This New Year is in danger of starting off with a real bang. Russia is poised to invade Ukraine because it can’t think of a better way to solve a major problem. China is flexing its muscles and looking to finally remove the thorn in its side that is Taiwan, now that the US has a woke military and incompetent leadership and can’t intervene effectively. Iran is feverishly working to refine enough uranium to nuke Israel out of existence, clearing the way to make the Middle East safe for its brand of Islam.
Meanwhile, on the home front, we have a Left that is determined to erase the last vestiges of a Constitutional government, replacing it by its own form of Democratcy. No, that isn’t a misspelling. The “t” is silent, just the way they want all conservatives to be. They were right that Donald Trump was a threat to their Democratcy.
They are so close – they just need to get their voting laws passed so they can prevent a 2022 bloodbath and secure their power forever.
Autocrats worldwide are looking at how they can squeeze the last dregs of justification from a minor disease pandemic that became a major political pandemic. They have managed in a short period to wipe out millennia of Western progress toward individual liberty and rule of law, replacing it with collectivist fantasies and rule of whim. Finally, they don’t have to listen to all those whiney populists who think they should have a say and can get back to real power like we used to have. Off with their heads! Long live the king.
Russia, Ukraine, and Dealmaker Donald
Russia betrayed the Revolution and the Left has never forgiven them. Communism is such a perfect system, and when the USSR capitulated to capitalism in ’89, that was a huge step backward, at least from their viewpoint. Russia must be punished for its transgression. There was a real concern with The Donald in office that he might make a deal with Putin that would be advantageous to both countries. After all, Putin is a Russian patriot who wants to make Russia great again. The Left had to drive a wedge between the countries so that couldn’t happen, hence stories about Russia interfering in our elections, and Russia helping Trump – Russia, Russia, Russia, 24/7.
By preventing Trump from building a productive relationship between the US and Russia, the Left has pushed Russia to reluctantly develop closer ties with China, a situation that benefits almost no one except China. Anyone who knows the history of the last few decades knows that China has long lusted after the rich resources of the Russian territory east of the Urals. For years, the Sino-Soviet border was on the brink of armed conflict. Russia remembers the last time they were overrun by Mongol hordes and doesn’t relish a repeat. The dragon and the bear don’t play well together.
But Russia has two major problems to solve.
First, Russia needs foreign exchange. There are things it needs to buy from the West, and it doesn’t have the cash. Russia needs to sell to the West in order to get the cash, and what it has the most to sell is natural gas. Europe needs natural gas and is willing to buy, but a main route of transport is through Ukraine. The pipelines through Ukraine from Russia to Europe have been sources of conflict for years.
Imagine if Dealmaker Donald were to have the US act as a neutral third party to negotiate a mutually beneficial arrangement between the two countries, where Ukraine would grant safe passage for the pipelines in exchange for a reasonable license fee and other terms, all overseen by the US to make sure the parties play fair and stick to their agreements. That could be a win-win for everyone, including Donald. Not something the Left ever wanted to happen.
The second problem is more difficult.
One of Russia’s greatest needs is for a European port that is ice-free year-round. A good port is essential both for commercial trade and for the support of a military navy. During the days of the USSR, the Soviets built up a huge set of port facilities at Sevastopol in Crimea. In case anyone hasn’t looked at a map lately, Sevastopol is at the south end of Ukraine, and Russia is at the north. Land access to the port from Russia is through eastern Ukraine. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia suddenly found itself cut off from the port facilities it needed and had helped build.
Ukraine has some legitimate grievances with Russia, dating from the early days of the Soviet Union when Stalin confiscated the grain from Ukrainian farmers and left many of them to starve in the 30s. Other events since have not endeared the Ukrainians to the Russians, but now they are confronting the possibility of a war with Russia over the eastern part of the country. That is a war that could spill over into Europe, and even involve the US through NATO.
Again, the US could act as peacemaker and broker for an agreement that would give Russia free access to its port, while preserving the integrity of Ukraine and preventing a needless war. The Donald would know how to work a deal, but our war hawk Left wants nothing to do with a peaceful solution. Russia must be punished, and a war would make a nice distraction from our own troubles with an illegitimate administration. It would have the added benefit of keeping Trump from getting the Nobel Peace Prize for actually, you know, promoting peace. Having a third party involved allows the other parties to avoid looking like they are capitulating to a threat, or being a bad guy on the world stage.
Unfortunately, we are living in the real world. Instead of Donald, a competent President, we have a weak pretender in office. He would have zero credibility to negotiate a dish of ice cream, let alone a stable international agreement. Who else could do the job? Boris Johnson? Much as I like him, he is having trouble negotiating the UK through Brexit. Xi? That would be like asking the fox to provide security for the henhouse. Macron? Merkel? The list of candidates is short and seriously lacking. DeSantis might manage, but as a private citizen, he can’t negotiate for the US, and the Leftist regime would as likely appoint him as they would Trump.
America is one of the few countries in the world that would have both the power and the moral authority to make such deals and make them stick. Our own Civil War to end slavery, World War II when we were the only major power left standing and could have owned the world, yet instead, we stepped back and helped our former enemies rebuild, as well as numerous other attempts, some successful, some not to support freedom and individual liberty, all give us credibility. There is a reason that we were the world’s policeman for the last 80 years.
So why should I, a mere scientist and not some DC foreign policy wonk, presume to offer such advice. Aside from the fact that the current crop of DC foreign policy wonks has an abysmal track record of late. Over a long and varied career if have had the opportunity to learn a bit about people, and what works and what doesn’t. For one thing, the suggestions are basic Game Theory – the science of making correct decisions in the face of many competing and conflicting interests. I have also learned a bit about arbitration where a neutral third party can offer suggestions and solutions that would be rejected if they came from one of the involved parties. Regardless of my qualifications, we need to open the box of possible solutions before we light matches in a gunpowder factory. Time is short.
China – the awakening dragon
China has a long history of isolationism and self-containment. This current expansionism is a new thing for them, driven by sudden economic prosperity coupled with the effects of a social mistake a few years back. Consider that as late as 60 years ago, China was still considered a third-world country. Overpopulated, economically deprived, burdened with a hard-line Communist government, it was ill-equipped to play any significant role in world politics.
Western businesses saw China as both a pool of low-cost labor, as well as a huge potential market, and set about taking advantage of both. Nixon’s efforts to normalize relations with Communist China opened the doors to widespread development of low-cost manufacturing and transfer of jobs and technology to China. Since manufacturing is one of the primary sources of new wealth, and since China under Communism could control labor and material costs in the same way other monopolies could, China experienced a dramatic growth in national wealth. Largely as a result of Western investments, in a few short years, China went from a poor third world country to a technologically advanced world power.
Although China has a long history as a (mostly) civilized country, often advanced relative to other parts of the world, this new prosperity and its attendant growth in power is something China has not had time to grow into. As a consequence, there is both a current of uncertainty, as well as of superiority and arrogance among its leaders. This is a dangerous combination that can lead to serious mistakes, such as the forcible annexation of Taiwan.
Ever since the Nationalist Chinese fled to Taiwan after the Communist takeover of the mainland, the Communist government has maintained that Taiwan is an illegitimate state and is really part of mainland China. Flush with their newfound economic and military power, the current Chinese leaders see the takeover of Taiwan as rectification of an improper condition, as well as a way to distract its population from various internal problems.
The problem is that Taiwan, despite its small size and island status, is a critical supplier of some of the world’s technology components. Chip foundries on Taiwan produce much of the global supply of memory chips used in computer systems across the world. Processor chips, logic chips, special purpose consumer and industrial chips are sourced and supplied from Taiwan with little significant competition from other producers. Takeover by Communist China would put all that production in the hands of the CCP, creating a global vulnerability to Chinese policy.
Consider that many of the chips used in industrial control systems are produced in Taiwan. After a Communist takeover, the CCP could mandate that circuitry be added to the chips that would allow them to be shut down by remote command. This has already been a concern regarding systems assembled in the mainland and would leave Western industries open to a kind of blackmail by the CCP. We saw last year how much disruption was caused by a computer virus that shut down a major pipeline in the US. Imagine what could be done with embedded kill switches in our electric grid, our transportation network, water supplies, and elsewhere.
Communist China has not been good at the kind of transparency that would be necessary to build trust among customers of complex control chips. Already some of the leading technology companies are working to build their own foundries outside Taiwan to protect themselves from supply and technology issues that would result from a CCP takeover. China would do far better to leave Taiwan alone rather than creating incentives for the rest of the world to move away from Chinese manufacturing. Many other places would be happy to step into the void.
A social policy mistake
In 1980, China instituted a “One Child Policy” as a population control measure. It had a number of unintended consequences and was finally abandoned in 2015. During its operation, however, male children were considered more valuable than females, so many girl babies were aborted, abandoned, or outright killed. Now China has a surplus of tens of millions of males in their twenties and early thirties who are unable to find mates. Unmarried males have a lot of energy. When they marry, that energy is channeled into building a family and working to create a stable future. If they can’t marry, they are a source of conflict and social disruption. China is “solving” the problem by inducting many of them into the military. That creates another problem as you now have excess males with a lot of energy who are trained and armed.
Sadam Hussien had a similar problem with Islam, where some men had multiple wives, leaving other men with none. He pulled those excess males into his army, but then had to do something with them. The invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf war was the result.
China is now facing the same problem and may be looking at military conflict as a “solution” to use up the excess. This is a very dangerous situation both for China and for the rest of the world. It doesn’t help that the “one-child” generation has been spoiled and taught they are “special”. That gives them an excess confidence that can tempt them to undertake dangerous activities like invading other countries. This is a problem with no easy solution.
We haven’t even begun to address the issues of Covid, vaccine mandates, the Middle East, growth of totalitarianism, and the Democrat coup attempt. All material for the future. 2022 looks to be an interesting year.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
By David Robb
David Robb is a regular contributor to The Blue State Conservative and a practicing scientist who has been working in industry for over 50 years. One of his specialties is asking awkward questions. A large part of his work over the years has involved making complex scientific issues clear and understandable to non-specialists. Sometimes he even succeeds.