Tag Archives: sanctions

Are the U.S. and NATO as prepared for economic war as Russia, China, and India?

In the 2005 film, Cinderella Man, James J. Braddock’s fight with contender Art Lasky reaches a turning point when Lasky hits Braddock with his best punch. Braddock’s mouthpiece flies out and he is staggered, but he doesn’t go down. He recovers, smiles at Lasky, and goes on to win the fight.

A romanticized portrayal to be sure, taken to an even more ridiculous extreme in the climactic bout between Rocky Balboa and Clubber Lang in Rocky III, but it does beg a very relevant question for the U.S. and NATO today:

What if you hit your opponent with your best shot and he doesn’t go down?

U.S.-led NATO effectively did that when it locked Russia out of the SWIFT system, seized Russia’s FOREX assets, and demanded the rest of the world cease all economic relations with Russia. Washington believed this would cripple Russia permanently, possibly leading to a coup in Russia and Putin’s ouster.

It didn’t. That’s not to say it did no damage. The ruble initially plunged in value, causing the Russian central bank to raise interest rates to 20%, effectively freezing the prospects for any investment in growth for the besieged economy. But Russia is still there, as is Putin. The war in Ukraine continues, and Putin has responded.

“A number of countries have taken illegitimate decisions on the so-called freezing of Russian assets. This collective West has actually drawn a line under the reliability of its currencies, we have already spoken about this, it crossed out the trust in these currencies. I have decided to implement a set of measures to switch over payments, as soon as possible, let’s start with our natural gas, to switch over payments for our natural gas supplied to the so-called unfriendly countries into Russian rubles.”

That punch landed, and now it’s Washington’s turn to try to smile in its opponent’s face. The reliable U.S. media ran several stories citing U.S. economists trying to minimize the effectiveness of Russia’s response. Only in this case, life will more likely imitate reality than the arts. When a boxer smiles in a real prize fight, it almost always means he has been hurt.

That’s what prompted Biden to hurry to Brussels for an emergency meeting following Putin’s announcement. Strategies expected to be discussed include redirecting non-Russian supplies of natural gas towards Europe in hopes to lessen its dependency on Russian exports. Currently, Russia supplies about 45% of Europe’s natural gas imports.

Apart from the fact this will still make life more costly for Europeans – if it were not more expensive to purchase natural gas this way, Europe would have already been doing so – it is only one commodity. Russia and Ukraine also supply about 30 percent of the world supply of wheat. Russia is a major source of steel, palladium, and neon gas needed to make computer chips. It supplies 35 percent of the world’s uranium.

Together with Belarus, Russia supplies 40 percent of the world’s potash and large percentages of ammonia and monoammonium phosphate exports. Fertilizer prices had already risen 17 percent in 2021 and are expected to rise an additional 12 percent in 2022.

As it did for decades militarily before invading Ukraine, Russia has so far shown restraint in its economic response to NATO’s sanctions. It has by no means thrown its haymaker, such as simply cutting off Europe’s natural gas completely rather than merely demanding payment in rubles. Neither has it cut off exports of uranium to the United States, although it is publicly considering it.

Of course, these economic “nuclear options” would hurt Russia as much or more as it would the U.S. and Europe. But Russia is a relatively poor country that has been living within its means. It has low debt and a population accustomed to a lower standard of living than those in NATO countries. The U.S. and NATO are quite the opposite.

While the U.S. is still a highly productive country, it has been living well beyond its means, largely made possible by the U.S. dollar’s reserve currency status, which is now in jeopardy as Russia, China, and India – whose populations alone represent 37 percent of the world’s population – take steps to get off the dollar completely. Much of the “Global South” may choose to join them.

This economic world war will harm every country in the world. Mass starvation in poor countries is a real possibility. So is economic collapse in Europe.

President Biden has admitted it will have “a cost” to Americans as well. But his portrayal and average Americans’ understanding of that cost is grossly underestimated.

Russia, China, and India are all formerly socialist countries that have experienced exponential growth since pivoting to market economies. The living standards of most of their people have grown significantly but are still low compared to those of Americans or Europeans. Their older generations remember the grinding poverty they experienced under socialism.

In The Matrix Reloaded, Neo tells the architect he doesn’t believe the machines will destroy all of humanity, because their existence relies upon human energy supplies. The architect replies, “There are levels of survival we are prepared to accept.”

Russia, China, India, and much of the world may be similarly prepared. Is the United States?

Over the past seventy years, the United States has attempted to use economic sanctions to remove world leaders it deemed unworthy in Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and other countries. Populations in the target countries, perceiving aggression by an outside threat, have instead rallied around those leaders, preferring even despotic rule by one of their own to the U.S. empire’s meddling in their politics.

Fat, dumb, happy, and untouched by the foreign wars its government has prosecuted all over the world, the U.S. population may not be so willing to accept the “levels of survival” necessary to survive this economic war. And unlike Cuba, Iran, Russia, etc., it will not be a foreign government imposing the sanctions but its own.

How will the U.S. population react when economic reality finally comes to its door?

Tom Mullen is the author of It’s the Fed, Stupid and Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?

Trump’s Embargo on North Korea Is the Precursor to a War

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Not even President Trump’s harshest critics blame him for creating the North Korean problem. The Kim Jong-Un regime’s nuclear weapons capabilities and willingness to brandish them goes back over a decade, to when Kim’s father was still the ruler.

And while each successive U.S. administration has approached North Korea slightly differently, one thing has remained constant: tens of thousands of U.S. troops on North Korea’s border, maintaining a standoff that just passed its sixty-fourth year.

The other constant, since North Korea’s first nuclear weapons test in 2006, has been economic sanctions imposed on the regime under the auspices of the U.N. Security Council. These sanctions began strictly limited to trade directly related to the regime’s nuclear program and gradually widened to include financial and other trade categories.

One need only read this morning’s headlines to judge their effectiveness.

But over the weekend, President Trump saw every president before him and raised them with this tweet:

Read the rest at Foundation for Economic Education…

 Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

What If Barack Obama Had Not Been Elected?

Most conservatives abhor Barack Obama’s presidency. They believe that Obama is leading the United States to its ruin and that nothing is more important than defeating him in the next election. They believe that our very way of life is threated if they do not succeed. I don’t happen to share their opinion that there is a substantive difference between the Bush and Obama administrations, or that anything today would be different if John McCain had been elected.

However, let’s say for the sake of argument that conservatives are correct. The Obama administration is bent on altering American society in fundamental and irreversible ways. Nothing is more important than removing him from office.

Still, conservatives do not look to violently overthrow the present administration. They recognize that, whether the choice was a wise or a foolish one, a majority of those Americans who cared enough to vote chose Barack Obama as their president. So, no matter how relentlessly the Republican Party attacks Obama through its vast network of think tanks, talking heads, and media outlets, no matter how nasty or allegedly unfair conservative talk radio may be, when all is said and done, conservative efforts to remove Obama from office are peaceful.

But what if Obama had not been elected?

What if John McCain had won the election, but was then removed from office in a coup d’état fomented by covert agents of a foreign government? What if that government then installed Barack Obama as president, overriding the wishes of the American electorate? What if that foreign government propped up the Obama administration for decades and American citizens were unable to depose him peacefully through the electoral process?

What if Americans decided to rebel against this tyranny and overthrow Obama in a revolution? What if the foreign government called the American rebels insurgents or terrorists for removing the tyrant, when it was obvious to the whole world that the Americans had been justified in deposing Obama as a usurper backed by foreign interests?

What if, after the revolution, Americans elected a leader that they felt represented their values but that people in other countries did not like? What if the foreign government that had previously overthrown John McCain joined with other countries and imposed sanctions upon Americans, using military force to prevent voluntary trade between the United States and other countries? What if that foreign government sent billions of dollars to Mexico, allowing her to arm herself with nuclear weapons, but forbade the United States to similarly arm herself in her own defense?

What if that same foreign government armed and supported Canada in waging a decade-long war against the United States? What if that government then turned on Canada and invaded her, setting up military bases on her soil, with tens of thousands of troops capable of striking at the United States at any moment?

What if Americans resented the sanctions and threats of violence directed at them and responded with threatening statements of their own?  What if Americans were vilified as terrorists for opposing these aggressive actions with manly firmness? What if the United States had not invaded another country in over 200 years, but was still characterized as a threat to the whole world by a government that routinely invaded other nations, had already overthrown the U.S. government once in the past, had armed America’s neighbors with weapons of mass destruction, and regularly issued official government statements calling for “regime change” in the United States?

What if there were credible rumors that a preemptive nuclear strike by Mexico was imminent? What if the foreign government pledged its full support for Mexico and warned Americans not to attempt to arm themselves adequately to prevent this unprovoked attack? What if it was apparent to all Americans that they had no chance to fight their enemies in a conventional war and win?

What would Americans be prepared to do then?

For more thought-provoking “What Ifs?” see here, here, and here.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

What If Iran…

As another “holiday” weekend draws to a close, Americans have again been bombarded with exhortations to thank the U.S. military establishment for their supposed freedom. This theme pervades all aspects of American culture. Uniformed military personnel are granted privileges on airlines, discounts at restaurants, hotels, and other business establishments. This past summer, I attended my daughter’s dance recital at the Tampa Performing Arts Center. At the midpoint of the performance, men in uniform were rolled out onto the stage and a long tribute follwed, including patriotic-sounding music and a special dance routine, with a pair of army boots spotlighted at the front of the stage. The militarization of American culture is inescapable. That no one seems to recognize the similarity between this cultural worship of the military and the same by another militarized society of not so long ago is truly horrifying.

It may not be fashionable to say so, but I am sick and tired of being told to thank the military. The idea that thanks is owed grows out of the inability of most Americans to recognize simple cause and effect relationships. As I’ve said before, Americans seem to be unwilling to ask themselves the most basic questions about precisely how U.S. wars have made them freer. What are the specific results that the U.S. military has either achieved or prevented in the past 70 years that have led to this supposed increase in freedom? How would we be less free if the U.S. government did not fight one or more of those wars? While I have dealt with this at length before, let me summarize briefly:

1. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Korea.

2. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Viet Nam.

3. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Grenada (does anyone really take this one seriously?).

4. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Somalia.

5. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Kuwait.

6. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Iraq.

7. U.S. citizens are not freer because the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan.

Now, I know that these statements are at odds with conventional wisdom and will be regarded as unpatriotic by conservatives and even most liberals. However, after completing the required ad hominem attack upon the author, I challenge anyone who disagrees to refute these statements logically, providing a reasonable argument that there is some cause-effect relationship between the cited wars and the relative freedom of U.S. citizens. It will be particularly difficult to make the argument in the case of Viet Nam, where the objective (to prevent North Viet Nam from taking over South Viet Nam) was not achieved. U.S. citizens should have been less free as a result. Were they? How?

Cause and effect. It is the first and most basic natural law of the universe. It is the first concept that human beings must master before they can begin to undertsand the world around them. This understanding is imperative when performing the simplest task, like crossing the street. An inability to understand the cause and effect relationships between drivers and pedestrians can get you killed. The danger is exponentially greater when considering spending hundreds of billions of dollars to send hundreds of thousands of armed men to some far-off land.

The so-called debate on Iran provides yet another example of the inability of most Americans to recognize cause and effect relationships. Assuming that the Iranian government is attempting to build a nuclear weapon, the government-media complex has presented a narrow range of options from which Americans are expected to choose, with all others off the table. They are 1. Bomb or invade Iran now, before they get a nuclear weapon or 2. Impose economic sanctions (i.e., a military blockade/act of war) and bomb or invade them later. All of this is predicated upon the assumption that Iran will immediately use this nuclear weapon the minute they build it. While even the most hawkish conservatives would probably concede that there is not much chance that Iran will develop an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of striking the U.S. anytime soon, they cite the possibility that Iran may use this weapon against Israel.

This is where Americans don’t seem to be able to call upon the most basic critical thinking skills. Let’s assume that the hawks are correct. Iran develops a nuclear weapon. Let’s assume that one sunny morning, they decide to fire it. What would happen next?

Israel has approximately 300 nuclear weapons in its arsenal and the most well-trained and equipped military establishment in the Middle East. Do the math. The idea that Iran would preemptively nuke Israel, resulting in its complete destruction, is preposterous. Yet, most American citizens either refuse or are incapable of engaging in this simple analysis and instead give their tacit or enthusiastic support to whatever destructive foreign policy  decisions their leaders make.

There is the argument that Iran is led by a government that is not reasonable and therefore would not consider its inevitable destruction before attacking Israel with a nuclear weapon. Of course, “not reasonable” is a label that would fit any government like an old pair of shoes , but is Iran’s government less reasonable than any other? Let’s consider a few facts.

Iran has not invaded another country in over 200 years. The last overt aggressive action that the Iranian government has taken against another nation is the taking of hostages from the U.S. embassy in 1979 (the Iran-Iraq War was a defensive one for Iran). If asked why the Iranians did this, I’m sure most politicians would respond with the “they hate us for our freedom” mantra. Unfortunately, most Americans are willing to believe that the leaders of foreign nations have the same motivations as the villains in comic books.

Assuming that the hostages were taken because the Iranians “hate us for our freedom,” a few questions should immediately spring to mind. Why did they not take hostages from the German Embassy, or the French Embassy, or the Dutch Embassy? Were those countries so much less free than the United States that the Iranians would not have similar hatred toward them? Americans are asked to swallow this nonsense without question and ignore the Iranians’ stated reason for the kidnapping: the U.S.-led overthrow of the democratically-elected Iranian government and subsequent installation and decades-long support of the brutal Shah.

U.S. taxpayers are now being asked to once again abandon cause-effect reasoning in order to support the next steps on the path to war with Iran. They are asked to assume that somehow the results of a military conflict with Iran would be different from the results of the military conflicts in Iraq and Afganistan. After 10 years and trillions of dollars, not to mention lost American and civilian lives, absolutely nothing has been accomplished by either of those wars. Neither has America been rendered freer as a result of them. On the contrary, Americans now live in what any lucid person would describe as an Orwellian police state, complete with electronic surveillance, warrantless searches and seizures, and summary execution of U.S. citizens – without trial or even indictment – at the order of an American dictator. These have been the results of the “War on Terror.” No sane person should expect anything but more of the same if it is expanded further.

Ron Paul was far too polite in responding to the “What if Iran…” question. It is time for Americans to stop worshipping their military establishment and start thinking critically about these issues. Whether they develop a nuclear weapon or not (which is their right as much as any sovereign nation’s), Iran is never going to initiate war with it. What is certain is that if the U.S. government is allowed to lead its country into another destructive war, Americans will be less free, further in debt, and more hated around the world than they are now. The last ten years should be all the proof we need.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

© Thomas Mullen 2011