Biden is signing onto Trump’s trillion-dollar plans for new nuclear weapons

Biden
President Joe Biden in an electric Ford F-150 lightning at the Ford Dearborn Development Center in Michigan, May 18, 2021.

  • President Joe Biden’s first defense budget, totalling $752.9 billion, continues a Trump effort to “modernize” US nuclear forces.
  • That modernization could cost upward of $1.5 trillion over 15 years, and Biden’s plan will only add to simmering debate about whether the US needs those nukes.
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For those anticipating a significant shift in national priorities in the wake of the huge increase in defense expenditures during the last administration – to the tune of some $100 billion over four years – President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2022 national defense budget is a major disappointment.

On Friday, the Biden administration submitted its fiscal year 2022 budget request – with a whopping $752.9 billion set aside for national defense, $715 billion of which is designated for the Pentagon. The proposed funding actually increases defense expenditures by some $11 billion from the Trump years.

Congressman Mark Pocan and Congresswoman Barbara Lee called the Biden defense budget “a failure that doesn’t reflect this country’s actual needs.” The joint Pocan-Lee statement, released last Friday, slammed Biden’s proposal, pointing out that “the defense spending increase” by itself is “1.5 times larger than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s entire $8.7 billion budget.”

Defense hawks, on the other hand, were as outspoken in their criticism, arguing that the Biden defense budget does not account for inflation, which means that, to keep pace, Pentagon spending should be ramped up to the tune of 3% to 5% annually.

“President Biden’s defense budget request is wholly inadequate – it’s nowhere near enough to give our service members the resources, equipment and training they need,” Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla), and his House counterpart, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala), said in a statement. “It’s disingenuous to call this request an increase because it doesn’t even keep up with inflation – it’s a cut.”

Air Force Vandenberg Minuteman ICBM test
An unarmed Minuteman III ICBM launches during a test at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, February 5, 2020.

The opposing positions are likely to be a source of contention in the weeks ahead, as Congress hammers out the details of who gets what.

Most disappointing for progressives is the Biden administration’s apparent endorsement of the Trump administration’s decision to spend big in “modernizing” America’s nuclear forces – a decision that could cost the nation upwards of $1.5 trillion over the next 15 years and as much as $634 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Congressional progressives describe the amount as a wholly unnecessary and extravagant expenditure. As an example, the Biden budget reflects a White House decision to double the amount the nation will spend on developing and deploying the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent to a proposed $2.6 billion from $1.4 billion.

The monies do not include upgrades to launch facility locations and nuclear laboratories, which would cost tens of billions more. The GBSD is intended to replace the 50-year-old Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile – the ICBM.

While the $2.6 billion figure might seem modest compared to the bulk of defense expenditures, the GBSD serves as a template for the nuclear modernization program (accounting for $27.7 billion in the Biden budget), while committing the United States to maintaining the nuclear triad – the three-legged mix of missile-launched, submarine-launched and bomber-launched nuclear weapons.

In total, an upgrade of the Minuteman III could cost upwards of $264 billion over the period of its development and deployment. Then, too, in addition to the funding for the increasingly controversial GBSD, the Biden defense budget includes expenditures for a new Columbia-class submarine, further development and deployment of the B-21 bomber, and a long-range standoff weapon.

F.E. Warren Air Force Base ICBM missile silo Wyoming
An airman gives a tour of ICBM training facilities on F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, July 22, 2012.

In the weeks preceding then ew budget’s release, Congressional progressives and their allies among anti-nuke NGOs had been gearing up for a fight over nuclear modernization, arguing that land-based nuclear missiles pose the most destabilizing part of the US arsenal – and that part of the triad that is most susceptible to an accidental launch.

These advocates argue that spending for the GBSD is unnecessary since the Minuteman III can be regularly upgraded over the next 10 years without adopting the budget-busting numbers proposed by the Trump administration.

That thinking is in line with a series of options detailed in an intriguing study by the Congressional Budget Office that would cut back the number of delivery systems and nuclear warheads over a period of 10 years – saving tens of billions of dollars – but without any erosion in nuclear deterrence.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is one of those likely to lead the charge against the nuclear modernization program, particularly given her focus on it during the Senate’s February confirmation hearings for Dr. Kathleen Hicks to be deputy secretary of defense.

“I know that you believe in a safe, and secure, and reliable nuclear deterrent, but we’re going to spend $44.5 billion on nuclear weapons this year, which is more than the entire budget for the State Department and foreign operations accounts,” Warren said to Hicks back in February. “Will you commit that your review will not simply be a rubber stamp of our current nuclear strategy, but that you really will examine and re-question the core assumptions that underpin it?”

Hicks assured Warren that she would. “Absolutely, senator,” she responded.

Now, in the wake of President Biden’s seeming endorsement of a large portion of the previous administration’s nuclear modernization program, that reassurance is very much in doubt, despite Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s public testimony last week before a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing that the Biden team will be conducting its own review in the months ahead.

icbm missile silo
A missile silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base, July 17, 2007.

In all of this, there is a sense that both the White House and Pentagon are attempting to downplay just how similar the Biden administration’s defense budget is to the most recent defense budget proposed by Donald Trump.

The strategy included a last-minute postponement of the budget’s release until late in the day on the Friday before Memorial Day (“not an accident,” as one senior Pentagon civilian told Responsible Statecraft).

It was a purposeful soft-pedaling of the dollar amount for defense in comparison with other administration priorities and heavy-handed public statements that emphasized Biden’s commitment to “innovation,” “advanced capability enablers,” and “cutting-edge, state-of-the-art technologies” (like microelectronics, artificial intelligence, hypersonics, machine learning, 5G networking).

It was a purposeful, if transparent, sleight-of-hand, as if the Biden team wasn’t actually committed to buying weapons, but rather to a “visionary” and “forward-leaning posture,” as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin described it.

Few, it seems, were fooled: “At a time when the greatest challenges to human lives and livelihoods stem from threats like pandemics and climate change, sustaining Pentagon spending at over three quarters of a trillion dollars a year is both bad budgeting and bad security policy,” the Center for International Policy’s William Hartung said.

Hartung’s criticism will be echoed in the weeks ahead, as the Biden defense budget becomes an increasing focus for a badly divided Congress.

While there’s much for both the left and the right to attack, the Biden administration’s seeming unwillingness to take on the nuclear weapons lobby will likely mark the most contentious issue for both sides. It will be round one of a Congressional donnybrook over whether the United States is protected by buying, building and fielding more nuclear weapons – or placed at increasing risk.

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‘The Army needs to get a clue’: The US military’s fight over money isn’t really about China

Army MRAP logistics support vessel Hawaii
US Army Sgt. Seth Rutter guides a vehicle aboard a logistic support vessel in Waipio, Hawaii, February 22, 2021.

  • The US military’s shift toward countering China has kicked off a competition for resources among its branches.
  • The Navy and Air Force are seen as likely to get most of the funding for operations across the vast Pacific.
  • Now the Army is trying to fend off a “budget grab” – a losing battle, military officials and experts say.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In the summer of 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, newly elected President Franklin Roosevelt announced he was going to slash the US Army’s budget.

Roosevelt’s decision was not unexpected, for he’d entered office pledging that economic recovery was dependent on personal sacrifice – including a fifteen percent pay cut to all federal employees. If federal employees were making sacrifices, he calculated, then why not the Army?

Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the then-US Army Chief of Staff, vehemently opposed the cuts, but knew that he couldn’t win in a stand-off with the popular president. So while MacArthur worked behind-the-scenes to reverse the budget decision, he swallowed it in public.

But in studying the numbers given him by the White House, MacArthur realized the only way to meet Roosevelt’s budget goal was to either cut his service’s request for new weapons – or gut the US Army officer corps.

It wasn’t actually much of a choice: The Army could always buy new weapons, MacArthur reasoned, but it couldn’t always buy new officers. Then too, cutting senior personnel would mean depriving his service of some of the best young officers in its history, including Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, and Omar Bradley.

MacArthur made the right decision: Eisenhower and his cohort provided the best combat leaders in World War II and, arguably, the best combat commanders in American history.

Army James McConville
Gen. James C. McConville, then the Army’s vice chief of staff, with 1st Armored Division soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, July 22.

Of course, 2021 is not 1933 – this is not the Great Depression and Joe Biden’s defense budget does not envision military cuts – but MacArthur’s decision has particular resonance now, as the Army debates whether to spend its money on buying more soldiers or buying newer weapons.

In March, we got our answer. During an address to the service’s powerful advocacy arm, the Association of the United States Army, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville announced that he favored buying new weapons.

While assuring AUSA members that “people are our number one priority,” McConville went on to say that, in fact, they’re not. Instead, the Army is prioritizing a new suite of capabilities – long-range precision fires, a next generation combat vehicle, monies for new vertical lift capabilities and more missile defense assets.

As crucially, McConville has abandoned his previous commitment to increase Army end strength to 550,000 soldiers, an increase from the approximately 485,000 currently in uniform. McConville confirmed that decision on May 11, when he announced a cap on Army end-strength.

But McConville’s announcement might not be the final word on Army strength. According to acting Secretary of the Army John Whitley, it’s likely that the Army might be in line for even steeper personnel cuts, depending on the budget priorities laid out by the White House in its yet-to-be-released 2022 defense budget.

Testifying before the House Appropriations defense subcommittee last week, Whitley confirmed that “there is a lot of risk” to the Army’s bottom line in the new budget, a view confirmed by Texas Republican John Carter, who speculated that, when the final defense budget is decided, the Army would take “the lion’s share of the cuts.”

Which is to say that when Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks and her boss, Lloyd Austin, receive the service’s final budget numbers (sometime over the next two months), they are likely to shift resources from the Army into the Air Force and Navy.

US Army Extended Range Cannon Artillery Paladin howitzer
The US Army’s Extended Range Cannon Artillery during testing at the Yuma Proving Ground, November 18, 2018.

Their logic seems unassailable, even for Army partisans: The American military’s “pivot to Asia” has left land forces on the outside looking in, the service is facing increasing challenges in attracting new recruits, the nation’s grindingly slow, but certain, retreat from the Middle East has downgraded the need for Army counterinsurgency resources, and the Pentagon’s new-found love affair with cyber and networked battle systems has left the Army scrambling to remain relevant.

“This is a service in search of a mission,” a senior Pentagon official says. “When the US does any sabre rattling, it’s going to rely on the Air Force and Navy, not the Army. The Army has a pretty small sabre.”

McConville knows this better than anyone, as his service’s recent history shows.

Back in 2009, Air Force Chief Norton Schwartz and Chief of Naval Operations Gary Roughead signed a secret memorandum committing their services to “joint forces integration” to meet what they viewed as the emerging challenge to American military primacy – especially in the Pacific.

The Army responded by accusing the Navy and Air Force of a “budget grab,” but initiated their own pivot: In 2014 the service created a Pacific Pathways program that increased the number and tempo of training exercises with Pacific military allies.

It also launched a crash program to identify new weapons systems relevant to the Pacific environment (long-range precision fires is the poster child of the effort), and inaugurated newly formed security force assistance brigades to relieve regular Army units of combat advisory missions.

In addition, most recently, it created three “multi-domain task forces” to target ships, satellites, network precision fires and engage in cyber warfare.

Not surprisingly, the first MDTF (which was the centerpiece of McConville’s March 16 transformation plan), has been deployed to the Pacific.

Army Multi-Domain Task Force soldiers
Members of the Army’s Multi-Domain Task Force, or MDTF.

But at least for a few senior Pentagon civilian officials as well as senior retired Army officers, the new initiatives reflect the Army’s bid to be a part of the Asia pivot. It’s not clear that the bid is working.

America’s major Pacific partners, including Australia, have shown little willingness to host a permanent Army presence in their nation and most of the Army’s recent Pacific Pathways training efforts have focused on island nations with few military assets (like Micronesia and Palau).

The Army’s plan to field new weapons systems has also met with skepticism. One retired colonel who has advised McConville describes the Army’s effort to develop over-the-horizon artillery capabilities as “designing a bigger catapult,” while another defense analyst scoffs at the Army’s initial plans to develop a new vertical lift capability.

“In any future war, anything flying under 50,000 feet will be destroyed in the first five minutes,” the analyst tells Responsible Statecraft, “and McConville knows it.”

This same defense analyst asks the question that he says is likely to be posed by Hicks and Austin when they view the Army’s final budget numbers: “What happens to the Army when it doesn’t have anyone to fight?”

The likely result of this, defense budget experts speculate, is not only that the Pentagon’s focus on China will mean a focus on the Air Force and Navy – at the expense of the Army – but that if McConville wants to fund modernization (new weapons) and readiness (with increased small-unit training), he will have to do so with budget numbers that will yield a cut in Army end strength.

Such a choice has, in fact, been on offer since at least October of 2020, when retired Marine Col. Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, provided a detailed breakdown of the Army’s budget choices: “In an environment of constrained resources,” he concluded, “the Army will need to cut existing Brigade Combat Teams if it wants to build new units and procure new systems. So far it has been unwilling to do this.”

Cancian confirmed his views in an interview at the time: “I simply don’t see how the Army doesn’t come under the ax,” he said.

US Army recruits basic training
US Army trainees wait to be in-processed at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, October 30, 2019.

So it is that Army end-strength is now seen as the “low hanging fruit” for those calling for cuts in defense spending. For good reason: Just as military personnel numbers eat up a large portion of Pentagon outlays, cutting personnel, too, is the easiest way to save billions.

A recent proposal circulated among members of the House Armed Services Committee called for cutting four infantry and two armored brigade combat teams, and their support personnel, for a savings of approximated $18 billion. The bottom-line figures mean a 12% reduction in the Army, yielding a final force of 390,000 soldiers.

The proposal goes on to note that, since the current number of 31 Army brigade combat teams stand at 80% manning levels “a cut of 12 percent would have no impact on combat capabilities.”

The claim seems more than notionally true: The Army maintains trip-wire deployments in Europe (just over 25,000 soldiers), South Korea (under 20,000 soldiers), the Middle East (estimated at just under 2,000 soldiers) and Afghanistan – where the US Central Command is currently overseeing a redeployment of some 2,500 soldiers.

“The Army needs to get a clue,” the senior Pentagon official who spoke to Responsible Statecraft says. “It’s not that the US military is pivoting to Asia. It’s that it’s pivoting to the Air Force and Navy – and has been for the last 10 years.”

As crucially, and though this factor has remained largely unstated in the defense media, there is a sense that what the Army is objecting to has nothing to do with American strategy, or which service is best positioned to add value to future defense needs.

Rather, what the Army fears is that the Air Force and Navy will begin taking a larger share of the nation’s defense dollars – and at their expense.

Army soldiers jungle Hawaii
US soldiers conduct squad operations at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, February 17, 2021.

The Army’s objections are a perfect expression of what is wrong with the military-industrial complex: The conflict is not over who is best positioned to fight who, but over who gets what.

Then too, and most recently, it’s become apparent that senior Army officers realize the threat to their service’s budget comes not only from its sister services but also from defense intellectuals who view the Navy and Air Force as front-line responders in the Pacific – with the Army relegated to a support role.

Some of the Army’s arguments smack of desperation. Writing in War on the Rocks on May 6, Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn and Lt. Gen. Laura Potter pleaded that a future Pacific conflict in which the Army plays second fiddle would be a mistake.

“U.S. air-, cyber-, and spacepower are essential to securing American interests in the Indo-Pacific,” they wrote, “but we are unaware of any historical example where a war ended at sea or in the air – or in space or cyberspace for that matter. Does the United States compete in those domains? Absolutely. However, war is won, and peace is preserved, on land.”

That’s nonsense.

The War in the Pacific, in World War II, ended when the Japanese government decided it could no longer win without a Navy (which had been destroyed, though not by the Army), nor prevail against the onslaught on air corps bombers that were burning down their country. The denouement was delivered on two of their cities by US aircraft.

Even US Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur, whose troops defeated the Japanese in New Guinea and the Philippines, realized his victory was possible only because his soldiers were delivered ashore by Navy transports, defended by Navy aircraft carriers and protected by an air corps that shot the Japanese out of the sky.

Or, as one retired senior Air Force officer told me several years ago: “The Army needs to realize that the Pacific is blue, not green.”

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Biden can’t afford to laugh-off Kim Jong Un’s provocations

september missile north korea 2017 kim
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile in this undated photo released by North Korea on September 16, 2017.

  • President Joe Biden seemed to laugh off North Korea’s latest missile tests over the weekend.
  • With that attitude, Biden may miss a chance at diplomacy, leading to more back and forth tension-creating events by both sides in the months ahead.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

We can fill a book full of troubling adjectives to describe the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, better known as North Korea, and all of the times they have needless raised international tensions to the point that many analysts worried about the possible resumption of the Korean War – a conflict that almost certainly would go nuclear.

Whatever the case, we rarely talk about the times when US policy toward the DPRK adds unneeded kindling to an already smoldering situation, when policymakers in Washington and even our own chief executive make a rhetorical or tactical mistake that makes a bad situation on the Korean Peninsula even worse.

So when President Joe Biden seemed to laugh off North Korea’s latest missile tests over the weekend, missing a chance at more needed diplomacy, the stage was set for what Pyongyang always seems to do best: match pressure or perceived loss of face by a show of strength, or its own style of maximum pressure.

And this is just the beginning. We should expect more back and forth tension-creating events coming from both sides in the months ahead.

joe biden korea
Joe Biden, then vice president, meets South Korean and US soldiers at Observation Post Ouellette in the Demilitarized Zone near the border village of Panmunjom, South Korea, December 7, 2013.

First up is the Biden administration’s North Korea policy review findings, which will set the direction for Korean Peninsula strategy for years to come. Having failed to learn from the Trump years that there is a possibility of talking with the Kim regime, Team Biden seems to have all but determined to apply more pressure and double down on sanctions that have so many holes in them one could drive a truck through them.

Washington also seems set to want to try and make China somehow responsible for sanctions enforcement, and is already trying a shaming strategy to get them to punish Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile advances. Clearly this is something Beijing won’t do, as it will never allow North Korea to become destabilized in any way – and that is what it would take for the Kim family to come to the bargaining table on its knees.

Sadly it seems we are set to replay what every administration has tried to do for nearly three decades now, apply some sort of new pressure strategy to get North Korea to give up the only weapon it has to fend off its greatest fear, a future US military campaign that seeks to change the regime in Pyongyang.

Considering the billions of dollars invested and likely hundreds of thousands of North Koreans that have died due to a lack of investment in the most basic of societal needs because of its nuclear quest, there is no magic formula to get them to denuclearize.

NOrth Korea missile launch kim may 2017
Kim Jong a Hwasong-12, May 15, 2017.

And yet, we play what politicians here in Washington have determined is a necessary game of posturing, as if we have some way to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons or missiles, because no administration wants to take on what is perceived as the political fallout of such an admission that only arms control and threat mitigation are the only rational policies left.

What does all of this mean? Well, most likely, North Korea will lash out when it knows for sure the squeeze from Washington is coming once again, and will show off a weapon system that can do real damage, like a new medium or intermediate missile platform that can range US bases in the Pacific, such as Guam.

North Korea could also even show off in some way that its longer-range missiles can survive atmospheric reentry, settling the silly debate once and for all that, yes, even a third-world state like North Korea can develop missile technology from the 1950s to hit the US with a nuclear missile.

This could come in the form of a test that shows off an ICBM going deep into the Pacific Ocean and dropping a dummy warhead into the sea or something more static, but the point would be clear: US cities could be turned into nuclear fireballs within 30 minutes.

North Korea's new ICBM
North Korea’s new ICBM.

From here, what would the Biden team decide to do? Clearly with pressure off the table as a viable denuclearization strategy, the administration would find itself historically at the same crossroads as every other group of US policymakers finds itself when it comes to Pyongyang.

My hope is for as short of an escalatory period as possible followed by a push toward diplomacy coming from Washington with major prodding courtesy of the Moon government in Seoul.

If the Biden Administration can learn from its likely mistakes fast enough and pivot toward an agreement that caps the size of the North Korean nuclear and missile arsenal for sanctions relief, the faster it can move to what it seems to be its more important task, figuring out what it will do about China’s rise and moves to alter the status quo in Asia to its liking.

The only question now is how many weeks or months we will waste on a pointless pressure campaign, and can we avoid an accidental escalation that could cost lives or spark a horrific war no one wants?

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Trump and Biden’s anti-China foreign policy is fueling violence against Asian-Americans

Atlanta shooting vigil
Demonstrators at a vigil for the Atlanta shooting victims, in New York City, March 19, 2021.

  • The recent killing of six Asian-American women highlights the link between domestic and foreign policies.
  • Many officials have condemned the attacks, but they need to acknowledge that over-the-top language about China fuels fear and anxiety that spurs violence against Asian-Americans.
  • Jessica J. Lee is a senior research fellow in the East Asia Program at the Quincy Institute.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

“Our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit,” President Biden declared in Atlanta last Friday. “We have to speak out. We have to act.”

While President Biden’s condemnation of the murder of eight people in Georgia, including six Asian-American women, is welcome, it misses the mark in an important way.

Both the speech and the statement issued by the White House failed to acknowledge that Washington’s over-the-top language about China is fueling an atmosphere of fear and anxiety, which boomerangs in the form of violence against Asian-Americans. If there was any doubt that American foreign policy is domestic policy, these shootings should quell them.

To see how toxic the American discourse on China has become, one only needs to look at what transpired in Anchorage last week and the ongoing congressional debate on the annual Pentagon bill. The vitriol that was exchanged by American and Chinese officials in Alaska was unprecedented for its harsh and undiplomatic tenor, and will likely make cooperation on critical areas such as pandemics and climate change that much more difficult.

But when seen in the context of bipartisan efforts in government over the past five years to label China as a threat to America and the US-led world order, the debacle in Anchorage is not that surprising.

The Trump administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy mentions China 33 times, more than twice as many as the Obama administration’s version did. Similarly, the Biden administration’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance repeatedly singles out China as a direct threat to national security.

Neither document mentions how the US government would advance legitimate national security interests without creating an environment of hatred against Asian-Americans, similar to how the Muslim American community faced retributive violence after 9/11.

blinken anchorage
US and Chinese officials at their first meeting under the Biden administration, in Anchorage, Alaska.

In Congress, members regularly use China to show that they are tough on national security without any regard for how their out-of-control language could shape American perceptions of Asians.

For example, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) tweeted that “China’s goal is nothing less than the complete destruction of the United States” in response to the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus’ call to cut the Defense budget and channel resources to under-resourced areas such as global health. Such overt China bashing makes it nearly impossible to have a rational debate about areas of cooperation between the world’s two largest economies.

The truth is that what happened in Georgia is the latest manifestation of hatred borne out of racially charged language deployed by a growing number of public officials on both sides of the aisle to cast blame on China, and indirectly, all East Asians and Asian-Americans.

Rep. Wittman, the top House recipient of campaign contributions from arms manufacturers and military contractors, offers perhaps one of the egregious examples of stoking fear and anxiety in order to advance a military-centered US foreign policy toward China. But he is hardly alone.

Rather, Rep. Wittman is a part of an ecosystem that reinforces and normalizes such extreme views. And by not addressing this vicious cycle, government leaders are distracting the public from addressing the cause, rather than the symptoms, of violence against Americans of Asian descent.

The tragic incident in Georgia is only one of nearly 4,000 reported hate crimes against Asian-Americans since terms like “China virus” and “Kung Flu” have become commonplace in Washington.

The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found that hate crimes targeting Asians rose by nearly 150% in 16 of America’s largest cities in 2020, when China was routinely blamed by presidential and congressional candidates for America’s ailments.

Given the barrage of anti-China language in government and media, why would anyone be surprised that Asian-Americans have become collateral damage?

coronavirus racism asian americans
Members of the Asian-American Commission hold a press conference outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston to condemn racism toward the Asian-American community over of coronavirus, March 12, 2020.

One person from Milpitas, California described experiencing verbal assault this way: “I was shopping when a man started making faces at me. When I asked him what was wrong, he said ‘We delisted your companies, we shipped back your international students, when do you ship out?”

The message is clear: Anyone who looks Chinese is suspect and should be expelled from this country.

Another person in College Park, Maryland reported the use of xenophobic language in the classroom: “One of my professors was talking about the public health response to COVID-19 during a virtual lecture and explicitly called it the “China Virus.” “We’ve got to be very careful about that country, and what they’d do to us,'” he told the class.

This, despite the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s warnings against stigmatizing people of Asian descent for COVID-19. The World Health Organization has also warned against naming diseases to certain populations or nationalities as far back as 2015.

Asian-American discrimination has a long history, dating back to 1871 when 17 Chinese immigrant men were lynched by a mob in Los Angeles. But the current situation is particularly explosive due to the hypersensitive domestic environment in which Americans are looking for someone to blame for the pain and suffering caused by the pandemic.

In response to the shooting in Georgia, President Biden has called on members of Congress to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono and Rep. Grace Meng, as a way to expedite government response to hate crimes.

This is a welcome move but falls woefully short of what is needed given the magnitude of the problem at hand. A more holistic, self-reflective strategy that connects the dots between foreign policy and domestic policy is urgently needed.

There must be more discussions among national-security experts with domestic-policy experts about the scope of the challenge at hand.

Even if the Hirono-Meng bill passed the House and got enough Republican senators’ votes to pass in the Senate (a high bar), it would not address the underlying motivations for these hate crimes. Members of Congress who deploy zero-sum language on China to justify a bloated Pentagon budget must be called out and held responsible for the secondary order impact that their rhetoric is having on Asian-Americans.

Asian community protests Atlanta shooting
Demonstrators at at Rally Against Hate to end discrimination against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, New York City, March 21, 2021.

The current situation has grave national-security implications for the federal government as well.

The stigmatization of Asian-Americans in government and exacerbating concerns of dual loyalty will only make it harder for patriotic Asian-Americans to serve in government. Such discriminatory efforts could also lead to poor foreign-policy decisions, as we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Biden administration’s interim National Security Strategic Guidance recognizes that the United States confronts a wide range of challenges, from a global pandemic to a deepening climate emergency. But it also assumes the worst about China’s intentions, which will make constructive engagement between two of the world’s largest economies difficult.

The Quincy Institute presents an alternative approach to thinking about China and East Asia, one that emphasizes stability and regional cooperation, and diplomacy over military dominance. In other words, there are other ways to manage US-China relations without marching into war.

Thirty-nine years ago, at the height of the auto trade war with Japan, a Chinese-American man named Vincent Chin was beaten to death in Detroit. The people who killed him thought he was Japanese. Rather than paying lip service to Asian-Americans while perpetuating grossly oversimplified narratives about China, President Biden and the Congress should stop demonizing China. They must stop using China fear tactics to justify more military spending.

As Rep. Marilyn Strickland stated on the House floor, “Words matter. Leadership matters.” It is time for American policymakers on national security and domestic civil liberties to work hand-in-hand to create policies that actually help Americans rather than pit them against one another.

Jessica J. Lee is a senior research fellow in the East Asia Program at the Quincy Institute.

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Court docs reveal Saudi wealth fund courted by Hollywood and Wall Street owned planes used in Jamal Khashoggi’s killing

Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman protest
A demonstrator dressed as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at a protest outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, October 8, 2018.

  • The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, an enormous sovereign wealth fund, has major investments in many prominent US companies.
  • Court documents show that the fund also owns planes that were used to carry out the killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

This article was copublished by Responsible Statecraft and Insider.

In spring 2018, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wall Street, and major universities rolled out a red carpet for nearly three weeks to welcome Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to the United States.

During his trip, MBS met with Oprah Winfrey, Rupert Murdoch, Sergey Brin, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates, among many others. The New York Times described the US tour as “seeking to change the perception of Saudi Arabia from an opaque and conservative kingdom, where mosques promote extremist ideology and women are relegated to second-class status, to a modernist desert oasis.”

But while MBS was the face of that effort, an enormous sovereign wealth fund – the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, or PIF – with about $400 billion in assets and expected to grow to $2 trillion, was the real draw for many of the tech, finance, and entertainment elites seeking photos and meetings with the 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne.

Six months later, two planes owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund flew a team of assassins from Riyadh to Istanbul, where they murdered Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate. The planes then flew the kill team back to Saudi Arabia.

At least one of those planes was operating inside the US as recently as October.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and Google cofounder Sergey Brin.

The role of PIF assets in the murder was made public in court documents filed in Canada as part of an embezzlement lawsuit brought by a number of Saudi-state owned companies against Saad Aljabri, a former top Saudi Intelligence official, who is currently in exile and previously claimed in a lawsuit filed in DC District Court that MBS attempted to send a kill team to murder him shortly after Khashoggi’s assassination.

Canadian court filings, first reported by CNN and later acquired and reviewed by Responsible Statecraft and Insider, reveal that Sky Prime Aviation was transferred to PIF on December 22, 2017. Two Gulfstream jets owned by Sky Prime Aviation shuttled Khashoggi’s assassins in and out of Istanbul less than one year after the transfer of Sky Prime Aviation to PIF.

“TOP SECRET NOT FOR CIRCULATION AND VERY URGENT” reads the top of the document that detailed the transfer of a group of companies, including Sky Prime Aviation, to the PIF.

The document directs:

“According to the instruction of His Highness the Crown Prince, Chairman of the Supreme Committee for Public Corruption Cases, to transfer the ownership of all companies referred to in my aforementioned letter to the ownership of the Public Investment Fund, immediately approve the completion of the necessary procedures for this.”

“Given the central role of the crown prince in terms of controlling Saudi Arabian assets and the government writ large, there needs to be an international independent investigation to identify what state assets were used in this gruesome murder,” said Kate Kizer, policy director for advocacy group Win Without War.

The release of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s report last week, which concluded that MBS approved of the operation to “capture or kill” Khashoggi, led to the implementation of Magnitsky Act sanctions against a former Saudi intelligence chief and members of the group who participated in the murder.

But ultimately the Biden administration chose not to sanction or otherwise penalize MBS directly, despite the ODNI’s assessment that he approved of the operation leading to Khashoggi’s death.

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Jamal Khashoggi at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 29, 2011.

“It’s a violation of Biden’s campaign promise hold the murderers of Khashoggi accountable,” said Michael Eisner, general counsel for Democracy in the Arab World Now, a group founded by Khashoggi shortly before his murder.

“We now know who ordered the murder, and he will not face the same consequences as his foot soldiers,” said Eisner. “That goes against a basic principle of justice that the person who orders a murder should face no less a severe punishment than the foot soldiers who carried it out.”

The Magnitsky Act can have far-reaching implications.

The Treasury Department describes it as being implemented “in recognition that the prevalence of human rights abuse and corruption that have their source, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States, had reached such scope and gravity as to threaten the stability of international political and economic systems.”

“The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons,” the Treasury says.

“The Biden administration should apply US Global Magnitsky Act sanctions and travel bans on senior executives at the PIF based on the use of PIF planes to move Jamal Khashoggi’s Saudi assassins between Saudi Arabia and Turkey,” said Sunjeev Bery, executive director of advocacy group Freedom Forward. “It’s ridiculous that on one hand the PIF is providing travel support for Khashoggi’s assassins while at the same time doing business deals with Uber and other companies in Silicon Valley.”

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President Donald Trump highlights arms sales to Saudi Arabia during an Oval Office meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, March 20, 2018.

While the role of PIF assets wasn’t mentioned in the ODNI report or the sanctions announcement, MBS’s role as chairman of PIF and the use of PIF assets – the two Gulfstream jets – raises questions about the fund’s involvement in the assassination and the knowledge of other PIF executives about the operation to kidnap or kill Khashoggi.

PIF did not respond to a request for comment about the role its planes played in the murder and about what, if any, knowledge or involvement PIF had in approving or operating the flights to Istanbul.

PIF’s status as a heavily courted investor no doubt generates considerable incentives for authorities to keep discussion about the fund’s role in the killing as quiet as possible. Funds like PIF can purchase stock in any publicly traded company, and two weeks ago, PIF increased its investment in US stock to nearly $12.8 billion. The fund holds a $1.38 billion stake in Activision Blizzard, $3.7 billion in Uber, $1.06 billion in Electronic Arts, $923 million in Live Nation, and $1.1 billion in Carnival Cruise Lines.

Sky Prime Aviation, for its part, has taken measures to limit publicly accessible data about the ongoing flight activities of the airplanes used in the operation that killed Khashoggi. But, much like MBS and the PIF, their operations inside the US appear to continue without any meaningful limitations or consequences stemming from the killing.

RadarBox, a system that tracks flight data, shows one of the Gulfstream jets that was used to fly the kill team to Turkey in 2018 flying inside the US as recently as late last year. On October 13, the Gulfstream IV with tail number HZ-SK1 departed Boston and flew to Fort Lauderdale, arriving in the late afternoon. It was the same plane that ferried the second group of assassins from Riyadh to Istanbul.

Read the original article on Business Insider