The Koch Foundation Is Trying to Reshape Foreign Policy. With Liberal Allies. – By BEVERLY GAGE – The New York Times

Photo illustration by Paul Sahre

“Last year, the new Project on Grand Strategy, Security, and Statecraft quietly opened its doors in Cambridge, Mass. A joint venture between Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the program, thus far, has hosted only a modest level of activity, barely noticeable in the thrum of the Boston-area academic scene. Last year, the program supported two visiting scholars. This year, the number is up to four, all with specialties in some aspect of United States foreign relations.

If the program’s current scale may as yet be unremarkable, the ambitions of its founding donor are not. Created with $3.7 million in grants from the Charles Koch Foundation, the program is part of an expansive but little-noticed Koch-sponsored effort to influence American foreign policy by investing in the infrastructure of ideas: scholars, academic centers, Washington think tanks. So-called Koch money — the billions under the control of Charles and his brother David, who died in August — has already transformed countless other areas of American political life, from tax policy to environmental regulation to campaign finance, all in the service of a radically free-market vision that has made the Koch name an epithet among progressives.

When it comes to foreign policy, though, the agenda of the foundation — which supports education and research and constitutes a relatively small part of the Koch network — does not line up quite so neatly with partisan politics. In keeping with Charles Koch’s libertarian shrink-the-state imperative, the foundation has set out to bring an end to America’s age of endless wars and to reduce the nation’s military footprint around the world — a vision shared by many progressives, some of whom count themselves among the Koch grantees.

Since 2015, the foundation has committed more than $25 million to this effort. It has seeded academic programs at universities like Tufts, Notre Dame, the Catholic University of America, Texas A&M and the University of California, San Diego, in addition to Harvard and M.I.T. This summer, it also granted $460,000 — about a quarter of the start-up budget — to the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a new think tank that intends to challenge the “intellectual lethargy and dysfunction” of the foreign-policy establishment and to argue on behalf of greater military restraint. The left-leaning billionaire George Soros gave money through his foundation to the Quincy Institute as well, a strange-bedfellows arrangement much emphasized during the think tank’s rollout in late June — and a sign of how seriously the Trump presidency has shaken up traditional enmities and alliances.

Within the grand scheme of Koch-affiliated spending, the foundation’s foreign-policy investments are still pocket change; donors like Michael Bloomberg have given far more to similar projects. They are a tiny fraction of the $889 million the Koch network initially pledged for the 2016 election cycle — a sum comparable to that of the two major political parties — or the $400 million it pledged in 2018.”

Opinion | The Oslo Accords’ Last Remnants Are Under Fire. Don’t Let Them Die. – By Michael J. Koplow – The New York Times

By 

Dr. Koplow is an advocate for a viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

CreditCreditHazem Bader/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intention to immediately annex the West Bank’s Jordan Valley after Israel’s election on Sept. 17, should he emerge victorious. He further pledged to apply sovereignty to Israel’s settlements throughout the West Bank after President Trump unveils his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.

But Mr. Netanyahu’s fortunes and Mr. Trump’s plan may not matter. Under the radar, the Israelis and Palestinians have already set ominous precedents in administering their divided territories that will be extremely difficult to back away from and promise an incendiary environment for any talks about a lasting peace.

In short, the longstanding rules of temporary side-by-side coexistence in the West Bank, as set out under the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, are already being violated, and bit by bit both sides are taking steps that would nullify the remaining vestiges of the accords. If that trend continues, what is shaping events on the ground now may render any type of future division impossible.

Here is the problem: Oslo created clear lines of administrative control in the West Bank for Israel and the Palestinians by dividing the territory into distinct zones in which each side is responsible for day-to-day governing. Areas A and B are under Palestinian Authority administrative control, and Area C is under Israeli administrative control. While there have been numerous and continuing violations by both sides when it comes to security responsibility, that has not been the case with administrative responsibility. Until recently, Israel exercised its administrative control of Area C without attempting to extend its administrative reach into Areas A and B, while the Palestinian Authority ran Areas A and B with respect for Israel’s monopoly on governing Area C.”

 

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Comment at the NYT
Thank you Michael J. Koplow for this disturbing report. Ever since reading “Exodus” by Leon Uris as a teenager, I have been a supporter of Israel. But over decades, the picture has slowly changed, and the victims have become the victimizers.
It is time for the US to stop its $3 Billion subsidy to Israel, or explain what clear purpose it serves. My heart goes out to both sides, but the Palestinians, despite their faults, deserve a place to live.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Editorial | In Italy, a Sharp Turn Back to the Center – The New York Times

“Given that Italy has had more than five dozen governments in 73 years, the emergence of another unlikely and unstable coalition might look, in the phrase often attributed to Yogi Berra, like déjà vu all over again. Yet in the current wave of populism in Europe and around the world, the success of the Italian Parliament in pushing back against a right-wing firebrand bears a closer look.

The stage for the turnover was set in August, when Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right, anti-immigrant League party that for over a year had been in a ruling coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, decided to cash in on his popularity and ask the Italian electorate to hand him “full powers” in new elections.

Instead, the prime minister — a law professor named Giuseppe Conte, who had been pulled from obscurity last year to serve as a figurehead leader of that coalition government — delivered a potent speech in the Italian Senate upbraiding his former patron, Mr. Salvini, for “political opportunism” in “following his own interests and those of his party.”

Mr. Conte then cobbled together an improbable coalition of two parties more usually at each other’s throats, the Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party. On Monday, the government — now known popularly as Conte II, with Mr. Salvini in snarling opposition — easily won a vote of confidence and handed Mr. Conte back the ceremonial bell of the prime minister that he had held in the previous coalition government.”

Opinion | Trump and Xi Sittin’ in a Tree – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“I was glad to see the stock market get a boost from the news that Chinese and U.S. trade negotiators were talking again and that President Trump blinked a bit and pulled some of his planned tariffs.

But don’t be fooled. Trump and President Xi Jinping of China are still locked in a cage match over who is the true big dog in today’s global economy. Both are desperate not only to “win,” but to be seen to win, and not be subjected to the scorn of their rivals or critics on social media.

Precisely because neither leader feels he can afford that fate, both have overplayed their hands. Xi basically believes that nothing has to change — and all can be made to stay the same by the force of his will. Trump basically believes that everything has to change — and all can be made to change by the force of his will.

The rest of us are just along for the ride.

Let’s look at both men’s calculations and miscalculations. Trump was right in arguing that America should not continue to tolerate systemic abusive Chinese trade practices — intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers, huge government subsidies and nonreciprocal treatment of U.S. companies in China — now that China is virtually America’s technology equal and a rising middle-income country.”

Opinion | Where the Cold War Never Ended – By Ian Buruma – The New York Times

Japan and South Korea stir up an old, odd rivalry.

By 

Mr. Buruma is a writer and a professor at Bard College.

CreditCreditOleksii Liskonih/iStock, via Getty Images Plus

“In a rational world, South Korea and Japan ought to be the best of friends. Their cultures and languages are closely linked. Their economies are deeply entangled. And as the only liberal democracies in East Asia (along with Taiwan), they have to contend with the threat of North Korean belligerence and Chinese domination.

But the world is not so rational, and so the two American allies have recently become engaged in a flaming economic row, ostensibly sparked by historical wrongs. Late last year, the South Korean Supreme Court ruled that Japanese companies should compensate Koreans who were forced to work in Japanese factories and mines during World War II. Assets of major Japanese companies, such as Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, have been seized in South Korea, and they could soon be sold. The Japanese government protested that this matter had already been resolved in 1965, when the two countries reached an agreement claiming to settle “completely and finally” all colonial-era claims in exchange for financial aid and loans from Japan worth $500 million.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan retaliated last month by slapping controls on vital exports to South Korea. He cited reasons of national security, but few believe that. Demonstrators in Seoul then protested against a Japanese “economic invasion,” and the South Korean government threatened to stop sharing military intelligence with Japan.

This latest spat follows many others to do with history: the alleged lack of sincerity in official Japanese apologies for having subjected Korea to brutal colonial rule between 1910 and 1945; fights over revisions to school textbooks that downplay Japan’s wartime aggression; the refusal of conservative Japanese governments to admit that Korean women were systematically recruited to serve as sex slaves of the Japanese Imperial Army.”

Opinion | How Trump and Xi Can Make America and China Poor Again – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

“If you think that the United States-China trade dispute is going to be easily resolved, you’re not paying attention. It’s so much deeper than you think — and so much more dangerous.

If President Trump and President Xi Jinping don’t find a way to defuse it soon, we’re going to get where we’re going — fracturing the globalization system that has brought the world more peace and prosperity over the last 70 years than at any other time in history. And what we’ll be birthing in its place is a digital Berlin Wall and a two-internet, two-technology world: one dominated by China and the other by the United States.

This will be a much more unstable and less prosperous world. Trump and Xi should drop everything and sit down to resolve this crisis before it becomes a runaway train — fueled by populists and nationalists, and amplified by social media, in both countries.

How did we get here? Two things converged: The character of U.S.-China trade changed — it went “deep,” and both President Xi and President Trump overplayed their hands and freaked each other out.”

Opinion | Boris Johnson Is How Britain Ends – By James Butler – The New York Times

By James Butler

Mr. Butler is a British journalist.

“LONDON — Boris Johnson, to whom lying comes as easily as breathing, is on the verge of becoming prime minister. He faces the most complex and intractable political crisis to affect Britain since 1945.

That should be concerning enough. But given Britain’s political system — which relies for its maintenance on the character and disposition of the prime minister — it carries even graver import. Mr. Johnson, whose laziness is proverbial and opportunism legendary, is a man well-practiced in deceit, a pander willing to tickle the prejudices of his audience for easy gain. His personal life is incontinent, his public record inconsequential.

And his premiership could bring about the end of Britain itself.

The state of the United Kingdom, a constitutional compact founded in 1922 and stretching back, in one form or another, for centuries, is severely strained. Though Brexit is primarily driven by English passions, two of the four territories in the Union — Northern Ireland and Scotland — voted to remain. Both present immediate problems for Mr. Johnson — and for the future of Britain.

In Scotland, rancor at the sense that the country’s vote counted for little and subsequent repeated bouts of parliamentary chaos have led to renewed calls for a second independence ballot. Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, insists Scotland will hold one if Brexit takes place. One of the most adroit politicians in Britain, Ms. Sturgeon knows that despite widespread misgivings about Brexit, the majority needed for independence does not currently exist. But recent polling suggests a Johnson government might tilt the scales in her favor. An independent Scotland may be conjured out of the chicanery of Mr. Johnson’s rule.”

Opinion | Greece Is the Good News Story in Europe – By Roger Cohen – The New York Times

Greek resilience through crisis demonstrates that reports of democracy’s demise are exaggerated.

Roger Cohen

By Roger Cohen

Opinion Columnist

Kyriakos Mitsotakis at a rally in Athens on Thursday.CreditAndrew Testa for The New York Times

“ATHENS — If you’re looking for an optimistic story in Europe, try Greece. Yes, you read that right. Having lost a quarter of its economy in a devastating recession, Greece has turned the corner, its democracy intact, its extremist temptations defeated and its anti-Americanism defunct.

The landslide election on Sunday of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the dynamic leader of the center-right New Democracy party, marked the end of a chapter. Greece rejected Alexis Tsipras, the leftist leader who took the country to the brink of ruin in 2015 before discovering a pragmatic streak. It also voted the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn out of Parliament. At the height of the crisis, Golden Dawn had become the country’s third-largest party.

First into populism, Greece is now first out. For a country in free fall, the anchors of the European Union and NATO are not so negligible after all. Europe is not simply a story of growing nationalism and xenophobia. It’s a continent in violent flux, torn between liberal democratic and nativist currents.

Despite unemployment that reached almost 30 percent, a chaotic near-exit from the euro, huge bailouts to save it from bankruptcy, mandated austerity programs and a wave of desperate refugees from Syria, Greece stabilized itself. It’s a reminder that reports of democracy’s demise are exaggerated.”

Opinion | Hong Kong Has Nothing Left to Lose – The New York Times

By Louisa Lim

Ms. Lim, the author of “The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited,” is writing a book about Hong Kong.

A protester in the Hong Kong legislative chamber on Monday.CreditAnthony Kwan/Getty Images
ImageA protester in the Hong Kong legislative chamber on Monday.
CreditCreditAnthony Kwan/Getty Images

HONG KONG — After breaking into Hong Kong’s legislature, protesters left a message for Carrie Lam, the city’s top government official, spray-painted on a pillar: “It was you who taught me that peaceful protests are futile.”

To the young activists, the storming of the Legislative Council was an act of desperation. Three times in the past month, tremendous numbers of Hong Kongers — at one point estimated to be more than two million — marched peacefully to protest against a controversial extradition bill with China, which they fear would undermine Hong Kong’s judiciary and its freedom. The government suspended but did not withdraw the law. It did not even meet representatives of those who marched.

I was among the journalists covering the break-in of the building, and I watched as protesters ripped metal bars from the side of the building to smash their way through the windows. Their actions seemed like a breathtaking act of defilement of one of Hong Kong’s institutions.

Opinion | Why China No Longer Needs Hong Kong – By Eswar S. Prasad – The New York Times

By Eswar S. Prasad

Mr. Prasad is a professor at Cornell University and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The national flag of China, left, and the Hong Kong flag this week. The size of China’s financial markets now dwarfs that of Hong Kong’s.CreditVivek Prakash/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“For many years after regaining control of Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, China mostly respected the territory’s institutions. That is no longer the case, as Beijing’s heavy hand during the recent protests in the city has made obvious.

So what changed? In 1997, China needed Hong Kong. China had not yet been allowed to join the World Trade Organization, so Chinese exporters had limited access to the global market. Hong Kong was the solution: It served as a channel for entrepôt trade — goods from China could enter the territory’s ports and then be sent as exports from Hong Kong to the rest of the world, thus evading the trade restrictions imposed by member nations on nations outside the organization.

When China became part of the trade organization in 2001, entrepôt trade through Hong Kong lost its importance. By some estimates, nearly half of China’s trade went through Hong Kong in 1997, today that figure is less than 12 percent.

In terms of total size and wealth, Hong Kong has also shrunk relative to China, which has experienced more than three decades of astoundingly high economic growth. In 1997, Hong Kong’s economy was one-fifth the size of China’s, and its per capita income was 35 times higher. By 2018, Hong Kong’s economy was barely one-thirtieth the size of China’s. Hong Kong is still richer, but the gap is narrowing, with its per capita income now five times higher than China’s.”