Gregg Easterbrook is the author of a dozen books, including most recently, The Blue Age: How the US Navy Created Global Prosperity – and Why We’re In Danger of Losing It. In this episode, he discusses the US Navy’s irreplaceable role as a peacekeeper on the high seas, why the age of supercarriers is likely over, the future of shipping through the Arctic Ocean, icebreakers, nuclear propulsion, the Law of the Sea Treaty, and why an armed conflict between the US and China is unlikely.
Robert Bryce 0:05
Hi, everyone. Welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And I’m pleased to welcome my guest, Greg Easterbrook. He is the author of The Blue age how the US Navy created global prosperity, and why we’re in danger of losing it. Greg, welcome to the power hungry podcast.
Gregg Easterbrook 0:24
Great to be here, Robert.
Robert Bryce 0:25
So I didn’t warn you. I’m going to ask you to introduce yourself on this podcast. I you know, I can talk about your history and where you’ve been what you’re about. But imagine you’ve arrived somewhere you don’t know anyone and you have 45 or 60 seconds. Tell us who you are, if you don’t mind?
Gregg Easterbrook 0:40
Well, really, Robert is boastful to talk about the Nobel prizes. So I never really
Robert Bryce 0:46
forget those and the you know, all the curing cancer, the rest of that just go ahead and just a general introduction will do.
Gregg Easterbrook 0:53
I’m a writer, the blue age is my 12th book. I am a little quirky in that I write several genres, I write serious public policy, nonfiction, which is what the blue book new ages. It’s a public policy book about current events. I also write literary fiction. I’ve had three literary novels published, number fours, finished and will be published next year. And to put my kids through college, I wrote about sports for many years, I’ve written several books about sports. So all three of those genres have nothing to do with each other. But they they’re all subjects that interest me. I also have lifelong associations with the Atlantic Monthly, in Washington Monthly as an editor or writer.
Robert Bryce 1:35
Okay, well, that’s good. So I want to come back to football, because you’ve written a couple books about football and football, kind of, I’m a basketball guy. Football is kind of a guilty pleasure for me. But we’ll set that aside for a minute. So let’s talk about the blue age. And as before we get you 12. This is your 12th book, he has also written the progress paradox, it’s better than it looks, I want to come back to those as well. But tell me about the blue age, which I’ve read, I read it cover to cover, I don’t do that very often very well written great history, naval history. Why did you write this book? And did it? Was it part of what the flow from other books that you’ve written? How did this book come about?
Gregg Easterbrook 2:09
A little bit, I’ll tell you how it started my previous book, it’s better than it looks. The title kind of says what that book is, his argument that the United States in the larger world are in better condition than most people understand. And that book was published in in 2018, the two years before COVID. But I think the basic even taking into account all the damage that COVID has done, I think the basic thesis is still true, is a condition of the United States and most of the world is much better than people think. So if that book has chapters on why various disasters haven’t happened, one of them is general war, I talk about how in the last 25 years now, it’s only been 25 years. But in the last 25 years, the frequency and intensity of war has declined almost everywhere in the world. The casualties from combat, have gone down almost everywhere in the world. And for a human being today has the lowest chance of being killed by war of any human being at any point in history, even if you go far back into the past. So that seems pretty good. And in the course of that chapter, there’s one page saying, for example, in my lifetime, I don’t want to shock your audience by telling you how old I am. But in my lifetime, there’s been no major naval battle, and only one medium size battle on the water my whole life, you’ve got to go back to the Phoenicians to find another period as long as my life without desperate bloody destructive fighting on the seas that we tend not to be aware of battle, let’s see. Because the shifts that are hit sunk, the sailors that die, their bodies disappear beneath the waves. We can’t build monuments at sea, we can’t visit the sites of naval battles. We don’t think about them very much, but the long bloody history of humanity. There’s been, as Teddy Roosevelt said, as much fighting at sea as there has been on land. So in our lifetimes, this hasn’t happened, why? And my editor looked at me and said, Greg, that’s your next book. So this that’s the origin of the blue age. The first third of it is about naval history and the current maritime posture of the world’s naval forces. And I celebrate the United States Navy, because it’s been good for the world that the United States Navy is good for the world is reduced fighting at sea. It serves as a guardian, not a conquer. It protects ships of almost all nations. The world has been much better off with the United States having monopoly on sea power. This may not last but But currently, certainly we’re better off. But that’s just the first third of the book. The second third is about international trade. And trade is made possible by quiet Jesus merchant ships were being sunk. We certainly wouldn’t have container liners on their way to Los Angeles right now. Container liners wouldn’t be moving anywhere in the world and we, but there’d be a lot more poverty and a lot less prosperity if that were the case. And the final third is third of the book is about the need for a sensible ocean governance scheme to make sure that we protect the ocean environment and make sure that the Arctic Ocean which is about to become navigable, is shared for the shared for the good of all humanity, instead of us fighting over it or polluting it, we need a much better system of ocean governance to to assure those ends and the third, the third third of the book is about how we might go about doing that.
Robert Bryce 5:29
Good. Well, that’s that’s a great outline. So you’ve done I mean, I was I, one of the reasons why I enjoyed the book so much was like, I know nothing really about naval history. I mean, a little bit, but it seems like you didn’t just do this overnight, you seems like you’ve been his naval history been an issue for a bit been an interest of yours for a while. Is this an? Or is this a new passion?
Gregg Easterbrook 5:48
I’ve read a fair amount about it. I actually got, I started thinking about this book. 10 years ago, I gave a lecture about internationalism at the Naval War College in Rhode Island. And when and besides being exposed to the professor’s, they’re all smart men and women. It struck me when I was there, that United States is something that all the great powers of the world have wanted for 500 years, and that’s control of the sea. The British wanted this, the Dutch wanted this, the Spaniards, the Portuguese, many nations sought control of the sea. We’re the only nation that’s ever achieved it. And in the post war era, we’ve had total control of the oceans of the world. And yet, American academia doesn’t study this. maritime power is much studied in Europe, Europe has a longer experience with it than we do. But any good college, any nation in Europe would have a Maritime Studies department and professors who specialized in this subject people like that are extremely rare in the United States, the Ivy League is only as a couple of maritime historians other most most really good colleges don’t have anybody at all teaching that subject. And there’s a Naval War College and, and the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, but they are comparatively small fish on the American education landscape. So this was this was 1015 years ago, I was kind of struck by what, hey, why aren’t people thinking about this more than they are? And so I hope I’ve now done my contribution to that effort.
Robert Bryce 7:21
Well, I think you have it. I mean, it’s it’s a remarkable history and something that many things that I had no idea about, let me let me talk about the Battle of Leyte Gulf because you, you wrote about this at length, and saying that this was the last major ocean battle, and that since October, 1944. You right, there has been only sporadic combat at sea, nothing close to the almost incessant warfare on the oceans that characterize the previous three millennia. Now, you mentioned the Falklands War, as you know, one example but so why was lay so pivotal, what was it? Was it just that the US won World War Two, and after that no one else could could stand up to the US Navy, what why was that the pivotal battle in terms of recent history,
Gregg Easterbrook 8:07
and that that was the battle in October of 1944, in which the United States Navy basically sunk the Japanese Navy. And it was a it was a unqualified victory for the United States. And it meant that there was no question that Japan would be defeated in the Pacific phase of World War Two, although many 1000s of people died before the final surrender was offered. But but but that battle, ended the Pacific War favorably for the Allied side. And we all we’re all glad that it ended that way, including, I think, everybody who lives in Japan. No, it’s glad that it ended that way. Because the world improved a great deal when the when, when Japanese fascism was defeated. But after that, the United States pretty much took command of the oceans. The British showed the men the previous number one, were so broken and damaged and exhausted by war that they had to spend the next full generation just recovering helping their own country recover. And that was the proper priority for them. The Germans that have been trying to take over the oceans, of course, were completely obliterated. The Soviet Union tried a little bit, but never really had its heart in ocean control is much, much more concerned with continental politics and also nowhere near as productive as the United States was, the Japanese had been completely knocked out of the, of the naval business, all the other major powers that have asserted themselves at sea, suddenly were out of the picture. And there was just the United States is the wealthiest and most productive country in the world show the wealthiest and most productive country in the world. We’ve been the wealthiest and most productive country for a full century. And we built lots of really good ships, and they’re there. They have many accomplishments now whether whether a new naval arms race will start, you know, that’s one of the troubling Questions of this subject but since World War Two, no one’s even attempted to challenge the United States Navy because they know they’re going to lose what’s the point what? Why even try?
Robert Bryce 10:11
Well, so let’s talk about that. Well, I’m going to talk about the 300 ship navy. But before that I want to talk about Alfred Thayer Mehan big Albert they are Mei Han who I guess would be the the von Clausewitz of naval history right I mean in terms of the pivotal figures are ones that are considered you know, big thinkers in terms of naval warfare. I want to read this whole section here because it’s it’s interesting in and I’ve heard about meI Han and read a little bit about him in the past that you say that may hands opinions played a role in the worst wars of the 20th century may have had the good sense to die
Gregg Easterbrook 10:43
and night okay, now I see you moving but I don’t hear you um, how no area
Robert Bryce 10:57
Yeah, somehow I got you got muted as well how about that? Can you hear me my smell my audio switched here. I’m not hearing you in my alright. Stand by one second. Okay. Now say something please.
Gregg Easterbrook 11:29
Four score is seven years ago or forefathers were fourth on this continent? A new nation?
Robert Bryce 11:36
I don’t know examine my Okay, somehow my audio got switched here. So let me let me ask. Let me just ask about my hand again. Here. I’ll start. Now, I think I’ve got you say one more thing, if you don’t mind. Sure. Yeah, I got I got on. Yeah. Okay, good. Okay, so I want to ask about Albert Thayer Mehan, who you write about a good good deal. You say that may hence theories were three first, that naval forces the essence of great power. Second that fighting ships need not be deployed, after all, may himself may hand himself as a bust on the waters rather it could float at anchor. And third that if sent into action, a navy should concentrate all force into a single decisive melee. So why was mayhem so influential you write about his his his influence on Teddy Roosevelt. And why was he so wrong?
Gregg Easterbrook 12:35
Well, perhaps it’s a writer’s luxury on my part to spend five or six pages digressing on this subject. During the 19th century, studying Alfred Thayer Mahan was the essence of understanding sea power. And he had tremendous influence on the starts of World War One and World War Two, it’s really important that we bear in mind that World War Two everyone has taught in high school that World War One became what began because an anarchist assassinated the man in line to the Austrian throne and that was a precipitating event, but five years previous to that in
Robert Bryce 13:13
a survey in Sarajevo.
Gregg Easterbrook 13:15
Yes, right. Before that there had been a naval arms race between England and Germany. And they were they were literally pointing cannons at each other at sea and something bad was bad to happen. Something bad that happened. And we had another naval arms race before World War Two, that once again, reprised England and Germany, but also Japan in the United States. We have two naval arms races going on once Well, why did we have these naval arms races? No political leadership of Germany and Japan were total devotees of Alfred Thayer Mahan, they thought the way to conquer the world was to build a giant Navy, have it sitting at Port like you wanted, and then concentrated it all into one decisive battle mode. So how did that work out for you, Germany? How did that work out for you, Japan, following this guy’s ideas later, the total destruction of two of the most important societies on Earth. German and Japanese cities were smoldering ruins at the end of World War Two when they had followed my hand, pretty much to the letter. Now you hear some people argue that we’ve followed man to I don’t really think that’s true. That’s probably enough digression on him. But I don’t think it’s really true that the United States uses meaning and strategy. At any rate, all of his strategies were based on the heroic age of sail, which does engage the imagination with them have anything to do with nuclear submarines and versus unguided missiles and so on. He’s the the naval analysis he did stopped before the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. It’s all about the conditions of previous centuries. It really isn’t much relevant to today, although the Chinese quote my hand constantly.
Robert Bryce 14:56
Well, you mentioned nuclear submarines here because that was one of the other things that you spend a great deal The time talking about and I understand why there people have argued, well, nuclear weapons have made the world safer. And it seems to me you’re making a very similar argument that you write about nuclear nuclear subs and you wrote it, this nuclear deterrence is creepy in the extremists, but as discouraged war. So have nuclear submarines made all that war unthinkable?
Gregg Easterbrook 15:21
Well, we can sure hope. So. I think it’s not appreciated by many people, the extent to which nuclear submarines mainly the ones that the United States possesses, but also a few that Russia has, and a few that China has, are astonishing, the horrific, the ones that the Ohio class subs that we have an hour capable of destroying each individual submarine could destroy 300 cities, and we’ve got a bunch of them. And the Columbia class that we’re building will be will carry slightly fewer warheads, but have much better accuracy and be impossible to find. It’s a tremendous gamble with history to have nuclear weapons to begin with. But that said, since nuclear weapons have come into the world, there’s been no great power fighting. They’ve never been used irrationally, they’ve only been used once, against Japan in 1945, we can hope that they will always be in the hands of, of rational leaders. You remember, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev jointly declared in 1985, a nuclear war cannot be won. And as long as the leaders who control the bottom buttons understand that, and so far, they all have no harm has come come of it, and there’s no great power fighting. And the ultimate way to ensure that is nuclear submarines. Because it is, it’s vaguely possible to imagine the first strike that would destroy the missiles or bombers of the United States or Russia or China on the ground, that nobody can figure out how you can sync all the nuclear submarines at once is probably impossible. So as long as it stays impossible, probably there won’t be any great power war.
Robert Bryce 17:01
One of the things that was also clear in the book was you have a great affection for the sailors that you met, you met quite a few of them. So how many places did you go? You went? It looked to me like you went all over the world and visiting some of these locations. How many places did you visit? Well,
Gregg Easterbrook 17:15
if it looks that way to you, Robert, I did a great job as a writer of creating an illusion. Okay, fair enough. I did visit a number of ports and naval bases. But I didn’t go all over the world. I actually applied to Carnegie for funding that very thing and they said no.
Robert Bryce 17:31
Okay. Well, so you met a number of characters there. Sailors who stands out among those you quoted several of them what what event or what what place was, was really stands out in your mind
Gregg Easterbrook 17:44
that I’ll tell you, I talked to a number. I mainly interviewed people from the US Navy, although I did talk some the Royal Navy and the Japanese Navy, which has a cumbersome official name anyway, the Japanese Navy, and I found them to to a man and to a woman because a surprising number of them were women, to be well informed about the world. And to be thoughtful. Now. It’s called talking to officers, you expect, officers are almost always college graduates, you expect them to be well informed. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much they knew about the world, and how thoughtful they were on national security issues. And I and I had informal debates with some of them. We didn’t necessarily agree, but they certainly knew their stuff. And I found that impressive.
Robert Bryce 18:26
So, but of those, you also went aboard several ships, I think you were aboard the Wasp as well. Is that correct? What?
Gregg Easterbrook 18:34
Yes, we spent quite a bit of time aboard. That was the wash that if you looked at it, you’d say that’s an aircraft carrier. It’s actually an assault ship. But physically it’s very similar to an aircraft carrier. And it has a storied history. If you want to, quote one individual I would point you to in the book of a the XO worship called the Oak Hill. She’s since become the commander woman cast Catherine, which now Oldham she’s married to a Dutch man and hence, hence her last name, who is an African American woman from the Deep South. She grew up in rural Georgia. She went to the Naval Academy, she became an officer and she’s now since the book was published. He’s been promoted to Commander of the Oak Hill, and I just found it. Maybe, you know, maybe it’s too easy to be impressed by changes in society. But I just found it fascinating that a gigantic American warship bristling with super advanced weapons. The commander was an African American woman from the Deep South was a political conservative and a Donald Trump supporter. I just found that fascinating.
Robert Bryce 19:37
Well, and you make several references there too about different US Navy ships being one name for an Asian American I don’t remember the name but that you you make a point throughout the Navy, the the mix of people and backgrounds in the Navy and even the mix of the names of the chips are is reflective of kind of the American the diversity of America is that is yes
Gregg Easterbrook 19:59
We have, we have a guided missile destroyer named Chun Hoon. And it’s named for Gordon Chang Hoon, a retired admiral he since passed away, who was the first flag rank, Asian American officer. His parents were Chinese and grew up in. He grew up in Hawaii. His features his appearance, his accent, it was all Chinese. And, and yet he was a he was a great American patriot, you know, kind of guy who’s, who if you cut them, he bled red, white and blue. So America has an important worship named after a man of Chinese heritage. How long is it going to be till China has a warship named after a man of American heritage? I think you’re gonna have to wait for that one.
Robert Bryce 20:44
That’s that’s a yes. Agreed? Well, so let’s talk about the size of the fleet. Because this is something that seems to me in the book you really wrestle with about what’s the right size. And you point out that ships like the Wasp, are though they’re an assault assault vessel that they’re eventually going to be, or I think you point out that they’re eventually going to be, they’re going to add weapons to it to make it these ships more lethal. Again, I’ll get to the question. So I’ve heard for decades about the idea of the 300, ship Navy, or even the 400. Ship Navy, what’s the right number?
Gregg Easterbrook 21:16
I don’t know there’s a right number. There. The camps are we need more ships, versus we have to live with the ships that we’ve already got, which is kind of how I feel just for budget reasons. Obviously, the Navy used to have far more ships than it has today. But the Air Force used to have more airplanes, and the army used to have more tanks. And so the total numbers in all major militaries is declining. Same with the Russians. Same with the Chinese, as weapons get more expensive, but also more lethal, you tend to have fewer of them, and the ones that you have are more frightful. And that’s certainly been the case of the US Navy. When Ronald Reagan was president. One of his goals was a 600. Ship navy. Now we have a little under 300. During the 2012, presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, this was one of the things that they that they wrestled over, Romney wanted a bigger Navy, Obama’s view was that we can live with the Navy that we’ve got. And I just think for budget reasons, everyone knows how much money in the Presidents of both parties have borrowed and spent in recent years, our children and grandchildren are gonna have to pay off those debts, there really isn’t room in an entitlement state. For a big expansion of the Navy, I think 300 or so ships of various types, we may change the types of ships that we build, but the numbers are not going to get that much bigger unless, unless we build a lot of tiny drone ships, and then you count the tiny drone chips, maybe you get to a bigger number in that way. But certainly, we’re not going to have more super carriers in the future. Right now. We’ve got 11, there’s two more under construction and two more are likely to be built because the initial funding has come through. I think those will be the last Super carriers that the United States builds, and they may very well be the last Super carriers that any nation built.
Robert Bryce 23:05
Well, let’s talk about that. Because you make the good point. And it’s one that’s been in the news lately about hypersonic missiles and the the vulnerability of these massive ships that are, you know, 10s of billions? Well, I don’t know 10s of billions of dollars a 10 billion anyway, right? Something like that. I mean, these are incredibly expensive, 5000 sailors on each one, that they’re not invincible, and that they are relatively you make this point in several places in the book that they could be hit with a relatively inexpensive missile that would potentially change the whole idea about Super carriers. How vulnerable are they do you think
Gregg Easterbrook 23:40
we can only speculate, no one has ever attacked a super carrier. Super carriers have only existed. And when we say super carrier, we mean a nuclear power and wide carrier that can launch long range trips. Okay, so far, we’re the only nations possess them. No one has attacked us since World War Two. And so nobody’s attacked a super carrier, we don’t know what would happen if one was, was hit by a hypersonic missile or some other kind of weapon, however, it’s not likely to be pretty. So if you have a ship that costs 10, to $15 billion to build, and your opponent doesn’t have any ship of similar value and prestige level, if the Chinese managed to sync one of our super carriers, I think it would be a national shock of the Sputnik level here in the United States. How could this possibly happen? Whereas if we sunk a bunch of Chinese ships, everybody would say, Well, of course you’re the Chinese Of course, you sunk their ships. So there’s a there’s a different great power political measure to the United States possessing super carriers. That doesn’t really affect other nations. And this is one of the many reasons I think the age of the super carrier is ending.
Robert Bryce 24:45
Well, so that brings up this other question. I’ve talked with other friends of mine who had been in the military or military strategist about this idea of what is it quantity has a quality all its own right that you can have? That is you know, this this, this this debate between having a lot of aircraft versus a few that are really good, right? So, you’ve mentioned, you’ve said that you think we’re not going to grow the Navy much. But should we be thinking about quantity over quality? Or is this just an inevitable kind of tension in the way weapons and, and big, big militaries operate?
Gregg Easterbrook 25:19
Well, I think, in the blue age, I quote, I quote Mr. Spock of Star Trek, on this question, who told Captain Kirk, every military advantage is fleeting. History shows that every time you come up with a technological military advantage, within 10 years, your opponent has it too. And then you have to come up with something else. So the thing that the United States and China are working on right now is small distributed platform, little drones that are jet powered, or in some case, cases, drone helicopters, or they can operate underwater, you can build them in large numbers, because they’re not that expensive. They’re also not that capable. But if there’s 50 of them coming at you once will you be able to shoot them all down? If you look at a modern say that say that the US destroyer chimehuin, that we just mentioned, the modern, a modern guided missile destroyer, it has several point defense cannons around it, they’re automated, that the computer controls how they fire, their radar directed they fire 1000s of cannon rounds a second there, they would probably be impossible for a big aircraft to get past one of those guns. But if you had 50, tiny things, trying to get past it at once, maybe two or three of them would get through. And that’s the way that a lot of naval architects in the United States and China and England are thinking right now. And it’s a reason why the day of the super carrier is probably ending.
Robert Bryce 26:45
Well, so then if that’s the case, then is the force projection going to be from space? How is that? How is that going to work? You’ve talked about the power of the importance of satellites, and the fact that their idea of surprise attack now is almost impossible, given space based satellites are, are this are the super carriers, what’s making the super carriers obsolete? Is it what we just talked about the hypersonic weapons, autonomous weapons, those things, what would make all those factors?
Gregg Easterbrook 27:10
Remember, there’s been a lot of hype about hypersonic weapons. They’re not that different from ballistic missiles that have existed for for since the 1960s. And it’s not clear that they’ll actually hit what they’re aimed at. So far, what the tests have shown, especially the Chinese to us, they’ve managed to get a missile that the air breathing is, is the lingo that doesn’t carry liquid oxygen that takes oxygen out of the air, they’ve managed to get a missile like that, to move it about 5000 miles an hour. And that’s an impressive technical achievement, can they actually get it to hit anything, that’s not clear at all. And tests they’ve tended to go away for of their of their marks. So but it’s still a concern, probably they’ll get more more accurate and more effective and probably will need to build some to when when you look at. But there’s there’s a pretty good book by a recently retired admiral called 2034, projecting what naval warfare might be like in that year, and it’s miniature submarines and tiny drones and very long range missiles. And that that may be what’s going to happen because every military advantage is fleeting. My big, my big hope in the public policy hope that I think I hope Congress will stay behind is that we need to keep America having the strongest Navy in the world, because that’s not good for us, not only good for the whole Western Hemisphere. Remember the Monroe Doctrine who enforces the United States Navy enforces the Monroe Doctrine. And it’s been good for everybody in South America. So we want the Navy to stay strong for those reasons. But really, the Navy is good for almost all nations of the world. The Navy does not protect the ships of North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba. And that’s it protects it protects everybody else’s ships, including the Russian ships. And that’s a good condition for the world to be in.
Robert Bryce 29:02
Well, so then let’s you mentioned Russia, you mentioned China is and you write it well, you just mentioned that the Monroe Doctrine. Let me ask you about something that’s you don’t emphasize in the book, and perhaps unfair of me to do so bad. Why didn’t you write about this, but you don’t mention much about the Carter doctrine. You talk about the you talk about the Strait of Malacca, on there for references to the Strait of Hormuz, you know, US Navy’s very active in the Persian Gulf has been will be because because of the Carter doctrine. You focus more on the Strait of Malacca than the Strait of Hormuz. Why?
Gregg Easterbrook 29:35
Because the Strait of Malacca is so important to international trade now. It’s still it’s by volume of international trade. The Strait of Malacca is what’s happening. It’s more important than that, or moves or any of the other streets in the world. About a third of the global trade passes through the Strait of Malacca. And if something really bad is going to go on with global trade and supply chain we’ve just seen in the last year, how much you would Feel it. If there’s only minor problems with a sub global supply chain, the problems we’re having this year, they’re real, but they’re really minor. If something bad happened, it’s going to happen in the Strait of Malacca. And it would be real bad, it would be especially bad for the Chinese. Their economy is totally dependent on that body of water. And it makes them military militarily vulnerable in a way that we are not the United States Navy, or Air Force, or both could close the Strait of Malacca. China’s economy would be strangled, and they know it. And that’s one of the reasons I don’t think we’re going to go to war with China. There’s no similar place that they could close when strangle the American economy. I think American American thinking generally, we got to think more about the blue water, you got to think more about the Pacific Rim, we got to be more concerned with the Indo Pacific. And we got to be more concerned with this trade amacher, which sounds like something out of some, you know, magical fairy tale to most people, but it’s all too real.
Robert Bryce 30:56
Well, so then, that leads me to think about the South China Sea. And you mentioned the nine dash map, which I’ve had Daniel Yergin on the podcast and he has a great chapter in his new book, the new map about the nine dash map. Can you talk about that history because I think that that’s one of the in I love maps have loved love maps for a long time. But the history of the nine dash map and why China has claimed such a large area of Ocean Territory you point out is one of the area’s one of the that’s one of the places where if we’re going to have conflict, that’s a likely area. So tell me about the nine, nine dash map and why China sees the South China Sea the way it does.
Gregg Easterbrook 31:33
Well, if you look at a map of the coast of China, and go south, what people call the South China Sea really should be called the south of China Sea. Because it’s almost all south of China. It is an area that for more than 1000 years, Chinese military ships have been sailing, they view it as their they China view it as their national water in the same way that we look at the Gulf of Mexico. And we say, well, look that belongs to us. You know, it’s mostly enclosed by the United States, not entirely, but most of its got the United States around it in any way. If you try to pull something funky in the Gulf of Mexico, we’re going to deal with you. That’s the That’s the attitude that Chinese have to the South China Sea. And it doesn’t correspond with international law. The Chinese are signatories to the Law of the Sea Treaty, the Law of the Sea Treaty sets out a series of boundary marking devices. And the Chinese claim a lot more than the south of the South China Sea, then they’re entitled to under the Law of the Sea Treaty, and their neighbors, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, the Koreas, they also have claims on those water on that water body, and the Chinese are going to try to brush them off, and it creates a possibility for conflict. Now, you can also say in their defense, I think you should, you should try to say in blue age, you should try to walk a mile in China’s shoes to understand why they behave the way that they do. They’re American and British warships sailing through the South China Sea, pretty much every day. Those ships are potent and powerful. And they come from foreign powers that are not necessarily hostile to China. But they are they remind China of the fact that there have been foreign troops on its soil within living memory, and that the rest of the world has not hesitated to mess with Chinese national sovereignty. We’ve done it many times. By Kant, by contrast, no such issues in the Gulf of Mexico. If the Chinese and the Russians are everyday sailing warships to the Gulf of Mexico, we will be real unhappy about that. So the Chinese, the Chinese have a comparable situation in South China Sea. It makes it a tinderbox. And possibility for conflict does exist. And the goal of both nations should be to avoid a conflict breaking up.
Robert Bryce 33:52
But you see, but you make the argument, I think that the Chinese are not going that a major conflict between the US and China is unlikely, but it doesn’t mean that there wouldn’t be some other conflict between China and Vietnam, China and Indonesia, China and some of those other neighbors. Does that ring true to you? I mean, can you handicap that who would be the one who would be the most likely people in the conflict besides Taiwan, China?
Gregg Easterbrook 34:17
Well, there we’ve come very close to naval combat between China and Vietnam twice in the last 10 years. And we’re Americans because of ours, said history of Vietnam. We forget that Vietnamese despise the Chinese they have a much worse history with a Chinese than do with Americans. You go to Vietnam now people are basically pro American in Vietnam. They’re definitely not pro Chinese. China has has fooled around with the with the kiss the Vietnam Vietnamese people and with their land for a long time as recently as invading them in 1980. And the enemies are very aggressive toward the Chinese, and they know that they were able to expel the world’s number one Military power from their territory, I don’t think they’re afraid to fight the world’s number two military power. The other conflict that I worry about is, is China and India, of people that I interviewed, I interviewed some Indian naval officers. And they basically said, Look, man, the Chinese are not going to be stupid enough to fight the United States, they may be stupid enough to fight us. If there’s going to be active battle on the oceans, it’s going to be on the Indian Ocean. And it’s going to be between China and India. And the Indians are very determined to be sure that they come out on top of any such conflict.
Robert Bryce 35:34
Gotcha. So what’s your view, then on the Biden administration toward the Navy, because one of the other points you make about the expense of the Navy and you make you also point out how these ships are made for long deployments? And that that they have to keep the creature comforts for the sailors? Because they’re going to be deployed for a long time? Is the Biden administration your view? I mean, they’re under fire from a lot of areas now, but do they have a what is their view on the US Navy? And are they need to get religion? Do they need to, obviously need to read your book, but tell me what how you view what they’re what how they’re approaching this?
Gregg Easterbrook 36:13
I gotta say they do need to read my book.
Robert Bryce 36:17
By the way, the book is the book is the blue age. My guest, by the way, the station identification, Gregg Easterbrook, he’s the author. There you go. It’s on my Kindle here, too. It’s right. Where is it? Here it is. There we go. The Kindle, there it is. They need to read your book. But what are they missing something? What are they missing there?
Gregg Easterbrook 36:38
I don’t think they’ve been enunciated very much military policy. Yet at all. Of course, I’ve only been in office for a little less than a year. And the main military event under Biden, so far has been the withdrawal from Afghanistan. They’re the first budget that they’ve submitted, basically, can continues all current programs. At the current level plus inflation, the budget doesn’t change things one way or the other. At some point, they’ll do a Quadrennial Defense Review. And they’ll have to articulate some kind of policy for the Navy. They just haven’t gotten to it yet. So I’m not. But one can only speculate about what they might say.
Robert Bryce 37:16
Well, let’s go back to the jump back to the the supply chain issue, because, as you said, you’ve been writing for a long time you’ve been in journalism for a long time you finished this book. Before every ban, everyone began talking about supply chains. And now everyone’s talking about supply chains. Was this. Was the snafu inevitable? Was it inevitable that we’d ship over all these container ships? And that putting all of so many chips on so few ships? If I can make some make a rhyme there? Was this was this inevitable? I don’t know
Gregg Easterbrook 37:47
if you would say it was inevitable was certainly always a possibility. And that I was the middle third of the blue ages about international trade, which I think is good for almost everybody. I go through all the arguments about why international trade leaves almost everybody better off okay, if you’re in North Korea, and it doesn’t help you. But almost everybody is better off, including the people who live in the Ohio Valley in the United States, who are the ones who complain the most bitterly about globalization, most of them have benefited from globalization. And especially if you look at the reduction of poverty in China, is just spectacular. I a quote, Bernie Sanders, who’s of course anti trade, standing in the Port of Los Angeles in 2016, shaking his fist and saying global trade destroys jobs, which just isn’t true on a factual basis since since the year 2000, when when the current World Trade Organization deal with sign. Employment has risen, certainly, in the United States, it’s written, Risen throughout Europe, it’s risen almost everywhere in the world, while poverty has declined in the year that the here’s the key factor here that Bernie Sanders was born 60% of the world lived in extreme poverty. Last year, 10% of the world lived in extreme poverty. And the human family was three times the size it was in the year that Bernie Sanders has declined, you were born. So the era of global trade has led to a fantastic decline in poverty. Most of its occurred in China and other places of the Pacific Rim. So we don’t see it. It’s it isn’t palpable to us here in the United States. But it’s been a remarkable achievement. And I actually give the Chinese government a lot of credit for the way they’ve reduced poverty in their country. It. It’s amazing, but it’s also entirely dependent on global trade, and of global trade falls apart. China will fall apart also. And that’s something to bear in mind. So knowing all these things in 2019, I went to the Port of Los Angeles and hung out there interviewing people for a month I watch the ships come and go, I got a sense of how they operate in the fifth chapter in the blue ages about the Port of Los Angeles, how it works, and why it’s so important, the book comes out in two months later the front page of every newspapers, Port of Los Angeles because of supply chain disruption.
Robert Bryce 40:09
So I’ve been in the port in Dubai, and it’s not as big right with it. But it really is remarkable set of I mean, just the cranes and the way they move and the the amount of stuff that they’re accounting for, and these massive stacks of containers. I mean, it’s it’s incredibly impressive to see and the just the tonnage of stuff that they move. But you said that you didn’t think that this was that that the current supply chain is that this was fairly minor. There was a piece in The Wall Street Journal the other day that said, some some logistics, experts are saying this will take a year or more to sort out it. Do you have any sense on that? Is that does that sound right to you? Or what do you what do you make of this
Gregg Easterbrook 40:50
certainly is possible, the supply chain disruptions are real. And I think the main cause is labor shortages, linked to COVID. And we don’t since we don’t know when the COVID realm is going to end, I think the COVID problem is becoming manageable, but that’s manageable compared to what I mean, how long is it going to go on. So we need the COVID problem to end as a problem. And in order for labor availability at the ports of the world to return to normal, and then the system will gradually shake itself out. But whether that takes one year, or maybe two years, I wouldn’t attempt to predict.
Robert Bryce 41:24
So you mentioned China in the US. So I mean, what I’ve heard you say in the book, and now even here is that you don’t think major conflict between the US and China is is likely because they’re so interdependent. What is that the main thing that you think you wrote something in effect, there’s never in your history been too great rival powers that are so intertwined, or something to that effect. And remember history,
Gregg Easterbrook 41:46
and human history, there has never been a great power relationship, like the one that exists today, between China and the United States. We’re antagonistic toward each other. But we’re both dependent on each other. If you look back at the contrary, before World War One, or when then called the Great War, many people will point out well, you know, in 1913, and 1912, people were saying that trade would make war impossible. And then look what happened. But they really weren’t. If you read the commentaries of that time, it wasn’t that people said that made war impossible, that people were saying it would make war counterproductive. And at that time, about 5% of the world’s GDP was global trade. Today, 26% of the world’s global GDP is trade. If there’s a major power war that stops trade, that loss of roughly 20% of, of the world’s economic activity, that’s the same as the amount of academic economic activity that was lost in the Great Depression, and would trigger another Great Depression. So I mentioned earlier, the Naval War College in Rhode Island where there are lots of smart people quote, one another book is saying, suppose there was a war between China and the United States, what would victory even look like? The United States could win every battle and be desperately harmed by that war, the Chinese could win every battle, and be desperately harmed by that war. There’s never been a relationship between two great powers like this before. And I think it makes, you can’t say that roars and war is impossible. Sadly, it’s very possible. But I think war is really unlikely, as long as American and Chinese leaders are rational.
Robert Bryce 43:26
Well, so then let’s talk about back to the US Navy, then you talk about the national debt at several points in the book. And you and at the beginning of the book, you you wrote that you’re going to begin an end by endorsing a strong US Navy as a positive for nearly all the nations of the world as a force for general prosperity, and for reduction of developing world poverty, improving billions of people’s lives in ways that do not necessarily meet the eye. So you, but you make them point very clearly that keeping the Navy is incredibly expensive. It is this, that there’s not a recognition among the policymakers in Washington, that it’s an essential part maybe yeah, I would say you’re arguing what’s the most essential of all the branches of the military? Is that Is there anyone in Washington really making that case?
Gregg Easterbrook 44:14
I would say there isn’t a particularly strong pro Navy lobby in Washington and where I live close to Washington, Washington is just 15 miles from the most important maritime facility in the world, which is the United States Naval Academy. And it doesn’t have a lot to do with Washington politics. Yes, there are some committees in the House and the Senate that watch Naval Affairs, but it hasn’t. It hasn’t been a naval power has not been a factor in presidential politics since the 2012 debate that we mentioned. And it wasn’t a major question for an American president. Ronald Reagan was the last one who really cared about naval power or wanted to alter it in any way. And Jimmy Carter before him also did Carter Cortes Former US Navy officer. But President since Reagan have not been particularly interested in naval power, we just kind of take it for granted. The structure of our society is that we panic over whatever is not working properly. Everything is properly. Okay, we just take it for granted. So right now the Navy is working fine. And so it gets taken for granted. I suppose it’s better to be working fine and taking taken for granted than to be in some kind of crisis condition.
Robert Bryce 45:26
Well, fair enough. So let’s talk about piracy. Because that’s one of the other things that you’ve mentioned in the book and piracy want to talk about piracy in the Arctic? So you write about the US Marine Corps that was founded, largely or their famous, the Shores of Tripoli line about fighting pirates in Libya? What’s What’s the state of piracy globally? Is it gone down stayed the same where and where’s it concentrated?
Gregg Easterbrook 45:49
Piracy and the on the horn of Mexico got, it’s because you in the Horn of Mexico, the Horn of Africa, about 10 years ago got a lot of attention. It since declined a lot partly because the US Navy started shooting at people who were pirates and, and that changes the dynamic a lot. Apparently, because these ultra large container liners are coming into use the ultra large container liners, their deadline is 3040 or even 60 feet above the water, you can’t board them, you need a helicopter to board a modern large container liner. So parents really just can’t do anything about them. There’s still some piracy on the west coast of Africa involving oil shipments, and some piracy in the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico, in the area of Mexico, that’s oil producing, but it’s considered relatively minor boom. I think the current view right now is piracy is under control.
Robert Bryce 46:39
And so now what about the Arctic, you also talk about the future of the Navy and how the world is the geography of the world and trade patterns are going to change with it as the Arctic ice decreases. Who does that benefit you make the good you make you talk a lot about the law of the seas treaties at the Law of the Sea Treaty, and about the governance of the Arctic, the there’s, but there’s a lot of resources in the Arctic. So who’s who’s who stands to be who stand to be the winners losers in that in in the new potential for Arctic transit of the global shipping.
Gregg Easterbrook 47:14
This is an issue that the great nations really need to deal with in a more serious way than they are the aren’t enough ice is melted, that it’s become somewhat possible to move around in the Arctic seas. By the middle of this century, the Arctic Ocean will be completely navigable. It could happen even sooner than then in 2015. It could happen as soon as 2040, we’ll have ships sailing over the North Pole on a regular basis. And it will also expose a great deal of natural resources. There’s almost certainly a lot of natural gas under the Arctic Circle, and maybe a lot of petroleum and then maybe other resources too. So who’s going to benefit. It’s going to be the high north nations. In the blue age, I call them the Narnia nations, because you remember from the Chronicles of Narnia, Narnia was a snow bound northern kingdom, it’s the snowbound northern kingdoms of the Northern Hemisphere, they’re going to that will benefit. And who has the most coastline area with the Arctic is Russia, China, the United States, Greenland, which really means Denmark, and a few others, those are countries that will be better off, they’ll have more access to minerals, they’ll have more access to shipping lanes. And those are largely company, the countries that are already pretty well off. The the equatorial nations in the southern hemisphere, nations are not going to benefit from this at all. And by and large, the equatorial nations in the southern hemisphere nations are the ones that are already relatively poor. So the developments are going to happen at the top of the world and the north polar Santa Claus area. They’re going to benefit the nations that are already benefit.
Robert Bryce 48:55
So maybe further we’ll I mean, we already talked about the north south divide. But Canada, the US Russia, the other northern countries, Norway, I’m guessing Sweden, some of those other the Norwegian countries, those are the ones that are going to benefit and continue then. Well, I mean, could that further exacerbate the just income inequality globally, then because there’s going to be so much more trade, it concentrated in the north?
Gregg Easterbrook 49:17
It sure May. And it may save Russia’s making in the sense that, but all those nations that we just mentioned, if you look at their relative positions in in the northern polar region, Russia is the one that stands to benefit the most, from minerals from passageways across the top of the world. Russia knows that it could get a lot wealthier because of the northern polar seas. And I think this gives Russia an incentive to be peaceful. If they act belligerent. They may lose their access to this new very rich land or in some cases and not not land but water but I’m hoping this will make the Russians peaceful. I hope that’s not a naive view.
Robert Bryce 49:58
Well, you also point out that the Russians are far ahead in terms of building icebreakers for this they’ve got one or two already nuclear powered icebreakers that they’ve, they’ve deployed.
Gregg Easterbrook 50:08
Yes, for the next 10 or 15 years, icebreakers are going to be a really precious resource because if you want to travel, you want to go the northern route across the top of the world and, and cut the cut the travel time between east and west to the very minimum number of days, for most of the next 10 years or so you still going to need an icebreaker. So when when when you get 15 or 20 years down the road, she probably won’t need to be accompanied by icebreakers. Right now, the Russians have a have a pretty strong monopoly on icebreakers. And the Chinese are building icebreakers even though there’s no frozen water touching China anywhere.
Robert Bryce 50:43
Oh, I didn’t, I didn’t realize that. Let’s talk about the nuclear propulsion because this is one interesting that just popped in my head that that one of the things that’s happening the Russians in terms of developing nuclear energy technologies they’ve deployed, if memory serves the the power ship that they’ve deployed in Siberia and Piwik uses two icebreaker reactors, if I believe that’s correct, that same model are very similar models to the reactors that are on the on the ice, the on the icebreakers are the same, same ones are is in the power ships. How important is nuclear propulsion been to the Navy,
Gregg Easterbrook 51:17
the US Navy? Well, all of our submarines are nuclear power. And nuclear powered enables you to stay hidden underwater for months at a time, you can stay, you don’t have to refuel, and that the reactors make air using electrolysis. So you can say you can stay underwater and totally hidden as long as your food and medicine supplies hold out. Essentially, we also the United States Navy also uses nuclear power for all of its super carriers, nuclear power to generate generations ago, it’s being used in a lot of warships. And it’s kind of fallen out of favor. Because it’s more expensive and more complicated than other kinds of propulsion. Do you really need nuclear powered frigates go away, you don’t really need that. And also, because it’s been such an irrational turn of political opposition to nuclear power all throughout, you know that arguments about nuclear power better than I do, Robert, but all throughout the United States, in Western Europe, voters are angry and want to get rid of nuclear power, even though it’s one of the answers to greenhouse gases. But that’s that’s affected the Navy too. They know that the US Navy knows that the fewer nuclear propelled ships, they try to get funded, the less political controversies we’ll get into.
Robert Bryce 52:32
Do you think it’s that simple that they just did because the Navy has the best nuclear record safety record of any nuclear entity in the world. I mean, they really have shown incredible safety incredible ability to build safe reactors manage the lifecycle, they have their own waste disposal system at waste disposal, supply chain, and in New Mexico at what is the name of that it’s near Carlsbad, any case. I mean, but the Nate, I just wanted you to if you could, it’s not a major topic of the of the book, but just how the use of nuclear then changed the US Navy by we went from coal to will sail to coal to oil and now nuclear, I mean, it’s been transformative husband.
Gregg Easterbrook 53:16
It’s, it’s had a big effect, especially on the way the US Navy does business because we’re the the tactical word for it is forward deployed. Most of our worships are based far from the United States, and based all across the world. And the fact that some of them don’t need to refuel or, or don’t need to refuel constantly, they refuel only every few years because of nuclear power. That really helps for the way the US Navy operates. But despite, you know, very well, the rationality about nuclear power in the United States, even though the track record of the Navy is excellent. The track record of commercial nuclear production in the United States is also excellent. Doesn’t matter. People hate nuclear power, where what we see from politics, especially in the last generation, is that what people want to believe, is so much more compelling, and what you can show with rational arguments or, or facts, I mean, nobody, even people don’t even like the word fact anymore. They just want to believe what they want to believe. And they want to believe that nuclear power is evil. And if they also want to believe that the world is ending because of global warming, and you tell them Well, then let’s use nuclear power to stop greenhouse gases and and you just get you can’t get people to deal with that argument on a rational basis.
Robert Bryce 54:28
Yeah, I guess the one other thought that just pops in my head is Guantanamo Bay if memory serves was originally seized as from Cuba as part of as a cooling station, right that this was a strategic strategic location because the US needed coal to fuel its warships. And then of course, then oil came along and showed that it was far better in terms of propulsion in terms of energy density, and then oil became a strategic commodity and that was explains a lot of Britain’s involvement in the Persian Gulf and so on. But, but it just is you’re talking about these things. The, the geography of the Navy, and its fuel dependence is Also something that the Navy’s Howie’s had to work through right data with we’re gonna be there we got to figure out a way to replenish our ships and so on
Gregg Easterbrook 55:07
the US Navy, you may be interested in this rubber because if you’re interested in electricity, US Navy and the British and the Royal Navy are building all electric warships, which is different from nuclear power chips. They have gas turbines that use fossil fuel use natural gas or petroleum to spin generators and generate electricity but then all the rest of the ship including its propulsion is electric. And electric ships emit a lot less than than regular turbine diesel ships. It’s so it’s a step forward, but but it does not solve the fuelling problem in the way you were just talking about. You got to stop somewhere and check on natural gas.
Robert Bryce 55:45
Yeah, actually I looked up when you what was the oh the the, the polar the the Chesty Puller I know his nickname was chesty with the Sydney polar Lewis, Lewis Lewis polar, actually looked up the propulsion systems on those those are lm 2500s. I think their General Electric Gas Turbine right propulsion system, they use the they use the turbines to produce power and then use power for for propulsion, right? It’s electric drive system, similar to what you’d find in a rail in a railroad engine or announcing these massive long, big mining trucks. They use the same kind of produce electricity. So let me we’ve been talking nearly an hour and my guest, again, is Gregg Easterbrook. His latest book is The Blue age how the US Navy created global prosperity, and why we’re in danger of losing it. Just last few things, Greg, back in 95, you wrote a book called a moment on the earth the coming age of environmental optimism. And since then, you’ve written a couple of other books about why we need to be more optimistic and I’m you know, as I like Molly, Ivan’s I’m optimistic to the point of idiocy. But we also live in an age of a lot of doom ism, and especially around climate change around you know, the say it this way, the Malthusian sure seem like they haven’t gone away yet. Are you still as optimistic? As you words? Do you stand by the title from now from 25 years ago, or 26 years ago?
Gregg Easterbrook 57:07
Earth Yes, the subtitle was the coming age of environmental optimism. Whoa, boy, was I wrong about that? couldn’t have been more wrong. Everything else in the book is correct. The book argues that in the 1990s, people thought smog and acid rain and, and species laws, were going to completely overwhelm us. And that would be mass starvation, and none of that stuff has happened. And I correctly predicted that none of that stuff would happen and and then went on to say, and this will make everyone optimistic and that Whoa, did not happen. We seem to prefer to be pessimistic in the United States, and it’s part of our national character. I’ve written four books arguing for optimism now, and I feel like I’ve said what I needed to say on that on that subject. But my larger conclusion is not that optimism makes you complacent. It doesn’t. Optimism is the reason for reform. Optimism is the belief that you can fix problems. Pessimists think that you can’t fix problems. So we look at climate change so that climate change is obviously happening. I’m an optimist about climate change. Greenhouse gases are fundamentally an air pollution problem. We’ve reduced other kinds of air pollution very effectively. And the best, we can reduce this time to this kind to, if you’re a pessimist, you think, Oh, the world is going to be destroyed. I shouldn’t have children. The New York Times actually ran an editorial saying that no one should have a child, because climate change is going to destroy the world. Besides the fact that you wonder about what mental process led to that article. It’s just not factually true. Climate change can be overcome. And because I’m an optimist, I think we’re going to do it. But optimism is not popular. I’ll tell you, an interviewer asked me a year ago this what do you want to be in your obituary? And I said, What Why are you asking me this? You know, something? I said, What?
Robert Bryce 58:58
Have you been talking to my wife?
Gregg Easterbrook 59:02
My wife, who then you really wouldn’t know something that I don’t know. But I said what I think should be in my obituary is the aspect of these two books writing that make people angry, was that he was an optimist. And I think that sentence kind of expresses a lot of what’s going on in America today.
Robert Bryce 59:21
Well, is you say that I think that line where no politician ever got elected by saying things are gonna be just fine, right? It’s the death of that there’s destruction at the door, the other guy’s gonna tear everything apart. You need to vote for me. But isn’t it but you said it’s fundamental to the American character that which it seems odd to me and just explored this for just a minute because there is still in the United so I’m very bullish on the United States. I’m always bullish, you’re gonna always will be bullish on the US just because natural, natural advantages that we have, including, not least of which is the Constitution and the fact that people believe it right, and they quote it continually. But what makes you say that we’ve been there Americans? Who is it that we prefer to be pessimistic for? Where does that come from?
Gregg Easterbrook 1:00:07
Well, I will tell this. This is also something I said to an interviewer a couple of weeks ago that if you could buy stock in countries, I would want to hold the United States, I want stock in the United States, because I think we’re going to be fine. And we’re going to improve. But it’s really more correct for me to say that pessimism is the American intellectual strain on American intellectuals, literary figures and academics have always been deeply pessimistic. I think it’s partly is because that’s how you get career successful in those professions.
Robert Bryce 1:00:38
Yeah, right, that you’re not going to get it. You’re not going to get tenure by saying yeah, don’t worry. That’s, that’s a good way to think about it. Well, maybe you’ve already answered this, but I’m gonna ask it anyway, in a different slightly different. So you’re optimistic, but what gives you hope?
Gregg Easterbrook 1:00:55
What gives me hope? Well, I think, I think technique I don’t, I’m not a futurist. But I think technology can reduce most of our problems. It’s no panacea. But I think technology can reduce pollution, it can improve healthcare outcomes, it can ensure an ample food supply. And as I fly, there’s a chapter and it’s better than it looks from three years ago, showing that everyone thought technology will get more dangerous and destructive. Instead, it’s steadily gotten safer, which is something you know, from your own writing. There’s some Yeah, weapons are incredibly dangerous, but in general, technology gets ever safer. So I think that’s a hopeful sign, I think, the psychology of the country, have we reached a post racial stage yet, I don’t know. You can’t legislate what people feel deep inside. But I do think that the next two generations will be the least prejudice generations ever raised in human history. And I think that’s great. I think that gives us hope for the future, too. And I think America, America will decline in relative importance, next to China, and also Brazil, and Indonesia and a couple of other other rising countries, but we’re still going to be the United States, we’re still going to our Constitution, we’re still going to be the country that everybody wants to live in. That’s gonna last for centuries. I’m very bullish on that.
Robert Bryce 1:02:17
Well, this wasn’t I didn’t write this down. But you mentioned China, what are what are you? I like what you said, what are China’s biggest challenges? Oh, China,
Gregg Easterbrook 1:02:27
China is much closer to the edge than we appreciate. In the United States, they’ve done a great job of reducing poverty and a really great job, they’ve done a great job with their infrastructure. If millions of people a year used to die in floods in China, you’ve almost eliminated flooding as a cause of civic death. It’s an invisible achievement that, that we’re not even aware of here. But it’s a huge achievement for the human, human family. So they’ve done some things well, and they’ve increased the education level of their population very dramatically, in the last two generations, but otherwise, they’re politically unstable. The Chinese Communist Party is a repressive organization, the smarter their population gets, the more they will resist being repressed. China is aging faster than we are. By 2050. The Chinese will have more senior citizens than the entire population of the United States in that year. And they don’t really have any answer for how they’re going to handle the pension demands of their aging population. There’s a trend to come fall apart at a pretty much a moment’s notice. I don’t have any worries about the United States falling apart, despite what’s trendy to say on cable news shows, I think the United States popular society is fundamentally stable, and will stay stable for a long time.
Robert Bryce 1:03:44
But if China falls apart, and we talked about before, if China falls apart, it’s gonna have big repercussions. Well, no. Yes. Yes. Yes. So having a stable swing having a stable China is in the US interest? Oh, absolutely.
Gregg Easterbrook 1:03:56
Absolutely. A bit. Some commentators don’t like the fact that American public officials and others are friendly to the Chinese. I think we’ve got a self interest in that. We benefit from being friendly to the Chinese. We as a society.
Robert Bryce 1:04:11
Yeah. Well, and without China, there’s no Walmart. Pretty much everything in Walmart is from China’s route, as far as I can tell. So I asked you about what gives you hope, which is usually my last question. But I wanted to ask you, you got another book coming out? What are you reading these days? Your bibliography? It’s not a formal bibliography, kind of an informal bibliography in your book, which I like the way you did your footnotes and so on the way to organize that what what are you reading what’s on your books? nightstand or
Gregg Easterbrook 1:04:40
on my nightstand right now is the New York Times 1619 project book. It just came out as a book and read it when it was in the newspaper. It’s now a book and I’m, I am I’m reading that.
Robert Bryce 1:04:51
George Will had a pretty well blistering piece in The Washington Post. Do you think he’s wrong with it? How do you come out on that?
Gregg Easterbrook 1:04:58
I don’t know. I haven’t read it yet. I mean, I haven’t read the book yet. I think the newspaper version had obvious, just plain errors, claiming that the only reason for the American Revolution was preserve slavery was not a sophisticated view. They’ve now changed it to say one of the reasons No, you got you gotta get, you got to give some credence to that. I think. Nikki Anna Jones, the main author of that book, she’s definitely on to something. American history has not dealt with the pervasiveness of the effects of slavery in society, or the economic consequences of slavery in society. The extent to which people who weren’t the slaves benefited from the value that the slaves created. She’s really onto something there and, and eventually, it will lead to some new consensus about American history that will be constructive, I don’t think it will be exactly what the 1619 crowd thinks, because it is really hard to believe that the real reason for the American Revolution was to serve slavery. And yet, they managed to hide the conspiracy so well, that not even Martin Luther King never noticed that it was there. Or Frederick Douglass or all the others. All of them were fooled too. That’s just kind of hard to believe. But they are on to something and like I say, I’m reading the book version and, and learning from
Robert Bryce 1:06:19
good. Well, thank you. My guest has been is great. Greg Easterbrook. He’s the author of The Blue age, how the US Navy created global prosperity and why we’re in danger of losing it. It’s available at all fine bookstores. Make sure and buy a copy. You can also find Greg at Gregg easterbrook.com. Greg, any any last thoughts before we sign off?
Gregg Easterbrook 1:06:40
No, I think we covered everything, remember? Good?
Robert Bryce 1:06:42
Well, many thanks for being on the power hungry podcast and to all you in podcast land. Thanks for tuning in. Give us a good rating on those podcast channels. And until next time, see ya.
Gregg Easterbrook 1:06:54
Okay, thanks, Robert. You bet.