Tag: Mel Gurtov

Despite High-Level Encouragement, US-China Student Exchanges Are Diminishing

MEL GURTOV – The tit-for-tat warnings between the U.S. and China reflect the politics of their relations today: the “China threat” being pushed in Congress, and American public opinion now very unfavorable toward China; and Chinese upset with the US “Cold War mentality” and strategic containment of China. Sadly, students and researchers in both countries suffer from this negative dialogue.

Is North Korea Preparing for War?

MEL GURTOV – Two of America’s most prominent North Korea experts, Robert Carlin and Siegfried Hecker, begin their latest analysis lwith this sentence: “The situation on the Korean Peninsula is more dangerous than it has been at any time since early June 1950.” But US policy on North Korea over the last few decades has changed little.” At the least, the US needs to test Kim’s interest in engagement. Now.

The War in Israel: Costs and Consequences

MEL GURTOV – That Netanyahu is the only top Israeli national security official who has not accepted any blame for the Hamas attack is indicative. Will postwar Israel again be plunged into political chaos? Will the far right be empowered or discredited because of the war? Will Israel after the war continue expansion of settlements and deprivation of Palestinians’ rights in the West Bank? One outcome of the extraordinary violence seems certain: The hope for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, not to mention a two-state arrangement, has been dashed for many years to come.

Who Needs Chinese Scientists? America Does

MEL GURTOV – Let’s remember that no one appreciates academic freedom more than visitors from China and other countries under authoritarian rule. When that freedom is violated by harassment and suspicion, word gets back to China very quickly, and the rewards for returning to China, in money and prestige, become tantalizing. 

The Russian Coup That Wasn’t

MEL GURTOV – Tensions between the Russian defense ministry and the head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, had been running high for months, mainly because of differences over war strategy and Prigozhin’s accusations of insufficient battlefield support. Last week those tensions reached the boiling point. And now Putin is stuck, a position that the US and NATO can choose either to exploit or, hopefully, to press for peace.

How the US Should Respond to Israeli Right-Wing Extremism

MEL GURTOV and LARRY KIRSCH – While it is far from clear precisely how US policymakers will express their opposition to Israeli extremism—whether indirectly, through the FTO list as we have suggested, or more directly through diplomatic or legislative means—most important is that the US government deter terrorism sponsored by entities close to the heart of the incoming Israeli government. And those who rightly decry Palestinian terrorism need to take a hard look at what Israelis have just voted in—a coalition that has prominent advocates of violence against innocent Arab citizens. Doing so would give substance to US support of human rights, not only in Israel but in the Middle East generally.

Loose Lips Can Sink Peace 

MEL GURTOV – During World War II, US sailors were warned: Loose lips sink ships. A similar warning should have gone out to all US officials in recent days—and the President should have been the first to acknowledge that the warning included him. Because thanks to loose lips in Washington, the US is contributing to Vladimir Putin’s propaganda, and possibly still worse, to a direct confrontation with Moscow.

What Does International Law Say About the Ukraine Invasion?

MEL GURTOV – In just the past few years, we have witnessed mass violence directed at innocent people in many places: China’s Xinjiang province, the Saudi-led war in Yemen, the Myanmar (Burma) junta’s atrocities against the Muslim Rohingya, and of course Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Each of these episodes has its distinctive characteristics, but they all violate international law and our common humanity. None of them can be excused by arguments based on state sovereignty, national security, historical analogy, or the sins of others past and present.

Can the US and China Cooperate Around Cobalt Mining?

MEL GURTOV – Cobalt is a valuable mineral that is the subject of intense international competition. Not a new subject: In past times copper, uranium, and rare earth metals have had center stage. Recall the controversy over “blood diamonds”—diamond mining that helped fund civil wars in Africa. More recently we have lithium in Bolivia, where Chinese, American, and other countries’ firms are seeking to gain the upper hand on a mineral that is vital in electrical products. There’s still another battle, this one over cobalt, which is also an essential mineral in cell phones but especially in electric car batteries.

Time is Running Out for US-Iran Nuclear Agreement

MEL GURTOV – Despite the best efforts of the Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu to disrupt the nuclear talks with Iran by attacking Iran’s nuclear computer network, the news out of Geneva is that a new agreement is close to being signed. It has been a very rough road to get there—a road worth recalling because among that agreement’s accomplishments will be resumption of multilateral diplomacy with the US at the table.

A Progressive Agenda for Biden’s Foreign Policy

MEL GURTOV – The predominant direction of a progressive US president should be toward “Making America Safe for the World.” That means focusing on domestic problems rather than on foreign policy crusading, relying on diplomacy before making threats and imposing sanctions, redefining the national interest with an eye toward real friends and urgent issues, and finding common ground with adversaries, starting with China, while remaining faithful to our ideals.

The Israel-UAE Agreement: Good for a Few, Bad for Most

MEL GURTOV – Commentators evidently desperate for good news are touting the Israel-United Arab Emirates (UAE) agreement as a welcome path to Middle East peace. The agreement trades Israel’s promise not to annex portions of the West Bank for the UAE’s recognition of Israel. One conservative writer for the Washington Post actually thinks Trump’s role in helping bring the agreement about makes him a Nobel Prize candidate. But hold on.

The Trump Administration’s Approach to the Climate Crisis is a Crime Against Humanity

MEL GURTOV – The President of the United States is a criminal. I’m not referring to the twenty-odd investigations of him currently underway for violations of the Constitution, obstruction of justice, and collaboration with the Russian election attack, among other misdeeds. No, I’m referring to his and his administration’s intentional and reckless pursuit of national policies that condemn American and the world’s citizens to environmental destruction and the end of life as we know it.

Why the Trade War with China is So Dangerous

MEL GURTOV – The trade war with China that Trump so confidently predicted would result in a great new deal now threatens to become a permanent feature of US-China relations. Why that is likely may have less to do with the specific trade issues in dispute than with the vastly different negotiating styles and operating principles of the two countries’ leaderships.

“Emergency” Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia Lack an Emergency

MEL GURTOV – Trump has authorized the dispatch of 1500 additional troops to the Middle East and the sale of several billion dollars in “precision-guided” weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The arms sale is being made without Congressional authorization or consultation, on the argument (made by Pompeo) that an “extreme emergency” eliminates the legal requirement to make the case to Congress. But there is no emergency.

Trump Missed Another Great Opportunity with North Korea

MEL GURTOV – Trump was correct to describe denuclearization last June as a lengthy “process” that one summit meeting could not achieve. However, the second summit, in Hanoi at the end of February 2019, again showed that personal diplomacy divorced from an engagement process that incorporates flexibility and give-and-take raises the risk of failure.

Trump’s Middle East Retreat: Problems for Everyone

MEL GURTOV – There are no winners, here or abroad, in Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria. But there are important losers: innocent lives and prospects for peace. However remote a political settlement in Syria and Afghanistan might have been before, it is even more remote now. With the US largely out of the picture, incentives for adversaries—Syria and Russia in Syria, the Taliban in Afghanistan—to negotiate war-ending or at least violence-reduction agreements are now gone. Civil war is likely to gain intensity. Civilian casualties and refugee numbers will rise substantially. A new regional war is possible. The defeat of peace should be the focus of critics’ concern.

Making an Enemy of China Does Not Serve US Interests

MEL GURTOV – America’s China problem is no longer about “managing China’s rise.” It is about finding ways to more deeply engage China on common problems, such as climate change and energy, while also establishing rules of the road to avoid military confrontations in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.

While Rome (and Most Everywhere Else) Burns: Climate Change Asserts Itself

MEL GURTOV – Every world leader who shrinks from directly addressing climate change through public and international policy is, to my mind, guilty of a crime against humanity. A harsh judgment? As I read scientists’ reports about just how fast the polar ice caps are melting, how quickly seas are rising, and how temperatures worldwide are making new records, I conclude that worsening environmental conditions are outrunning both scientific predictions and the ability to act in time. Inaction in such dire circumstances is inexcusable, and should be punishable, on behalf of humanity.

Trump’s War on the Poor: An Impeachable Offense

MEL GURTOV – Were it not for the source, it would hardly be news to learn that the United States can’t take care of its most needy—that it may be the richest country, but it is also increasingly, appallingly, unequal in how its wealth and opportunities are shared. When the various dimensions of human security are examined, critics have long noted that the US falls short, whether in treatment of children, poverty rates, income gaps between rich and poor, or even life expectancy. All this has been amply documented in annual reports of the United Nations Development Programme.

Was There Really a Breakthrough in US-North Korea Relations?

MEL GURTOV – In the aftermath of the “Korean spring” at the Winter Games, some observers waxed euphoric over the potential for direct US-North Korea talks. The apparent breakthrough at the Games in North-South dialogue occasioned by Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yu-jong, and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in had put Vice President Mike Pence in an embarrassing position—odd man out as Moon and Ms. Kim discussed a summit meeting while Pence sat on his hands. Pence tried to recover by indicating as he left South Korea that talks with the North might actually be possible—a concession that gave the appearance of a US decision to fall in line with the South Korean view. But has the US position on how to deal with North Korea actually changed?

Trump Is Missing an Opportunity in Cuba

MEL GURTOV – President Obama’s engagement with Cuba was one of his administration’s success stories. The policy shift was based on the entirely realistic as well as humanitarian assessment that permanent estrangement deepens enmity, isolates two peoples and separates families, reduces opportunities for improvement in the quality of life in Cuba, inhibits the two-way flow of information, and prevents cooperation on common problems. But the Trump administration, pressed by Senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez, is still fighting the Cold War, as evidenced by Trump’s disengagement order the week of June 20.

Trump Abdicates Control of US Military Interventions

MEL GURTOV – Now, just below the radar, the US military is engaged in an ever-increasing number of “advise-and-assist” missions, supplemented by major arms deals and CIA-run drone strikes, that commit the US to long-term intervention in Africa and the Middle East. And Donald Trump, unlike Barack Obama, is happy to cede operational control—to “let the war fighters fight the war,” as Stephen Bannon told CNN.

China’s Bad Day in Court

MEL GURTOV – As had been widely expected, the Permanent Court of Arbitration under the UN Convention on he Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ruled on July 12 in favor of the Philippines’ suit to declare Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea (SCS) illegal. On every particular, the court found that China’s claims—defined by the so-called “nine-dash line”— to an expansive maritime zone and its undersea resources are illegal, and therefore that its land reclamation and construction projects in the islands encroach on the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. Though the ruling did not extend to the issue of sovereignty over the SCS islands, it clarified the boundary dispute. The ruling also found China guilty of harming the marine environment by building artificial islands, of illegally interfering with Filipinos’ fishing and oil exploration, and “aggravating” the dispute with the Philippines by its construction activities.

What is Really Going on in China?

MEL GURTOV – Will the real China please stand up? In the US media, most stories about China raise questions that amount to threat-mongering. How can China’s “aggressiveness” in the South China Sea be stopped? Is China forming a new alliance with Putin’s Russia? Has China hacked its way into the most sensitive US industrial and military secrets? Is China on the verge of displacing the West from Africa and even Latin America? Are the Chinese about to become a military rival of the US in terms of naval and air power?

Evaluating Obama’s Foreign Policy Record

MEL GURTOV – How should we evaluate Obama’s foreign policy record? Right-wing critics will of course excoriate Obama for all the usual things—weakness against adversaries like Russia and China, negotiating with instead of subverting Cuba and Iran, eviscerating the US military, undermining relations with Israel. On the left, Obama is already being cast as another liberal leader whose actions failed to deliver on his promises, from Guantanamo to the Middle East. Historians will have plenty of things to quarrel about, but we need not wait.

Panama Papers Reveal How the 1% Operate

MEL GURTOV – One of the many tools at the disposal of multinational corporations (MNCs) for maximizing profits and undermining state sovereignty is moving operations to low-tax countries. Global companies do not simply “go abroad”; they shift capital, as well as labor and technology, to wherever the advantages are greatest. This reality of globalization is well known, and it is matched by the similar behavior of powerful, wealthy individuals, including present and former top government officials. Like the MNCs, wealthy individuals are not content to make tons of money at home if they can make even more by finding tax shelters abroad, where their money is completely hidden from public view. It’s what the One Percent do.

Diplomacy Needed in Dealing with North Korea

MEL GURTOV – The longstanding US approach to North Korea’s nuclear weapons is way off the mark. The Obama administration’s strategy of “strategic patience” shows little attention to North Korean motivations. The US insistence that no change in policy is conceivable unless and until North Korea agrees to denuclearize ensures continuing tension, the danger of a disastrous miscalculation, and more and better North Korean nuclear weapons. The immediate focus of US policy should be on trust building.

Time for a Reset in US-Saudi Relations

MEL GURTOV – How long must a so-called ally be tolerated and coddled, with mountains of arms, when its actions contradict US policy and violate international norms? Indefinitely, since access to oil, support of Israel, and reliance on the authoritarian Middle East monarchies have been staples of US policy for many decades. Yet wouldn’t it be worth considering that the violence and deprivations of human rights in the Middle East might be alleviated by US adherence to a different set of priorities: social justice, environmental protection (with a focus on water), accountable and transparent governance, and demilitarization through substantial reductions of armaments and arms transfers?

The Paris Climate-Change Agreement: Hold the Champagne

MEL GURTOV – The Paris accord gives us something to celebrate—a serious undertaking by virtually every country, rich or poor, to commit to reducing carbon emissions such that our warming planet does not rise another 2 degrees Celsius, and if possible no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. The hope is that the combination of global commitments, technological advances, and business investments will literally turn the tide on climate change. But of course the devil is in the details, and in each country’s politics.

Arming Dictators: An American Tradition

MEL GURTOV – The contrast between Obama the engager and Obama the warrior is striking. US arms exports to authoritarian regimes such as Pakistan’s, just one element of military aid, continue to rise even as we celebrate the President’s initiatives with Iran and Cuba.

U.S. Policy Must Acknowledge China’s Insecurity

MEL GURTOV – Several developments in China over the past few weeks have shown us a country quite different from the one often portrayed by outsiders—an emerging superpower, with global economic reach and ambitions to challenge American predominance, at least in Asia. The real China, the one most familiar to its citizens, faces serious, long-term problems at home. Therefore, President Obama can either press China hard on currency valuation, human rights, and cyberhacking, or he can engage in a dialogue of equals and pursue common ground on climate change, Iran, the South China Sea dispute, and North Korea. In choosing the latter course, Obama would be recognizing that Xi is plagued by domestic problems largely of his own making. US pressure on him now would not only be strongly resented; it would be quite counterproductive. Let the Chinese people determine the fate of what Xi Jinping calls the “China dream.”

Pentagon Slush Fund Continues to Grow

MEL GURTOV – The dynamics of how the American taxpayer is endlessly tapped to provide massive and unnecessary funds for the US military is explained. Gurtov is not writing about the core military requests for defense of the U.S., but rather the corruption and global adventurism that places US personnel in harms way, and cheats the U.S. itself out of funds needed for the well being of our people.