What’s in YOUR wallet?

Most Americans are going to get a small influx of money in the next 60 days, due to two separate events. First, the 1.9 trillion dollar COVID-19 bill that is 90% about bailing out Democrat-supporting regions of the country will include some sort of stimulus checks, likely the $1400 per individual. Also, most people are filing their taxes between now and April, and most Americans will get some sort of refund on their taxes.

The thing is, most of this money gets spent without thinking about future consequences. The local used car dealerships always run “sales” this time of year that mention tax returns, and I’m seeing “stimulus check” sales advertisements popping up now. Yet we’re not going into happy times anytime soon. If you watch the stock market and references by the Fed that indicate inflation is going to come roaring back should give us pause.

If you’re not one to care about the Fed, then look more locally. Wood prices at Lowes and Home Depot are well double what they were a year ago, between the boom in home building due to low interest rates and COVID-19 shutting down the lumber mills for a time. Gas is more expensive now. I’ve had more Amazon packages getting delivered late than ever before. Stores are still running out of basic items, and while this is infrequent now, remember that is essentially never happened in the past.

All this indicates we’re in for a bumpy ride for at least two years, if not four. I’m not going to get caught unprepared for this, and you shouldn’t either. I suggest you prioritize spending this way:

  1. Debt. Get rid of any debt you can. Car almost paid off? Pay it off now. Credit card debts? Pay them off or work a forgiveness plan, an especially good idea now since card companies are also taking advantage of low interest rates.
    I would also refinance your house if you haven’t done so. Most people can’t simply pay off their mortgage, but you can make a principle payment to pay it off earlier, and shifting to bi-weekly payments (if your company allows you to) will cut years off the back end.
  2. Build up supplies. COVID-19 taught us that everything from toilet paper to sweet potatoes will be in short supply. It’s going to happen again. Rather than fight lines at a store, build up a 1-3 month supply of basics that don’t really ever go bad: bottled water, paper products, disposable eating utensils, soap and cleaning supplies. You should also keep about 2 weeks of meals in reserve. I have things like spaghetti and frozen foods that can keep for a long time just hanging out. They occasionally save me when dinner decides to catch on fire, and when the stores were swamped in the initial stages of pandemic, this food let me stretch our groceries further.
  3. Fix what you can. Americans are pretty handy people, but we also can be lazy. Plenty of homes and vehicles have little things that need repair. Get those done now. Don’t wait forever on car maintenance. The pandemic backed our local dealership up by a month for appointments. Same goes for home maintenance, even if you do it yourself, you may not get the supplies when people buy out the stores.
  4. Set your investing on automatic. Unless you’re smart on the stock market, you’re best off making long term investments on mutual funds. Whatever your investing strategy, put it on automatic through automatic funds transfers and investments. Too many people get scared when the market comes down and sell, which is the worst time to do that. Putting it on cruise control helps you take advantage of the down market over time.
  5. Build up your local network. This may not cost much money, but its critical. Do you know your neighbors? Do you know a local electrician, plumber, car mechanic and veterinarian? Remember how even routine house calls for minor issues became a major problem in the pandemic? You avoid this by knowing local people. Now is the time to get to know them and be on good terms, so when you need their help in a pinch, you can get it.

Don’t throw your stimulus to the wind! Set yourself up now to get through the trying times ahead.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Don’t worry, Facebook will cancel you next

Facebook is everywhere. Our kids dance studio uses it to communicate with us. The Submarine Base in Groton uses it to let you know when the base is closed due to snow. The military’s Airlift Command uses it to notify people of upcoming flights. Facebook’s ease of use caused many places to use Facebook in place of email, website and texting notifications and updates.

All that dependency comes with a price, because Facebook is too big to care. Instead of being a neutral platform, Facebook took sides on issues. At first, it was non-controversial, like when Facebook would remove suicide videos or obviously pornographic images. But it became too much of a temptation, and it wasn’t long before Facebook was manipulating news feeds and canceling whomever it willed.

President Trump was an obvious canceling choice. But Law Enforcement Today? That’s a bit weird. Or plenty of other folks like Ron Paul. The latest one is Australia, which tried to cash in on Facebook sharing its content. Instead of sharing, Facebook banned all Australian news sources from being shared on its platform. If your news revenue relied on social media sharing, a move like this is devastating to your business.

BTW, the EU assures us it “can’t happen to them.” Don’t hold your breath.

If your small business or club relies on Facebook for communication, you’re vulnerable. Whenever the military invades an area, the first thing they destroy is enemy communication platforms. If you can’t communicate, you can’t organize, and you certainly can’t get anything useful done.

To illustrate this point, I once spoke with firefighters that rescued people in the aftermath of the Twin Towers attack on 9/11. One of the things not discussed is that there are a lot of cell and radio towers on the Twin Towers. When they came down, it crippled cellular communications in the area. Firefighters and police resorted to runners to pass messages while pulling people out of rubble.

You are much better off, and much safer, with a good email system, blog and website, plus a social media platform that respects you, like MeWe. Because if Facebook can cancel Australia, what stops them from canceling you?

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

We want belief

As the impeachment trial winds down, what’s next?

My prediction: widespread non-compliance of future laws.

I watched the Bill Clinton impeachment trial, and it seemed pretty silly at the time. On one side, we wanted to remove a President for lying about a sexual relation he had with an intern. His defense seemed just as silly, as I watched people come up and talk about everything from race relations to economics. All around, it seemed kinda silly.

Trump’s impeachments were even sillier. Admitting news reports as evidence, without actually using eye witnesses or first-hand accounts? It basically broke down to “Trump said things we don’t like,” which in itself is a double standard considering the large number of Senators and Representatives that call for violence against Trump supporters on a regular basis.

Trump’s impeachment won’t change anything in Washington DC. But it will move a lot of people to no longer comply with the law. In front of everyone we’ve seen how the justice system no longer seeks justice. We’ve seen how easy it is to throw someone in jail over small items, or worse, over news reports that don’t have a shred of truth to them. The justice system is committed to getting convictions, period. The truth has become a afterthought.

People will react accordingly. When people don’t believe that the laws they live under are fair, they will find ways to circumvent them. They also will remove their participation from this part of society. We’re already seeing this as police forces are struggling to recruit new officers. The military faced this problem in the wake of the Vietnam Conflict, and will likely face it again given the new focus on “domestic terrorism.” Nobody wants to work where you could get punished capriciously, so they’ll vote with their feet.

The next thing we’re going to see is non-compliance with the worst of rules. If President Biden pushes for gun control, you’ll have gun owners melt into the background. The police can’t afford to go door to door and search every single house to find guns. Heck, they can’t find all of the illegal weapons, let alone legal ones. The same will go for LGBT training, zoning rules, traffic fines, etc. People will simply walk out of training, not follow zoning rules and simply not pay fines. The more it happens, the harder it’ll be to enforce compliance, and the more it will embolden these actions.

We live in a society that relies on most people voluntarily following the law. Police officers are there to punish law breakers, but we’ll never have enough cops to punish widespread disregard for the law. If a large swath of the population doesn’t believe the law is fair or being applied fairly, they’re going to disobey, and it’ll be difficult to stop them.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Did you miss the “Cabinet Reshuffle” in Myanmar?

This weekend will be filled with Super Bowl and COVID-19 news. At least, if you follow CNN, that’s all that seems to be happening in the world.

But hey, what’s this link to “Myanmar?”

Oh, never mind, just that Myanmar is blocking some social media websites.

I wonder what Global Times thinks of Myanmar?

Oh, a cabinet reshuffle? Sounds like something pretty boring. Let’s head over to Al-Jazeera.

Whoa.

Myanmar just had a coup. After actually having elections in 2015, and seeming to be trending towards democracy, Myanmar took a huge step backwards. The military, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, was losing influence as more people voted for the National League for Democracy party, which is led by the current sitting president, Aung San Suu Kyi. Instead of continuing to pull the levers of power in the background, General Hlaing instead arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and is posed to take over completely. It’s likely because his current post in the military ends this summer, and he’s positioning himself to be “elected” President.

All of this is real news, and a real foreign policy challenge for the United States, as China is more than happy to let the Myanmar military remove a democratic government on its border. But as illustrated above, you would never know about it unless drilled down deep into non-traditional media sources. My list of media includes the BBC (https://www.bbc.com) and Al-Jazeera (https://www.aljazeera.com/). BBC has really good non-U.S. news, and Al-Jazeera is great for south Asia and African news. I don’t trust either on their U.S. or Israel reporting, but that’s OK, I have other sources for that.

The days of being able to just get all the headlines from CNN or Fox News are past. News, especially non-US news, is increasingly filtered out, despite its importance. Start adding BBC and Al-Jazeera to your list of daily news sources, recognizing where they fall short.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

The Short Guide to Using MeWe, for formerly Facebook conservatives

Let’s say you’re a conservative, and after watching Big Tech attempt to single-handedly destroy Parler, blame Trump for inciting riots in the Capitol, and try to shutdown legitimate stock trading on Robinhood, you’re now really worried about social media censorship. You probably saw my previous posts on MeWe and NextDoor, and think there might just be no options.

Don’t lose hope! Since I couldn’t get Parler to test out, I double-downed and worked through the MeWe interface. If you need help building an account, there are hundreds of “How to get started on MeWe” videos to watch. After you create an account, do the following:

  1. If you liked memes, find a memes group. I would regularly browse Facebook and Reddit for memes. It brightened my days up and made me laugh. Reddit has become disappointingly hostile to conservatives, and Facebook is just part of the evil FAANG empire. MeWe has a pretty burgeoning list of meme groups. To find a meme group, on your home page click on “Browse Groups.” Simply type in Memes, and plenty pop up. I recommend “Meme’s From Everywhere” and “Funny memes and humor” as a start. There are plenty of darker and lighter groups, so experiment a bit and find what suits your tastes.
  2. Start a family group. A big reason for Facebook’s success is sharing pictures with your friends. My wife and I still want to share our family’s adventures with our friends, without the creepiness of Facebook sharing our pictures with others. To do that, we created a Family group and invited our friends to it. Now we can share photos and let our friends download and comment. We can even chat our upcoming plans to them. With your own group, its easy to get back to enjoying your friends as friends instead of focusing on where their politics don’t align with you.
  3. Replicate your interest groups. I never got into the groups on Facebook all that much, but on MeWe it really helps you link up with like minded people. I’m on a chainsaw group and I found a few home solutions for creosote buildup in my fireplace. The gardening group I’m part of helped me design a better fence for keeping the deer out of my garden. Its really easy to search the MeWe groups, find interests, and join groups.
  4. Tell the businesses your frequent. The ballet studio my girls attend uses Facebook to push out updates. That’s pretty common across businesses, and if you don’t have Facebook you miss out. We’re encouraging the studio to dump Facebook and switch to MeWe, since privacy for a ballet studio is pretty important, and the studio has a Christian background. Many businesses don’t even know there are other options, so helping them make the switch is key to breaking Facebook’s grip.
  5. Advocate for the missing features. I still need a livestream option, and neither MeWe nor Rumble have that yet. I also wish I could sell stuff on MeWe easily, but the privacy standards are pretty high, so NextDoor will have to suffice for now. You can communicate this to the developers, and with the explosion in growth they have, they are looking to keep their users. They are likely open to adding features, especially if its something their competitors don’t have.

I wish you the best on MeWe, maybe Peter will start a DaTechGuy group on MeWe so we can share thoughts about our favorite blog!

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Don’t hate on 2020

In about two days, its going to be “remember the past year” week. We’ll hear stories about the good and the bad of the past and predictions for 2021. I’m betting that most of the news will be about how much 2020 sucked. It’ll cue lots of 2020 memes. And while its funny to read, honestly, you should just turn it off.

Because in reality, if you’re going to let the media tell you how to view every year, you’re a fool.

In 2020, I had planned on going to Disney World with my family. Our plans were shattered by COVID-19. Instead, I built alternate plans and found ways to extend our tickets and reservations until we could find a better date.

In 2020, I had hoped to transfer to a new job. COVID-19 shattered that, and at one point I was working in “partial isolation,” which meant I could only go to work, and then I had to stay isolated at my house under Navy orders. I could have fretted, but instead I focused on improving my property with a better playground set and making the most of my time with my kids.

In 2020, school was supposed to be awesome, but COVID-19 wrecked it all. Instead of panic, we worked through online school, and even found ways to enhance our schooling. It’s not the best, but its certainly better than many places.

2020 is going to become a punchline for many people about how terrible life can be. I won’t deny that circumstances in 2020 put many people in a bad place. But I argue that too much of that is our own thinking. I can’t control my state and local government response, but I can control my response. When toilet paper became scarce, a fellow church member bailed my family out, and I realized we had a stronger church community in trying times. When one of my coworkers needed sweet potatoes because that’s all her autistic kid will eat, I happened to find some at Aldi, bought 5 pounds worth and gave them to her. When our neighbors were feeling stressed, I told them to send their kids to my house so they could play on our playplace and give them some much needed space. Every time I chose to take action to improve my situation or one of my neighbors/friends/coworkers, I found that I had far more freedom than the media would give me credit.

There will be a temptation to blame everything bad on 2020. Don’t do it. It’s OK to admit it was challenging, but you must OWN your response to events. When bad things happen, you choose how to respond to those events. When you refuse to be passive, it gives you strength, and it puts you in the right mindset to take advantage of opportunities. I refused to sit in the backseat for 2020, and you should too.

I wish you a happy, if somewhat belated, Christmas, a great New Year, and a future of continuing to make your own choices on how to react to the things around you!

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Social Media Exodus: MeWe

For anyone that remembers Google Plus, it was actually a fairly slick setup for social media. You could have different circles of people, which made it easy to segregate the sections of your life. Maybe you have some super liberal friends, so you put them in one circle and don’t share your news feed with them. Or maybe your brother is a complete moron and loves to comment about your parenting. In that case, you cut him out of the family picture sharing but don’t mind letting him see your posts about deer hunting.

When Google Plus shut down, most of the members went to MeWe. MeWe brags of inherent security, not selling your information and not censoring. I signed up, not even needing an email (I just used my phone number), and blam, I was in.

And it was really empty.

Like, I didn’t know what to do next.

On of MeWe’s biggest downsides is that it is so privacy conscious that it forgets that it forget that people were willing to give up some privacy to get easily connected with their friends. Facebook loves suggesting friends, groups and everything else based on location, contacts and browsing history. MeWe doesn’t do that, and that’s not a bad thing, but the Mewe walkthrough (seemingly run by a chatbot) doesn’t tell you what to do next.

After a lot of frustration, I figured out how to search for groups. Soon I was on a sous vide group, a chainsaw group, and some news media groups. Now my news feed was full of something. Then I found a few friends and added them. I also created a church group so people could have discussions without feeling like Facebook was hanging in the shadows, ready to classify them as a hate group.

After about 2 weeks of use, I did find some great meme groups, which to be honest, was a large reason that I scan Facebook. I’m also on a non-conspiracy theorist conservative group, which is decently uplifting and better than Facebook discussions ever were. But there are a lot of gaps. I can’t livestream or even call anyone (like you can with Messenger) unless you pay money.

To be frank, I’m not jazzed about MeWe. I think its most compelling feature is having a private group that is truly private, so you can talk openly and not worry about being thrown to the angry pitchfork mob of social justice warriors. But as a Facebook replacement? Not in its current form. It would need a way better introduction for new users and more features that I used in Facebook like livestreaming. Until then, MeWe might make temporary gains, but its not going to be a full Facebook competitor.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Social Media Exodus: Nextdoor review

Nextdoor’s icon. Kind of like a Monopoly piece

After getting tired of the Facebook, and now YouTube, censorship of anything remotely conservative, I decided to plot my social media exodus. If you read anything online, anyone contemplating leaving Facebook is an idiot, but since I don’t trust the media anyway, I wanted to try it myself. Over the next few Saturdays, I’m going to outline alternatives to Facebook, YouTube and Google, give each the pluses and minuses, and give you a guide on how to transition successfully.

My view of Twitter, even before the election

But I won’t help you with Twitter. Twitter has always been hot garbage. You’re on your own there.

The first platform that you should try is Nextdoor. I found this gem on a list of alternative social media sites, and it does not disappoint. Nextdoor connects you with your neighbors. When you register, you put in your address, which then places you in a pre-defined neighborhood. You then get dropped right into a well-designed home page that shows you posts from your neighbors plus nearby neighborhoods.

The first big difference from Facebook is that there isn’t a friends list to maintain. Nextdoor lets you see only the people in your neighborhood. When you go to post something, you can only post in a number of categories: for sale, safety, general, lost and found and recommendations. When you look at the general feed, its not at all like Facebook. There aren’t annoying Vox articles linked by your liberal friends, or anti-vax memes from that crazy mom down the street. Nope, its just local news.

Which is not a bad thing. I found a city council meeting I had missed, so I got updates on nearby construction projects. I also found out our water metering people were hacked by ransomware, which is why they haven’t sent us a bill. I never saw any of that on Facebook, and those things actually affect me a lot more than most of the things I read on Facebook.

For your interest areas, there are local groups, although not nearly as many as Facebook. It didn’t take long to find a conservative group that was working to support local people running for office. I also quickly found a gardening group and pawpaw (the fruit) group. I had to start a group for dads, but there were a million mom groups already. Although it doesn’t have the number of groups of Facebook, the fact that I can make a group with people in the area only is kind of nice.

The other great feature is the “for sale” section. One of the big benefits of Facebook is the Marketplace section, where you can find a ton of items for sale, or sell your items quickly. I’ve made a killing selling firewood through Marketplace, and that was something I didn’t want to lose. Nextdoor has similar functionality. Even better, I’m not wasting my time looking at items that are hundreds of miles away but offer “free shipping.”

Overall, Nextdoor has about 75% of what I want in social media. I get local things that matter to me, local groups that I care about, and can sell to my neighbors. I miss out on out of area relatives and friends, which is why Nextdoor can’t replicate Facebook. To be fair, they don’t claim to do that, and if you live near most of your family, maybe you won’t mind.

I now find myself checking Nextdoor a lot more than Facebook, and certainly enjoying it more. Maybe you will too, I’d recommend giving it a try.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

China’s continued maritime march and the coming hard reckoning

Despite the Coronavirus, despite the Hague Rulings, despite the Philippines now cozying back up to the United States, China continues its maritime march to dominate its neighbors and eventually the world.

Sounds crazy? Let’s look at the facts:

In 2012, China and the Phillipines agreed to move away from Scarborough Shoals, a shoaling area frequented by Phillipine fishermen and inside Phillipines EEZ. Phillipine forces left, Chinese ones did not. Now, in 2020, we’re worrying about China reclaiming land around these shoals. Reclamation and militarization of other fake islands continued, with Fiery Cross now able to support H-6K bombers.

In 2014, China deliberately moved an oil drilling platform, the Hai Yang Shi You 981, into Vietnamese waters and drilled for oil, all while protecting the platform with a ring of maritime militia vessels. Was it a one-time incident? Nope. China continues to harass fishermen in the area.

In 2020, a Chinese investor purchased a Keswick Island near Australia and is essentially pushing out the Australian residents. At the same time, the Chinese government is working its economic and social media muscle on Australia.

When people discovered China’s 251 dash line, China was quick to dismiss it as a joke. China would never lay claim to Hawaii, they said. They would never work against the United States to separate Hawaii. In case you thought that was old, try tracking the large Chinese fishing fleet that finds itself off the Galapagos, North Korea, and Chile. It won’t be long till they discover the Atlantic Ocean.

The hard reckoning with China is coming. Just like Nazi Germany, they will continue to do as much grabbing as they can without getting a response from the international community. Just like the invasion of Poland, something is going to trigger a conflict. Maybe it’ll be Taiwan, or the Senkakus, or North Korea, or a remote mountain outpost on the Indian border, or even something in Tajikistan or Kazakhstan. Something is going to push another country to a redline, and kinetic weapons are going to fly. Maybe even nuclear ones too. At that point, we’re going to have to pick a side, because its not something we can sit out.

We can’t sit it out because we’re the last “stop” for China. Nothing else is going to stop them except US resolve. We can’t outspend China like we did Russia. China is smart enough to pay people well to steal US secrets, a mistake the Russians made during the Cold War. Relying on patriotism or social justice to insulate the US from China doesn’t work when even Google, supposidly a hot-bed of social justice warriors, looks the other way on issues like Xinjiang and even actively works on a filtered search engine for the Chinese government. The Chinese movements in the maritime are just the precursor for a bigger movement to usurp the world order.

It’s coming, whether its in 2021, 2025 or 2030, that hard reckoning is coming.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Analyzing Mattis’ comments on China

It’s not secret that Jim Mattis and Donald Trump had issues working together. I was surprised to read that Mattis wanted to scrap Trump’s “America First” policy, and while I couldn’t get the full article from Foreign Affairs, the snippets I read said his main criticisms were:

  • Characterizing Afghanistan and Iraq as “forever wars”
  • Undermining our allies
  • Bad views on China

Let’s give the man his due and ask the question: is he right?

We’ve been in Afghanistan (officially) since 2001, and Iraq since 2003, although we withdrew all forces in 2011 per our Status of Forces agreement, and were invited back again in 2014. The Iraqi parliament has been working since early 2020 to get US troops to leave. In sum total, we’ve been in Afghanistan for 19 years (and counting), and Iraq for 8 plus 6 years, total of 14 years, assuming we leave this year.

In comparison, World War Two was from 1939-1945 (6 years), Vietnam was 1964-1975 (if you pick Gulf of Tonkin as the start, 11 years), Korea was 1950-1953 (3 years). The longest of these, Vietnam, has been characterized as a “forever war” before, so its no surprise that to the average American, Iraq and Afghanistan look like forever wars.

But are they investments in peace and stability? I’ve heard them compared to our time in Germany and Japan shortly after World War 2. We’re still technically stationing military in both countries. In Germany, our occupation started in 1945, but by 1949 we had already formed West Germany, and by 1955, West Germany was a member of NATO, and our forces were no longer “occupying” Germany. Japan was similar, with our occupation ending in the Treaty of San Francisco in 1952. While we are still in those countries today, we aren’t there to occupy or provide security. In fact, we expected significant insurgency issues (such as Germany’s Werwolf program), yet they never materialized.

Contrast that to Afghanistan and Iraq, where our troops are providing significant combat support and basic policing. That’s a massive difference between the two, and not dissimilar to Vietnam, where we still had to provide basic protection against an insurgency because of the host government’s inability to perform it themselves.

So to recap, if you militarily stay in country and have to fight an insurgency inside the borders, it feels like a forever war. If you stay and the country does its own policing, it doesn’t feel like a forever war. Or, from a military perspective, if you can’t bring your family to your new duty station, it might feel like a war zone.

What about undermining our allies? President Trump has been on record saying a lot of mean things. The Foreign Policy article argues that he is “undermining the foundations of an international order manifestly advantageous to U.S. interests, reflecting a basic ignorance of the extent to which both robust alliances and international institutions provide vital strategic depth.”

So the question is, has Trump undermined our alliances? Is the international order we have now worse off than before? The United States has mutual defense pacts with NATO, Australia, New Zealand, The Phillipines, Japan, Republic of Korea and the Rio Treaty with a smattering of South American nations. It also supports Taiwan, but the treaty is a bit vague as to whether we would respond to a PRC invasion.

Here we’re probably batting 500 at best. President Trump has worked to expand relationships with India and Japan, and has maintained a normal course with Australia and New Zealand. Trump’s push to pull out of Korea isn’t new, we’ve asked the Koreans to own their defense before. His attempts at directly negotiating with North Korea put us on a much better path to peace…I never thought I’d see a sitting President shake the North Korean dictator’s hands ever. Our relationship with South America hasn’t expanded much militarily or economically, and I’d call that a negative. The economic treaties throughout the world are mixed. In some cases, it got better (USMCA), in other cases, it stagnated (TPP).

NATO is a mixed bag. On one hand, he pushed for and got much needed investment by NATO nations in their own defense, something that nearly every previous Secretary of Defense and President has been asking for years. On the other hand, Europe wanted an Iranian deal so they could get back to buying oil, while Trump wanted to stop Iranian aggression in the Middle East. There’s no resolution to that short of Iran dropping its nuclear weapons program (it didn’t) or Europe or the US dropping their arguments (neither side has). Trump’s response of neutralizing the Israeli issue, first with the UAE and Bahrain and (maybe) with Saudi Arabia is some out of the box thinking. I would argue that NATO is stronger now than before, but some of the individual countries like Germany aren’t happy with the US.

Overall, point to Mattis on this one. Negotiating hard makes sense, but it could have been done with some more finesse, and creating hard feelings isn’t worth it in many cases.

Mattis’ comments on China are odd, given his time as Secretary of Defense and his shift towards Great Power Competition. From the Foreign Affairs article:

“Crucially, the United States should not press countries to choose outright between the two powers,” they said. “A ‘with us or against us’ approach plays to China’s advantage because the economic prosperity of U.S. allies and partners hinges on strong trade and investment relationships with Beijing.”

So, we should work with China? I’d be all about it, and so was William Cohen, opening up US military relations with the PLA in 1999. How did that work for us? China continued to steal technology, threaten its neighbors, build fake islands in the South China Sea, bury US industry with practices illegal to the WTO, and in general act in ways completely at odds of the US. The only difference between Russia and China is that China is happy to pay for this influence. When they needed a port in Sri Lanka, the Chinese invested their own money and worked with Sri Lanka, right up to the point the Sri Lankans couldn’t pay back a loan. China is happy to flex its muscles on every deal it makes, from the one-sided Vatican recognition to its territorial dispute with India. Unlike most other countries, there is no good faith in any of the past deals China made.

The Cohen Group has been happy to look the other way. Yes, there is a ton of money in China. Plenty of Americans are making money in China. Our hope in 1999 was that as China grew, it would naturally democratize. That wasn’t a bad call back then. It’s a terrible call now. The Cohen Group continues to look past this however. It’s founder, William Cohen, not only sided against Trump in 2016, he also has personal connections with the late John McCain and was his best man after he dumped his first wife.

Jim Mattis joining a group of academics that are already naturally anti-Trump and pro-China, and then coming out with a pro-China statement, isn’t that surprising. If we continue to view China like we did in 1999, then yes, everything Trump is doing is a terrible idea. But the last 20 years have shown that Afghanistan is not Germany, NATO wasn’t ready for high-end conflict, and China’s One Party system is happy to crush the United States if we let it do so. If the Cohen Group is happy to make money from this world view, good for them, but don’t be surprised when it doesn’t jive with the average American.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.