Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Another Boltonian Policy Bites the Dust?

With the departure of John Bolton and (most of) his cabal from the State Department, there has been an orgy of making hay while the sun shines e.g. quickly executing policy and personnel initiatives that would have been 86’d by the moustachio’d one and his White House cohorts if they still held power.

And it’s not just Condi Rice and her realists who are frantically reaping the harvest.

France has pitched in, calling for the ancient and anachronistic EU arms embargo against China to be lifted (from The Nation [Pakistan], Arms embargo against China unjustified: France, March 20, 2007, h/t to Antiwar.com for the article):

The European Union’s arms embargo on China is no longer justified and should be lifted, France’s defence minister said on Monday, adding that this did not mean Paris wanted to start selling weapons to the Chinese.

The arms embargo has no technical justification because French and EU regulations are already more restrictive than what’s in the embargo, Michele Alliot-Marie told a news conference in Beijing....

The embargo only concerns the EU and hasn’t stopped other countries from supplying weapons and components to China, Alliot-Marie said at the end of her China visit...

The political justification for the embargo is based on criticisms on the part of the EU over certain human rights issues, she said, without saying what those were. But the same countries accepted that China get the Olympics even though the criteria for getting the Olympics are the same as the embargo. Their logic is inconsistent, the minister added, without elaborating.

The embargo was instituted in 1989 in response to the Tian An Men massacre, cutting off arms sales to China until its human rights behavior achieved more civilized standards.

Since then, if China has done a bad job of moving forward, the world has done a good job of moving back.

Viewed in the context of an unprovoked invasion of Iraq by the democratic and civilizing powers of the West and Japan that has cost upward of 500,000 Iraqi lives, the Tian An Men massacre, while not a walk in the park, does not justify an arms embargo approaching its second decade.

In fact, in 2005, with China, with a fifteen-year record of reasonably good international behavior and recognized as a politely enthusiastic handmaiden to President Bush’s GWOT (Global War on Terror), Beijing (end the EU) entertained genuine hopes that the embargo would be lifted.

However, the Taiwan issue flared up again and, in a worrying sign that the politics of containment, confrontation, and regime change were designed for application beyond the Middle East, John Bolton and his allies in Japan lobbied vociferously and effectively for maintaining the embargo.

In fact, the looming Boltonian plans for China was one of the inspirations for the creation of this blog, and in one of my first posts in April 2005, I wrote on Bolton’s efforts related to the EU arms embargo as follows:


...the EU’s retreat from lifting the arms embargo [is] no doubt China’s sorest disappointment:

Beijing was certain early this winter that a European Union arms embargo against China would be lifted (a move ardently opposed by the Pentagon). But last week, the EU said it no longer had a consensus to lift. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, in a frank interview with German media, even mentioned a possible need for a form of containment of China, until its social, political, and military direction became clearer.

Getting the EU to back away from lifting the arms embargo was one of John Bolton’s major achievements, accomplished with the help of a House of Representatives resolution and intensive lobbying of the European powers by both the United States and Japan—something the Chinese are well aware of.

John Bolton’s Feb. 25, 2005 speech in Tokyo laid out the position for and rationales for America and Japan’s joint approach to quarantining China, including scuttling the EU’s plans of lifting the arms embargo:

Similarly, we are having discussions with other governments about existing arms embargoes against China and about our concerns that others--such as the EU [European Union]--may lift their embargoes and thereby negatively impact the security of America, and its friends and allies in the Asia-Pacific region....

I expect the Europeans beat a retreat on lifting the arms embargo when they realized that America’s post-9/11 engagement with China beyond the most cosmetic gestures is dead. Rather than try to welcome China’s post Tian An Men return to full membership in the family of nations with a few juicy arms deal, it was better to back off and avoid getting tangled up in another U.S. scorched earth foreign policy crusade.

Those with long memories will recall that the sanction regime against Iraq was weakening because of European indifference and impatience before the Bush administration stepped in with its anti-Saddam campaign and made it clear that it would not permit Saddam’s Iraq to regain the measure of legitimacy and protection under international law that status as an unsanctioned, member-in-good-standing of the nation-state club bestows.

With that background, it must be especially disturbing to China that the U.S. wants to maintain an explicit sanction and embargo regime against China, with the implication that China is prone to devious, dangerous pariah-state behavior that the leadership and force of the United States-and Japan-- is needed to check.

Again, from John Bolton’s speech in Tokyo:

The second reason we oppose the lifting of the EU arms embargo against China was very well stated by our friend Foreign Minister Machimura, when he noted that "We are against a lifting of the arms embargo. The matter of the lifting of the arms embargo is one of great concern not only for Japan but for the security of East Asia as a whole."

Our respective government’s positions on resolving the Taiwan-China Cross-Strait issue are well-known. Suffice it to say, though, we are concerned that any measures that allow China to significantly improve its coercive capabilities could make fostering a peaceful resolution of this issue less likely. We concur with Foreign Minister Machimura that it will contribute to regional instability.

Moreover, as I highlighted above, no adequate mechanism currently exists to prevent China from transferring technology and lethal weaponry to other, less stable regions of the world, including rogue states, or to use it for the purposes of internal repression.


If the embargo is lifted, China may feel a greater sense of security because it has access to European arms.

But it will be more relieved to know that, with the defection of the EU, US efforts to maintain internationalized sanctions against China have crumbled and Beijing is free to step off the US sanctions--regional sanctions—UN sanctions—interdiction and destabilization escalator that John Bolton had designed for it.

1 comment:

Roger Serra said...

EU doesn't sell arms to Taiwan bc of China's pressure and they are not going to sell sensitive weapons to China either bc the US and domestic pressures. EU doesn’t want to get (and probably can’t get) involved in East Asia security complex.
The meaning of the EU embargo it’s about politics, rights and principles; it’s about face, not about selling arms.
There is no EU arms embargo to Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Iran, etc. only China, Myanmar/Burma and Uzbekistan have it.