Obama ‘wilfully’ provoking Beijing?

China Hand (Peter Lee) has a post today on what looks like a really important story: the eruption of a startling new war of words between Washington and Beijing– a phenomenon that Lee indicates could be undergirded by some serious new tensions in this world-defining relationship.
The way he tells it, the latest spat began on Sunday, at the G-20 summit in Toronto, when Obama publicly accused China of “wilful blindness” by remaining silent over North Korea’s suspected sinking of a South Korean warship in March.
Today, People’s Daily Online hit back. An unsigned editorial there said of Obama,

    His words on such an important occasion, based on ignorance of China’s consistent and difficult efforts in pushing for peace on the peninsula, has come as a shock to China and the world at large.
    As a close neighbor of North Korea, China and its people have immediate and vital stakes in peace and stability on the peninsula. China’s worries over the North Korean nuclear issue are by no means less than those of the US.
    The US president should have taken these into consideration before making irresponsible and flippant remarks about China’s role in the region.
    The facts speak for themselves, and very clearly so: China has made tremendous efforts in preventing the situation on the Korean Peninsula from getting out of control, including in the aftermath of the Cheonan incident.
    Without China’s involvement, there would not have been the Six-Party Talks, and the outbreak of yet another Korean War might well have been a possibility.
    It is thus not China that is turning a blind eye to what North Korea has done and has not done.
    Instead, it is the leaders of countries such as the US that are turning a blind eye on purpose to China’s efforts.

Lee writes in his post:

    Characterizing the US president as “irresponsible and flippant” is a convenient indicator that US-China relations are headed for the meat locker.
    Another indication is the Chinese announcement that it will conduct live fire naval exercises as a riposte to the US-ROK joint exercises scheduled June 30 to July 5, which may or may not include a US aircraft carrier sailing around the Yellow Sea between the Korean peninsula and the Chinese mainland.

He has some more material, too, about the US continuing to pursue anti-China policies in another dimension of the US-China relationship, namely the intermittent jockeying over the status of Tibet.
He concludes:

    as far as I can see, the Obama administration policy toward China is all sticks no carrots. The consequences of crossing the United States are meant to be dire, but I haven’t seen any significant proffered benefits to China for toeing the U.S. line, other than the intangible ones–like not having President Obama insult your President at high profile international forums.
    It will be interesting to watch this play out, especially in the run-up to the 2010 US congressional elections.

Indeed. Interesting, and quite possibly very depressing. Not least because the relationship with China is (like US-Turkish relations) yet another of the key aspects of US diplomacy in which the actions of dedicated pro-Israeli zealots within the US political system are currently making great and completely unnecessary problems for the true interests of the American people.
As Lee himself showed in some detail in this recent post at Asia Times Online, which detailed the degree to which Stuart Levey, the head of the US Treasury Department’s ‘Office for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence” (OTFI) now has China in his sanctions cross-hairs.
Lee unapologetically describes Levey as the “‘father’ of the North Korean atomic bomb”, explaining that it was Levey’s excessive zeal as head of OTFI in instituting sanctions in September 2005 against a small bank in Macau called the Banco Delta Asia (BDA) that had spurred Kim Jong-Il to withdraw from the six-party talks and detonate North Korea’s first nuclear bomb just weeks later, on October 9.
As Lee added laconically, a second immediate effect of Levey’s action that year was that, “America’s image as an honest broker impartially protecting the integrity of the dollar-based international financial system was seriously tarnished.”
Lee concludes the ATO article by writing,

    Given… OTFI’s rather dismal record of failure and insubordination on BDA, it is interesting that the Obama administration kept Levey in his post after it took office.

An explanation could almost certainly be found in some of the sources cited in this April 2010 post at Mondoweiss.
In it, Jeff Blankfort and Phil Weiss recall that in 2005, Levey told an AIPAC policy conference that,

    It is a real pleasure to be speaking with you today. I have been an admirer of the great work this organization does since my days on the one-year program at Hebrew University in 1983 and 1984. I want to commend you for the important work that you are doing to promote strong ties between Israel and the United States and to advocate for a lasting peace in the Middle East….

Blankfort and Weiss have more good stuff there, as well– on Levey’s also strongly pro-Israeli deputy David Cohen, as well as on Levey himself.
These guys are dug very deep into sensitive portions of the administration at this point; and they are backed up by great cohorts of AIPAC-orchestrated funders and propagandists who work at the congressional and public-discourse levels to try to keep us all living inside the AIPAC-defined blinkers.
But they are now prepared to put the core U.S. relationship with China that undergirds the entire current world economic system at risk, just because of their (Israel-motivated) zeal against Iran?
Yes, it seems so.
That was a dangerous and escalatory game to be playing back in 2005. But today, the globe-girdling balance between Washington and Beijing has shifted considerably. This time, Stuart Levey’s Israel-motivated zealotry against China could have consequences that are far, far more damaging for humanity.
Update, Wed, 10:30 am.
A friend sent me this 2006 profile of Levey from the WaPo Style section. The writer, Dafna Linzer, quotes Clinton administration official as describing Levey as “a loyal Republican, but he would not let politics color or direct a judgment that he would otherwise make.”
Linzer also notes that Levey, “spent his junior year [from college] studying at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, where he worked on an undergraduate thesis on Meir Kahane…” It seems possible from what Linzer wrote that the thesis was critical of Kahane.
But regarding U.S. politics, Levey’s politics seemed clear:

    Levey was dispatched to Florida as part of the 2000 election recount. Like many of the Republican lawyers behind Bush v. Gore , Levey joined the government shortly afterward. He chose the Justice Department, serving under then-Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson.
    Levey started out handling immigration issues. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Thompson promoted him to chief of staff and added money laundering and anti-terrorism activities to his portfolio.
    Thompson is among a long list of conservative mentors to Levey. They include Judge Laurence H. Silberman, former senator John C. Danforth (R-Mo.) and Martin Peretz, the New Republic’s editor in chief, who was Levey’s Harvard thesis adviser and who describes him as “dazzlingly smart.”

Linzer also had this:

    This February, Levey traveled to the Middle East with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shortly after Hamas, or the Islamic Resistance Movement, had won Palestinian elections. As part of a small team of administration officials grappling with the results, Levey tried to figure out how to get money to the Palestinian people without going through Hamas.
    … On the way back from Jerusalem, Levey approached Rice on a different matter: financial levers he thought could be used to pressure Iran. Rice was impressed, her aides said, and Levey was asked to lead a task force designed to implement financial sanctions against Tehran if negotiations over its nuclear program fell apart.

So there you have it. A man without much political loyalty to Pres. Obama’s party as such. But with a lot of loyalty to AIPAC’s highly escalatory and destabilizing anti-Iran agenda.
Someone remind me why Obama kept him on again?

Chinese official discusses Afghanistan

Khaleej Times has an interesting interview today with Sun Weidong, Deputy Director General of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Asian Department.
It’s a particularly timely interview because Afghanistan has been high on the agenda of the annual summit of the Chinese-hosted Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The SCO includes China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and has among its observer-states Mongolia, Pakistan, Iran and India.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai was invited to attend the meeting, but it’s not clear whether he did so.
People’s Daily reports that the summit repeated its earlier call for the U.N. to play a greater role in Afghanistan and expressed the belief that believed “‘military means alone’ cannot solve the country’s problems.”
Sun expanded on that latter point in his interview with the Khaleej Times. He noted– as was also made clear in the SCO summit statement– that China and all of Afghanistan’s other neighbors have been experiencing great problems from the inflow of drugs to their countries from Afghanistan.
Here is some of what Sun said about political initiatives in Afghanistan, the links between the situation there and the challenges China faces from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), and the limited utility of military power:

Continue reading “Chinese official discusses Afghanistan”

The Iran/sanctions issue: Chinese netizens weigh in

In the lengthy updates to his Iran/sanctions post of yesterday, China Hand has some great excerpts from the comments board at China’s Global Times website:

    Judging from the comments, Chinese netizens–at least the subset that gets to comment on articles in Global Times–are, for the most part, not happy [with China having given such full and quick support to the U.S.’s sanctions proposal at the U.N.]
    It’s no use. There are too many people in the party with a tilt toward the United States.
    So you want to lead the life of a whore and have a ceremonial arch erected to commemorate your chastity! Don’t think the Chinese people don’t see and understand what’s going on!
    Any country that befriends China will end up the loser.
    We’ve lost a friend and gained an enemy.
    When you drop stones on somebody who’s fallen in a well, you’re worse than a pig or a dog.
    Once Iran is sanctioned, America will start to classify China as a currency-manipulating country. When the bird is shot, the fine bow is put away; when the rabbit is caught, the hunting dog goes into the cooking pot. Wake up, comrades!

Interesting. The CCP has a very sophisticated approach toward encouraging the participation of “netizens” in public discourse. Of course the approach contains some very firm red lines regarding taboo topics. But the CCP also seems to use the discussion boards in which netizens participate as a useful sounding-board for the opinion of educated, well-connected citizens. So it’ll be interesting to try to figure out the extent to which this fairly scathing set of netizen reactions to Beijing’s diplomacy has any discernible effect on policy going forward.

China’s confused role on Iran sanctions

China Hand has a great post today about the notably muddled-looking role that China’s been playing on the Iran sanctions issue.
CH notes that while it’s understandable (given the exigencies of U.S. politics, the big role of AIPAC, etc) why Hillary Clinton came down like a ton of bricks against the Turkey/Brazil deal, what is far less comprehensible is the apparently clear support that China gave to Hillary’s rushed announcement of the new round of sanctions that Washington has been pushing for.
CH notes that subsequent to the release of a first statement that announced the endorsement that China and the rest of the P5+1 group gave to the new sanctions arrangement– and that also justified China’s role in those P5+1 negotiations– Beijing did try to walk its position back a bit, including by giving more props to the efforts of Turkey and Brazil.
The justifications given in the earlier article do, however, give an interesting window into the thinking/argumentation of China’s rulers on this matter and perhaps many other issues in world affairs.
As CH translates them, they cover the following four points:

    Point 1:
    China acts on principle. It is opposed to nuclear proliferation and the possession of nuclear weapons by Iran.
    “At the same time” China affirmed the dual track strategy and “the discussion of the draft of the six nations [i.e., the P5+1] concerning sanctions should not affect the peace and stability or influence the recovery of the international economy.

    Point 2:
    China’s important interests are maintained. China’s important interests are…in the matters of Iran’s energy, trade, and financial sectors. China believes that normal economics and trade should not be punished because of the Iran question nor should those countries that maintain normal, legal economic relations with Iran be punished…Through negotiations, this point was satisfied, doing a relatively good job of upholding China’s…important interests.
    Point 3:
    Maintaining China’s image as a responsible great power…China has repeatedly emphasized although the six nations are discussing sanctions in New York, diplomatic efforts should be completely unaffected. The door to diplomatic efforts has not been closed…China’s consistently positive and constructive attitude has gained the favorable comment of the concerned nations.

    Point 4:
    China has energetically tended to good relations with the various parties…During the course of discussions we have maintained good communications with the various parties, including Iran. We have reported relevant circumstances to the concerned party Iran in a timely manner. We have encouraged and supported Iran’s expansion of cooperation with international society. The most recent conclusion of an agreement of Brazil and Turkey with Iran for the swap of nuclear fuel was also the result of China supporting diplomatic efforts and creating the space and time for diplomatic efforts. This also includes obtaining precious time for the Brazilian and Turkish leaders to go to iran to engage in diplomatic efforts and achieve a positive result. Therefore, the representatives of both Brazil and Turkey have in various venues and through different channels expressed thanks to China. At the same time, Iran has also indicated that this is also the result of the work done by China’s leadership on the Iran side, actively urging and promoting discussions.

I think maybe point 3’s mention of China’s “image as a responsible great power” is the key. It wants to maintain its role in the world economy, as well as its access to natural resources from Iran and elsewhere– all without rocking the boat too much in its relations with Washington?
Well, I guess I can see that that position might have some, very China-centered, logic to it…. over the short term, at least. But it would have been nice to have seen Beijing less ready to be stampeded by the manipulators in Hillary’s State Department (and their very good friends in AIPAC.) It would have been nice to see China a little more ready to embrace the cause of the mid-size nations whose weight in world affairs derives from their soft power rather than their possession of nuclear weapons.

Solidarity with China, reeling from Qinghai quake

More than 500 people have been killed and thousands wounded or made homeless by the 7.1-level earthquake that struck China’s Qinghai province today.
The epicenter was in Yushu, which is a Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture within Qinghai. It is also nearly 4,000 meters above sea-level, so even flying planes in there is complicated, given how thin the air is.
More information is here.
The Chinese state seems to be reacting just about as effectively as any state this massive, faced with such varying levels of economic development could react. It did pretty well in response to that last mega-quake, the Sichuan Quake of May 2008, which killed around 70,000 people. (There’s a good Wikipedia page on that one.)
The big contrast, sadly, is with the effects of January’s quake in Haiti, whose government had nothing like the administrative capacity to respond in a maximally life-saving manner.
Anyway, my thoughts are with the peoples of Yushu, Qinghai, and China in general as they all grapple with with this latest crisis.

China and the US in Afghanistan

It’s good to put yourself into the shoes of others from time to time. For a while now, I’ve been trying to imagine the conversations that the Central Committee of the Chinese Committee Party doubtless hold from time to time about the various overseas adventures (!) of the US military.
I’m guessing they were intrigued but not, in the circumstances, very surprised by Pres. G.W. Bush’s original decision to invade Afghanistan in October 2001. That invasion brought the US military into a country that shares a short and extremely inhospitable border with China. So the arrival of the US military there– and in various of the other Central Asian Stans that share longer borders with China– must have caused the CCP planners some concern. But the US campaign was wholly focused on Islamist opponents of one variety or another; and it did significantly distract the attention of US military planners from the confrontations they had previously been gaming over in the South China Sea and other areas where China would be the direct target…
(Hainan incident, anyone? That had been GWB’s debut involvement in international affairs, remember.)
So after October 2001, I’m guessing it was “watchful waiting” for the guys in the CCP as they watched the US military maneuvering around the inhospitable mountains of Central Asia.
Then, 18 months later, came the US invasion of Iraq. I’m imagining the guys in the CCP being delirious with delight, toasting Rumsfeld in copious mao-tai or whatever, rubbing their eyes in amazement at just how amazingly stupid the leadership of the US could be!
And then, over the six years that followed, they watched quietly as Washington poured vast amounts of treasure and blood into Iraq in a campaign that very soon started to seriously degrade both the US military and the US economy.
Finally, after the November 2006 elections, Bob Gates’s realism started to pull the US ship of state slowly around from continuing too strongly with that folly.
But then, there was (and still is) the US campaign in Afghanistan.
Now, I’m thinking that the guys in the CCP are having serious second and third thoughts about that. Oh yes, how fabulous (from their POV) to see Washington continuing to degrade the American military and economy even more– over yet another completely un-“winnable” military campaign in a distant-from-the-US Asian country. But there is this other thing the CCP guys very strongly (and probably quite realistically) believe in, which is the deep inter-dependence of the US and China in world affairs.
There’s a portion of the US-China relationship that’s fairly zero-sum-gamey. But there is another portion, which I– and I think they– believe is bigger, which is pretty win-winny (though still not without some elements of competitiveness: sibling rivalry, if you will.)
Win-winning-ness is most evident in the economic relations between the two countries. But it is also present in the need they both share to find a way– preferably, of course, a way that is based neither on confrontation nor on oppression– to deal with various strong currents in the Muslim ummah.
So how long can Beijing go on just watching as the US beats itself to a bloody pulp in Afghanistan? And/or, at what point will the guys in Beijing choose to step in and, first, “offer” their help; or, at a later point, perhaps even start to insist that Washington take it?
Might we be reaching the first of those two points just now?
… From time to time I try to check up on what various Chinese sources are saying about the US’s various military adventures. Which is another way of saying that in between those times, I don’t pay the topic nearly enough attention.
But this week, helpful JWN commenter JohnH directed me to this recent piece in Asia Times, written by a retired, senior Indian diplomat… And that piece then sent me to this important article, authored, as the AT piece says, by deputy general of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies, Li Qinggong, and published by Xinhua in English on September 28.
Li writes,

    Afghanistan’s political and social turmoil has been aggravated by different intentions of the participating nations that constitute the coalition forces.
    In the short term, the fragile Afghan regime is finding it difficult to tame its restive domestic situation. Still, a prescription could help bring the country out of the mess if key players adopt a peaceful and reconciliatory approach in their push for the end of the war.
    The United States should first put an end to the war. The anti-terror war, which the former US administration of George W Bush launched in 2001, has turned out to be the source of ceaseless turbulence and violence in the past years.
    To promote much-needed reconciliation among the parties concerned, the US should end its military action. The war has neither brought the Islamic nation peace and security as the Bush administration originally promised, nor brought any tangible benefits to the US itself. On the contrary, the legitimacy of the US military action has been under increasing doubt.

And here’s where it gets even more interesting:

    Support from the international community is needed to help Afghanistan make a substantive move toward peace. The international community can take advantage of the ever-mounting anti-war calls within the US to prompt the Obama administration to end the war and withdraw US troops. Germany, France and Britain have planned an international conference this year to discuss the gradual withdrawal of Afghanistan military deployment. International pressures may offer Obama another excuse to withdraw US troops. The UN Security Council should carry the baton from the three European nations to convene a conference on the Afghanistan issue and try to reach a consensus among its five permanent Security Council members and draft a roadmap and timetable for resolution of the thorny issue. In the process, a ticklish issue is whether parties concerned can accept the Taliban as a key player in Afghanistan and how to dispose of the Al Qaeda armed forces, an issue that has a key bearing on the outcome of any international conference on the Afghanistan issue.
    Surely, an international peacekeeping mission is needed in the absence of US troops. With the aid of international peacekeepers, the Afghanistan government and its security forces can be expected to exercise effective control over domestic unrest and maintain peace and security.

So far, this still looks like a very preliminary trial balloon. But it is a trial balloon that this evidently well-connected figure has now gone ahead and floated, in the government’s own English-language media.
It’s one we should all think about.
… Longtime JWN readers will be well aware that one argument I’ve made repeatedly over recent years is that the western nations who constitute NATO are just about the worst instrument one could image for trying to “pacify” Afghanistan; and that if the help of non-Afghan outsiders is needed for this task– as it seems to be– then having the UN play the lead role would be far more effective than imagining that “the west” can do this job alone. (Or, perhaps, at all.)
Just one final note. There’s an ardent young American “COIN”- admirer called Andrew Exum who’s gained some publicity in the past couple of years for the blog he “cheekily” decided to call “Abu Muqawama” (Father of the Resistance). Recently, Exum and his blog got hired by a “liberal hawkish” new think-tank in Washington called the Center for a New American Security, which is famous mainly for the fact that its previous head, Michele Flournoy, is now the Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy. (Several other previous CNAS people have also gone into the Obama administration. Not, altogether, good news: I have a deep wariness about liberal hawks.)
So anyway, yesterday the breathless young Exum reported on his blog that around the halls of CNAS,

    there is a pretty lively debate among the scholars and staff who work here about whether or not we should continue a counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan when we might instead be focusing on preserving our energies for rising powers. Obviously enough, those of us who work on Afghanistan and counterinsurgency feel one way (more or less), while those who work on China and the rest of Asia feel another way (again, more or less… )

This strikes me as an incredibly naive– but also revealing– view. “Rising powers” obviously refers to China. But what still-extant “energies” is he talking about preserving? Energies for fighting China sometime in the future? Can he really mean that?
Also, is he telling us that the people at CNAS who “work on” China are working mainly on thining about plans for a future military confrontation with it? If so, that is very worrying indeed. (But not surprising, all in all, from such a hotbed of liberal hawks.)
But here’s where Exum’s naivete lies. Rather than the US fighting China any time soon (or ever), my judgment is that at some point within the next 4-5 years, the US government will be begging China and the rest of the international community to help it to find a way out of Afghanistan.
Unusually enough, I agree more on this point with Robert Kaplan than I do with Andrew Exum. Kaplan wrote in the NYT yesterday,

    if we stay in Afghanistan and eventually succeed, other countries will benefit more than we will. China, India and Russia are all Asian powers, geographically proximate to Afghanistan and better able, therefore, to garner practical advantages from any stability our armed forces would make possible.

Actually, at this point, whether the US stays in Afghanistan or leaves, and whether it “succeeds” there (whatever that means) or doesn’t, then the sheer indisputable fact of the costs the US has paid on account of its two military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past eight years (both initiated by GWB) means that all the elements of US national power have been considerably degraded over the past eight years, while important elements of the national power of China and Russia– I’m not so sure about India– have meanwhile continued on a path of growth.
I guess ever since I did the little bit of research that led to this August 2008 blog post on the sheer size and scope of China’s investments in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve had this idea that one of the main effects of George W. Bush’s two big military (mis-)adventures in distant countries has been to make those countries safe for Chinese mercantilism.
Now there’s irony for you, eh?

IPS piece on global power shifts and Iran

It’s here. Also archived here.
One bottom line is here:

    In 2003, Russia and China were unable (both in strictly military terms, and in terms of global power equations) to block the invasion of Iraq. But since 2003, Russia has stabilised its internal governance considerably from the chaotic state it was still in at that time, and China has continued its steady rise to greater power on the world scene.
    Two developments over the past year have underlined, for many U.S. strategic planners, the stark facts of the United States’ deep interdependence with these two significant world powers. One was last autumn’s collapse of the financial markets in New York and other financial centres around the world, which revealed the extent of the dependence the west’s financial system has on China’s (mainly governmental) investors.
    The other turning point has been the serious challenges the U.S. faced in its campaigns against Islamist militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Earlier this year, Pakistani-based Islamist militants mounted such extensive attacks against convoys carrying desperately needed supplies to U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan that Washington was forced to sign an agreement with Moscow to open alternative supply routes through Russia.
    Russia and China both have significant interests in Iran, which they are now clearly unwilling to jeopardise simply in order to appease Washington.

The other is here:

    Thursday brought dramatic evidence of the growing weight of non-western powers in policies toward Iran. What is still unclear is when there will be evidence of any parallel growth in their influence in Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy.

Happy 60th birthday, China!

China’s 1.3 billion citizens have today been celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic.
Of course, much remains to be done to ensure that China’s people can enjoy all the rights to which they’re entitled. But the founding of the PRC brought to an end more than a century of warlordism and internal strife– circumstances which, as we Americans have come to (re-)learn all too vividly through the experiences of our government in Iraq and Afghanistan, are deeply harmful to everyone’s rights, including, far too frequently, the right to life itself.
After the Chinese Communist Party came to power in Beijing in 1949 it made many very serious mis-steps, including during both the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. But since the late 1970s the country has been on a much steadier path, and the economic and social rights of its people have shown amazing and very valuable improvement. Their civil and political rights situation has improved more slowly; but it has, nonetheless, improved. (For more on this, see Chapter 4 of my 2008 book, Re-engage! America and the World After Bush.)
Another big problem has been the uneven development of these rights. But the CCP leaders seem well aware of this, and intent on addressing it.
One aspect of the rise of China that particularly impressed me was the fact that the Beijing government never got caught up in the nuclear arms-racing that consumed so much of the financial and political energies of the US and the former Soviet Union. I imagine that holding the line, as Beijing did, on maintaining only the “necessary minimum deterrent” might have seemed hard or even unwise to some Chinese strategic planners, aware as they were of their country’s past vulnerabilities to the mega-lethal meddling of outside (mainly European) powers. But it was the right decision.
The CCP’s leaders have evidently made a number of other decisions, as well, over the past two decades that signaled clearly a judgment that the development of forms of power other than military power would serve them better in the modern world than just raw military power. China’s emergence onto the Asian and world scenes over the past two decades has been marked by three notable features:

    (1) It has been characterized by the use of economic, cultural, and diplomatic power rather than military power;
    (2) It has been pursued by playing within, and calling for the strengthening of, the existing “rules of the game” in international relations, rather than by challenging those rules; and
    (3) It has been accompanied by Beijing’s continuous issuance of reassurances that China’s rise/emergence is, and will continue to be, peaceful.

So yes, I am a bit disturbed by the need China’s rulers evidently feel to celebrate the PRC’s 60th birthday with some huge-scale military parades. But they have lots of other forms of parades and celebrations going on, too. (Check the portal I link to in the first paragraph.) And they have every reason to celebrate.
Happy birthday, China!

The Year of the Ox II

First, going back to the year of the Golden Snake (nothing personal, George) — April 26, 2001:

    REPORTER: Do we have an obligation to defend the Taiwanese?
    GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes we do. And the Chinese must understand that. Yes I would.
    REPORTER: With the full force of the American military?
    GEORGE W. BUSH: Whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself.

Continue reading “The Year of the Ox II”

China Hand on the bleak prospects for the US in Afghanistan

Longtime JWN readers will know I’m a fan of the analysis that a blogger called China Hand produces on Pakistan and Afghanistan. (He doesn’t, as it happens produce much on China. Go figure.)
Anyway, today CH has a well-worth-reading (though not short) post in which he deconstructs and tries to assess the policy toward the Pakistan and Afghan Taleban that he sees the Islamabad government as most likely pursuing.
Bottom line, at the end:

    if we let Afghanistan go down the tubes, as the deep thinkers in Pakistan are proposing, there’s no assurance that the Taliban can be rolled back in Pakistan.
    Perhaps this problem has become too big for the United States and Pakistan to solve on their own. And, since Washington and Islamabad apparently disagree on the definition of the problem, let alone the outlines of a solution, it looks like nothing but years of bloody muddle lie ahead.

I humbly submit, however, that there is another option, in addition to leaving the US and Pakistan to handle the whole Af-Pak/Taleban problem “on their own.” This would be for Washington to invite the UN Security Council to convene a broad and authoritative new conference, including, certainly, all Afghanistan’s neighbors, all the P-5 powers, and anyone else the Secretary-General considers worth inviting, and have that gathering take responsibility for real Afghan peacemaking away from the US and NATO.
The US and NATO seem almost uniquely ill-suited to the challenges in Afghanistan! I can’t imagine why anyone thinks these western armies could do anything to achieve stability in Afghanistan– at a price that’s affordable by their increasingly cash-strapped treasuries, or at all.
Sure, China and Russia might both be very wary of assuming any additional responsibilities in a place as intractable as Afghanistan. But it is, after all, far closer to them than it is to any NATO members; and the restoration of a decent degree of stability to Afghanistan and Pakistan is actually much stronger an interest for them than it is for the distant NATO members.
Of course I can quite understand, from a realpolitik POV, that China and Russia might both be extremely happy to see the US and its NATO allies continuing to degrade their forces and their treasuries by trying to hurl their militaries against the brick wall in Afghanistan. But at some point that has to be counter-productive for them.