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Monday, November 12, 2001

Defeating Communism, Chinese or Cuban Style
How should we treat a totalitarian government? We've shunned Cuba for being a totalitarian (and dare I say communist? or is that no longer in vogue?) nation, yet an even more brutal and ruthless totalitarian communist nation is China and we've bent over backwards to include them in our markets.

I don't pretend to know all of the history behind the different policies, I'm no expert in these matters, but I don't need to be an expert to see the obvious results of the two different policies. I would say that the events of the past year have made it clear that our treatment of Cuba is the correct way to deal with a totalitarian nation.
The most obvious reason for the differences is that Cuba is small, while China is large. Also, Cuba was a Soviet ally while China and the USSR were not so friendly with each other. Nixon exploited this rift between the two communist nations and re-opened relations with China which were closed to us since the fall of the Kuomintang, essentially since the end of World War II. Cuba, on the other hand, was not only a potential hostile base for our sworn enemy, the Soviets, but there was a huge Cuban population in the state of Florida. Not only were these expatriot Cubans potential voters, they also had money. The expats from Cuba included the dispossessed wealthy of Cuba. I won't go into the rights and wrongs of supporting these expats, except to note that we have done so, anything more would distract from my thesis.

With Cuba, the theory has been to isolate them and cause them to become so destitute that they will eventually overthrow Castro which no one seriously believes anymore. With China, the theory has been to make them economically prosperous so that they learn the benefits of representative government.
China has a huge population. It has a population that is mostly oppressed, that has been acquired via military conquest and kept in check through terror and complete state control of the most minute details of personal lives, including dictating who can and can't have children. But the power of China is based on this huge population. They had been technologically backwards (since the fall of the Ming dynasty!) yet have been militarily successful almost entirely because they can simply keep throwing more people at an enemy. Witness Korea, where nine Chinese divisions were needed to force the 1st Marine Division out of action for the remainder of the war after the battle of the Chosin Reservoir. But not only has this been the source of their military might, it has become the source of their economic might. Individual Chinese citizens may in the main be quite poor, but the number of universities and other government organizations and businesses create huge potential markets for American markets. Labor rates are also quite cheap, so it has become almost required for any American business (and European for that matter) that wishes to have a global reach of any kind to build factories in China. This allows these businesses to sell to East Asian markets with low cost labor and still have access to the extremely large China markets.
Cuba, in contrast is much smaller. The people are also oppressed and generally individuals are quite poor. European and other non-US American nations, most notably Spain, interact with Cuba economically, but the US has an embargo against any business relations with that island nation. The result is that the people of Cuba are still quite poor, yet still firmly under the boot of their dictator, Castro. This policy can be said to be proven to work, because it's essentially a microcosm of our treatment of the Soviets, and it's clear that it caused their collapse.

So what is the result of these different policies? Cuba's government hates the US, and makes that clear in every statement mode on the topic. China also hates us, and in their back-handed way have made it abundantly clear that they don't care a whit what we think or do. So we have two nations that despise us. What's the difference?

When the Cubans do something we don't like, we can rattle our sabers and eventually get them to back off. We often have to make them save some face, but we get our way most of the time. With China saber rattling is much less effective, as we learned from the EP-3 that they captured from us, and various other vessels they have captured from us over the years. The Chinese are a large nation and are not easily intimidated.

But note the main effect. If we had to back up our saber rattling with very real saber usage, China knows we never could do so. This isn't simply because of their military might, but because almost EVERY large business in the US would lose a lot of money if we did so. Our economy would suffer a huge setback if we were to withdraw from that market.

Had we kept our policy of isolation, like we did with Cuba, and every Soviet Bloc and Warsaw Pact nation, we would have no problems in enforcing sanctions, in restricting travel to and from there, in controlling their activities on the high seas (they are the principle supporters of very successful pirates in the South China sea and throughout the Pacific Rim).

So the question should be posed, why doesn't the theory work that economic involvement with us will make them reliant on us? The answer is simple. The people who make the decisions in China do not care about the people. The leadership will continue to eat well and have personal servants and complete control over the citizens. They will continue to live well. The people may starve, but what's a few million starving people mean to the leadership? Not much. They will blame everything on the US,as if it matters, and exhort their people to sacrifice for the good of the nation. Then they will enforce that sacrifice, while the leadership continues to live well.

This is the difference between a totalitarian state and a nation of free people. In all nations since the rise of civilizations many millennia ago, the rulers have always lived well. It is only among free people that the common man also lives well.

By interacting with the Chinese economically, we have abetted their oppression. We're married to the mob, and we can't escape. Our government, being a representative government, will respond to the immediate interests of its people who want to protect their interests in China.

I don't know how we can change this status. We can't very well pull out of the Chinese market without disrupting our own. The Chinese Communists have the upper hand and they know it and continue to spit on us in every diplomatic encounter we have with them. Only war with China or a Chinese domestic revolution thing can change this dynamic, and each is too horrible to contemplate.

In our myopic, human way, we will likely not learn from this. Pity.

Sunday, November 04, 2001

Myers vs. Franks
What happens when a chair-bound space warrior is in charge of the US Military?

I was watching two diffferent pundit shows this Sunday (November 4,2001) and witnessed the interview of General Myers by Tim Russert, and of General Tommy Franks by George Stephanopoulis. What an amazing difference.
Let me start by saying that I'm sure General Myers is a nice guy and smart and probably has a wonderful family due to his great intelligence and character. I have no qualms with him as a man, or even as a military officer of sorts.

I say "of sorts" because I've never thought that the Air Force should be a separate service and most of the Air Force is not even military in most respects. Douhet and Mitchell are the heros of the Air Force and no two people could have been more wrong in their vision of military capability and strategy. Controlling the air space in a theater is simply another dimension of controlling the surface and it was a huge mistake to make the Air Force a separate service back in 1947. The control of air space is vital and important, too important to be removed from the much more important control of the land or the sea. Those responsible for military power should not have the control of such a vital part of their environment removed from their auspices. Air Force officers generally believe that a war can be won through bombing, and this Wellsian vision of "The Shape of Things to Come" is a remnant of an early twentieth century socialist political and military ideology.

Okay, my bias is out and now I can make my point.

General Myers is a gentle person, soft spoken and careful of his remarks. But he doesn't have the right ideas behind his thoughts and it becomes very clear the more he speaks. For instance, when asked about a US Marine Corps general's comments that the Taliban military power had been "eviscerated" General Myers made a joke along the lines of "we were surprised that a Marine knew what 'eviscerated' meant." Honestly, it was a typical interservice rivalry joke that I wouldn't take offense at except that he didn't even smile. Almost as soon as the words were out, he realized that he shouldn't have made the joke and his self-conscious reaction only made his comment insulting rather than funny. It showed that he really, deep down agreed with the sentiment and tried lamely to apologize. I've no doubt that his apology was sincere, but I equally have no doubt from his guilty reaction that he truly believed the joke had a ring of truth to it, and that he made this comment because Marine Corps officers are predominantly unlike him - that is, they are efficacious, dominant, and decidedly masculine, traits which General Myers may have but doesn't display.

Let me be clear that I'm not so sensitive that a jibe at my beloved Marine Corps would get me incensed. I'm only commenting on General Myer's qualities as a leader. He isn't one. He let his petty views of interservice differences come to the front of his thoughts when asked an important question about another General's assessment of the war. He just isn't able to think clearly and present an image of a man in control of a situation. He's much better than his predecessors, the obsequious Shelton and Shalikashvili, and the overtly power hungry Colin Powell , mostly because he isn't an apologist to Clinton or, in the case of Powell, lusting for media attention. His role is not to be a leader, but to be an advisor to the President. It's sad that General Myers is in the position he is in, not because he is guilty of malfeasance like his predecessors, but because he just is incapable of truly understanding what is needed in this war. I hope the President remembers that General Myers was taken on in his current role because of his knowledge of space systems. This was the President's number one area of concern with the missile defense program, but has been degraded to a side issue with the eruption of this war.

Now let's discuss General Tommy Franks. This is a man who is a leader. This is a man who is not distracted by his own petty jealousies of his fellow men as being more manly, like General Myers is of the Marines. General Franks spoke eloquently and simply. He presented his views and his views were unclouded by anything that distracted from the mission he has been assigned. General Franks exuded strength, determination, power, and a resolute attitude steered by intelligence and thought. When you listen to General Franks speak, you are left with no doubt that this man will not fail. His thoughtful statements inspire trust. This is what a leader is.

With men like General Franks as the area commander, we are sure to prevail in our attempt to kill all the Taliban.