When Both Parties are Right: U.S. President Trump & U.S. DOD Secretary Mattis

Each member of the U.S. president’s cabinet serves at the pleasure of the president and the same is true in the case of the United States Secretary of Defense which position is in the top tier of the Executive Office serving the country’s leader. The other two top tier cabinet positions are, of course, the Secretary of State and the Chief of Staff. All of whom serve at the president’s discretion.

That said, General Jim Mattis has done an excellent job as the U.S. Defense Secretary and there are questions as to why such a capable individual should find it necessary to retire from a position to which he was obviously well-suited. Also, the question exists whether the president influenced that decision or whether General Mattis was fired and the term “retiring” was used to convey proper respect to a long-serving military member who earned every honour he ever received.

Obviously, the president and the secretary had a difference on policy, that goes without saying. But under the U.S. Constitution, a U.S. president can pursue any foreign or domestic policy he chooses and he or she doesn’t need the approval of his cabinet.

(Of course, it’s better if they do approve)

U.S. cabinet officers serve the president, not the other way around. Therefore, in case of a difference of opinion the president wins, every time, and it must always be that way.

Even such notable soldiers as General Douglas MacArthur who tried to bully U.S. president Harry S. Truman into militarily attacking China — thereby dramatically enlarging the Korean War — was finally forced to step down famously saying, Old soldiers never die; they just fade away” find themselves subject to the U.S. president’s discretion by virtue of the laws of the United States and its Constitution.

Still, it could be instructive in some way to examine the reasons behind such events to ascertain whether a systemic problem exists that must be dealt with, or to find whether these events occurred due to some other reason.

Let’s look at the Syrian situation in the context of American military involvement, because in the case of president Trump and secretary Mattis it’s almost surely the issue that divided them:

  1. Syria has been involved in a civil war since 2011 and was the last country in the region to feel the effects of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’.
  2. No country is allowed under international law to intervene militarily in another country’s civil war without being invited by the lawful government of that country. Countries can’t unilaterally insert themselves into the midst of civil wars. That’s black letter international law. It’s 100% non-negotiable.
  3. Which the Americans did. As did their allies (some European countries).
  4. Russia and Iran on the other hand were invited by the lawful government of Syria and that invitation was made publicly. It’s a matter of public record.
  5. The legal exception to involvement by non-invited parties occurs if the UN Security Council approves military actions; Where the UN Security Council votes to apply sanctions or approve military force, military intervention becomes legal under international law. However, the UN Security Council didn’t approve military force by the U.S. and its allies against Syrian government forces or non-government forces (terrorists). Yet, the U.S. and its allies militarily attacked targets in Syria without the proper and legal authorizations required by international law.
  6. Though such actions clearly broke international law, Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad didn’t seem to mind. Yes, he did complain at first, but as soon as the Americans and their European allies lessened their attacks on terrorist targets in Syria, Bashar Al-Assad suddenly stopped complaining. To many people (and it might even hold up in international court if it ever comes to that) this clearly registered as tacit approval for America and her allies to conduct military operations against ISIS inside Syria for the duration of the Syrian civil war.

With me so far? Few people would dispute points 1 through 6 above.

No doubt that U.S. president Trump and U.S. secretary of defense Mattis were 100% aligned in regards to U.S. policy in Syria since the confirmation of General Jim Mattis on January 20, 2017.

Any difference of opinion between the two is therefore recent and easy to discern.


American Involvement in Syria: Part II

Since about November of 2018 it appears that the battle against ISIS is largely won in Syria.

From now on, it’s going to be a mopping-up operation with exponentially increasing chances for American and Russian forces to clash (accidentally or otherwise) in the ever-smaller areas formerly controlled by terrorist groups.

Not only American and Russian of course, many countries operate inside Syria fighting terrorists and de facto assist the Syrian government (even if assisting the Syrian regime isn’t one of their objectives) and some terrorists might decide to meddle with the foreign forces fighting them.

Any individual who feels they have something against America or Europe who happens to have access to a rifle, a rocket launcher, or other weapons system may feel entitled under Jihadi rules to shoot down an American fighter or bomber jet, helicopter, or perhaps take out a number of U.S. soldiers who may be sleeping in a tent or non-hardened building.

For a terrorist, the opportunity to create a war between Russia and America, or between Russia and Europe (however unlikely that may, or may not be) might prove too tempting and numbers of them on multiple occasions might soon decide to employ themselves on suicide missions to accomplish that objective.

‘Targets of Opportunity’ are what every American and European military person will now represent to Jihadis at this stage — whereas prior to November 2018 they were too busy trying to stay alive to get involved in planning traps so that (nominal allies, in Syria, at least) America and Russia might find themselves in a ground or air fight against the other. Such danger that represents!


American Involvement in Syria: Part III

Even after the American troops (numbering only 2000 personnel) leave Syria there are still a number of ways to influence events in that country.

a) Soft Power
b) Hard Power

Soft power is the application of diplomacy. The UN is the most likely place for this to happen and America has a strong presence at the United Nations. At this point in the Syrian civil war, America’s best option is UN-backed diplomacy and its 2nd-best option remains direct diplomacy between the nations that are in some way involved with Syria.

Hard power is the application of military force. The U.S. military is the most powerful on Earth but that doesn’t mean the United States should be bombing just for the sake of bombing.

If there are better options than that, those should take precedence over military actions that could result in the unwanted and unnecessary problems of military conflict happening by accident between the U.S. and Russia, or between the U.S. and Iran (or between the U.S. and any other countries operating in Syria) or between the Americans and the Syrians.

None of that is going to help bring peace in Syria.

A final thought about U.S. Hard Power being applied in Syria following the pullout of America’s 2000-strong ground and air force is that the US Navy can deliver as many missiles as the president chooses to targets in Syria from the Mediterranean Sea, anytime the president wants. This has been done in the past with regards to purported chemical attacks that occurred in Syria and is something the Navy trains for every day of the year. Likewise with the U.S. Air Force, which can deliver as many bombs or missiles to terrorist targets inside Syria as the president chooses.

And none of them are going to accidentally bomb Russian or Syrian government positions due to the prior notification protocols common among the world’s major military forces that operate in conflict zones.

Conducting military operations inside Syria is still against international law (therefore I’m not advocating for such operations!) unless Bashir Al-Assad approves of it in advance (and it’s possible he might need help if he gets surrounded by terrorists again) and it’s still in America’s interests to have the democratically elected Bashir Al-Assad government in charge of Syria vs. any number of shady terrorist groups — but at least the lives of 2000 American troops won’t be unnecessarily at risk.

They don’t mind necessary risk, but they hate unnecessary risk. Wouldn’t you?


“Two Men Look Out Through the Same Bars – One Sees Mud, the Other, Stars”

In the final stage of the Syrian Civil War, U.S. president Trump likely sees a case of diminishing returns in Syria, with a growing threat of accidental conflict with America’s nominal allies (Russia, Syria and even Iran — as far as the Syrian conflict is concerned) He sees the potential for a sudden Jihadi attack comparable to the Marine barracks attack in Beirut (1983) that killed 241 U.S. Marines that could undo the good work done by U.S forces in the country especially if a large number of U.S. troops were to be killed in such an attack whether by design or accident; He sees that Syria’s allies are poised and able to complete the task at their cost in both lives and treasure, and he sees that America isn’t going to gain anything further by staying.

ISIS will be defeated in Syria due in large part due to American involvement and no matter how long America stays it isn’t likely to get more recognition for its work fighting terrorism there than it’s already gotten.

In short, for all the right reasons, president Trump decided that U.S. forces should leave Syria — and U.S. Navy aircraft carriers or U.S. Air Force bombers could still deliver a message to terrorist groups operating inside Syria at a moment’s notice.

And from the perspective of Jim Mattis, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, he has resigned for all the right reasons. If you can’t agree on policy (and it is the job of the president to decide policy, not the SecDef) then it’s right to leave. No doubt that General Mattis felt there was more good that American forces could still do inside Syria (even though they weren’t invited and aren’t there legally) and that having U.S. forces on the ground was a stabilizing force in the country. It was that for certain.

But now that Bashar Al-Assad’s tacit approval of unasked-for American ‘assistance’ is almost certainly about to come to an end president Trump has made the right policy move on Syria.

And the president still retains the option of US Navy or Air Force attacks on terrorist targets inside Syria — while removing only the increasingly imperilled ground force option.

‘Timing is everything’ they say.

Written by John Brian Shannon


Related Articles:

  • A look back at the deadly 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut (abc.com)

Is Growth Possible in a Post-Brexit Economy?

“KPMG predicts economic growth of 1.4 per cent next year, but cuts this to 0.6 per cent if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.”The Times

While some firms predict slower than normal growth for the UK economy in the post-Brexit timeframe, it’s always good to reflect on the assumptions that forecasters employ in creating their reports and why such forecasts can cause more harm than good.

  1. If you tell your employees that, ‘the chips are down, the economy is sinking, and corporate belt-tightening isn’t far off’ they are likely to respond in a negative way. Some may look for other employment, some will opt for early retirement, while others spend more time in the staff room talking with their coworkers about their employment concerns than getting their work done. Which means such reports can actually cause the negative outcome they’re warning about. It’s human nature to perform to a predicted level instead of trying to exceed expectations. There are few exceptions to this behavior and they are called names like; Olympic athlete, Pulitzer Prize Winner, President, or Astronaut who have the innate ability to ‘power through’ the negative times without losing momentum.
  2. Such reports deal with known inputs only. For example, a zero-tariff trade deal with the Americans may seem far off today, but by 2020 it may already be signed. And not only the U.S., other political and trade blocs are likely to sign trade deals with the UK following Brexit. The AU (Africa), MERCOSUR (the South American trade bloc), the Pacific Alliance (several Pacific nations), the CPTPP (the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) nations, ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), The Commonwealth (Commonwealth of Nations), and China, are likely to expand their trade links with the UK after it departs the European Union. America and those seven trading areas will have a combined total of 7.0 billion people by 2020. That’s a lot of potential consumers, and the massive opportunities presented by signing zero-tariff trade deals post-Brexit are absent in most economic projections by design. Even if the UK were to sign only one free trade deal (with the U.S., for example) it could improve UK growth by a full 2 per cent or more. Presto! A shiny new UK economy!
  3. “Now we’ve got them!” While economic forecasting provides vital information for policymakers, Brexit negotiators aren’t helped by the news that growth will slow even in the face of a ‘good Brexit deal’ and will slow moreso in a ‘no Brexit deal’ scenario. It’s the kind of report that makes Michel Barnier’s day! KPMG is certainly one of the most respected firms around, but if you’re a Brexiteer and a report like this has been released to the public instead of it remaining in the hands of policymakers it plays with your mind; “Are they working for the UK’s best interests or are they working for the EU’s best interests?” (and) “Who commissioned (who paid for) this report and what parameters were used?”

So, while the good people of KPMG do their best to provide policymakers with the best near-term assessment of the UK economy, making such reports public can actually cause the negative things to occur about which the report warns.

That’s why policymakers everywhere must be ahead of the curve and treat all such documents as ‘the worst-case scenario’ without exception.

Now that UK Prime Minister Theresa May has been reliably informed that the worst the UK can do is 0.6 per cent growth between now and 2020, it should be an easy matter to arrange a number of free trade deals and blow the doors off that projection by 3 or 4 per cent by 2020.

Looking at this in the proper context means accepting that exiting the European Union is merely a necessary stepping stone to get the UK to 4 per cent growth by 2020 — which should result in Theresa May keeping the PM’s chair for at least one more term and with all past ‘political sins’ forgiven.

Not a bad deal Theresa, if you’re up for it! 🙂

Written by John Brian Shannon

Bombardier vs. Boeing: Tariff Row or Opportunity?

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LetterToBritain.com

An increasingly protectionist United States has suddenly announced a 219% tariff on Bombardier passenger aircraft.

Bombardier Aerospace, headquartered in Montreal, Canada, also employs some 4000 people in Northern Ireland who produce a significant percentage of the components used in the C-Series passenger jets (CS 100 and CS 300) that have recently entered production.

Switzerland has already taken delivery of some of their C-Series jets, with others to be delivered in the coming months. Airlines from Germany, Finland and other European nations have indicated huge interest in these modern and fuel-efficient airliners, and China has told the company they will take as many planes as Bombardier can produce.

Bombardier C100 passenger aircraft
Bombardier C100 passenger aircraft. Image courtesy of BombardierAerospace.

There isn’t a better commercial aircraft in the 100-150 seat market in the world today.

And if that sounds like advertising copy, it’s because the aircraft the C-Series competes against were originally designed in the 1970’s (Boeing 737) and 1990’s (Airbus) and early 2000’s (Embraer) and although those aircraft lines have received numerous upgrades over the decades, from an engineering point-of-view nothing beats starting with a clean sheet.

This allows designers a free hand to use the latest composite materials, fully digital electronics instead of digital-over-analog, and 100% CAD/CAM design and manufacturing instead of only part of the process being CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing) all of which means there are no engineering compromises.

When you have the best plane on the market in that particular segment, one that boasts the quietest takeoffs and landings (significantly quieter) and the best fuel mileage, and the lowest maintenance cost per mile — high tariffs in one country means you simply sell the same number of aircraft per year — but you sell them to different countries.


China can’t get enough commuter aircraft from all sources it seems, and its own fledgling passenger aircraft manufacturer is geared towards truly excellent jumbo jet airliners. The country needs almost 7000 new aircraft over the next 20-years.

Boeing Forecasts Demand in China for 6,810 Airplanes, Valued at $1 Trillion (Boeing)

Good news for Bombardier! China becomes the world's first $1 Trillion aircraft market.

All good news for Bombardier there! The company should easily score 1/3 of all single aisle passenger jet sales in China over the next 20-years. And if they can’t, the entire executive staff of Bombardier should be exiled to Antarctica for life. Yes folks, opportunities like this don’t come along once-per-decade, nor even once-per-century.

Just in case you’re counting along at home; If Bombardier receives 1/3 of all single passenger jet sales in China over the next 20-years, it would need to deliver 6-jets per day to China.

(That’s China alone! India, the Middle East, Indonesia, and other nations all have rapidly growing markets for world-class single aisle passenger jets featuring low noise and exceptional fuel efficiency)

The future couldn’t be brighter for Bombardier and its clients. A missed deal with the United States might in retrospect turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to the company. Instead of thinking ‘regional’ — it’s now time to think ‘global’ — thanks to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Trade war, schmwade war! In the 21st-century, the name of the game isn’t getting into fights with your competitors, it’s about out-succeeding them.

Remember your pilot’s etiquette now; Always dip your wings ever-so-slightly (in respectful salute) every time you pass your competition! 😉


Related Articles:

  • U.S. Department of Commerce Issues Affirmative Preliminary Countervailing Duty Determination on Imports of 100- to 150-Seat Large Civil Aircraft From Canada (Commerce.Gov)
  • Britain’s Theresa May issues warning to Boeing over Bombardier trade dispute (The Globe and Mail)
  • UK government threatens retaliation against Boeing in Bombardier tariff row (The Guardian)
  • Boeing Super Hornet jet purchase likely to become 1st casualty in possible trade war (CBC)
  • Bombardier flying high after handing over first C-Series jet to SWISS (Financial Post)
  • On the book of Bombardier vs. Boeing, skip to Chapter 19 (The Globe and Mail)
  • May Says Boeing Undermining Ties With U.K. Over Bombardier (Bloomberg)
  • Bombardier Nears $1.25 Billion C Series Deal With Air Baltic (Bloomberg)
  • Bombardier C-Series Marketing Brochure (BombardierAerospace)
  • U.S. imposing 220% duty on Bombardier C-Series planes (CBC)
  • How Canada’s fight with Boeing began in Washington (CTV)
  • Bombardier BDRBF:US OTC (Bloomberg)

Power to the People! Renewable Energy in the U.S.A.

by John Brian Shannon – Originally posted at JBSNews.com

U.S. renewable energy has made impressive strides in recent years

“According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy, solar power employs more people than coal, oil and gas combined.

Last year, solar power accounted for 43 percent of the Electric Power Generation sector’s workforce, while fossil fuels combined employed 22 percent. The statistic will be welcomed with open arms by those trying to refute Donald Trump’s assertion that renewable energy projects are bad news for the U.S. economy.

Around 374,000 people were employed in solar energy, according to the report while generation through fossil fuels had a workforce of just over 187,000. The solar boom can be attributed to construction work associated with expanding generation capacity.

The report states that the employment gap is actually growing with net coal generation decreasing 53 percent over the last 10 years. During the same period of time, electricity generation through gas expanded 33 percent while solar went up by an impressive 5,000 percent.”Niall McCarthy | Statista


Renewable Energy | Solar power now employs more people in the U.S. than coal, oil and gas combined according to a new U.S. Department of Energy report.
U.S. employment by energy generation source in 2016. Find more statistics at Statista

Solar Power and Wind Power combine to provide 475,545 U.S. jobs — while Nuclear Power and Fossil Fuel Power generation combine to provide only 255,293 U.S. jobs — but in recent years the Fossil Fuel industry gets 4 times more subsidy than Renewable Energy


Renewable Energy = Clean Air and Twice as many Jobs on 1/4 the Subsidy!


Here is a look at historical U.S. federal subsidies paid from 1918 to 2009 for various energy producers.

Renewable Energy vs. Non-renewable energy subsidies in the U.S.A.
Cumulative U.S. Federal Energy Subsidies from 1918 – 2009 | What Would Jefferson Do?

What Do Americans Think About Fossil Fuel vs. Renewable Energy?


Solar power and wind power (alone!) employ almost twice as many Americans as all nuclear and all fossil fuel power plants combined, but renewable energy gets only one-quarter of the subsidies in from 2010 onward.

Which might be a factor in the minds of Americans who look forward to renewable energy meeting their future energy demand.

Renewable Energy | Fossil Fuels are Falling Out of Favor in the U.S.
Percentage of U.S. adults who favor/oppose expanding these energy sources. Find more statistics at Statista

Renewable Energy Continues to Grow in the U.S.


This renewable energy statistic represents the cumulative non-hydropower renewable capacity in the United States from 2008 to 2016, by technology.
Cumulative non-hydropower renewable capacity growth in the U.S. from 2008 to 2016. Find more statistics at Statista

Despite the low subsidy amounts paid to renewable energy in the United States, non-hydropower energy continues on its growth trajectory and it’s now cheaper to build new solar capacity, than to build new coal capacity.


New Solar Now Cheaper Than New Coal


Costs for new solar power plants continue to plummet (without subsidy) vs. new coal power plants (with a small subsidy) is reflected in the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) per Kilowatt Hour price.

“As early as 2018, solar could be economically viable to power big cities. By 2040 over half of all electricity may be generated in the same place it’s used. Centralised, coal-fired power is over.”Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn’t compete — The Guardian


Billions of Gallons of Water Used Monthly by Conventional Energy


Renewable Energy vs. non-renewable energy by water consumption.
Renewable Energy vs. Non-renewable Energy by water consumption. Image courtesy of climaterealityproject.org

Many coal-fired power plants and several nuclear power plants produce well over 1000MW (1 GW) of electricity and it is easy to extrapolate their water usage.

For instance, a 1.6 GigaWatt(GW) coal-fired power plant (for the purposes of this discussion there’s a 1.6GW coal-fired power plant in Texas) uses 1,760,000 gallons of water per hour, while an equivalent-sized nuclear power plant uses 1,280,000 gallons of water per hour.

Meanwhile, a natural-gas-fired power plant producing the same 1.6GW of electricity would consume 480,000 gallons per hour, while a 1.6GW solar or wind power would consume zero gallons per hour.

Of course hydro-power does not consume any water during its decades of reliable power production, water merely falls through turbines and back into the river a bit further downstream — although during the construction of the dam, spillways, and hydro-electric turbine rooms, millions of gallons of water are used to make the concrete.


The Future of Energy in the United States


Renewable generation capacity expected to account for most 2016 capacity additions in the U.S.

The chart below shows just how much wind power in the United States has grown in recent years.

Renewable Energy | U.S. Wind Power Generation Capacity Surpasses Hydropower Capacity in 2016. Image courtesy of EIA
U.S. Wind Power Capacity Surpasses Hydropower Capacity in 2016. Image courtesy of EIA

The chart below shows the expected growth of solar photovoltaic power in the United States (does not include solar thermal)


Renewable Energy | U.S. Solar Power Installations Photovoltaic 2010 to 2020. Image courtesy of GreenTech Media and Solar Energy Industry Association.
U.S. Solar PV Power Installations 2010 to 2020. Image courtesy of GreenTech Media and Solar Energy Industry Association.

The chart below displays total utility-scale capacity additions from 2010 to 2016. For the third consecutive year, more than half of the capacity additions are renewable technologies, especially wind and solar.

A Majority of Energy Capacity Additions in 2016 Will Be Renewable Energy in the United States -- EIA
A Majority of U.S. Energy Capacity Additions in 2016 will be Renewables. — EIA

From 2013 through 2040, U.S. electricity demand is expected to grow approximately 1 trillion kiloWatt hours(kWh) with natural gas and renewable energy showing steady growth, while coal-fired power generation and nuclear power show slight declines according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Renewable Energy vs. Non-renewable energy demand. Image courtesy of the U.S. EIA
Renewable Energy vs. Non-renewable energy demand. Image courtesy of the U.S. EIA

If the United States converted their existing coal-fired power generation to natural gas by 2020, the U.S. could easily meet every international and domestic clean air target until 2050 as coal burns 10,000 times ‘dirtier’ (anthracite, or black coal) to 1,000,000 times ‘dirtier’ (lignite, or brown coal) when compared to natural gas.

Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal — Harvard Medicine

It goes without saying that if the United States replaced coal-fired power generation with renewable energy, it would surpass every U.S. international and domestic clean air target, lower U.S. heathcare and infrastructure spending by billions of dollars annually, save the U.S. billions of gallons of fresh water per month, provide millions of good-paying jobs for American workers — and prove the United States is still an exceptional power in the 21st-century. Not bad!

Coal Suddenly a Major Talking Point in the US Election

In late 2015, report after report after report emerged showing that coal consumption on the global scale was headed for an impressive decline, and possibly that dependence on coal had peaked all over the world. For example, China, one of the largest consumers of coal on the planet, was rapidly decreasing their dependence on the fossil fuel, and when this decline was paired with declining reliance in other countries and here in the U.S., it made the coal industry significantly weaker…

Continue reading Coal Suddenly a Major Talking Point in the US Election