Cold War

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Lobster: Integrity Initiative Working to Privatise NHS

Remember the Integrity Initiative? That was the subsidiary of the Institute for Statecraft that was found to be a private enterprise propaganda outfit working with the cyberwarfare section of the SAS. It was set up after former New Labour PM Gordon Brown read a piece about the IRD’s activities during the Cold War and thought it was a good idea. IRD was the branch of the British secret services that was supposed to counter Soviet propaganda. It did this, but also branched out into smearing Labour MPs like the late Tony Benn as Communist agents and IRA sympathizers. The Integrity Initiative was caught doing the same, spreading lies about Jeremy Corbyn and a host of European politicos, officials and senior military staff because it and its network of hacks decided they were too close to Putin.

Robin Ramsay has more to say about the II in his ‘View from the Bridge’ column in the recent edition of Lobster, issue 80. He makes the point that superficially the II would be acceptable if all it did was counter Russian propaganda. He argues that few on the left seem to accept that the country really is a kleptocracy that murders its opponents at home and abroad, and reminds his readers that one of the watchwords of the old left was ‘Neither Washington nor Moscow’. This is right, but history and the career of the II itself has shown to date that British counterpropaganda goes well beyond this into operations that seriously compromise democratic politics at home, and frequently overthrow it abroad. Like the coup where British intelligence worked with the CIA to overthrow Iran’s last democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadeq.

But II isn’t just working to smear decent, respectable left-wing politicos like Corbyn. It’s now attacking one of the fundamental modern British institutions: the NHS. Among the hacks recruited by the II is the American journo, Anne Applebaum, who has written for the Economist and the Spectator, amongst other rags. But the II also includes a subgroup on NHS reform, which has nothing to do with Russian propaganda. Ramsay instead argues that its purpose is instead to counter opponents of NHS reform. In other words, it’s been set up to promote NHS privatisation. Which means it has a neoliberal agenda.

See his section ‘Ah yes, the USA as moral leader’ at

Click to access lob80-view-from-the-bridge.pdf

Given the extreme right-wing politics of British counterpropaganda operations, this is almost certainly right.

Which means that at least part of the British secret state is lying to us to support the Tories’ and New Labour privatisation of the NHS.

 

Trump’s Space Force Breaks International Law

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/06/2020 - 3:08am in

Remember when Trump announced a few months ago that he was setting up a space force to protect America from attack from that direction? He was immediately criticised because such a force would break the current international treaties governing the exploration and use of space. Mitchell R. Sharpe discusses these treaties in his book Satellites and Probes: The Development of Unmanned Spaceflight (London: Aldus Books 1970).

Sharpe writes

As the tempo of space exploration increases and more nations become involved through international agreements, it is obvious that problems in international law will ultimately arise. In this field, the UN took an early interest and is now the principal organization for studying and proposing space law. After manned space flight began in 1961, the General Assembly laid down some brief principles of a space code. On December 13, 1963, these were expanded; and an international treaty based upon them was signed in Washington, Moscow, and London on January 27, 1967. In brief, the treaty states that space exploration is available to all nations equally and that there will be no use of space for military purposes. Other international agreement provide that there will be no annexation of other planets by Earth powers and that astronauts are to be returned to their own nations in case they land by accident in other countries.

Pp. 30-1 (my emphasis).

The book notes that international relations in space have been strained, but nevertheless is optimistic about future cooperation between countries in the High Frontier.

The road to harmonious international cooperation in space research and exploration is not a smooth one. It has been strewn with obstacles of mutual suspicion, and distrust through conflicting political ideologies, outright chauvinism, cumbersome coordinating organizations, periodic temperature changes in the Cold War. However, the progression has been steadily forward despite these momentary checks…

As the second decade of the Space Age dawned, Man was beginning to realize the space, in its infinity, precludes all petty approaches to its exploration and eventual exploitation. International cooperation in both seemed an imperative for the ensuing decade, and the signs of a growing effort toward this were encouraging. (p. 31).

By the time of the publication of Michael Freeman’s Space Traveller’s Handbook (London: Hamlyn 1979), international relations had become much colder and the prospects for cooperation much less optimistic. The joint American-Soviet space mission of 1975, which saw astronauts from the two nations link up in orbit and exchange greetings was then four years in the past. The new Cold War that would dominate the global situation until the Gorbachev era and the fall of Communism was just beginning. The Space Traveller’s Handbook is a fictionalized treatment of rocketry and space exploration using the framework of a history book from 2061. The section on space law makes it plain that international legislation concerning space is extremely fragile and expects it to be broken. This is laid out in the section’s final two paragraphs.

International law is no law.

The most unsatisfactory aspect of the whole legal question in space is that the effectiveness of international legislation depends entirely on the good will of nations. Not all nations are signatory to all treaties, some elements of international space law are plainly at odds with the national law of some countries. and in the final analysis a nation can simply ignore the findings of the International Court of Space.

Basically, international law, on Earth as well as in space, is a conflict of law, the confrontation of two nations, each with its own set of internal laws. Legislation must be by treaty, and legal disputes tend to follow diplomatic channels in the first instance. The setting up of the International Court of Space by the ISA was an attempt to regulate disputes, but its only means of enforcing its judgements is to present its recommendations to the ISA. Essentially, the only punishment is sanction, [such as was applied to Rhodesia after UDI]. This is only effective if a sufficient number of nations agree to undertake it. Even criminal cases against individuals must in the end be referred to national courts. (p. 49).

The ISA and the International Court of Space, or at least the latter, are fictitious, and part of the book’s future history. It’s interesting, though, that the book predicted it would be set up ten years ago in 2010. I am not aware that any institution like it actually has.

Trump’s projected space force clearly is in breach of international law, and it seems to bear out Freeman’s prediction that it would eventually prove to be toothless. However, he hasn’t set it up just yet, and it remains to be seen whether it will actually become reality. If it does, I fear it will lead to a disastrous arms race in outer space, a race that may well bring us once again to the brink of nuclear armageddon as the Earth-based arms race did far too many times in the past.

For humanity’s sake, let us follow the vision of the late, great comedian Bill Hicks. Hicks used to end his show by stating that if the world spent what it does on armaments instead on peaceful projects, we could explore and colonize space and feed our world.

No one need starve, and we could go forth in peace forever.

Meanwhile, Trump’s announcement has provided yet more subject matter for the satirists. Netflix is launching a new comedy series, Space Force. Here’s the trailer from YouTube.

I think The Office mentioned in the title credits must be the American version of the show, rather than the British original made infamous by Ricky Gervaise. It stars Steve Carell and Lisa Kudrow, who older readers may remember as Phoebe in the ’90s comedy series, Friends.

 

How the American Century Ends

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 20/06/2020 - 2:08am in

We are deep in the age of disappointment on (as Donald Trump has only accentuated) an increasingly disposable planet. Continue reading

The post How the American Century Ends appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

History Unheeded

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/06/2020 - 3:27am in

Thanks to U.S. intransigence, a Salvadoran crisis repeats itself.

While We Were Social Distancing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/05/2020 - 5:23am in

For most of Donald Trump’s presidency, it seems that the news has come at us like a firehose, spraying information, disinformation and quotable tweets. And that was before the pandemic. Now with more than 100,000 dead, presidential spectacles and unemployment … Continue reading

The post While We Were Social Distancing appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Fresh audio product

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/05/2020 - 7:04am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

May 21, 2020 Vincent Bevins, author of The Jakarta Method, on the US-sponsored strategy of mass murder during the Cold War • Kyle Beckham, lecturer in education at the University of San Francisco, on schooling during the pandemic

The Second Cold War?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/05/2020 - 1:56am in

By Brian Snyder

Over the past two months, there has been a great deal of talk about the environmental implications of the pandemic. Some have looked for glimmers of hope, others have predicted that we will shortly return to the status quo. I fear that the biggest outcome of the pandemic will not be its death toll nor its effects on the climate, but its impacts on geopolitics. Specifically, the deteriorating relationship between China and the USA may lead to a Second Cold War. If this cold war leads to an all-out GDP race as the original one did, the consequences for humanity will far outweigh the direct human health impacts of the pandemic.

A Second Cold War

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world may have already been spiraling toward another cold war between the USA and China. The rivalry between the USA and China for economic control of Asia far predates the Trump administration, and the reasons for it are both complex and poorly defined, much as they were as when the iron curtain fell over Eastern Europe. And as in the Cold War between the USA and Soviet Union, historians will eventually find reason to blame both sides for the Second Cold War. Despite these complexities, I fear that future historians looking back at the Second Cold War will note the COVID-19 pandemic as the turning point from economic rivalry to enmity. That is, COVID-19 or, more accurately, Chinese and American leaders’ willingness to blame each other for the pandemic to deflect their own mismanagement, may be the last straw.

Trump and China

A downward spiral: Tensions between the USA and China have significantly increased since the emergence of COVID-19. Could these tensions lead to a full-on Second Cold War, with the score kept in GDP? (Image: CC0, Credit: The White House)

Since the emergence of the pandemic, tensions between China and the USA have increased significantly. Members of the Chinese government have alleged that U.S. service members brought the virus to Wuhan. Simultaneously, the president of the USA has called the virus “Chinese,” refused to accept the academic consensus that the virus likely spread from a wild animal at the wet market in Wuhan, dispatched American intelligence apparatus to prove the unprovable accusation that COVID-19 began in a Chinese lab, and blamed the Chinese government’s secrecy for the severity of the U.S. pandemic.

The original Cold War nearly ended with nuclear annihilation, yet that is not what concerns me about the Second Cold War. The first Cold War ended only after decades of historically unprecedented economic growth in the West was leveraged toward military and technological superiority. This Western growth was nearly matched by the Soviets. If this coming Cold War involves the same growth race, there will be dire consequences for the future of human life on Earth. China and the USA are the two largest economies on Earth, closely followed by the U.S.’s NATO allies, and neither country has anything approaching a sustainable energy supply. If their rivalry ends in the continuing growth of their economies, especially via fossil fuels, the effects will be catastrophic.

This Isn’t (Entirely) Trump’s Fault

While it may be tempting to blame Trump for the looming Cold War with China, it is not entirely Trump’s fault. While Trump’s recent China policy has not helped, tensions with China have been rising for a decade or more. Trump’s confrontational attitude toward China—as seen through the trade war and the pandemic blame—is a product of these tensions, either as a cynical appeal to his base or heartfelt xenophobia.

China industry jobs

Many politicians have been claiming for decades that China has been our economic rival. Yet, these same politicians were promoting the globalization of the manufacturing industry for the sake of economic growth. (Image: CC BY 2.0, Robert Scoble)

Trump may indeed be biased against China, and his lack of strategic thinking may be the ultimate blunder that leads us into another Cold War, but there is a reason for his attitude toward China: us. Over the past seven decades, Americans became accustomed to thinking of Beijing as “The Other.” They may not have been the enemy, but Americans have been comfortable viewing them warily, as well as comfortable with politicians telling us the Chinese are an economic rival and a threat to our jobs.

Of course, we were too dim to notice that the movement of manufacturing jobs to Asia could only occur via a globalized world, or that our politicians had built that globalized world to foster domestic economic growth. Thus, politicians have told us out of one side of their mouths that globalization is good for the economy and will make us all the more prosperous, while telling us from the other side of their mouths that our jobs are all moving to China. Remarkably, neither is correct. Globalization will make us poorer in the long term because it leads to unsustainable economic growth, and, until recently, we had more jobs than at any time in our history. The fact that we were near full employment prior to the pandemic somehow failed to alert people of the lie that the Chinese were stealing our livelihoods.

Note that this is not to imply that the blame for this new Cold War, if it develops, is one sided. Certainly, the Chinese government will share in the fault. However, something about logs in eyes should encourage us to focus on our own culpability.

The Cost of a Cold War

But why does it matter if we enter another Cold War? Why would a Cold War with China, if it results from this pandemic, be the most consequential result of COVID-19?

Between 1950 and the Soviet Union’s economic peak in 1989, U.S. real per capita GDP more than doubled, while the Soviet Union’s per capita GDP nearly tripled, according to data from the Maddison Project. If similar growth occurs again over the next 40 years, by 2060 the U.S. GDP would exceed $100,000 per person (in 2011 dollars), while China’s per capita GDP might be $40,000, approaching contemporary U.S. standards.

Such economic growth would require similar increases in energy demand, and this demand would occur both in the USA and China, as well as in their trading partners. These trading partners would export goods to the USA and China and would require increased energy consumption to produce these goods. In some cases, this increased global energy demand may be met with renewables, while in others it may be met with fossil fuels. In either case, it would not be sustainable for two main reasons.

First, renewables, while far less damaging to the earth’s systems than fossil fuels, have environmental impacts. Those impacts may be mitigated with future technology and should not dissuade us from moving away from fossil fuels, but nor should we pretend that they are environmentally benign.

Second, if increased energy demand occurs, it will slow the transition away from fossil fuels. If the USA and China feel the need to grow their economy, they may delay the decommissioning of coal and natural gas-fired power. They may also defer investment in carbon-negative systems, which will be required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

In addition to these changes in energy demand, a second cold war might also lead to rapid technological development which would further stimulate the economy and lead to further energy use. Consider the technologies that emerged largely from investments in the U.S. military industrial complex of the first Cold War: the internet, satellites, GPS, cell phones, computers, and robotics. Consider how much of our economic growth over the last five decades is the result of these technologies. Consider how much of our energy growth and climate emissions result from that economic growth. And consider what will happen if we use our considerable ability to innovate in the service of more economic and energy growth.

Figure 1. Real Per Capita GDP Growth in the US and USSR, 1950-1989

Graph

(Credit: Brian Snyder)

Systems Theory   

One of the underappreciated advancements of mid-20th century science was systems theory. Applied in numerous disciplines, including in H.T. Odum’s ecology, systems theory rejected the reductionist approaches foundational to then-modern science and argued that the system as a whole had to be understood. Because complex systems are non-linear and emergent, they tend to have properties and behaviors that can’t be anticipated from a view of one isolated sub-system.

Today we are confronted with an extraordinarily complex system. A pandemic presents health and economic challenges; politicians use disinformation to escape blame; and long-simmering rivalries begin to boil. These geopolitical changes incentivize economic growth, and through a bit of chemistry and the second law of thermodynamics, a long-warming planet begins to swelter.

As in the mid-20th century, it should be clear that understanding this system requires a transdisciplinary approach. Issues of climate and energy are also economic, sociological, and geopolitical issues, and we will not avoid our slide toward cold war unless we view all ecological and economic components as a system. Reductionism and retreating into disciplinary silos will lead nowhere.

Figure 2. A systems diagram of the earth’s economy, one of the many concepts that developed indirectly from systems theory. 

Herman Daly Figure

(Image: CC0, Credit: Herman Daly)

How to Dismantle a Cold War

What is especially concerning about this new Cold War is that it will occur in a post-fact, social media-dominated world. Of course, the Soviets in the first Cold War lived in a propaganda-driven, post-fact world, but the West largely did not. Certainly, Western news media in the mid-20th century had a Westernized view of the world, and American politicians tried to spin the news to their advantage, but, in general, Western leaders did not actively and purposefully spread disinformation.

Today information is very different. Like the Soviets, China controls its citizens’ access to information, although their methods are not as effective. But the major difference is in the West, where leaders actively spread disinformation and conspiracy theories. These are then amplified on Twitter and other social media. We have already seen this occur in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which alt-right voices on Twitter have spread a variety of false and/or anti-Chinese messages.

This disinformation system—i.e., social media, talk radio, and cable news—is the ultimate cause of our slide toward the Second Cold War. In a circular, symbiotic relationship, American politicians manipulate their traditional and social media followers to spread anti-Chinese messages and conspiracy theories. This makes a significant segment of the public believe that China is a threat to Americans, and it also makes these voters more likely to support leaders who are “tough” on China. Of course, the tough-on-China leaders are the same ones spreading the anti-Chinese messages in the first place. The same sort of relationship occurs with other topics (e.g., climate change), but it is a particular problem in the case of China because nationalism and xenophobia motivate and scare people in a way that climate policy does not.

Thus, to avoid cold war we need to return to a system in which factual journalism is created and disseminated and replaces the current system of disinformation and propaganda. Until that occurs, a change in political leadership will not halt our slide toward the Second Cold War nor prevent destructive economic growth.

Brian F. Snyder is an assistant professor of environmental science at Louisiana State University and CASSE’s LSU Chapter director.

The post The Second Cold War? appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.


‘We’ll Meet Again’ at the End of ‘Dr. Strangelove’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/05/2020 - 5:22am in

Tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of VE Day and the government wants us to celebrate it by going outside at 3 pm or whenever, having a cup of tea and singing Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’. The Beeb has screened a half-hour documentary about her in preparation for the occasion.

I fully realise just how important VE Day was and is. It meant the final end of six years of carnage in Europe and the extinction of the Nazi regime. And with the exception of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the era of peace it has ushered in is the longest ever in Europe’s history. But to me the song brings to mind not the end of the Second World War, but that of Stanley Kubrick’s cold war black comedy, Dr. Strangelove. As the  Russian’s Domesday weapon is finally triggered, the film ends with Strangelove rising from his wheelchair to shout, ‘Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!’ and footage of nuclear explosions accompanied by Vera Lynn singing.

Here it is, in another video I found on YouTube. Enjoy, and I hope you have a great time.

The Government That Cried Wolf

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/03/2020 - 10:37pm in

For as long as anyone can remember, the United States government has wallowed in fear mongering. Now there’s actually a real legitimate threat to the national health, and many people, especially the young, aren’t listening to warnings.

Fresh audio product

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 7:29am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

February 13, 2020 Yasha Levine on Chrystia Freeland, Ukrainian Nazis, and the proxy war against Russia • Lizzie O’Shea, author of Future Histories, on fake techno-utopianism and imagining a better future

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