Piecemeal Universal Peace- A Chimera or a Reality

It is yet another nuance of politics, that what sent shudders down the spine of nuclear collision months back, ended in a quiet meeting in an exquisite Singapore. The world’s most powerful Head of State, Trump (for the moment it is Putin, with the world of football with him), and the world’s most angry head, nodded in synchrony. That came after talks of nuclear buttons, strafing missiles along the coast of Japan, and missile launch experiments by Kim Jong.
Surely there might have been negotiations behind the scenes, that after the predictable Donald Trump’s denials and shifts of timings and venue, the meetings went on smoothly. Amongst the drama, the one clause the world may like to capitalize on, is that the message of de-nuclearization should spread globally, to begin with, where governments are die-hard, or unstable.
It would be naïve, to think that an influential global power, China, that was somewhat linked to the initial threats of North Korea, was not a backhand facilitator. The very omission of its name is a confirmation of its contributions, as may be interpreted by a certain political dialect. Just a benign co-incidence. The Indian PM, Narendra Modi was in Shanghai, negotiating a $100bn trade pact with China, at the same time.
All’s well that ends with the bell! The question arises why North Korea became so instantly belligerent, that too in a globally destructive manner. Why did it have to announce the west coast of US as its chosen target? And finally, the US had to heed to its tantrums, in an ambience as though nothing had happened. Will a trade treaty be the next- step? Not to be ignored to keep N Korea engaged, and brought in the mainstream of world trade and politics, much like its southern counterpart.
The answer may lie in the instances after WWII. In 1945, at the end of the war, Korea was a Japanese colony since 1910. With instructions to take away Japan’s colonies, Korea naturally came under the Cold War umbrella, with Stalin’s Russia, and the US on a collision course, dividing Korea into its two parts across the 38th parallel. One of the reasons was that Seoul would fall under the southern part.
Skipping an undefined, and indefinite role of the UN (though Chairman KPS Menon’s suggestion of having common polls was set aside), a three – year war between 1950 and 1953 broke out between the two Koreas. The North expectedly was supported by China and Russia, and the South by the US, and around twenty other allied nations and the UN.
Today’s outburst, emanates form many reasons (thankfully settled). Firstly, North Korea’s ruling family’s obsession with nuclear weapons (Kim Jong’s grandfather, father, and him), Next, the perception of a constant threat to North Korea being felt by the economically galloping South. Further economic and trade cut-off with the US being a major adversary. The socio-political diversity of an impoverished population, whose kin in the south enjoy a GDP hundred times over! Lastly, one may add the stark reality of end of family rule the world over.
It is possible that Kim’s threat was a calling attention motion, and the US knew the economic asphyxiation it was undergoing. So, the delay “yes, no” dalliance of the US administration, and finally a promise of denuclearization from Kim Jong, to get into the mainstream of world economics.
To further the analysis, with regard to the timing, it was perhaps China’s OBOR. The wise Xi timed it so startingly, that the world had no answer but to tow the line for the time being. With the US under pressure for an aggravating trade deficit with China, and so quite a few of western economies, Kim was either prompted, or took this opportune moment to recreate its brimming hostilities. It took the winter Olympics between the two nations, a trip by Gen V K Singh, to understand the real issue.
I believe it was at least a month before this extra-ordinary meet, that it was realized that Kim was seeking de-escalation of sixty years of circumstances of perceived war threats, economic bans, political ostracization, and the need for economic openings. Nuclear threats and contraptions, was perhaps all he could do. Though he enjoys an exorbitant popularity amongst his people, hunger weans away loyalties. Probably he knew that the country would soon be scraping the barrel! That he was helped in his nuclear exercises by his old confidants can’t be ruled out. But that is the way politics runs.
Trump’s unpredictably, often shows in his political antics. After a satisfying summit, he immediately announced a 25% excise on Chinese goods. Is it a retort to I wonder if that would last for long. It could be political posturing, that would settle down at mutually agreeable rates. At the same time, it is a stimulus to allied countries, to step up their manufacture to trade with the US.
Medical equipment, pharma are two sectors the US requires at competitive prices, to set-up the Universal Healthcare Program. There is little doubt that he is sticking in every pronouncement to his “America First” theme. No one said that before, but it is well accepted, that the US has greatly profited by immigrant talent!
These are uncertain times regarding governments, and methods of practicing governance. Socialists and pro-Communists are turning soft. The democracies have begun to take a stern stance!
Larger peace is likely to come in further pieces!
“Hone, na hone ka kram, isi tarah chalta rahega/ Hum hain, hum rahengey, Yeh bhram bhi sada palta rahega” A B Vajpayee
(The cycle of being and not being, shall continue the way it does/ That I am, and that I shall stay, this confusion shall also persist)

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Weekend Special: The World is Changing- Better or Worse!!

We have made some undeniable progress. So why does it feel like the world is getting worse and worse?
And now, some good news. Did you know that global poverty is going down? Did you know that global literacy is going up? Did you know that violent crime statistics are dropping and IQs are rising? Did you know that child labor and exploitation are decreasing and human rights are increasing?
Our headlines are full of social division, political gridlock, international disorder, increasing militarization, climatic disasters and other problems. Watch the news for half an hour, and it certainly appears that world conditions are getting worse and worse.
But some intelligent people argue that since news coverage inherently focuses on danger, suffering and trauma, we are getting a distorted picture of the world. They argue that the data shows a tremendous amount of human progress. And they make some compelling arguments.
So, is the world getting better and better? Or are we on the brink of World War iii? Or are both of these things true?
Measuring Progress
Harvard University psychology professor Steven Pinker believes that you are too pessimistic. His recent book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, makes a sustained argument that the world is, in fact, getting better.
In a Ted Talk based on the book, Pinker said, “Many people face the news each morning with trepidation and dread. Every day, we read of shootings, inequality, pollution, dictatorship, war and the spread of nuclear weapons. You can always fool yourself into seeing a decline if you compare bleeding headlines of the present with rose-tinted images of the past. What does the trajectory of the world look like when we measure well-being over time using a constant yardstick?”
He then compared some recent statistics to the same metrics from 30 years ago. It may surprise you to learn that the homicide rate in America has dropped from 8.5 per 100,000 to 5.3. The percentage of Americans below the poverty line (as measured by consumption) has fallen from 11 percent to 3 percent. The percentage of the world population in extreme poverty has plunged from 37 percent to 9.6 percent. Three decades ago, 23 wars were raging; as of February 2018, there were only five. The number of nuclear weapons has dropped from 60,780 to 10,325. The number of democracies has grown from 45 governments over 2 billion people to 103 governments over 4.1 billion people.
Look at a broader timeline: Over the last 200 years, life expectancy for a human being has increased from about 30 years to 71 years. Infant mortality has plummeted from 33 percent to 6 percent. Infectious diseases, undernourishment and catastrophic famines are disappearing, even in poor countries. Poverty is declining: The world is now about 100 times wealthier than it was in the early 1800s.
These are some remarkable developments, and they are indeed easy to take for granted. We don’t tend to think about how much safer, fuller, healthier, wealthier and long-living the average human being is compared to a few generations ago. But what a difference!
Another exciting trend is the rise in literacy. Two centuries ago, only 12 percent of the world could read and write. Today, it is 85 percent. After the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing, literacy is crucial not only to quality of life, but also to intellectual and even spiritual development.
Some specific statistics or trends that observers like Pinker cite might be a matter for debate. But many are legitimately, indisputably worth celebrating. We don’t tend to think about how much safer, fuller, healthier, wealthier and long-living the average human being is compared to a few generations ago. But what a difference!
Many people looking at these measurements are concluding that the world is getting better and better, and we just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. For example, former U.S. President Barack Obama said in 2016: “The world has never been less violent, healthier, better educated, more tolerant, with more opportunity for more people, and more connected than it is today.”
Yet the question remains: Why, at the same time people are eating better, consuming more and living longer, do so many of us have the sense that we are approaching a global catastrophe? Pinker’s explanation is that media coverage is a major culprit. “You never see a journalist who says, ‘I’m reporting live from a country that has been at peace for 40 years,’ or a city that has not been attacked by terrorists,” he said. “[I]f you combine our cognitive biases with the nature of news, you can see why the world has been coming to an end for a very long time indeed.”
Why Progress?
Observers like Pinker do bring up valid and underreported facts. Many measurements of human development are improving. But the fundamental question is this: What is the cause? Why are people avoiding disease, earning more money, receiving better educations?
Pinker answers the question this way: “Progress is not some mystical force or dialectic lifting us ever higher. It’s not a mysterious arc of history bending toward justice. It’s the result of human efforts governed by an idea, an idea that we associate with the 18th-century Enlightenment, namely that if we apply reason and science that enhance human well-being, we can gradually succeed. … We will never have a perfect world, and it would be dangerous to seek one. But there’s no limit to the betterments we can attain if we continue to apply knowledge to enhance human flourishing. This heroic story is not just another myth. Myths are fictions, but this one is true, true to the best of our knowledge, which is the only truth we can have.”
In a Wall Street Journal article on the same subject, Pinker summed it up this way: “The Enlightenment is working. Our ancestors replaced dogma, tradition and authority with reason, debate and institutions of truth-seeking. They replaced superstition and magic with science. And they shifted their values from the glory of the tribe, nation, race, class or faith toward universal human flourishing.”
He gives a lot of specific examples of how these approaches have produced advancements in medicine, health, food production, public safety, and peace among nations. The effects are improved health, nutrition, wealth, safety, freedom and peace among nations. The basic cause, he says is human ability.
Is it true? Have we just “figured it out”?
Forward Achievement
Many people view human history as a giant ramp, leading from human misery and ignorance upward toward greater human accomplishment and happiness. We have evolved from basic elements to single-cell organisms to more complex life forms. We are evolving to become smarter, more capable and more resilient. We used to write on papyrus, now we communicate with smartphones. We used to build chariots, now we build spacecraft.
Surely we human beings who have developed amazing technology can develop systems to end things like crime and war.
This theory has a couple of flaws.
Look again at the metrics of human progress over the past 200 years, and you can clearly see that most of them have to do with material issues. They deal with matter, with physical elements. They deal less—or not at all—with relationships between human beings.
“Why do we find a world of awesome advancement and progress, yet paradoxically with appalling and mounting evils?” Herbert W. Armstrong asked in Mystery of the Ages. ”Why cannot the minds that develop spacecraft, computers and marvels of science, technology and industry solve the problems that demonstrate human helplessness? … The developed nations have made awesome progress. They have produced a highly mechanized world providing every luxury, modern convenience and means of pleasure. Yet they are cursed with crime, violence, injustice, sickness and disease, broken homes and families.”
The Western world and much of humanity has managed to build an enormous bank of knowledge since the Dark Ages. In the past century, scientific knowledge production has multiplied over and over again. But some human advancements have peaked and are now declining. And some advancements have long-term consequences that have not yet fully come due.
“Why do we find a world of awesome advancement and progress, yet paradoxically with appalling and mounting evils?”
Take for example the decrease in famine. Pinker says we owe this remarkable achievement to crop rotation, synthetic fertilizers, hybrids and machinery. These processes do produce more food, and starvation is dramatically lower because of them. But to achieve this, we have exhausted and depleted our soils of nutrients. If we do not continue applying more and more synthetic fertilizers and industrial farming methods, huge areas will quickly become deserts. Meanwhile, these soils are producing less nutritious foods. Hence the explosion of chronic disease and the mushrooming need for ever-more clinics, medical complexes, hospitals, cancer centers and hospices.
Many of our modern miracle solutions to age-old problems come with similarly high costs. We are effectively buying advancement by going into debt—a debt that we or our children will eventually have to pay.
Pinker highlights welfare programs as another advancement. The legitimate needs these programs fill are accompanied by massive and growing abuses, bloat and political distortion. Nations are literally going into monumental, bankrupting debt to provide these “advancements.” The day of reckoning is coming.
Conditions might be better now than they were 30 years ago. But that does not mean they will be better 30 years from now.
The Reversing Trend
Some of our advancements are already starting to decline. For example, while Pinker says average IQs have risen some 30 points in the last two centuries, a massive recent study showed a 7-point drop per generation in recent times.
More generally, the ideals that Pinker (to a degree correctly) credits with having helped human progress are fading away. Our current generation is actually renouncing some of the basic principles that led to increased stability, opportunity, success and justice for millions of people over hundreds of years.
Paul Bonicelli served in the United States Agency for International Development and the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. He wrote for the Federalist: ”Although the Enlightenment has indeed been ‘working’ for some time now, ameliorating the human condition all over the world, in recent years it has been definitively rejected by the modern left and by some elements of the right. On college campuses, Enlightenment ideas about the rule of law and freedom of speech have been replaced by campus tribunals and the heckler’s veto. The Enlightenment itself is condemned for being the project of racist white men and the product of societies devoted to empire and colonialism. Even the Enlightenment notion of objective truth is scoffed at by academics and activists alike.”
Our current generation is actually renouncing some of the basic principles that led to increased stability, opportunity, success and justice for millions of people over hundreds of years.
The rule of law, the reliability of rationalism, the fact that there is such a thing as truth—these are vital principles for stability and long-term prosperity that we have taken for granted for generations. But now they are being rejected—even the very idea of democracy.
“The heady democratic expansion of the 1990s has been replaced by democratic stagnation or even recession,” wrote Foreign Policy (Sept. 8, 2016). Freedom House wrote that its Freedom in the World study found for the 12th year in a row that democracy is decreasing around the world: “[C]ountries that suffered democratic setbacks outnumbered those that registered gains. States that a decade ago seemed like promising success stories—Turkey and Hungary, for example—are sliding into authoritarian rule. The military in Myanmar, which began a limited democratic opening in 2010, executed a shocking campaign of ethnic cleansing in 2017 and rebuffed international criticism of its actions. Meanwhile, the world’s most powerful democracies are mired in seemingly intractable problems at home, including social and economic disparities, partisan fragmentation, terrorist attacks, and an influx of refugees that has strained alliances and increased fears of the ‘other.’” The Brookings Institution wrote that some analysts and policymakers believe democracy “has run its course.”
As democracies decay, authoritarians are rising in several countries, including some of the most important nations in the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin has encouraged a cult of personality, made a mockery of Russia’s elections, changed its constitution, crushed dissent, assassinated journalists, started wars, and invaded and annexed territory. Chinese President Xi Jinping has made similar changes to his country’s government, granting himself more power for longer periods and increasing his control over China’s people and military. Other strongmen include Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Saudi leader Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. The next one might take over Germany.
If humans truly are getting better and better, then the Enlightenment, rationalism, the rule of law, democracy and absolute truth were steps up the ramp of progress. Now we are rejecting those principles. By definition, this cannot be another step up the ramp to a better and better world.
An Age of Greater Danger
As we’re seeing the fall of democracy and rise of authoritarianism, we are also seeing an increase in military spending globally. Our advanced world is using its increased education, technology and wealth to produce chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and missiles, jets, ships and submarines that can launch them within minutes. In one sense, these weapons systems are an amazing advancement. In another, they are the world’s worst form of regression.
Jamsheed and Carol Choksy reported for Yale Global Online that 23 nations worldwide either stockpile chemical weapons of mass destruction or have the capacity to produce them: China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Libya, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, the United States and Vietnam.
The number of estimated nuclear weapons indeed has fallen from 60,000 to 10,000. The United States is no longer in a race against the Soviet Union to produce a larger stockpile of those warheads. But the U.S., Russia, China, Europe, Iran, other nations and even terrorists are still racing to produce newer, better, more effective weapons.
It only takes one nuclear weapon to incinerate an entire city of human progress. And a nuclear war would not stop with one strike. Nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are in the hands of imperfect, flawed human beings with limited knowledge and capacities. Some of these human beings are some of the most unstable and radical minds on this planet.
We human beings have thousands and thousands and thousands of these fiendish “advancements” just waiting to detonate.
Entire cities of advancements in sanitation, nutrition, health, commerce, thinking, liberty and law could disappear in a moment if Donald Trump, Theresa May, Benjamin Netanyahu, Emmanuel Macron, Narendra Modi, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping or Kim Jong-un presses a button to deploy a nuclear arsenal. Thousands of people have died and will die in inhumane ways if Bashar Assad, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Ali Khameni, Moon Jae-in or others launch biological or chemical weapons.
We human beings have thousands and thousands and thousands of these fiendish “advancements” just waiting to detonate.
We Have Been Wrong Before
Pinker is not the only thinker to present reasoned arguments why the world is getting better and better. In fact, experts throughout history have predicted peace and prosperity—right before war and disaster.
Even without those experts, we tend to presume that peace will continue indefinitely. But beyond our limited perspectives, there are threats that can dramatically change our lives and the lives of everyone on this planet.
British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote that livestock animals come to expect food when they see the farmer, but in the end the farmer butchers them. Because something happens often, we assume it will last forever. But a catastrophe that ends your world only has to happen once. In fact, it only can happen once. Which is why you must remain vigilant.
Human history records a long list of confident, educated, yet terribly wrong prognostications of peace. “Unquestionably, there was never a time in the history of this country when from the situation of Europe we might more reasonably expect 15 years of peace than at the present moment.” That was the British prime minister in 1792. Less than a year later, revolutionary France plunged Europe into the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars that killed millions of people.
Britain’s undersecretary at the Foreign Office informed the foreign secretary that “he had never, during his long experience, known so great a lull in foreign affairs, and that he was not aware of any important question that he should have to deal with.” That was in 1870. The same day, a new prince was crowned in Spain, resulting in the Franco-Prussian War that killed roughly half a million people.
“We old people will probably not live to see the decisive battles of the coming revolution.” That was a man named Vladimir Lenin speaking in the fall of 1917. Six weeks later, the Russian Revolution began. The ensuing Russian Civil War cost an estimated 10 million lives, the worst civil war in recorded human history.
“My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British prime minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice, quiet sleep.” That was Neville Chamberlain, after signing an agreement with Adolf Hitler. A year later, World War ii began. It did not end until around 80 million lives had been lost.
Peace and Safety’
How would you sum up this tendency in human nature? You could summarize it with something like this: “When they say ‘Peace and safety,’ then sudden destruction comes upon them.”

Black People Keep Down, Thanks to the Leftist Notions

For several decades, a few black scholars have been suggesting that the vision held by many black Americans is entirely wrong.
Shelby Steele, a scholar at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said: “Instead of admitting that racism has declined, we [blacks] argue all the harder that it is still alive and more insidious than ever. We hold race up to shield us from what we do not want to see in ourselves.”
John McWhorter, professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, lamented that “victimology, separatism, and anti-intellectualism underlie the general black community’s response to all race-related issues,” adding that “these three thought patterns impede black advancement much more than racism; and dysfunctional inner cities, corporate glass ceilings, and black educational underachievement will persist until such thinking disappears.”
In the 1990s, Harvard professor Orlando Patterson wrote, “America, while still flawed in its race relations … is now the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protection of minorities than any other society, white or black; [and] offers more opportunities to a greater number of black persons than any other society, including all those of Africa.”
The liberal Left continue to push their radical agenda against American values. The good news is there is a solution.
During an interview in December with The Daily Caller, Steele said the anti-Americanism that started during the 1960s and has become mainstream and visible in the black community is “heartbreaking and sad.” That anti-Americanism that so dominates the American black identity has been “ruinous to black America, where we are worse off than we were under segregation by almost every socio-economic measure.”
Some people might challenge Steele’s assertion that in many measures blacks are worse off than during segregation. How about some numbers?
As late as 1950, female-headed households were only 18 percent of the black population. Today 70 percent of black children are raised in single-parent households.
In the late 1800s, there were only slight differences between the black family structure and those of other ethnic groups. In New York City in 1925, for example, 85 percent of kin-related black households were two-parent households. According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers. Today about 75 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers.
From 1890 to 1940, a slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than white adults. Today about twice as many blacks have never married as whites.
The bottom line is that the black family was stronger the first 100 years after slavery than during what will be the second 100 years.
What about the labor market?
In every census from 1890 to 1954, blacks were either just as active as or more so than whites in the labor market. During that earlier period, black teen unemployment was roughly equal to or less than white teen unemployment. As early as 1900, the duration of black unemployment was 15 percent shorter than that of whites; today it’s about 30 percent longer.
Would anyone suggest that there was less racial discrimination during earlier periods?
White liberals and the Democratic Party are the major beneficiaries of keeping black people fearful, angry, victimized, and resentful. It’s crucial to both their political success and their efforts to change our nation. Racial harmony would be a disaster for leftists, be they politicians, academic liberals, or news media people.
As for black politicians and civil rights hustlers, Booker T. Washington long ago explained their agenda, writing:
There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs—partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.

Liberal Democrats understood The Communist Manifesto Better than Communists

What may have pleased him a lot is that over three fifths of his recommendations in The Communist Manifesto are already in place in most actually existing democracies. Progressive income tax, national central banks, state run communication services, cultivating waste lands, right to work, eradicating town and country differences, providing free education and, finally, banning child labour comprise the bulk of “communist” policies advocated in the Manifesto. Are we all then Marxists, at least three fifths?
Perhaps we democrats are more Marxist than Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Ceausescu’s Romania, or Hoxha’s Albania. This is because, unlike these communist regimes which advocated cabal, conspiracy, putsch and coup d’etat, Marx believed in winning over the workers through persuasion. In The Communist Manifesto, Marx said that communists should not form a separate party opposed to other working class parties and not set up sectarian principles of their own. If one were to observe this stricture strictly it would disqualify all communist regimes and most communist parties too.
Take a further step and jump to Friedrich Engels (Marx’s closest associate and interpreter) who said in 1895 that Marxists should realise street fights and gun battles are no longer acceptable. Elections have come to stay and if a fair and just system is what communists are pressing for, that can best be achieved by the ballot, and not, as the cliche goes, by the bullet. This clearly pledges allegiance to the democratic voting system which was for long undermined by established communist regimes as a bourgeois attempt to deflect attention from class struggles. Has Marx gone mainstream?
What stops us from making this final admission is the noisy and crude way The Communist Manifesto was appropriated by Stalin and others of his ilk. Consequently, all the ills of such leaders were transferred to Marx, as if he was the original sinner. Even a person of John Maynard Keynes’s eminence lost his intellectual balance on account of this and went on to say near unprintable things about Marx.
For example, he compared Marx’s Capital with the Koran as being “dreary and out of date”. Interestingly, he does not include the Bible, giving the impression that the Christian holy book stands well above Islamic sermonising. Keynes could have stopped at this red light, but he did not. Instead, he ran through the next one as well when he wrote that Bolshevism was an outcome of the “peculiar temperaments of Slavs and Jews”. If he was careless at first, he was careless on purpose the second time. Such gross political incorrectness gives us a sense of how much prime time hatred Marx excites because Stalin, Mao, and such like, swore in his name.
Today, we take as truism that human beings are products of their circumstances which they alter and, thereby, change themselves. Nobody bothers to footnote The Communist Manifesto when they say, or even imply, this. It does not matter really because this truth is so metabolised in our intellectual system. But somebody had to say this, and Marx said it first, and all of us liberal democrats take this as an article of faith today.
Marx used this method to explain why feudalism carried with it strong sentiments of loyalty, fiefdom and chivalry. In the same vein, The Communist Manifesto showed how capitalism initiated the idea and practice of freedom and how, as a consequence, it made tremendous progress. Marx lavishly praised the bourgeoisie for the huge advances they brought about in a few decades, which would have been unimaginable in the past.
For centuries, the armies of Chandragupta and Tipu Sultan marched at the same pace. Then, out of nowhere, came the steam engine and today we have supersonics. History in a hurry; that is what capitalism is about. Marx was also the first theorist to link capitalism with freedom – a full century before Milton Friedman wrote Capitalism And Freedom.
At the same time, let us face it, some of the arguments in The Communist Manifesto are kind of wild and woolly. This is especially so when Marx stoutly claimed that workers would get more impoverished by the day and would eventually be reduced to barebones subsistence. At this point, not able to bear it any longer, they would rise in animal rage and overthrow the prevailing order. Marx was clearly out of position here and this became apparent even in his lifetime. The Communist Manifesto was written in 1848 when Marx was not quite 30 years old, and occasional rushes of hot blood can be excused.
Roughly twenty years later, when he wrote Capital, he had completely changed his opinion on this subject. Now he was more interested in showing how capitalist profit was made and acknowledged that this did not necessarily mean that workers would get poorer (or purer). It was still important for his analytical understanding of profit that workers produce more than what they consume. While that position held, Marx now acknowledged that the standard of living of the wage earners advances with every progressive stride the bourgeoisie take. The matter, then, was more relative than absolute. Marx had now fully grown up.
Marx never knew Stalin, Mao or others like them and yet their errors are heaped on Marx’s grave; a clear case of the sins of the sons visiting their father.

Trump-Haters, Take Care! Trump Will be Invincible in 2020

The future, Romney predicted, would feature Trump as America’s leader at least for another six years.
“I think that not just because of the strong economy and the fact that people are going to see increasingly rising wages,” Romney said, “but I think it’s also true because I think our Democrat friends are likely to nominate someone who is really out of the mainstream of American thought and will make it easier for a president who’s presiding over a growing economy.”
The remarks from Romney marked a sharp reversal from his original impression of Trump. Romney briefly served as the face of the so-called “Never Trump” movement before the 2016 election. He delivered a scathing speech in Utah before the 2016 election, calling Trump “a con man” and “a fake.”
Yet Romney’s criticism has softened since then. And now, in the midst of a Republican Senate primary campaign, the former Massachusetts governor appears to be embracing Trump and his leadership role in the modern-day Republican Party.
He delivered the remarks on the first day of a three-day, closed-door summit in Utah’s mountains. The Associated Press was allowed to listen to Romney’s remarks during the event’s opening reception.
Dignitaries on the guest list feature included House Speaker Paul Ryan, billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner in addition to actor Seth Rogin, former Starbuck CEO Howard Schultz and former Domino’s Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle.
A recent Harvard -Harris Poll provides some insights as to why President Donald Trump’s support is actually increasing among voters.
A recent Harvard -Harris Poll provides some insights as to why President Donald Trump’s support is actually increasing among voters and offers data to explain why he may be re-elected in 2020. I realize that many people don’t want to hear that but hiding from a noxious reality is neither healthy nor helpful.
The poll of 1,347 registered voters was conducted online May 21-22 and it indicates that more Americans feel the country is headed in the right direction (36%) than when President Barack Obama left office nearly a year and a half ago. While 36% is not a number an impressive percentage at all, the “numbers behind the numbers” are pretty suggestive. For example, men (a keystone of Mr. Trump’s base) are more sanguine than women, 44% to 28%. So too are voters over 65 (42%), whites (43%), Republicans (64%), conservatives (63%), Trump’s supporters in 2016 (70%), and voters with college degrees (40%). In other words, at this point in time, the President is holding his base. Significantly, 38% of 18-34 year olds feel good about the country’s direction – a possible pick up of support from a group that was not happy with his election.
More significantly from the Harvard-Harris survey is how voters view the economy. More (45%) believe that the US economy is headed in the right direction than those who see it going in the wrong direction (40%). Here is where the cross-tabulations by demographics get really intriguing. In addition to stronger numbers within the President’s base – 53% of those 65 and older, 75% of Trump voters, 70% of conservatives, and 69% of Republicans – the view is rosier than one might believe among young voters 43% of 18-34-year olds and 45% among 35-49 year olds), Hispanics and African Americans (32% each), and independents (43%).
More than two in three (68%) tell the pollsters that the economy is strong, while 32% say it is weak – and this includes 76% of men, 61% of women, 64% or more of all age groups, 57% and 58% of Hispanics and African Americans respectively, and 63% of political moderates. And overall, more voters say they are doing better off in their personal financial situation (31%) or about the same (38%) than the one in four (25%) who say they are doing worse off. The “better off” crowd includes the 30% of Hispanics and 33% of African Americans registered in the poll.
As we know, credit and blame always go to the person in charge. In this case, 54% approve of the way Mr. Trump is handling the economy, while 46% disapprove. A whopping 62% of men approve while only 45% of women – but so too does a majority of all age groups approve, 89% of 2016 Trump supporters, as well as 42% of Hispanics and 32% of African Americans.
An equal percentage credit Mr. Trump with stimulating jobs (54%) – with similar demographic support as his approval rating on handling the economy.
What are we to make of all of this? I am a major fan of consultant of James Carville, but I have never bought into the universality of his dictum – “it’s the economy, stupid”. Voters are too complicated to be one-dimensional. There is plenty of evidence in this Harvard-Harris Poll and others to show that Mr. Trump’s style, behavior, ideology, and management are impediments to attaining more popularity. On the other hand, if there is a sense that things are getting better financially for people, that there is at least a growing feeling of optimism, and that this trend can continue, then it may prove harder to make a case that the person in charge has to be defeated. In addition, if the President can put a string of diplomatic victories together – regardless of whether or not his opponents oppose his initiatives, e.g. with Iran – then the President can bolster his creds with both his base and beyond. It will also make it much harder for Democrats to run on a slogan that argues that they can do anything “better”, as their current consultant-driven message suggests.

Changing the Era of Doubt & Mistrust

“Where trust exists and is reciprocated—where there is “confidence” in policies, institutions and systems—economies will achieve more.”
We live in an era of doubts and questions about the global order. We have seen an erosion of trust in bedrock institutions—political parties, national governments, regional authorities, and among international trade and investment partners.
We often throw around the word trust rather loosely. But serious and careful work by Luigi Zingales and several others has defined trust as “civic capital”, meaning “those persistent and shared beliefs and values that help a group overcome the free rider problem in the pursuit of socially valuable activity.”
They find that where trust exists and is reciprocated—where there is “confidence” in policies, institutions and systems—economies will achieve more.
But when it is depleted, when people come to believe that the “system” does not reflect their values, is not under their control, and no longer works to their benefit, economies will underperform.
There are three broad reasons for the erosion of trust:
First, is the reaction to globalization—or, more specifically the dislocations that have occurred in our interconnected global economy. Many people believe that it has not delivered fair outcomes, and that there is a lack of accountability for leaders and those who have gained the most.
Second, the global financial crisis, and the slow, decade-long recovery that followed exacerbated this trend. Governments have been blamed for failing to prevent the crisis and then compounding the difficulties by failing to engineer a swift recovery. For many, the past decade only provided proof that special interests had hijacked institutions, that corruption is endemic, and working people are left holding the bag.
Deep anger was directed at the bankers—although, ironically, recent surveys show that trust in banks is now returning. That no doubt reflects the reform that followed the crisis, which underlines one key lesson: trust can be rebuilt.
The third factor is technology. The rise of automation, AI, big data, e-commerce, and fintech each have huge potential. But they also deepen worries about the future of work, the sustainability of established businesses, the spread of cyber-criminality, and the weaponization of data. It should come as no surprise that we are witnessing a loss of trust in the big internet giants.
The rise of populist political movements and parties and protectionist sentiments may be the most obvious consequence of the trust recession, along with the anger in many countries about income inequality. But there is a deeper tendency at work—a shift as people place their trust in local entities or single-issue entities where citizens feel they can regain a sense of control. This includes civil society organizations, social and political movements, and communities that form online.
While decentralization gives people a sense of belonging and local impact, this fragmentation comes with a fundamental downside consequence. The more trust resides at local and decentralized levels, the less those who are trusted will have the power and authority to address and solve problems that inherently require centralized authority, and, in an increasing number of cases, regional and global cooperation.
For example, trust in some European institutions has suffered from concerns about overreach. Discontent and suspicion of supranational bodies and regulation has generated a backlash in recent elections.
Europe faces additional vulnerabilities as long as elements of the regional construct remain incomplete. With work remaining on banking union and the harmonization of national regulations and practices in the financial sector, the risk is a further erosion of trust. On the upside, progress on further integration there could renew trust. What is proving difficult is contending with risk reduction—the legacies of crisis and national policy indiscipline—while building elements of risk sharing. Unless that balance is properly struck, trust may be hard to maintain, if citizens in some countries see themselves as payers and others as receivers.
On the global level, distrust of global agreements and institutions is most evident in the realm of trade and foreign direct investment—witness the turn toward bilateral negotiations and treaties and the talk of unilateral actions. Cooperation for mutual gain is the only sure way to avoid the risk of damaging escalation in trade tensions. But by the same token, globalization will not receive sustained, broad support unless it is based on free and fair trade and investment practices. That means being willing to update rules and institutions commensurate with the growing sophistication and complexity of the global economy—and as technology changes the economic landscape. All countries need to work to improve their own policies, and work together to take account of the dislocations from globalization and technology.
The IMF is no stranger to distrust. We have been at the center of crisis and controversy. We have faced pressure again and again to reform to meet the changing needs and expectations of the international community. We feel it again now in discussions about the global financial safety net, which is needed as a bulwark against future crises.
Over the past decade, the Fund has taken important steps to make our decision making more reflective of changes in the global economy, with emerging market countries gaining a larger voice.
Our work must continue. We must become better attuned to ideas and grievances coming from all corners of the globe—and that includes addressing corruption concerns. We must demonstrate that we are a learning, evolving, and competent institution. But more importantly, we must prove that there is still reason to work together for global goods that benefit all people and transcend national and parochial boundaries.
It is crucial to prepare multilateralism for a world where trust and authority are more decentralized. Our multilateral institutions are more critical than ever. The way we rebuild confidence is to make sure that cooperation leads to concrete gains that benefit all people, and that these gains are widely shared. We can restore trust in institutions and larger purposes if we set out to regain the sense that something concrete can be achieved by working together.

The Unacknowledged Palestinian “Treason”

The Arabs have victimized the Palestinians. It is an assault on them- willingly or unwillingly. But have the Palestinians been pristinely pure? Have they not been guilty of treachery, dishonesty, chicanery, and deceit? They have been as seen in my earlier article. (https://drlamba.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/poor-palestinians-victims-of-arab-apartheid/)  They have been guilty as hell and all the sympathy that they garner for being unwitting victims is lost when we see their perfidy.
The Palestinians’ problem is not with a settlement or a checkpoint or a fence. They have a problem with the existence of Israel in any borders. Palestinians have still not come to terms with Israel’s right to exist, period; this is the essence of the Israeli-Arab conflict. They see Israel as one big settlement that needs to be ripped out
Palestinian leaders have spent the past few months calling for boycotts of Israel and the US. The most recent call came just a few weeks ago, when Palestinian Authority leaders and officials called on all countries to boycott the inauguration ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
One of the officials who called for boycotting the ceremony was Ahmed Majdalani, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, and a top advisor to President Mahmoud Abbas. Majdalani is also famous for his repeated calls in the past few years for boycotting Israel in all fields. Ahmed Majdalani is now being accused by his own people of promoting “normalization” between Palestinians and Israel.
It seems that Majdalani is being forced to taste the same medicine he has been prescribing for Israel and the US. His efforts to promote boycotts of Israel and the US have backfired. Ironically, the boycotter Majdalani is now being boycotted by his own people. This is what happens when all you preach to your people day and night is hatred, incitement and boycotts. Eventually, you yourself become affected by the same messages of hate and brainwashing. It is worth noting that those who took the decision to ban the PLO official Majdalani from entering Palestinian universities are living under the “moderate” Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, not under Hamas rule.
So what crime exactly did Majdalani commit and why has he become the subject of fierce criticism and calls for boycotting him?
It turns out the senior PLO official and promoter of boycotts has committed two “crimes”: First, he accepted an invitation to attend the annual Herzliya Conference organized by the Israeli think-tank, the Institute for Policy and Strategy. Second, when Majdalani was asked to comment on the criticism from Palestinians for his participation in the Israeli conference, he replied: “My participation in the Herzliya Conference is not different from my participation in events organized, for example, by Bir Zeit University.”
The annual conference is held at the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya — a nonsectarian research college near Tel Aviv that was founded in 1994 based on the model of the American Ivy League Universities.
This was not the first time that Majdalani had attended the Herzliya Conference. In the past, he also faced strong condemnations for agreeing to be part of a conference organized by an Israeli think-tank.
This time, however, his critics decided that condemnations were not enough. Majdalani has now been handed a severe punishment; he has been banned from entering or speaking at any Palestinian university.
Dr. Amjad Barham, chairman of the General Workers’ Union at Palestinian Universities, announced on May 22 that his union has decided to boycott Majdalani and not receive him at any university campus. He said the decision would be reversed only if Majdalani, a senior PLO official, apologizes for reportedly equating a Palestinian university and an Israeli educational institution.
Dr. Barham explained that the decision to boycott Majdalani came on the heels of the union’s opposition to any form of “academic normalization” with Israel. “Our union will work hard to hold accountable any official or academic who is involved in promoting normalization with Israel and we will ask all Palestinian universities to boycott him or her,” he said. “Any Palestinian academic who commits the crime of promoting academic normalization with Israel will be punished and banned from setting foot in any Palestinian university.
The Workers Union at Bir Zeit University also issued a similar call for boycotting Majdalani. The union said it was furious with the senior PLO official not only because he had attended an Israeli conference, but also because he had dared draw a parallel between Bir Zeit University and an Israeli educational institution. The chairman of the union, Sameh Abu Awwad, said that any Palestinian who is caught involved in promoting any form of “normalization” with Israel would be subject to punitive measures and boycotts. “We have issued an order banning Majdalani from entering our university,” Abu Awwad said. “There is no room for normalizers [with Israel] on our campus.”
So now the PLO official is permitted to enter any Israeli university, but he is persona non grata at Palestinian universities or other academic institutions. How dare he draw a comparison between a Palestinian and Israeli university? How dare he attend a conference alongside Israeli academics, politicians and experts? An intolerable crime, from the Palestinian point of view.
It is worth noting that those who took the decision to ban the PLO official from entering Palestinian universities are living under the “moderate” Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Those who banned Majdalani from Palestinian universities and report to the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education, not Hamas.
This is the same Palestinian Authority that receives funds from the US and EU. In other words, Americans and Europeans are funding Palestinians who are opposed to any form of “normalization” with Israel. For these Palestinians, it would be better if Israel simply disappeared than having to engage in any kind of collaboration with it. Anyone who opposes “normalization” with Israel is actually acting against peace with Israel. How can there ever be peace between Palestinians and Israel if Palestinians are staunchly opposed to “normalization” with Israel? This leads us only to one conclusion: that Americans and Europeans are funding Palestinians who seek the annihilation of Israel.
Let us clarify for the sake of clarity. The Palestinians’ anti-normalization campaign against Israel means that Palestinians are not interested in peace with Israel. What they seek is not peace with Israel, but peace without Israel. They want to see Israel gone from the Middle East. They want to see Jews vanish from the region.
The Palestinians’ problem is not with a settlement or a checkpoint or a fence. They have a problem with the existence of Israel in any borders. Palestinians have still not come to terms with Israel’s right to exist, period; this is the essence of the Israeli-Arab conflict. They see Israel as one big settlement that needs to be ripped out.
Back to Majdalani. There is no doubt that from now on this senior PLO official will find himself welcome on campuses in Israel. In fact, he has already spoken at various campuses and other platforms in Israel. But Majdalani knows that from now on he will be putting his life at risk if he ever again sets foot on a Palestinian campus.
Yet, Majdalani has only himself to blame. He has long been promoting boycotts of not only Israel, but also the US. If, day and night, you ram down the throats of your people that Palestinians must boycott Israel, what do you expect your people to do when they see you participating in a conference organized by an Israeli institution?
The controversy surrounding Majdalani’s participation in the Herzliya Conference could serve as a useful wake-up call to the West. If a PLO official’s visit to a conference in Israel is labelled treason, what would happen to a Palestinian who signed a peace agreement with Israel? No education for peace with Israel on the Palestinian side – rather, decades of Palestinian education for war with Israel – translates into an interminable Arab-Israeli conflict. And no wishful thinking on the part of anyone will change that.

Poor Palestinians: Victims of Arab Apartheid

Palestinians proclaim from the house-tops that they have been betrayed and that they are victims- victims of appalling apartheid. victims of inept and harrowing discrimination. Yes, that is all true. But the truth goes beyond that, They are discriminated against; but not by Christians, not by Jews, not even by Hindus. The real villains are the Arabs. And yet, the Palestinians are either asleep or wilfully ignorant. Let us the facts:
Lebanon is one of several Arab countries where Palestinians are subjected to discriminatory and apartheid laws and measures. The plight of Palestinians in Arab countries, however, is apparently of no interest to the international community, and pro-Palestinian activists and groups around the world.
Recently, the Lebanese authorities placed electronic screening gates at all entrances to Ain Al-Hilweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. The move has sparked a wave of protests in Ain Al-Hilweh and among Palestinians living in other refugee camps in Lebanon, who are describing the installation of the electronic gates as collective punishment.
Until a few years ago, Ain Al-Hilweh had a population of 75,000. However, with the influx of refugees from Syria, which began in 2011, the camp’s population is now estimated at more than 160,000.
About two years ago, the Lebanese army began building a security fence around Ain Al-Hilweh as part of an effort to combat jihadi terror groups that were reported to have infiltrated the camp. With the completion of the fence, the Lebanese authorities, in a move that has surprised the Palestinians, decided to install electronic gates to screen all those entering and leaving the camp. The Lebanese authorities say the gates are critical to discovering explosives and other types of weapons.
The installation of the electronic gates came during the holy month of Ramadan — a move that has further exacerbated tensions inside Ain Al-Hilweh and drawn strong condemnations from the camp residents and other Palestinians.
Leaders of several Palestinian factions in Lebanon who held an emergency meeting earlier this week to discuss the installation of the electronic gates called on the Lebanese government to ease security restrictions on the camp residents. Some of the leaders claimed that the new gates were part of a US-led “conspiracy” targeting Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. “We fear that the recent Lebanese measures are in compliance with US pressure on the Lebanese government to impose punitive measures against the Palestinian camps [in Lebanon],” said a Palestinian official who attended the emergency meeting. He claimed that most of the terrorists wanted by the Lebanese authorities had left Ain Al-Hilweh in spite of the tough security measures surrounding the camp, and as such there was no justification for the electronic gates.
According to residents of Ain Al-Hilweh, the electronic gates have turned their lives into misery, resulting in long lines and delays as Lebanese soldiers conduct thorough searches on Palestinians leaving and entering the camp. They claim that the gates were placed at all the entrances to the camp, although only after the security situation inside the camp had relatively improved and recently been calm. “Such security measures are unjustified and serve to only increase anger and frustration,” argued Yasser Ali, an official with a group that represents Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. “Why are they dealing with Ain Al-Hilweh as if it were an island full of diseases?”
In the past few days, residents of the camp have staged a number of protests against the electronic gates, and demanded an end to the Lebanese authorities’ harsh measures against Palestinians in Ain Al-Hilweh in particular and Lebanon in general. “We prefer to die than to be humiliated,” and “The people in the camp challenge the gates,” the protesters chanted.
A Palestinian human rights organization condemned the Lebanese army’s decision to place electronic gates at the entrances to the camp. He said the measure turns all the residents of Ain Al-Hilweh into suspected terrorists. “This measure is an insult and humiliation to the camp residents and an assault on their dignity,” the organization said in a statement.
“Such electronic gates are used at airports and international borders, and it is hard to understand why they are being used to screen residents of a camp. Clearly, this is collective punishment that affects tens of thousands of people. The security measures, including the electronic gates and the concrete fence have turned the camp into a real prison. The residents have become prisoners who are permitted to enter and leave only with the permission of the military, which is standing at the entrances.”
Some Palestinians have called out Lebanon’s leaders for their hypocrisy. “In whose interest is it to humiliate the Palestinians in Lebanon?” asked Palestinian political commentator Ahmed Al-Haj Ali. “How can Lebanese officials experience schizophrenia when they talk about liberating Palestine while they are imposing strict measures against the Palestinians?”
On June 13, a delegation representing Palestinian factions met with Bahia Hariri, a Lebanese parliament member who happens to be the aunt of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and appealed to her to intervene to have the gates removed from the entrances to Ain Al-Hilweh. The delegation complained to her that the gates have had a negative impact on the lives of the camp residents and urged her to use her influence with the Lebanese authorities to ease restrictions imposed on Palestinians in Lebanon.
Here it is worth noting that the 450,000 Palestinians in Lebanon have long been suffering from a policy of systematic discrimination and marginalization by the Lebanese authorities in all aspects.
Until 2005, Palestinians were barred from 70 different categories of qualified professions, such as medicine, law and engineering. Although the Lebanese Minister of Labor issued a memorandum in 2005 permitting Palestinians to work legally in manual and clerical jobs, the ban on Palestinians seeking professional employment has remained in place. In 2001, the Lebanese parliament passed a law that prevents Palestinians from owning and inheriting property. In addition, Palestinian refugees have no access to Lebanese government hospitals. As one Palestinian pointed out:
“The Palestinians in Lebanon and other Arab countries are treated as if they are not human beings. The Arabs hold us in ghettoes and deny us basic human rights. In Lebanon, Palestinian refugee camps are like a zoo or a prison. This is shameful that Arabs are capable of treating their fellow Arabs in such a manner. Even more shameful is the silence of the international community and the UN.”
As if that were not enough, in 2007 the Lebanese army launched a large military operation against another refugee camp, Nahr Al-Bared, killing hundreds of people and destroying most of the houses there. Most of the 32,000 camp residents were forced to flee their homes. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), “the effects of this displacement have compounded the already severe socioeconomic conditions facing these refugees and constitute a chronic humanitarian crisis.”
The residents of Ain Al-Hilweh now fear that the tough security measures around their camp, including the placement of the electronic gates, mean that they could meet the same fate.
That is why they are planning to step up their protests in the coming days and weeks. However, the Palestinians in Lebanon would be mistaken to pin high hopes on the international community or Palestinian leaders.
The international community pays attention to the Palestinians only when it is possible to blame Israel. The only Palestinians who seem to win the attention of the international community and media are those living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and who are in direct conflict with Israel. Palestinians living in ghettos in the Arab world and who are being killed and displaced by Arab armies do not attract any attention from the international community or mainstream media.
No one cares when an Arab country mistreats and discriminates and kills Palestinians. But when something happens in the West Bank or Gaza Strip, the international media and community suddenly wake up. Why? Because they do not want to miss an opportunity to condemn Israel.
The residents of Ain Al-Hilweh would have been fortunate had Israel placed the electronic gates at the entrances to their camp. Then, dozens of foreign journalists and human rights activists would have converged on the camp to document an Israeli “violation of Palestinian human rights.” One can only imagine the uproar in the world were Israel to pass a law denying Arabs jobs or the right to inherit property.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are now living in a ghetto called Ain Al-Hilweh, and the world seems to be fine with that. In fact, most Palestinians in Lebanon have long been living in ghettos surrounded by the Lebanese army.
There are no protests on the streets of London or Paris. The UN Security Council has not — and will not — hold an emergency session to condemn Lebanon. Of course, the mainstream media in the West is not going to report about Arab apartheid and repressive measures against Palestinians. As for the leaders of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they do not have time to address the problems of the camp residents. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are too busy fighting each other and the last thing they have on their minds are the interests and well-being of their people.

WTO: A Achievement of Civilisation or Mere Temporary Experiment

On June 6, the European Union and Canada initiated dispute complaints, under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU), with the US concerning tariffs imposed by Washington on steel and aluminum imports. US President Donald Trump imposed a 25% import tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum on the grounds that these imports threaten to impair national security.
According to the International Trade Organization (ITO), US steel imports are four times that of exports and rising. Three-quarters of these imports are from just eight countries, although it imports from 100 countries.
WTO has faced existential crises before. It has found its ability to thrash out consensus being questioned— as exemplified in the stalemate on the Doha Round negotiations crucial for developing countries—or weakened, through mushrooming plurilateral deals and the establishment of Inter-State Dispute Settlement regimes. The current attempt by the US to chip away at the basic structure of international trade by removing all components of predictability and paralysing the system by blocking crucial appointments is unprecedented.
Won’t give an inch
The broad categories of actions are: US imposing ‘safeguard’ duties of 30% on imported solar cells and duties of 20-50% on imported large residential washers under Section 201 of DSU; US tariffs on imported steel and aluminum under Section 232; an action against China following a Section 301investigation of China’s trade practices that ‘discriminates’ against US intellectual property; and aSection 232 investigation into auto and auto part imports that impacts the US auto industry.
Of these, the second category attracts attention because it affects the US’s allies as well as its trade partners. The rarely used law, Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which allows imposing tariffs citing national security primarily because the ‘safeguards’ rules that countries have traditionally whipped up to impose temporary tariffs on imports, are harder to use because of prior WTO panel rulings.
A situation emerged where the affected countries sought consultations, arguing that the tariffs are safeguard measures that come under the globally drawn Safeguards Agreements. Meanwhile, the US insists that these are not safeguard measures but ones that concern national security.
In response to steel and aluminum taxes, the affected countries have announced their intention to exercise their “rights under Article 8.2 of the Safeguards Agreement”, suspending concessions on US imports.
Beijing has unveiled rebalancing tariffs of 128 products, targeting about $3 billion of US imports. India will impose additional duties of 5-50% on 20 tariff lines, totalling $165.56 million June 21onwards.
And the EU, among other measures, will impose a 25% additional tariffs from June 20 on more than 180 tariff lines, with theoretical additional duties of $700 million.
Japan, Russia and Turkey have similar ‘rebalancing’ plans submitted to the WTO’s Goods Council. China has warned that the US action severely damages the stability of the multilateral trading system.
“This institution does not deserve to die through asphyxiation,” Ricardo Ramírez-Hernández, two-term judge on the WTO’s appellate body, said in his farewell speech. The US has been blocking appointments to the spot left vacant by Ramirez and others, to the appellate body, the highest court for trade disputes between its 164-member countries, for over 17 months now.
The current situation has grave implications for WTO. Countries will run with one leg tied to the White House, which will become the epicentre for bilateral negotiations to resolve disputes that should have been resolved at WTO. Trade experts believe that the EU will not be able to hold on to its tough declarations.
The New York Times, citing diplomatic officials, said that there is a possibility of the EU buying huge quantities of US LNG, or support the US in changing the rules of WTO’s dispute settlement system to assuage the Trump administration. This displays the raw might of both private and public actors to ride over consensus-based international rules, where smaller countries don’t stand a chance.
Regardless of how dispute panels rule on the metals tariff issue, the outcome will engender problematic responses. If it goes for the affected countries, then the US may withdraw from WTO or ignore the ruling. And if it goes in favour of the US, then it sets aprecedent for more trade-restrictive nationalistic policies threatening multilateralism.
This may also push countries to take the Article 25 route of expeditious arbitration within WTO as an alternative means of dispute settlement, or the plurilaterals’ route. Both would spell the recalibration of a predictable and rules-based trading system.
As WTO deputy director-general Karl Brauner said at Ramirez’s farewell, it remains to be seen if WTO was an achievement of civilisation, or only a temporary experiment.

Donald Trump: Delivering results? Yes, he can & is doing

Brad Todd’s and Salena Zito’s The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics starts with a telling anecdote. Lifelong Ohio Democrat voter Bonnie Smith had a change of heart and voted for Donald Trump in 2016 because she and her husband believed that the Democratic Party was no longer speaking of their interests. It was a tough decision, but could not just “show up and vote for who my party tells me I had to vote for”. It was this powerful sentiment propelling voters like the Smiths to vote for Trump that was, perhaps, the most under-recognized element of the 2016 election.
So why is this important some 19 months after November 2016? The wild reaction to Trump’s presidency so far by certain sections in the US mirror the hysterics to his election-year slugfest that saw him come from nowhere to win the presidency.
Every attempt has been made to denigrate and downplay his achievements, while playing up his missteps, even the silly ones (remember the brouhaha over ‘covfefe’?).
There was the charge of Trump’s supposed failure to enact legislation and push through policies. Much was made out of the failed attempts to scrap Obamacare. Tax cuts were supposed to bomb, but that was before companies announced bonuses, stepped up hiring and households getting more ‘take home’ money. Then came North Korea.
This has been Trump’s first big foreign policy success. The US, along with South Korea and with a nudge from China, managed to convince an overly sensitive, suspicious Kim Jong-un not only to agree to talks but also to fly to Singapore for a face to-face meeting with the US president. Of course, this summit needs follow-through to show intended results.
Much depends on the concessions offered by the US and whether Kim actually agrees to denuclearise North Korea, considering having nuclear weapons has been, paradoxically, the country’s only strategic trump card.
But much of the US ‘liberal’ mainstream media —of which we are more aware of here in India —has chosen to downplay Trump’s role in bringing about this historic event.
The fact of the matter is that Trump is winning. The US economy is growing and 15,000-20,000 new jobs are being created every month. The confidence of small business is at a 34-year high with many wanting to expand and increase prices. Trump is also reordering the US’ relationship with global major powers.
Whether it will last and fulfil his promises remains to be seen. There are challenges ahead. We don’t know how much the high tariffs will hurt workers and the economy, and whether new trade deals can be struck quickly. Runaway inflation and high-interest rates can wreck growth. All this, while Trump still has to get over the investigations into the alleged intervention of Russia in the 2016 elections and help Republicans win in the November mid-term elections. But the latest polls will tell you that Trump and the Republicans are gaining ground.
In the summer of 1987, President Ronald Reagan urged his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down the Berlin Wall”. Thirty-one summers later, Trump may have set the wheels in motion to tear down the ‘wall’ separating North and South Korea, one of the last vestiges of the Cold War. And that is the real significance of the Singapore summit