THE COMING END-GAME IN AFGHANISTAN
"Given the steady flow of bad publicity and the general war weariness in the UK and other Nato countries, it is not a level of success I had been expecting to encounter. But in spite of the progress in Helmand, and the killing last year of bin Laden by US special forces, much can still go wrong. Afghanistan could indeed fall back into the hands of the Taliban – and the past decade could prove a waste of thousands of lives and thousands of billions of dollars. The recent spate of deadly Taliban attacks painfully highlights that Sheren Shah and his men stand little chance if he and other ANA leaders do not get the continued support they need to pose a credible threat to the insurgents.
But, as it looks from here in Helmand, that failure is more likely to come at the hands of politicians eager to extract themselves from a war they can no longer afford than from the combat boots on the ground. Training Afghans to fight like an army only gets you so far. Western heads of state at Nato’s summit in Chicago next month will need to deliver sustained support to the ANA and Afghanistan as a whole if the ANA is to keep the Taliban at bay once the west’s troops head home for good".
Andy McNab, "A personal dispatch from Afghanistan." The Financial Times
. 28 April 2012, in www.ft.com
"We were not naive when made the Agreement. As I have indicated in Chapter II, I never believed that Hanoi would reconcile itself to the military balance as it emerged from the Paris Agreement without testing it at least once more. In our estimate, Saigon could handle most North Vietnamese encroachments, especially if American military and economic aid (permitted by the Agreement) was adequate. But we recognized that there might be gross breaches of the Agreement that could topple the military balance it ratified and that would be discouraged only by the threat of American military retaliation. American air power was thus always seen as an essential deterrent to the resumption of all-out war."
Henry A. Kissinger. Years of Upheaval
. (1981), p. 303.
With the likelihood ever increasing of Western forces, especially the Americans withdrawing most of their troops from Afghanistan by the end of anno domini
2014, it becomes ever more of an imperative that said withdrawal be conducted in as controlled and orderly fashion as possible. The hope being that in a little over two years time, there will have been enough training of a core grouping in an Afghanistan, national army that, with merely Anglo-American special forces residue, and backed-up by drones and some degree of air power, based in Afghanistan proper, that the Taliban will, be unable to reconquer this wretched country. Make no mistake: the ongoing withdrawal of most western forces, is absolutely correct from a machtpolitik
perspective. Afghanistan, per se
, has no strategic significance. It is merely important, insofar as it is not used a base for terrorist and other outrages on Western and other countries. As we have all painfully discovered (with the exception of ex-Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld, who knew this all along) in the past two and half years, that a large and imposing Western military presence in Afghanistan serves no positive purpose whatsoever. That from a realpolitik
perspective, there is no need or necessity for 'nation-building' `a la West Germany or Japan circa 1945-1951 / 1953. And that while from a humanitarian point of view, Afghanistan certainly deserves a colossal experiment in nation-building, it would appear that the USA is particular is singularly ill-equipped to undertake any such exercise now. With perhaps it being the case, that as the travel-writer, diplomat, and now Tory MP, Rory Stewart, has recently shown,
humanitarian interventions in poor, Third-World countries are fraught exercises in which the likelihood of success is so finite as to be almost imcomprehensible to any rational correlation 1. Which to my mind, makes the relatively optimistic assessment of
Mr. McNab in this week-end's Financial Times, all the more important: now indeed is not the time to 'cut and run', or to employ a Churchillian mot: 'scuttle
'. That would indeed be the very worst of all possible outcomes to the Afghanistan imbroglio
1.Rory Stewart. "Because we weren't there?" The London Review of Books
. 22 September 2011, in www.lrb.co.uk
THE USES AND ABUSES OF DIPLOMATIC HISTORY: THE CASE OF BRITISH FOREIGN POLICY, 1902-1907
"In 1870, British hegemony rested on a combination of economic and naval supremacy that looked indefinitely durable. Two short decades later, however, that picture had completely changed. The simultaneous rise of the United States, Germany, and Japan altered the distribution of power, forcing Britain to revamp its grand strategy. Pax Britannica may have technically lasted until World War I, but London saw the writing on the wall much earlier—which is precisely why it was able to adjust its strategy by downsizing imperial commitments and countering Germany’s rise.
In 1896, Britain began courting the United States and soon backed down on a number of disputes in order to advance Anglo-American amity. The British adopted a similar approach in the Pacific, fashioning a naval alliance with Japan in 1902. In both cases, London used diplomacy to clear the way for retrenchment—and it worked. Rapprochement with Washington and Tokyo freed up the fleet, enabling the Royal Navy to concentrate its battleships closer to home as the Anglo-German rivalry heated up.
It was precisely because Britain, while still enjoying preponderant strength, looked over the horizon that it was able to successfully adapt its grand strategy to a changing distribution of power. Just like Britain in 1870, the United States probably has another two decades before it finds itself in a truly multipolar world. But due to globalization and the spread of new manufacturing and information technologies, global power is shifting far more rapidly today than it did in the 19th century".
Charles Kupchan, "Second Mates". The National Journal
. 15 March 2012, in www.nationaljournal.com
Attending the New America Foundation's recent seminar on the so-called 'Pacific Century', one was struck by the fact that a number of commentators as the gathering employed the example of Great Britain's naval, military and diplomatic re-deployment in the year 1900 to 1907, as an example of what the USA, either is doing, can do or should be doing. As a former diplomatic historian, what seems clear to me (if not necessarily most of the commentators who by definition are not historians but either professors of International Politics or Political Scientists, or (God forbid!) in the area of 'security studies', is how confused and in fact erroneous is this 'historical example', which is held up to present-day policymakers. In the case of Mr. Kupchan, his rendition of the changes in British policy, are under-mined by the fact that the British initiated such changes from a position of strength, not weakness and far from the UK making concessions, it was the other powers vis-`a-vis
the UK (with the exception of the USA), which made the most concessions. As anyone who is familiar with the pre-history of the 'revolution' in British foreign policy in these years may recall, the Anglo-French entente of 1904, saw more French concessions than British ones. This being of course a natural state of affairs, given the outcome of the Fashoda Crisis of 1898 1
. Similarly, the Anglo-Japanese treaty of 1902, saw the Japanese rather than British make the most concessions in order to make the alliance a reality. Finally, it was the Russian defeat in the Russo-Japanese War and the instability engendered by the Russian Revolution of 1905, which resulted in St. Petersburg, rather than London making most of the concessions in order to come to an agreement 2
. The only power of note, which did not make any substantive concessions to the British in this time period was the USA 3
. As confused is the idea, promulgated at last week's seminar (but also found in Kupchan's article) is that the changes in British policy in these years, made conflict less likely. On the contrary, the whole point of the changes in question is that they indeed made the worst of all conflicts (an Anglo-German war) more
likely. It was only by this realignment of its military forces and its diplomatic commitments, that the UK was sufficiently equipped (in every sense of the word) to forcefully intervene in the various diplomatic crises that emerged in Europe up to the outbreak of the Great War: the First Moroccan Crisis, the Second Moroccan Crisis, and the Great War itself. Similarly, it seems to me, that while per se the recent 'pivot' of American forces from the Near and Middle East to the Orient, does not per se
necessarily mean that conflict between the PRC and the USA, is any nearer (indeed I feel that the change in American strategy, makes actual conflict less
likely), if one were to adhere to the British analogy, in point of fact, one would indeed believe precisely that. As that indeed is what occurred in the summer of 1914. One may conclude by urging 'caveat lector'
. William Langer, The Diplomacy of Imperialism, 1890-1902
. (1935), pp. 551-564, and passim.
. John Charmley, Splendid Isolation? Britain, the Balance of Power and the Origins of the First World War
. (1999), pp. 295 and passim.
. Kenneth Bourne, Britain the Balance of Power in North America, 1815-1908
. (1967), pp.339-400 and passim.
A Look at "the Pacific Century" by the New America Foundation
On Wednesday the 18th of April, in Mid-town Manhattan, there was a panel discussion sponsored by the New America Foundation on the future of the USA's relations with the nations of the Orient. Among the panelists, were the American writer Robert Kaplan, who has published some widely commented upon articles dealing with the geopolitical future of the Far East and Orient. The following were some of the comments made by in particular Mr. Kaplan
That China's military growth is "organic" and that per se
there is nothing either wrong or illogical about said growth. Very similar in some ways to what the United States did at the beginning of the 20th century. That Asia is seeing the development of a civilian-military post-industrial complex. That the growth, both military and economic is inevitably resulting in a much more multi-polar world than at present. That China's inevitable military expansion overseas, to the extent that it does occur, will be the result of a mercantilist-type expansion `a la Venezia in the early Middle Ages as well as the Dutch and later on the English. That China's foreign policy "seems to be a resource acquisition foreign policy." That the future will see an extensive Chinese-Indian rivalry in the near future over the Indian Ocean. That what we are seeing is the near term, is not so much "American decline", as "American power normalizing". That Chinese elites for the most part, would like to become the dominant power in the Far Eastern sphere and use said dominance for purposes of extra-regional hegemony. An aspiration which Kaplan notes is "not very likely in the near future".
Another panelist, Thomas Donnelly
, an American security specialist at the Washington-DC, based, American Enterprise Institute, stated that recent Chinese behavior in the Far East, especially in the waters of the South China Seas, has en faite
, given adherents of the "Chinese Menace", a very plausible argument. Indeed, as per Donnelly, this view of the PRC, is: "military & strategic fact of life in the region". But that overall, Peking suffers from feet of clay due to a variety, mostly domestic reasons.
Another panelist, Steve Coll
, President of the New America Foundation, made the cogent argument, that per contra
to Kaplan, that China's mercantilist policies, is indeed "at variance with modern day markets". That per se
, in the absence of wrestling naval hegemony from the USA, the buying up of companies and leases for various types of resources in Africa and elsewhere, will not prevent indigenous governments from, if need be, seizing them `a la
the Argentine seizure of the Spanish-owned, Oil Company this past week. As per this panelist, it would behoove Peking to pursue a land-based strategy instead of its current model.
In a rejoinder to other comments and as a summing up, Mr. Kaplan
noted that perhaps the greatest current unknown in International Politics, was the fact the likelihood of there being a serious regime crisis in China. With perhaps a chance of the overthrow, or something akin to the same of the current regime. With perhaps shattering aftershocks all over the world, fundamentally changing the geo-political structure of the Far East. That China's present mercantilist strategy was au fond, due to umbrage at American naval dominance of the seas and in particular of the waters in the Far East.
That in the absence of a severe reduction in the size of the American navy, that US forces in the region were more than sufficient to guarantee the peace in the Orient. A fact which the recent 'pivot' from Europe & the Near East to the Far East will help to assure. A pivot which should have taken place circa the mid-1990's, but for the First Gulf War. In short, "the pivot is natural...twenty years too late". That while the USA has to indeed accommodate itself to greater Chinese military power, sans a serious withdrawal of American power in the region, something which none of the other powers therein wish for, that a "Finlandization" of the region vis-à-vis Chinese military power is unlikely for now. Or as Kaplan aptly put it, one should never ignore the "pacifying effect of American military hegemony". Kaplan closed the discussion, by opinoning (`a la my own last entry to the journal) that it would not be entirely unlikely that the North Korean regime, may collapse in the very near future.
What is one to make of the above comments and observations? I for one was for the most part impressed & indeed surprised, by their cogency and intelligence. Far from indulging in bouts of illogical and indeed idiotic, pessimism about the decline of the West and the USA in particular, the panelists, had a very healthy appreciation of the fact, that while the PRC's behavior in recent years, has indeed a very menacing air to it, per se
, in the absence of a complete American-Western military and political collapse and withdrawal in the region, that the PRC will be unable to assume any sort of hegeomonic role or position in the region. That the vast majority of the countries in the region, sans China, were actively looking for greater American and Western involvement in order to counter-balance the threat from Peking. And that even with as slight reduction in American military forces, that the USA will still possess more than sufficient forces to prevent any untowards behavior by the PRC for the foreseeable future. Something which I of course have been stating in this journal for quite awhile now. Per contra
to those bien-pensant
, professional pessimists, like Edward Luce
in the Financial Times, or the egregious Martin Jacques
THE SINO-PHILIPPINES NAVAL DISPUTE: A COMMENT
"The Philippines says it has withdrawn its largest warship from a continuing stand-off with Chinese boats in the disputed South China Sea. Earlier on Thursday a Philippine coastguard vessel arrived in the area, known as the Scarborough Shoal. The Philippines also says China has sent a third ship to the scene. The Philippine foreign minister said negotiations with China would continue. Both claim the shoal off the Philippines' north-west coast. The Philippines said its warship found eight Chinese fishing vessels at the shoal when it was patrolling the area on Sunday.
It did not say why the warship had been pulled back. "That is an operational undertaking I can't discuss with you," Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario was quoted by AFP news agency as saying. "We are pursuing the diplomatic track in terms of coming to a resolution on the issue," Mr Del Rosario said.
In a statement, the Philippines said that its navy boarded the Chinese fishing vessels on Tuesday and found a large amount of illegally-caught fish and coral. Two Chinese surveillance ships then apparently arrived in the area, placing themselves between the warship and the fishing vessels, preventing the navy from making arrests. The Philippines summoned Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing on Wednesday to lodge a protest over the incident. However, China maintained it had sovereign rights over the area and asked that the Philippine warship leave the waters. China's state-run newspaper China Daily claimed in an editorial that the Chinese fishermen were "harassed" by the Philippine ship.
"China should take more measures to safeguard its maritime territory," the newspaper stated.
"The latest moves by China's two neighbours are beyond tolerance," it added, also referring to Vietnam. "They are blatant challenges to China's territorial integrity."
However, the Global Times newspaper added that China "has the patience to work out solutions with the countries concerned through negotiation".
The stand-off comes as the Philippines prepares for joint naval exercises with the United States from the 16 to 27 April near the disputed area. Six countries claim competing sovereignty over areas in the South China Sea, which is believed to contain huge deposits of oil and gas. Along with China and the Philippines, they are Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan. China's claim includes almost the entire South China Sea, well into what the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea recognises as the 200-mile-from-shore Exclusive Economic Zones of other claimants".
"Philippines 'withdraws warship' amid China Standoff." The British Broadcasting Corporation. 12 April 2012, in www.bbc.com.
“If these countries don’t want to change their ways with China, they will need to prepare for the sounds of cannons. We need to be ready for that, as it may be the only way for the disputes in the sea to be resolved.”
"The Dragon's new teeth: a rare look inside the world's biggest military expansion."
As quoted in The Economist. 7th April 2012, in www.economist.com.
The Peoples Republic of China's repeatedly brazen and bellicose activity in the South China Seas calls for a firm and measured response by the International community, id. est
., the Western Powers lead by the USA. Without seeking to merely engage in the same sort of aggressive and infantile behavior that the PRC has engaged in with its neighbors over the past half dozen years, the West, lead by the Americans needs to clearly demonstrate in a clear, transparent but direct fashion that the Peking's aggressiveness towards its weaker neighbors needs to be curbed and indeed stopped. And sooner rather than later. Left to itself, the PRC, will increasingly endeavor to employ its military strength against its weaker neighbors in the Orient. The recently announced American policy to pivot military forces and diplomatic attention from Europe and the Near & Middle East to the Orient, is a part and parcel of a response to the new environment created by the PRC's more aggressive posture. Which is not to argue, per contra
, that the PRC has either the ability or even the wish to become a regional hegemonic power 1
. Merely that, sans
a Western-American response to repeated PRC mis-behavior in the region, that there is a danger that the PRC may inadvertently overstep certain 'lines in the sand'
, which may indeed cause a genuine crisis between the PRC and the West. As long as the Western powers make abundantly clear to ruling elites in Peking, that the West is indeed prepared to enforce the diplomatic and strategic 'regle de jeu'
, then and only then will the PRC curtail its behavior to something more reasonable. Let us endeavor to hope that the current American Administration will not forgot to draw the proper conclusions from this latest incident. 1
. On this topic see: "The Dragon's new teeth, op. cit. See also an extremely interesting and sophisticated discussion of the various elements and options that the PRC elites see for the Peoples Republic as policy options vis-`a-vis the West, in: Roland Dannreuther. "China and Global Oil: vulnerability and opportunity." International Affairs
. (November 2011), pp. 1345-1364.
THE FAILED NORTH KOREAN ROCKET LAUNCH: WHAT DOES IT PORTEND?
"(Reuters) - North Korea's much hyped long-range rocket launch on Friday ended in apparent failure, South Korean officials said, dealing a blow to the prestige of the reclusive and impoverished state that defied international pressure to push ahead with the plan. North Korea said it wanted the Unha-3 rocket to put a weather satellite into orbit, although critics believed it was designed to enhance the capacity of North Korea to design a ballistic missile deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the continental United States.
A spokesman for the Defense Ministry in Seoul told journalists that the rocket had broken up and crashed into the sea a few minutes after launch. Officials from Japan confirmed the mission had failed, while ABC News cited U.S. officials saying it had failed, although there was no immediate indication of where it fell.
The rocket's flight was set to take it over a sea separating the Korean peninsula, with an eventual launch of a third stage of the rocket in seas near the Philippines that would have put the satellite into orbit. This was North Korea's second consecutive failure to get a satellite into orbit, although it claimed success with a 2009 launch and there was no comment on the launch from North Korea's official media.
The Unha-3 rocket took off from a new launch site on the west coast of North Korea, near the Chinese border. The launch had been timed to coincide with the 100th birthday celebrations of the isolated and impoverished state's founder, Kim Il-sung, and came after a food aid deal with the United States had hinted at an easing of tensions on the world's most militarized border".
Ju-min Park. "North Korean Rocket Launch Ends in Failure: South Korea." Reuters. 12 April 2012, in www.reuters.com.
"North Korea's failed attempt to launch the unha-3, a new three-stage long-range ballistic missile, is for obvious reasons welcome. More than anything else it demonstrates limits to the DPRK's technical prowess. And it means that the United States and the world have more time before they must contend with the possibility that the world's most closed and militarized country has the capacity to launch missiles, conceivably with nuclear warheads, across great distances.
But any sigh of relief must be tempered. First, the fact that the test took place at all in the face of widespread international opposition demonstrates North Korea's ability to defy external pressure and isolation. It also means that China, the country with the most influence over North Korea, is still unwilling to use that influence in a decisive manner. Second, North Korea remains a serious military threat. It still possesses as many as a dozen nuclear warheads, proven short-range missiles, and a formidable conventional fighting force. It is as much an army with a country as vice-versa.
Third and perhaps most immediate, the test's failure constitutes a humiliating setback for the country's new leader, Kim Jong-un. It is likely that a principal reason for the launch was to signal his emergence and consolidate his authority. There is thus a real risk that he will turn to a tried and true path to accomplish the same ends. If history is any guide, this suggests that a test of a nuclear warhead or some sort of aggressive military action -- for example, an artillery strike -- against South Korea could be in the offing. And if this latter scenario occurs, South Korea, unlike on previous occasions, is almost certain to retaliate. And if this happens, escalation and a serious armed clash on the Korean Peninsula, territory where the United States, China, Japan, and others all have vital interests, could well materialize. This last outpost of the Cold War, ignored or forgotten by many, retains the potential to constitute a major threat to post-Cold War international order".
Richard Haass, "North Korea's Failure: the good and the bad." The Council on Foreign Relations. 13 April 2012, in www.cfr.org.
"U.S.–North Korea relations recently enjoyed 16 optimistic days: between February
29, when Pyongyang signed the “Leap Day” arms control agreement with the United States, and March 16, when it announced plans to conduct the very kind of rocket launch that it had just forsworn. Reacting to the announcement of the satellite launch, which is intended to commemorate the centenary of founding father Kim Il Sung’s birth, U.S. President Barack Obama warned North Korea about the consequences of provocation and called on China to stop “turning a blind eye” to the North Korean nuclear program. The denunciations Obama and others have been making sound like a familiar refrain. “Rules must be binding, violations must be punished, words must mean something,” Obama said in his now-famous Prague speech, in which he condemned North Korea’s April 2009 rocket launch. But the rules aren’t binding, North Korea’s violations aren’t meaningfully punished, words are mostly just words, and China does little.
North Korea’s saber rattling today represents only the most recent episode in a long history of unpunished provocation....More recently, the North Korean military torpedoed the South Korean frigate Cheonan and shelled South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in 2010. In every instance, the joint U.S.-South Korean command, Combined Forces Command (CFC), has let North Korea get away with its misbehavior. One sanctions regime after another has not deterred aggression....
North Korea escapes such punishment thanks to a powerful deterrent. The first leg of Pyongyang’s strategic triad is its “madman” image: the idea that the country might react to retaliation by plunging the peninsula into general war. North Korean officials are not irrational, as so often depicted in the media. Rather, they are following in the tradition of U.S. President Richard Nixon, who spoke of feigning irrationality in order to intimidate his adversaries. Through its wild rhetoric and behavior at home and abroad, Pyongyang has told the world that in the international game of chicken, it will not swerve -- that it is so ready to fight that it will starve its people and devote a quarter of its economy to defense, hack up enemy soldiers with an axe, and even try to assassinate presidents. This reputation has helped convince CFC’s leaders that they cannot rely upon the normal rules of deterrence, that with such an opponent, tit-for-tat retaliation is too risky and too likely to lead to all-out war.
Make no mistake: no one thinks that North Korea would actually win that war. The country is dwarfed economically by South Korea, and the military balance long ago shifted against the North. In the late 1990s, military analysts concluded that CFC would prevail should a war ever be fought, and the ensuing two decades of famine and energy shortages have only weakened North Korea’s position. But even though Pyongyang would lose this war, no one wants to fight it, either. North Korea can still inflict terrible pain on South Korea (and possibly, with its ballistic missiles, on nearby Japan). The city of Seoul, home to more than ten million people, lies well within range of North Korean artillery. North Korea’s leaders know that a second Korean war would be an existential war -- that neither the regime nor they themselves would survive a defeat -- and so they would have an incentive to use every weapon in their arsenal, including weapons of mass destruction. Is North Korea so crazy that if CFC carried out an act of limited retaliation, the country would start a war that would end in its own certain destruction? No one wants to find out....
It is tempting to presume that there is some limit to the world's tolerance of North Korean aggression -- some point at which South Korea and the United States, despite fears of a war and collapse, would conclude that North Korea is too dangerous a country to live with and that regime change is the less terrible option. But that presumption could be wrong. As intolerable as it is to absorb North Korea’s assassination attempts and other provocations, it is also hard to imagine what could possibly prompt Seoul and Washington to gamble on regime change in a wrecked, nuclear-armed disaster of a country.
Jennifer Lind. "Why North Korea gets Away with it." The Council on Foreign Relations. 12 April 2012, in www.cfr.org.
The latest provocation (in this particular instance a failed one) from North Korea, is as the two above learned commentators (Richard Haas & Jennifer Lind) correctly note, is very much par for the course, as it relates to the usual North Korean modus operandi
of behavior. With one step forward towards engagement with the outside world, represented by the 29th of February signing, the now-failed missile test, was meant to reinforce for internal, primat der innenpolitik
, consumption the bizarre ethos, which is North Korean ideology. Now with the failure of the North Korean test, it would very much appear, if the past is any predictor, that the regime in Pyongyang will endeavor to re-coop its own internal prestige (and its external 'fear factor'
) by launching its third nuclear test 1
. Unless of course the failure of the test will result in those elements in the North Korean regime, who favor a more extreme interaction with the outside world, to 'lose face' and thereby be lose power to some (any?) more moderate elements. Of course it could very well be the case that any talk of 'extremists elements', and 'hardliners' is merely delusional. And that the entire ruling elite is a gang of homicidal maniacs and criminals. With some slightly more lunatic than the others. No doubt the truth of the matter lies somewhere inbetween. That being said, I for one, am pessimistic about the immediate future. With the likelihood being that North Korea will indeed launch another nuclear test.
In the medium to long run however, I am an optimist. The failure of the rocket launch, is en faite,
extremely concrete evidence that the regime is beginning to face ruin and collapse. It cannot even guarantee the basic performance of something which is its own sine qua non
: the successful use of military force. The failure of course, also concomitantly reducing its bargaining power vis-`a-vis
the outside world, id. est., the USA, Japan and South Korea. It is only a matter of time, before the regime implodes `a la the DDR or Romania circa 1989. However, seemingly improbably at this juncture, it is something which I forsee occurring within the next three to five years time. Do not be surprised if I am able to post a "I told you so", on this subject in the not too distant future. 1
. Choe Sang-Hun. "Rocket Failure is set-back for North Korea's New Leader." The New York Times
.13 April 2012. in www.nytimes.com
CHINESE VIEWS OF CHINA'S RISE AND AMEIRICA'S FALL: A COMMENT
"China views the United States as a declining power, but at the same time believes that Washington is trying to fight back to undermine, and even disrupt, the economic and military growth that point to China’s becoming the world’s most powerful country, according to the analyst, Wang Jisi, the co-author of “Addressing U.S.-China Strategic Distrust,” a monograph published this week by the Brookings Institution in Washington and the Institute for International and Strategic Studies at Peking University.
Mr. Wang, who has an insider’s view of Chinese foreign policy from his positions on advisory boards of the Chinese Communist Party and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, contributed an assessment of Chinese policy toward the United States. Kenneth Lieberthal, the director of the John L. Thornton Center for China Studies at Brookings, and a former member of the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton, wrote the appraisal of Washington’s attitude toward China.
In a joint conclusion, the authors say the level of strategic distrust between the two countries has become so corrosive that if not corrected the countries risk becoming open antagonists.
The United States is no longer seen as “that awesome, nor is it trustworthy, and its example to the world and admonitions to China should therefore be much discounted,” Mr. Wang writes of the general view of China’s leadership.
In contrast, China has mounting self-confidence in its own economic and military strides, particularly the closing power gap since the start of the Iraq war. In 2003, he argues, America’s gross domestic product was eight times as large as China’s, but today it is less than three times larger.
The candid writing by Mr. Wang is striking because of his influence and access, in Washington as well as in Beijing. Mr. Wang, who is dean of Peking University’s School of International Studies and a guest professor at the National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army, has wide access to senior American policy makers, making him an unusual repository of information about the thinking in both countries. Mr. Wang said he did not seek approval from the Chinese government to write the study, nor did he consult the government about it.
It is fairly rare for a Chinese analyst who is not part of the strident nationalistic drumbeat to strip away the official talk by both the United States and China about mutual cooperation.
Both Mr. Wang and Mr. Lieberthal argue that beneath the surface, both countries see deep dangers and threatening motivations in the policies of the other.
Mr. Wang writes that the Chinese leadership, backed by the domestic news media and the education system, believes that China’s turn in the world has arrived, and that it is the United States that is “on the wrong side of history.” The period of “keeping a low profile,” a dictum coined by the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1989, and continued until now by the departing president, Hu Jintao, is over, Mr. Wang warns.
“It is now a question of how many years, rather than how many decades, before China replaces the United States as the largest economy in the world,” he adds.
China’s financial successes, starting with weathering the 1998 Asian financial crisis and the 2008 global financial crisis, the execution of events like the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the Shanghai Expo in 2010, contrast with America’s “alarming” deficit, sluggish economic recovery and polarized domestic politics, Mr. Wang says.
He does not address head on the far superior strength of the United States in military weaponry. But he notes that Beijing has developed advanced rocketry and space technology and sophisticated weapons systems without the “United States or the U.S.-led world order'".
Jane Perlez. "Chinese insider offers rare glimpse of U.S.-China frictions." The New York Times. 3 April 2012, in www.nytimes.com.
One does not need to be an adherent of the anti-Chinese school of thought, to be less than entirely surprised or impressed with the line of thinking displayed by Peking's leadership as per the New York Times story and the Brookings Institute report upon which it is based. Per se
, one would have to be the contemporary policy analyst equivalent of 'eyeless in Gaza'
, to not have picked-up and or notice the type of semi-triumphalist thinking displayed by PRC elites in the past half dozen years. With in particular, Peking's belligerent tone in disputes over the South China Sea, broadcasting loud and clear that Peking views this disputed issue with its neighbors as something which it cannot compromise on. And en faite
, sees no reason to do so. A point of view, which would not have been the case, say circa 1992, or even 2002. That being said, and not gainsaying the empirical fact that within sometime in the next decade, Peking will indeed have a GDP larger, than that of the United States, in purely power-political terms, how much of a 'game-changer' (to employ a contemporary vernacular expression) will this fact be? I for one, am skeptical, that ipso facto
this will indeed change the geopolitical landscape either in the Orient, much less elsewhere in the world. Simply put, unless and until, Peking is able to utilize its, admittedly considerable economic wealth (in total, not on a per capita basis), for military purposes, then the fact of American hegemony or neo-hegemony will not change in the least. To put the matter in a clear and comparative perspective, currently, there are only four countries in the world, which possess the following, military capabilities: i
) "a nuclear power; ii
) with a continuous at-sea deterrent; iii
) able to project important sea, air and land forces." And the People's Republic is not one of them 1
. In short, while the Brookings Report may perhaps frighten those of a particularly panglossian
disposition as it relates to the future behavior and views of the PRC elites, the fact of the matter is that as long as the USA and its allies in the region, do not choose to unilaterally disarm or comply with Peking's, then the current status quo ante
will no doubt remain 2
. Trevor Taylor. "The Limited Capacity of Management to rescue UK defence policy: a review and a word of caution." International Affairs. (March 2012), p. 235.2
. On this fact, see: Robert Kaplan. "America's Pacific logic." Stratfor: Global Intelligence.
4 April 2012, in www.stratfor.com