Archive for February, 2012

AGENCIES IN THE UNITED STATES WANT TO EXPAND DRONE USE AT HOME

February 29, 2012

Fox news on February 26, 2012, published an AP report beginning with the words: Heads up: Drones are going mainstream. Excerpts from the report can be found below:

Civilian cousins of the unmanned military aircraft that have tracked and killed terrorists in the Middle East and Asia are in demand by police departments, border patrols, power companies, news organizations and others wanting a bird’s-eye view that’s too impractical or dangerous for conventional planes or helicopters to get.

“It’s going to be the next big revolution in aviation. It’s coming,” says Dan Elwell, the Aerospace Industries Association’s vice president for civil aviation.

Some impetus comes from the military, which will bring home drones from Afghanistan and wants room to test and use them. In December, Congress gave the Federal Aviation Administration six months to pick half a dozen sites around the country where the military and others can fly unmanned aircraft in the vicinity of regular air traffic, with the aim of demonstrating they’re safe.

The Defense Department says the demand for drones and their expanding missions requires routine and unfettered access to domestic airspace, including around airports and cities. In a report last October, the Pentagon called for flights first by small drones both solo and in groups, day and night, expanding over several years. Flights by large and medium-sized drones would follow in the latter half of this decade.

Other government agencies want to fly drones, too, but they’ve been hobbled by an FAA ban unless they first receive case-by-case permission. Fewer than 300 waivers were in use at the end of 2011, and they often include restrictions that severely limit the usefulness of the flights.

Congress has told the FAA that the agency must allow civilian and military drones to fly in civilian airspace by September 2015. This spring, the FAA is set to take a first step by proposing rules that would allow limited commercial use of small drones for the first time.

Drones come in all sizes, from the high-flying Global Hawk with its 116-foot wingspan to a hummingbird-like drone that weighs less than an AA battery and can perch on a window ledge to record sound and video. Lockheed Martin has developed a fake maple leaf seed, or “whirly bird,” equipped with imaging sensors, that weighs less than an ounce.

Potential civilian users are as varied as the drones themselves.

Power companies want them to monitor transmission lines. Farmers want to fly them over fields to detect which crops need water. Ranchers want them to count cows.

Journalists are exploring drones’ newsgathering potential.

The aerospace industry forecasts a worldwide deployment of almost 30,000 drones by 2018, with the United States accounting for half of them.

“The potential … civil market for these systems could dwarf the military market in the coming years if we can get access to the airspace,” said Ben Gielow, government relations manager for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry trade group.

The hungriest market is the nation’s 19,000 law enforcement agencies.

Customs and Border Patrol has nine Predator drones mostly in use on the U.S.-Mexico border, and plans to expand to 24 by 2016. Officials say the unmanned aircraft have helped in the seizure of more than 20 tons of illegal drugs and the arrest of 7,500 people since border patrols began six years ago.

Like other agencies, police departments must get FAA waivers and follow much the same rules as model airplane hobbyists: Drones must weigh less than 55 pounds, stay below an altitude of 400 feet, keep away from airports and always stay within sight of the operator. The restrictions are meant to prevent collisions with manned aircraft.

Even a small drone can be “a huge threat” to a larger plane, said Dale Wright, head of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association’s safety and technology department. “If an airliner sucks it up in an engine, it’s probably going to take the engine out,” he said. “If it hits a small plane, it could bring it down.”

Controllers want drone operators to be required to have instrument-rated pilot licenses — a step above a basic private pilot license. “We don’t want the Microsoft pilot who has never really flown an airplane and doesn’t know the rules of how to fly,” Wright said.

Military drones designed for battlefields haven’t had to meet the kind of rigorous safety standards required of commercial aircraft.

Even with FAA restrictions, drones are proving useful in the field.

Deputies with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado can launch a 2-pound Draganflyer X6 helicopter from the back of a patrol car. The drone’s bird’s-eye view cut the manpower needed for a search of a creek bed for a missing person from 10 people to two, said Ben Miller, who runs the drone program. The craft also enabled deputies to alert fire officials to a potential roof collapse in time for the evacuation of firefighters from the building, he said.

The ShadowHawk can be equipped with a 40 mm grenade launcher and a 12-guage shotgun, according to its maker, Vanguard Defense Industries of Conroe, Texas. The company doesn’t sell the armed version in the United States, although “we have had interest from law-enforcement entities for deployment of nonlethal munitions from the aircraft,” Vanguard CEO Michael Buscher said.

Industry officials said privacy concerns are overblown.

“Today anybody— the paparazzi, anybody — can hire a helicopter or a (small plane) to circle around something that they’re interested in and shoot away with high-powered cameras all they want,” said Elwell, the aerospace industry spokesman. “I don’t understand all the comments about the Big Brother thing.”

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WIKILEAKS SPIED ON SWEDISH CENTER-RIGHT JOURNALISTS

February 28, 2012

Tabloid Expressen, Stockholm, in an article published on February 28, 2012, revealed that Wikileaks has secretly investigated Ulrika Knutson, President of the Swedish Publicists Association, Thomas Mattsson, Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper Expressen and several other Swedish journalists who reported critically about Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Excerpts from the article below:

Expressen has gained access to parts of Wikileaks intelligence material, with pictures of Thomas Mattssons home and information about his personal finances.

On the 27th anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks announced it had got hold of more than 5 million emails from Stratfor… and would publish them during the coming weeks. Working in collaboration with a number of international media organizations, Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange held a press conference in London and described the emails.

The Guardian, The New York Times and a number of other news organizations that used to cooperate with the Wikileaks no longer do so. Expressen, the Swedish daily with some 1.7 million readers per day, today continues to cover Wikileaks relationship to Sweden.

The organization is convinced that Swedish journalists, politicians and government officials are involved in a …conspiracy.

[The Wikileaks spies have ] included activists from Europe, as well as in Sweden. They have ascertained that at least three reporters who work for two different media houses are involved in the conspiracy”, according to Expressen’s sources inside Wikileaks.

“They have surreptitiously photographed people suspected of being involved in the conspiracy against Assange, they have also accessed information from public records and gained access to secret material from government databases.”

Expressen has gained access to internal Wikileaks material in which Ulrika Knutson, President of the Swedish Publicists Association, is named as one of the Swedish writers whose private life has been investigated.

It may seem odd that Knutson was investigated since under her leadership, the Swedish Publicists Association expressed strong support for Wikileaks and especially criticized the efforts of U.S. politicians and authorities to silence the organization.

In a radio commentary on P1’s “Godmorgon, världen”, she harshly criticized Wikileaks’collaboration with Johannes Wahlström’s father Israel Shamir, who is often described as anti-Semitic:

“For months we have been amazed that Wikileaks collaborated with a rabid Holocaust denier like Israel Shamir.”

When Ulrika Knutson is contacted by Expressen and informed about the fact that she has been secretly investigated by Wikileaks, she responds:

– I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. If this is correct, it makes you wonder of the priorities of these activists.

Expressen’s Editor-in-Chief Thomas Mattsson comments:

“Wikileaks has produced some truly interesting insights, notably about U.S. military activities and the so called ‘cables’, but I find its inability to deal with criticism worrying. Ever since we revealed the sex crimes allegations against Julian Assange in, Wikileaks has attacked Expressen.”

“I consider the investigation of me and other Swedish journalists as an attempt to find something that can be used to question relevant news coverage about Wikileaks”.

SYRIAN OPPOSITION ASKS FOR ARMS TO TOPPLE ASSAD

February 27, 2012

The Washington Times on February 25, 2012, reported that a major Syrian opposition group has said Western and Arab officials must allow individual countries to arm forces fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Excerpts below:

The Syrian National Council said that if Mr. Assad does not end his violent crackdown on an 11-month-old anti-government uprising, the international community “should not constrain individual countries from aiding the Syrian opposition by means of military advisers, training and provision of arms to defend themselves.”

The U.S. and its European allies have not publicly endorsed arming the Syrian opposition fighters. However, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said this would be an “excellent idea.”

U.S. republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, also said that weapons, tactical intelligence, communications equipment, financing, and medical supplies should be provided to the opposition.

U.S. and European sanctions prevent military aid to Syria.

The Assad regime’s forces prevented an International Committee of the Red Cross team from entering the Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs. A Syrian Red Crescent team, however, has been allowed to evacuate 17 critically wounded persons since the 26th. It was not clear where these people had been taken.

The Local Coordination Committees in Syria, an opposition group that organizes demonstrations and documents human rights violations in the country, …said the regime had blocked access to humanitarian aid and prevented evacuations.

“What we want is an immediate halt in the fighting so we can access Homs and the other affected areas to deliver much needed humanitarian aid,” said Carla Haddad, a Red Cross spokesperson.

The regime’s forces have destroyed the water supply in Homs forcing residents to drink rainwater and melted snow. Food supplies are also critically low.

“The regime wants to kill people not just by shelling, but by cutting off their food and water,” said an opposition spokesman.

In Baba Amr, the only field hospital has run out of basic supplies and its two doctors have been overwhelmed by the large number of wounded people.

The Syrian National Council has sought the creation of humanitarian corridors to transport food and medical aid to the areas most affected by the violence. It has also asked for “safe zones” to be set up so civilians can take shelter.

More than 5,400 people have been killed in the violence in Syria since March, according to a United Nations estimate in early January. The U.N. has since stopped estimating the death toll citing the confusion on the ground.

SANTORUM WAS RIGHT ABOUT IRAN – TAKES HIS LOVE OF FREEDOM FROM GRANDFATHER WHO ESCAPED TYRANNY

February 26, 2012

Iran expert Michael Ledeen on February 25, 2012, in an article in Wall Street Journal said that Rick Santorum doesn’t fit any of the stereotypes of current foreign-policy ideologies. He’s too idealistic to be a “realist,” too conservative and too religious to be a “neocon,” and too revolutionary to be a “paleocon.” He’s an old-fashioned, feisty patriot, in the mold of Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. Excerpts below:

Mr. Santorum’s hatred of tyranny traces back to his grandfather Pietro, who took the family from Lake Garda in northern Italy to Pennsylvania’s coal country to escape Mussolini’s dictatorship in the 1920s. Pietro Santorum worked in the mines until he was 72 and, as Mr. Santorum often says, taught him “to treasure the gift of freedom [and] to have faith in God’s grace.”

Mr. Santorum believes the United States must lead the struggle for freedom throughout the world, on grounds of morality and national security, which he believes go hand in hand.

Mr. Santorum wants to restore the hope that America will rescue those for whom things have gone terribly wrong. In Congress, he supported aid programs to help Africans suffering from AIDS and other terrible diseases (laying the foundation for his friendship with U2 singer Bono). He also has sponsored legislation to support democratic opponents of the Syrian and Iranian tyrannies—because their leaders, the Assad dynasty in Syria and Iran’s Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, threaten American and Israeli security, and because he wants to support moderate Muslims living under such regimes.

After leaving the Senate in 2007, Mr. Santorum wrote about foreign policy frequently for the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he was a fellow until June of 2011. In essays written for the center, he acknowledges that terrorists are indeed inspired by radical Islam—but he wants to work with Muslims who do not wage jihad, subjugate women or oppress minorities.

His opposition to tyranny abroad has been a constant in his political career. Even in the final days of his losing 2006 re-election campaign, Mr. Santorum never stopped calling for action against Iran and Syria.

He foresaw that we would eventually have to confront the Iranian and Syrian regimes, and he was one of the first to point out the intercontinental anti-American alliance involving Iran, Syria, Russia, China, Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Honduras and Nicaragua. He calls this a “gathering storm,” as members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps enter our hemisphere through the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, accompanied by military equipment and components.

If we keep leading from “behind,” as the president puts it, the lowest common denominator of Western resolve will define our policy. That’s disastrous for people in other countries who are standing up to tyranny, and it emboldens America’s enemies like Iran or the Taliban.

That’s why he has long called for support for the Iranian opposition and favors arming and training the Free Syrian Army to bring down the Assad regime. He advocates zeroing in on the foreign scientists—from Russia, for instance—who work on the mullahs’ nuclear-bomb program and declaring them enemy combatants.

Mr. Santorum hopes that American financial and moral support for the Iranian opposition will catalyze the simmering democratic revolution there, which in turn would likely tilt the balance of power in Syria once the regime in Tehran was no longer there to support Damascus.

Unlike President Obama, Mr. Santorum believes that an explicit linkage of American and Israeli military and intelligence assets would greatly increase chances of success.

Beyond the Middle East, Mr. Santorum believes that we should fully develop our missile-defense system—reversing Mr. Obama’s abrupt cancellation or limitation of the systems destined for our Czech and Polish NATO allies. He supports the development of measures to protect our satellites and other facilities against electromagnetic-pulse weapons. He has written that if elected, he would reverse many of the Obama defense cuts.

Above all, the world would know that a President Santorum would be determined to revive the hope that Poland’s Lech Walesa declares lost—the hope that America would be the last line of defense for freedom and virtue. Just as Grandpa Pietro taught.

CONSERVATIVE EPP GROUP REJECTS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED ACCUSATIONS AGAINST HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT

February 25, 2012

Fidesz-eu.hu on January 12, 2012, reported that “The EPP Group in the European Parliament reaffirms its strong commitment to the protection of freedoms and rights, including the freedom of press. At the same time, it rejects all politically motivated accusations against the Hungarian government. The Commission is, rightfully, analysing the conformity of this law to the European legislation. The EPP Group is confident that, should some elements of the Media law have to be changed, Hungary would do so, as Prime Minister Orbán had already declared”, said Joseph Daul, Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament. Excerpts below:

At the Group meeting held today, the Conservative EPP Group in the European parliament expressed its solidarity and support towards the Hungarian government on the Media Act.

“The EPP Group calls on other political Groups in the European Parliament to stop making manipulative comments on the Hungarian Media Act and the Hungarian government.

“We would like to recall that the Hungarian centre-right government and its leading force, the Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Union, have proved their commitment towards the European Union and its democratic values in the last two decades. The Fidesz Party itself was born in a media trial, at the end of the Communist era in the late 1980’s, through the protection of the freedom of press”, pointed out the Chairman of the EPP Group.

“In addition, we would also like to draw attention to the fact that last week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán assured that if the European Commission’s analysis finds it necessary, the Hungarian Media Act will be modified. This openness shows further proof of Mr Orbán’s commitment towards European democratic values”, underlined Joseph Daul.

“The EPP Group will base its judgement on the legal analysis of the European Commission, and is confident that, should any element of the law be found to be incompatible with EU standards, the Hungarian government and parliament will work to remedy this.

‘FRIENDS OF SYRIA’ CONSIDER ULTIMATUM TO ASSAD

February 25, 2012

Fox News on February 23, 2012, published an AP report on the United States, Europe and Arab nations preparing to demand that Syrian President Bashar Assad agree within days to a ceasefire and allow humanitarian aid into areas hardest hit by his regime’s brutal crackdown on opponents. Excerpts below:

U.S., European and Arab officials were meeting in London on the 23rd to craft details of an ultimatum to Assad that diplomats said could demand compliance within 72 hours or result in additional as-yet-unspecified punitive measures, likely to include toughened sanctions. The ultimatum is to be presented at a major international conference on Syria set for February 24 in Tunisia.

American officials accompanying U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Tunis meeting of the “Friends of Syria” said the goal is to make it clear to Assad that his regime has a moral obligation to end the shelling of civilian areas and allow assistance into the country. The message will be that the burden is on Assad to respond to the demands of the international community, they said.

More workable, officials said, would be a ceasefire such as the one proposed by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is calling for a daily two-hour break in fighting to provide aid.

Clinton met Thursday in London with foreign ministers and senior officials from about a dozen countries, including Britain, France, Germany, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. More than 70 nations and international organizations are expected at the Tunis meeting.

“It is a deeply frustrating situation,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague told BBC radio ahead of the talks. He said that the Assad regime “has continued to act seemingly with impunity.”

In addition to demanding that the government allow humanitarian access, the Tunis conference will explore ways to further isolate Assad and his inner circle as well as boost engagement with the Syrian opposition to help them prepare for an eventual democratic transition

WIKILEAKS SUSPECT DEFERS PLEA CHARGED WITH AIDING THE ENEMY

February 25, 2012

The Washington Times on February 23, 2012, reported that the Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking thousands of classified documents was formally charged on the 23rd with aiding the enemy, but he deferred entering a plea. Excerpts below:

Observers said the move might be a sign his lawyers were negotiating a deal involving a guilty plea to lesser or fewer offenses.

Pfc. Bradley E. Manning spoke only briefly during the court-martial proceedings in a Fort Meade, Md., military courtroom. He told the judge, Col. Denise Lind, that he understood the 22 charges against him, including aiding the enemy and violations of the Espionage Act.

If convicted, Pfc. Manning could face life imprisonment, demotion and a dishonorable discharge.

Aiding the enemy carries a maximum sentence of death, but prosecutors have said they will not seek capital punishment in this case.

Col. Lind did not set a date for the trial but said there would be a hearing on several legal issues in the trial next month.

Pfc. Manning is accused of providing the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks with two databases of military field reports – one from Iraq, one from Afghanistan – and a database of State Department cables to and from embassies around the world. The security breach is the largest leak of secret documents ever.

Pfc. Manning also is charged with giving WikiLeaks a video showing a strike by U.S. helicopters on a group of men in Baghdad that also killed a Reuters photographer and injured two children.

In a preliminary hearing in December, prosecutors presented excerpts of online chats found on Pfc. Manning’s personal computer that allegedly showed collaboration between him and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

•This article is based in part on wire service reports.

U.S. DEFENDS DRONE STRIKES

February 23, 2012

Wall Street Journal on February 22, 2012, published an article on in legal defense of U.S. drone strikes. Excerpts below:

The Pentagon’s top lawyer on the 22nd defended the use of targeted killings to eliminate suspected terrorists and militants, in an expansion of the Obama administration’s public justification for its primary counterterrorism tool.

In an address at Yale Law School, Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, defended [strikes] as a legitimate weapon of war, but stressed that the U.S. adheres to international laws and conventions even when employing “technologically advanced weapons systems.”

He argued that targeted killing in an armed conflict wasn’t the same as assassination, a term he said was repugnant.

“Under well-settled legal principles, lethal force against a valid military objective, in an armed conflict, is consistent with the law of war and does not, by definition, constitute an ‘assassination,’ ” he said.

Mr. Johnson didn’t specifically mention the use of drones.

…administration officials have taken steps in recent weeks to clarify the legal justifications they see for their counterterrorism programs. A senior administration official said Mr. Johnson’s speech is part of a series of remarks that are meant to explain to the public the legal rationale and “rigor” the Obama administration uses in carrying out targeted killings.

In his remarks, Mr. Johnson said there are clear, statutory limits on which terrorists the military may target. The military is allowed to pursue al Qaeda “and associated forces,” a term Mr. Johnson said meant armed groups that fight alongside al Qaeda, against the U.S.

“The group must not only be aligned with al Qaeda,” he said. “It must have also entered the fight against the United States or its coalition partners.”

U.S. ADMINISTRATION OPENS DOOR TO AID FOR SYRIAN REBELS

February 22, 2012

Fox News on February 21, 2012, published an AP report that the American administration opened the door slightly on the 21st to international military assistance for Syria’s rebels, with officials saying new tactics may have to be explored if President Bashar Assad continues to defy pressure to halt a brutal crackdown on dissenters. Excerpts below:

In coordinated messages, the White House and State Department said they still hope for a political solution. But faced with the daily onslaught by the Assad regime against Syrian civilians, officials dropped the administration’s previous strident opposition to arming anti-regime forces. It remained unclear, though, what, if any, role the U.S. might play in providing such aid.

“We don’t want to take actions that would contribute to the further militarization of Syria because that could take the country down a dangerous path,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. “But we don’t rule out additional measures if the international community should wait too long and not take the kind of action that needs to be taken.”

At the State Department, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland used nearly identical language to describe the administration’s evolving position.

Neither Carney nor Nuland would elaborate on what “additional measures” might be taken but there have been growing calls, including from some in Congress, for the international community to arm the rebels. Most suggestions to that effect have foreseen Arab nations such as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia — and not the West — possibly providing military assistance.

More than 70 countries have been invited to meet Friday in Tunisia for a “Friends of Syria” meeting. The meeting follows the failure of the UN Security Council to endorse an Arab plan that would have seen Assad removed from power.

The meeting of the “Friends of Syria” in Tunis is not likely to produce decisions on military aid or even recognition of Syria’s disparate opposition groups, according to U.S. officials. But countries are considering creating large stockpiles of humanitarian aid along Syria’s borders, the officials said.

This week’s talks will seek to clarify some of the confusion. The U.S. is trying to get a clearer picture of what promises countries such as Syria’s Arab neighbors are making to elements of the opposition; which rebels each government might support; and some agreement on what types of assistance would be helpful or damaging.

TRADE IS WAR, BY OTHER MEANS

February 21, 2012

The Weekly Standard on February 18, 2012, commented on the Xi Jinping visit to America to meet the president, dine with the vice president, visit a farm in Iowa—following in the 1959 footsteps of Nikita Khrushchev—and attend a basketball game in Los Angeles. Excerpts below:

The Iowa visit was designed to remind Americans that Xi, who visited Iowa 27 years ago, has a long-standing attachment to America, reinforced by the fact that his daughter is attending Harvard, and that Iowa’s farmers rely heavily on income from exporting their agricultural products.

In Washington the talk was about trade, giving the campaigning president and vice president an opportunity to demonstrate their undying loyalty to American workers by loudly reminding China’s vice president that trade can “only be mutually beneficial if the game is fair.” But for President Obama, who only recently had recommended that serious students of international affairs read Robert Kagan’s latest book, The World America Made, trade was the least of the issues confronting the two nations, the proverbial tip of a rather large iceberg capable of doing considerable damage to the America.

Not that trade issues are entirely irrelevant. The president is counting on rising exports to keep the current recovery on track, making it easier for him to defeat whoever survives the Republicans’ efforts to self-destruct.

Although Xi listened politely to the litany of American complaints, China will continue to manipulate its currency, holding down its value so as to stimulate exports and discourage imports. The regime continues to require U.S. companies to turn their technology over to subsidized Chinese SOEs if they are to be given access to China’s markets. SOEs are directed to buy high-tech products from the hometown boys in order to foster development of industries of the future. The regime does little to prevent piracy of U.S. technology and materials protected by copyright. Non-tariff barriers to imports abound.

The least of concerns relates to trade, although Xi undoubtedly repeated his country’s worries that American inability to control its deficit—President Obama’s new budget is splashed with red ink—will eventually lead to a devaluation of the mound of dollars salted away in China’s vaults. He also complained about U.S. restriction of exports of many high-tech products, stuff the Chinese need for their development and, presumably, to provide raw material for its intellectual-property pirates.

For Xi, his visit to the Commerce Department and a gaggle of CEOs, many of whom are less willing to overlook China’s assaults on free trade than they were a few years ago, was surely of less interest than his visit to the Pentagon where, after receiving a 19-gun salute, he met with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Xi, who began his career as an aide to an army general and is vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, is better connected with the Chinese military than President Hu Jintao, who is completing his 10-year term in China.

Which brings us back to Bob Kagan. Kagan, one of Mitt Romney’s foreign policy advisers, became an Obama favorite whose essays get a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis at the White House. This, even though Kagan argues that the president’s favored international institutions can never replace American power as defender of the liberal economic and political world order.

The president finds the part of Kagan’s argument that America is not in decline, has never been omnipotent in world affairs, and needs a strong economy if it is to retain its global leadership position ammunition to fire at any Republican who argues that he has presided over a decline in American power and influence.

One reason Xi came to America is to protest Obama’s expansion of the American military presence in Asia. Hu Jintao had earlier complained that America is building “a wall of containment” around China, to use Kagan’s phrase. “What the Chinese find really upsetting,” he continues, “is the extent of American’s military alliances,” some fifty, whereas China has not a single ally in its region, with the exception of North Korea, as much a liability as an asset.

This new military emphasis on Asia, a so-called “Obama pivot,” is not unrelated to American insistence that China play by the rules in economic affairs. “The growth of China’s economy … [has] implications for American power in the future,” writes Kagan, “if the Chinese translate enough of their growing economic strength into military strength.”

Which suggests that American efforts to persuade China to abandon its trade practices, in any event doomed to failure, has as much to do with power as with money. China’s currency manipulation, subsidization of its SOEs and other export enhancing practices provide funds to pay for an expanded military. They also create a voracious demand for oil and other commodities, a demand that is forcing China to extend its reach to Africa and to America’s backyard, Latin America. In addition, the earnings from trade are used to make loans that add to Chinese influence.

With that financial presence goes influence, influence to gather support for an assault on the free trade, liberal economic order until now underpinned by American power. If there ever was a prescription for big-power rivalry, rather than the “mutual respect” that Xi demands and the “strong relationship” Obama says he seeks, this is surely it.