The National Interest online seeks to provide a space for vigorous debate and exchange not only among Americans but between U.S. and overseas interlocutors. This is the new home for informed analysis and frank but reasoned exchanges on foreign policy and international affairs.
28 апреля, 03:46

Trump Makes His First Move on Tax Reform

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Samuel Rines Economics, Americas The next step is seeing what can realistically pass Congress. One of the most important primary promises made by Donald Trump on the campaign trail was reforming the tax code. Doing so, according to administration officials, promises to invigorate the U.S. economy and return it to a sustainable 3 percent growth level—a lofty but laudable goal. On Wednesday, the outline of the tax reform was released, but it was met with little enthusiasm; it contained significant cuts, but they were widely anticipated. Not to mention that the outline was only composed of broad strokes, and leaves a number of areas open to debate and interpretation. But there was enough in the release for some analysis, and for clues to the starting point of negotiations. The critical elements are a 15 percent corporate and pass-through tax rate, a simpler and lower individual tax code, and a reworking of deductions and specific tax lines. Also of note was the lack of any indication of a border adjustability tax, the controversial tax on imports that has garnered attention. In the end, there are a number of outstanding issues to be resolved, and more than a few areas where significant alterations are likely to occur. Corporate taxes have been a point of emphasis, but the focus from most pundits has been squarely on the corporate side of the equation. With a proposed reduction from 35 percent to 15 percent, there is good reason for the attention. And while this is a sizable cut, it will not impact the typical small business. Most small businesses will not benefit from a cut in corporate taxes, because they are not organized as corporations. Most small businesses are so-called “pass-through” entities, meaning that their tax liabilities are passed on to their owners and taxed as if they constituted individual income. More than 50 percent of businesses and the majority of small businesses are organized this way, and corporate tax cuts would not reduce the tax burden whatsoever. A lower tax rate on pass-through income matters the most for boosting the underlying U.S. economy. Representing the majority of employment, pass-through reform and rate reduction will have direct improve American economic vitality and dynamism. Corporate tax reduction is important for larger, less dynamic businesses, and for boosting profits. However, the translation to underlying economic activity boost will be minute in comparison to the pass-through effect. Read full article

28 апреля, 03:46

Trump's Tough Talk Won't Work on North Korea

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Charles V. Peña Security, Asia It is unlikely that North Korea will just roll over and abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons. So far, the Trump administration seems to think that threats or ultimatums serve as an effective foreign policy. The president’s simple two-word message to North Korea: “Gotta behave.” This, after Vice President Mike Pence visited the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea, saying that “the era of strategic patience is over” and citing the U.S. missile strikes in Syria and use of the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (MOAB for short) in Afghanistan as examples to Pyongyang “not to test [President Trump’s] resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States.” Subsequently, Pence reiterated that “all options are on the table” and warned that “the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready.” North Korea’s reaction to all of this? A propaganda video showing missiles destroying a U.S. city. So it doesn’t seem likely that North Korea will just roll over and “abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also it’s continual use and testing of ballistic missiles”—as Vice President Pence has admonished—just because that’s what America wants and what America is telling it to do. So how should the administration handle North Korea? President Trump says he wants China “to solve the North Korea problem” and there is certainly great merit in having Bejing involved in a resolution. China has incentive because it recognizes that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are adverse to its own interests. And China has leverage it can exert as North Korea’s most important ally, biggest trading partner, and main source of food, arms and energy. However, the Chinese perspective is that stability on the Korean Peninsula is preferred to denuclearization. To the Chinese, the prospect of a North Korean implosion resulting in a failed state on their border is scarier than Kim Jong-un with nukes. So convincing China to act in America’s interests will require more than threatening to impose protectionist trade tariffs. Read full article

28 апреля, 03:43

China Warned North Korea Not To Test Another Nuclear Weapon

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Ryan Pickrell Security, Asia China has also been turning away North Korean coal shipments, a major source of income for the regime. North Korea has yet to conduct a sixth nuclear test, and the reason may be China. Beijing warned Pyongyang against carrying out another test, informing the reclusive regime that the Chinese would pursue “sanctions actions on their own” if North Korea failed to heed its warning, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson revealed to Fox News Thursday. Tillerson’s remark indicates that President Donald Trump’s efforts to rein in North Korea by way of the country’s friendly neighbor China may be yielding fruit. (This first appeared on The Daily Caller News Foundation’s website here.) The new administration has said that if China fails to stop North Korea, the U.S. will be forced to take unilateral action. This could involve aggressive secondary sanctions against Chinese entities collaborating with the regime or the application of military force against North Korea’s nuclear and weapons facilities. Chinese media has presented several warnings to Pyongyang in recent weeks, urging it to turn back. “If North Korea carries out a sixth nuclear test as expected, it is more likely than ever that the situation will cross the point of no return,” the Global Times, a newspaper managed by the state-run People’s Daily, wrote Tuesday. “All stakeholders will bear the consequences, with Pyongyang sure to suffer the greatest losses,” the outlet explained. The Times does not speak for the state, but it does occasionally reflect certain government opinions. Read full article

27 апреля, 22:51

U.S. Admiral: North Korean Nuclear Threat a Matter Of When, Not If

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Ryan Pickrell Security, Asia North Korea is testing missiles with increased frequency, and even in failure, its program advances. A U.S. admiral said Thursday the situation in Korea is becoming increasingly dangerous as the North moves to advance its weapons program and develop a long-range nuclear missile. “The crisis on the Korean Peninsula is real,” Admiral Harry Harris, the head of U.S. Pacific Command, testified at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday, adding, “It’s the worst I have ever seen.” Pyongyang’s aggressive rhetoric is increasingly backed up by advancements in its weapons program, which include ballistic missiles of various ranges, nuclear bombs, chemical and biological weapons, and conventional systems, such as heavy artillery. Harris told the senators that there is no doubt in his mind that Kim Jong Un’s ultimate ambition is to develop a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking U.S. targets. (This first appeared on The Daily Caller News Foundation’s website here.) “There is some doubt or questions within the intelligence community whether he has the capability today or whether he will soon have that capability,” Harris explained. “But, I have to assume that he has it … We have to assume the capability is real. We know what his intentions are, and he’s moving towards them.” “So, it’s not a matter of whether, it’s a matter of when?” Arizona Senator John McCain asked the admiral. “It is clearly a matter of when,” Harris responded, “Thomas Edison tried a thousand times before he got the light bulb to work. Kim Jong Un is going to continue to try until he gets his ICBMs to work.” Read full article

27 апреля, 21:27

Is This China's Next Threat to U.S. National Security?

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Maggie Ybarra Security, Asia Gaining access to the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope could be Beijing’s back door to U.S. security secrets. China is close to making a funding deal that could allow it to glean national-security secrets in the Pacific region via one of the Northern Hemisphere’s premier infrared telescopes, according to government documents. The East Asian Observatory, which is funded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in conjunction with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, has expressed interest in increased access to the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope for years. The telescope sits on top of a dormant volcano on Hawaii’s largest island. It is leased by the University of Hawaii and operated under a Scientific Cooperation Agreement led by the University of Arizona. Government documents obtained by the National Interest show that new funding for the telescope must be secured in the next few months, and that the foreign research group has made a tempting offer of $1 million a year for five years in exchange for independent operation of the telescope and its previously collected data archives. The East Asian Observatory does not currently have telescope observation time, University of Hawaii spokesman Dan Meisenzahl told the National Interest. Space experts are concerned that the East Asian Observatory funding offer would allow it to observe the unique details of U.S. space assets. The documents show that the foreign research group would be able to see the electromagnetic waves emitted or received by an antenna, determine whether an antenna is active or not, find the position of artificial satellites, identify cooling and heating rates and spectral signatures, identify an object’s size, and gain access to other potential secrets. Additionally, independent scientists have noted that the there is a conflict of interest surrounding the telescope’s cameras and spectrometers, which are restricted by International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Meisenzahl declined to confirm whether the university has been in negotiations with the East Asian Observatory. The university has worked with the observatory group in the past, he said, but that relationship is not unique given that the group maintains research relationships with various partners. Meisenzahl said that legal restrictions make it unlikely that a foreign party would be able to gain independent access to the telescope. Read full article

27 апреля, 18:38

Josh Rogin's Lazy Tribute to Donald Trump

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Jacob Heilbrunn Politics, Americas Rogin uncritically regurgitates administration talking points. That’s not reporting; it’s pandering. Josh Rogin is a talented reporter who has migrated from Foreign Policy to Bloomberg News to the Washington Post. Rogin has broken a number of stories over the years. Today, in a column in the Post, he comes up with what may be his most startling revelation to date: Trump is a thoughtful thinker about foreign affairs overseeing a careful and deliberate policy process. “The emerging pattern,” Rogin writes, “shows how President Trump’s campaign statements are being transformed into policy, senior White House officials tell me—and Trump himself is intimately involved.” If only. Yesterday, Trump held a meeting at the White House on North Korea, which only disclosed that his administration has no strategy for dealing with it. He also came close to signing a wacky executive order drafted by Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro that would have started the process to withdraw from NAFTA. Then, at the last moment, after talking to the president and prime minister of Mexico and Canada, Trump flinched. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may not fill some two hundred posts at the State Department until 2018. How does this square with Rogin’s soothing depiction of Trump’s foreign policy? The main problem with Rogin’s piece is that he uncritically regurgitates the talking points disseminated to him by Trump administration officials, starting with Vice President Mike Pence. It’s fine for a reporter to serve as a kind of transmission belt for inside political dope that is revealing and reliable. But this isn’t it. What Rogin is doing isn’t reporting; it’s pandering. Read full article

27 апреля, 17:57

Now Anyone Can Travel To The Heart Of North Korea (And Not End Up In a Prison Camp)

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Ryan Pickrell Security, Asia Thanks to technology.  A Swedish startup has created the world’s first interactive virtual reality model of North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. North Korea is one of the most exotic travel destinations in the world, but visiting has its risks. The U.S. Department of State “strongly urges” eager travelers to avoid venturing into North Korea, where foreign nationals have been detained for years for absurd crimes against the regime. Otto Frederick Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who traveled to North Korea with a tour group, was sentenced last year to 15 years of hard labor in the North Korean prison system for stealing a political poster. (This first appeared on The Daily Caller News Foundation’s website here.) The new virtual reality app created by SceneThere allows people to visit Pyongyang without having to leave the comfort of their homes. Online travelers need not worry about finding themselves in a North Korean prison camp or funding the regime by supporting its budding tourism industry. Viewers can look out across Pyongyang by standing atop Juche Tower, a symbol of North Korea’s core ideology and one of the largest free-mason structures in the world. Beyond the Taedong River are sights like Kim Il Sung Square and Mansu Hill. During the massive military parade marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung on April 15, the square was packed with soldiers, tanks and ballistic missiles. Mansu Hill is home to two iconic statues of young dictator Kim Jong-un’s father and grandfather. Read full article

27 апреля, 17:47

Trump's First 100 Days Sound A Lot like Bill Clinton's

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Daniel McCarthy Politics, Americas After one hundred days, the Trump White House is still an experiment in progress. The president had a rough first hundred days. His party controlled both houses of Congress, but he couldn’t pass major legislation. Immigration and health care proved to be tripwires. Many government posts went unfilled, and key appointees who did take office were controversial. The president’s family took on a policymaking role that struck critics as equal parts preposterous and outrageous—as if the White House had been turned into a family business. All of that describes Donald Trump’s first hundred days as president—but it also describes the first hundred days of President Bill Clinton. By this point in his administration, Clinton had seen his stimulus bill shot down in the Senate by a Republican filibuster. He’d had two nominees for attorney general, Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood, withdraw after it was discovered they had each employed illegal immigrants as nannies. Clinton, unlike Trump, had launched no missiles at Syria by this point, but his third and finally successful attorney-general nominee, Janet Reno, oversaw an FBI assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, that resulted in the deaths of more than seventy people. Terrorism and war in the Middle East were already challenges for the new president in 1993 in any event, with the United States enforcing no-fly zones in Iraq and Islamist radicals bombing the World Trade Center in February. Meanwhile, Clinton appointed his wife to lead a task force to redesign America’s health-care system. Donald Trump may be the most unconventional leader in the country’s history, but he is hardly the first president whose first hundred days have been characterized by more trouble than triumph. The comparisons with Clinton are particularly noteworthy, however. Clinton, like Trump, campaigned as a populist of sorts, and by doing so successfully beat a Bush. And though Democrats today might like to forget, Clinton campaigned as a tough-on-crime candidate, one who was not above playing the race card. But the most important parallel between Clinton and Trump is that they both took office at the end of one era and the beginning of another. Clinton was the first truly post–Cold War president. And Trump is the first president of this nameless era that is post–“post–Cold War.” Read full article

27 апреля, 17:43

The U.S. Military Has One Super Plane That Could Crush North Korea

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Dave Majumdar Security, Asia The B-2 Bomber.  Another reason to use the B-2 in lieu of other bombers is its payload. While the B-1 can carry a larger payload, the B-2 has the ability to retarget its weapons much more efficiently and accurately in flight. “Sure the B-1 can carry more, but the global comm structure is better suited for the B-2 in this regard because of their airborne mission transfer capability that can rapidly reassign each bomb's designation with a new mission load in the air,” the Air Force official said. “An airborne mission transfer allows you to avoid having the crews type in new coordinates for each new bomb. The other platforms have some ways of doing this too, to varying extent, but not on the same scale, and not with a lot more effort and opportunity for human error.” A pair of United States Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers hit terrorist targets in Libya on last Wednesday. The strike killed more than 80 Islamic State terrorists. “In conjunction with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the U.S. military conducted precision airstrikes Wednesday night destroying two ISIL camps 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte,” outgoing Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement. “The ISIL terrorists targeted included individuals who fled to the remote desert camps from Sirte in order to reorganize, and they posed a security threat to Libya, the region, and U.S. national interests. While we are still evaluating the results of the strikes, the initial assessment indicates they were successful.” While the Northrop Grumman-built stealth bomber might seem like it would overkill to hit targets inside permissive airspace where there is no air threat or surface-to-air threat, Air Force officials said that there are circumstances that could have made the B-2 ideal for the strike. Nonetheless, the Air Force didn’t necessarily choose the B-2 itself, such assets are usually requested by the combatant commander. “These things get ‘requested’ from the AOR [area of responsibility]—not ‘pushed’ by Big Blue,” an Air Force official told me. “Certainly, the USAF is happy to provide forces that they invest a lot of time and effort into lobbying for investment from Congress. We saw that both in OOD [Operation Odyssey Dawn] and when the Raptors were used in Syria—but not Libya—too. This isn't about being choosey about the platform so as to maintain a narrative of relevance.” Read full article

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27 апреля, 17:25

The One U.S. Submarine That Could Completely Destroy North Korea

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Sebastien Roblin Security, Asia The Ohio-Class is one tough sub.  In the event of a nuclear exchange, a boomer would likely receive its firing orders via Very Low Frequency radio transmission. While a submarine’s missiles are not pretargeted, like those in in fixed silos, they can be assigned coordinates quite rapidly. The first eight Ohio-class boats were originally built to launch the Trident I C4 ballistic missile—an advanced version of the earlier Poseidon SLBM. However, by now all of the boomers are armed with the superior Trident II D5 ballistic missile, which has 50 percent greater range and is capable of very accurate strikes, which could enable them to precisely target military installations as a first-strike weapon. Ohio-class submarines also come armed with four twenty-one-inch tubes that can launch Mark 48 torpedoes. However, these are intended primarily for self-defense—a ballistic missile submarine’s job isn’t to hunt enemy ships and submarines, but to lie as low and quiet as possible to deny adversaries any means of tracking their movements. The submarine’s nuclear reactor gives it virtually unlimited underwater endurance and the ability to maintain cruising speeds of twenty knots (twenty-three miles per hour) while producing very little noise. Nine years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Ishirō Honda’s Godzilla depicted a monster awakened from the depths of the ocean to wreak havoc on Japanese cities. A giant fire-breathing reptile, however, was less horrifying than what was to come. In less than a decade’s time, there would be dozens of real undersea beasts capable of destroying multiple cities at a time. I’m referring, of course, to ballistic-missile submarines, or “boomers” in U.S. Navy parlance. The most deadly of the real-life kaiju prowling the oceans today are the fourteen Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarines, which carry upwards of half of the United States’ nuclear arsenal onboard. If you do the math, the Ohio-class boats may be the most destructive weapon system created by humankind. Each of the 170-meter-long vessels can carry twenty-four Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) which can be fired from underwater to strike at targets more than seven thousand miles away depending on the load. Read full article

27 апреля, 13:53

The U.S. Military’s Master Plan to Fight Russia and China in a War Is Already Here

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Dan Goure Security, Fortunately, many capabilities for a credible third offset strategy already exist. When faced with adversaries who seemed able to match or counter U.S. military-technological superiority, the Department of Defense began an intensive effort to invest in a new generation of capabilities designed to restore U.S. military preeminence or overmatch. This effort was labeled the Third Offset Strategy in recognition of two prior technology investment strategies that had, or so it was asserted, successfully countered advances in Soviet military capabilities. The first two offset strategies were designed with a particular adversary in mind, the Soviet Union and its allies, with a specific problem to overcome: a rapid conventional offensive against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Europe backed up by the threat of nuclear escalation. The first offset strategy was the widespread nuclearization of the U.S. military as a way of cost-effectively countering the massive Soviet/Warsaw Pact advantage in conventional forces. Once the Soviet Union achieved strategic nuclear parity with the U.S., the first offset strategy was rendered moot. U.S. Defense planners then invested in stealth, precision navigation and targeting, and airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to defeat Russian conventional forces. The best-known element of this second offset strategy was the AirLand Battle concept which sought to employ U.S. ground forces to fix advancing Soviet formations while airpower conducted deep strikes, including by early stealth aircraft, intended to disrupt the Soviet offensive. Today, Russia and other near-peers and regional adversaries have invested in a series of capabilities, tactics, techniques, and organizations designed to counter perceived U.S. and NATO military-technical advantages and support their own strategies for rapid, non-nuclear, offensive warfare. It became evident that the U.S. military needed new capabilities and concepts of operation. Read full article

27 апреля, 13:44

Theresa May Is Cruising Toward Re-Election

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Jacob Bojesson Politics, A done deal?  British Prime Minister Theresa May’s popularity has reached historic levels as Conservatives are cruising toward a landslide victory in the general election June 8. May called a snap general election April 18 “to make a success of Brexit.” The announcement came as a surprise to many, but polls predict an easy road to reelection for the party. (This first appeared on The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Website here.) The Conservatives would receive 49 percent of the votes, according to an Ipsos MORI poll released Wednesday. The Labour Party is 23 points behind at 26 percent. The lead is the largest the party has held during an election campaign since 1983. “The Conservatives’ focus on leadership seems to be working for them. It was a key strength of theirs in 2015, and now their lead has increased even further, while voters also say leadership is a more important issue,” Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI, said of the figures. Almost two in three voters, 61 percent, think May is the most capable person to lead the country. The score is the highest by any person since Ipsos MORI started asking the question in 1979. “The commitment of their supporters is also striking, compared with other parties – once again, especially to Theresa May’s leadership,” Skinner said. May called the election to secure stability and strong leadership during the U.K.’s process to leave the European Union. “It is with strong conviction that I believe it is necessary to secure a strong and stable leadership this country needs,” May said as she announced the election. “The country is coming together, but Westminster is not.” Read full article