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Michael Klare, The Burning Future of U.S.-China Relations

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Hey, these days the world really is a barrel of cheery news, isn’t it? Take the U.S. and China. How much more swimmingly could relations between them go on this planet of sickness and heat? Just in case you missed it, despite the attack on the Capitol on January 6th and his never-ending claims that he won the election, Donald Trump did leave office. Economically speaking, however, as the New York Times reported, he didn’t — not when it comes to China anyway. To date, eight months into his term, President Joe Biden is Donald Trump, at least in the sense that he’s refused to lift the former president’s tariffs on Chinese goods (for which, during the election campaign, he criticized Trump fiercely) and is pushing China’s leaders on “trade commitments agreed to during the Trump administration.”

Worse yet, when it comes to preparing for a new cold war with that country, if not a potential full-scale conflict, he’s increasingly become The Donald-plus. And with the recent announcement of AUKUS, a new anti-Chinese bloc involving Great Britain, Australia, and the U.S. (the white man’s Asian alliance, it seems), cemented by the selling of nuclear-powered subs to the Australians, things only grow more ominous. And both sides continue to spar dangerously around the island of Taiwan.

Meanwhile, as the American West has burned and the Chinese city of Zhengzhou essentially drowned, the possibility of significant climate relations between by far the two greatest greenhouse-gas emitters on the planet seems anything but hopeful. In fact, when former Secretary of State John Kerry, the Biden administration’s special climate envoy, visited China last month, he came away with distinctly less than nothing. (“The Taliban got a better reception,” noted one China observer.) And yet, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare makes all too clear today, if Beijing and Washington can’t reach some kind of serious agreement, we, our children, and our grandchildren are in trouble deep. We face a future all-too-literally embroiled in what, as he explains, could be the hottest “war” around. Tom

How to Save the World (from a Climate Armageddon)

There’s Only One Way and This Is It

This summer we witnessed, with brutal clarity, the Beginning of the End: the end of Earth as we know it -- a world of lush forests, bountiful croplands, livable cities, and survivable coastlines. In its place, we saw the early manifestations of a climate-damaged planet, with scorched forests, parched fields, scalding cities, and storm-wracked coastlines. In a desperate bid to prevent far worse, leaders from around the world will soon gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for a U.N. Climate Summit. You can count on one thing, though: all their plans will fall far short of what’s needed unless backed by the only strategy that can save the planet: a U.S.-China Climate Survival Alliance.

Of course, politicians, scientific groups, and environmental organizations will offer plans of every sort in Glasgow to reduce global carbon emissions and slow the process of planetary incineration. President Biden’s representatives will tout his promise to promote renewable energy and install electric-car-charging stations nationwide, while President Macron of France will offer his own ambitious proposals, as will many other leaders. However, no combination of these, even if carried out, would prove sufficient to prevent global disaster -- not as long as China and the U.S. continue to prioritize trade competition and war preparations over planetary survival.

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Andrea Mazzarino, My War on Terror, Up Close and Personal

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Just a small reminder that, for a few more days, you can still get a personalized, signed copy of TomDispatch regular Karen Greenberg’s superb new book, Subtle Tools: The Dismantling of American Democracy from the War on Terror to Donald Trump.  (Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright calls it “a valuable and original work of scholarship that focuses a new lens on American history from 9/11 to the January 6 insurrection.”) To do so, just go to the TomDispatch donation page and contribute a minimum of $100 ($125 if you live outside the U.S.A.) and, while you’re at it, you’ll be helping this site stay afloat in an impressively grim world. Tom]

It’s hard to imagine how I would have done my work at TomDispatch over the last decade without one crucial resource: Brown University’s Costs of War Project. After all, that website has offered a remarkable look at America’s misbegotten twenty-first-century wars. Since it was launched in 2010, it’s been a constant source of crucial information on this country’s forever wars — with a focus on their costs (in every sense of the term).

If you visit that site now, for instance, you’ll find out that a reasonable (if breathtaking) estimate of the cost of those wars over the last two decades would be $8 trillion (not including the $2.2 trillion needed to care for the American veterans of those conflicts over the next 30 years); that the now-ended war in Afghanistan alone cost the American taxpayer $2.313 trillion; that, by the estimate of that project’s researchers, close to a million people have already died in those very wars, including almost 400,000 civilians; that those same conflicts have created at least 38 million refugees and displaced people and so, thanks to growing streams of desperate migrants, helped change the politics of the planet (for the worse); and that this country has conducted counterterrorism operations in 85 countries. And mind you, that’s only to begin to summarize the work produced by the Costs of War Project.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the way the interests of this website and that project have intersected, TomDispatch pieces have regularly cited information from it and, in the case of Stephanie Savell and today’s author, Andrea Mazzarino, have even featured some of the leading scholars and researchers there. Strikingly enough, Mazzarino, a military spouse, therapist, and TomDispatch regular, was one of the founders of that crucial antiwar website and has never hesitated to express her own critical views of America’s disastrously damaging conflicts.  In her latest piece, she offers a deeply personal sense of what it’s felt like to hold such views and still remain associated with the U.S. military — and how, in the post-9/11 years, that military has become part and parcel of a distinctly all-American “surveillance” culture. Tom

Eyes Are Always on You

Life in the Post-9/11 Military

I know what it means to be watched all too carefully, a phenomenon that's only grown worse in the war-on-terror years. I'm a strange combination, I suspect, being both a military spouse and an anti-war-on-terror activist. As I've discovered, the two sit uncomfortably in what still passes for one life. In this country in these years, having eyes on you has, sadly enough, become a common and widespread phenomenon. When it's the government doing it, it's called "surveillance." When it's your peers or those above you in the world of the military spouse, there's no word for it at all.

Now, be patient with me while I start my little exploration of such an American state at the most personal level before moving on to the way in which we now live in ever more of a -- yes -- surveillance state.

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Karen Greenberg, Apologies All Around (Unfortunately, Not)

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: In her new book, Subtle Tools: The Dismantling of American Democracy from the War on Terror to Donald Trump, TD regular Karen Greenberg takes us from Ground Zero to January 6th, exploring just how policies originally meant to fight the war on terror were “weaponized” at home as well, especially in the age of Trump. This is stuff we need to know, so do pick up a copy. If, however, you want to have your own personalized, signed version of the book (I already have mine!), visit our donation page. For a minimum gift of $100 ($125 if you live outside the USA), it’s yours — and you’ll be helping TomDispatch carry on the good fight while you’re at it. By the way, the next TD piece will appear on the Tuesday after this holiday weekend. Tom]

Just in case you didn’t realize it, the lost war in Afghanistan was their fault, not ours. If we had any fault at all, as Secretary of Defense and former Iraq War commander Lloyd Austin pointed out at a Senate hearing last week, it was not fully grasping how bad our Afghan allies — in other words, the very government and military we had created there — were. “We need to consider some uncomfortable truths,” he said. “That we didn’t fully comprehend the depth of corruption and poor leadership in the senior ranks. That we didn’t grasp the damaging effect of frequent and unexplained rotations by President Ghani of his commanders.” Oh yeah, and maybe that weird president we had not so long ago had something to do with it, too, when he reached an agreement with the Taliban at Doha, Qatar, for the withdrawal of American troops. As Austin put it: “And that the Doha agreement itself had a demoralizing effect on Afghan soldiers.”

The only people who had nothing to do with disaster in that country, it seems, were the splendid generals of the U.S. military who commanded up to 100,000 American troops and monumental air power against the Taliban at the height of the war and have never wanted to give up the ghost. As we now know, until the very last moment (almost 20 years of devastating failure after it began), they were still “advising” President Biden not to withdraw our troops from that land.

Honestly, our commanders who, like Austin, often enough made literal fortunes off their war records, should be ashamed and yet, two disastrous decades later, there isn’t an apology in sight, as TomDispatch regular Karen Greenberg (whose new book, Subtle Tools: The Dismantling of American Democracy from the War on Terror to Donald Trump, couldn’t be more appropriate to this moment) lays out with all-too-painful clarity.  Tom

Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

No Accountability and No Apologies

The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was marked by days of remembrances -- for the courageous rescue workers of that moment, for the thousands murdered as the Twin Towers collapsed, for those who died in the Pentagon, or in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, fighting off the hijackers of the commercial jet they were in, as well as for those who fought in the forever wars that were America's response to those al-Qaeda attacks.

For some, the memory of that horrific day included headshaking over the mistakes this country made in responding to it, mistakes we live with to this moment.

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