Do Not Watch the Hand that Appears to be Moving

Bush goes to Europe. He makes nice. Why not? Mark Steyn puts it well. When the stakes are low, the rhetoric is most soaring. This gets lots of media coverage. The media say, Bush is trying to “mend fences”. No. Bush is there for American domestic political consumption. It is all gesture.

Nothing concrete will happen. The Europeans will continue to do everything they were going to do — most importantly, sell arms to China. In other words, say nice words, and act as our enemies when it comes to action. OK, fine. Be like that.

Meanwhile, getting almost no coverage, huge and important changes are afoot on the other side of Eurasia.

Look at this joint statement issued by Japan and the USA. Don’t let the boring diplo-speak fool you. The Japanese are lining up with us on everything important. They are going to become interoperable, see para. 13. They are with us in Middle East, and on Taiwan and on NK. Interestingly , Japan is going to export missile defense technology to the USA. I wonder what they have figured out how to do that we are so far unable to do?

See this summary: “China and North Korea are identified in the review as key threats to Japan’s national security — the first time specific countries have been cited in this fashion.”

So we are deepening and strengthening the “baseball” alliance with Japan. NATO has turned to vapor since the Cold War ended. But the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force is still an excellent Navy. And Japan, still the second biggest economy in the world, is much more serious about military defense because they face real and scary threats. They are now not just on our side, but scared of their neighbors, scared of about ongoing access to Middle East oil, and firmly and seriously on our side.

Extremely clever of the Bush team to have W in Europe mouthing platitudes, and getting all the press coverage, while Rice and Rumsfeld are laying the foundation for Japan to be a regional and global military player, and checkmating China. But the Chicoms and the NKs are watching. China will be deterred because we are speaking with clarity and we are committing resources and gathering allies. This is all good. This is about hard deterrence and hard capabilities.

Don’t be distracted by the tired old vaudeville routine in Europe. The real action is all away from the glare of the lights.

UPDATE Austin Bay, via Instapundit, has different take on this. He rightly points out that “Europe” is not France and that the other European nations do not necessarily follow the French, or Franco-German, line.

54 thoughts on “Do Not Watch the Hand that Appears to be Moving”

  1. I agree that it’s a very bad idea to sell arms to China, but the motive behind that is greed, not hostility. After all, Blair is all for it, too.
    And please, at least give credit to the EU for imposing an arms embargo on China in the first place.

  2. The one we nuked is our better ally.

    Go figure. I remember stories of WWII vets who wouldn’t buy Toyota.

    Watching this play out for the last 15 years, I wonder what they think now?

    I know it’s greed, Ralf, frogistan’s weapon sales are way down. Those who are buying and can afford American, buy American.

    Some of US are just getting fed up. You should get over here while you can. Vote with your feet.

  3. Ralf, thanks for your thoughts.

    I disagree that it is greed, primarily. It is about building an alliance to contain American power. Chirac has repeatedly said that is his goal for “Europe”, to create a “counterweight” to the USA, which means to make opposition, categorically, to the United States a principle of European foreign policy, and to enlist others in that policy.

    The Europeans, led by France, are assisting the Chinese because they know this will impose additional burdens and costs on the United States, which is committed to defending Taiwan, or will cause more Americans to die if we have to fight them. In other words, they are acting as an adversary. Which is fine. They can play it that way. We will, I trust, respond at times and manners of our own choosing.

    Blair’s participation is, I think, tactical. To assuage his defense industry on one side, i.e. greed, and the Europhiles and Americaphobes in his own party, i.e. domestic politics, on the other.

    As to giving credit to Europe for embargoing sales of arms to China in the first place, I suppose a hearty “bully for them” is in order. In the USA we have a saying: “What have you done for me lately?” The past is over and is irrelevant, and every day you have to perform and you are judged on what you are doing now. That’s the American way.

    Incidentally, I think it is pathetic when Americans say France should have “gratitude” to us for events that occurred 60+ years ago. I have never taken this line. I respect the memory of Lafayette and Rochambeau, but I do not think that the stirring events of 225 years ago should influence America’s dealings with France today. Nor do I think that the conduct of the Third Reich is a particularly important factor to take into consideration when thinking about dealing with Germany today and tomorrow. France should do what it thinks is good for France — and bear the consequencs of its actions.

    I have a lot of hope that Germany will eject Schroeder and take a more sensible position with regard to the United States. It is not necessary to support us on everything. Sometimes we are wrong. But it is necessary to not make opposition the United States a principle, and especially not arming the primary potential military adversary of the United States. There ought to be other ways to make money trading with China.

  4. Lex, I agree on your main points but wish W had gotten on it earlier. Instead we participated in a multilateral charade that resembled our efforts with the Europeans vs. Iran and in the UN vs. Saddam Hussein. It’s good that W doesn’t leap to confront our enemies — indeed his vigorous use of diplomacy and private pressure makes ridiculous the Left’s accusation that he is a warmonger. But there is a risk that one of these days he will miscalculate and fail to respond to a critical situation in time. If we’re lucky, the N. Korean situation will resolve into a manageable stalemate, with Japan and Taiwan re-arming while we encourage Kim to abdicate.

  5. I don’t agree that we are in a “multilateral charade” WRT NK. Bottom line, if the place collapses, or if they start a war, the worst victims other than the suffering masses in NK, will be SK and China. China in particular created this mess. We just need to cabin it off, point to NK and tell China — your commie protege, your retarded iittle brother, his big stinking mess, right next to your country, your big mess too, you clean it up. If NK gets a bomb, and they try to use it, they get annihilated. They know that. As to moving faster, Japan moves slowly. Bush getting reelected gave them confidence to embark on a changed course. And we seized the opportunity to get them involved. Good.

  6. NATO was revealed to be vapor in September of 2001 when it invoked Article V of the charter in response to the 9/11 attack on the US.

    Because nothing changed. Invocation of Article V was completely meaningless.

    (In fact, it was perverse. After Article V was invoked, the French and Germans tried to claim that it meant that the US had to get permission from Berlin and Paris before responding militarily. Article V says “an attack against one will be treated as an attack against all.” But if we all were attacked, then we all have to agree on how to react, right?)

  7. I don’t agree that we are in a “multilateral charade” WRT NK.

    Not any more, it appears. But we were until recently.

    The notion that we should lean on China to solve the problem, because China supposedly shares our interests, is I think part of the problem. China doesn’t share our interests, or at least not all of them, and some of China’s interests WRT NK conflict with ours. And I think the Chinese saw the multiparty talks as an opportunity to gain leverage against us, which we didn’t (thank God) go along with. So we are probably going to have to deal with the mess ourselves, or with the countries that most closely share our interests — Japan and Taiwan. It’s good that Bush seems to agree. He tried it first with the PRC’s involvement, because maybe it could have worked and that would have been greatly to our benefit. But the reality of the multiparty negotiation — that China wasn’t on our side — is now obvious, so Bush is reasonably moving on. That’s to his credit. I just hope he doesn’t miscalculate here or (especially) with Iran.

    BTW if we are successful in neutralizing NK, that should have a deterrent effect on Iran. I assume that Iran is working all-out to build nukes on the belief that NK’s nukes have made NK invulnerable. So it will be extremely beneficial for us if we can show that that belief on the part of Iran and other nuclear wannabes is false.

  8. Lex,

    I don’t agree. Chirac once floated the idea of the EU as a counterweight to America, but he didn’t get a favorable response for that.

    Anyway, Schröder is running into some resistance when he tries to have the embargo lifted.


    NATO wasn’t formed with terrorists in mind, unlike an attack by an clearly definable enemy like the Soviet Union would have been there simply was no consensus on what to do. And the desire to be consulted is not illegitimate per se, and wre also helped you in Afghanistan, disagreements over Iraq notwithstanding.

  9. Here’s Thomas P. M. Barnett’s take on February 18th in his blog ( His post titled, “Europe is basically right across the board,” based on the WSJ article, “Germany Pushes Proactive Path: Schroder to Use Bush Visit To Sell His Own Ideas, Calls For U.S. to Back Iran Talks,” (by Marc Champion and Frederick Kempe, 16 February 2005, p. A13.). He repeats Schroder’s wish list as Europe’s: “[They] want us to negotiate with Iran, want us to rethink the transatlantic relationship (letting Europe decide more); want us to forgive more Gap debt; want us to do more on CO2 emissions; want us to lighten up on China and let EU sell them arms; and want us to be more patient with Russia.” Then he concludes, “Europe is right on all these points.”

    This post reveals a tendency to deemphasize the responsibilities of the legal nation-state. It offers a “Chinese menu” of sovereign republics, all violating the Core’s rule-sets, from non-proliferation (Iran) to human rights (China), to which, according to Schroder, and Barnett, we’re supposed to give license – or make exceptions. Also, Barnett uncritically conflates Europe’s wants with Schroeder’s.

    Is anyone deconstructing this guy?

  10. Thomas PM Barnett’s argument seems to be “We’re arming Japan and Taiwan, so who are we to tell the EU they can’t arm China?”.

    The problem with that argument is that it posits a false equivalence. Japan and Taiwan are, to use his model, solid core countries. They’re also protected by the US, just as the EU is (or was, as the case may be).

    So I can’t understand why Barnett makes the argument that it’s OK for some core countries to arm a gap country that threatens other core countries. But Barnett is frightfully smart, so I think it’s me who is missing something vital, not him. Maybe he considers China core rather than gap?

  11. Barnett considers China a “new Core” country.

    His vision is of the USA “closing the Gap”, and no longer getting into power struggles with big countries. He has disdain for anyone who sees China as a threat to the United States. He wants us to ratchet down any conflict with China by, as far as I can tell, letting them do anything they want, period. Maybe I’m being hard on him, but I don’t really see any other way to look at it.

    I think this is the weakest part of his vision.

  12. I follow CBoyz in hope of restoring my confidence in Republican policy and thought, but this post catches a lot of my angst. I think it is pretty cavalier to discount Europe while posturing belligerence toward China, with a wily nation like Japan as a foil. The US is VERY vulnerable to China in the medium to long run – why does China need to buy arms when they can bring us to heel by just selling dollar reserves? No bloodshed, no culpability, just “commerce” and covering us in a hole we dug ourselves. China will have its century, and no violence will ensue. More likely the US just becomes a theme park like Europe, welcoming Millions of Mandarin-speaking tourists here to see their kids graduate from places like U. of C. Our posturing is just as empty as France’s, although we have 50 years or so to slide down that slope.

  13. Barnett seems to be applying Albright logic. Maybe he’s starting to angle for a position in the next Democrat administration?

  14. Don. The USA is not posturing on China, if posturing means an empty gesture. It has extended a security guarantee to Taiwan. That guarantee just became more credible because Japan, which actually possesses relevant military power is joining us in that. So, no posturing going on here.

    As to whether the Chinese can ruin us by selling dollars, I suppose they are welcome to try and we’ll see what happens. If that is a weaker threat than you seem to think, and I think it is, then we are not particularly vulnerable to them. Seems to me that we are their biggest customer and they may not want to do that. On the other hand, Britain and Germany had the largest bilateral trade in the world in 1914, but Germany chose to go to war because they were not deterred. We are now being serious about deterring China. That helps keep the peace, and gives them a disincentive to gratuitously do things that will damage us, their biggest customer.

    As to the USA becoming a theme park, I think you are way off. China has enormous problems ahead, demographic, environmental, political, which it may not possess the strength to overcome. We have a very resilient society. I like the hand we are holding a lot better than China’s hand. China may yet have its century, but they have a lot of bad road to traverse before it starts.

    Richard, you cynic.

  15. I confess: I’m guilty of oversimplification. But, does anybody really believe the Chinese will resort to arms as long as they are getting the best of the match by competing economically? Hell, Taiwan is RUSHING across the strait to manage mainland assets and industry. Our little adventure into byway Iraq has shown vividly the limitation of armed conflict. It has only one legitimate purpose; annihilation of deranged aggressors, when every other means has been exhausted. Had we observed those rules, we would be $300 Billion (and too many casualties) ahead instead of fan-dancing around the world as we figure out how to cut and run while mouthing “stay the course”.

    I told you I was disillusioned.

  16. -China sells us goods. We pay with dollars.

    -China has to do something with the dollars, or else we just got a lot of goods in exchange for green paper.

    -China spends and invests the dollars. They invest a lot of them in the USA, including by buying US govt debt securities. They do this because US securities are good investments.

    So: Chinese manufactured goods are competitive, as are US investments. China makes a profit on its goods, spends and invests it, and in the process we get to borrow a lot of money from China at favorable rates.

    This sounds like a good deal for us, and indeed I don’t think we’re in any kind of weak position. China wants its money back, after all. If China tried to devalue the US dollar by using dollar reserves to buy other currencies, it would essentially be subsidizing whoever bought the dollars. It would also, to the extent it were successful in depressing the dollar, be devaluing its dollar-denominated bond holdings and making its exports more expensive to American customers. Why would China shoot itself in the foot?

    We have nothing to fear from Chinese dollar-selling as long as we maintain a competitive economy and investment environment. And if we lose our competitive edge, it will be because we make policy mistakes, not becaue of the actions of another country.

    It wasn’t so long ago that we were going to be taken over by Japan. The evidence: Japanese investors were bidding up some US assets. The Japanese apparently had a secret plan to take over by enriching the Americans who sold them hard assets at inflated prices. Now the Chinese are going to take over by lending our govt huge amounts of money at low rates? We should continue being so unlucky.

  17. But, does anybody really believe the Chinese will resort to arms as long as they are getting the best of the match by competing economically?

    That condition is important. In addition to all the domestic problems consider that China is not the last source of low cost labor. So when those domestic problems start to put pressure on the dictatorial regime will they seek to divert attention from their own problems and failures by focusing on reclaiming the lost province of Taiwan and finally humiliating the westerners the way they humiliated Imperial China? I’d not bet against it.

  18. ” …does anybody really believe the Chinese will resort to arms … ” The problem is that people have shown over history a worrisome willingness to resort to arms when that decision objectively, and later, did not look too smart. Norman Angell predicted before 1914 that a European War could not happen since it would be an economic disaster for everybody. So, he figured, peace was in store forever. Oops. But, he was was kinda right. It was an economic disaster, but it happened anyway. Germany went into World War I and junked the world economy and reduced themselves to eating turnip soup and bread made out of acorns. The Argentinians went into the Falklands, figuring it would be a cheap way to rally the country when the regime was tottering. By your analysis anyway, the USA was stupid to invade Iraq. Say China’s government is facing some serious political crisis, and they think they can rally the country by drumming up a nationalistic war over Taiwan. Is that inconceivable? No. Austria-Hungary thought they could shore up their fracturing empire by a splendid little war against those pushovers the Serbs. Oops. But they had every reason to know the Serbs would be a tough nut to crack. But they let wishful thinking overcome any rational analysis. Take a look at Martin van Creveld’s book Logistics in War. The Germans had all the facts they needed to know that invading Russia was beyond their capabilities. They just kept building in favorable assumptions until they talked themselves into it. Japan before Pearl Harbor had an analysis done that showed that America’s overall warmaking potential was ten times greater than Japan’s. Yamamoto told them it was literally impossible to defeat the USA. They went to war anyway.

    A country like China which has a government of questionable legitimacy has to come off as at least the defender of national unity and honor. And the government and military are not accountable and it is impossible to know what plans they are making or what they will do in a crisis.

    In a crisis atmosphere, the best thing to have handy is a credible deterrant in existence, so the calculations that are made are not based on wishful thinking. The Germans and the Argentinians both figured Britain would not fight. The Germans and the Japanes figured that once they got into a war with the USSR or with America, that they’d wing it and it all work out because they were Aryan supermen or knights of Bushido or some such delusional crap.


    So, even if a decision to go to war would be objectively insane, that does not mean it is not possible that it will happen.

    China, now, knows that the USA and Japan are willing to defend Taiwan. That should take the issue off the table, if anything can.

    Clearly marked boundaries and strong fences keep the peace, not ambiguity.

  19. NATO wasn’t formed with terrorists in mind, unlike an attack by an clearly definable enemy like the Soviet Union would have been there simply was no consensus on what to do.

    Sorry, that doesn’t wash. NATO was formed to defend Germany against Soviet invasion. Does that mean the only obligation under Article V was for America to defend Germany?

    And given that there is no longer a Soviet Union at all, then doesn’t that imply that NATO should be dissolved, and that America should pull all its forces out of Europe?

    An alliance is an alliance. It’s all or nothing. No one predicted what happened on 9/11, but the British and Australians proved they were allies in reality, not just on paper, and helped us. Australia isn’t even part of NATO, but they gave us a lot more help than a lot of NATO members did, especially Germany.

    What they didn’t do was to say, “Since we’re allies, you can’t do anything without our permission.”

    Ralf, apparently the only time you think Germany and the US should be allies is when the US helps Germany.

    I also don’t consider Germany’s behavior in the UNSC in the six months preceding the invasion of Iraq to have been the act of a friend and ally.

    Right now I categorize Germany and France as being equivalent to China: nations with whom my nation talks, and with whom we have a great deal of trade, but whom we do not trust and do not rely upon. There is no friendship between your nation and mine any longer.

    (And don’t bother mentioning the token and minor German after-the-fact involvement in Afghanistan. I don’t consider that interesting or persuasive.)

  20. I have a wisp of disagreement with SDB on this. I suspect that the German voting public is less committed to the anti-American position than are the French. Of course, in China, there is no voting public. Anyway, the next round of German elections should be helpful in clarifying the relationship.

  21. While the German voting public may be less anti-American than the French, it will probably choose the next government based on who it believes can reduce unemployment. The victor’s foreign policy will just be along for the ride because they do not see any bears in the woods.

    Even if the CDU wins, the German media and elites will remain anti-American and will make life as difficult for a pro-American government as possible. And ultimately the best we can hope for out of the Germans is to not be a pain in the rear. They are unlikely to ever be a positive ally as are the Brits, Ozzies and now the Japanese.

    The Poles and other Europeans see a Bear in the woods and will want to keep us around. That is why we need to keep NATO alive. The Russians out, the Germans down, the Americans in. And that phrase explains why we have never really been allies with the Germans.

  22. “and if we lose our competitive edge, it will be because we make policy mistakes…”

    Haven’t seen any of those lately, huh? A ragged bunch of zealots with RPG’s has the only superpower slowly bleeding bad policy, and we’re debating whether more bluster in the Taiwan straits is a good idea? Maybe it is, as long as we don’t blow the credibility by being unable to close the deal in a hellhole the size of California.

    Barnett was mentioned above. At least he can discern that a one-trick policy based on “Leviathan” arms is neither credible nor sustainable in the absence of a real (not fabricated) deranged aggressor.

    I agree that the US is both powerful and sophisticated enough to navigate among rational nation-states, and also capable of “surgical” actions against failed out-lyers like the Taliban and Kim Jung-Il. Its in between where we seem to have lost our way, trying to apply disproportionate force to primitive opponents like Vietnam and Iraq.

  23. Don, I guess if we’re doing such a bad job in Iraq, you’d prefer to be holding Zarqawi’s cards?

    What we are doing in Iraq is using the minimum necessary force to defeat a foe whose only ally is your impatience, just as we defeated the communists in Viet Nam until Congress decided to pull the plug on them. And that sure has worked out well for the Vietnamese. Perhaps you’d be happier if we used the kind of tactics the Vietnamese did after they finished their conquest of the South?

    I’d say democratic votes in Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq, Muammar Qadaffi getting out of the nuke business and revealing AQ Kahn and Lebanese marching in the streets to throw out the Syrians are pretty good results for a one trick policy. I’d love to have had that kind of success with our one trick policy against Kim Jong-Il. It is the same policy, right?

  24. “A ragged bunch of zealots with RPG’s has the only superpower slowly bleeding bad policy”

    Emphasis on “slowly”. At this rate they’ll have us bled white in, oh, about 5,000 years.

    I can’t for the life of me think of any reason on Earth why the Iranians wouldn’t sponsor repeated conventional terrorist attacks on the United States the minute they get nukes. Which is why Iraq is a good place to be – a nice staging area for us to preempt that nightmare. The idiots with RPG’s are a distraction, and if we can keep from getting the vapors about our shockingly low losses to date, we can get on with the long, difficult task of neutralizing the outstanding threats to us.

  25. Don, you say, “Its in between where we seem to have lost our way.”

    Speak for yourself, man. Bush’s successful war in Iraq was simply the assertion of a decade of UNSC resolutions. Right?

    RE: Barnett, he has synthesized a brilliantly coherent description of the Gap/Core dynamic and the global balance of power. But under this brilliant shell lurks a laundrey list of expensive, global welfare schemes.

    Our country (the U.S.) is still debating whether we should be the world”s policeman. Can we be its wet-nurse, too.


  26. It is, but Ralf got us OT with the Euro focus, and who can resist red meat?

    I must admit to being pleasantly and unpleasantly shocked by the Japanese move.

    Pleasantly in that it is an immense and very capable and complimentary addition to the forces protecting Taiwan and confronting China.

    Unpleasant in that if the Japanese are doing this, something must be really bothering them. Perhaps things in North Korea are worse than we imagine or something else we don’t know. I would almost see it as a reaction to the South Korean Central Bank’s decision to dump dollars, but the Japanese don’t act that quickly. Maybe it’s the Eeyore in me, but I sense this silver lining must be accompanied by a dark cloud.

  27. I don’t mean to impose on the tony discourse here, I’m just a lurker after all – so I’ll sign off with this comment. Zarqawi doesn’t play cards, he has what we call a clue. Disrupt the Leviathan, commit outrageous atrocities, AND BE COMPLETELY WILLING TO PAY THE PRICE. In his psychotic view, he holds the moral high ground. The only patience long enough to prevail against his kind is the Pax Romana, 300 years or so of swatting every thug who rises up. Is that the American vision for the region? As for democracy in A-P-I, you must be kidding – democracy is not an institution that springs fully formed from the stuff we have to work with there. As soon as we (all, not just Congress, we got in together and we’ll leave together) retreat, as we always do from these primitive engagements, the violence will resume – unless there is a spark of liberty that somehow flares up among the locals. These sparks are rare and the US bats about .100 in recognizing them and letting them ignite. More often we bet on the strong and orderly, not the “yearning to be free”. Eastern Europe is a refreshing exception, but it didn’t happen because we broke all the furniture and set up democracy. It came from decades of struggle by patriots comparable to our founding fathers, while we drank toasts with the Russians at the UN. Our detente with the Bear did enable the world to function until the patriots could break out, and for that we deserve credit. That is a far cry from bombing and shelling out a tinpot dictator and trying to replace him with a stooge – it just NEVER WORKS.

    I am looking for some shred of competence from the Bush gang, but it doesn’t show here in Florida and certainly not in Washington. Just another bunch of plutocrats lining their pockets and “moving the hand” for the suckers to watch. Would the Democrats be any better? I don’t think so. I thought Condi Rice was a comer from her Soviet-specialist days (reminds me of my equities-analyst daughter), but she has become just another political toadie. It’s a shame that our party has no higher goal than to be best of a bad lot.

    There, I feel better. thanks for listening – I hate a troll and I’ll bow out now before I really wear out the gracious welcome.

  28. I’m not the management, but you sure don’t seem like a troll, Don. Just somebody whose got a different perspective than I. Stick around, stick up for your opinion, and somebody’s mind might be changed.

  29. “The only patience long enough to prevail against his kind is the Pax Romana, 300 years or so of swatting every thug who rises up. Is that the American vision for the region? ”

    That needs to be the American vision for anyplace that we expect to become or remain free. As long as we hesitate to take on the thugs, they’ll keep doing what they can to erase liberty wherever they can reach, and they’ll do that even in this country when they can get away with it. To establish and preserve liberty, we’ve got to use force to protect it from the thugs as well as from powerful well-armed dictators.

  30. Don, your no troll. Feel free to chill with us anytime. Really. You are more pessimistic than the average ChicagoBoy or -Grrl around here, but what the Hell. Let 100 flowers bloom. Civil disgreement is the name of the game around here.

    As to Zarqawi, I had this post which is consistent with your view, largely.

    “trying to replace him with a stooge” — But we did have this election, so we aren’t doing that.

    As to whether Bush has a shred of competence, barring disaster, we will have just under four more years of him. So, like it or not, we are all going to see what happens.

  31. Lex, “The Japanese are lining up with us on everything important.” – I noticed a “coming together” after the E-P3 incident that intensified in the aftermath of the submarine collision off Hawaii. It seems under Koizumi and Bush there’s been a quiet resurgence in our cooperative relations.

    Their economy has come out of what seemed to be a perpetual recession, they helped to rebuild Afghanistan, assisted us in Iraq, ante’d up after the tsunami, rigorously engaged in the six-party talks. Sounds like a functional, contributing nation-state. Wish we had more like her around.

    Don, you’re no troll. Time may even prove you right in Iraq. One hundred years from now, if we could compare notes here on CBoyz between sips of our cornflakes and gasps from our oxygen tanks, I may have to eat crow, pureed and screened.

  32. I imagine that Zaquari (and upper echelon of his ilk) are more interested in obtaining power for its own sake. Surely the mantle of moral highground he and others assume in vilifying the west is largely motivational propaganda for the masses. While they may believe we’re decadent I doubt it’s motivational.

    If only we had a long term despot here and there devoted to a gradual transformation to some sort of parlimentary government (someone with a democtratic bent and with the political and survival instincts of Castro, say).

  33. Some comments from a random visitor…

    @Richard, on Japan. It is no secret why Japan is worked up. North Korea has announced that they have nukes. The Japanese have been hoping for a long time that things would settle down on the Korean peninsula and tried to just work the worry beads and pretend it was all ok. NK pushes the anti-Japan propaganda harder than the Neo-Nazis push anti-semitism. They still hold a grudge left over from WWII. Anyway; when Japan looks around the region they see a lot of neutrals with long memories, one head case with a bone to pick, and no friends. NK with nukes is their nightmare.

    @Don, on the ME. You need to let the pessimism go and at least step into realism. We can save optimism for later. In your 8:37 post you laid out both the problem and identified our current course as the solution…but then managed to make the current course sound bad :) You are absolutely right that Zarqawi is trying the bleed and patience game. You are also right that the way to beat that is to be willing to kill to win, play a long game, and nurture a spark of economic freedom and democracy…all of which we are doing in the Middle East today. Unless of course we lose the plot and pull out.
    You laid out what doesn’t work (the rent-a-thug stability game) but that is exactly what we are *not* doing today.
    So the point I am making is that you sound like you should be positive and I cannot determine where you’ve gone off the rails.

    One additional note Don: You are wrong regarding Eastern Europe. It has turned out well precisely because we *did* break all the furniture…just not as overtly as sending in the uniforms. We forced Russia to spend all of her resources and time countering us externally, while working to build and support resistance groups internally. When the wheels came off the wagon it was not an accident of fate it was the result of years of work. We did not hit the Iron Curtain with a hammer once, we poured saltwater against it for years.

  34. Good to see you back Lex.

    We are dropping the ball with Russia though. Pat Buchanan has a good article on this today. This bluster about Democracy is aimed at the wrong country. We were on the way toward building a good fence around China and North Korea. Too bad the Democracy idealogues can’t separate idealism vs realpolitik. The effect would be to drive Moscow towards Beijing, which would be a blunder. Russia has the advanced weapons technology and natural resources that China needs, not to mention lebensraum…

    Jonathan has it right though, China would be shooting itself in the foot. It’s like the analogy where if you’re going to borrow money from a bank to start a business, borrow so much that you make the bank your business partner. The one saving grace is that the well to do class in China tends to care more about business than politics. And they are leading the way for a relatively stable populace that want to climb the ladder. In the end I think it will be a major factor. They are living under the boot, but that particular boot isn’t stupid, or at least isn’t as stupid as a boot can be. But then again as you say, Europeans circa 1914 thought no one would be stupid enough to stop economic prosperity for revenge.

  35. Steven,

    asking for consultations isn’t to say that ‘you can’t do anything without our approval’.

    Iraq was no threat to the US per se, so the war on it was a completely different matter than a Soviet invasion would have been, so I think that discussions were in order. That said you do know very well (since you read Daily Pundit and Chicago Boyz back then) that I criticized Schröder’s opportunistic behaviour at numerous occasions, and also was in favor of the war on Iraq myself.

    And I do have to point out that Germany is helping in the war on terror, disagreements over Iraq aside, and had sent 100 commados during, and not after, the fighting in Afghanistan.

  36. Lex,

    just in case you didn’t see this particular item in my post above: Australia lifted its arms embargo on China as earlyas 1992:

    The Australian Government has defended its decision not to back the United States in lobbying the European Union to maintain an arms embargo on China.

    The US is pushing for Japan and Australia to encourage Europe not to lift its embargo.

    Australia imposed an arms embargo on China in 1989 over the Tiananmen Square massacre, but lifted it in 1992.

    Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer says for that reason, it would not make sense for Australia to lobby the Europeans now.

    “We could hardly say you mustn’t lift your arms embargo but we have lifted our arms embargo so it’s alright for us but it’s not alright for you,” he said.

    “Instead what we’ve said to the European Union is if you’re going to go ahead and lift your arms embargo on China please do so in a way that has no impact on the power balance or the strategic structure of the east Asian region.”

  37. Ralf, re Australia’s lifting of its arms embargo in 1992: Australia has developed a variety of institutional and cultural links with China over the past 30 years – overall a good thing – but unfortunately this has led to China-appeasement being a well-entrenched article of faith for our foreign affairs establishment. Hence Tiananmen generated horror and disgust in Australia and was then quietly put behind us as soon as no-one was paying attention anymore.

    This attitude is wrongheaded in my view. We are wrong to act as if the Chicom regime represents the natural and legitimate state of affairs in China. We have to be pragmatic and deal with it, of course, but I think more coldness and caution would be in order. Taking advantage of economic opportunities and (where possible) private cultural ties is one thing; institutional links are another – the latter will turn out to have been a wasted investment when the regime either crumbles or mutates into something dangerous and unstable, as I believe it is likely to do. China is fundamentally unstable country because its political system is brittle and lacks legitimacy. When the economic crisis comes – as it will, when dealing with the bad debts cannot be put off any longer or the growth of exports slows – the regime may lose the only thing that gives it any legitimacy, and would then have very little to fall back on other than violence. It is no surprise that the regime is already cultivating a rather nasty strain of nationalism and anti-US aggressiveness.

    It may be that Foreign Minister Downer knows this – I sense in the excerpt quoted by Ralf some distaste for the original decision to drop the embargo in 1992, which was made by the goverment of the other party (Downer is not exactly enthusiastic about anyone else selling arms to China). The Government may have realised that we made a mistake in getting unhealthily close to the corrupt and murderous Suharto regime in Indonesia back in the early 1990s (though I accept that Suharto’s operation was a big improvement over Sukarno’s Communist-influenced regime).

    India (as a Anglosphere country with a stable, relatively flexible and consensual system of government) is a much better bet politically, culturally and economically. Working on deepening our security and diplomatic links with India would be definitely worth the effort for Australia. One of the most encouraging things about the Bush foreign policy is that the Indian relationship seems to have been given a very high priority (if a low profile in the media).

  38. My concern with this Europe/Japan business is that an awful lot of economic bridge-building is going on across the EurAsian arc. And with China expanding trade with Brazil, and making oil deals with Canada and one of the big producers in S America I’m wondering if we’re losing out. These kind of articles are worrisome:
    Consider Asean Plus Three (APT), which unites the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations with China, Japan and South Korea. This group has the potential to be the world’s largest trade bloc, dwarfing the European Union and North American Free Trade Association. The deepening ties of the APT member states represent a major diplomatic defeat for the US, which hoped to use the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum to limit the growth of Asian economic regionalism at American expense. In the same way, recent moves by South American countries to bolster an economic community represent a clear rejection of US aims to dominate a western-hemisphere free trade zone.
    How the U.S. Became the World’s Dispensable Nation
    By Michael Lind
    Jan 27, 2005, 15:20

    Monday, Feb. 21, 2005
    Time Magazine
    Tony Karon
    Machiavelli’s advice to political leaders was that it’s more important to be feared than to be loved. That’s no help for President Bush on his European tour; in spite of the warm words he’s exchanging with European leaders, the reality is that the Bush administration is neither loved nor feared in growing sectors of the international community — increasingly, it is simply being ignored.
    New evidence of this trend, which has developed in the wake of the war in Iraq, emerges every week:

    All over the world, new bonds of trade and strategic cooperation are being forged around the U.S. China has not only begun to displace the U.S. as the dominant player in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation organization (APEC), it is fast emerging as the major trading partner to some of Latin America’s largest economies. The European decision to lift its arms embargo may reflect an awareness of the strategic significance of Beijing’s emergence as an economic power — a dynamic that will dwarf the U.S. war with al-Qaeda in terms of its impact on the global strategic balance. And as China emerges alongside other new players such as India and Brazil, the U.S. will find itself forced to engage with a growing share of the international community that no longer deems it necessary to subordinate their own interests to Washington’s, nor to assume that the two are one and the same. French foreign policy think tanks have long promoted the goal of “multipolarity” in a post-Cold War world, i.e. the preference for many different, competing power centers rather than the “unipolarity” of the U.S. as a single hyper-power. Multipolarity is no longer simply a strategic goal. It is an emerging reality.

  39. Footnote to the sliding dollar. There are two trends that bear watching: One is the movement of countries to balance out their forex holdings with euros (e.g. Russia and Malaysia), and the other is the move to offer oil in euros-“Iraq talked about it. Iran now is talking about it. Russia’s hinting at it.” (“The Real Threat Coming from Iran” caseykhan blog 2/23/05)

    Was the petroeuro issue a primary motivation for our Iraq moves?

  40. Mark, “…new bonds of trade and strategic cooperation are being forged around the U.S.”

    Only an “imperial,” childish America, fearful of “loss of global power” would fear the pluralistic development of multiple associations between democratically accountable republics. That’s not my America.

    Instead, Ralf’s post reveals Bush’s administration is welcoming the diversification you say you fear, with little regulation, except to ensure that the participating nations are truly democratic and, importantly, capitalistic.


  41. Correction: last comment incorrectly refers to Ralf’s post, it was Lexington’s “Do Not Watch the Hand That Appears to be Moving.” Oops.

  42. French foreign policy think tanks have long promoted the goal of “multipolarity” in a post-Cold War world, i.e. the preference for many different, competing power centers rather than the “unipolarity” of the U.S. as a single hyper-power. Multipolarity is no longer simply a strategic goal. It is an emerging reality.

    If they were serious about multipolarity they would increase their defense spending. Instead they are trying to get the results of multipolar power on the cheap by manipulating the U.S. It’s not working and it won’t work.

    And WRT countries selling oil in Euros rather than dollars: so what. It only means that instead of selling to us in dollars they’ll sell to middlemen in Euros, and then we’ll buy from the middlemen. Iran et al, by playing such games, could enrich some middlemen but couldn’t effect a significant long-term reduction in the value of the dollar. The dollar rises or falls based mainly on Fed policy (and Fed policy relative to that of the ECB and BOJ) and on the relative attractiveness of dollar-denominated investments. If oil producers want to stop investing in dollar-denominated assets it would probably hurt them more than us.

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  44. I wonder what they have figured out how to do that we are so far unable to do?

    Nothing; however, they do a bunch of stuff cheaper and better. About what that is I’ll say nothing more.

  45. China is perfectly welcome to try to sink the dollar.

    In case anybody hasn’t been paying attention, the yuan renminbi is a semiconvertable currency unsuited for international trade and pegged to the US dollar; the Hong Kong dollar is a fully convertable currency pegged to the US dollar; and finally, due to the fact that China’s exports are mostly to the U.S., its hard-currency income is almost all dollars (and the rest is yen).

    If China guts the U.S. dollar, it destroys the value of its income, and will find itself in trouble buying oil (in either dollars or euros). And it can then either leave the yuan-dollar rate intact (and thus raise internal prices), or increase the value of the yuan against the dollar (increasing the cost of Chinese wages in goods exported to the U.S., hurting exports and reducing Chinese income further . . .)

    So, the Chinese economy will be hit severely by a Chinese attack on the dollar. And the Chinese people, seeing their new prosperity go away, will blame the Chinese government. Destabilizing the political fabric of your own country to cause a recession in another is not a brilliant bit of statescraft.

  46. Couple of notes.

    1. Russia. Bush ain’t ignoring it, he’s simply not directly confronting Putin. The US has been quietly supporting Democracy in most of the USSR successor states, including the recent not-so-quiet occurances in the Ukraine and Georgia. Russia is going to wake up in a few years and realize that the US has surrounded it with states who look to the US for leadership if Russia doesn’t quit moving towards a expansionist dictatorship. Bush is playing a game of Go here, and winning.

    2. Japan has been moving towards becoming a local military power since the fall of the USSR took the hobbles off the NK’s. They’re building Carriers for pete’s sake (Calling them Helicopter Destroyers, but they’re small carriers nonetheless). They’ve got the second largest modern fleet on the planet and are number 3 in terms of combat power of their Navy (The UK is #3 and #2 respectively, disparity is due to Carriers and SSBN’s that the UK has and Japan doesn’t). It’s also looking like certain provisions in the Japanese Constitution may get ammended in the next 5-10 years, specifically the limits on Defense Spending and foreign combat deployments. When these limits come off, look for Japan to build up their army and start deploying with teh US more, and to start building real Fleet Carriers (The only reason they aren’t right now is cost, with the 1% of GDP limit on military spending, the cost of a CV or CVN would force them to dock their fleet for ~5 years).

  47. A few comments on separate issues:

    Having worked on European and US sourced military equipment, I have to say that the Euro stuff is at least comparable. Here’s what happens:

    US and Euro both produce a Bopamagilvy. Cost is $5 mill for the US one, $2 mill for the Euro one. The Euro one works 80% of the time, the US one 50%.
    NATO buys 100 Euro-Bopamaglivies, US buys 1000 US-Bopamagilvies.
    After 1 year, NATO still has 98 in stock, the US only 100 (having expended the rest in training and tests), and makes an improved Mk II based on “lessons learnt”, that costs $4 million. They order another 1000, thereby putting the developing company “in the black”. Meanwhile, the Euro company made a loss, and gets a state handout instead of follow-up orders.

    Repeat for 10 years.

    The US Mk XI Bopamagilvy now has a reliability of 90%, and costs $0.5 million (though uses 10-year-old-technology). NATO still has 80 of the Mk I Euro-Bopamagilvy in stocks, and wonders why it didn’t buy US in the first place. So it sets about developing a Mk II Bopamagilvy using contemporary technology, while the US is working on the Super-Bopamagilvy, and the whole process is repeated.

    Third parties who want Bopamagilvies know that if they buy Euro, then in case of war they’re SOOL when it comes to getting 200 replacements – whereas the US just cranks up an extra shift. Which is why Australia is buying old Abrams M1-A2s rather than the *far* better, faster, cheaper, Leopard III (it’s better in *every* respect). Even though it means we have to greatly upgrade infrastructure for a 2nd-rate piece of kit, we have logistics support anywhere in the world. So it’s no contest.

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  49. Lex: I cannot agree with your hypothesis that “German voting public is less committed to the anti-American position than are the French”. Chancellor Schroeder, when his domestic position was weakening, attempted to shore it up by increasing the intensity of his (and his administration’s) anti-American rhetoric. This shows clearly that, in his informed judgement, anti-Americanism is a winning position in German domestic politics.

  50. It’s too early to make judgments about the German public’s tendencies on a big, complex, multi-facted issue such as “anti-Americanism.” Germans of nearly all persuasions clearly had a visceral antipathy to our invasion of Iraq, a reaction that was based as much upon their own political psychodrama of the last half century as upon any technical reading of international law or any strategic analysis. We and the Germans will probably never have a meeting of minds on this issue, and it’s foolish and wasteful to trade recriminations on it.

    As to NATO, the simple answer is that it was designed for the last century. A formal alliance has no fundamental purpose in an era in which a) nearly all the major threats to our security come from the near and far eastern theatres; b) regarding these regions we and the European allies are deeply divided about not only the use of military force against such threats but also the nature of these threats; and c) even if we could close the conceptual gap with the Euros the US would still be doing nearly 100% of the heavy lifting.

    NATO’s little more than a political institution now. As such it’s valuable, sure, but let’s not pretend it means anything in the military/strategic sphere.

    As to the comments about a Russia-China alliance, forget it. Russia’s Far East regional fiefdoms are already more influenced by China than by Moscow and will be de facto satellites within 15 years or so. Already Russian businessmen there are being forced to communicate in Chinese rather than Russian. Ignore Putin’s posturing; he’s desperate and will likely be overthrown by his FSB handlers as soon as oil prices dip and the country’s potemkin resurgence comes to a halt.

  51. [ Which is why Australia is buying old Abrams M1-A2s rather than the *far* better, faster, cheaper, Leopard III (it’s better in *every* respect) ]


    [” …does anybody really believe the Chinese will resort to arms … ” ]

    That’s what Gen MacArthur before November 1950.

  52. Some M1 – Leopard II comparison:

    “… The Leopard 2 and Abrams are very similar tanks. ( Both use basically the same German-designed main gun. ) The major difference is in the type of engine used. The Leopard 2 uses a diesel engine, while the Abrams used a gas turbine. Each engine has its advantages and disadvantages. The Leopard 2’s diesel is more [fuel] efficient, giving the German tank more range (550 kilometers to 426 kilometers for the Abrams). ( But the M1 is probably a little faster. ) That said, the gas turbine on the Abrams is quieter, meaning that opponents without infrared systems will have a harder time detecting the Abrams at night, which can mean their only warning an Abrams is around could be when the Abrams sends a 120mm candygram their way – most of the time, the result will be a direct hit.

    There are smaller differences. The Leopard 2 has two 7.62mm machine guns – one anti-aircraft gun, the other a coaxial machine gun. The Abrams has three: One 12.7mm machine gun for anti-aircraft work (also very useful against infantry and unarmored vehicles), a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, and a second machine gun mounted near the loader’s hatch. The Abrams has an edge here, since the loader can cover a sector in addition to the coaxial machine gun and the commander’s machine gun. This means it is that much harder for infantry to sneak up on the Abrams than it would be to sneak up on a Leopard.

    The matter of auxiliary power is another thing not always mentioned in the specs. The Leopard 2 has none. The Abrams features an auxiliary power unit, which allows it to shut off the turbine in some instances, allowing it to conserve fuel. In situations where the Abrams is on defense, this is a huge advantage – not only because the Abrams saves fuel, but because infrared sensors have a harder time picking it up. Again, the first indication the Abrams is there will be when it fires – and well-trained Abrams crews are very accurate. If you see an Abrams firing at you, it is probably the last thing you will see.

    Finally, there is another item that doesn’t show up in the specs: Internal arrangement. The Leopard stores some of its main gun ammunition in the crew compartment, and uses steel as its liner. While the steel can keep something out, it also creates nasty spall fragments when a sabot or HESH (high-explosive squash head) round strikes the tank. The Abrams keeps its main gun ammo in a separate compartment … reducing casualties when an Abrams is hit. This is important – an uninjured crew can fight back even if the tank is damaged. This was proven In Desert Storm, when an Abrams stuck in the mud continued fighting despite taking three hits from the main guns of Iraqi T-72 tanks – and promptly dispatched the offending T-72s. The tank defied American efforts to destroy it in place, and after being recovered had the turret replaced and was back with its unit in 24 hours. The damaged turret was sent back to the United States for analysis.

    In short, the Abrams still takes the title overall, despite arguable deficiencies in range [ per tank or fuel ] (which careful logistics planning can overcome), as its combat record proves. The Leopard 2 is a close second, and the Challenger 2 isn’t far behind the Leopard.


    ” RetiredCdnTanker RE:M1-A2 VS. LEOPARD II A6 – RetiredCdnTanker 3/2/2005 10:57:26 AM
    I try to check in and read the responses weekly, I’m just to darn busy right now, darn it.

    I will make a comment about these comparison threads, though.

    The Leo 2, M1A2, Leclerc and Challenger 2 were all designed with roughly the same requirements, and thus can be compared. The FCS, weapons, power train and suspension are all directly comparable. The same way that a Mercedes can be compared to a BMW. That being said, the tanks mentioned all, indeed, meet the requirements laid out by their respective governments.

    (Well, excepting perhaps the Leclerc, but only in terms of reliability and build quality. I doubt if the Leclerc meets its design criteria in those regards.)

    I have been inside all of the above tanks, and I have my own opinions on them. I like the driver station on the Challenger the best, with the M1 a close second. For gunner stations, I had by far the most difficulty with the Challenger 2, the others being roughly equal. Loading the Challenger was quite a bit worse than loading the smoothbores as well.

    For me, personally, I preferred the Leo 2 turret in terms of ergonomics and “feel”. The M1A2 is by far the best tank in terms of keeping the crew commander situationally aware of what was happening around him. It’s as good as the Swedish 122, which I thought was in a field of its own in that regard. The M1 is also slightly more maintenance friendly than the others, I thought.

    Bottom line? I would feel OK taking any of the three to war. I leave out the Leclerc because I simply did not like it ergonomically, and of three tanks available, only one worked. That doesn’t fill me with a sense of confidence in the vehicle.

    In my opinion, comparing the tanks is like comparing similar cars. What are you most comfortable in, what is the most reliable, what best suits your needs. … ” ( end quote )

    Btw, America’s and Israel’s tanks use armor-piercing main gun ammunition made out of the the most efficacious material available, which is Uranium 238. For reasons of political correctness, the Germans use 12 cm shot made from tungsten, which is not as good or as bad as U238, depending upon one’s criteria of goodness and badness.
    — David Davenport

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