Reducing Fire, and Cutting Carbon Emissions, the Aboriginal Way – By Thomas Fuller – The New York Times

By 

Photographs and Video by 

“COOINDA, Australia — At a time when vast tracts of Australia are burning, Violet Lawson is never far from a match.

In the woodlands surrounding her home in the far north of the country, she lights hundreds of small fires a year — literally fighting fire with fire. These traditional Aboriginal practices, which reduce the undergrowth that can fuel bigger blazes, are attracting new attention as Australia endures disaster and confronts a fiery future.

Over the past decade, fire-prevention programs, mainly on Aboriginal lands in northern Australia, have cut destructive wildfires in half. While the efforts draw on ancient ways, they also have a thoroughly modern benefit: Organizations that practice defensive burning have earned $80 million under the country’s cap-and-trade system as they have reduced greenhouse-gas emissions from wildfires in the north by 40 percent.

These programs, which are generating important scientific data, are being held up as a model that could be adapted to save lives and homes in other regions of Australia, as well as fire-prone parts of the world as different as California and Botswana.”

Trump’s China Deal Creates Collateral Damage for Tech Firms – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — Among the corporate titans recognized last week by President Trump during a White House signing ceremony for his China trade deal was Sanjay Mehrotra, the chief executive of Micron Technology, whose Idaho semiconductor company is at the heart of Mr. Trump’s trade war.

Micron, which makes memory chips for computers and smartphones, is precisely the kind of advanced technology company that the Trump administration views as crucial to maintaining a competitive edge over China. After Micron rebuffed a 2015 takeover attempt by a Chinese state-owned company, it watched with disbelief as its innovations were stolen and copied by a Chinese competitor and its business was blocked from China.

China’s treatment of American companies like Micron fed Mr. Trump’s decision to unleash a punishing trade war with the world’s second-largest economy, a fight he said would halt Beijing’s use of unfair practices to undermine the United States. But that two-year conflagration may wind up being more damaging to American technology companies.

The initial trade deal announced last week should make operating in China easier for companies like Micron. The deal contains provisions meant to protect American technology and trade secrets and allow companies to challenge China on accusations of theft, including older cases like Micron’s that precede the agreement.”

How China Obtains American Trade Secrets – by Keith Bradsher – New York Times

“. . . . The American authorities have long accused Chinese companies and individuals of hacking and other outright theft of American corporate secrets. And some in the Trump administration worry that Chinese companies are simply buying it through corporate deals.

American companies say Chinese companies also use more subtle tactics to get access to valuable technology.

Sometimes China requires foreign companies to form joint ventures with local firms in order to do business there, as in the case of the auto industry. It also sometimes requires that a certain percentage of a product’s value be manufactured locally, as it once did with wind turbines and solar panels.

The technology companies Apple and Amazon set up ventures with local partners to handle data in China to comply with internal security laws.

Companies are loath to accuse Chinese partners of theft for fear of getting punished. Business groups that represent them say Chinese companies use those corporate ties to pressure foreign partners into giving up secrets. They also say Chinese officials have pressured foreign companies to give them access to sensitive technology as part of a review process to make sure those products are safe for Chinese consumers.”

Opinion | Suleimani Is Dead, Iraq Is in Chaos and ISIS Is Very Happy – By Ali H. Soufan – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Soufan is a former F.B.I. special agent and the author of “Anatomy of Terror.”

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

“In 2016, Donald Trump, then a candidate for president, described Barack Obama as the “founder of ISIS.” In the end, it may be Mr. Trump who comes to be known not as the terrorist group’s founder, but as its savior.

The Islamic State has been weakened considerably since its peak in 2015, when it controlled a territory the size of Britain, but the Trump administration’s targeted killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani may have poised the group for a comeback. Just as the misguided American invasion of Iraq in 2003 revitalized Al Qaeda, some 17 years later, a return to chaos in the same country may yet do the same for the Islamic State.

Granted, the White House was correct to identify General Suleimani, the leader of Iran’s Quds Force, as an enemy of the United States. Using the militia groups he cultivated and controlled, he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of coalition soldiers in the late 2000s and early 2010s. But war in the Middle East is nothing if not complex; General Suleimani’s proxies also indirectly served American interests by fighting the Islamic State — to great effect.

Still, contrary to the breathless eulogies to him in Iran, he was not some indispensable hero who single-handedly defeated the Islamic State. Other commanders will fill his shoes, if not in star power then at least in strategic expertise. The real boon for the jihadists will be the second-order effects of his death.

Opinion | Australia Shows Us the Road to Hell – By Paul Krugman- The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“In a rational world, the burning of Australia would be a historical turning point. After all, it’s exactly the kind of catastrophe climate scientists long warned us to expect if we didn’t take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a 2008 report commissioned by the Australian government predicted that global warming would cause the nation’s fire seasons to begin earlier, end later, and be more intense — starting around 2020.

Furthermore, though it may seem callous to say it, this disaster is unusually photogenic. You don’t need to pore over charts and statistical tables; this is a horror story told by walls of fire and terrified refugees huddled on beaches.

So this should be the moment when governments finally began urgent efforts to stave off climate catastrophe.

But the world isn’t rational. In fact, Australia’s anti-environmentalist government seems utterly unmoved as the nightmares of environmentalists become reality. And the anti-environmentalist media, the Murdoch empire in particular, has gone all-out on disinformation, trying to place the blame on arsonists and “greenies” who won’t let fire services get rid of enough trees.

These political reactions are more terrifying than the fires themselves.”

“. . . . .  The answer, pretty clearly, is that scientific persuasion is running into sharply diminishing returns. Very few of the people still denying the reality of climate change or at least opposing doing anything about it will be moved by further accumulation of evidence, or even by a proliferation of new disasters. Any action that does take place will have to do so in the face of intractable right-wing opposition.

This means, in turn, that climate action will have to offer immediate benefits to large numbers of voters, because policies that seem to require widespread sacrifice — such as policies that rely mainly on carbon taxes — would be viable only with the kind of political consensus we clearly aren’t going to get.

What might an effective political strategy look like? I’ve been rereading a 2014 speech by the eminent political scientist Robert Keohane, who suggested that one way to get past the political impasse on climate might be via “an emphasis on huge infrastructural projects that created jobs” — in other words, a Green New Deal. Such a strategy could give birth to a “large climate-industrial complex,” which would actually be a good thing in terms of political sustainability.”

Opinion | Australia Is Burning – By Cormac Farrell – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Farrell is an environmental scientist and a certified bush-fire planning and design practitioner.

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“CANBERRA, Australia — Every state in Australia has been touched by fire since the season started in September. The fires have burned over 12 million acres, an area larger than Maryland. Four hundred and eighty million animals are estimated to be killed or badly injured. Thousands of people have been evacuated. At least 24 have died.

This is just the midpoint of our normal fire season, which used to run from October to March but now is almost year round.

As I write this, my parents are living without power in an evacuation center in Narooma, a town of 2,600 people on the east coast of New South Wales. I am over a hundred miles away, unable to reach them by phone.

In the middle of this destruction, many Australian commentators in the mainstream and social media peddle a simplistic view: that the fires were caused by excess plant growth and mismanagement of public land.

Opinion | Why Did the U.S. Kill Suleimani? – By Elizabeth Cobbs and Kimberly C. Field – The New York Times

By Elizabeth Cobbs and 

Dr. Cobbs is a professor of history at Texas A&M University, where Ms. Field, a retired Army brigadier general, is the executive director of the Albritton Center for Grand Strategy.

Credit…Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

“Among the many questions raised by the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, perhaps the most pressing is, “Why?” Yes, General Suleimani was responsible for hundreds of American deaths, and he may have been planning another attack on United States forces. But the greater concern, raised by people from Tucker Carlson on the right to Elizabeth Warren on the left, is how this provocative act fits into America’s overall interests — in other words, our grand strategy.

Disturbingly, it’s a bit of a trick question. America doesn’t really have a grand strategy. What we do have, a patchwork of doctrines left over from the Cold War, fails to match our abilities, our national goals and the changing shape of global threats and opportunities.

America desperately needs a new grand strategy — a concise, high-level vision for our role in the world. Without one, we are just wasting lives and resources.

The lack of a useful grand strategy has been apparent for a long time. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, one of us, Ms. Field, at the time an Army officer, was dispatched to Central Command to help prepare for the invasion of Iraq, a country that wasn’t involved in the assault on our cities. She wondered what objective would lead us to target a third party a thousand miles from Afghanistan. What overarching plan, what strategy, justified such a major undertaking? Four tours of duty overseas never revealed the answer to her.”

David Lindsay:

Thank you Elizabeth Cobbs and Kimberly C. Field for your NYT op-ed;  Why Did the U.S. Kill Suleimani?  The attack illustrates America’s lack of a clear grand strategy — and why we need one immediately. You suggest that we should choose between City on a Hill, Fortress on a Hill, and World Policeman.  You stated your three models  as follows:

“City on a Hill

“This strategy would have America lead mostly by example. Over two centuries, the United Stateswent from being the sole democratic republic in the world to one among nearly 200, largely because others wanted what we have. America has accomplished more with attraction than coercion. Under this strategy, America would redirect money from overseas military commitments to improving domestic infrastructure, education, technology, health care and the environment to showcase democracy’s strengths. We would assist foreign governments with economic development and peaceful conflict resolution.

City on a Hill strikes a compromise between Washington’s Great Rule and the Truman Doctrine. We would keep alliances but renegotiate them to ensure we cannot be dragged into peripheral fights or be placed first in line to do other people’s killing. In coordination with allies, the United States would incrementally withdraw from most military installations abroad. This would undermine North Korea’s assertion that it is building warheads to deter invasion from the Americans on its border. Like other countries, we would size our forces to defend our own shores.

Fortress on a Hill

China’s transformation into a competitor that almost equals us economically but outranks us in population has created a new reality. Recognizing that both China and America have incentives to maintain good relations, but not overlooking China’s ambitions, the Fortress on a Hill strategy would retain large forces at home and abroad and revamp America’s nuclear strategies to guarantee the security of liberal states while respecting China’s reasonable demands for recognition of its preferences.

Fortress on a Hill would protect our shores while selectively reducing overseas bases, devolve more responsibility onto China for keeping trade routes open, and allow the United States to focus on the nonmilitary dimensions of international problems. It would also give military assistance, in the form of training and weapons, to like-minded countries that take primary responsibility for their defense, further reducing the burden on Washington.

World Policeman

The last grand strategy would be the closest to our current policy. The World Policeman approach would continue to assume that we can best assure our interests by being the world’s emergency responders. We would guarantee security for all countries that ask, maintain existing foreign bases, increase spending on soft power assistance, and in general do whatever is necessary to remain No. 1.”

The world policeman grand strategy has been in use during my life time, and is more or less discredited. It’s expensive, we can’t afford it, and we aren’t that good at it. Since there are aspects of the other two that we want to keep, my initial thought is that we should move from World Policman to Fortress on a Hill, knowing that that strategy should aim to transform into City on a Hill as soon as reasonably possible, even though it might take a century or more.

The United States has to find a balance between City and Fortress on a Hill, so that we do not pauperize ourselves, by paying for our allies defense needs. The number of troops we keep stationed abroad could be dramatically reduced, but not eliminated. The nuclear umbrella makes sense, to try and prevent an arms race worldwide in nuclear weapons. China needs to be contained by a world order, not by the US unilaterally as the new world bully. As Cobbs and Field point out, the next great wars will not require armies. We need to mitigate and adapt to climate change. I would add to their list, thkat we must slow the 6th extinction of species, by stopping and human population growth, and probably reducing human population, to some sustainable number.

Opinion | The Dire Consequences of Trump’s Suleimani Decision – By Susan E. Rice – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Rice, a contributing opinion writer, was the national security adviser from 2013 to 2017.

Credit…Jonathan Drake/Reuters

“Americans would be wise to brace for war with Iran.

Full-scale conflict is not a certainty, but the probability is higher than at any point in decades. Despite President Trump’s oft-professed desire to avoid war with Iran and withdraw from military entanglements in the Middle East, his decision to order the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s second most important official, as well as Iraqi leaders of an Iranian-backed militia, now locks our two countries in a dangerous escalatory cycle that will likely lead to wider warfare.

How did we get here? What are the consequences of these targeted killings? Can we avoid a worse-case scenario?

The escalatory cycle began in May 2018, when President Trump recklessly ignored the advice of his national security team and the opposition of our allies in unilaterally withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal — despite Iran’s full adherence to its terms and its efficacy in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program. Since then, the Trump administration has had no coherent strategy to constrain Iran’s program or to counter other aspects of its nefarious behavior.

Mr. Trump’s “maximum pressure campaign” to impose ever more debilitating economic sanctions did not force Iran to capitulate; instead, predictably, it induced Tehran to lash out with a series of increasingly bold military provocations against Sunni Arab and Western targets while restarting important aspects of its nuclear program. Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, notably in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, have only intensified. At the same time, it has conducted a brutal crackdown on its civilian population. None of the Trump administration’s stated objectives have been met; if anything, the United States’ security and strategic positions in the region have weakened.”

Opinion | Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide – By Richard Flanagan – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Flanagan is a novelist.

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“BRUNY ISLAND, Australia — Australia today is ground zero for the climate catastrophe. Its glorious Great Barrier Reef is dying, its world-heritage rain forests are burning, its giant kelp forests have largely vanished, numerous towns have run out of water or are about to, and now the vast continent is burning on a scale never before seen.

The images of the fires are a cross between “Mad Max” and “On the Beach”: thousands driven onto beaches in a dull orange haze, crowded tableaux of people and animals almost medieval in their strange muteness — half-Bruegel, half-Bosch, ringed by fire, survivors’ faces hidden behind masks and swimming goggles. Day turns to night as smoke extinguishes all light in the horrifying minutes before the red glow announces the imminence of the inferno. Flames leaping 200 feet into the air. Fire tornadoes. Terrified children at the helm of dinghies, piloting away from the flames, refugees in their own country.

The fires have already burned about 14.5 million acres — an area almost as large as West Virginia, more than triple the area destroyed by the 2018 fires in California and six times the size of the 2019 fires in Amazonia. Canberra’s air on New Year’s Day was the most polluted in the world partly because of a plume of fire smoke as wide as Europe.

Scientists estimate that close to half a billion native animals have been killed and fear that some species of animals and plants may have been wiped out completely. Surviving animals are abandoning their young in what is described as mass “starvation events.” At least 18 people are dead and grave fears are held about many more.”

Opinion | Qassim Suleimani’s Killing Will Unleash Chaos – By Barbara Slavin – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Slavin directs the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

Demonstrators in Tehran protested after a U.S. airstrike killed Maj. Gen.

Credit…Vahid Salemi/Associated Press

“Few tears will be shed in many parts of the world for Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, whose Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps ruthlessly spread Iranian influence and contributed to the deaths of thousands of Syrians, Iraqis and Iranians, as well as hundreds of American servicemen in Iraq, over the past decade and a half.

But revenge is not a strategy, and the killing of General Suleimani is a major — and incredibly risky — escalation with Iran, a pivotal country of some 80 million people that has been largely estranged from the United States for 40 years. It will cause more instability and the loss of more innocent lives. Any chances for American diplomacy with Iran are dead for the duration of the Trump presidency — if not longer. Instead of one nuclear proliferation crisis, with North Korea, there will most likely now be two, as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal completely collapses. The Sunni fundamentalists who killed Americans in their homeland — something Iran has not done so far — will rejoice. Russia and China will be happy to see the United States mired in the Middle East for the foreseeable future.

It is important to remember who began this spiral. In May 2018, President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear agreement negotiated by his predecessor at a time when Iran was in full compliance with it. When he did so, the Quds Force and its associated militias in Iraq were fighting the Islamic State in indirect coordination with the American military. The Persian Gulf was quiet.

For a year after the American withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the status quo prevailed. Then in April 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced what amounted to an embargo on the export of Iranian oil. Shortly afterward, Iran moved from “strategic patience” to resistance and retaliation: first against oil tankers, then against an American drone and in September against Saudi oil facilities. In Iraq, Iran-backed militias started lobbing rockets into the Green Zone and other locations where Americans are based. On Dec. 27, rockets killed an American contractor in Kirkuk, and the United States retaliated with strikes that killed two dozen militia members in Iraq and Syria. Iran-backed militias responded with an attempt to break into the American embassy in Baghdad on New Year’s Eve.”