The "hostage" crisis is over, the 24 crew members are back-after a week or so of dim sum and air-conditioned suites at the Hotel Hainan and all's right with the world. But not quite. First of all, they still have our plane and no doubt we'll be hearing about that until the Chinese send it back, neatly packaged in Ziploc bags. Secondly, and most importantly, some people are never satisfied especially as far as the Chinese are concerned. For China-bashing, as we shall see, is a sport enjoyed by both the Left and the Right.
American conservatives were completely bollixed by the end of the cold war: without an enemy of Satanic proportions, they felt . . . alone, and afraid, in a world they never made. The Evil Empire was gone, and, in its wake, so was much of the rationale for having a conservative movement to begin with. After all, when William F. Buckley, Jr., declared that the goal of his magazine, National Review, was to "stand athwart history yelling 'Stop!'", the advance of the Marxist juggernaut was thought to be all but inevitable. Conservatives, as well as lefties, considered the Soviet Union and its allies around the world to be the wave of the future, and they, in the West, were at best fighting a rearguard action that many, such as the darkly pessimistic Whittaker Chambers, thought to be too little too late. The sudden implosion of the Soviet Union and its satellites took much of the wind out of their sails: suddenly, their members and contributors started drifting away, and, most important of all, the money flow slowed to a mere trickle. Something had to be done. . .
Back in 1952, it was young Buckley, the enfant terrible of the nascent conservative movement, who declared that "we have to accept big government for the duration [of the cold war] for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged . . . except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores." Forget about opposition to confiscatory taxation, said Buckley: conservatives must become apologists for "the extensive and productive tax laws that are needed to support a vigorous anti-Communist foreign policy." The Right had opposed warmongering during FDR's day Buckley's father was a staunch supporter of the America First Committee, and when Bill Buckley was 16, he won the yacht club's Community Service trophy by chalking up 13 wins for the season in a boat called Sweet Isolation. But by 1956, when National Review was founded, Buckley had matured if that is the word into a full-blown unapologetic warmonger: he and his rotten magazine soon transformed the formerly pro-peace conservative movement into an adjunct of the War Party. Opposition to big government was largely dropped, except on ceremonial occasions, in favor of a fanatical anti-Communism that saw only one solution to the alleged threat posed by the Kremlin: a military confrontation. Not only was the end of the cold war a cause of increasing poverty on the Right, but also the source of political and spiritual demoralization, what American Spectator editor R. Emmett Tyrell Jr. called "the conservative crack-up."
Faced with the political, financial, and spiritual meltdown of the institutions they had carefully built up from nothing not to mention their own personal prestige and income the cadres of what by this time had come to be called neo-conservatism looked high and low for a new enemy to demonize. Of course, the Russians were still around, but they seemed to be not yet done with the implosion process. Sure, the Russkis have nuclear weapons, but if their population keeps exponentially decreasing all on its own, it won't be necessary for the US to launch a first strike. In the time it takes to re-demonize them, they may very well disappear.
Saddam Hussein is a small fry, and Osama bin Laden is a freelancer: what was needed was a big country, like the Soviet Union, only with a booming population, one which at least formally retained its allegiance to Marxism-Leninism: China was the only possible candidate for the villain's role in a new cold war drama. One added feature was that, while the Russians are considered white folks, albeit somewhat Orientalized, the racial factor was a plus: the threat of the Yellow Peril could be the subtext of their propaganda. But there are certain disadvantages to this new line, the chief one being that the Chinese military is a vast, bloated welfare program for otherwise unemployable peasants, who would be dangerous roaming the streets of China's teeming cities, looking for work. Militarily, the Chinese are decades behind the US, in spite of the hyperbolic alarmism of our professional China-haters, who like to imagine that the People's Liberation Army is about to nuke Los Angeles. As to why they would want to nuke their own best market 40 percent of Chinese are entirely dependent on export-driven industry is a mystery known only to these alleged advocates of free enterprise. In any case, as John Schulz, a former Voice of America correspondent and professor at the National War College, put it in 1998:
"Nuclear-armed China will not even be a regional conventional threat for decades to come. The PLA's long list of systemic problems, coupled with those facing China as a whole, constrain military modernization efforts in ways that may ultimately be insurmountable. 'Strategic planners" whose views are 'long term' should thus be aware that China will not be able to project and sustain offshore military operations for at least thirty years. 'Strategists' who think instead in global or regional (geographic) terms can also rest easy; the PLA will be restricted to limited "quick skirmish" capability over limited ranges offshore during that time, and is already being outstripped by other regional military modernization programs."
But the warmongering faction of the American Right is not too interested in facts: instead, they are big on emotion, such as that displayed by our old friend John Derbyshire, National Review's Sinophobe-in-chief. As I pointed out in my last column on this subject, Derbyshire's approach to the problem of how to convert Chinese weakness and dependence on the West into an overwhelming threat is to project the struggle as a culture clash, instead of a dispute between nations, in which two antithetical civilizations, and not just aircraft, were in collision. We ought, he wrote, to have bombed the captured plane, "without any regard whatsoever to Chinese sensitivities, or indeed lives and property." Not surprisingly, Derbyshire was not too pleased with the way Bush and his advisors wisely handled it: his piece in National Review was entitled "America Grovels," coupled with the obligatory subhead: "A full kowtow." At the news that the words "sorry" had been used, not once, but twice, Derbyshire was practically frothing at the mouth:
"This is folly. It is, in fact, very little short of madness. The greatest danger to the peace of the world at the present time is the rabid, psychopathological nationalism of the Chinese, which is being carefully tended and nurtured by the Communist dictatorship for its own purposes. That monster has just been fed a big, nourishing meal by the U.S. administration."
Here is the language of demonization: "rabid." "psychopathological," mad dog, dog-eating (according to NRO editor Jonah Goldberg) "monsters." Mow 'em down! This is the emotion that the writer seeks to evoke, and the rationale is that these are clearly subhuman monsters. We are in a battle in which no quarter can be given: Derbyshire cites Bill Gertz of the Daily Moonie, er, uh, I mean the Washington Times: ""These are not nice people. They do not wish us well." "They are tigers," adds Derbyshire, "who live only to kill and eat."
We are back to the monster motif. But if anyone is truly monstrous, it is him, for he clearly believes that to even express sympathy to the family of the downed Chinese pilot, was, in Derbyshire's bleak moral universe, a betrayal of enormous proportions. It was, in his view, a concession made to monsters. For you see, the Chinese are not quite like us. It is difficult for anyone who has grown up in the "Anglo-Saxon tradition" to understand the true perfidy of China and its leaders. Yet Derbyshire seems to be confused about just what it is he is describing. While initially denouncing the Chinese government as "Leninist," and invoking the specter of militant Maoism, he then goes on to describe China as a "fascist dictatorship," and winds up conjuring the ghost of none other than yes, you guessed it Hitler.
That's right folks, we have another Hitler on our hands in Jiang Zemin. Derbyshire avers that not only is China undemocratic, but its state ideology is "centered on racial superiority." Is it, really? Then where oh where are these proclamations of Chinese racial superiority? How come we hear nothing about this doctrine of "racial superiority" in the Peoples Daily, or in any of the other state organs? To make such a charge without offering any evidence, not even a sliver of a quote, is an affront not only to reason but to Derbyshire's readers: he expects them to swallow this without question, and won't even do them the courtesy of a citation. According to Derbyshire, China is
"In short, a fascist dictatorship. This is the beginning of wisdom about China. China's leaders are not pushing any universalist creed. Fascism is never universalist. It is introvert and parochial, a doctrine of autodidacts and narrow, clouded minds. Hitler never started out with any intention to Nazify Africa, or the Americas, or Indonesia. He could not have cared less about those places, though I dare say they turned up in his table talk from time to time. His goal was to assert German control over what he believed to be Germany's rightful sphere of influence: Europe and European Russia. . . . Early 20th-century Japan was not bent on world conquest, only a Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere precisely what China wishes to construct in Central Asia and the West Pacific."
In other words, China is evil precisely because it is not expansionist, not pushing a universalist ideology on the rest of the world, and seeks only to develop in peace. Derbyshire is correct insofar as he perceives that we or, rather, the US government are the universalists here, pushing our system on reluctant peoples from the Balkans to Eastasia, and often imposing it at gunpoint. The Chinese are indeed indifferent to the fate of Colombia, and can't get too excited about the niceties of Macedonia's internal politics; they don't have spy planes buzzing our coast, and Fidel Castro has yet to grant them a base in Cuba. If they stole our nuclear secrets, or bought them from corrupt politicians, then they probably haven't stolen as much as the Israelis. And is the corruption of our politicians really their fault? Perhaps it only confirms the contempt in which Derbyshire claims they hold us.
Oh, those awful Chinese autodidacts, cut off from the wisdom of "Anglo-Saxon" civilization, how could they be so "narrow" as to prefer their own sovereign status to the good old days of colonial subjugation? How could their minds be so "clouded" with "narrow" nationalism and "fascism the two being equivalent, in Derbyshire's view as to resist absorption into the universalist dominion of the West? Those Hitlerites! How dare they hold on to their independence, in this, the age of globalization? Why, everyone knows that the idea of national sovereignty is an archaic relic, besides being a symptom of incipient "fascism" don't they?
That he presents no evidence for the alleged Nazi-fication of the Chinese Communist Party is topped off by the utter hypocrisy of Derbyshire's stance: In my previously cited column, I discussed how he describes blacks as "emotional" and mentally "feminine," while Asians are portrayed as physically "feminine" but psychologically "masculine" (i.e. rational). Considering his own racialist views, for Derbyshire to accuse anyone of upholding a doctrine of "racial superiority" is a bit much. What is shocking, however, is the hyperbolic language employed to describe not only the Chinese leadership, but the Chinese people in general. After all, Hitler was elected by the Germans, and if the Chinese leaders are the new Hitlers, then they, too, must have at least the passive support of their own people, even if they don't get to vote. What is interesting is that Derbyshire also throws the Japanese in the same pot, denouncing their "co-prosperity sphere" of the 1930s and comparing it to the scope of China's ambition. Clearly, Derbyshire believes that no Asian power can ever have a predominant role in Eastasia and that we must go to war in order to prevent it. Here is the Derbyshire Doctrine in a nutshell: Eastasia must become a permanent colony of the US and its allies, a protectorate of the Anglo-Saxon Empire, a dragon forever chained.
Derbyshire's dark vision of a Yellow Monster on the loose informs the relatively muted but still angry statement of National Review's editors, which condemns the diplomatic solution as little short of a "kowtow" an appellation that underscores not only the editors' opinion, but also their rather limited vocabulary. Unlike Derbyshire, they think it's okay to express regret over Wang-Wei's death, but to say sorry for having violated their airspace when the plane landed without permission "veers near kowtow territory." No mention that the pilot requested permission to shoot the plane down, and that this was not granted by ground control. It was a military plane that could have contained anything, and as far as we know the crew, for whatever reason, did not answer frantic inquiries from Chinese air controllers. From a strictly military point of view, not shooting it down was the first big Chinese concession: after that, it was the Americans' turn, and George W. Bush and his advisors knew it. But none of this matters to the editors of National Review, whose concerns are far more elevated and ennobling than mundane worries over the fate of mere mortals, such as the 24 crew members held hostage:
"No doubt the administration considered these concessions necessary to get the crew back safely and quickly. But their return, though obviously welcome, should never have been the principal concern of American policy. Our servicemen are not more important than the objective they serve: America's security, which includes our standing in the world. Our adversaries and allies alike now have further reason to believe that we are a sentimental superpower, and thus a vulnerable one."
Individuals and their fate are never the concern of imperial overlords, modern totalitarians, or power-mongers of any type, left or right. To them, soldiers are cogs in the machinery of Empire, and their fate can never be considered, the justice of their death can never be measured. They refuse to measure the human costs against the alleged benefits of "our standing in the world." God help us if we are suspected of harboring any sort of human sympathy: for then we shall be forever tagged "the sentimental superpower" in other words, a nation of pansies, the kind who like to get pushed around. I leave it to you, my readers, to evaluate the psychopathology of this super-"macho" stance: perhaps if there are any noninterventionist psychologists out there, they could send in a paper on the "Psychopathology of Warmongering." In the end, must we really go to war in order to mollify the neurotic fear of inadequacy that wracks the editors of National Review?
While leaving it to others to plumb the depths of that particular cesspool, I note with unalloyed glee that Jonah Goldberg is still in trouble over those nasty remarks about "dog-eating" Chinese. "I will be in favor of apologizing the moment they apologize for all those menus outside my front door," he quipped. Actually, it was mildly funny, but not nearly as funny as the spontaneous reaction of Chinese-Americans over at the website AsianAvenue.com, which is collecting Chinese menus to deliver to Goldberg's doorstep. Their point: "Hopefully they will notice that the Chinese menus left at their doorstep are from America, not China." Send your menus to:
Community Connect, Inc.
Attn: Chinese Menus
P. O. Box B
New York, NY 10159-000b
Well, I was going to include in this column an analysis of China-bashing on the Left, particularly the really virulent editorial in the New Republic that screams "appeasement" and also raises the specter of Communism unleashed. Am I getting old, or was it not that long ago when they were praising the Moscow Trials as fully justified? But I digress, and I've run out of space and time and so the sins of the Left will have to remain unpunished, at least for a couple of days.
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