Third Culture Queen vol. 26
Pax Americana is over, and we won't know what's next for awhile.
|Kyle Borland||Oct 23, 2019|
Sorry for the delay in publishing this week! I caught an infection of some kind and haven’t been able to look at a computer for extended periods of time since Saturday. I’m feeling better today, so I’m hoping the last of the gunk is on its way out.
I waited for Trump’s press conference on Syria this morning before sending the newsletter today to make sure you had the most up-to-date information. I live-tweeted the short presser which you can read below.
On Nov 1, Third Culture Queen will be adding a subscription. I really enjoy putting this newsletter together, but it is time-consuming and a girl's got to eat. There will be occasional public posts; however, you’ll need to subscribe to continue receiving foreign policy updates on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Each newsletter will be broken into the following three sections:
Superpower Struggles – America, China, EU, and Russia
Rising Regions – Eurasia, the Indo-Pacific, and the Global South
Non-State Factors – Cities, Clergy, Climate, and Corporations.
Along with semi-daily updates, subscribers will also get access to future podcasts, interviews, and other content created along the way.
Thank you for reading TCQ so far, and I hope you’ll come along for the journey!
PS – Want an impeachment and 2020 election update? Read it here.
“If our promises are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us? If we can’t have faith in our nation’s principles, why would the men and women of this nation join the military?
And if they don’t join, who will protect us?”
Syria is now in the hands of Assad, Erdogan, and Putin. Maybe one day the United States will realize that interventionism doesn’t work; however, our inability to learn that lesson before the Syrian Quagmire dragged whatever was left of American credibility through the mud. And, set it on fire.
Inside an ISIS prison, children ask their fate (New York Times)
ISIS Reaps Gains of U.S. Pullout From Syria (New York Times)
News of the American withdrawal set off jubilation among Islamic State supporters on social media and encrypted chat networks. It has lifted the morale of fighters in affiliates as far away as Libya and Nigeria.
Photos provided to Foreign Policy by a Kurdish sources and confirmed by a senior U.S. administration official show children from Ras al-Ain with severe chemical burns on their torsos and faces consistent with wounds from white phosphorus, though the exact substance has not yet been confirmed by independent investigators. (One of the photos, which is graphic, is published here.)
Erdogan to travel to Russia for talks with Putin (Al Jazeera)
Assad Is Now Syria’s Best-Case Scenario (Foreign Policy)
From the very beginning, Russia and Iran had one clear, limited, and feasible objective: keep Assad in power. The United States, by contrast, had ambitious and unrealistic goals: It wanted to get rid of Assad, defeat the Islamic State, keep other jihadis from gaining power, and eventually bring some nice Syrian liberal democrats to power. These goals were too complex and contradictory.
12 Hours. 4 Syrian Hospitals Bombed. One Culprit: Russia. (New York Times)
China’s Belt and Road
Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Xinjiang
China’s Surveillance State Has Tens of Millions of New Targets (Foreign Policy)
The State Department on Tuesday announced that it would impose visa restrictions on Chinese government officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the mass detention and surveillance of Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang province.
The US is the first country to impose penalties on China for Xinjiang.
In response to the announcement, a Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesperson said:
"We strongly urge the U.S. to immediately stop making irresponsible remarks on the issue of Xinjiang, stop interfering with the wrong actions of China’s internal affairs, and remove relevant Chinese entities from the list of entities as soon as possible."
Taiwan Needs a Maoist Military (Foreign Policy)
Much as Mao’s “active defense” envisioned concentrating the Red Army against fragmented Nationalist or Japanese forces and wiping them out in turn—he advised commanders that it was better to cut off one of an enemy’s fingers altogether than mash them all—the Taiwanese Navy could mass firepower from patrol craft to overwhelm individual parts of a PLA amphibious armada. Cut off a Chinese finger or two, and the effort starts losing momentum. Beijing will find it hard to make a fist—and the prospects for successful resistance will brighten. Best of all, the better a fight the islanders put up, the easier it is for the United States to intercede—militarily, yes, but also politically. It’s easier for the White House to order U.S. forces into harm’s way on behalf of a plucky island ally like Winston Churchill’s Britain than a hapless victim.
China's heavily centralized system may be great at building infrastructure, repressing dissent and censoring the internet, but it is often hopeless when it comes to passing bad news up the chain.
DoD May Fund Rare Earth & Small Drone Development (Breaking Defense)
The real challenges to the Chinese economy, Wei says, are structural issues like a lack of low-skilled workers to populate factories, an over-reliance on the manufacturing sector and an aging workforce.
Those factors, Wei says, pre-date the trade war. In fact, China's GDP growth has dropped by 3 percentage points in the past decade, from a growth rate of 9.6% in 2008 to 6.6% in 2018.
Influence and Reach
China’s great game in the Middle East (EU Council of Foreign Relations)
Australia, US, India and Japan upgrade Quad to ministerial level (Foreign Brief)
One Belt, One South Asia? (Foreign Policy)
Accession talks for Albania and North Macedonia – the beginning of the formal process to join the EU – were blocked by France.
Dutch farmers protested new regulations on EU nitrogen emissions in Brussels.
Protests in Barcelona intensified, and separatists called for another referendum.
Brexit: EU/UK reached a draft agreement and parliament accepted it, but not the PM’s timetable. The divorce that won’t end: Brussels will 110% grant an extension to the October 31 deadline – even with Macron and Merkel disagreeing on whether or not to continue – that Boris Johnson is required by law to request.
British journos became part of Johnson’s fake news machine (Open Democracy)
Loyalists plan action if Boris Johnson ‘shafts’ Northern Ireland (Belfast Telegraph)
“The price Johnson has paid for killing the backstop is his acceptance, as the default position, of the very thing—Northern Ireland in the EU customs union—that the backstop would, if activated, have produced. At the DUP conference last year, Johnson said no British prime minister could ever accept a customs and regulatory border in the Irish Sea. He just has.”
Europe is an economic superpower, but it hasn’t yet figured out how to operate collectively on a global scale. This weakness keeps the EU from wielding the influence it should have on the world stage given the size of its economy and the historical power of its members. Particularly, in regards to Africa, a continent where Europe has taken its connections for granted, China has outpaced the union in critical investment.
The European Union is being urged to copy China’s Belt and Road Initiative to better channel the billions of euros in aid it sends to Africa each year. The report includes the establishment of a “European Climate and Sustainable Development Bank” to consolidate the bloc’s development funding activities.
The report warns that there are “overlaps, gaps and inefficiencies, sectoral and geographical, especially in terms of presence and experience in Africa, of the main European multilateral finance institutions.”
Germany/Africa: Berlin’s halfhearted overtures (Africa Report)
Three Reasons Why the U.S. Should Not Compete with the Belt and Road Initiative (International Policy Digest)
Why the BRI needs the US (Business Times)
Russia’s ongoing war on the liberal democratic order has only intensified as the US continues its retreat from global leadership. In addition to the top-level moves seen at daily press conferences, Putin makes covert moves to directly destabilize liberal democracies wherever cracks are showing.
We’re More at Risk of Nuclear War With Russia Than We Think (Politico Mag)
The purpose of Unit 29155, which has not been previously reported, underscores the degree to which the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, is actively fighting the West with his brand of so-called hybrid warfare — a blend of propaganda, hacking attacks and disinformation — as well as open military confrontation.
The Kremlin sees Russia as being at war with a Western liberal order that it views as an existential threat.
Ukrainians protested by the tens of thousands against the proposed autonomy plan for eastern Ukraine. It is viewed as a “full capitulation” to Russia.
Yearning for influence:
Russia to send strategic bombers to South Africa for visit (Stars and Stripes)
Nile dispute flows to Russia (Axios)
Beijing, Moscow upgrade security ties (Asia Times)
Inside Trump's First Pentagon Briefing (Politico)
What do middle and regional powers do during great power competition?
Asean nears its Thucydides trap turning point (Bangkok Post)
Canada’s middle power dilemma (East Asia Forum)
The Global South
Africa in the news: Tunisia and Mozambique vote, Nigeria closes borders, and Kenya opens new railway (Brookings)
AfCTA needs $1 trillion investment (African Business Magazine)
How to Facilitate Trade in Africa (Project Syndicate)
African port development could break investment logjam (The National)
Brazil developed missile capable of reaching most of South America, putting Venezuela and rest of continent on edge. (Rio Times)
Cambodia’s leader amassed wealth overseas for his allies and relatives.
Chile’s cost of living protests intensifies, with 11 people dying amongst the chaos.
Cuba hit with new sanctions from US Commerce Department.
Egypt uncovered 30 mummies in Luxor, the largest find in more than 100 years.
“Police professionalization” helped produce death squads in countries like El Salvador and mass incarceration in the United States.
The Trump admin released critical USAID to Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala after all three nations caved to asylum-related arm twisting.
Apartheid in the Global Governance System (Resilience)
The World Bank Must Put People Before Profit (Common Dreams)
Venezuela wins seat on UN Human Rights Council despite US pressure.
Non-State Factors | Cities, Clergy, Climate & Corps
America’s affordable housing crisis plagues cities of all sizes, and red-state capitals like Baton Rouge, LA are making it even harder for big metros like New Orleans to address the underlying issues.
Four drug companies – McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and Teva – reach a last-minute $260m settlement in opioid litigation. (WSJ)
Green New Deal goes global as 100 cities committed to climate action. (Curbed)
Montgomery, Alabama – a majority Black city and one of the capitals of the Confederacy – just elected its first Black mayor, Steven Reed.
Prescription pill residue is finding its way into US waterways and treatment plants.According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 60% of American adults take at least one prescription pill every day and water testing results don’t accurately reflect the risks of tap water stemming from our modern lifestyles.
Stelida, Greece – a prehistoric quarry on the northwest coast of Naxos – is home to evidence that human activity on the island may have spanned up to 200,000 years.
UAW/GM reached a tentative agreement to end the strike. Will workers approve?