The China Desk
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American China Policy vs. Common Sense
November 25, 1999
A Little Learning Is a Dangerous Thing
America's foreign policy elites, liberal and conservative alike, share a common failing, a mind-boggling lack of common sense when the subject is China. Mainstream American policymakers charged with formulating America's China policy labor under a deadly handicap -- a near total ignorance of Chinese history, Chinese culture, and the Chinese people.
This ignorance in and of itself is perfectly understandable, reasonable even. Most people make no bones about their ignorance about what life is like in foreign countries. Much of the world's population, even in our era of jumbojets and the internet, is necessarily going to ignorant about foreign history, culture and people.
I myself confess ignorance about the facts surrounding Scotland's historical relationship to England. I am not so arrogant however as to imagine that merely watching Mel Gibson's deeply moving hit movie "Braveheart," once in a first run movie house, and a half dozen times on cable, qualifies me to pass judgement on the merits or demerits of Sean Connery's demands for Scottish secession.
Most people do not presume to micromanage the internal affairs of nations about which they know next to nothing. Most people do not insist on making facile moral judgements about who the Good Guys and Bad Guys are in order to stroke themselves for having "sided with the angels." Most people do not bomb complete strangers with into oblivion from 15,000 feet, then rationalize their war crimes as "promoting American values."
The problem is not ignorance. The problem is arrogance. The problem is our foreign policy elites, liberal and conservative alike, are simultaneously crusading global interventionists who insist on meddling without understanding.
Warfare Statists vs. the Yellow Peril
In case anyone imagines I'm referring only to the Clintonistas and Blairites, think again. Conservative Warfare Statists who pay hypocritical lip service to non-intervention are arguably worse than liberal Welfare Statists, who are at least up front about being unregenerate interventionists.
Conservative Warfare Statists, aka "Globocops on the Right," are noninterventionists only when the hare-brained military intervention is being undertaken at the behest of meddling liberal Welfare Statists occupying the White House and Ten Downing Street, and directed against an "Hitlerian Serbia" in the Balkans.
But when the hare-brained military intervention is undertaken at the behest of meddling conservative Warfare Statists on Capitol Hill, and directed against an allegedly "Hitlerian" China in the Taiwan Straits, Globocops on the Right undergo an astonishing and instantaneous transformation, from noninterventionist Dr. Jekylls to interventionist Henry Hydes.
Exhibit A: Senator Fred Dalton Thompson. Exhibit B: Congressman Chris Cox. Combine equal parts ignorance and arrogance. Add a dash of ugly subconscious, unexamined bigotry, and presto! A foolproof recipe for foreign policy disaster.
Classical liberal, aka libertarian champions of economic nonintervention, myself included, have leveled entire forests castigating liberal Welfare Statists for demanding American economic intervention in our domestic economy, all in the name of specious altruist collectivist notions of "social justice."
Libertarian champions of military nonintervention on the other hand, myself included, have consumed only a few scattered stands of Douglas Fir faulting conservative Warfare Statists for demanding American military intervention in foreign nations, all in the name of specious altruist collectivist notions of "Benevolent Global Hegemony."
The reason is that during the Cold War many libertarians viewed conservative Warfare Statists as allies locked in a common struggle against creeping socialism at home and galloping communism abroad. Libertarians as a consequence cut conservative Warfare Statists a lot of slack. Too much slack.
With the end of the Cold War it is time libertarians called conservative Warfare Statists to account for their hypocrisy. By sacrificing American citizens' lives, liberty and property in pursuit of a vainglorious American Empire, conservative Warfare Statists have inflicted as much if not more damage to our great republic as liberal Welfare Statists.
Question: What should America's China Policy be?
Answer: The same as Canada and Mexico's China Policy.
Can anyone name one earthly reason why America's China policy should be substantially different from that of our nearest neighbors Canada and Mexico? Are Canada and Mexico endangering their own national security by not adopting an hysterical attitude of unremitting hatred of China? Are Canada and Mexico at risk from waves of PLA Marines swarming onto the coast of British Columbia or Baja California because they weren't sufficiently alert to a non-existent "China Threat?" Does anybody who hasn't completely lost his sanity actually believe post-communist China has any interest in invading America?
No? Then why in the world would the United States of America be at greater risk than Canada and Mexico? What in the hell are the China Threat theorists so damned worried about?
The US Air Force has, depending on whom one believes, between 17,000 and 21,000 nuclear missiles in her inventory, enough to annihilate every man, woman and child on the planet, including nearly 300 million Americans. Not even the former Soviet Union, with an estimated 23,000 nuclear missiles, dared to attack America during the Cold War, knowing full well they faced assured mutual destruction.
A practical, workable ABM system is at least several decades, if not a half century away from being anything more than Popular Science magazine cover art. This means that for the next half century America would remain utterly invulnerable even if American defense contractors and the Pentagon froze all high tech military R&D for the next fifty years, something no one in America is advocating.
China has 18, count 'em, 18, nuclear missiles with an intercontinental capability. Knowledgeable American strategic analysts know full well China's nuclear arsenal is a purely defensive, retaliatory, second strike capability intended as deterrence against other nations' nuclear blackmail.
Nor does China have the slightest intention of squandering her national treasury acquiring tens of thousands of ICBMs like the former Soviet Union merely in order to acquire a first strike capability. They know from sobering cost benefit analysis that the numbers simply don't add up. Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin saw up close and personal how the Soviets bankrupted themselves economically engaging in a futile arms race with America. They aren't about to repeat that mistake. That's why Deng Xiaoping decided early on "It's the economy, stupid" and "took the capitalist road" instead.
The only moral use of force is in self-defense. This is as true between nations as it is between individuals. If America is attacked, without provocation, by a foreign nation, Americans have a categorical right to defend ourselves. Self-defense naturally does not include travelling thousands of miles out of our way to side with one faction rather than another engaged in a foreign civil war. That is plain and simple imperialist aggression, and the diametric opposite of legitimate self-defense.
Instead, our government should, in the words of George Washington:
"Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all -- Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it?"
Question: What kind of foreign policy should naturalized Americans advocate if they want to be genuine American patriots?
Answer: The same foreign policy as America's Founding Fathers.
Naturalized Americans who wish to be patriotic Americans should advocate a policy of "Trade, not Aid" with citizens of every nation on earth, including their homelands. As George Washington put it:
"The Great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign Nations is in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible."
Pro-reunification Chinese-Americans should demand that the American government neither help nor hinder mainland China's efforts to prevent Taiwan secession. Chinese-Americans who deny their identities, and who insist on referring to themselves as "Taiwanese" should demand that the American government neither help nor hinder Taiwan's efforts to achieve secession.
Just as German, French and Italian Swiss refrain from urging that strictly neutral Switzerland give preferential treatment to either Germany, France or Italy, so Chinese-Americans should urge that our American government remain strictly neutral regarding the confrontation between Beijing and Taipei.
If naturalized Americans or other American citizens are determined to take sides in a foreign conflict, either via financial contributions or volunteering for combat, they should do so purely as private individuals. They may wish to join Abraham Lincoln style brigades the way anti-fascist Americans did during the Spanish Civil War. They must however not attempt to foist either the economic or military burden of their causes onto other Americans who may not share, and may in fact bitterly oppose their political agendas.
Conservative Warfare Statists, i.e., "Globocops on the Right" consider this sort of neutrality un-American, unpatriotic. Unfortunately they are dead wrong. If anyone is unpatriotic, it is the Warfare Statists, "native born" or otherwise. They have apparently forgotten what genuine American values are, assuming they knew in the first place. A refresher course on American history would not be out of order, starting with George Washington's Farewell Address of 1796.
America is composed of immigrants from almost every nation on earth. If every hyphenated American, including but hardly limited to Chinese-Americans, Irish-Americans and Jewish-Americans demanded that America remain strictly neutral in the face of endless foreign conflicts, America would be at peace with almost every nation in the world. Are jingoist hawks like Jesse Helms and Chris Cox going to tell me this is a bad thing? I can't think of anything more patriotic a naturalized American can do than to prevent fellow Americans from coming home in bodybags, can you?
Question: Should the US government do the Chinese government any favors?
Answer: Absolutely, positively not. The US government should not do the mainland Chinese government any favors whatsoever. Rabid Taiwanese separatists take note, this means no favors for the Quisling Lee Teng-hui either.
Anything private Chinese citizens or the Chinese government want from private American citizens or the American government must be paid for in full, preferably in cold cash, preferably in advance.
Free trade is not a handout. Free trade is not a free lunch. Free trade is merely the opportunity to fork over the market price for something one wants to obtain in the marketplace. As consumers everywhere know, the market price for highly desirable products or services is often quite dear. But "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." If both the buyers and sellers are content, no one else has any say in the matter.
Not coercing a foreign nation to "reform" under threat of military intervention does not constitute doing their government a favor. Not taking sides in a foreign nation's civil war does not constitute doing their government a favor. Not violating foreign businessmens' inalienable right to engage in free trade does not constitute doing their government a favor.
Our federal government should not do any foreign regimes any favors. Why not? Because the federal government's resources, from whence any favors to foreign regimes would have to come, belongs to millions of individual American citizens and taxpayers. They constitute the hard-earned wealth of millions of individual Americans and should never have been taken from us in the first place. They should be returned to those individual Americans who earned it, so that we may use the wealth as each of us individually sees fit.
Conservative Warfare Statists, who ought to know better, in contrast to liberal Welfare Statists, seem to have forgotten that free trade is a fundamental human right, more basic to raw human survival than free speech. Free trade is not a privilege conferred by the state, but an inalienable natural right. Free trade is a human right neither the American government has the right to deny American citizens, nor the Chinese government has the right to deny Chinese citizens.
If conservative Warfare Statists do not understand even this much about the inseparable relationship between individual rights and free trade, then what pray tell is the ideological difference between them and communists, socialists and left liberal Welfare Statists?
Question: Doesn't "Humanitarian Intervention" increase the amount of freedom in the world?
Answer: Not on your life.
Conservative Warfare Statists harbor the erroneous belief that "Humanitarian Intervention" in less free foreign nations will be rewarded by a net increase in the amount of freedom in the world as a whole. Let's examine why conservative Warfare Statists' rosy scenario is self delusion.
Conservative Warfare Statists are inclined to blank out any number of inconvenient facts about "Humanitarian Intervention." Anyone who knows anything about the way people learn, and I mean really learn, know that most learning occurs at a subliminal, intuitive, non-linear level. Not by exhortation, but by example. Not by deduction, but by induction.
The hypocritical convention of demanding that unwilling pupils "Do as I say, not as I do" has never worked, does not work, and will never work. Why? Because the power of living example trumps insincere lip service every time. Lessons learned at gunpoint about "human rights" will never teach the world genuine respect for others' human rights. Instead the reluctant pupil will internalize the unintended lesson that "Might makes Right."
Commodore Perry is an early example. American gunboat diplomacy failed utterly to teach feudal Japan the value of American respect for the individual. Instead it inculcated Japan with the delusion that the only game in town was to beat westerners at their own game of high tech imperialism. Feudal Japan became fascist Japan. Republican America meanwhile became Imperial America.
Instead of increasing the amount of freedom in the world, Perry decreased it. One relatively free nation, America, intervened to "impose freedom" on a less free nation, feudal Japan. The result? A less free America and a less free Japan. American military intervention in Japan accomplished the remarkable but dubious feat of simultaneously reducing freedom in both Asia and America. Instead of two free nations, the world wound up with two less free nations. A lose/lose formula if ever there was one. As James Madison observed, "Of all the enemies to public liberty war, is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded."
Russia is a more recent example. Yeltsin is currently using the identical tactics against the Chechens that Clinton and Blair employed against Milosevic in Kosovo. Nato and the Pentagon certainly taught everyone in the Balkans a lesson. The only problem is it isn't the lesson the Guardians of the New World Order had in mind. What Nato's "Bombing for Peace" taught Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and God only knows who else, is that "Might makes Right," and that anybody who doesn't want what happened to Milosevic's Serbia to happen to them had better acquire or enhance their capacity for strategic deterrence.
Then of course, there is China
Having failed to learn the lessons of history with feudal Japan, conservative Warfare Statists are repeating their earlier Asian misadventure with China. Fortunately Chinese political culture is very different from Japanese samurai/fascist political culture, and it is extremely unlikely post-communist China will go down the same road as post-Perry Japan.
American moves to "contain" China will however have the perverse effect of delaying China's political liberalization. A Beijing unthreatened by western hegemony is prepared to allow considerably more freedom of domestic political expression than a Beijing which perceives foreign colonialists poised to take advantage of China in the event increased political freedom leads to widespread chaos. China remembers only too clearly what fate almost befell her during the late Ching dynasty, when internal disarray almost led to China's permanent partition by opportunistic Japanese, European and American imperialists.
Christian evangelist Reverend Ike used to preach that "The way to help the poor is to not be one of them." The way for America to help less free nations of the world is not to be one of them. Americans can promote American values best by being a living example of our way of life at home, demonstrating that our system works, and works beautifully, instead of ramming our values down foreigners' throats at gunpoint. Actions, as the cliche goes, speak louder than words. Americans should make sure the lesson we're presuming to teach is the one we're successfully living, not the one we're merely talking about.