Friday, January 19, 2007

China Acts, America Whines, Something Isn't Right Here

The news that the Chinese have apparently successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon is an opportunity to mention something that bothers me about the US national security apparatus, its whiny responses to any challenge from other powers. My personal favorite being the State Department official who responded to Russia’s hardball energy politics a year ago by saying, “they’re acting like it’s the 19th Century.” I certainly hope they were able to find that official a ba-ba and a blankey quickly since Russia isn't playing by his rules. We’ve also seen it with the moaning over China’s rapidly increasing military budget, Russia helping Iran, North Korea, Iran, Syria, and others not wanting to join the “community of nations”, and so forth. Sadly, ther one of the few serious voices in US diplomacy is now former representative to the UN Bolton. Ah well, that's the price a US diplomat pays these days for not going along with the Democrat/State Dept. policy of coddling kleptocrats at the UN and murderous tyrants abroad.

The newest case obviously involves China developing the technology to shoot down satellites. The way a grown-up serious nation would deal with is by looking at 1) if we need that ability, 2) if yes then what is the possibility of a treaty banning it working with the power in question, 3) if yes to 1 and not likely to 2 (almost always the case) then can we in other ways make it not worth it to the power to possess these weapons, and lastly 4) regardless of the answer to 3, what counter-measures can we develop to the technology. Instead Washington seems to deal with international problems today by 1) whine, 2) cry to the UN or do nothing (same thing though the second is somewhat more dignified). Regarding the anti-sat we’ve quickly completed step 1 and are presumably well onto step 2. According to National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe, “The United States believes China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area… We and other countries have expressed our concern to the Chinese."

This is an absurd statement because every weapon system is “inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation that both countries aspire” in any field. Our large fleet of warships and subs that is increasingly weighted towards the Pacific is not exactly in the “spirit of cooperation”; ditto for our expansion of facilities in Japan and Guam. Our anti-ballistic missile systems are designed specifically to limit China and other countries’ ability to threaten our forces with missiles, one of our major weaknesses. The anti-sat weapons are themselves meant to bring down our satellites that make us much more effective at destroying Chinese targets in a war. Yet again we are not being very consistent with the spirit of cooperation. It would seem obvious then that just as we want to make it as difficult for other powers to hurt our interests that China and others would likewise want to limit the ability of powers to harm their interests.

Yet for some reason it doesn’t seem to be obvious enough to Washington. The concept that nations behave in a way that benefits themselves and not necessarily the United States seems to be an alien one outside of the Pentagon. Maybe it’s because of the “kumbaya we are the world” trash they’ve taught in colleges for the last 40 years. Whatever the cause, the world’s super power needs to act like an adult and realize that isn’t wrong for countries to look out for their own interests first. If it conflicts with our interests then we need to make it not in their interest to continue with their behavior. Granted in this case we are likely doing something to counter (I hope) China's new anti-sat capability but we need to do it in a more dignified manner. Since perception matters as much as, if not more than, reality in power politics a superpower that whines like a little kid who isn’t getting his way is not long for superpower-dom. Since superpower transitions rarely go smoothly we will pay dearly in the future if we don’t start understanding this reality.

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