to offense"! Who committed the offense? Who deserves
to be punished? The United States had been caught spying
a humiliating enough circumstance for any state to
find itself. The crew then landed the spy plane on Chinese
soil without permission, thereby effectively surrendering
to the victims of the espionage. One would have thought
that one "regret" and one "very sorry"
for the loss of life, and one "very sorry" for
entering Chinese airspace uninvited, constitutes very mild
punishment. President Eisenhower was forced to pay a much
higher price: He had to apologize for the U-2 flights. He
also had to release arrested Soviet spy Rudolf Abel in exchange
for US pilot Gary Powers who spent 21 months in a Soviet
prison. Incidentally, the New Republic, a hate-mongering
magazine specializing in stirring up resentment against
every nation under the sun, applauding every act of US aggression
and justifying every Israeli violation of human rights,
is invariably described as "liberal." This tends
to confuse people abroad. While self-proclaimed "liberals"
denounce the Bush team for excessive belligerence and for
failing to address the concerns of other nations, the "liberal"
in-house journal sneers at the Bushies’ supposed "maturity"
and "understanding" towards the Chinese, at their
kowtowing and at their "turning a blind eye to China’s
human rights abuses and…its execrable international conduct."
Yet this somehow does not count as warmongering.
expected, the Weekly Standard’s William Kristol and
Robert Kagan are foaming at the mouth. Writing
in the Washington Post, they declare without
hesitation: "[T]he Chinese see more clearly than we
do that…they have won and we have lost. First, make no mistake:
The United States has apologized. And the fact of our apology
is all the more humiliating because the United States was
in no way to blame for the incident." To Kristol and
Kagan any outcome that does not involve the abject humiliation
of another state must mean that the United States somehow
"lost." "We can kid ourselves all we want,"
the CNN warriors go on, "but we have suffered a blow
to our prestige and reputation, a loss that will reverberate
throughout the world if we do not begin immediately to repair
the damage. The problem is not merely that we have lost
face…The bigger problem is that our reliability as defender
of the peace and protector of friends and allies, especially
in East Asia, has been thrown into doubt…. So far the lesson
is all too clear: When you bully the United States, the
United States searches for a way to apologize."
aside for the moment the dubious proposition that the United
States is indeed a "defender of the peace and protector
of friends and allies." After all, the only power in
the world that bombs other countries on a regular basis
is the United States. What is most alarming about their
argument is that because we have supposedly "suffered
a blow to our prestige and reputation" we must now
do something drastic to make up for it. Kristol and Kagan
are not short on ideas. "First, we can resume our surveillance
flights in the South China Sea immediately, without any
deviation from the routes and methods used before the crisis.
Then, in two weeks, the Bush administration should agree
to the sale of a robust package of weapons to Taiwan, including
a commitment to sell Taiwan the Aegis system…. That is the
best way to ensure peace in the Taiwan Strait. The administration
can also move to bolster our force structure in the Asian
theater, use its influence to block Beijing’s bid for the
2008 Olympics and vigorously push in Geneva for a UN condemnation
of China’s miserable human rights record. Congress can do
its part by voting against a renewal of China’s most-favored-nation
status later this year." In other words, the most effective
way of securing "peace" is to antagonize and humiliate
the Chinese as much as possible. Taiwan is a sore point
for the Chinese. They suspect the United States is working
towards securing the island’s independence. So let’s arm
it to the teeth so as to reinforce their suspicions. The
Chinese suspect the world is ganging up on them? So let’s
"block Beijing’s bid for the 2008 Olympics."
to say, we do not seek war with China," Kristol and
Kagan announced airily in their first Weekly Standard
screed entitled "A
National Humiliation." "That is what advocates
of appeasement always say about those who argue for standing
up to an international bully. But it is the appeasers who
wind up leading us into war. We have been calling for the
active containment of China for the past six years precisely
because we think it is the only way to keep the peace."
This is the tired refrain of the anti-"appeasement"
lobby. There is no evidence, needless to say, that bullying,
antagonizing and thwarting the legitimate interests of other
powers is the most effective way of securing peace. As in
everyday life, repeated confrontation leads to the exchange
of physical blows. Kristol and Kagan believe America has
had to endure "national humiliation." The Chinese
believe, not unreasonably, that having to endure round-the-clock
US surveillance of their coastline and having their Belgrade
embassy destroyed without their being able to do anything
about it constitute far greater "national humiliation."
Incidentally, the "neo-conservative" argument
about "appeasement" does not even work in the
case of Hitler. Britain’s security guarantees to Poland
failed to stop Hitler in his tracks.
issue of "appeasement" is trotted out deliberately
so as to confuse the public. The "neo-conservatives"
want the United States to exercise global tyranny. Rather
than come out and admit this, they prefer to talk of "rogue
states" which can only be either destroyed or appeased.
Kristol and Kagan admitted as much in their famous 1996
Foreign Affairs article "Towards a Neo-Reaganite
Foreign Policy": "Most of the world’s major powers
welcome US global involvement and prefer America’s benevolent
hegemony to the alternatives….The principal concern of America’s
allies these days is not that it will be too dominant but
that it will withdraw." Which powers "prefer America’s
benevolent hegemony to the alternatives"? Russia? China?
Europe? India? All of these powers repeatedly express their
concerns about rampant US power.
remoralization of America at home," Kristol and Kagan
continue, "ultimately requires the remoralization of
American foreign policy. For both follow from Americans’
belief that the principles of the Declaration of Independence
are not merely the choices of a particular culture but are
universal, enduring, ‘self-evident’ truths….Because America
has the capacity to contain or destroy many of the world’s
monsters, most of which can be found without much searching,
and because the responsibility for the peace and security
of the international order rests so heavily on America’s
shoulders, a policy of sitting atop a hill and leading by
example becomes in practice a policy of cowardice and dishonor."
In other words, a policy of behaving like other states,
abiding by international laws, not interfering in the domestic
affairs of other nations, seeking United Nations mandates
before the use of force, accepting that other countries
have national interests not necessarily the same as
perhaps even in conflict with ours amounts to a foreign
policy of "cowardice and dishonor." In any country
writers like these two would be declared insane and a menace
to peace, both domestic and international.
their "National Humiliation" rant, Kristol and
Kristol expressed outrage over the "virulently anti-American
Chinese military and intelligence services. In addition,
there has been a surge of nationalist fervor in China, especially
since the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade
two years ago." Needless to say, they did not bother
to wonder why the military should be "virulently anti-American"
or why "nationalist fervor" is sweeping China.
To Kristol and Kagan it is all a simple matter of the Chinese
government stirring "up these nationalist passions
in an attempt to compensate for the bankruptcy of Communist
ideology." Interestingly, it was one of the apologists
for the US Empire who let the cat out of the bag as to what
it was that was annoying the Chinese so much. Writing
in the Los Angeles Times, Edward Luttwak revealed:
"Last year, at a time when the Clinton administration
was in dissolution, leaving him without firm direction or
control, Adm. Dennis Blair, commander in chief of all ground,
naval and air forces in the Pacific, decided to intensify
U.S. Navy EP-3 and US Air Force RC-135 electronic intelligence
patrols off the China coast." So it was the United
States that decided to intensify to intensify the "electronic
intelligence patrols off the China coast"! In other
words, the Chinese had grounds to feel a little peeved.
Luttwak goes on: "The Chinese military, evidently right
up to the minister of defense, Chi Haotian, reacted to the
EP-3/RC-135 patrols by aggressively close intercepts. The
tactical aim was to intimidate the US into flying farther
away from Chinese territory, regardless of international
law. The strategic or rather political aim
was to provoke exactly the sort of U.S.-Chinese confrontation
that occurred, in order to secure more funding for the armed
forces." Whether the aim was to "secure more funding
for the armed forces" is just Luttwak’s speculation.
The point is the Chinese were acting in legitimate self-defense.
even Luttwak feels he has to conclude like a good neo-conservative
(perhaps those invitations to the Newshour with Jim Lehrer
might stop otherwise): "In the meantime, many will
feel that the crisis has ended with at least a partial victory
for the worst people in China the military bureaucrats
who care for nothing but increased budgets for the armed
forces." "Increased budgets for the armed forces"!
That is an outrage. In a democracy like the United States
such things would never happen.
course, we know that the Bush Administration was determined
from the beginning to increase defense expenditure. It was
hard to justify this by invoking a supposed threat from
Russia. So a new enemy had to be found. Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld came up with China. In last month’s defense
strategy review the Pentagon decided that China was now
America’s principal enemy. Therefore, Rumsfeld told Bush
that the Pacific Ocean should become the most important
focus of US military deployments. How did China get to be
our principal enemy? Almost no evidence has ever been presented
to substantiate this finding. Opposing US dominance over
Asia, insisting on its territorial integrity and being an
awfully big country does not make a country an "enemy."
Unable to offer concrete examples of China’s aggression,
the "on to Beijing" boys like to waffle about
China’s suppression of dissent. Now the Chinese regime may
indeed be very nasty (though no more so than a lot of other
countries with which the United States has very amicable
relations). However, contrary to neo-conservative propaganda,
there is no demonstrable correlation between internal repression
and external aggression. Has China behaved aggressively
towards anyone? Has China ever behaved remotely like the
United States? Has China ever bombed other countries left,
right and center? Would the United States have behaved with
as much forbearance towards a seceding state like Taiwan
the way China has? China has never threatened to use force
to bring Taiwan under control. China has never promoted
an armed irredentist movement on the island on whose behalf
it could then threaten to intervene. China has only insisted
that the United States not recognize Taiwan as an independent
enough, it was a well-known neo-conservative writing in
the Wall Street Journal who revealed what lies behind
so much of the US animus towards China. Joshua Muravchik,
who has dedicated his life to the dubious proposition that
it is the duty of the United States to "export"
democracy to benighted nations who have the misfortune of
not being the United States, declared: "[S]toking nationalist
passions is central to the Communists’ strategy for retaining
power." Standard neo-conservative stuff. Kristol, Kagan
and the New Republic crowd never tire of repeating
this mantra. But Muravchik goes on: "Originally, the
party’s dictatorship was justified on the grounds that it
needed to suppress the bourgeoisie in order to bring the
people benefits of socialism. Such reasoning sounds antique
in today’s China, where one of the party’s slogans is ‘to
get rich is glorious.’ Instead, the rulers promote the image
of a hostile outside world in the hopes of encouraging the
people to rally round the regime. The model for this strategy
was set by Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic, the first Communist
ruler to refashion himself as a nationalist. The Yugoslav
example offers an answer to those who believe that China
will inevitably assert itself in destructive ways. Under
Mr. Milosevic, Yugoslavia started four wars in less than
a decade, but with the triumph of democracy just a few months
ago, that same country is making strong efforts to reintegrate
itself into the international community."
crime then is the same as Yugoslavia’s under Milosevic.
Instead of embracing the US ideology of "market democracy"
it developed an eclectic political and economic system.
Stalinism was abandoned but there was no rush to give away
the store to foreign investors. Aspects of socialism were
kept on. China does not have a convertible currency. As
a result it did not have to endure the currency collapses
that devastated the economies of America’s Asian "allies."
China has never had to invite the boys from the IMF to Beijing
to help run the economy into the ground. Nonetheless, China
continues to enjoy high economic growth rates. This infuriates
Washington and leads to calls for the United States to do
something to annoy the Chinese. Then when the Chinese respond
by striking back at the bully, the Muravchiks of this world
are on hand to explain how China’s "rulers promote
the image of a hostile outside world in the hopes of encouraging
the people to rally round the regime." The same thing
happened in Yugoslavia. Milosevic became a hated figure
in Washington long before the wars of secession and our
alleged unhappiness "nationalism." Milosevic was
refusing to turn the country over to foreign investors and
China and Yugoslavia are also very different. For one thing,
China is very big. And Yugoslavia is very small. Bullying
the Chinese is not as easy as bullying the Serbs was. This
is why Kristol is on the floor chewing the rug. It was agony
watching the United States go through contortions to come
up with the right form of words acceptable to another power.
This is an unusual experience for the United States. Usually,
we are the ones telling others how to conduct themselves
and how to apologize properly. When the United States bombed
the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade two years ago, no apology
was forthcoming. Instead, Washington cranked out one ludicrous
explanation after another involving outdated maps and mid-level
CIA operatives that no one in the world other than
the US media took seriously.
of the more sensible pundits tried to imagine how the United
States would have responded if it had been the Chinese who
had been caught spying on the United States and had then
landed their craft on US soil without permission. A more
apt scenario to imagine is how the United States would have
responded if some power other than China had forced one
of our spy planes down. What if it had been Iraq? What if
it had been Belarus? The United States would certainly not
be apologizing. It would be bombing.
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