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Michael Klare, War With China in 2027?

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Yep, it happened again for the 11th time this year. (In 2020, the number was 13.) An American warship, in this case the guided-missile destroyer Milius, sailed through the Taiwan Strait between mainland China and the disputed island of Taiwan to, as a Navy spokesperson put it, “demonstrate the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.” From the Navy point of view, the Milius’s recent voyage is nothing but a vivid demonstration that “the United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.” Who cares how upset Chinese officials might get?

And honestly, who can deny it? Anywhere is anywhere, no matter how loaded (if you’ll excuse that all-too-loaded word) the situation there might be. If Chinese officials are disturbed, how unreasonable of them!  TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, in fact, keeps a tally of such close encounters of the naval kind at his Committee for a Sane U.S.-China Policy website. So far this year, he’s already counted 56 of them in the region, no small number when you think about it and any one of which could lead, all too literally, to an explosive situation.

Yes, the spokesmen for the Chinese government, which claims the island of Taiwan as its own, complain bitterly about such constant provocations (as those officials see it). As one put it in response to the latest American sortie, “U.S. warships have repeatedly flexed muscles, made provocations, and stirred up trouble in the Taiwan Strait in the name of ‘freedom of navigation.’ This is by no means commitment to freedom and openness, but rather deliberate disruption and sabotage of regional peace and stability” — but who really cares?

Now, admittedly, I have yet to see American officials invite Chinese naval vessels to sail up and down the California coast, but no one in Washington would mind that, would they? Of course not! In fact, I’m sure, that, in the name of upholding international law, there’s an open invitation to some Chinese guided-missile destroyer to visit soon and often!  In the meantime, as Klare suggests today, such maneuvers might be the least of our future problems — with a potential World War III looming on the horizon. Tom

Countdown to World War III?

It May Arrive Sooner Than You Think

When the Department of Defense released its annual report on Chinese military strength in early November, one claim generated headlines around the world. By 2030, it suggested, China would probably have 1,000 nuclear warheads -- three times more than at present and enough to pose a substantial threat to the United States. As a Washington Post headline put it, typically enough: “China accelerates nuclear weapons expansion, seeks 1,000 warheads or more, Pentagon says.”

The media, however, largely ignored a far more significant claim in that same report: that China would be ready to conduct “intelligentized” warfare by 2027, enabling the Chinese to effectively resist any U.S. military response should it decide to invade the island of Taiwan, which they view as a renegade province. To the newsmakers of this moment, that might have seemed like far less of a headline-grabber than those future warheads, but the implications couldn’t be more consequential. Let me, then, offer you a basic translation of that finding: as the Pentagon sees things, be prepared for World War III to break out any time after January 1, 2027.

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Rebecca Gordon, Why Do We Need a 24/7 Economy?

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When it came to work and the pandemic, you could say that I led the way. By the time it struck, I had left my job as an editor in publishing and had been working at home for decades. I was, in that sense, a remote worker long before Zoom made working from home a potential reality of everyday life. Mind you, in those pre-pandemic years, I was also toiling alone in my little home office in an America working its way toward Gilded Age-levels of inequality, the collapse of the union movement, and — as TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon makes all too clear today — the institution in so many jobs of hellish working hours and conditions.

And yes, the pandemic has been a veritable godsend for billionaires who’ve made money in such a stunning fashion while it killed millions (and then taken off for outer space to spend it). Still, on the rare bright side in these nearly two pandemic years, fear of that disease and of labor that endangered workers because of it in jobs ranging from meat packing to truck driving — once considered high-paying blue-collar work but now a nightmare of low wages and poor conditions and short 80,000 drivers this Covid-19 Christmas season! — led staggering millions to voluntarily quit their jobs in what’s been called “the Great Resignation.” That, in turn, opened the way for a revived union movement, rising labor militancy, the recent month of “Striketober,” and potentially better pay and working conditions.

In other words, it’s just possible that, on the other side of the pandemic (if such a side even exists), could lie a better working America in every sense of the phrase — or, of course, if Donald Trump and the Republican Party have their way, it could lead to an all-too-literal hell on earth. In the meantime, consider with Gordon what it means for an American president, in this case a Democrat, to call for dock workers to go on a 24/7 schedule to ensure that Christmas presents arrive at homes on time. A Gilded Age? Not for those workers heading for the night shift, that’s for sure. Tom

Supply-Chain Woes

The “Graveyard Shift” in a Pandemic World

In mid-October, President Biden announced that the Port of Los Angeles would begin operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, joining the nearby Port of Long Beach, which had been doing so since September. The move followed weeks of White House negotiations with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, as well as shippers like UPS and FedEx, and major retailers like Walmart and Target.

The purpose of expanding port hours, according to the New York Times, was “to relieve growing backlogs in the global supply chains that deliver critical goods to the United States.” Reading this, you might be forgiven for imagining that an array of crucial items like medicines or their ingredients or face masks and other personal protective equipment had been languishing in shipping containers anchored off the West Coast. You might also be forgiven for imagining that workers, too lazy for the moment at hand, had chosen a good night’s sleep over the vital business of unloading such goods from boats lined up in their dozens offshore onto trucks, and getting them into the hands of the Americans desperately in need of them. Reading further, however, you'd learn that those “critical goods” are actually things like “exercise bikes, laptops, toys, [and] patio furniture.”

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Engelhardt, Trumptopia?

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Let’s hope all of us have a decent Thanksgiving in a year that’s been all too difficult. TomDispatch will be back on Tuesday, November 30th. In the meantime, do consider picking up a copy of historian Alfred McCoy’s remarkable new Dispatch Book, To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change, as so many who have praised it from Andrew Bacevich (“history on an epic scale — sweeping, provocative, and unsparing in its judgments”) to Amy Goodman (“a brilliant distillation of 700 years of geopolitics”) to Adam Hochschild (“no one sees a bigger picture more brilliantly than Alfred McCoy in this powerful, enlightening, and frightening book”) suggest, it will change how you see our world, its past and future. Check out McCoy’s recent TD piece, if you want to know more about it. Remember as well that you can visit our donation page and for $100 (or $150 if you live outside the U.S.), McCoy will sign and personalize a copy for you and you’ll be doing this website a great favor. Finally, my deepest thanks to all of you who have already done either of the above! You’re champs! Tom]

Welcome to the Martians!

Our World Is Increasingly Like a Science-Fiction Novel

Who knew that Martians, inside monstrous tripodal machines taller than many buildings, actually ululated, that they made eerily haunting "ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla" sounds? Well, let me tell you that they do -- or rather did when they were devastating London.

I know that because I recently reread H.G. Wells's 1898 novel War of the Worlds, while revisiting an early moment in my own life. Admittedly, I wasn't in London when those Martian machines, hooting away, stalked boldly into that city, hungry in the most literal fashion imaginable for human blood. No surprise there, since that was almost a century and a quarter ago. Still, at 77, thanks to that book, I was at least able to revisit a moment that had been mine long enough ago to seem almost like fiction.

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