Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Year End Thoughts


As 2010 closes out, the United States stumbles out of the first decade of the 21st century, burdened with a massive domestic debt load, high unemployment, and the self assumed weight of providing the world with security, as it demands all nations must clone their political systems in our own image or face the consequences of sanctions and veiled threats of regime change. Not a very pretty picture, but this is how we are seen by even the nations whom declare to be our friends.

Over the past months, China has become the more discussed topic on this blog, displacing Iraq and in the big picture even Afghanistan, as we look into the future and how the United States can shore up the leaks, pump out the debt, and re-purpose millions of Americans to be able to compete in an ever expanding global market, all so that our ship of state can meet the shoals and storms in the coming decades.

To help frame a proposal by Thomas Barnett that I have written about here and here I am going to highlight three recent articles by Tom that puts much of this argument in a proper context. The first of these insights is found in this article in Esquire magazine. Barnett a film buff and quite good critic, congers up a scene from Kill Bill as an analogy to introduce what he had dubbed.
The five D's of the dragon's decline from world-beater to world-benefactor: demographics, decrepitude, dependency, defensiveness, and--most disabling of all--democratization.
Read the whole post for the full flavor as to, When China Ruled the World: Or why the "China Century" will be the shortest on record.

Right on the heels of that post comes this observation from Barnett about the, "hollowness that is China's military rise."
Great line from Chinese expert (from China) about the inability of China's defense industry to create good engines being the "heart disease" of the PLA. Why? It's the crux of their inability to create a solid force structure on their own, hence the need to buy so much from Russia (half of the latter's exports in arms).
Read More
the strategic Tells on China's Military Build-up

All this leads to this post that Tom used to close out his blog this year. pinging his comments off  two differing articles from Time and the Washington Post that call into contrast opposing views on China's DF-21D ship killer cruise missile. Barnett pulls no punches and deals his cards with the confidence that belies his keen sense of observation to pick the fly shit out of the pepper to get to the gist of a story.
Nice Mark Thompson post at (U.S.-Chinese War Games Ratchet Up), where he starts out by noting that now PACOM is claiming the DF-21D is already deployed - as in, the PLAN could take out a USN CV tomorrow.
So what's the deal? WAPO citing experts saying it could be years away from effective deployment and Admiral Willard of PACOM saying the carrier killer is already deployed?

Bit of a discrepancy, huh?
Barnett continues to pick the truth from these two articles by laying out his cards of logic.
Thompson quotes a recent post by me on the CSBA bombing maps and reprints one himself. I ginned up that post because I want people to understand why the Chinese chortle when we say things like, "We have no intention of going to war with you." China parks no carriers off our coast, nor does any wargames up close, nor has any air force bases within strike range. We have all those on China, and we publish war plans in detail saying we'll bomb their entire country and destroy all their shipping and sink all their naval vessels - for starters!
And yeah, that's pretty ballsy - or just plain stupid - when you're in the financial situation we're in. Our military remains - by and large - clueless about the larger economic interdependency we have with China. I mean, they're aware of it, but THEY JUST DON'T GET IT. That lack of understanding, combined with the knuckleheads sprinkled across the upper reaches of the PLA and PLAN, is one dangerous combination, because this is how world orders are destroyed: ambitious people simply doing what they think is their job, and nobody with enough courage or intelligence to rein them in.
I want a strong military, and I'm on too many records to play saying that I want to use it regularly. This isn't about who's "realistic" about the world. This is about who understands the place of war in the modern era and who still wants to keep it an isolated plaything - no matter the cost or consequences.
Dangerous stuff.
This post is well worth reading in it's entire form. The final paragraph is all too revealing as to how we have allowed the hubris, accumulated after over a half century of global domination, to color our perception of leadership.

We are killing our own global leadership with such hyperbole and fear-mongering, and we deserve to taken down a peg or two in global power fora if we don't improve (already happening). Our great genius in creating this globalization is that ultimately, it does not need us to continue. It only needs our unwillingness to destroy it.
And now, even that basic intelligence is being brought into question.
Read the whole post
Time on Pacom Versus WaPo on PRCS-DF-21D

As you peruse these articles, take the time to consider all the sides. Are we in some global struggle against a despotic regime bent on imposing a Nazi national socialist or Communist society on the world? Or are we just afraid of the future and the billions of empowered people from across the planet whom now desire and can see the chance to live a sliver of the lives that most Americans have enjoyed for half a century? As a nation we started this process by being the first nation to make it possible where even the very poor had an opportunity to better themselves. We continued this process after World War II when we set up a rules based order that allowed any nation to grow and improve. That generous attitude has sustained us for all of our history. Dare we look at ourselves now and begin to see that we are turning into a cynical ordinary country, and away from the principled nation of our grandfathers.

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