further militarization of Asia and the Pacific.

2)      We oppose the development, possession of, and threats to use nuclear weapons by any nation. We are committed to creating a world free of nuclear weapons. We have deep concerns that North Korea’s third nuclear weapons test contributes to an increasingly dangerous region-wide nuclear arms race. We understand the North Korean test was part of a cycle of threat and response to previous U.S. nuclear threats, and to continued military provocations. We cannot ignore the double standards and hypocrisies of the members of the “nuclear club” who refuse to fulfill their Article VI disarmament commitments of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitments by “modernizing” their omnicidal arsenals while insisting that other nations refrain from becoming nuclear powers. North Korea has conducted three explosive nuclear tests, compared to the United States’ 1,054.

3)      We note that beginning with the Korean War, the United States has prepared and threatened to attack North Korea with nuclear weapons at least nine times, that it maintains the so-called U.S. “nuclear umbrella” over Northeast Asia, and that its current contingency plans for war with North Korea include a possible first-strike nuclear attack.[i]

4)      The Obama administration’s first-term policy of “strategic patience” with the DPRK, reinforced by crippling sanctions that contribute to widespread malnutrition, connected to the stunting of growth in children and starvation, has proven to be a grave failure. The policy has foreclosed crucial opportunities to explore diplomacy and engagement.  “Strategic patience”, combined with North and South Korea’s increasingly advanced missile programs, aggressive annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises – including preparations for the military overthrow of the DPRK government – and the Obama Administration’s militarized Asia-Pacific “pivot,”[ii] contributed to the DPRK’s decision to conduct a third nuclear “test.”

5)      Added to these factors was the January 22, 2013 UN Security Council resolutions condemning North Korea’s December rocket launch and the tightening of the existing punitive sanctions program against North Korea.  The double standard that permits all of North Korea’s neighbors and the United States to test and possess missiles, space launch, and military space technologies and to threaten the use of their missiles is extraordinary. It thus came as little surprise that the DPRK responded by announcing plans for new nuclear tests that provocatively “target” the United States. Numerous analysts  interpreted the announcement of a possible test as a means to break through the Obama Administration’s failed policy of “strategic patience” in order to bring the U.S. to the table for direct U.S.-DPRK negotiations.

6)      2013 marks the sixtieth year since the signing of the 1953 Armistice Agreement, which established a ceasefire but did not end the Korean War. We join Koreans around the world who call for Year One of Peace on the Korean Peninsula, as well as our partners across Asia and the Pacific who have designated 2013 as the Year of Asia-Pacific Peace and Demilitarization.   Peaceful relations between the United States and North Korea (DPRK) are possible and they are more urgent than ever.

Given that unending war remains the basis of U.S.-DPRK relations, which have destabilized the lives of ordinary Korean people and been used to help  justify the obscenely large Pentagon budget (equal to the spending of the next 13 largest military spenders – combined!)[iii] at the expense of U.S. citizens, we believe it is in the interests of the U.S. and North Korean peoples for our governments to begin negotiations to end the Korean War and leading to the eventual demilitarization and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  Peace is possible. We recall that, as recently as 2000, the Clinton Administration came within a hair’s breadth of completing a comprehensive agreement with North Korea, which was derailed by U.S. domestic political crisis over the outcome of the presidential election.

7)      In this moment of escalation, we call for proactive measures by the U.S. government as an active party to this crisis.  In order to stanch the dangerous nuclear, high-tech, and conventional arms races in Asia and the Pacific, we urge the following:

a.       Direct U.S.-DPRK negotiations

b.      Suspension of aggressive military exercises by all parties involved in tensions related to the Koreas

c.       An end to the UN-led punitive sanctions regime against the DPRK, which hurt the lives of the North Korean people.

d.      An end to the Korean War by replacing the 1953 Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty

e.      Negotiations leading to the creation of a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone

f.        An end to the U.S. first-strike nuclear weapons doctrine and a reversal of U.S. plans to spend an additional $185 billion over the next decade to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear arsenal and nuclear weapons delivery systems (missiles, bombers, etc.)

g.       Commence negotiations on a nuclear weapons abolition convention that requires the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons within a time bound framework, with provisions for effective verification and enforcement.

Working Group for Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific*

Working Group Members:
Christine Ahn , Gretchen Alther, Rev. Levi Bautista, Jackie Cabasso, Herbert Docena, John Feffer, Bruce Gagnon, Gerson, Subrata Goshoroy, Mark Harrison, Christine Hong, Kyle Kajihiro, Aura Kanegis, Peter Kuznick, Hyun Lee, Ramsay Liem, Andrew Lichterman, John Lindsay-Poland, Ngo Vinh Long, Kevin Martin, Stephen McNeil, Nguyet Nguyen, Satoko Norimatsu, Koohan Paik, Mike Prokosh, Juyeon JC Rhee, Arnie Sakai, Tim Shorock, Alice Slater, David Vine, Sofia Wolman

The Working Group for Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific is comprised of individuals and organizations concerned about and working for peace and demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific on a comprehensive basis. For more information see: http://www.asiapacificinitiative.org<;http://www.asiapacificinitiative.org/>.

________________________________

[i] Joseph Gerson. Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World, London: Pluto Press, 2007; John Feffer. North Korea South Korea: U.S. Policy at a Time of Crisis, New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003
[ii] In October, 2011, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signaled a major transformation of U.S. foreign and military policy, the “pivot” from Iraq and Afghanistan to Asia, the Pacific and the strategically important Indian Ocean. Shortly thereafter, the Pentagon’s strategic guidance named the Asia-Pacific region and the Persian Gulf as the nation’s two geostrategic priorities.  Elements of the pivot include “rebalancing” U.S. military forces, with 60% of the U.S. Navy and Air Force to be deployed to the Asia-Pacific region. Military alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand are being deepened and revitalized, while military collaborations with Indonesia, Vietnam, India and other nations are reinforced. The “pivot” is also being reinforced with deeper U.S. involvement in multi-lateral forums across the region and by efforts to create the Trans Pacific Partnership, a supra-free trade agreement that would more deeply integrate the economies of allied nations and partners with that of the United States.
[iii]Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
The 15 countries with the highest military expenditure in 2011 (table)
http://www.sipri.org/research/armaments/milex/resultoutput/milex_15/the-15-countries-with-the-highest-military-expenditure-in-2011-table/view

; Defence budgets “Military ranking” Mar 9th 2011, 14:57 by The Economist online, http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/03/defence_budgets


Towards a Foreign Policy for the 99%

December 18, 2012

published by Foreign Policy in Focus

Towards a Foreign Policy for the 99 Percent

By Kevin Martin, December 18, 2012

Relief, rather than elation, was probably the emotion most U.S. peace activists felt when President Barack Obama won re-election. While Obama has been very disappointing on most peace issues, Mitt Romney would have been all the worse. So what now to expect from a second Obama term?

Most likely, more of the same; anyone expecting Obama to be decidedly more pro-peace this time around is likely to be sorely dispirited. However, there is a diverse, growing peoples’ movement in the United States linking human and environmental needs with a demand to end our wars and liberate the vast resources they consume. This, combined with budgetary pressures that should dictate at least modest cuts in the gargantuan Pentagon budget, could lead to serious constraints on new militaristic ventures such as an attack on Iran, “modernization” of the entire U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise at a cost of over $200 billion, a permanent U.S. force of up to 25,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, or an absurd military “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific aimed at isolating Russia and especially China.

We in the peace movement need to be able to think, and act, with both a short- and long-term perspective. In the near term, swiftly ending the war in Afghanistan and ensuring no long-term U.S./NATO troop presence, stopping drone strikes, preventing a war with Iran and building support for a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, pushing for serious cuts to the Pentagon budget, and advocating progress toward nuclear disarmament will consume most of our energies. Renewed emphasis on a just and lasting peace between Palestine and Israel should also garner more attention and activism. Finally, peace activists will need to lend solidarity those working to save social programs from austerity-minded elites and to address climate chaos.

In the longer term, we need to hasten what Professor Johann Galtung calls “The Decline of the U.S. Empire and the Flowering of the U.S. Republic.” We have an opportunity in opposing the outrageous “Asia-Pacific Pivot,” which the military-industrial complex has concocted without asking the American people if we support it or want to continue borrowing from China to pay for it (too weird, right?). We can point out the insanity of this policy, but we can also devise a better alternative, including building solidarity with the peoples of Okinawa, Jeju Island, Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, and other nations in the region opposing the spread of U.S. militarism and advocating peaceful relations with China.

Defining the Democratic Deficit

This pivot is just the latest example of the fundamentally undemocratic nature of U.S. foreign policy.

The more we in the peace movement can point out that our tax dollars fund policies contrary to our interests, the easier it will be not just to build specific campaigns for more peaceful and just policies, but also to create a new vision for our country’s role in the world—to create a new foreign policy for the 99 percent.

So we peace activists need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We need to offer credible, sustainable alternatives on the issues listed above, with specific actions ordinary people can take that make a difference. But we must go further and advocate a foreign and military policy that is in the interest of the majority of this country, one that comports with widely shared ideals of democracy, justice, human rights, international cooperation, and sustainability.

It’s no news flash that elite and corporate interests have long dominated U.S. foreign policy. Illustrating this democratic deficit has two related aspects. The first is the question of access: “he who pays the piper calls the tune.” Currently, although it technically foots the bill, Congress—let alone the public—has barely any say in how U.S. foreign policy is set or implemented. On a second and integrally related note, in whose interest is it to perpetuate a gargantuan military budget, maintain a vast and expensive nuclear arsenal, or start an arms race with our banker, China? It’s hard to imagine that any ordinary person could conclude these policies serve anyone but the 1 percent.

Notions of justice and human rights are widely resonant in the United States, but they require careful consideration and explanation. “Justice” should not be invoked simply as it concerns parties to a conflict, but rather should entail racial, social, and economic fairness for all those who are affected by the grinding military machine. Emphasizing the broader social consequences of militarism will be key for growing our ranks, especially among people of color, community activists, and human needs groups. And while “human rights” is a no-brainer, it requires courage and commitment to communicate how U.S. foreign policy constantly contradicts this ideal abroad, even as our government selectively preaches to other countries on the subject.

International cooperation, while it can seem vague or milquetoast—especially given the neglect or outright stifling of “global governance” structures by the United States—is a highly shared value among people in this country and around the world. Selling cooperation as a meaningful value is fundamentally important for undermining the myth of American exceptionalism, which so many politicians peddle to sell policies that only harm our country in the long run.

Finally, while the environmental movement still has loads of work to do, the successful promulgation of the concept of sustainability is an important achievement, one we can easily adapt to military spending, the overall economy, and a longer-term view of what kind of foreign policy would be sustainable and in the interest of the 99 percent. Climate activists and peace activists need to know that they have a vital stake in each other’s work.

A glimpse of the power of democracy was in evidence on Election Day, and not just in the legalization of gay marriage and recreational marijuana in a few states. When given a choice, as in referenda in Massachusetts and New Haven, Connecticut advocating slashing military spending and funding human needs, people will choose the right policies and priorities; both initiatives won overwhelmingly.

Contrary to the hopes many people in this country and around the world invested in Barack Obama (which he didn’t deserve and frankly he never asked for), it’s never been about him. It’s about the entrenched power of the U.S. war machine, and about how we the peoples of this country and around the world can work together to create more peaceful, just, and sustainable policies. We can do it; in fact we have no choice but to do it.

Kevin Martin has served as Executive Director of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund since September 4, 2001, and has worked with the organization in various capacities since 1985. Peace Action is the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 90,000 members nationwide.

Recommended Citation:

Kevin Martin, “Towards a Foreign Policy for the 99 Percent” (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, December 18, 2012)


Very Scary – the U.S. Military’s Asia-Pacific Pivot – Let’s Build Up China (Our Banker) as the new Enemy and thus Justify the Permanent War Machine (Funded by our Tax Dollars!)

October 31, 2012

Lots to be scared of this Halloween – Frankenstorm and its aftermath, a possible Romey-Ryan Administration, running out of candy at 7:30 while trick or treaters still roam your neighborhood - but here’s a long-term concern, the U.S. military’s “Asia-Pacific Pivot.”

Has anyone asked the American people whether getting into a long-term economic, political, geostrategic and especially military confrontation is a good idea? Especially as the lion’s share of our tax dollars would continue to go to the Pentagon to fund this, instead of urgent domestic priorities? The arrogance of the military and governmental elites is staggering, I’m sure they don’t pause for a second to consider the will of the people, only their interests in perpetuating the endless war machine. In their eyes China is the only plausible enemy that can justify their reason for being, and for continuing to suck our blood and tax dollars dry (the war profiteers and banksters are the real vampires, yes?).

A short International Herald Tribune article and 22 minute video on the Pivot can give you the gist of what is planned, though this is far too sanguine and accepting of elite and U.S. government positions.

Please read below much more uplifting initiative that Peace Action is helping lead:

We are writing to announce the creation of the Working Group for Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific.

With the movement focusing on the election, preventing war against Iran, and the struggle over military spending – not to mention media silence– you may have missed that China and Japan recently came to the brink of war over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, and the U.S. reaffirmed that if it came to war, the U.S. would join the battle on Japan’s side. You may have missed that this conflict caused anti-Japanese violence to break out in cities around China, resulting in the destruction of millions of dollars in property, and attacks against Japanese living in China.

You likely missed the massive Japanese protest over yet another G.I. rape of an Okinawan woman and the basing of crash-prone Osprey aircraft at the Futenma airbase which neighbors an elementary school. You may yet to have acted in solidarity with the extraordinary nonviolent resistance of Jeju islanders to the construction of a major offensive naval base which is also destroying World Heritage site. And, you may have yet to have learned that the struggle for control over the oil and mineral rich and strategically vital South China/East/West Philippine Sea could be the most dangerous 21st century tinderbox.

The Obama Administration has repeated announced the U.S. military “pivot” from Iraq and Afghanistan to Asia and the Pacific. And, the military buildup to reinforce U.S. Asia-Pacific hegemony as China rises is the driving force behind increased Pentagon spending.

The Working Group for Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific has been created to provide vision, resources and initiatives to the building of a U.S. peace movement capable of challenging U.S./Asia-Pacific militarization in their comprehensive contexts, and encouraging more constructive U.S. engagement in this region. Its members include leading U.S. peace and Asian-American activists, engaged scholars and national religious leaders. We are privileged to work in partnership with many movements in Asia and the Pacific.

                We have just launched the Working Group’s information-rich website, http://www.asiapacificinitiative.org, which we hope will be well used by colleagues and friends as an important resource for analysis, information about events and actions, links and daily news updates.

                With partners across Asia and the Pacific, we will be marking 2013, the 60th anniversary of the Korean War’s armistice – not peace – agreement, with the framework of 2013 as The Year of Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific. We hope you will join us in this and other initiatives, that you’ll  draw on our action alerts and make contributions to allied struggles. As we develop our speakers bureau, we will be happy to provide or suggest speakers and resources for related events.

To join our e-list, please write to swolman@afsc.org.

                This past week’s statement of outrage, remorse and solidarity with the people of Okinawa follows below.  Please consider the possibility of your organization developing a similar statement. We’ll be glad to help you get it to Okinawan partners.

                Join us in working for peace and demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific,

                For the Working Group,

                Joseph Gerson

                American Friends Service Committee

Statement of Outrage, Remorse and Solidarity

Dear Okinawan friends,

                It is not enough to say that we are outraged by the most recent G.I. rape of an Okinawan woman or by the deployment of crash-prone Osprey aircraft to Futenma Air Base. It is not enough to write that we apologize for what the government that speaks in our name has inflicted on your communities. And, it is anything but sufficient for the U.S. military to set a curfew for U.S. forces based in Japan in response to G.I. sexual crimes or for the U.S. and Japanese governments to certify that the Ospreys are safe.

                The only way to bring an end to sixty-seven years of G.I. sexual abuse, rape and crimes or the deadly accidents, property destruction and environmental degradation that have plagued the people of Okinawa is the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from your communities and prefecture, and from Japan as a whole.

                We stand in solidarity with your protests and calls for withdrawal of U.S. military forces. As we work for peace and demilitarization of Asia and the Pacific, focusing primarily on U.S. policies and actions, please keep us informed of ways that we can support your nonviolent resistance and campaigns to with the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan.

                With outrage, remorse and solidarity,

                Working Group for Asia-Pacific Peace and Demilitarization.

 

(For more information about the Working Group see: http://www.asiapacificinitiative.org)

 


Romney’s China Zinger Offers an Opening for a Serious Debate on U.S. Asia Policy (not his intention I’m sure!)

October 4, 2012

So I have to admit that when I heard it last night during the presidential debate, I thought this was a clever zinger by Mitt Romney (or his speech writers more likely):

“What things will I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test, if they don’t pass it: Is the program so critical that it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’ll get rid of it.”

This needs a bit of unpacking (and my few points about this quote are far from comprehensive, I’m sure others have very different takes in it).

First, Romney’s “test” is somewhat appealing, purposely so I’m sure, to folks who are concerned about the U.S. debt, much of which is owned by China. However, one could have made the point in a generic way, leaving out the fact that China is our largest banker (“Is the program worth continuing to borrow money to pay for it?”). That would still be a good test, yes? In addition to judging government programs by that standard, people make that judgement in their personal lives all the time, determining whether to borrow money to buy a car or a house or to go to college is a smart move.

So was Romney’s mention of China just an off-hand remark? I don’t think so. “China” to many Americans can mean very different things, but many of them are, in my observation, unfortunately pejorative. So my guess is this was intentional, meant to raise unhelpful and maybe even racist stereotypes about China, and concerns about the U.S.-China economic relationship.

However, Romney gave us an opening, unwittingly I presume, for deeper analysis and conversation about the U.S.-China relationship, especially in the “security” realm (others could certainly go much deeper than I into the economic interdependency, not always healthy, between the world’s two largest economies).

Josh Rogin, blogging for Foreign Policy, captured this very nicely: “Is Romney saying it’s worth borrowing from China to build more ships to contain China?” This is so brilliant and succinct because this is exactly what the U.S. is doing now, and planning to increase in the future, under the military’s much-ballyhood but little understood “Asia-Pacific pivot.” (For example, and speaking directly to Rogin’s point, the U.S. Navy has announced it plans to station 60% of the overall fleet in the Pacific.)

While Romney won’t publicly say this (and neither will Obama), the U.S. war machine needs an enemy to continue to justify its raison d’etre and its stranglehold on the lion’s share of our federal tax dollars. “International terrorism” just doesn’t cut the mustard. China is the only plausible “enemy” that might fit the bill.

Except China, which certainly has many economic, environmental, energy, human rights and democracy challenges, has no real interest in an arms race or global competition for military hegemony with the U.S. China certainly has regional interests that are of serious concerns to its neighbors, but it is simply not an expansionist power to anything like the degree the U.S. is. A few factoids on this are instructive:

-The U.S. has somewhere between 800 and 1000 foreign military bases (there is no agreement on the number or even the definition of a “base,” which is why the number is so imprecise). China has one, a relatively new one at that, in Seychelles (which is telling, representing as it does a key Chinese concern, keeping open shipping lanes).

- At $711 billion per year, the U.S. spends about as much on the military as the rest of the world combined (and the full “national security” budget is over $1 trillion per year). China, with the number two military budget, spends about one-fifth of what the U.S. does, at $143 billion (figures from SIPRI, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute).

-The U.S. has a dozen aircraft carrier battle groups, able to project fearsome military might worldwide (to say nothing of our nuclear arsenal). China just recently inaugurated its first aircraft carrier, which experts say is at least several years away from minimal combat readiness, according to a recent Wall St. Journal article. At present it is fit only for training purposes, and China doesn’t have any jets that can land on it. So by U.S. standards, the number of Chinese aircraft carriers would be “none.”

-The U.S. military divides the entire planet into regional “commands,” with forces and power projection plans covering basically the whole planet. Neither China nor any other country has any such structure or capability.

So the wisdom and advisability of “pivoting” in order to economically, militarily and politically isolate your main banker is a head scratcher. Why would China want to underwrite that? Especially when its biggest economic interest will soon probably be to stimulate domestic consumer demand.

And why would this pivot, offering only a pointless, counter-productive military competition with China, be in the interests of the people of this country? It would certainly fail this test – should we spend our tax dollars on an idiotic, open-ended military buildup to “contain” China (when the best policy would be to rely on non-coercive diplomacy to balance the interests of all the peoples of the region), instead of on schools, sustainable energy and jobs, affordable housing, infrastructure and addressing climate change?


Shaky Assumptions About Military Spending – North Carolina Peace Action’s Betsy Crites in the Durham Herald-Sun

July 2, 2012
 http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/19167965/article-Shaky-assumptions-about-military-spending?
By Betsy Crites
HERALD-SUN GUEST  COLUMNIST
Fear can be a great motivator – and a great manipulator. Those  who oppose cuts to military funding play on our fears to convince us that any  reduction in the defense budget would be a dangerous threat to our national  security and to our economy. But is this level of panic justified?  An  examination of the assumptions that underlie the fears will expose just how  shaky those assumptions are.
Shaky Assumption 1:  The US must control, by  force, the air, seas, and land of the entire planet.
Why such  overwhelming military power?  The United States spends more on our military than  our next 14 military competitors combined — six times more than China, 13 times  more than Russia, and 73 times more than Iran.  While we funnel roughly half of  our discretionary tax dollars into military programs, China is capturing the  market for solar panels.  Most countries are fearlessly investing in health care  and education for their citizens while the U.S. is pulling funding from those  very hallmarks of a great society.  The result is that the U.S. now ranks 37th  on health indicators and our students rank 14th in reading, 17th in science and  25th in math.
Shaky Assumption 2:  We need high priced weapons systems  such as the F-15 and the “advanced multi-role stealth fighter jet” to keep us  safe.
Our current “enemies” have no air force and no navy, and it is a  stretch to claim that terrorists even have an army.  The Rand Corporation, a  think-tank allied with U.S. government military and intelligence forces,  concluded that there is no battlefield solution to terrorism.  Since 1968, only  7 percent of all terrorist groups were taken down by military force.  In  contrast, 40 percent of those groups were defeated through police and  intelligence work, and 43 percent gave up their terrorist tactics as they were  integrated into the political process.
Shaky Assumption 3:  The military  is a good jobs program.
According to analysts at the University of  Massachusetts-Amherst, spending $1 billon on education and mass transit would  produce more than twice as many jobs as spending $1 billion on defense.   Spending on healthcare and construction for home weatherization and  infrastructure would produce about 1-1/2 times as many jobs. The Pentagon spends  $1 million a year to field a soldier in Afghanistan.  With that same amount, we  could hire nearly 30 teachers for a year.  Additionally, many jobs learned in  the military do not translate to civilian employment, so the jobless rate for  returning veterans is far higher than for the general population.
Shaky  Assumption 4:  Reducing military industries will hurt our economy.
Many  people are employed by military contractors and in service industries near  military bases, but does our economic health depend on this? Military spending  has grown by 81 percent in the past decade, the period of the worst recession  since World War II.  Clearly, high military spending is not the key to our  economic well-being.  People employed in weapons industries, making products  that kill people and destroy property and ecosystems, could just as well be  working in jobs that improve our communities and our quality of life here at  home.
Shaky Assumption 5:  We need the military for innovations such as  the microwave oven, the GPS and the Internet.
The U.S. military has a  very large budget to fund research and development, but innovation can, and  does, come from anywhere.  On June 26, 100 university presidents from across the  U.S. sent a letter to President Obama calling for an easier path to permanent  resident status for foreign students.  Why?  Because they found that of the  1,500 patents awarded to the top 10 patent-producing universities in the U.S.,  three-quarters had at least one foreign inventor. All-told they represented 88  countries.
Rather than triggering that old “fight or flight response “at the mere mention of reducing military spending, let’s develop a new adaptive “stop and think” response.  We will survive a reduction in military spending.   We could even thrive if we redirected our tax dollars to productive and  innovative ways of improving the well-being of our citizens and the world at  large.
Betsy Crites lives in Durham. She is former director of NC Peace  Action and remains a member and supporter of that organization.

 


Should NATO Be Handling World Security? Peace Action board member Larry Wittner on Huffington Post

May 26, 2012

So, I was planning to write a post-NATO Summit op-ed (and we may well have more reports, photos, etc. on our terrific work in Chicago soon) but hadn’t gotten around to it. Which is just as well, because Peace Action board member Larry Wittner published this very comprehensive yet concise piece about NATO on Huffington Post. Here it is:

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (better known as NATO) is in the news once again thanks to a NATO Summit meeting in Chicago over the weekend of May 19-20 and to large public demonstrations in Chicago against this military pact.

NATO’s website defines the alliance’s mission as “Peace and Security,” and shows two children lying in the grass, accompanied by a bird, a flower and the happy twittering of birds. There is no mention of the fact that NATO is the world’s most powerful military pact, or that NATO nations account for 70 percent of the world’s annual $1.74 trillion in military spending.

The organizers of the demonstrations, put together by peace and social justice groups, assailed NATO for bogging the world down in endless war and for diverting vast resources to militarism.According to a spokesperson for one of the protest groups, Peace Action: “It’s time to retire NATO and form a new alliance to address unemployment, hunger, and climate change.”

NATO was launched in April 1949, at a time when Western leaders feared that the Soviet Union, if left unchecked, would invade Western Europe. The U.S. government played a key role in organizing the alliance, which brought in not only West European nations, but the United States and Canada. Dominated by the United States, NATO had a purely defensive mission — to safeguard its members from military attack, presumably by the Soviet Union.

That attack never occurred, either because it was deterred by NATO’s existence or because the Soviet government had no intention of attacking in the first place. We shall probably never know.

In any case, with the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of the Soviet Union, it seemed that NATO had outlived its usefulness.

But vast military establishments, like other bureaucracies, rarely just fade away. If the original mission no longer exists, new missions can be found. And so NATO’s military might was subsequently employed to bomb Yugoslavia, to conduct counter-insurgency warfare in Afghanistan, and to bomb Libya. Meanwhile, NATO expanded its membership and military facilities to East European nations right along Russia’s border, thus creating renewed tension with that major military power and providing it with an incentive to organize a countervailing military pact, perhaps with China.

None of this seems likely to end soon. In the days preceding the Chicago meeting, NATO’s new, sweeping role was highlighted by Oana Lungescu, a NATO spokesperson, who announced that the Summit would “discuss the Alliance’s overall posture in deterring and defending against the full range of threats in the 21st century, and take stock of NATO’s mix of conventional, nuclear, and missile defense forces.”

In fairness to NATO planners, it should be noted that, when it comes to global matters, they are operating in a relative vacuum. There are real international security problems, and some entity should certainly be addressing them.

But is NATO the proper entity? After all, NATO is a military pact, dominated by the United States and composed of a relatively small group of self-selecting European and North American nations. The vast majority of the world’s countries do not belong to NATO and have no influence upon it. Who appointed NATO as the representative of the world’s people? Why should the public in India, in Brazil, in China, in South Africa, in Argentina, or most other nations identify with the decisions of NATO’s military commanders?

The organization that does represent the nations and people of the world is the United Nations. Designed to save the planet from “the scourge of war,” the United Nations has a Security Council (on which the United States has permanent membership) that is supposed to handle world security issues. Unlike NATO, whose decisions are often controversial and sometimes questionable, the United Nations almost invariably comes forward with decisions that have broad international support and, furthermore, show considerable wisdom and military restraint.

The problem with UN decisions is not that they are bad ones, but that they are difficult to enforce. And the major reason for the difficulty in enforcement is that the Security Council is hamstrung by a veto that can be exercised by any one nation. Thus, much like the filibuster in the U.S. Senate, which is making the United States less and less governable, the Security Council veto has seriously limited what the world organization is able to do in addressing global security issues.

Thus, if the leaders of NATO nations were really serious about providing children with a world in which they could play in peace among the birds and flowers, they would work to strengthen the United Nations and stop devoting vast resources to questionable wars.

Lawrence Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is “Working for Peace and Justice: Memoirs of an Activist Intellectual” (University of Tennessee Press).


Clinton Raises Prospect of Direct Negotiations With North Korea

January 29, 2009

By MARK LANDLER

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested on Tuesday that there could be high-level direct negotiations with North Korea, and offered the view that American relations with China had been overly dominated by economic concerns during the Bush administration.

In her first remarks to reporters as the nation’s chief diplomat, Mrs. Clinton reaffirmed the Obama administration’s commitment to multilateral negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program, with China, Japan, Russia and South Korea also taking part. But she noted that there have also been bilateral talks within the context of the current six-party arrangement.

Turning to China, Mrs. Clinton said the United States needed “a more comprehensive dialogue” with Beijing, and noted that the strategic dialogue of the Bush administration “turned into an economic dialogue.”

In her brief appearance before reporters, she did not specify what other elements the United States would seek to emphasize in its relations with China.

Last week, the Treasury Secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, signaled a potentially more confrontational stance toward China, saying in written testimony to the Senate that China manipulates its currency.

Mrs. Clinton, fresh from a breakfast with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., seemed energized as she spoke to reporters Tuesday, and described a world yearning for a new American foreign policy approach.

“There is a great exhalation of breath going on around the world,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of damage to repair.”

Mrs. Clinton declined to be drawn out on two of the most thorny diplomatic challenges facing Washington: Iran and Afghanistan. Both, she said, were the subject of policy reviews.

Mrs. Clinton said little new about the maiden mission of her special envoy to the Middle East, George J. Mitchell, who arrived in Cairo on Tuesday.

“We’re going to await the report of the envoy,” she said.

Mrs. Clinton brushed off suggestions that the appointment of Mr. Mitchell and another special representative, Richard C. Holbrooke, would pose any management problems for her.

“We have already established a collegial working atmosphere,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Helene Cooper contributed reporting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/28/washington/28diplo.html?hp=&pagewanted=print


Oil Addiction

July 30, 2008

An informational video from Good Magazine about America’s dependency on oil.


Iran Seeks “Common Ground” With West: Ahmadinejad

July 28, 2008
Below is an article from Reuters that can be found at reuters.com.
Mon Jul 28, 2008 2:36pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday that Iran will seek “common ground” with the United States and five other world powers that have proposed incentives for Tehran to freeze its nuclear enrichment program.

NBC News, which interviewed Ahmadinejad in Iran, also said the leader of the world’s fourth-largest crude oil producer believes the oil market is overvalued in part because of manipulation.

Speaking less than a week before a deadline for Iran’s reply to the incentives package, Ahmadinejad told the U.S. television network that progress toward agreement with the West would depend on the sincerity of a shift in the U.S. approach to Tehran.

Western officials said after a meeting with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in Geneva on July 19 that Tehran had two weeks to reply to an offer of a halt to new steps toward more U.N. sanctions if Iran froze the expansion of its nuclear program. That would give Iran until Saturday to reply.

“They submitted a package and we responded by submitting our own package,” Ahmadinejad said through an interpreter in an excerpt of the NBC interview aired on Monday.

“It’s very natural. In the first steps, we are going to negotiate over the common ground as they exist inside the two packages. If the two parties succeed in agreeing over the common ground, that will help us to work on our differences as well, to reach an agreement.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos called Ahmedinejad’s comments “rhetoric and more rhetoric” and saying the State Department wanted a definitive response from Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the West’s designated negotiator.

“We are waiting for a definitive statement, Gallegos said. “We have stated clearly that it should come through the normal channel, which is Jalili to Solana, and the clock on the two weeks is ticking.”

NBC also said Ahmadinejad denied Iran was working to produce a bomb, paraphrasing him as saying nuclear weapons are outdated.

Iran has so far ruled out a freeze to start preliminary talks or suspension of enrichment to start formal negotiations on the incentives package proposed by the six powers — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

In a policy shift, a U.S. diplomat attended the Geneva talks, which Iran has characterized as a success for Iran.

On Monday, Ahmadinejad told NBC: “The main question here is whether this approach is a continuation of the old approach or is it a totally new approach.

“If this is the continuation of the old process, the Iranian people need to defend their right, its interests as well,” he said. “But if the approach changes, we will be facing a new situation and the response by the Iranian people will be a positive one.”

The United States has warned Iran that it will face more sanctions if it fails to meet the deadline. Washington has not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails.

Asked if Iran would agree to suspend uranium enrichment in order to gain international acceptance, Ahmadinejad said Iran already enjoys “very good economic and cultural relations with countries around the world.”

“For the continuation of our lives and for progress, we do not need the services, if I can use the word, of a few countries,” he said.

Ahmadinejad announced during the weekend that Iran had more than 5,000 active centrifuges for enriching uranium, which suggested a rapid expansion of the nuclear work that the West suspects is aimed at making bombs.

Earlier this month, Iran rattled international markets by test-firing a series of missiles.

(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed)

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Bill Trott)


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