Category Archives: Articles

“Korea's solution to the Middle East crisis: Go for zero” Korea Times

Korea Times

“Korea’s solution to the Middle East crisis: Go for zero”

January 18, 2019

Emanuel Pastreich

The request from the Trump administration that South Korea join a new naval mission to the Strait of Hormuz, at precisely the moment the entire region is on fire, places Seoul in a difficult position. Not only is the push for military conflict with Iran, which is making Secretary of State Mike Pompeo immensely unpopular with many Americans (including many in the military), the plan has also been met with profound skepticism on the part of many American allies. Many question the legitimacy, and the logic, of assassinating Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. Few think that there will be any positive result from military action.

The risk of South Korea being drawn into a massive, and crippling, military conflict, and one in which the United States does not have overwhelming advantage as was the case in the first Gulf War, are high. The threat that Iran will break off diplomatic relations with Seoul, and perhaps even encourage attacks on Koreans around the world, is real.

At the same time, South Korea has benefitted immensely from the U.S.-Korea alliance and the ties between the two countries in culture, education, politics and economics are profound. A decision by South Korea to avoid the Hormuz mission, as Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha has suggested, could do significant damage to bilateral relations and create resentment the extends far beyond the Trump administration.

The choice is incredibly difficult, but it must be made.

I will not pretend to offer a miracle cure. What I would like to suggest here is that this crisis offers South Korea a chance for a profound consideration of its true national security and an opportunity to launch a complete transformation of its economy and culture that will make future choices more strategically sound and will keep South Korea out of such impossible positions.

Energy resources from the Middle East are critical to the Korean Economy at multiple levels. Korea uses those energy sources in its economy, it produces products that require those energy sources such as automobiles and ships that are sold globally (and is therefore sensitive to fluctuations in the price of oil), and Korea sells many products and services to the Middle East so that the economic health of that part of the world has a direct impact at home.

So dangerous it the instability in the Middle East that Koreans must respond by focusing their full attention on the solution (putting away their smartphones) and they must make energy security the national priority.

However, this crisis, which I think is the equivalent of war, does not mean that Korea must buy even more weapons systems, or send its military into the Middle East to face tremendous dangers in an ambiguous struggle. Instead, making Korea completely independent of imported fossil fuels must become the priority. We must create the equivalent of a military economy to get us there quickly. We have no time to waste.

The rapid end of dependency on petroleum and other energy sources imported from abroad must be made such a fundamental security priority that the response of the stock market, short-term profits for business, the convenience of citizens and traditional economic growth metrics become secondary in the discussion.

The government must reassert its authority to set a national long-term agenda and to mobilize citizens, working together with all sectors, so that we can rapidly transform our economy, our means of production and our culture. It is an imperative, “the moral equivalent of war,” to quote President Jimmy Carter, that we become entirely independent of fossil fuels in the next few years.

Once we recognize that the overwhelming priority for Korea is national security, and not economic growth, and that national security will only come when we end the importation of petroleum from the Middle East, and from elsewhere, we will make real progress. Climate change engendered by emissions from fossil fuels will destroy Korea over the next 40 years (and the predictions about global warming of scientists over the last 30 years have been quite accurate) and constant dependency on imported energy means that Korea can be economically destroyed at any time by a break in the flow of petroleum and coal into the country.

The first step is for the government to ignore the cries of short-sighted business representatives who have no long-term strategy for the nation and who are more interested in overseas profits than in the well-being of Koreans.

We must set an ambitious plan to make Korea 100 percent carbon-free in four years, or fewer. Such a plan will go even beyond the most ambitious efforts elsewhere in the world and make Korea number one. Moreover, it must be even more comprehensive an effort than the Korean drive for rapid growth in the 1960s and 1970s. To be successful, this goal of independence from fossil fuels must become a critical part of the lives of all citizens, giving new meaning to every action and creating a new sense of community. Citizens should be placed at the center of this national movement to end imports of energy, thus encouraging a sense of common purpose and a habit of mutual support, as opposed to narcissistic self-indulgence and greedy competition.

We must make plans for South Korea in which energy independence is set as the top priority and in which policies are no longer evaluated with regards to the profits they may derive for wealthy investors.

First, the government must reinvent finance to serve in much the manner it does in a war-time economy. As was true in the 1960s and 1970s, finance must be nationalized and used for the common good. Foreign capital which is not directed at the long-term interests of Korea, specifically energy independence, must be rejected.

The goal of zero imported fuel is necessary for survival. Profit and consumption are far lesser concerns.

The entire economy must be mobilized to manufacture and distribute wind-powered and solar powered sources of energy. Those sources of energy should be heavily subsidized for the purpose of national security and must completely displace oil and coal power. The technology should be open source and all residents should be required by law to employ renewable energy. We must see solar and wind power devices attached to every residence, every office building and spread across the country. Every plane or bus or automobile must be covered with solar panels that generate energy.

But the process goes further than that. Buildings that waste energy must be entirely rebuilt for maximum efficiency, including the installation of insulation and the use of double or triple storm windows. We should not hesitate to demolish buildings that cannot be energy efficient. Moreover, we must increase the number of trees in public spaces, even tearing down many buildings in cities to make space for plants.

Employing electric cars that can be charged using solar panels will be a critical first step. But we can only do so effectively if we require that all existing automobiles be turned in for replacement with electric vehicles within six months.

But many people should simply give up their cars forever. Moreover, South Korea should move beyond its economic dependence on the automotive sector. The ultimate plan will be to eliminate most automobiles and to redesign cities so the vehicles are no longer needed.

The scale of the transformation will be massive and must be pushed forward by a social movement that includes all citizens. Citizens must learn at local meetings, much as they did in the 1960s and 1970s, about the dangers of climate change, about the imperative to stop the use of gasoline, of plastics, and of everything related to imported petroleum. We must educate everyone about the existential danger for Korea posed by climate change and the national security risks of dependence on imported energy. We must make everyone aware of how each of their daily actions, driving a car, buying a plastic toy, eating food wrapped in plastic and imported, make Korea less secure and increase the dangers that we face.

This movement should include everyone, from every block, from every village, across Korea.

To achieve such a goal we must make reading, writing, analysis and debate central to Korean society. The link between climate change and fossil fuels, and the deep threat to Korean security posed by importing energy, can only be made clear if we revive intellectual discourse in our society and make citizens participants in the process. We must encourage Koreans to be citizens and to engage their minds in policy, not just in mindless entertainment.

But there is more. To eliminate imported energy, and thereby assure national security, we must return to our traditional values. Koreans once held frugality, modesty, self-sufficiency and humility as the highest values. It was once considered shameful to throw away a grain of rice, or to dispose of any object that had still value. Koreans wasted nothing. Thrift was a great virtue.

But Korea has been taken over by an indulgent culture of consumption that makes waste a virtue. We are encouraged by television shows, commercials and the alien concept of consumption-based economics to waste. In fact, the more we waste, the better our economy will be ― or so we are told. We have thrown away close family ties and deep friendships. Instead, we pass our days buried in our smartphones, watching stupid videos, photographs of food, video games or pornography. This flawed culture encourages a fabulous waste of energy that makes the southern side of the Korean Peninsula visible from space. It is a catastrophe, not an achievement that South Korea is lit up, and this waste deeply compromises our security. All that energy is imported, and all that energy is destroying the climate.

As we push for true energy independence, we also will be forced to reconsider the concept of trade. Trade has been presented to us as a critical aspect of the economy, and this position on the importance of trade is shared by representatives of the left and of the right.

Trade is a sacred topic, one that no one can question.

But if Korea wants true security, we must ask the hard questions. The United States, and Japan and China have already started to ask those hard questions about trade.

The ships that bring us products from around the world also consume immense amounts of imported fossil fuels and they contribute to climate change. Moreover, Korea’s dependency on raw materials and finished goods that are imported vastly increases the risks for Korea in the case of a conflict. Whereas most tools and furniture were once made in Korea, now most must be brought from abroad. Jobs have been sacrificed, the nation’s security has been compromised and local expertise diminished. If trade stops in a crisis, the Korean economy will stop.

Increased self-sufficiency is critical to Korea’s survival; the myth that the only road to prosperity is through trade must be questioned. If trade makes us insecure, we must limit trade. We are in a position where most Koreans would starve in a few weeks if food imports ceased.

The Middle East crisis is as serious as it looks. But the ultimate message for us is NOT that we need to send warships and tanks into that growing chaos. No. Rather, we must come together in Korea, to exercise great political will, and to make Korea truly independent of imported energy. That is the first step toward true security.

The struggle to change direction will be enormous. Everyone must be involved. But as we know, Korea has succeeded against the odds before.

The argument for staying away from technical terms like "capitalism"

I have to say that to blame everything on “neoliberalism” or “capitalism” or “consumption” does not really answer the question. Nor does blame of the super rich answer the question. Ultimately there is a flaw in human nature, in the structure of the human brain, that lies behind the chaos and destruction we witness. We tolerate things we should not tolerate. We are able to convince ourselves that things which are not seen are not important. And finally, the human brain is made of different parts which interact, but do not conform to an administrative hierarchy. The pre-frontal cortex may put together arguments for rationality, and also promote contemplation, but it runs in parallel with the amygdala which responds with fear to events and refuses to permit a careful consideration of anything but initial impressions. Then there is the brain stem which functions in an entirely instinctive manner, without a concern for logic, or even for whether the human will survive the current situation, or not. We are ultimately an interference pattern of these elements and our brains can be manipulated by technology, by repetition, by images that have pre-programmed connotations, and by complex fictions that are convincing as reality, or more so.

Such technical terms should also be avoided because they cost us an audience among ordinary people. Everything that we attribute to “capitalism” can be described in an objective manner without ever using that word. In fact, using that word often results in people ceasing to think carefully about the details of economic processes.

Is it okay to be in denial about nuclear war and climate change?

Of course it is a strategy of sorts to simply pretend that you have no idea what the risk of nuclear war is, or what the catastrophe of climate change is that awaits us. It is easy enough to be in denial. And we can understand those who do so. But if you have received a good education, if you have some economic means, if you do not have to work all day long at a fast food restaurant to survive, then such behavior is simply inexcusable. You have a responsibility to speak the truth and to do what you can, even at considerable sacrifice. That is your duty in light of the benefits you have received.

"Establishing Fossil-fuel Free (FFF) Communities” (Global Research)

Global Research

“Establishing Fossil-fuel Free (FFF) Communities”

November 27, 2019

Emanuel Pastreich

The response to the increasing awareness of the threat of continuing a fossil-fuel driven growth and consumption economic model is a ruthless effort to block out serious reporting on climate change in the media and to downplay is seriousness in education and in the policy debate.

It is inspiring to see youth take leadership roles in the struggle to address climate change, but we have not even started to transform our economy, let alone our civilization.

Sadly, even the most committed climate activists, even those willing to risk prison time, or bodily injury, still find themselves washing with warm water heated by coal or natural gas, eating vegetables that were shipped on diesel-powered cargo ships, transported on trucks powered by diesel fuel, and wrapped in plastics derived from petroleum.

The components in the computers and cell phones that activists use to coordinate their protests, or to write articles about climate change, were produced using coal and other noxious chemicals at factories in India, China or Thailand. The electricity that powers the internet connecting them with fellow activists is equally unclean.

For that matter, the academics who conduct research on the climate change’s impact on our future have their retirement funds tied up in the stocks of companies with direct, or indirect, ties to fossil fuel profits (links that are often not disclosed).

We face the contradiction, of using disposable felt pens made of plastic in factories powered by coal in Malaysia, and transported by petroleum-fueled trucks and airplanes, to write protest signs condemning the fossil fuel industry.

Protest draw attention to hidden truths, but when the marches are over, we return home to a nightmare world that offers no escape from the fossil fuels. We have the choice to eat meat, or not, but there is no option to reject this industrial economy run in accord with the bankrupt ideology of consumption and growth.

But if there were a choice, even if the scale was small at the beginning, the nature of the protest could be expanded so that all our actions, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, became a part of it.

If citizens of the Earth had the opportunity to be a member of an economic system that had absolutely no ties to fossil fuels, or to the money generated by them, then every single action of ethical citizens, from brushing their teeth in the morning to turning out the light in bed at night, would be a form of protest.

Such communities would open the gate to an alternative economy, as opposed to a bit of greenery in the middle of an extractive and predatory economic order.

The next step of our protest must be the creation of local communities, linked together as part of global networks, whose economies are in word and deed 100% fossil-fuel free (FFF). Creating such economic, social and political units at the local level, even if they can only support 100 people, or 500 people at first, will offer the public a viable alternative. Those fossil-fuel free FFF communities will make it possible for those with a deep ethical sense to fully commit to a fossil fuel free Earth in word and in deed—not just “recycling” plastic at the supermarket, but never touching plastic again.

Moreover, the first steps towards FFF (fossil fuel free) communities can be taken immediately. There is no need to wait for some cynical politician to implement a carbon-neutral economy twenty or thirty years in the future.

Creating FFF Communities

Creating FFF (fossil fuel free) communities will require considerable bravery and sacrifice at first, and the number willing to commit will be limited. But we have that critical mass already. Remember, because 100% FFF (fossil-fuel free) communities will not be dependent for food, for energy or for finance on corporations, or banks tied to fossil fuels in any way, they will be able to speak freely in a manner that communities cannot today. Their power will be far greater than their initial scale would suggest.

Such will be a model for other communities around the world, and they will produce journalism and educational systems that others cannot because their dependency on funding linked to fossil fuels compromises their efforts from the start.

It will not be long before small-scale FFF communities will become powerful economic and political players capable of taking on multinational investment banks and oil companies and can offer a vision for an immediate and unconditional end to the use of fossil fuels-rather of a vague and open-ended plan to phase out fossil fuels in a manner that does not impact profits.

Scientific data shows that the date given in reports of governments and corporations of 2050 for the creation of a carbon-neutral economy is laughably late. Many experts write that we have only a matter of years, or months, to avoid a scenario in which billions of humans (and other species) will die, whether from floods and storms, from rising seas, spreading deserts, from starvation, and unbearable heat, or from hybrid wars waged for control of remaining scarce resources.

Although the main-stream media covers protests and declarations by governments of a climate emergency, there has been zero change for the majority. You may see a solar panel go up on an occasional house, but there are few laws even being considered (let alone being enforced) that require all food be locally and organically produced, all buildings be fully insulated and equipped with solar and wind power, and all transportation to powered by 100% renewable energy.

We must gather together a small group of people who will pledge to support the community, and each other, for the long term, and to rely for their needs exclusively on the FFF products produced by the community at the local level (until 100% FFF transportation systems are established). If we have activists who are willing to be arrested, we can find among them those who are willing to make a commitment to a FFF community.

Such a commitment must be a serious one. There must be a binding contract that commits new members to the community and commits the community to those members. FFF communities cannot operate in accord with the superficial culture of consumption, distraction and short-term thinking that got us in this trouble in the first place.

Perhaps new members of the community will commit their assets to the FFF community in return for a commitment from the community to care for them for a lifetime. Or some other form of deep social and ethical commitment is possible.

he fossil-fuel free community will provide a model, first on a small scale, for what human society could be if we embrace a consistently sustainable approach. We have few models now—and that is no accident.

The core of the economy of the FFF community will be organic farms that produce 100% organic food and transport it without the use of fossil fuels. At the beginning, citizens of the communities will encounter a significant drop in the diversity of their diet, but through their efforts and sacrifices, they will lay the foundations for a truly fossil fuel free economy. The food will be grown at home, on roofs and in empty lots in the neighborhood, or be brought in from local farms.

A revolution in thinking is essential: we must recognize that working together with neighbors to create a society free of fossil fuels is at least as important as writing articles for newspapers, lobbying the rich and powerful or giving (fossil-fuel tainted) money to environmental NGOs. The struggle to create a community free of fossil fuels in the full sense (no plastics, no products produced using fossil fuels, no products transported using fossil fuels) can be the defining effort for those who are involved.

Food should be sold (or exchanged through barter) in communal markets that encourage collaboration between farmer and citizen (rather than a transaction between a corporation and consumer). Those markets can serve as the foundation for new patterns of economic exchange entirely detached from fossil fuels and they can be expanded across the region, and then around the world. There is nothing radical about such organic farming communities. They are how humans managed to survive for thousands of years without destroying the climate.

We can find models in the communities of the Amish and the Mennonites. Although we grew up considering these groups who far, without machinery or artificial fertilizers as odd, they alone have pursued a sustainable economy while the rest of the United States embraced an insane system of industrialized agricultural production tied to global trade.

Organic farming for the immediate community will provide youth real jobs in agriculture and distribution that will be both paid and morally dignified. The ability to create food which is not contributing to the destruction of our Earth is a moral action that can inspire many to join in the effort.

The creation of fossil-fuel free (FFF) transportation for food and other goods is the other critical condition for such communities. Our citizens must understand that vowing to use only FFF transportation offered, even if it is profoundly limited at first, must not be viewed as unpleasant inconvenience, but rather as a pledge of moral bravery. We cannot wait for politicians to provide such “clean” energy (as politicians are easily persuaded to consider natural gas, electricity and even nuclear power to be clean).

Another critical part of the FFF community will be manufacturing. We must completely rethink manufacturing: the production of, and the use of, the necessary items for life. We must ask first how we will produce all the items we use without ever employing fossil fuels or plastic. At the same time, we must definitively end the promotion of, and consumption of, frivolous and status-related products.

Manufacturing for the FFF community should start out 100% local (until we have 100% FFF transportation we can use to link communities in the region, and across the world).

Eliminating fossil fuels means that we must cut back on how we use daily and we must manufacture items that will last for a long time. We need desks and chairs, bookshelves and chopping boards, shirts and sweaters, cups and pots that will last for 20-50 years, or longer. That shift in our economy means both an end to a commercial, consumption-driven culture and a focus on well-made products that are built to last, and that are valued for what they are, not what images they are associated with. No IKEA or GAP will be found in FFF communities.

The production and the distribution of 100% fossil fuel free products will create long-term jobs for our children and for our neighbors’ children. Manufacturing must be local and the return of crafts that produce durable goods will contribute much to our environment. We must move away from the dangerous concepts of competitiveness, free trade and industrialization. The misguided concept of growth must go also.

Changing culture, concepts, and attitudes

Fossil-Fuel Free Communities must be free of fossil fuel propaganda and the ideological assumptions planted by corporations that we cannot live meaningful lives without consuming large amounts of energy, seen or unseen. The response to climate change starts with an attitudinal revolution, not with progressive innovations in technology and governance. The FFF community must be a space wherein such a cultural transformation can take place without commercials that promote automobiles and the thoughtless consumption of food.

Not only must all citizens comprehend that climate change is an immediate and overwhelming threat in the community, we must create a culture wherein the practices required to respond, whether shoveling mulch, recycling glass and scrap metal, collecting human feces for use as fertilizer transporting food by cart, or generating electricity on an exercise bike (which is also good exercise) are perceived as an ethical imperative, as the valuable contribution to society. The cult of the self and immediate gratification promoted by a commercialized economy must be replaced by a culture based on moral philosophy, frugality, humility and the simple virtue of participation in society.

This shift is not entirely “progressive.” In a sense it is also a return to conservative values like modesty, frugality, and the importance of intellectual and spiritual engagement. The larger these communities become the more powerful will be this alternative to the commercial culture that dominates globally. We must unmask the false assumptions promoted by the insidious ideology of modernity that the human condition is improved by electrification, consumption, a vast increase in possessions, urbanization and transportation via private automobiles and airplanes. Unless we challenge the larger ideological framework, we cannot bring about the fundamental shift we require for survival.

Going green must not be limited to cosmetic changes in an economy that is based on the consumption of goods and services and that is rooted in the production and distribution of those fossil fuels.

We must make visible the hidden hierarchy behind the myth of modernity, one that is hammered home for all citizens in the movies (and in the commercials that come before and after them) and in news reports that we watch. The insidious assumption is that those who employ I Phones and who work multinational corporations, those who are shuttled around from capital to capital around the world in expensive automobiles, or luxurious planes, those who live in spacious homes and eat fine meals, are somehow doing more important work than those who transport goods, who clean our public spaces, who grow our food and cook our meals.

The criminal waste of resources, the pollution of our environment by fossil fuels and the concentration of wealth in a tiny handful of people is presented in the commercial media as a moral good.

The FFF community also must undertake a complete reform of the misleading concepts of real estate, private property and ownership that have done so much damage. Our society is controlled by contract law and corporate law which citizens are made completely ignorant of by the media. But we have no binding contracts between members of our community to help each other, or to preserve the ecosystem. The FFF community will be the complete opposite.

A pledge of loyalty by those joining the FFF community to end their ties to fossil fuels should be central to membership. We need the equivalent of a village contract, once central to agricultural communities in Europe, Asia, the Americas before the promulgation of the concept of real estate and the concentration of capital in the hands of the few. Such a village contract should spell out in a binding, rather than symbolic, the manner the responsibilities that each individual has to contribute to the production of food, tools, furniture, transportation and governance, and the commitment of the community to provide for the members of the community for a lifetime.

Reviving the Constitution of the Iroquois Nations, which made the relationship of human settlements with the environment central to governance, can be help us to overcome the legal distortions born of a focus on finance, property rights and real estate.

Currently, it is perfectly acceptable for progressives to participate in protests about climate change while investing their assets in companies making profits related to fossil fuels. We must demand zero tolerance and make sure all investment is tied of the community’s activities and tied to the creation of a FFF economy.

Membership in a fossil-fuel free community must be open to everyone and not segregated in accord with assets, level of education or cultural sensitivities. We must abandon the delusion that somehow a green economy focused on the upper middle class, those who can afford Teslas or big layouts for solar panels, will save humanity. Everyone should have access to information about the climate crisis as part of their education and of the media which surrounds them.

It is as critical that we explain the climate crisis to the poor and to the working class in terms that they can understand and to make a commitment to help them obtain quality educations, and economic opportunities, in return for their participation in the response. Addressing climate change by gala dinners, handouts from billionaires, and other stunts cannot effect a transformation of our society.

The establishment of our own FFF currency can be immensely helpful in this process. Our currency will represent the contribution of the individual to society and be backed by agricultural products, and other manufactured goods, produced in the community. That currency, even if extremely limited in its use at first, will have tremendous value for us in that it will not be linked to fossil fuels at any level. That means that as that FFF currency expands its use across the local economy, and eventually extends to the global economy, it can serve as currency without any links to fossil fuels, and the core of a similarly independent financial system.

The greatest travesty of our age is the silence about the link between global trade and climate change. Shipping goods across the Earth in the search of financial advantages for investment banks does tremendous damage to the environment because of pointless carbon emissions and the destruction of forests and jungles to produce factory farms and just plain factories in the eternal search for profit at the expense of nature. The inhuman mass production of foodstuffs (especially of meat) that is pushed in global trade does long-term damage to soil, forests and rivers and oceans. Moreover, the industrial approach to production and distribution of food and products has destroyed local economies and encouraged an unprecedented concentration of wealth. Fossil-fuel free communities offer the citizen a way to opt out of this destructive nightmare for the first time.


We witness a battle in the media, and in discussion groups, between those who argue that we must focus on changing our habits and our thinking first as a means of saving our Earth and those who hold that because most emissions can be traced back to a handful of multinational corporations we must first deal with them first, rather than allowing us to naively assume that because our own lives have less of a carbon footprint we are saving the world.

Although there is a danger that we can be distracted from the deep contradictions in our economy if we become overly myopic in our pursuit of personal sustainability that should not lead us to underestimate the importance of changing how we act daily. As the number of people out there increase who will not compromise on certain principles, we will start to shift the global culture and that culture will radiate up even to the most protected elites deeply imbedded in the fossil fuel economy.

That said, the best route is to combine the two strategies: to make personal choices into community choices and to make that community into an economic unit which will serve as the building block for an alternative economy from the ground up.

“Creating Fossil-Fuel-Free Communities Globally” Foreign Policy in Focus

Foreign Policy in Focus

“Creating Fossil-Fuel-Free Communities Globally”

November 18, 2019

Emanuel Pastreich

Now that the movement to address climate change at the systemic and cultural level has gained unprecedented momentum, it is critical for us to establish a viable alternative economy that committed citizens around the world can join. The basic unit of that economy should be fossil-fuel-free (FFF) communities.

In these FFF (fossil-fuel-free) communities, to be built from the ground up, nothing eaten or consumed, no form of transformation or communication employed, and no aspect of housing, furniture or utensils will contain fossil fuels (including plastics or fertilizers). Nor will any of these items be produced, transported, or manufactured using fossil fuels.

Such FFF communities can serve as uncompromised building blocks of a truly carbon-zero economy, polity, and culture. Although small at first, such communities will not be dependent for food, energy, or finance on corporations or banks tied to fossil fuels.

Creating such communities will require considerable bravery and sacrifice, and the number of people willing to commit will be limited at first. But recent demonstrations around the world suggest that a critical mass is in place. It will not be long before small-scale FFF communities can become powerful economic and political players that can take on investment banks and oil companies and demand an immediate end to all use of fossil fuels in the place of a vague and open-ended plan to phase out fossil fuels in a manner that does not affect profits.

Such FFF communities make for their small size with their complete independence.

Growing Food

The core of FFF economics will be organic farms that produce 100 percent organic food and transport it without the use of fossil fuels to its citizens. At the beginning, citizens of these communities will encounter a significant drop in the diversity of their diet because the food will be grown at home, or in the neighborhood, or it will be brought in from local farms without the use of fossil fuels.

Food will be sold (or exchanged through barter) in communal markets that encourage collaboration between farmer and citizen, rather than a transaction between a corporation and a consumer. Such markets will serve as the foundation for new patterns of economic exchange that are entirely detached from fossil fuels. We do not have such communities these days, but they were the dominant paradigm for hundreds of thousands of years.

Partial models for self-supporting fossil-fuel-free economies exist today among the Amish (currently the fastest-growing farming communities in the United States). Although the media often portray communities who engage in organic agriculture without the use of machinery as odd, they alone have embraced a sustainable economy while the rest of the United States embraced an unsustainable system of industrialized agricultural production tied to global trade.

Such food production will give young people paying jobs in agriculture and distribution that will be morally dignified—and without the deep alienation created by most modern work. To produce and deliver food in a manner that does not contribute to the destruction of our Earth is a noble act that can inspire many to join the effort. The use of carbon-free transportation, even if profoundly limiting at first, will eventually be seen as acts of moral bravery not merely unpleasant inconvenience.

Making Things

Another critical part of the FFF community will be manufacturing. Production must not involve fossil fuels or plastic in the manufacture, the transportation, or the disposal of products. Moreover, manufacturing for the FFF community must start out 100% local, at least until 100% FFF transportation systems are in place to link communities in the region and across the world.

Local manufacture without the use of fossil fuels will require producing items that will last: desks and chairs, bookshelves and chopping boards, shirts and sweaters, cups and pots that can be used for 20 to 50 years, or longer. That shift means both an end to a commercial, consumption-driven culture and a focus on well-made products. Such manufacture will also guarantee long-term jobs for the next generation.

The greater challenge is how to make integrated circuits and supercomputers without employing fossil fuels. A massive effort will be required to find new technologies that deliver the advanced technologies without falling back on petroleum or coal.

New mechanisms of finance will also be necessary to support this transition. A sturdy sweater that can last for 30 years might cost $400. The current economic system produces cheaper products that don’t last as long and are produced in a manner that destroys the environment. By contrast, if financing were readily available on a small scale, that sweater could be paid off over 10 years and the real cost would be less than a less durable version. Similarly, solar panels financed at zero interest over 30 years are cheaper than using natural gas or coal immediately, even for those with no assets.

The establishment of an FFF currency can be immensely helpful in this process. This currency would represent the contribution of the individual to society and would be backed by agricultural products and other manufactured goods that are produced in the community. As the use of this currency expands across the local economy, and eventually extends to the global economy, it can help support a parallel financial system.

Finally, global trade contributes a great deal to climate change. Shipping goods across the Earth in the search of financial advantage does tremendous damage to the environment through carbon emissions and the destruction of forests and jungles to produce factories and factory farms. Displacing the ecological costs of cheap production to India or China allows people the world over to enjoy cheap products whose sticker prices do not reflect their true cost. FFF communities, whether in Nebraska or New Delhi, offer a meaningful alternative to this destructive cycle.

Changing Culture

At the deepest level, the response to climate change must start with a revolution in people’s attitudes and perspectives, not with innovations in technology and governance. The FFF community can be a space where such a cultural transformation can take place without being interrupted by commercials promoting automobiles or the thoughtless consumption of food. The cult of the self and glorification of immediate gratification promoted in a commercialized economy must be replaced by a culture based on moral philosophy, frugality, humility, and the simple virtue of participation in society. These communities, because of this intellectual and moral independence, can create a culture that offers the earth’s citizens a true alternative to the dominant commercial culture.

Such FFF communities can start to undermine the false assumptions promoted by the ideology of modernity which holds that human condition is improved by excessive consumption, a vast increase in possessions, urbanization, and transportation via private automobiles and airplanes. Without challenging this larger ideological framework, a fundamental social shift cannot take place. Without such a transformation, “going green” will be limited to cosmetic changes within an economy built on fossil fuels (green lipstick on a filthy pig).

FFF communities can introduce a new set of values such that citizens feel that the tasks required to create a society without fossil fuels have greater value than activities destructive to the environment.

The FFF community can also help dethrone the misleading concepts of real estate and private property. For example, a pledge by those joining the FFF community to end their ties to fossil fuels could be central to membership. This action parallels the village contract that was so central to agricultural communities in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and elsewhere up until the establishment of enclosure acts that ended the commons and the promulgation of the concept of real estate. The modern village contract should spell out in a binding, rather than symbolic, manner the responsibilities that each individual has to contribute to the production of food, tools, furniture, transportation, and governance as well as the commitment of the community to provide for the members of the community for a lifetime.

Membership in the fossil-fuel-free community must be open to everyone, not just those with the assets the education or the cultural sensitivities necessary to act green. It’s a dangerous delusion to think that the upper middle class can create a green economy by driving Teslas and installing overpriced solar panels. Everyone should have access to information about the climate crisis, and be qualified for membership in a FFF community. The climate crisis disproportionately affects the poor and the working classes. Their participation in FFF communities, accompanied by access to quality education and other opportunities, will be essential.

At first glance, it seems mysterious that those who risk everything in demonstrations about climate change return home by automobile to eat food produced and cooked with fossil fuels. For all their spiritual commitment, they have not been able to break out of the carbon cycle. But there is no mystery. Breaking away from fossil fuels is not a matter of progressive policies, but of revolutionary politics.

Establishing fossil-fuel free (FFF) Communities

Establishing fossil-fuel free (FFF) Communities

Emanuel Pastreich

October 14, 2019

We came away from the climate march, the climate strike and the enormous swell of political commitment among ordinary citizens in the week leading up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit with a new mandate for action.  Even the commercial media which had previously ignored this climate catastrophe was forced to face the music. Whether it is the strikes at high schools or the declaration of a climate emergency by local governments, we are witnessing a fundamental shift in consciousness in all corners.

But even the positive turn cannot erase the dread of impending catastrophe adumbrated by forest fires in Siberia and the Amazon, the heat waves sweeping India and Europe and the complete failure of the central governments of any major country to make a fundamental commitment to the elimination of fossil fuels even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence of impending doom.    

The emphasis so far has been on appealing to top government officials to recognize climate change as a crisis and change policy. Perhaps that was the appropriate first step. But the time has come to move to the next stage.

Sadly, the most committed climate activists, after they are dragged away to prison for their civil disobedience, find themselves washing with warm water heated with coal or natural gas, or even nuclear power and eating vegetables that were shipped on cargo ships and trucks powered by fossil fuels, and wrapped in plastic produced from petroleum. The components in the computers and cell phones they used to coordinate the protests, or write moving articles, were produced using coal and other noxious chemicals in India, in China or in Thailand and the power that drives most internet networks is similarly unclean.

The specialists who conduct research on the impact of climate change have retirement funds tied up in companies with direct, or indirect, ties to fossil fuel profits (often links that are not disclosed to them).

That is to say that protestors may raise attention about climate change to the highest levels, but they return home to a nightmare world wherein there is no escape from the fossil fuels. The individual may have the choice of whether to eat meat, or whether to protest, but he or she has no choice about whether to participate in an industrial economy run according to a bankrupt ideology of consumption and growth. 

Activists can block traffic, or lie down on train tracks, to force politicians to pay attention to their demands, but the vast majority of their actions, from the moment they turn on the lights in the morning and check their email to the last plastic wrapped snack they eat from refrigerator before bed, are tied to fossil fuels. Moreover, they can fight to get articles about climate change in the existing corporate media, or in public textbooks, but there is no broadly circulated newspaper or television news that focuses on climate change.

But if there were a choice, even if the scale was small at first, it would be possible to make every aspect of one’s life into protest action by participating in a global economy, a global intellectual network, which is from start to finish 100% fossil fuel free (FFF). Although bravery and sacrifice are required, such FFF communities are entirely possible. But we are rather told that we must put up with the existing system of dependency on petroleum and coal until such moment as the entire country is net zero.

But if we create large parts of local economies that are 100% fossil-fuel free (FFF), those communities themselves will become powerful economic players that can go toe-to-toe with investment banks and oil companies. Imagine if you had people knocking on your door regularly asking you to become a part of a FFF community which would guarantee that all the energy you use, all the food you eat and all the items in your home are produced without fossil fuels? When that starts to happen, we will have started the real revolution.

Establishing a fossil fuels free (FFF) Community

The general assumption among the vast majority of citizens who are even aware of the threat of climate change is that we will all wait until 2050 and then the government, which has been entirely gutted and privatized) will determine through laws that the entire economy of each nation is transformed into a sustainable. The amount of reporting in the commercial media proposing such a solution is so overwhelming that most people, awash in the half-truths that flow through the smart phone, take this proclamation at face value.

The scientific data shows overwhelmingly that 2050 is far, far, too late. But equally importantly, the current power structure is such that although there are media events about climate change from time to time, there is zero change in your neighborhood. There is no option to select 100% renewable energy, no option to purchase food wrapped in plastic and no meetings of the local citizens to discuss climate change, dependency on petroleum or the other serious problems that we face.

Freedom will start when we have a choice and that choice will only exist if we establish 100% fossil fuel free (FFF) communities around the world on a small scale that will permit committed citizens to opt out of the corrupt system that forces us to use fossil fuels, whether we want to or not. Once there are small communities which are literally 100% FFF (no fossil fuels used in the production or transportation of fabrication of anything employed), there will be the choice for those of conscience to choose (at an initial sacrifice) to join these communities. Without any doubt, many will join. And over time these communities will expand until they become a substantial part of the domestic, and international economy.

Currently, it is possible to participate in protests about climate change. But when the protest is over, for most it is back to normal life in an industrialized society. If we have fossil fuel communities, however, the protest can go on 24 hours a day and a real positive step can be made to stop destroying our Earth now, and not when some politician decides so. We do not need the approval of business leaders or politicians to start that process at the local level. All we need is the will, the vision, the motivation and the tenacity. Such FFF communities give us more than just a good feeling. They bring with them economic independence from a corrupt fossil fuel economy which influences every aspect of the political economy. Those FFF communities can serve as the base for numerous other political, social and educational movements.

The first step for creating FFF (fossil-fuel free) communities at the local level is to gather together a small group of people who pledge to support the community, and each other, for the long term, and to support themselves exclusively on the FFF products produced by this community. There are now, among those willing to be arrested at protests, those who are deeply committed to being vegan. If we have a critical mass of them willing to commit to these FFF communities, and to sink what assets they have into the community in the understanding that those communities will pledge to support them going forward.

There are a few basics for a fossil fuel free community, and they may not be perfect at first, but can be made 100% in a short period of time. The core for our new economy is the establishment of organic farms that produce 100% organic food and transport it without the use of fossil fuels to those who will eat it. At the beginning, those who join these groups will encounter a significant drop in the diversity of their diet, but they can be certain that they have established the foundations for a truly fossil fuel free economy. The food may be grown locally, or brought in from local farms, or grown at home. The point is that fossil fuels do not intrude at any point in the process.

Food can be sold at communal markets in which the collaboration between producer and consumer is a core feature. That is to say that the markets are jointly owned and that the act of buying is linked to a cultural and political act of stepping out of the fossil fuel economy. We can start with one such communal market and then expand them out around the world—what is important is that people are invited to join.

The model of the Amish or the Mennonites is worth considering here. Although we do not have to accept every aspect of their production systems for food without fossil fuels, they offer us best practices that we can use. What we need to make sure is that our communities are expansive and invite in all those who take an interest.

We can create FFF gardens in every corner of the city, like victory gardens in our struggle to win back our economy from the agricultural and transportation corporations who want to make us slaves to petroleum and petroleum byproducts. Give the youth who create this food jobs and pay them in food and currency for their efforts (like the growing of food during WW II but even more extensive). Within a month, we can get a significant chunk of the UK economy made of FFF communities.

It will be critical to come up with fossil fuel free transportation for food and other goods immediately, rather than waiting for corrupt politicians to provide it and to make it clear that making do with limited FFF transportation is not an unpleasant inconvenience for the citizen, but a form of moral bravery, the front line of the battle against climate change. The first step is not technological, but rather attitudinal. If working all day shoveling mulch, or transporting food by cart, or generating electricity on an exercise bike (which is good exercise) is seen as an ethical imperative, much will become possible. If these actions are treated as secondary, something to be left to others, and the narcissism of posting on Instagram dominates our culture, we will not get very far at all.

Transportation reform means reform of the concept of real estate and of community. That we must become social beings again who can share everything and we must give up our private land in order to support ourselves and our community through local food production.

Another critical part of the FFF community must be manufacturing. Establishing FFF manufacturing is an enormous challenge. First you must start making everything yourself, in your community, make it without using fossil fuels. Products, whether desks and bookshelves, or shirts and sweaters, or cups and pots must be made to last for 20-50 years. That means that they must be well-made, that the culture of consumption and constant replacement must be replaced with a culture of sustainability within the FFF community, and we return to local production for most everything.

Starting our own stores that sell only products produced without any fossil fuels and offering jobs to our children and the children of our neighbors in those stores, which we patronize because we are in part owners of them, it is key to creating FFF communities.

It goes without saying that this move is the end of the global trade that we have staked our economy on for the last hundred years. Shipping goods across the Earth does tremendous damage to the environment and also to encourage the inhuman mass production of foodstuffs and other products in certain regions to supply the world. That approach to production and distribution has destroyed local economies and distorted the global economy. It is possible to have trade using entirely renewable energy in the future, but there is no need for it ever to be on this scale.

Some might take this statement as an anti-internationalist, or even anti-Chinese, statement. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is essential that local communities work in an international manner to address climate change long-term. That will be an internationalist project, but it will have nothing to do with global capital investments by the wealthy. It is not anti-Chinese to suggest that China must reinvigorate its local economy and stop the large scale exports that damage the environment by switching back to local, non-polluting manufacturing and agriculture. New technologies can make this process far easier and more effective than was true in the 19th century. Moreover, the shift will make China more independent and more self-sufficient. The same hold true for other nations who have staked their futures on global trade. We must recognize, quickly, that this system is finished.

Finance and Currency

The end of a consumption culture driven forward by corporate advertising must be coupled with a drive to restructure finance and lending to meet the needs of this new community. We must create local banks that lend out money to purchase these products by means of 30-year loans. That is to say that if you buy a shirt, or a desk, that will last for 50 years, it will take a lot of work to make and it will be expensive. But if there is a bank that will lend you money for the purchase immediately using a loan over twenty years to purchase that product, then the product becomes affordable immediately. The same is true for solar or wind power.

It is a tremendous burden to suddenly go out and buy solar panels and have them installed. But if the whole package is funded using a 30-year, or 50-year loan, then it is immediately competitive with paying your monthly bill from the very start. Most people would start using renewable energy immediately.

We need to completely restructure banks, starting with local banks and the banks established by FFF communities. The primary function of banks will be to make rapid conversation to 100% renewable possible. That means that finance must be focused on the small item, not the big infrastructure programs that investment banks love. For example, if a pair of pants that will last for 40 years (and can be passed on and on to the next generation, and is made locally, ends up costing $150, the bank should offer microloans that will make that product cheaper than a pair of pants imported from Vietnam that will last for six months. The bank will serve, starting from the FFF community, to reshape the nature of economics so that loans are primarily concerned with distributing cost for critical investments for sustainability so that those investments are never avoided because they are too expensive. The bank will be cooperative in nature, owned by the members of the community and will not have profit as a goal.

Moreover, the very nature of the economy, whether at the bank of in the newspapers circulated at the FFF community, must fall on long-term development (50-100 years) so that the true cost of petroleum, coal and consumption is manifest. That requires that we transform the study of economics, policy, security and welfare so that all disciplines focus on the long term. We can start this transformation of education from elementary school in the FFF community and quickly expand it around the world.

Part of the process can be the establishment of an eco-currency, a form of money that is completely detached from the fossil fuel banking-industrial-military complex and that ties the state of the environment directly to the value of money. Such a currency can start at the local level, and be expanded in its use at a later date (See “Ecocurrency”).


More often than not, the solution to the climate catastrophe is presented to us as a matter of technology. Although there are certainly critical new materials that can help us to create energy more cheaply from wind and sun, and that satellites allow us to study the state of the biosphere, it will be the humanities that will be decisive in the response to climate change.

The much-neglected field of philosophy will be central. We need to make study of philosophy central to all of our plans for the future and to recognize that it was the war on metaphysics, epistmelogy and moral philosophy which has brought on the current intellectual crisis that has permitted climate change to reach this stage without any response.

The privileged feel entirely at peace with themselves consuming goods that are produced using fossil fuels in other countries while living in comfortable home with minimal pollution. They are happy to have cheap energy produced by coal power plants as long as those power plants are far away. The ability to conceive of that which is not immediately visible as atrophied for the vast majority of the population. Discussions about philosophy, philosophic topics and scientific discussions about the nature of our human experience should be expanded to be a central part of our lives, replacing the commercial consumption dominated media that takes up most of our lives.

Only strong foundations in philosophy will allow our citizens to step back from the drive to make a profit right now, to satisfy their desires immediately, and think about the long-term. Philosophy does not mean, however, that we must bury ourselves in the abstract writings of Hegel and Heidegger. Rather the essential questions about human existence and the meaning of our experience must be made central in all discourse and the consumer culture aimed at stimulating the amygdala must be ended.

The consumption culture that is destroying us creates profits because it encourages, stimulates, the individual to desire more and bigger, to create an imbalance in the individuals self-perception so that some exterior object must be purchased in order to obtain wholeness. Whether it is the worship of growth or the praise of consumption, the blindness towards how our economic assumptions feed climate change must be overcome.

One critical part of that transformation consists of the discovery of the infinite within. As Leo Tolstoy noted in his masterpiece on this subject “The Kingdom of God Is Within You” there is infinite spiritual depth, infinite intellectual and artistic potential within us, within a blade of grass. Such a spiritual and philosophical understanding of human experience is essential to moving beyond our self-destructive current culture and learning how to control technologies, rather than have technology control us.  

The importance of the humanities goes beyond philosophy. We must create a community in which all citizens can fully express themselves and live deep, meaningful and fulfilling lives without ever feeling a need to do something that requires fossil fuels. Humans did it four tens of thousands of years before. They may have suffered as a result of the lack of modern medicine and they may have been malnourished, but we should not assume their experiences were less spiritually and intellectually.

Odd though it may seem to people whose brains have been rewired by computers and the internet to respond to instant messages, it is possible for you to spend months reading books, writing letters, painting and sketching, exercising, playing music or dancing without employing a single drop of petroleum. Moreover, your memory will improve and you will find it easier to keep track of complex issues in your head as a result. Making things with your hands from clay or wood gives a concrete quality to experience that is effective in addressing the alienation in our society.

 The return of art, literature, and the public debate will greatly improve the state of our society and make us better equipped to respond to climate change. It is hard to imagine such a shift, but within FFF communities we can start the revolution.


These fossil fuel free communities require a deep personal commitment. Like members of alcoholics anonymous, we must pledge never to use fossil fuels and support each other so that we do not fall back to our old habit. We must feel a sense of shame, and we should spread that sense of shame broadly. Every time you use fossil fuels to warm your water, you should think that you are killing off children in Chad. Every time you throw away a plastic spoon, you should feel as if you are dumping raw crude oil in the ocean.


Restoring the culture of modesty and frugality that has made up much of human history is critical for our future. That will be part of our education programs, our media programs and our approach to evaluating human progress. We must reject the standards by which we have analyzed the world for over a hundred years.

Shame must be a part of that education. Every citizen must think about all the energy and the suffering that went into every drop of petroleum, the pollution and contamination that is behind every bite of processed food, and also the damage done by every little piece of plastic we through away, every piece of fish we waste.

Education about climate change should begin today, not for those who are reading this article, but for those who live in blissful ignorance, or who have been denied educations altogether. We must work outside of our FFF communities to tell every single citizen what is happening to the climate and what needs to be done. We need to think that we are competing against the commercial media that seeks to lull citizens to sleep and render them as harmless consumers. We must, by contrast, must meet them on the street with posters and other readily understood materials to tell them what is going on in terms they can understand. We must go door to door in every neighborhood and tell them the truth and invite them to join us.

We must not make the mistake of assuming that climate change is an issue for the upper middle class, or for progressives. We must seek out working class people, conservative Christians, everyone, and tell them how climate change impacts them.

More importantly, we must make it clear that those who commit to join the campaign against climate change are our friends. We do not want people to just show up for an event, just vote for a candidate. If they are willing to walk with us, and work with us, we will help them for a lifetime. If we have better educations, better connections, we will commit to helping their families, to looking out for their interests, if they join us. It is that sense of community, of a true contract, that is at the core of a political movement that will last for decades.



“重新考虑东北亚的真正危机” 多维新闻



2019年 10月 8日











世界正在深受气候危机的困扰——瑞典女孩葛莉塔·桑博格(Greta Thunberg)感人至深的演讲将这一问题推到了风口浪尖。无数心怀热忱的年轻人都曾呼吁为了让人类免遭气候灾难之害而彻底改变全世界的经济、政治和文化模式。他们知道,倘若坐视不理,承受可怕后果的将是他们自己。









Strike DC for Climate Justice (Sept. 23, 2019)

It was no simple matter dragging myself to McPherson Square at 7:30 AM today to participate in the Extinction Rebellion part of today’s STrike DC for Climate Justice. But when I saw the eighty or so dedicated people who were there, I was inspired. One really needs people around one who are committed in order to feel the real confidence to set out on a difficult task. We blocked several intersections and distributed leaflets to the drivers who were forced to wait. The police were relatively understanding and helpful and there were plenty of people who went out of their way to help us.

But it was an incredibly hot day for September and I felt as if our doom had already set it. The activities were more impressive than those in SEoul, but not anywhere near enough.

We are so late and the crowd are still not nearly large enough.

“香港真正的地缘政治意义” 斯·维尔克森 Lawrence Wilkerson 采访录


劳伦斯·维尔克森 Lawrence Wilkerson 采访录





































America’s Rush Back to Nuclear Weapons” (Foreign Policy in Focus)

Foreign Policy in Focus

Interview with Lawrence Wilkerson

“America’s Rush Back to Nuclear Weapons”

September 5, 2019

Emanuel Pastreich

Interview with Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell and current Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy in the Government Department of the College of William and Mary.

Emanuel Pastreich: What is the current status of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on nuclear weapons?

Lawrence Wilkerson: As you know, the United States pulled out of the INF medium-range nuclear weapons treaty with Russia in August and it plans a substantial buildup of these destabilizing weapons, above all in East Asia. This move is dangerous.

The INF Treaty was far from perfect, but it had a broad appeal, including an appeal to many in the military, because it simply made sense.

That treaty between the United States and Russia encompassed all missiles, nuclear or conventional, ballistic or cruise, that had a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. When the INF Treaty was signed in 1987, it helped to slow down a dangerous arms race. For the first time since the Cold War started, an entire class of nuclear weapons was eliminated.

Pastreich: Why do you think the United States withdrew?

Wilkerson: We no longer live in a rational world  in which policy makers take a scientific approach to risk.  Rather, policy making is dominated by irrational figures like John Bolton, the president’s national security advisor, a man who hates arms control with a passion, who spends his days trying to find ways to undo the few restrictions that remain, and who would plunge the world into a completely new nuclear arms race.

This time, however, the competition won’t be bilateral, just between the United States and the USSR. This time the race will be global, and we will see a nightmare world of instability, with a renewed risk of a nuclear holocaust as a result.

Pastreich: What’s the background behind this drastic shift in American policy?

Wilkerson: Right now there are a huge number of intermediate range missiles stationed in Fujian Province, and elsewhere in southern China, which are aimed at Taiwan. We’re talking about a missile for just about every square meter of every viable target in Taiwan. China was never a signatory to the INF Treaty because at the time its missile capacity was minimal and its nuclear weapons policy, which was set by Mao Zedong, was one of sufficiency to deter.

If there was a valid reason for the United States to withdraw from the current INF Treaty, it was this change in China’s missile arsenal. China is most likely contemplating a new doctrine with regard to the use of nuclear weapons. That change has little to do with Russia and everything to do with the pressing need for a new nuclear weapons arms control regime.

Pastreich: You mean that China’s actions were a reason for the United States to withdraw?

Wilkerson: In part, the changes in China were a factor. And Russia has been “cheating” with respect to the INF Treaty. Even more dangerous is Russia’s publication of a military doctrine calling for blunting NATO’s advantage in PGMs [precision guided munitions] by using short-range nuclear strikes. Russia has been building a missile inventory necessary to accomplish this doctrine.

There are of course other aspects of the problem. We find a mutual abuse of the INF Treaty, such as the United States putting ABM defenses and troops in former Warsaw Pact countries, thus moving the borders of NATO so that they are smack up against Russia’s “near abroad.” And now the United States refuses to talk about almost anything with Russia.

We see the proliferation of medium-range missiles among non-signatory countries (China, DPRK, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.) and also violations of the INF Treaty by both the original treaty signatories, who also happen to be the owners of the vast preponderance of nuclear weapons.

Pastreich: What do you think that should the United States have done then?

Wilkerson: Sadly, the United States kept complaining about what was imperfect about the treaty, but it made no effort to create something better, to fashion and gain support for an entirely new and more comprehensive nuclear arms control regime.

Instead, what the United States is accomplishing is the launch of a far more virulent arms race, one that could lead, some would argue inevitably, to the use of nuclear weapons in war.

It would have made better sense to maintain the treaty, or to declare it obsolete, in a bipartisan manner, and, in either case, to open negotiations to expand the treaty so as to include all nations that possess extensive stockpiles of intermediate range missiles—particularly those that also possessing nuclear weapon capability. From the point of view of smart arms control, of our children’s future, and of the security of the United States and of the world, such an expanded and modernized, treaty would make perfect sense.

But Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, doesn’t do arms control.  Moreover, Trump himself seems to disdain multilateral arrangements, sensible negotiations, and the type of astute diplomacy required to accomplish either. He seems to more-or-less follow Bolton and his desire for “a little nuclear war.” While campaigning, Trump even suggested he believed the world would be better off if there were more, not fewer, nuclear weapons, and states that possessed them.

Pastreich: What can be done now to correct this mistake?

Wilkerson: I think you mean, given these clear realities what can be done to modify the behavior of an administration that has been opposed to arms control from the very start and that has done more and will do more to damage arms control efforts than any previous administration? How will we convince John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, who made their careers by opposing rational arms control treaties, that they don’t need to abandon treaties but should rather expand them, multi-lateralize them, and seek new ones that do even more than the old ones did?

If we are talking about these individuals alone, the task is hopeless. They are beyond redemption. But democratic politics is not simply about individuals, whether it be presidents, national security advisors, or otherwise. There are cases in American history where extremist politicians have been brought into line by a shift in the mood and in the culture and by a weigh-in by the demos in accordance with such shifts.

What we need is to create again in Washington DC a nuclear arms control environment, a culture in which responsibility and strict regulation of nuclear weapons—and other weapons, as in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty—is accepted as a necessity. We need to ensure that such a development is a natural occurrence, that it is something that is not disdained, but rather anticipated.

At the end of the day, we need to negotiate a series of treaties that form a global overlapping system that includes all classes of nuclear weapons. We need to bring into this process pariah states like Israel and North Korea. Achieving that goal requires us to be tough at times. We must be ready to take a strong stand to insist that all nuclear weapon states must join the regime that will be established.

Pastreich: What is the thinking about nonproliferation and disarmament in the U.S. military?

Wilkerson: The military makes the challenge even greater because there are large factions in the military who are hankering for a new nuclear arms race. Those generals and admirals want more money, and they want to build more missiles. Doing so will allow them to get their hands on some of the trillion-plus dollars allotted for new nuclear weapons by former President Obama.

Those officers want all sorts of nuclear and non-nuclear missiles, but the diversity in their demands does not mean that they are strategically imaginative. They are not.

All they want is more, more, and a little more. But we should also remember that there are some clear thinkers and some brave people devoted to the common good mixed in with them. They see the handwriting on the wall and they wish to avert nuclear war.

President Trump is highly susceptible to the military’s siren call. The president has painted himself into multiple corners, and he seems to feel that he desperately needs the military to be president of the United States. Since he now faces opposition at almost every level of government and increasingly within the country, loyalty has become his first priority. He perceives the military to be overwhelmingly loyal to him and he wants to reward them.

This relationship between Trump and the military is dangerous because Trump is so ignorant about diplomacy and security, and at the same time he is increasingly desperate in his search for support. He does not care about global warming or nuclear war, but he is obsessed with his political standing. He desires above all to have people who will gather around him and listen to him speak. He is ultimately concerned with holding on to power.

Moreover, nuclear missiles, in particular, offer big juicy contracts that are not subject to much external review, and they empower the president—who is the one who can decide on his own whether or not to use them. So these weapons also feed Trump’s ego.

But anyone with any understanding of nuclear weapons knows how close we have come to nuclear war in the past—even with treaties in place. Sadly, most educated citizens have no idea how different a world we will be living in once the nuclear weapon genie escapes from its bottle, especially as there is a whole new group of nations like Germany, Turkey, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, and so on, that have either in the past shown a desire for nuclear weapons or who could join in a future nuclear arms race.

Pastreich: The decision to withdraw from the INF treaty, and other agreements like the ABM Treaty, while simultaneously increasing the number of short-range nuclear missiles, seems as if it was made in meetings among Bolton, Pompeo and Trump, with some input from the military. There were few, if any, congressional committees who debated the new policies, or summoned experts on nonproliferation for testimony.  

Wilkerson: This unhealthy policy-making process seems to be intrinsic to the Trump administration. But the shift has been taking place for some time. The cause is not necessarily Trump.

H.L. Mencken wrote back in 1920 that one day, “…the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” Although that prediction was uncanny, it was not a matter of chance.

The current crescendo of incompetence is the product of a long-term structural and statutory shift that has encouraged a dysfunctional decision-making process.

We can see Trump’s arbitrary use of power as the logical conclusion of the centralization of national security decision-making in the White House that dates back to the 1947 National Security Act. This concentration of power in the White House, and the decline of the power of the president’s cabinet, as well as of the powerful congressional committees run by highly educated and focused political leaders like Jacob Javits or James Fulbright, have profoundly altered the process by which policy is formulated and decisions are made.

The next step came after Ronald Reagan both consolidated power in the executive and stripped other parts of the federal government of budgets and authority. He created a new policy landscape that was readily made use of by H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, with some slight variations. So, the original balance of powers among Congress, the judiciary, and the executive described in the constitution existed only by dint of institutional inertia. That balance was ready to be torn down—and was torn down like a rotten tree—by Trump’s people.  

Pastreich: How does this institutional shift relate to the seemingly endless wars the United States is involved in?

Wilkerson: Many members of Congress—and particularly powerful committee chairmen—are backed to the hilt by Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, BAE, Grumman, General Dynamics, and other military contractors who are pursuing big-budget contracts with the government. This trend is true for both parties, but the Republicans practice it with greater abandonment. The coffers of these Congress members are essentially filled up by lobbyists who represent these merchants of war.

Pastreich: Although it seems irrelevant to lobbyists and influence peddlers, the constitution is supposed to be the manual that determines how the Federal government is run.

Wilkerson: The three branches of government are co-equal, but the legislative branch was clearly meant to be primus inter pares, and James Madison was quite adamant on that point.

The executive has become the overwhelmingly dominant branch. And now you have a specially selected Supreme Court and a court system that basically approves all of the executive branch’s actions, domestic and foreign. The Congress, especially the Republican-dominated Senate, is incapable of overriding the president. At this very moment, the Republicans in the Senate and the White House are conspiring to keep the House of Representatives from reclaiming the war powers that the constitution grants to Congress.

That battle is but the small end of the sword, if you will. The big end is that if we do go to war with Iran, for example, it will be without any congressional input, whatsoever. The latest disaster for the United States will be perpetrated by the executive branch alone, without any accountability. That is the degree to which the decision-making process with regard to war has been usurped by the president.

Of course, saying that decision-making is centralized in the White House is not the entire story. That White House we see today was created by, and takes its marching orders from, a predatory and transnational capitalist state where defense contractors, investment bankers, and hedge fund billionaires call the shots. Then there is big oil, big food, and big energy. Needless to say, having the decision-making so centralized makes it much easier for the big money from these groups to have impact than would be the case if decision-making were spread across the cabinet or across the government. Also, there is no moment in the process when anyone asks what the national interest is, what the long-term implications are.

Pastreich: Let’s come back to China for a moment. What are the risks for America here?

Wilkerson: First, let’s consider what the role of the United States should be—and, not just about juicy military budgets resulting from the China threat.

These days the United States is just a disruptor in Asia, and an unintelligent disruptor at that. We swing from cooing “I love you, Kim Jong Un” to imposing vicious tariffs on Chinese goods to creating a major embarrassment for Japanese Prime Minister Abe when he tried to help out with Iran.

And most of us were shocked to see Trump mocking how Japanese speak and how Koreans speak. That was the president of the United States! He was not speaking to Prime Minister Abe or to President Moon, but to a racist audience at home and for strictly domestic political purposes.

But to a certain degree the future role of the United States in East Asia will be determined by power dynamics in the region as much as by U.S. policy. Some Americans might want to stay, to be a hegemon in Northeast Asia forever. But that is not a sustainable policy. There is a desperate need for the United States to find a middle ground, a course that preserves some essential American influence within a cooperative framework. The competition with China, and other powers, is going to be substantial at all levels, and simply painting China as a bogeyman is not going to do the trick.

First, we need to go back to good old-fashioned diplomacy. That is more important than any fighter plane or missile. No state is going to fare well in a hot war, or even in a new cold war. We need to use our creativity to shape a culture that supports arms treaties, disarmament, and peace in general—peaceful competition, if you will. And we must build an off-ramp that allows America to dismount the imperial train and steer away from global hegemony and towards global cooperation.

Oddly enough, I think Trump is – very inexpertly, imperfectly, and probably unknowingly – digging out the foundations for such a new collaborative order through his destructive fits. He calls into question the value of NATO, and the so-called deep state is immediately up in arms. So, although Trump may be doing many destructive things, he is also drawing attention to the anachronism that NATO has become post-Cold War. The alliance no longer has any purpose except to seek out trouble “out of area” to justify itself.

We need to have the courage to discuss how we will bring back U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula, and under what circumstances. We cannot consider that discussion a taboo topic. We also need to use our imagination, and our commitment, to create a regional order that assures the continued security of the Korean Peninsula without that U.S. troop presence.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. If the United States wants to maintain its influence in East Asia, its needs plans to bring its troops back from other parts of East Asia, including Japan and particularly Okinawa. We will be much better off if we take the initiative than if we are pushed out by some disaster or another.

And in terms of policy change, I am not just talking about security issues. The United States today is flat-out bankrupt, with a $22 trillion debt. Annual interest payments on that debt added to the annual military budget will zero-out all other discretionary federal spending in less than a decade. We just did something unprecedented: we printed billions of dollars under the Quantitative Easing program with absolutely nothing behind those dollars except the paper and ink on which they were printed. We have no earthly idea what such profligacy will produce in the future. We have new security challenges like a changing climate and we had better start saving money, and learning to respond to new security challenges, in a manner that does not require such an expensive military instrument.

Pastreich: How can the United States fashion a different strategy for engaging with the world?

Wilkerson: Ambassador Richard Haass threw out the concept of “integration” back in 2001 in his discussions with his Policy Planning staff. He thought that “integration” was the best one-word substitution for “containment.” For Haass, integration was a concept that offered an alternative to globalization and its demand for unending expansion and extraction. Haass did not like the concept of globalization, and I think he was right.

Globalization has happened before, in the 1890s, for example. But globalization brings contradictions and tensions that are dangerous. What is going on today goes beyond globalization. What we see happening today is integration: integration of trade, integration of society, integration of culture. That integration is at times mean, disruptive, hateful, and dangerous, but it’s happening.

Trade is where we observe the most profound integration. For example, the United States cannot make a sophisticated piece of military equipment any longer without employing foreign components.

But Trump is heading in the opposite direction. He wants to take apart trade agreements and institutions, to disintegrate, not to integrate, trade. And he thinks that somehow the destruction of global institutions will save “white America.”