Monday, September 17, 2007

A Tale of Two Super Powers: The United States and China

On Occupations and Pre-Occupations

From Dalian, in the Peoples' Republic of China, Thomas Friedman wrote this Wednesday NYT column (with my emphasis and snips):

It's nice to be in a country where Iraq is never mentioned. It's just a little unnerving when that country is America's biggest geopolitical and economic rival these days: China.

I heard China's prime minister, Wen Jiabao, address an international conference here in Dalian, and what impressed me most was how boring it was - a straightforward recitation of the staggering economic progress China has made in the last two decades and the towering economic, political and environmental challenges it still faces.

How nice it must be, I thought, to be a great power and be almost entirely focused on addressing your own domestic problems?

No, I have not gone isolationist. America has real enemies that China does not, and therefore we have to balance a global security role in places like the Middle East with domestic demands.

But something is out of balance with America today.. . . it is hard not to feel that China has spent the last six years training for the Olympics while we've spent ourselves into debt on iPods and Al Qaeda.

After 9/11, we tried to effect change in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world by trying to build a progressive government in Baghdad. . . . But the strategy failed, for a million different reasons, and now it is time to recognize that and focus on how we insulate ourselves from the instability of that world - by having a real energy policy, for starters - how we protect our security interests there in more sustainable ways and how we get back to developing our own house.

...By now it should be clear that Iraq is going to be what it is going to be. We've never had sufficient troops there to shape Iraq in our own image. We simply can't go on betting so many American soldiers and resources that Iraqis will one day learn to live together on their own - without either having to be bludgeoned by Saddam or baby-sat by us.

...So either we get help or get out. That is, if President Bush believes staying in Iraq can still make a difference, then he needs to muster some allies because the American people are not going to sustain alone - nor should they - a long-shot bet that something decent can still be built in Baghdad.

If the president can't get help, then he has to initiate a phased withdrawal: now. Because the opportunity cost this war is exacting on our country and its ability to focus on anything else is out of all proportion to what might still be achieved in Iraq by our staying, with too few troops and too few friends.

. . . .The minute we start withdrawing, all Iraqis will carefully calculate their interests. They may decide that they want more blood baths, but there is just as much likelihood that they will eventually find equilibrium

... I have not been to Dalian in three years. It is not just a nice city for China. It is a beautiful city of wide avenues, skyscrapers, green spaces, software parks and universities.

....The president of Dalian University of Technology, Jinping Ou, told me his new focus now is on energy research and that he has 100 doctoral students dealing with different energy problems - where five years ago he barely had any - and that the Chinese government has just decided to open its national energy innovation research center here.

Listening to him, my mind drifted back to Iraq, where I was two weeks ago and where I heard a U.S. officer in Baghdad tell this story:
His unit was on a patrol in a Sunni neighborhood when it got hit by an I.E.D. Fortunately, the bomb exploded too soon and no one was hurt. His men jumped out and followed the detonation wire, which led 1,500 feet into the neighborhood. A U.S. Black Hawk helicopter was in the area and alerted the U.S. soldiers that a man was fleeing the scene on a bicycle. The soldiers asked the Black Hawk for help, and it swooped down and used its rotor blades to blow the insurgent off his bicycle, with a giant "whoosh," and the U.S. soldiers captured him.
That image of a $6 million high-tech U.S. helicopter with a highly trained pilot blowing an insurgent off his bicycle captures the absurdity of our situation in Iraq. The great Lebanese historian Kamal Salibi said it best:
Great powers should never get involved in the politics of small tribes.
That is where we are in Iraq. We're wasting our brains. We're wasting our people. We're wasting our future. China is not.
Quelle Difference!


  1. "... America has real enemies that China does not...

    Now, why would that be?

  2. Insurgents are funded with a micro-fraction of what it costs our occupation forces to suppress them.

    The insurgency in Iraq is self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, connivance by corrupt Islamic charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to prevent, a classified United States government report has concluded.

    Estimates are that groups responsible for many insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising $70 million to $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says $25 million to $100 million of that comes from oil smuggling and other criminal activity involving the state-owned oil industry, aided by ''corrupt and complicit'' Iraqi officials.

  3. Thanks for this contribution Emily. It's better than the way you described it.

  4. As I read Friedman's column in the Times (and Emily's retelling today) I realized just how very easy it was for Friedman to get caught up in the beauty of Dalian's "wide avenues, skyscrapers, green spaces, software parks and universities" and forget for a few moments that China has one of the most complex, aggressive, self centered and destructive foreign policies in the world.

    Their thurst for oil is insatiable and drives their every foreign policy decision. The deaths of hundreds of thousands in Darfur is well within China's grasp to stop, yet they instead feed billions in cash, aid, arms and, most importantly, UN vetos to the despots in Sudan.

    And it is remarkably easy for Friedman to enjoy the peace and tranqility of China and be bored by Wen Jiabao droning adress when "code pink" or similar protests are impossible under the draconian iron rule that imprisions even Internet bloggers who distract from the central messages of growth, peace and prosperity.

    Unlike George Bush who has his policies scrutinized carefully by a vigorious Democrat opposition and hundreds of thousands of journalists, bloggers and ultimately citizen voters, Wen Jiabao has the peace of total security without opposition, examination or criticism.

    Even Google is censored in China.

    I don't at all disagree with Emily's or Friedman's criticism of the foolish and soon to fail Iraq occupation by the idiot Bush and his neo-con compatriots, but the China comparison is simply niave.

    Friedman wouldn't even be allowed to pracitce his art of political dissent journalism in China. There literally ARE NO Thomas Friedmans in China. They either hide in fear or are hidden away in prisons.

  5. Actually China is one of the major funders of the occupation of Iraq.

    Much of our income to float the economy(special interest spending) comes from their buying our treasuries, along with other Globalism linked countries.
    They and others are the real 'coalition' of the willing.
    -This gives one pause as to the 'next most probable' .
    We've backed ourselves into a dark corner with the size of our Current Account Deficit, and the requirement of over $2 billion per day in foreign investment to finance the deficit.
    And the overall trend for this data has been sliding each month... It used to be the argument of those dollar bulls and the people who don't believe that deficits matter, that as long as we attract financing, all's well.
    But with the amount of investment flows coming in smaller each month, we'll soon be at the level below the $70-$75 billion needed on a monthly basis...

    When that happens, there are two things the Gov't can do... 1. raise rates to attract investment. Or 2. allow the currency to be debased. With regard to #1. We all know the Fed is going to begin cutting rates today, so throw that one out the window... And #2. this would be the government's choice anyway... So... Watch for further weakness in the dollar...

    Oh, and one more thing... It was August that the Chinese mentioned their "nuclear option" of selling Treasuries. So... If August`s balance shows further weakening, September`s balance could be quite ugly... And that means... Further currency debasing, which will come in the way of rate cuts.
    Which, by the way... all that plays well, with the currency debasing that will be needed to attract foreign investment to finance the Current Account Deficit!
    Geez, Louise... And UGH!

    This picture means we are on the verge of economic disaster.

    As far as Friedman he is a total pimp for Globalism, a third rate thinker, and in mortal opposition to the best interests of the North American people.

  6. Excellent points, Wizard. As always.

  7. S. Sievert's contribution doesn't seem to me to be too far off the mark either, IMO.