US Leaving Afghanistan Is About Politics, Not Geopolitics

By Paolo von Schirach –

WASHINGTON – Here we go. After some debate within his administration, President Joe Biden declared that all US troops will leave Afghanistan before September 11, a symbolic anniversary. This is not a decision contingent on conditions on the ground. We are leaving because of domestic politics calculations. Biden thinks that he will gain points with US voters by finally ending the now 20 year old “never ending war”.

Punish Al Qaeda

America invaded Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 in order to punish the Al Qaeda perpetrators and the Taliban government that willingly hosted them. 20 years later, the Taliban is undefeated and in fact dangerously close to seize power. Back in 2001, almost immediately after US troops landed, this US retaliatory strike –by definition limited in scope and time– was transformed into a long term and tragically ill-advised “Let’s redo Afghanistan” project. The goal was nothing less than remaking Afghanistan, an extremely poor and backward country defined by tribal allegiances, into a reasonably modern democracy that would never again host radical Islamist groups that would use their bases in the country to plot attacks against the US and its Allies.

Mission Futile and Impossible

Let’s be clear. This almost unchallenged assumption that America and its NATO Allies had to turn Afghanistan into a workable democracy in order to deny Islamic terrorists the sanctuary they enjoyed when the Taliban first controlled the country was and is silly. Suppose we succeeded. Then Afghanistan today would be a democracy. So what? Terrorist groups are flexible and agile. They can easily move and relocate elsewhere. The global viability of al Qaeda and other similar organizations was not and is not contingent on having training camps in Afghanistan. Nice to have them, of course. But they are not essential. Plenty of failed or semi-failed states offer similar sanctuary opportunities.

What is most amazing is that different American administrations insisted on pursuing this hopeless Afghanistan modernization policy, even when most of the evidence proved that this project had no chance of success, given the tragic backwardness of the country.

The Taliban quickly came back

Indeed, after the initial defeat, over time the Taliban regrouped and proved to be once again a formidable, relentless foe. Notwithstanding rivers of US money poured into the effort of arming and training the Afghan regular forces and police, (while at the same building capacity in all government institutions in Kabul and beyond), they have proven unable to contain, let alone defeat the Taliban.

Policy disaster

The invasion of Afghanistan was and is a policy disaster for Washington. Still, America could not easily leave. It was obvious that, lacking US material support, the pro-Western Kabul government would probably collapse.

Aware of the likely consequences of a US full withdrawal, nonetheless President Biden decided that he wants to close this sorry chapter of compounded failures. Hence the decision to remove all US troops and leave Afghanistan before September 11, 2021.

Washington is now trying to sweeten the bitter pill of defeat by selling the idea that the US will still be able to safeguard its national security interest, even after the departure of its military advisers and trainers. We are told that America will retain intelligence assets in Afghanistan even after all the US troops are gone. That should be enough to make sure that Afghanistan does not turn once more into a big Washington headache. I hope the Biden administration is right on this. But it is unlikely. My sense is that as soon as we are gone the Taliban will take over. May be not immediately. But it will happen. And this cannot be good for America.

Taking stock

And this is where we are now, more or less. With Washington pushing for an agreement, the Taliban and the pro-Western Afghans still in power in Kabul are negotiating some kind of power sharing deal, with the proviso that under no circumstances al Qaeda elements would be allowed into Afghanistan at any point in the future. Good luck with all that.

The point is that as soon as the Taliban become convinced that once gone the Americans are not coming back, they will fail to abide by whatever power-sharing agreement will be reached. So, expect an Islamist, anti-Western government to rule Afghanistan pretty soon.

For America, this debacle (twenty years of costly engagement, and almost nothing to show for it) should be an opportunity for rethinking its conceptually flawed anti-terror strategies.

The advantages of keeping a US military presence in Afghanistan

That said, even though the modernization process failed, the decision to leave now –for good—is not an enlightened one. Keeping a small force of about 2,000 US troops in Afghanistan, (along with other small contingents supplied by some NATO countries), does not represent an enormous burden for the US. Keeping them there would give confidence to the Kabul government in its ongoing struggle against the Taliban. This small US and NATO contingents are now and would continue to be in the future a Western bridge head in Afghanistan. They would keep US and NATO military and political options in the region.

The Biden decision to leave now, simply because we have been there too long and America is tired of all this, is an answer to domestic political pressures. It is perfectly understandable. But it is not smart.  

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Sciencand International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.

Irrational America Will Fail

By Paolo von Schirach —

WASHINGTON – Americans love biographies. A classic sub-category of this popular genre is books about the lives and deeds of past US Presidents. It is surprising to see how so many different authors keep coming up with new angles and new material on Presidents Washington, Lincoln or Johnson.

A skewed perspective

Still, one can see a big problem emerging from the enduring popularity of so many books about the lives Great Men. Regardless of the perspectives and sometimes fresh material offered by the authors, the subtext in most of these books about very consequential presidents is that America must have Great Presidents in order to meet the Great Challenges, so that it can move up to the next level of Greatness.

It is of course obvious that it would be really nice if here in America we could always or at least often elect men or women of superior intellect, high ethical standards and superb leadership and political skills. But manifestly we do not. Very often we come short.

This being the case, the biographies of Great Presidents at least indirectly become opportunities to compare past giants to past and recent dwarfs, and then lament our current and possibly future national misfortune on account of lack of high caliber presidential talent. This narrative leads to the logical conclusion that, lacking exceptional individuals at the helm, America will probably stagnate or decay.

This perspective and the conclusions it leads to are wrong, really wrong. And this is because the implicit conceptual premise –we must have Great President otherwise America is doomed– is wrong. This Republic was not founded on the explicit or implicit assumption that for America to thrive, or even survive, only Great Men should be elected to high office.

A flawed premise at the root

This Republic was founded instead on a different, but unfortunately equally flawed, premise implicitly agreed upon by the Founders. The premise was that most Americans —“We the People”, the ordinary citizens– are and will be mostly decent and reasonably wise people who will then select decent people among the fellow citizens running for elected office, including president, and eventually we shall elect rational and wise people to high office, if not always at least most of the time.

Unfortunately, this assumption that we must have and will have wise citizens, although different from the notion that we must have Great Presidents in order to thrive, is also a fantasy. Where is the evidence about the prevalence, at the time of the founding of America, now and in the future, of the prevalence of these qualities of reason and tolerance within the American society? This assumption was wishful thinking on a gigantic scale on the part of our Founders. It is simply not true that most people –the building block of our American polity– are and will be reasonable and rational most of the time.

This wishful thinking, this mixing up of aspiration (“it would be nice if we could have a New Republic made up of wise people”) and the reality of flawed and not nearly perfect people allowed the Founders to go ahead with their extremely ambitious self-government project whose success was based on wise and moral citizens, notwithstanding the empirically observable absence of such a strict prerequisite.

We managed to survive

In all this, what is truly extraordinary is that, despite this flawed premise, America managed to survive and even thrive for such a long time. The problem is that it seems that now we are running out of luck. Millions of Americans plainly show that they are not wise when it comes to choosing their leaders and their programs. On the contrary, many of our Fellow Citizens are avid consumers and propagandists of crazy fantasies, weird conspiracy theories and crackpot ideologies.

And here he have a serious problem. Even if we accept that our society will be somewhat flawed due to the immaturity and imperfections of some of its members, a well functioning Republic can exist only if most of “The People” genuinely share basic values and beliefs and exercise their cherished freedom wisely, with moderation and tolerance towards others. Absent that, we can still have a democracy –but in name only. In truth what we have instead is a dysfunctional, chaotic polity that may somehow survive, but certainly not a thriving, cohesive society.

Optimistic Founders assumed rationality

The Founders were wildly optimistic. They believed that self-government was possible and would succeed in America because they truly believed that all individuals by nature are and will be mostly rational. Being reasonable and pragmatic human beings, the citizens would be naturally drawn to come up with rational, balanced solutions for the country’s problems, after engaging in mature debates and discussions,

If these fantasyland assumptions genuinely believed and embraced by the Founders had been true, then we could rest assured then and now that, no matter who would compete for and win this or that election, most of the time the country would be in reasonably safe hands. Maybe we would not have Great Presidents. But most of the time we would be able to elect solid, competent and capable individuals from within our midst who would be able to handle public affairs in a reasonably enlightened and productive way.

Irrationality would be the exception

The Founders did concede that every now and then there would be some who would act in the public arena under the spell of unreasonable and may be foolish passions. Occasionally there would be rabble rousers and other unethical persons motivated solely by self-centered interests and personal ambitions. But these would be the rare exceptions, the unfortunate aberrations.

Most of the time, most of the people –the citizens and the leaders they would choose– would be wise. Being wise, the citizens would retain the ability to sift through the ideas and their advocates and then discard the dubious products and their proponents; and then choose the best from a reasonably good and occasionally exceptional menu.

This faith in a common sense driven America was articulated by Abraham Lincoln as a candidate for an Illinois Senate seat. In one of his 1858 celebrated debates with his opponent, Stephen Douglas, Lincoln reportedly said, “Judge Douglas cannot fool the people: you may fool people for a time; you can fool a part of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all the people all the time.”

Back then, that was a clever debate line, articulated by Lincoln during a widely followed political campaign. But was what Lincoln said true? Most importantly, is it true today? Is it really true that “you can’t fool all the people all the time?”

Irrationality has reached dangerous levels

Given the worrisome developments of the last decade or so, can we envisage instead America as a political battlefield dominated by irrational ideologies spearheaded by national leaders and would be leaders intent on advancing extreme and crackpot plans, with some of them engaged indeed in an effort to fool all of the people of all the time? Can we see the triumph of extreme ideologies and populism at the expense of reasonable plans? Well, if the last ten years can provide any guidance, the answer is yes.

And we did not get to this dangerous place because we lack a deep bench of Great Men and Women ready to jump in and save us. In this toxic atmosphere, the wise are simply not listened to. And this is because our society is no longer –if it ever was– the society of mostly reasonable people the Founding Fathers believed they lived in and assumed would be able to self-perpetuate itself, generation after generation.

It is not that somehow, due to historic accident, these days we have the bad luck of being stuck with wicked or incompetent candidates for high office who end becoming our leaders. Our problems do not stem from the lack of great or at least acceptable candidates who will make great or at least decent Presidents.

The real problem is us.

The truth is that as a society we are not wise enough. If we ever really had it, we seem to have lost the ability to calmly analyze and sift through ideas and candidates, and then simply push aside the crackpot plans and egomaniacal would-be leaders who from time to time may and do appear on the American political scene.

The sustaining myth is gone

What the Founders got really wrong is that, contrary to their (strong but unfounded) beliefs inspired by the thinkers of the Enlightenment, the dominant political philosophy of their era, human beings are not —repeat, are not— naturally predisposed to choose and then nurture reason within themselves, and tolerance with one another. Men and women born in this Republic, or elsewhere in the world for that matter, are not naturally truth-seeking creatures born with the propensity to pursue real knowledge and wisdom. Some certainly are. And this is good. But not all, and certainly not a majority.

And here is our dilemma. Our old political cultural references and values are essentially based on beautiful dreams of the late XVIII century that we held on to for a surprisingly long time. Strong beliefs in the truthfulness of these dreams somehow (and surprisingly, I should add) acted as the gravity-defying magic bond holding together our fragile polity. I argue that this myth-based bonding agent managed to prevent our American edifice from falling apart, simply because enough people believed that it was true.

But today that beautiful dream has withered. It is no longer strongly believed. It is a dim echo from a distant past that does not stir many people. Most young Americans today have only a vague understanding of –let alone faith in– the unshakeable beliefs that inspired and sustained our Founders. This being the case, the new generations are not really interested in studying them, let alone embracing them. This is a serious problem.

Humankind has been pursuing wisdom for millennia. In the West some tried to describe it, embrace it and then teach it to others, so that all of us would have at least a chance to become wise. (Although pursued through other means, in the East the search for wisdom is equally important.)

And yet, any empirical observation indicates that we come short, way short. Nowadays, our political debates are dominated, or at the very least strongly influenced, by wild ideologies based on often insane fantasies and dangerous conspiracy theories.

Troubling evidence

As we all know, in November 2020 we had a national election following tried and tested accepted procedures. And yet millions of Americans to this day strongly believe that the official winner, Joe Biden, did not win; because they have been repeatedly told by Donald Trump, the losing candidate, that this “victory” is the result of massive fraud on an unprecedented national scale. Trump produced no credible evidence to supports his fantastic claims. And yet millions believe him anyway.

By the same token, thousands of Americans, inspired and egged on by Donald Trump, the losing candidate, apparently believed that it would be an act of genuine patriotism to storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in a crazy and completely illegal attempt to prevent the final certification of the November 2020 vote.

Let us be serious. These are not small glitches in our system, bumps in the road. These are dreadful illustrations of a society well on its way to becoming unhinged. There is no precedent of an angry mob violently storming the US Capitol, America’s parliament, in order to stop the final validation of a perfectly legitimate presidential election. Likewise, there is no precedent of a large majority of the lawmakers of one party casting a vote aimed at challenging the validity of a certified national election.

This is a crisis

Unless we want to fool ourselves, this state of affairs amounts to a crisis, with profoundly negative implications for the future viability of this Republic. America was founded by overly optimistic self-taught men who believed that it was possible to create a state founded on self-government because “The People” are essentially good. Had they been convinced that “The People” were and would be immature and prone to fall for unhinged fantasies, would they have pursued their daunting effort to establish a Republic premised on the enduring wisdom of its citizens?

Can education help?

According to the Founders, if some of the people do not have enough wisdom, there is a great remedy: education. Education comes in to assist in the effort to awaken and then nurture our innate rationality. The cobwebs of ignorance, superstition and foolish ideas will be dissolved in a healthy clean bath of unbiased scientific knowledge. The pursuit of knowledge and truth, in turn, will make people wise. And this essential human quality –wisdom– would make this Republic possible.

There is of course some truth in all this. Education is an extremely important tool. Still, as a minimum, the Founders should have created, or at least made clear provisions to guarantee uninterrupted support to institutions that would be tasked with the critical responsibility of molding wise citizens.

Who will take care of teaching our values?

Indeed, as the foundations of this American polity were and are based on intangible and fragile beliefs, who should be taking care of their upkeep? Looking at our current predicaments, whatever has ben done in terms of making wisdom prevalent rather that rare in America is as a minimum inadequate. I am sure that we can do better, even though the challenge is immense, since we are talking about restoring the very foundations on which our Republic rests.

Be that as it may, for sure, this critical objective of nurturing wisdom in our midst is not going to magically manifest itself. Someone has to do something –and quickly. Remember: widespread wisdom is the precondition for making the self-perpetuation of our democracy possible. Failure to act means that the bad moment we are experiencing now will probably become the new normal.

Teaching wisdom

Teaching young people how to become wise is a daunting task. In the course of western history, eminent philosophers pursued wisdom and tried to teach it –with very modest results. Can we do better, going forward?

I have no idea. But I do know that if this trend is not reversed our outlook looks bleak. Indeed, if these new lows in our public discourse and behavior will be followed by even lower ones, we shall soon slip into systemic dysfunction. And when dysfunction will dominate, the fragile edifice we call America, lovingly built by Founders who had embraced this beautiful dream of a democracy that would endure because of the inherent rationality of its citizens will collapse.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Sciencand International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.

No Easy Way To Silence Bad Speech

By Paolo von Schirach –

WASHINGTON – In our United States, the First Amendment to the Constitution establishing the protection of freedom of speech is the cornerstone of an institutional edifice proclaiming that this Republic was created to protect individual liberties. Without the full enjoyment of freedom of speech there is no real Liberty, and therefore no real Democracy. In America every citizen should feel absolutely free to publicly state, proclaim, broadcast pretty much whatever they want, without any fear of retribution. Others may agree or disagree with what I say. They may like or dislike it. But nobody has the power of censoring me or punishing me for what I said.

Limits to free speech?

But now here in the United States, after all what happened in the last few years, culminating with the presidential campaign of 2020 , we have started a dangerous debate on what should be and should not be allowable free speech. At the root of this debate there is a legitimate concern. Is really all speech protected by the First Amendment? No exceptions? At what point –some wonder– do outright lies, outlandish conspiracy theories, combined with manipulation of facts and news become an assault on society, thus requiring censorship?

The simple answer is: never. And I mean never.

“But, wait a minute. What do you mean by never? Even the craziest things should be allowed? Even the patently lunatic theories?” The answer is yes, and yes, even though this means allowing the circulation and recirculation of pure poison. And the reason for this stand is very simple.

No logical limits to censorship

Once we start legalizing any kind of censorship whatsoever, (even if we call it something else), the dam has been broken and the trickle inevitably will turn into a flood. Think about it. We may start with perfectly good intentions, making every effort in creating narrow and precise definitions of what is so egregiously false that deserves censorship.

But this effort, we shall soon discover, cannot be contained. Once we have established that “some” really bad ideas must be censored, down the line someone else will want to add to this list some more categories of “bad things” that should be prohibited. And then, what? Do we really want to start a never ending debate regarding what is constitutionally protected free speech and what is poisonous talk, and therefore unprotected speech? Do we really want to go down that route? You can see where this goes. Not to a good place.

How do we protect ourselves?

And so, if we cannot and should not prohibit the circulation of crazy and false ideas, how do we protect ourselves from the harm they will inevitably cause to our society? Good question for which there is a very simple answer that requires however a monumental education effort as the only appropriate remedy.

The People who are ultimately the targets of all the ideas introduced in public debates need to have or gain the wisdom to know the difference between legitimate and crackpot ideas and crazy fantasies. If they do not have them now, the People need to acquire the intellectual and common sense tools of discernment that will allow them to know the difference and therefore separate legitimate free speech one can agree or disagree with from crackpot stuff to be discarded and junked.

This is at the same time a very simple operation for those who can tell the difference and difficult for those who lack the tools to do so. We know that many lack the ability to know which is which and this is why they embrace crackpot ideas that have no factual basis or –even worse– are based on foundations that deny key principles on which this Republic was founded.

Educated citizens are at the foundation of a viable democracy

And here is where we come to the real point. If millions of citizens (many or even most of them in good faith) believe in ideas that are both false and/or unconstitutional, we are facing a gigantic problem that we ignore at our peril.

As our Founding Fathers stipulated a long time ago, a viable Democracy assumes reasonably competent, fair minded citizens who share basic values and understand that along with the precious freedom of expression we all enjoy, we also must subscribe to unwritten rules of respect for facts and truth, decency, honor, tolerance, and a lot more. These “things”, these guiding principles and values cannot be legislated and ordered into place. These are things we should be able to acquire as we become functioning adults. All this should be the outcome of a good education and socialization process.

A viable republic requires educated citizens

The Founding Fathers recognized that passions and factionalism which would include the deliberate spreading of distortions and falsehood would exist in this Republic. This being the case, the best defense against them would be our constitutional system of checks and balances and reasonably well educated citizens who would be able, at least in most cases, to spot and therefore toss away dangerous and silly ideas, whatever their provenance.

In a word, it is clear that our Republic cannot really function without good citizens, and a good education is the means through which we create good citizens.

If most people look at some ideas, listen to them and quickly conclude: “This is garbage. Let’s move to on more substantive ideas and issues”, then we would have no real problem, and no need to think creatively about ways to introduce any kind of censorship. Indeed, the garbage is dangerous only to the extent that it is believed and embraced by some or many. Education creates a precious immunity against the garbage that some will inevitably spread around.

And please note that bad ideas are dangerous not because these days there are thousands of ways to spread them around. Social media and other information delivery tools are about volume levels. The bad ideas are not dangerous because now they find many powerful outlets. They are dangerous because they find a willing audience that can and will be be persuaded.

With all that, censorship, however appealing it may seem, is a bad solution to the problem. Simply because once you go down that route there is no logical or natural end to it.

Education is the only answer

The only solution, difficult as it is, is in giving the People the tools of discernment, judgment and common sense to examine and sift through ideas, theories and proposals and then simply discard the bad stuff. And please note that the bad stuff should not be the subject of public outrage and debates. The best thing that could be done about bad stuff is to toss it out and ignore it. Ignored by all, the bad stuff would simply die and its purveyors would disappear from the public scene.

I realize that all this sound simplistic or at least very unrealistic, given the magnitude of the problem we are facing. We do know that unfortunately millions of citizens, Fellow Americans, fall for the garbage. They do. They believe it and embrace it, often enthusiastically. As we have seen, at times this garbage may provide the motivation and moral justification for engaging in dangerous and illegal activities. We know all that.

The threat of censorship

However, it is even more dangerous to engage in censorship, even if we would be driven to this extreme remedy by the noble goal of protecting innocent people from garbage. As noted at the beginning, once we start creating a list of items that should fall under the category of unprotected speech, for good or bad reasons inevitably more items will be added to this list. And pretty soon free speech as we know it will be gone.

And there is more. For sure, the growing concerns that certain ideas may be suspect will cause people to start exercising a degree of self-censorship. Knowing about censorship, some people simply will not dare expressing certain unorthodox ideas for fear of negative repercussions. You see how once we enter this new dimension of limits to free speech there is no good way of getting out of it.

Help the education effort

Right now we are in a very imperfect democracy. Many people who have every right to participate in the political process lack the education and common sense to make the necessary distinctions and separations between ideas and crackpot conspiracy theories.

But banning “bad ideas” is not a good way to protect the people. As simplistic as this may sound, offering good education opportunities so that The People will have the tools to make up their own minds on the basis of reason and common sense is the only way out of this predicament. For sure, it will take years, maybe decades to improve this worrisome situation. But there is no other way.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Sciencand International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.

The Post Oil Economy Just Began

By Paolo von Schirach –

WASHINGTON – President Biden has been heavily criticized by conservatives for issuing a raft of executive orders aimed at restricting activities of the US fossil fuel industry. Many critics described these as deliberate frontal attacks on the American oil and gas industry, motivated by nothing more than ultra leftist ideological animus. Other analysts concluded that these executive orders are the price a pragmatic Biden (who knows better) needs to pay in order to keep the troublesome green left of his party quiet.

How important?

Be that as it may, are these restrictions on new drilling on federal land and other mandates affecting the energy industry a really big deal? Yes and no. It is undeniable that today the very viability of the American economy, just like the economies of the rest of the industrialized world –like it or not– still depends on the availability of affordable fossil fuels, (now produced mostly here at home, in large quantities). In this light, Biden’s activism is portrayed by pessimists as a horribly misguided effort that will seriously undermine US economy vitality, without producing any appreciable environmental gains.

A detectable shift

Still, looking at the not so distant future, this truism about the obvious link between abundant and affordable oil and gas and optimal economic performance may not be so true anymore. And this is not just on account of the damage to the industry’s viability caused by the relentless war against hydrocarbons waged by green groups who have brought to the energy debates the blind zeal of religious fanatics. No, this is because now many if not most traditional actors, including major auto manufacturers and oil companies, realize that global warming is a real problem staring at them, while at the same time viable alternatives to oil and gas are gaining altitude because they are or are about to become cost-effective.

Which is to say that Biden’s high profile, anti-oil gestures aimed at pleasing the Democratic party left do not carry the same economic weight they would have carried 10 or 15 years ago when truly viable alternatives to fossil fuels were not available.

This ship sailed

While a real, irreversible shift from fossil fuels to clean renewables will take a long time, my sense is that many major “traditional” players have already concluded that this is where we are going. This being the case, they decided that they may as well lead the way to the non oil future, as opposed to being dragged into this new dimension kicking and screaming.

Here are just some recent examples that illustrate the attitude shift I am talking about.

The New York Times
“The days of the internal combustion engine are numbered.
General Motors said [on January 28, 2021] it would phase out petroleum-powered cars and trucks and sell only vehicles that have zero tailpipe emissions by 2035, a seismic shift by one of the world’s largest automakers that makes billions of dollars today from gas-guzzling pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles.”
[Bold and emphasis added]

Auto Week
“Following similar commitments by several nations, Japan is planning to phase out the sale of gas and diesel-engined cars by 2035. Government officials announced the plan as part of an agenda that the Prime Minister set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades, NHK reported.”

Seeking Alpha
On Wednesday, December 23, 2020, Italian energy giant Eni S.p.A. (E) joined forces with Snam and state-backed Cassa Depositi e Prestiti on a series of green energy projects. This is an area in which the European energy companies have diverged from their American cousins as the American firms have stuck solely to their fossil fuel businesses. However, there is much more growth potential in renewables than there is in fossil fuels so we could very easily see companies like Eni outperform their American counterparts as time goes by. This is especially true as Eni in particular is focusing its efforts on many different sorts of green technology. For example, this latest announcement relates to the development of green hydrogen as a fuel source. Overall, this development could prove quite stimulative to Eni’s growth going forward and could thus make the company more attractive as an investment.

Climate Home News
“Denmark [an oil producing country] will stop issuing new licenses for oil and gas exploration and phase out the production of fossil fuels by 2050, after a groundbreaking deal was sealed in parliament on Thursday evening. 
The Scandinavian country is the largest oil producer to commit to a managed decline of the sector, nearly 50 years after it started extraction of hydrocarbons in the North Sea.
The minority Social Democrat government reached agreement with five other parties to cancel the country’s latest licensing round and all future tenders. The deal includes support for alternative economic development and job creation in the Esbjerg area, where the country’s offshore oil activities are concentrated.
Climate and energy supply minister Dan Jørgensen said he hoped the decision would inspire others to take similar steps. “We are now putting an end to the fossil era, and drawing a straight line between our activities in the North Sea and the Climate Act’s goal of climate neutrality in 2050,” he said.”
[Bold added]

Total is paying $2.5 billion for a share in Indian renewable energy firm Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL) and a portfolio of solar power assets, marking the latest step in the French energy company’s drive to reduce its dependence on oil.

A real shift

There you have it. Auto makers –led by iconic General Motors– proclaiming to the world that they decided to ditch the perennial internal combustion engine. Governments announcing a soon to come post-carbon era. Oil and gas companies making substantial capital investments in renewable energy.

The skeptics would argue that all this flurry of new green activism is suspect. It is just window dressing. This is nothing more than a well orchestrated public relations effort aimed at pleasing the Greens in Europe, Asia and North America.

Look, I am sure that there is some of that. But I find it hard to believe that weighty proclamations followed by large investment pledges in green technologies are just smoke and mirrors whose only purpose is to create overnight green credentials for the eternal bad guys. I believe that there is more.

Global warming is real

I believe that rational, responsible leaders in government and industry, including the fossil fuels industry, have finally come to the conclusion that global warming is a real problem that is bound to get worse. May be it is not the catastrophic emergency that doomsayers scream about, but it is nonetheless a real problem that needs to be addressed by embracing –today– technologies that will substantially reduce greenhouse gases emissions. Since now we do have viable renewable energy alternatives, now is the time to start investing in them and scaling up their deployment. If they are still imperfect, (think of still costly batteries for electric vehicles), then let’s work on them, and make them more cost-effective.

No going back

Maybe the announced targets for phasing out oil, gas and the internal combustion engine are unrealistic. Maybe it will take longer. Still, we have reached an inflection point. From now on a U turn is impossible.

Given this new context, Biden’s edicts targeting the fossil fuels industry simply indicate that it is time to recognize that oil and gas are the past (and for a while longer the present). But they are not the future.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Sciencand International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.

Trump’s Long Shadow

By Paolo von Schirach –

WASHINGTON – After the January 6th riots, for a brief moment we were led to believe that the Republican Party would do its best to come to terms with and shed the abominable legacy of Donald Trump. It was clear to all that the unprecedented violent attack against the US Capitol had been inspired and orchestrated by Donald Trump’s relentless barrage of lies regarding the November 3 “stolen elections”. He had convened his loyal supporters in Washington on January 6 as his last stand. His declared goal was to mobilize his followers so that they would do “something” to prevent the outrage of the final congressional validation of his opponent’s victory that was to take place that very day via a vote by both Chambers. The “something” that had to be done became the attack on the US Capitol, an unprecedented act of sedition.

Trump’s conduct

Well before this riot, Trump’s conduct had been not just unusual and bizarre. It had been openly and consistently outrageous. Even the most generous apologists would have to recognize that, after the scores of failed legal attempts to reverse election results in key swing states, Trump had no factual basis, no evidence whatsoever to support his crazy narrative of the stolen elections.

But he did it anyway. Sadly, some of the GOP elders openly supported these claims, while most of the congressional Republicans and GOP state leaders simply kept quiet. Either way, there was no indignation within the president’s party as America and the world were confronted with the demeaning spectacle of a defeated American president who just would not let go — the behavior you would expect from a Third World dictator.

Some Republicans reacted

But then came January 6th, the final act of this bizarre plot. Well, right in the aftermath of this incredible occupation of the US Capitol by a large army of enthusiastic and violent Trump followers, some Republicans were finally outraged. When the Democrats’ talk of a second impeachment trial turned into an action plan, for a brief moment it seemed that may be the anti-Trump momentum was gathering strength. Finally, a supine GOP would find its spine and say: “Enough of this!”

…But not many

Well, no. Not a chance. As the shock of the violent US Capitol occupation by the pro-Trump mob subsided and Washington got back to business, the GOP elders quickly concluded that any concurrence with the Democrats about a second Trump impeachment would doom the party.

Indeed, by convicting Donald Trump the Republicans would implicitly admit that they had been led by a criminal. And this admission would cause a deep crisis within the party. How so? Because the Republican establishment knows that Trump, despite everything, is still very popular among millions of Americans. By officially joining the Democrats in condemning him, they would attract the wrath of millions of Trump loyalists who happen to be GOP voters. The Republican Party may not survive such a crisis.

Do nothing

This being the case, what is the GOP going to do about Trump? Essentially nothing. Many Republican Congressmen and Senators are willing to blame Trump (just a little bit) for his “unorthodox” behavior; at the same time stressing that on January 6 he never explicitly “ordered” his followers to break the law by smashing the doors and windows of the US Capitol. The prevailing GOP narrative is that, overall, the conduct of the president was probably questionable; but by no means criminal, and therefore not impeachable. In any event, he is out of office, so there is nothing more to talk about. Case closed. End of story.

That’s it? Yes, that’s it. There is not even a shadow of an honest effort to have a serious post-mortem, to place everything that happened during the Trump years, and especially during the 2020 campaign, in context. Everybody knows that Trump started laying the foundation for what became his strategy to deny defeat way back during the campaign, when he began talking incessantly about massive fraud on election day due to mail in voting –without producing even a shred of evidence to substantiate his claims. And yet, nobody within the GOP said anything about these absurdities.

No serious effort to examine the record

Now, well after the elections, the clever ones within the GOP simply repeat some of Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of fraud and irregularities, claiming that they have not been fully investigated. “What’s wrong with millions of Americans asking to shed light on what they believe are shady election practices and irregularities taking place in many states? Wouldn’t we all be better off if electoral systems and practices in all 50 States were fully reviewed?”

Indeed. Except that the election systems have been reviewed. Beyond the dozens of legal cases Trump began and lost in court because of lack of evidence, there has been recounting, in several states, followed by vetting and final certification by election officials, both Democrats and Republicans, in different states. Furthermore, the US Department of Justice, led by Attorney General William Barr, unquestionably a Trump loyalist, conducted various investigations in order to ascertain the validity of voters’ fraud claims made by Trump. And they found nothing –repeat nothing– worth pursuing. In simple language, the November 3 elections were properly held according to the laws of each state.

To be clear, the DOJ did not conclude that absolutely everything is squeaky clean, across all 50 states. Sure enough, there may have been irregularities, and some isolated instances of fraud here and there. And they should be fully investigated. But the Department of Justice investigations found no fraud or irregularities on a scale that might put in question the integrity of the election system in any state, and potentially flip the result of this presidential election.

Let’s forget about Trump

But none of this matters for the GOP leaders afraid of saying anything against Trump that might ricochet against the party, and thus smear their brand. So, in the end, when we get to the impeachment trial in the US Senate, we shall find out that (maybe) there are 5 or 6 GOP Senators willing to risk their political future by voting to convict Trump. All the others will play it safe and vote to acquit. Some will argue that the impeachment trial should not have taken place because Trump is out of office. Others will claim that there is insufficient evidence to link Trump’s words on January 6 –inflammatory but vague– to the openly illegal behavior of his followers.

So, oddly enough, Trump will win this final political battle. He will be able to say, once again, that he is the victim of yet another witch hunt concocted by the Democrats because the deep state wants to silence him and with him the millions of Good Patriots who had found in him their champion.

A Trump relaunch?

Now, I am not sure that this wave of sympathy will be enough for a relaunch of the damaged Trump Brand. Probably not. But by proclaiming (along with Trump) that the Democrats are motivated only by mean spirited vindictiveness, the Republicans believe that they can save the GOP. By condemning the second impeachment trial as a futile exercise driven by sheer vindictiveness, they hope to be able to regain some moral and political standing. At the same same time, they hope that Trump will keep quiet in his Florida exile, this way allowing others within the GOP to propose themselves as the new populists ready to lead the leaderless Trump Army.

The Republican Party has no more substance

In the end, the emerging sad truth is that the Republican Party lost its soul and has no interest in regaining it. Glossing over Trump and his anti democratic instincts is a convenient way not to have unpleasant debates.

Indeed, by digging deeper, some would begin to question how could a populist, nativist, reality TV celebrity, without any legitimate credentials about government experience, so easily take over the GOP, the bastion of American conservatism, back in 2016. If you dig a little deeper, the disturbing answer is that there was no credible resistance to Trump. (By the same token, the Democrats should wonder how they could lose to such an opponent in 2016. But we shall leave this equally disturbing question to another occasion).

The GOP folded

The GOP establishment was so listless that it simply melted when confronted with Trump’s daily verbal assaults back in 2015 and 2016. When accused of being incompetent, weak, and stupid the seasoned Republican politicians with decades of experience had not much to say in their defense. And the gallery absolutely loved the spectacle! Millions of disgruntled Americans loved watching Trump the outsider, and his relentless broadsides against the GOP Old Guard. The more outrageous and mean spirited the attacks, the better.

Trump probably did not know this, but back in 2015, when he launched his quixotic effort –so it seemed at the time– to gain the GOP nomination, he was about to kick down the rotten door to a crumbling edifice. To everybody’s surprise, the GOP old guard quickly surrendered, with very little fighting.

For sure, there is a significant upside in all this for the Republicans. Trump’s populist, nativist and isolationist message attracted millions of new voters to the GOP. And this is good news if you are in the GOP leadership. Yet, the very same populist message scared millions more at home, and many abroad. Here at home, Trump’s popularity, even in the best pre-covid days of a growing US economy and rock bottom unemployment, never reached 50%. Not even once.

Forget Trump, but keep the Trump voters

Now that Trump left the scene, (at least for the moment), the same unprincipled GOP leaders who applauded him while in office are looking at the 75 million votes Trump got in November and concluded that the best way to keep these voters is to keep quiet about the former president. Unprincipled, opportunistic strategies may work, for a while. In the long run, I would not be so sure.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Sciencand International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.

America Should Be An Opportunity Society

By Paolo von Schirach –

WASHINGTON – Come January 20, 2021, Joe Biden will be unable to effectively govern America without at least a modicum amount of bipartisan cooperation in Congress. While we will not know until the Georgia January 5th vote which party will be in control of the Senate, for Biden the very best congressional balance scenario is that the Democrats will keep their very thin House majority, while they will gain control of the Senate with a one vote majority, thanks to the tie breaker vote that will be cast by Vice President Harris. This not so rosy scenario is based on the rather optimistic assumption that the two Democratic candidates will win both Georgia Senate seats on January 5th, a possible but rather improbable outcome.

The outlook is not promising

So, if it all goes splendidly well, President Biden will be able to rely on an extremely small and fragile Democratic majority in Congress. If things do not turn out well in Georgia, we shall have divided government, at least for the next two years, until the 2022 midterm elections. If the Democrats fail to win both Georgia Senate seats, President Biden will have to deal with an unfriendly, if not positively hostile, Senate Republican majority that will do its best to block anything remotely ambitious Biden wants to push.

How will Biden be able to govern?

Given the narrow margins allowed by this political alignment in Congress, let’s look at what is possible for America. We have Joe Biden, a mostly centrist Democratic President, who will have to navigate between a restless and noisy left within his own diminished party and a strong Republican congressional opposition still hostage of a defeated Trump who to this day claims –crazy but true– that he, not Biden, won the presidential elections. Will these Congressmen and Senators feel free to negotiate with an open mind with an “illegitimate” Biden administration? Hard to believe it.

Sadly, these are the extraordinary challenges facing the new administration. Given these constraints, can Biden do the virtually impossible and bring at least sections of both parties together in order to advance a constructive bipartisan national agenda? I believe that Biden has both the inclination and the experience to attempt to do this. But it is going to be extremely complicated.

Promote an Opportunity Society Agenda

That said, assuming that there is a possible opening in the road ahead, here is my idea of a broad national agenda that may get the support of at least the centrists in both parties, and may be other factions.

I am talking about Biden articulating and then promoting an “Opportunity Society Agenda”.

The worn out but (surprisingly) still accepted national myth is that America actually “is” an Opportunity Society. Indeed, many would still claim today that America is “the” Opportunity Society. Supposedly, we all live in the America where “everything is possible”.

The old myth

This is the America of rags-to-riches stories well described in so many popular books by Horatio Alger Jr. more than a century ago. According to this fantasyland narrative, America is the country in which all individuals have a chance because they are free. Being free, they can use their freedom to achieve anything they want. No matter a person’s birth and unfavorable individual circumstances, there are no legal or social barriers to personal and economic advancement. All Americans are free to become whatever they want to be. In America, hard work, persistence and law-abiding behavior will get you anywhere you want to be.

Well, this is a nice representation. But it is mostly fiction. Not because most Americans do not have self-advancement desires –most of them do. But because many are held back by strong impediments they cannot overcome on their own.

Remove the impediments

I believe that most Democrats and Republicans would agree that removing all or most of the impediments that prevent millions of Americans to formulate and then pursue their own dreams of academic, economic and social advancement, this way gaining their rightful seat at the proverbial table, is an eminently worthwhile goal.

In a genuine “Opportunity Society” literally everybody wins. Those who cannot get ahead because they lack access to quality public education will get it. Those who are engaged in business but feel the daily constraints created by a skewed playing field that favors some while pushing other back, at the same time burdening most with unnecessary, heavy regulations, will be freed from them. Those who have carved out special rent positions for their economic sectors will have to compete fairly, according to the rules that apply to all.

Assuming that it is possible to forge a bipartisan consensus on the broad contours of this vision of America as Opportunity Society, then it may be possible for President Biden to articulate a broad reform agenda that will identify the blockages and welcome diverse contributions from both Democrats and Republicans aimed at designing concrete tools to remove them.

Education is priority one

I would think that access to quality public education for all American children should be at the top of any list. Now more than ever before, given the hyper competitive global economy in which we all live, it is almost impossible to think that any American child or young person can have a decent shot at a good job or career as an adult without the benefit of a good or superior education. And we also know that if young Americans do not get a good education while they are in school, getting it later on, as adults, will be much, much more complicated.

Fix the schools

However, the grim reality is that many if not most American children in low income families lack access to a good education. Sadly, while public education reform has been debated for decades in America, we do not seem to be able to go beyond rigid partisan views as to the models that should be followed to improve its quality.

We know that the Democrats overall favor the strengthening of the public education system as it exists today, notwithstanding ample evidence of too many systemic failures. Reformers and conservatives propose more experimentation made possible by the charter schools formula, among other alternatives.

Indeed, there is plenty of evidence that many charter schools operating in low income neighborhoods have succeeded beyond all expectations in delivering high quality education to mostly disadvantaged children. Think of Success Academy Charter Schools, originally Harlem Success Academy, founded in New York City by Eva Moskowitz. These are schools where poor children get an excellent education, therefore gaining skills that will translate into opportunities after they graduate.

May be there is a chance to bridge this ideological divide, so that all children –supposedly the beneficiaries of all education efforts– get the best education they can get, and therefore the tools enabling them to make real progress in life. Can President Biden inspire bipartisan cooperation, so that we can improve access to quality public education for all American children?

Massive welfare programs did not deliver

If education reform is absolutely essential, we also have to look at other impediments that make it difficult for those who do not have a seat at the table to get one. Unfortunately, well-meaning public policy initiatives aimed at helping the poor designed long ago have failed, in most cases miserably. The “War on Poverty” programs rolled out with great hope in 1967 by President Lyndon Johnson failed –in a spectacular manner. After 50 years and 21 trillion spent (in today’s dollars) poverty levels have not changed in America.

May be this is about having chosen and pursued the wrong approach. The main shortcoming is that a host of public assistance programs at best managed to make poverty tolerable, as opposed to offering a meaningful path out of poverty. Various forms of subsidies and public assistance help poor people to survive. But they have failed to change the fundamentals, so that more confident and better skilled individuals will have both the tools and the self-confidence to engage and move up in the world.

Skills more valuable thank checks

Changing the structure and the goals of public assistance will be very complicated. But it is an immensely important goal. If we want everybody to have a fair chance in America , then we should do our best to create the enabling environment that will make this possible for millions who are or feel like outsiders, with no chance to join the mainstream.

In order to have a chance, poor people need tools that will help them get out of poverty. First and foremost they need marketable skills, along with some income security and health care services. Monthly checks alone, while useful, will not do the trick. Guaranteeing subsistence is better than condemning the poor to starvation. But it does not help them move up in the world. It will simply make them perpetual dependents on public welfare.

With Joe Biden in the lead, can our national leaders overcome partisan prejudice and work together so that our society will be able to benefit from the contributions of millions of people who are currently marginalized, simply because they are trapped in an endless, multigenerational cycle of poverty and dependence on ill-conceived welfare programs?

If at least some Democrats and Republicans could agree that removing impediments to access is an essential precondition for the creation of a truly inclusive Opportunity Society, then the next step is to improve the ecosystem in which all individuals and corporations operate.

The level playing field does not exist

The old myth still accepted by some is that all Americans, by virtue of being free citizens, are free to do pretty much whatever they want in the economic realm, within the limits of the law. Not so. If this were ever true, certainly it is not true today.

As noted above, lack of access to quality public education for millions of children created a de facto two tier society. The well educated in tier one have a chance to engage and succeed. All the others in tier two, without the benefit of the skills gained via good or at least decent education, struggle for the low paying jobs accessible to the uneducated. If they ever did, the Horatio Alger stories do not apply anymore.

Lobbies created privileged sectors

That said, even within the boundaries of the tier one well functioning economy, equal access to opportunity, a level playing field where all compete and the best succeed, is a myth. Constantly pressed by the lobbies of way too many special interest groups, politicians and policy-makers through carefully crafted laws, set asides, tax exemptions and regulations have created privileged economic categories who do better than they should thanks to the privileged status created by political protection secured by highly paid lobbyists.

Too much regulation

To make matters even worse, policy-makers and bureaucrats over many decades have also created an almost impenetrable regulatory thicket that makes it extremely hard for many would-be entrepreneurs to launch a new venture or run an established one. The combined effect of all this is both unfair and very wasteful. Picking winners and losers based on arbitrary choices leads to the misallocation of finite resources. Unnecessary bureaucratic complexity adds confusion to lack of fairness. All in all, these are not the ingredients for building a vibrant, innovation driven US economy.

Ideally, all lawful economic activities should enjoy the same level of access and legal protection. No more special treatment for anybody. Of course, some regulations are necessary. But they should be sensible, not punitive. They should be about safeguarding public health and preserving the environment according to acceptable, common sense, scientifically supported modern standards. For example, environmental impact reports for new infrastructure should not require years and years of studies and revisions, this way obstructing the implementation of new projects.

The way forward

Well, you get the picture. On account of basic inequality when it comes to access to education, and unfairness created by legislated privileges and exclusions, combined with the obstacles created by a regulatory jungle, America is no longer the Opportunity Society that attracted throngs of immigrants for such a long time.

Can President Joe Biden rally bipartisan support around an agenda aimed at removing barriers and privileges, so that all Americans will have a seat at the table and therefore the opportunity and the will to engage and thrive? I really hope so.

Doing nothing or just nibbling at the edges of these massive problems will deepen already sharp class divisions and widespread feelings of alienation, while preventing America as a whole from growing as much as it could. This is a tall order, I recognize it. But this is a worthwhile endeavor for President Joe Biden.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Sciencand International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.

Can Biden Create a Viable Green America?

By Paolo von Schirach

WASHINGTON — As president-elect Joe Biden announced his team in charge of climate change and energy, it seems we are still at the virtue signaling stage. As expected, Biden nominated people with unassailable green credentials, starting with former Secretary of State John Kerry who helped shape the 2016 Paris Agreement. Beginning on January 20, 2021, Kerry will fill a new “Climate Envoy” cabinet level position, coordinating and directing all climate change issues for the Biden administration.

America will go green

I fully understand the intention to convey to the American electorate and to the world in general that the Trump administration “climate denial” beliefs were a temporary aberration. The new message is that from now on America is and will be an active player when it comes to international efforts to cut down emissions at the source of global warming.

Regulations alone will not do the trick

That said, I am concerned that these green technocrats will focus primarily on the tools they have, that is imposing mandates through regulations, (it will be hard to pass significant green legislation in this deeply divided Congress), in order to speed up the conversion leading to a non carbon economy. And this would be unfortunate, simply because regulatory tools by themselves are inadequate.

We need new technologies

Indeed, contrary to popular narratives, America’s inability to properly deal with the global warming challenges we are facing is not caused mostly by entrenched fossil fuels lobbies and their Republican defenders in Congress who cleverly place obstacles in the way of green progress.

Yes, the fossil fuels lobbies do play a role. But the real problem is that America will be able to make fast progress on its way to becoming green only when we shall have truly cost-effective technologies that will be able to successfully replace the carbon based systems we have now, without any significant economic penalties in terms of higher energy cost for both corporations and consumers, and loss of productivity.

The problem is that the non carbon energy and industrial technologies we have today, while vastly better and cheaper than what we had only a decade ago, are still not very efficient and cost-effective. They are inadequate and still too expensive. If the Biden team using its regulatory powers will force their adoption at the current stage of development, this “solution” will not allow us to get to a rapid and efficient transition away from fossil fuels.

No storage systems for electricity produced by renewables

Case in point, solar and wind power generation has become much cheaper and more effective. However, a dramatic renewable energy scaling up is hampered by the lack of energy storage systems (think of giant batteries or something equivalent) that will guarantee uninterrupted electricity supply when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow. On account of this unsolved storage issue, solar and wind today require back-up systems powered by fossil fuels. The need for back ups means added costs and lowered efficiencies.

Until scientists invent and build commercially viable energy storage systems, the full potential of renewables cannot be displayed. And electricity production is only one part of the lack of critical innovation problem. Many key industries, from cement to steel to petrochemicals, use technologies that produce great amounts of emissions. To date, we simply do not have viable alternatives to these technologies.

We need innovation…

Put it simply, we need dramatic innovation across many sectors in order to get from a carbon dependent to a non carbon economy. Using regulations and mandates to force the adoption of the imperfect tools we have developed thus far, simply because Washington is and will be under pressure to demonstrate that “we are doing something”, will cost a lot and will not help us much in our effort to substantially cut down emissions while retaining a vibrant economy.

Do not get me wrong. We do have some tools, such as electric vehicles, solar and wind power. For sure, due to the persistence and ingenuity of many scientists and entrepreneurs, they are getting better. But, at the moment, their cost is still too high and their performance too low in order to become viable alternatives across the board.

In order to get there, it will take truly cost-effective alternatives, whose adoption will be a no brainer for anybody looking at value for money (irrespective of their impact on CO2 levels in the atmosphere). In order to begin transforming our 20 plus trillion dollar economy (still based on dirty technologies relying on dirty fuels) into a super efficient green giant, we need breakthrough innovation that we simply do not have today.

For example, only once we have a $ 20,000 Tesla (or equivalent) that can travel 600 miles on a single battery charge we shall see the mass adoption of electric vehicles. The electric vehicles we have now are interesting. But they are not transformative.

…In many sectors

And this is not just about oil and gasoline and electricity still produced by natural gas and coal. It is about large, high emissions industrial sectors like cement, steel, petrochemicals, and more. In order to make real progress in our efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, we need innovations that will allow us to radically reengineer most of our industrial base, on top of the transportation and power generation sectors.

This is an enormous challenge. Having good people with unmistakably good green credentials in charge of the policy-making process in Washington –people who seriously believe that we have to do a lot more, starting now– is important. But well intentioned technocrats do not do magic. They cannot will critical transformative innovation into existence.

What can Washington do?

So, what can the US Government do? It can still do a great deal. Many envisage a two pronged approach. Number one: create real federal incentives to difficult open-ended research, via substantial public funding. Number two: enact a carbon tax that will reflect the true cost of carbon-based fuels and technologies in terms of additions to harmful emissions, air quality impact, and health hazards. This tax will signal producers and consumers that it is time to reduce reliance on fuels and processes whose real cost to our society is not reflected in their price.

Boost government funded R&D

Regarding the first point, Washington must launch a major publicly funded R&D effort aimed at boosting basic research in difficult and unproven areas affecting energy and various high polluting manufacturing technologies. Washington can do much more to spur innovation by supporting new research efforts that commercially driven enterprises shun because they are not persuaded that spending on such research can lead to money-making solutions within a realistic time frame.

Granted, much of this new government funded basic research will probably yield little, or nothing at all. But we have to try, simply because we know that what we have now will not do the job. With Washington in the lead, America must launch a massive multi-year national effort aimed at discovering and then refining new modalities to power our economy and new, cost-effective, non polluting ways to make things.

If Uncle Sam agrees to bear the cost of major risky efforts that the private sector will not engage in, this may change the mood of the nation. Scientists eager to pursue interesting but unproven new concepts will get funding. Many new wheels will start turning. New connections and synergies will be created. In time, valuable green innovation will be produced and eventually adopted.

Carbon tax

The second component of this strategy will be a carbon tax. Of course, new tax laws will require the creation of a bipartisan congressional consensus uniting Democrats and Republicans. A very difficult but not impossible objective. Washington should match new R&D spending into unexplored or ignored fields of research with a reasonably high carbon tax that will signal to producers and consumers that it is time to start moving away from emission producing technologies and products. If properly modulated, a combination of government money hopefully leading to valuable innovation and a carbon tax that clearly signals that we have to start shifting away from dirty technologies may do the trick.

Mandates alone will not do

The alternative is not very promising. The alternative is to impose more and bigger mandates that will force energy producers, utilities and various industries to reduce emissions by adopting as yet inefficient and therefore very expensive solutions. While this approach may yield significant emissions reductions, this will be done in a non cost-effective manner, this way hampering the overall US economy and its vibrancy. As a result, scarce capital will have to be devoted to expensive conversions that will do something, but not enough to transform our gigantic economy into a nimble green machine.

I am not suggesting that throwing billions of US tax-payers dollars into unproven fields of research, in combination with a carbon tax, will magically and quickly produce the innovation we need. Still, this approach will stimulate research and new efforts that may indeed produce something valuable, at some point. Imposing green standards by regulation will also produce some results. But the unintended effect will be the stifling of the entire US economy without getting us to the green transformation we are seeking.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Sciencand International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.

America Still in Trouble

By Paolo von Schirach

WASHINGTON – According to rosy pre-election predictions made by the Democrats and an army of pro-Democratic Party political commentators, November 3rd was supposed to mark not just the end of the Trump presidency but the strong national affirmation of a reinvigorated and now much more progressive Democratic party.

A Blue Wave

There was supposed to be a “Blue Wave” that would sweep America. The vote would have resulted not just in a rebuilt Mid West “Blue Wall”, (the three states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania surprisingly taken over by Donald Trump back in November 2016). November 3rd was supposed to be about Democrats taking over Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia –and may be even Texas.

Not the expected outcome

In the end, the outcome was quite different. Joe Biden won. But down ballot Democratic candidates performed well below expectations, almost everywhere. This means that President Biden will have to work with a very thin House Democratic majority, and possibly a Senate still controlled by the Republicans.

Biden won, convincingly; even though his advance to the critical 270 electoral votes threshold was painfully slow in the key swing states, on account of the need to count millions of mail in votes cast mostly by Democrats. As we know, during the night of November 3rd there was an initial strong Trump showing, simply because most Republicans voted in person, and in person votes were tallied first.

So, Biden wins. And he wins well; even though his margins in some of the key swing states are narrow. Beyond his significant 306 to 232 majority in the electoral college, (Note: these are projected results, subject to final confirmation, once the election results have been certified in all 50 States), he also beats Trump nationally with an advantage of more than 5 million votes. (Biden will get more than 78.5 million, Trump a little over 73 million).

Always difficult to defeat an incumbent President

This is no small accomplishment for Biden. Historically, it has been very difficult for any challenger to unseat an incumbent President running for a second term. And this achievement is even more significant because Biden was not a very strong Democratic candidate. We know about the strident ideological divisions within his own party, pitting a loud new progressive wing against more moderate centrists. Before the dramatic swing after the February 2020 South Carolina primary that Biden won thanks to the providential endorsement by African American Congressman Jim Clyburn, it was doubtful that Biden had a chance to be the Democratic party nominee, let alone win against Trump. Add to this widespread concerns among many voters about Biden’s mental acuity, on account of his advanced age. Indeed, at 78 year old when he will be inaugurated in January 2021, Biden will be the oldest president in US history.

The Republicans remain strong

Looking at the larger picture, while this is a solid Biden victory, let’s keep in mind that, even in defeat, Donald Trump remains an extremely popular national political leader. He is still fully in command of the Republican party. In truth, his defeat was not a rout. While Trump lost, he still received more than 73 millions votes. He clearly enjoys enthusiastic support nationwide –especially in the middle of the country.

The Democrats surely realize that notwithstanding Trump’s defeat after these elections the Republican Party remains a formidable force nationwide. The GOP gained seats in the House, while it remains firmly in control in many states. The Democrats gained only one seat in the Senate, (more on this in a moment), while failing to flip any state legislatures or Governorships across the nation. The truth is that down ballot Democratic candidates did poorly across America. The Democratic party was not lifted nationally by the winning Biden-Harris ticket. No Biden coat-tails. While most Americans clearly rejected Trump as a national leader, this does not mean that all of them also rejected conservatism. The overall elections outcome shows that the country’s political preferences are somewhere between centrist and center-right policies.

Democrats may gain control of the Senate

The Democrats have a decent chance of reaching a 50-50 draw in the Senate, on account of a second round of voting for both Georgia Senate seats that will take place on January 5, 2021. Should the Democrats win both Georgia seats, this way getting to a total of 50 seats from the current 48, (this is quite possible, but not a given), then in a 50-50 Senate Vice President Kamala Harris will be able to cast the tie-breaker vote, giving the Democrats a one vote majority. This is not great in terms of margins. However, a one vote Senate majority (combined with a majority in the House) would be an absolutely critical strategic advantage for the Democrats and for Biden. The Senate must approve all legislation proposed by the new Biden administration. The Senate has also the constitutional prerogative to vote up or down on all presidential nominees when it comes to literally thousands of executive branch positions, as well as on all federal judicial appointments.

Negotiations and compromise ahead?

Looking at this picture of a Biden’s victory coupled with a strong Republican showing in Congress that may lead to divided government, one could be tempted to conclude that may be this is not so bad after all. Yes, the country is politically split almost in the middle. However, an experienced President Biden, known from his days as a Senator for his willingness to reach across the aisle in order to advance legislation, may be able to implement a centrist agenda by reaching compromises with the GOP opposition.

Obstructionism seems more likely

Should we be so lucky. While this optimistic scenario cannot be ruled out, at the moment we are looking at something entirely different. Trying to hold on to his large national following, breaking with tradition and protocol, to date President Trump has refused to acknowledge the outcome of the elections, alleging widespread fraud that in his opinion rigged the vote, this way denying him his victory.

His campaign began a host of legal actions in various states, alleging massive fraud, with the obvious goal of preventing a final certification of the November 3rd vote. Beyond these legal actions, it should be noted that (with a handful of exceptions) the vast majority of senior Republican elected official have not disputed Trump’s narrative of the rigged elections, at least not publicly.

Therefore, we are now confronted with this unprecedented scenario. A beaten outgoing President refuses to admit defeat and concede, claiming that he is the victim of a gigantic fraud scheme. His party stands firmly behind him. Millions of Americans who voted for Trump believe this story, even though no evidence has been produced to support it. This means that for most Republicans elected officials and for tens of millions of Trump voters Joe Biden did not win the elections. As a consequence of this unprecedented national impasse, the normal transition process from the outgoing administration to the incoming –a process that would ordinarily begin after the losing candidate formally concedes– has not started.

There will be an end to the legal disputes about the elections

There is hope that all this will come to an end very soon. Thus far, no evidence of widespread fraud has emerged from various court actions. Still, even if all these legal efforts come to nothing, it is obvious that the well has been poisoned.

Mr. Trump most likely will never concede. Do not expect any message of congratulations to his duly elected successor. Not now or ever. And a majority of Trump voters, regardless of any eventual official certification of the elections outcome, are convinced today and will remain convinced that Trump is the real winner. They read his barrage of tweets and the endorsements of his allegations of electoral fraud by conservative media. Therefore, millions of Americans genuinely believe that Trump won. His victory may be denied only by a wicked establishment that once again ganged up against him. The GOP upper echelons either openly agree with this narrative, or, by keeping quiet, they implicitly convey to their voters that this story of the rigged vote is credible.

With Trump still in control, do not expect cooperation with the GOP

So, here is the thing. Win or lose, Donald Trump for the time being remains in full control of the GOP. Claiming to be the victim of fraud, there is zero chance that Trump will bless any compromise between the Republicans in Congress and the new Biden administration –an administration that he has publicly proclaimed to be illegitimate because it will be in power only on account of a rigged election. Zero chance.

Therefore, all this means a very difficult start for Joe Biden, come January 20, 2021. His instinct would probably be to govern from the center, by forging bipartisan coalitions with moderate Republicans. Still, if the other side, fearful of Trump’s wrath, will not come to the table with an open mind and a willingness to negotiate reasonable compromises, expect another rough political season for America.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Sciencand International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.

When Data Cannot Be Trusted

By Paolo von Schirach–

WASHINGTON – Economics is a very imperfect science. Still, it has some shot at credibility because calculations, assumptions, assessment and scenarios worked on and presented by economists are based on the analysis of hard data. I am talking about solid numbers on the size and variations of economic sectors, public spending, GDP growth, unemployment level, tax revenue, electricity consumption, balance of trade, and a lot more.

Trusted data?

That said, what if this hard data at the foundation of economists’ calculations and, down the line, economic scenarios were not true? Imagine that some or maybe most data has been manipulated, cooked up, modified, or totally invented. Well, in that case any meaningful analysis about that particular economy is gone, because the economists would be working with fictitious numbers that have little or nothing to do with reality. There could be some useful anecdotal evidence derived from some observable phenomena, some data derived from calculations made by third parties. Still, all this would be fragmented and probably misleading or meaningless, at least in most cases.

There is manipulation

But why bring this up? Because economic data manipulation and fabrication may be more common than we think. Here is just one recent example. This is not about one particular country; but about what used to be a highly respected global index ranking countries on the easiness of doing business. I am talking about the Doing Business rankings compiled and updated every year by the supposedly neutral and intellectually unimpeachable World Bank, the large multilateral lending institution headquartered in Washington, DC.

Doing Business rankings

The Doing Business Index ranks all countries on several areas critical to assessing their “business climate“: beginning with setting up a business and then running it as smoothly as possible without the additional headaches caused by complex bureaucratic requirements and inefficient public services. For example, the Index looks at the time it takes to register a company in any given country; and then how long it takes to become operational, (purchasing land, renting space, hiring staff, getting basic services, resolve disputes, etc.). Those who compile the index look at how many procedures there are, and how long it takes to do be fully compliant. In other words, how many hurdles investors need to overcome, and a lot more. Relying on the same methodology applied to all countries, each index component gets a grade, and the country gets a final grade based on averaging the scores in all the sectors. Again, we should be reassured that everybody is treated in the same way. The same methodology is applied to all countries, big and small, rich an poor. The higher the overall score, the more business friendly and therefore investor friendly the country.

Overtime, the Doing Business rankings, updated every year, acquired a life of their own. Especially for developing countries, a good and year after year improving score was the equivalent of a “good conduct certification” provided by the most respected World Bank. A good score could be legitimately used as a marketing tool to attract foreign investors. “Come and invest here. The World Bank Doing Business Index says we are a good country, and we are getting better every year”.

But now the patina of credibility for the Doing Business index has been compromised. The World Bank suspended it in order to run an internal investigation. It seems that some countries mysteriously moved up the index ladder, without having carried out any meaningful reforms aimed at improving their domestic business climate. Others were pushed down for no clear reasons.

We do not know the facts, and therefore we should not jump to conclusions. Still, it is not impossible that some of the professionals compiling the Index may have been pressured to cook up some of the data in order to “improve” the outlook of one or more countries. There is no clear evidence about this, and therefore we have to be careful about assuming any wrong doing.

Still, this does not look good; and it may take a while before the Doing Business Index will regain its credibility and prestige. For all we know, if the integrity of the process cannot be guaranteed, the index may be discontinued.

As you can see, even the suspicion of data manipulation can have serious consequences, especially when it is about developing countries that desperately need to be taken seriously by potential investors. If confidence in the integrity of the Doing Business rankings cannot be fully restored, any investor looking at an impressive ranking improvement of any given country may conclude that this is not real, or may be somewhat unreal, and therefore not a useful tool to assess the viability of that country as an investment destination.

Argentina and Greece cooked the books

And this is not the only example. We also know that years ago official statistics in Argentina and Greece were cooked up by the government statistics agencies in charge of compiling and publishing economic data. The goal was to supply “friendly” data that would support government narratives about economic and fiscal trends. The officials in charge were ordered to present a rosy scenario, and so they did. As a result, the domestic public and the international community got a false picture. The bad data was hidden underneath fake numbers.

Chinese data

And then there is the real mystery of Chinese official economic statistics. There is no vetting, no independent calculation of anything regarding China. However, we do know that the impressive set of data coming out of the Chinese government is made public only after having been approved by the ruling Communist Party leadership. Which is to say that it is inconceivable that the Chinese government would allow the publication of data that would even minimally contradict official forecasts and goals approved by the party.

GDP always good

For instance, the Chinese Government has every interest to inflate GDP growth numbers. The power and prestige of the ruling Communist Party is based in large measure on its self-declared competence as top notch steward of the Chinese economy. Economic data that would even minimally challenge the official narrative of highly competent technocrats at the helm of the country would harm the prestige of the party.

In plain language, most of what comes out of China is molded to fit a preordained political narrative. And this means that the data released is probably untrue. Mostly false? Only a little bit false? This we cannot say for sure, simply because we have no access to the real data.

How bad is this?

Beyond these examples, how big is this problem across the world? We do not really know. In some cases, bad data can be the result of poor data collection systems and methodologies. In other words, it can be about human error, as opposed to deliberate manipulation. Still, it would be wise to assume that the problem of misleading or false numbers is more serious than we would think.

Sadly, we cannot hide from the fact that now live in a world of self-serving, often mutually exclusive, narratives. For people in power and their media and academic allies, the temptation to modify and then publicize the numbers so that they will fit their narrative is just too strong, especially in countries in which it is difficult if not impossible to independently verify what the government declares.

Problems in the US

And it gets worse. Even here in the US we have a problem. It may not be about deliberate official data manipulation. But it is about the deliberate distortions used to explain to the public what the official data really means. Taking this into account, we observe how good economic news can be presented as bad, and vice versa.

Take US GDP growth in the last couple of years, for example. Pre-Covid, it looked as if America under President Trump was doing great. Consistent GDP growth, historically low unemployment, sky high stock prices. No doubt this is data that would support the idea that, thanks to President Trump’s pro-business policies, first and foremost tax cuts and substantial deregulation affecting many economic activities, the US was powering ahead, with no end in sight.

And yet, most economists who have Democratic Party loyalties would argue that the economic trends under Trump, notwithstanding tax cuts and deregulation, did not improve that much compared to the GDP growth rate under President Obama. New business formation was unimpressive. The additional economic expansion under Trump was largely debt driven. Many US companies were alive, but not not profitable. They carried a huge debt load. They were seriously overleveraged, because they could issue bonds at almost zero interest. The stock market impressive rise was due largely to interest rate repression practiced by the US Federal Reserve. Zero interest rates made all other types of investments not attractive. Hence the concentrated focus on stocks which led to over appreciation. Finally, they would argue that at least some of this new US growth was driven by the spectacular expansion of US federal budget deficits. Indeed, pre-Covid, when everything was going super well, Uncle Sam was on course to run an annual deficit of about $ 1 trillion. This a monstrous figure in a growing economy, in peacetime, at full employment.

Healthy growth?

So, was the impressive growth under Trump real, or the result of the “steroids” provided by zero interests imposed by the Fed, and by the fiscal stimulus provided by an enormous federal budget deficit? It is really sad that in today’s America we cannot even begin to agree on any of this. In fact, we cannot even have a civil, non partisan, conversation about any of this.

Respected economists are on opposite sides of this divide, depending on their political leanings. Which is to say that, even assuming that the data everybody is looking at is genuine, we cannot agree on what it really means. And this is almost as bad as relying on cooked up figures.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Sciencand International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.

We Lost A Shared Reality

By Paolo von Schirach–

WASHINGTON – May be this was never true; but for a very long time many in America could argue that, whatever our political or ideological differences, we all shared the same facts based reality. We may have differed on what to do about issues and problems; but at least in a broad sense we were basing our judgments, opinions and counsel on the same facts.

Maybe it is a myth

As I said, may be deep down this was never true. Indeed, we have ample evidence that different segments of the American society for the longest time lived in different universes, with their own set of facts and related explanations.

Just to cite the most egregious example, leaders in the American South, even after the end of the Civil War that formally ended slavery, for almost a century embraced the fantasy that racial segregation was a fair and just legal and social arrangement, wisely created for the benefit of all, Whites and Blacks. They claimed that the facts on the ground demonstrated that segregation worked just fine for all parties. Nobody seemed to notice, let alone acknowledge, any conflicts between the US constitutional principle of equal justice for all and statutes that clearly and openly contradicted this core principle, denying African Americans their civil and voting rights, opportunity, education, jobs, and a lot more. And this is just one example, albeit gigantic.

A shared reality

Still, despite this and other discrepancies, the American cultural and political elites seemed to base their opinions on the reassuring assumption that they were drawn from a reality we all shared and agreed with.

For many years, the media reinforced this assumption. Every evening, when the news came into millions of American homes from the three big networks, not many viewers would challenge the truthfulness of “the facts” that were presented to them by the News Anchors, (all of them serious looking, middle aged, white males), and all the other correspondents. If it was on the evening news, well, it was factual. It was the truth. Revered CBS News Anchor Walter Cronkite famously signed off his daily broadcast with “And that’s the way it is” which could be interpreted as “This is the final word on this. We have told you the entire story”.

Again, may be what was presented on TV every night was not the entire truth. May be there was subtle or not so subtle editing and therefore willful manipulation in the way the events of the day were covered. But, even if this was happening, even if millions of viewers were in facts duped and fed lies, not many Americans openly doubted the truthfulness of what they watched every evening.

Customized media for true believers

Well, if we fast forward to today, we realize that we are in an entirely different world. Today we do not even pretend to have a shared reality. We have different realities, and we openly and consciously follow the one that suits us the most. When it comes to “news”, we choose to watch, read and listen to those who speak to our biases and prejudices. In the public affairs shows there is not even a pretense to be “objective”. Facts are presented selectively, with an obvious intent to spin in order to make a prepackaged point. Likewise, no effort to separate news and opinions. It is all a big stew. Worse yet, millions of people see nothing wrong with this approach to “news coverage”. The fact that the opinions we love to listen to in many if not most cases our grounded on fantasies, or at the very least serious distortion of “the facts”, is not even contemplated.

A nation of cult followers

Is this unprecedented? Well, not entirely. If we look at our past, of course here in America we always had some extreme political movements, strange cults, and weird sects that proclaimed outlandish things, often basing them on non existent “facts”. And these groups attracted some followers. But the point is that these were and usually remained fringe phenomena, with a modest following.

Now, very large sections of our society have voluntarily chosen to become the modern equivalent of cult followers who embrace a set of fantasyland theories with the absolute, unflinching certainty that they are based on “true facts”. The added corollary is usually that all those who disagree with the believers of a particular “truth” are deemed to be either stupid or evil. In many cases, they are portrayed as archenemies to be fought and neutralized.

A political view of Covid -19

An interesting example of this immersion in fantasyland is in the different way in which Americans, depending on their political orientations, look today at the still unfolding coronavirus pandemic.

What? Are there political views on the nature of the virus that caused this unprecedented health crisis? Yes, there are. And they are not confined to issues on which there can be legitimate policy disagreements; such as: how much money should be spent on testing, on emergency care, or on the development of a vaccine, who should be in charge of this and that, and the like. No, the disagreement is much more profound. it is about the nature of the disease, ans therefore on how dangerous it is, and what sorts of precautions individuals should take.

According to the website The Bulwark, here is the summary of views on the pandemic held by many (albeit not all) Republicans:

  • Less than half of Republicans believe that COVID-19 is a major threat to public health.
  • 63 percent of Republicans say that the extent of the coronavirus is exaggerated.
  • A quarter of the public thinks that the pandemic is the result of a planned conspiracy.
  • 40 percent of Republicans say COVID-19 is no more deadly than the flu.
  • 50 percent of Republicans say the COVID-19 death toll is an exaggeration.
  • 23 percent of Republicans say masks should be worn “rarely” or “never.”

Just to pick one item from this list of truly bizarre beliefs, I do not believe that many in the medical profession would seriously argue today that Covid-19 is more or less as dangerous as the flu. Sure enough, in many cases it looks like the flu. Its symptoms are similar, and the affected patients may experience only some temporary discomfort. But we also know that the mortality of Covid-19 is much, much higher than the flu, 52 times higher according to some calculations. Besides, as of now there is no Covid-19 vaccine; whereas flu vaccines that can prevent or at least mitigate the flu symptoms do exist. Hence the covid-induced lockdowns, and the various public health measures aimed at preventing, or at least minimizing, coronavirus contagion.

So, here we go. Medical experts say something based on empirical evidence. But a segment of the population prefers to believe others who provide an entirely different analysis. The medical experts wonder how is it possible that so many Americans would hold views that are contradicted by the known facts. But they do it anyway.

Green America within reach in no time

On the other side of the political divide, we have some segments within the Democratic Party who talk about their plans to make America Green in just 15 years as a perfectly reasonable, practical and cost effective plan. They honestly believe that it is possible to transform the entire power generation and distribution system and most industries in America, the largest economy on Earth, within a relatively short period of time, with no downside and no meaningful discomfort for a nation of more than 330 million people.

And yet recent developments, such as the California blackouts caused by significant supply problems caused by deployed, and as yet imperfect, renewable electricity prove that going green, itself a worthwhile goal, will require significantly improved technologies that as of now are not available on any scale. And yet the believers dismiss this “fact”. They see no problem in implementing this fantasy based on the “fact” that we already have what it takes to engineer this most dramatic transformation. The only people who see problems –so argue the believers– are those who want to derail the green agenda, because they represent the vested interests of the fossil fuels industry and their lobbyists. So, even here the opponents of “the truth” are essentially enemies.

Private universes

Well, here we are. It is a fact that large segments of our society now live in their own self-sufficient, private universes that have no interest in engaging others holding different views. They are completely impervious to fact based evidence that may contradict their beliefs. They believe what they want to believe, and proclaim that to be the facts-based truth.

There are still some pragmatists, for now

The only positive element in all this is that there still are some Americans who try to understand what the facts related to any issue or problem are. They genuinely seek to find common sense-based agreement on feasible solutions for real issues. And these people try to build coalitions and partnerships in order to advance real world practical solutions. And this is good. But it looks that the armies of the sectarian believers are growing. If this phenomenon does not stop, if the sectarians end up dominating the political and policy environment, we may face a real national crisis relatively soon.

This American Republic is founded on the (fantasy?) assumption that most citizens are generally reasonable people who will naturally seek common ground with others in order to address real life issues that affect the broader society. If this is no longer true, if we are just a bunch of warring sects proclaiming mutually exclusive “truths”, it is hard to understand how our system of government based on compromise and reaching out to others can survive.

Paolo von Schirach is the Editor of the Schirach Report He is also the President of the Global Policy Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and Chair of Political Sciencand International Relations at Bay Atlantic University, also in Washington, DC.