Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Deja Vu All Over Again

With North Korea unwilling to return to the six-party talks, the U.S. has embarked on a policy of confrontation and saber rattling, terminating military cooperation on servicemen’s remains with the DPKR, “decapitating” the international initiative to provide North Korea with a peaceful nuke power station by removing its director, Charles Kartman, and, as reported in today’s New York Times, dispatching 15 Stealth fighters to South Korea to show Kim Jung-il:

that even though the American military is tied up in Iraq, it can reach his capital, Pyongyang, and the nuclear facilities north of it.

As the LA Times reported on May 28,

A former State Department official, who did not want to be quoted by name, said the suspension of the remains recovery program and Kartman's termination indicated a concerted effort by the administration to tighten the screws on Pyongyang."They are putting all the pieces in place to shut everything down around North Korea," he said.

The current confrontational policy against North Korea eerily recapitulates our campaign against Iraq in 2003.

Once again, the United States has labored mightily to delegitimize an unsavory regime as a pariah state and use incendiary claims about weapons of mass destruction to declare the existence of a pressing global security crisis. However, we have been unable to forge a genuine consensus concerning the nature or severity of the threat, or the proper measures to counter it. Instead of a global coalition, the Bush administration can claim the enthusiastic support of one regional ally—Japan—and the overt resistance and silent opposition of virtually all the major powers, including the dominant presence in Asia--China.

The only difference: this time we are admitting up front we’re not sure the policy will work.

From the New York Times:

But in the absence of(six-party) talks, much of the discussion inside the administration now is about instituting strong punitive measures, including interceptions of any shipments of suspected illicit goods. On Saturday, however, one official said that such an effort "just won't work if we can't get the Chinese to go along."

Even as the administration accepts a more pessimistic view of China's willingness to help, almost every option under discussion similarly relies on China.

As I argued in my May 26 post, the Bush administration has knowingly or unwittingly foreclosed its foreign policy options with its freedom crusade rhetoric.

The U.S. simply doesn’t have the credibility anymore to represent itself as an honest broker in the world of diplomacy, sovereignty, and negotiation.

All that’s left is the unilateral, unrestrained superpower “master of war” strategy that the Bush administration feels so comfortable with. But, without the capability to attract or compel Chinese support on North Korea, we are nowhere near being “master of events”.

So we are pursuing a foreign policy option that we understand ahead of time is probably futile.

Perhaps the Bush administration hopes that a hard line will produce some fruitful chaos, a “Perfect Storm” provoking some combination of crisis in North Korea and recalculation in China that will prove beneficial to U.S. interests.

But hope, as they say, is not a plan, and it is disturbing to see the United States resorting to a policy that can be best described as regional reckless endangerment without the mainstream press understanding the issues or the U.S. public having the slightest idea of what’s going on.

An effective resolution of our North Korean dilemma would probably require the repudiation of the Bush unilateral pre-emption doctrine and its authors. Failing that, we can only hope that when, we repeat the absurdities of Bush foreign policy this year, it is as farce, instead of tragedy.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Richard Holbrooke: China Does Matter

In today’s column in the Washington Post, ex Asst Sec of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Richard Holbrooke kindly echoes the fundamental theme of this blog—that “China Matters” but too few people pay attention:

China's gradual emergence as a political player on the world stage comes when there is a growing impression among other countries in East Asia that Washington is not paying the region sufficient attention…The challenge is obvious, but the lack of clear focus at the highest levels in Washington on our vital national security interests in the region is disturbing.

Actually, Holbrooke is hinting that the wrong people are paying sufficient attention to the region, listing the various interest groups that all share domestic political clout and strong but irreconcilable views on relations with China:

What vastly complicates U.S. relations with China is that every major foreign policy issue between the two countries is also a domestic matter, with its own lobbying groups and nongovernmental organizations ranging across the entire American political spectrum, from human rights to pro-life, from pro-Tibet to organized labor. The bilateral agenda, even a partial one, is daunting: Taiwan, Tibet, human rights, religious freedom, press freedom, the Falun Gong, slave labor, North Korea, Iran, trade, the exchange rate, intellectual property rights, access to Chinese markets, export of sensitive technology and the arms embargo.

In other words, without strong professional leadership (Holbrooke is probably thinking of pin-striped heroes of the State Department like himself), our China policy will be driven by the disparate imperatives of dingbats, do-gooders, and opportunists, and chaos, failure, and damage to American interests will result.

Perhaps Holbrooke’s column was inspired by the spectacle of Treasury Secretary Snow’s rather embarrassing performance on the Chinese yuan revaluation, no doubt at the command of Karl Rove, who is concerned about the political backlash among core Republican groups at the trade deficit with China.

To capture the lede in the hometown papers, Snow first made thundering noises about how the Chinese currency must be reformed, but then admitted a full float was impossible, and finally made it clear he was just begging for a cosmetic shift from the hard 8.3 yuan-to-the-dollar peg—allowing a narrow fluctuation in the yuan and which would have no significant impact on the trade deficit—so President Bush could pretend his administration’s disorganized and distrusted foreign affairs apparatus could claim a victory in its dealings with China.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

More Carrots to Beat North Korea With

In our negotiations with North Korea it looks like the only use we have for carrots is as blunt instruments to beat the DPRK over the head with.

Today, in congressional testimony, the State Department’s Christopher Hill complained about North Korea’s foot-dragging in restarting the six-party talks about its nuclear program.

Richard Lawless, the top Asian guy at the Pentagon, appeared with Hill. In an attempt to show that we’re really angry and the DPRK had better get with the program, the DoD announced the following moves:

suspended virtually the only military cooperation between the U.S. and the DROK—a joint effort to recover the remains of American servicemen—on the flimsiest of pretexts


announced portentously that the Pentagon has “plans” in case the six-party talks fail.

The problem here is not just that this saber-rattling sounds pretty unconvincing.

The real problem is that we’re hostages to a confrontational policy with North Korea over its nuclear program—a policy that offers no way out of the Korean impasse because of our over-reliance on the logic, measures, and goals associated with the Bush administration’s beloved policy of regime change.

In other words, the shadow of Iraq hangs over our North Korean policy.

Not only Kim Jung-il but the whole world remembers how the United States parlayed an ostentatious fixation with Saddam’s purported weapons of mass destruction into an invasion that achieved its actual objective of regime change.

The United States believes that confronting North Korea over its nuclear programs deploys the most effective diplomatic weapons in America’s arsenal: accusation and delegitimization followed by escalation culminating in ultimatum, triumph, and regime change, all powered by unanswerable U.S. moral, diplomatic, and military ascendancy.

But that strategy is so 2003.

Non-proliferation is no longer the universally invincible wedge against our enemies and rallying point for our allies. Our failures in Iraq probably have a lot to do with that.

None of our allies except Japan accept our insistence that North Korea’s nuclear program is a pressing security crisis. And the Chinese—who expect to get a dose of American regime-change medicine some ways down the road—have an active interest in discouraging the view that the North Korean situation is so desperate it requires the East Asian states to toe Washington’s line.

Most of the front-line states in the Korean imbroglio see the nuclear program as an inevitable response by the North Koreans to U.S. regime-change pressures—a legitimate deterrent as well as a cynical bargaining tool.

And North Korea believes that the best way to forestall U.S. pressure—and obtain leverage to obtain the desperately needed economic aid that props up the regime—is to get some real nukes asap.

We are nowhere near having the diplomatic support needed for an escalating process of confrontation leading to that magic “or else” moment that makes North Korea’s protectors to step back and acquiesce to regime change.

At the same time, rapprochement and retreat do not appear to be options for the Bush administration, which has staked White House foreign policy credibility on non-proliferation and counter-proliferation, and its domestic standing on “fire of freedom” rhetoric.

So we’re having our Rumpelstiltskin moment, where we stamp our feet in frustrated fury while the rest of the world waits for us to crash through the floor.

The frustration of the Korea hands in Washington must be all-consuming. By any standard, North Korea should be the lowest-hanging fruit for America’s freedom fighters to pluck.

I’m not claiming to understand the inner workings of North Korean society, but I think that China and South Korea—the two states that border on the DPRK, for you geography-challenged folks—could bring down Kim Jung-il’s regime rather easily by opening their borders and encouraging a flood of refugees.

The South Koreans don’t want it, apparently because of the big costs and disruption of reunification —ranging from $2 to $3 trillion in the gold-plated scenario to $125 billion in the “diplomacy, politics, the free market, and world finance working together like a well-oiled machine” cut-rate proposal which, in the aftermath of the $300 billion and counting Iraq nationbuilding debacle, looks pathetically optimistic.

The Chinese don’t want it, presumably because South Korea and the United States could exploit the power vacuum more quickly and effectively than the PRC could, and the front-line boundary between the West and China would move from the 38th parallel to whatever buffer zone the Chinese would be able to secure near the Yalu.

So the Chinese and the South Koreans have a shared interest in the continued survival of the North Korean regime. They also share a desire for a program of economic growth and reform that would increase North Korea’s viability and turn it into a positive economic force in Northeast Asia, instead of an exasperating strategic burden whose only competitive exports are medium-range missiles and the international anxiety and aggravation provoked by its half-assed nuclear weapons program.

The main obstacle to that kind of reform is the under-siege mentality of the Kim Jung-il regime, which assumes, probably quite rightly, that the stresses, costs, and dislocations of economic reform would quickly destabilize the regime, especially if the United States actively exploited this opportunity to subvert the DPRK.

And that under siege mentality is reinforced—and justified—by American hyperventilating over the DPRK’s nuke program.

Interestingly, at Hill’s congressional appearance, he was pressed to accept bilateral talks with North Korea—the kind of one-on-one horsetrading as equals with Kim Jung-il that is the polar opposite of the dance of death for the North Korean pariah state that the U.S. is trying to choreograph through the six-party talks.

It’s time to acknowledge that the regime-change elixir is not what Northeast Asia needs right now.

In a realpolitik world, the United States would make a deal that would guarantee North Korean sovereignty and provide economic and political assistance for the odious Kim Jung-il regime to execute the reforms and market opening with Chinese and South Korean help that will make it into something other than an economic basket case.

The long-suffering people of North Korea would be denied the freedom and self-determination they crave, and have to endure a Chinese-style totalitarian/free market economy with an overlay of chaebol domination, but it would be better than what they have now.

Then, President Bush can have his Nixon-in-China moment. He can go to Pyongyong, and the two height-challenged hereditary monarchs can exchange the historic handshake that welcomes North Korea back into the world community.

I’d love to see it—but I’m not holding my breath.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Arthur Waldron and the Rightward Drift of U.S. Discourse on China

In Joseph Kahn and Chris Buckley’s article in the New York Times, China Gives a Strategic 21-Gun Salute to Visiting Uzbek President, a China expert parses the Chinese desire to cozy up to Uzbekistan as follows:

"Energy is clearly one driver for China in the region," said Arthur Waldron, a China expert at the University of Pennsylvania. "My sense is that they also tend to think that anything that throws sand into the face of the U.S. is a good thing."

Hmmm. Not exactly the way I read it.

In the interests of full disclosure, I think Kahn and Buckley should have identified Waldron as affiliated with the self-identified “Blue Team” of confront-China enthusiasts seeking to permeate the Pentagon and State Department.

Waldron is the former Director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute; signatory to Project for the New American Century statements on Taiwan and Hong Kong; served on the boards of various right-leaning foundations, and testifies to Congress on the China threat.

In the feisty days when Clinton was president and the Blue Team boasted of its virtuous conspiracy to tilt policy and perceptions toward a harder anti-China stance in the face of panda-hugger persecution, Waldron openly called for regime change in China.

He provides academic credibility and cover for the Blue Team, which is composed largely of anti-PRC enthusiasts with limited backgrounds in Asian affairs, in role similar to the one Bernard Lewis played for the neo-cons over Iraq.

It may be unfair, but I see Waldron, like Lewis, as an academic at best prescribing tough love for his area of study and at worst sounding positively Sinophobic.

In considering 20th century Asia, Waldron has a strong pro-Japan tilt. A flavor of his views, and how he applies them to the current situation, can be gleaned from his piece Japan Emerges, published earlier this year:

So perhaps we should listen to other historians, less well known than those who concentrate on Japanese domestic history {for the origins of the China invasion}, stressing instead a series of completely unexpected developments in the region that even the most liberal Japanese leaders saw as threatening to their country’s security.

Most important of these was a strong but erratically guided rise of Chinese power that saw that country’s government, goading and reacting to the resentments of her people, flout many of the undertakings she had made at Washington {at the Washington Conference of 1921-22--CH}.

Almost simultaneously came political splits and then civil wars in a China that at the time of the Conference had seemed politically stable and set on a course of peaceful economic development. These wars threatened continental interests that Tokyo considered vital, and when the allies who had promised at Washington to consult on such threats and act to protect legitimate interests failed to do so, Japan attempted to do so herself—in a catastrophic way that saw both democracy and millions of Japanese people perish.

One element of a parallel to these developments is already in place. North Korea’s nuclear capability has deeply unsettled Japan…

Translation: The Chinese were asking for it in the 1930s and now they’re asking for it again today.

Most students of the period tend to blame Japanese belligerence and imperial ambition for the catastrophe of the Pacific War, not Chinese provocation.

As Waldron himself admits, he’s in the minority in his reading of modern Asian history.

So it seems to me a sign of the rightward drift in the popular discourse about China that he nevertheless appears to be a go-to guy for the New York Times when some academic insight about the PRC is called for.

When Waldron depicts China’s outreach to the Uzbekistan regime primarily as a move touching on the mother of all American strategic interests—oil—and a provocative nose thumbing at the United States…

…instead of a clumsy embrace driven by China’s fear that weakening of authoritarian regimes in Central Asia will give the Muslims of Xinjiang a thirst for the same kind of populist, anti-government activism and promise of democratic self-determination that has roiled Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan…

…it makes me wonder if he’s trying to create a pressing issue for America in China’s relationship with Uzbekistan that really isn’t there.

If anything, China may be using its ostentatious show of support for Karimov to signal to the United States that China is fully vested in the survival of this pro-American tyrant and the U.S. government should not feel there is any need—or compelling alternative—to abandoning him.

Freedom Not Quite on the March in Central Asia This Week

A story that didn’t receive a lot of ink because it doesn’t fit in with the “pastel revolution/freedom on the march in Central Asia” theme was the victory by Nambaryn Enkhbayar of Mongolia's former communist Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party in the country's presidential elections.

He promptly announced

"[The] number one economic partner and number one investor in Mongolia is China," he said. "We do have very good normal relations with China, and we do intend to keep on having those relations."

And just as promptly Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi, fresh from delivering a extremely pointed and highly significant snub to Japanese PM Koizumi, jetted to Ulan Bator to sign an 18-point agreement as reported in Ming Pao.

China also hurried to shore up its western flank by welcoming Uzbek bad guy Islam Karimov for a state visit.

Beijing is apparently banking on the hope that his savage crackdown in Andijon will play out in Tian An Men style, stabilize his authoritarian regime, and discourage Xinjiang Muslims from emulating Uzbeki strivings for popular, anti-government self-determination.

China’s main levers in Central Asia are economic, not military, and have unfavorable as well as favorable effects. Chinese economic penetration elicits popular resentment for crowding out local businesses and demonstrating Han Chinese encroachment on local cultures.

Therefore, alliance with China is not a source of political advantage for local leaders seeking to rally the electorate.

So the situation on China’s inner-Asian flank is relatively tenuous and risky, and the Chinese government doesn’t have a lot of tools. The best it can hope for is the continued viability of authoritarian regimes with as much interest in stability and as little interest in popular democratic movements as China itself has.

Nick Kristof Irritates Me

In his recent column, Mr. Kristof engages in one of those hands-on pieces of vainglory that is the unique domain of the celebrity newspaper columnist.

He visits a Chinese chat room, types in a provocative statement about permitting multi-party elections, and dimples with pride as this piece of freedom-loving straight talk is deleted by the censor.

Then he tells us that broadband will be the death of the Communist regime.


The Internet has changed the way the world masturbates but, as a digital form of communication that relies on government infrastructure for transmission and can be filtered, monitored, and traced efficiently and on a massive scale with public security computing resources, it is not a perfect, irresistible force for righteous political subversion.

Political movements adopt and exploit the tools of the times: cell phones in the recent anti-Japanese demonstrations in China, big character posters during the Cultural Revolution, cassette tapes in 1970s Iran, chapattis in the Sepoy Rebellion, pamphlets in the American revolutionary war, pancakes at the fall of the Yuan dynasty…

More to the point, as conditions permit, every government works non-stop to accommodate, co-opt, or suppress the media and content that threaten its dominance of information management.

It’s a full-time job, pursued with implacable determination, unlimited resources, and resounding success.

In this connection, I might cite the case of a once-great newspaper whose correspondents and columnists still appear unable to acknowledge the fact that they served as befuddled if willing tools of a government campaign of deception that enabled an unprovoked and catastrophic war of aggression…

…even as thousand of Internet-linked keyboards clattered in furious and principled opposition around the world.

In America, the Internet now peddles so much illusion and confusion fostered by the government and its supporters that its potential as a unique and uniquely powerful political voice for the disenfranchised has been lost.

The Chinese Communists are already busy neutering the Internet, as this roundup from China Digital Times shows.

The threat to the regime will come from people, ideology, and beliefs, not a communications process.

Change in China will require political, moral, and human courage. It will require leadership. When it comes, it will exploit a hundred existing and new channels of communication to get its message out and rally and organize its supporters.

It doesn’t need the Internet.

And it probably doesn’t need Nick Kristof.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

What Would Bismarck Do?

Condi thinks he’d acknowledge North Korea’s sovereignty.

A clear indication of Condi Rice’s current, if perhaps transitory, victory over the neo-cons can be found in the transcript of Yale professor John Gaddis’s remarks at Ten O’clock Scholar.

Gaddis, with disingenuous humility and disbelief, describes how he was invited to the White House and found out everybody from George Bush to Condi Rice to Karl Rove are reading his stuff and talking about his take on Otto von Bismarck.

Gaddis’s take on Bismarck is:

And I said that although great grand strategists know the uses of “shock and awe,” they also know when to stop. Here I cited the example of Otto von Bismarck, who had shattered the post-1815 European state system in order to make possible the unification of Germany in 1871, but then had “replaced his destabilizing strategy with a new one aimed at consolidation and reassurance – at persuading his defeated enemies as well as nervous allies and alarmed bystanders that they would be better off living within the new system he had imposed on them than by continuing to fight or fear it.”

And that the single greatest mistake the administration had made was to assume that it could shatter the status quo in the Middle East, and that the pieces would then realign themselves spontaneously in patterns favorable to American interests. Bismarck, I said, would never have made such an error.

The absolute dead give-away that George Bush’s interest in Bismarck is a piece of political framing—and theater—for the foreign policy crowd is Gaddis’s delighted discovery

that the piece (an article by Gaddis in Foreign Affairs) had not only been read and circulated around the White House, but it had also been sent out to an e-mail distribution list for columnists and commentators that Karl Rove’s office maintains.

If there is anything at work here, it is Condi Rice’s hope that, with the neo-cons in cold storage, Don Rumsfeld in the doghouse, and with Condi at the president’s ear, America still has enough power, prestige, and credibility to persuade the world that it can sincerely promote the global win-win scenarios associated with traditional diplomacy.

That’s what’s behind the leaking of the apparently unproductive and futile direct meeting with between U.S. and North Korean officials in New York earlier this May, as well as a host of other exercises in conventional diplomacy, handholding, and consensus building recently reported in the press.

Condi is trying to signal that America is back as an engaged, sincere force in the diplomatic initiatives trying to resolve issues in North Korea and Iran.

Condi may not only be underestimating the lasting damage that unapologetic, brazen U.S. war-driven unilateralism in Bush’s first term inflicted on America’s credibility.

She may not be ready to accept how much of that damage was willful and intentional—and irreparable.

The special genius of the neo-cons was to create scenarios of escalation and confrontation that foreclosed diplomatic alternatives and committed the U.S. to a preordained path of extreme actions in order to preserve its prestige and credibility.

It wasn’t just a matter of hurriedly and pre-emptively relegating Iraq, Iran, and North Korea to eternal pariah-state status with the Presidential impratur of “Axis of Evil”.

It was our open, gratuitous pro-Israel tilt, which guaranteed that the Muslim states would be allowed no political role in the Middle East crisis that might serve to moderate American behavior.

It was the aggressive impugning of the United Nations, the vilification of France, Germany, and Old Europe, the withdrawal from the ABM treaty, and the repudiation of the International Criminal Court, which demonstrated that we would repudiate and attack any political or institutional alternatives to American power.

It was a scorched-earth campaign designed to ensure that mistrust and anger at the United States would run deep enough among our enemies and expendable allies to assure that America had no choice but to take the lonely road of sole world hegemon.

George Bush and the neo-cons propelled us into a zero-sum future in which America’s stated willingness to use extreme, unilateral power hangs over everybody else like a dark cloud.

That’s why North Korea—which seeks from the United States above all an acknowledgement of its legitimate sovereignty and right to exist—has discounted an otherwise significant initiative from the State Department:

After a public appeal from North Korea, a State Department envoy met with North Korean officials at the United Nations last week to reiterate Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that the Bush administration recognizes the reclusive country's sovereignty, U.S. officials said yesterday.

While George W. Bush—the man who personally inducted North Korea into the Axis of Evil, reportedly because public relations concerns demanded at least one non-Islamic target—still in the White House, North Korea’s distrust of the U.S. administration is fundamental and unalterable.

The situation is described in greater detail below in the post Our Korean Conundrum.

And that’s something that a few diplomatic initiatives—or some lessons from Bismarck—won’t be able to undo.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Impotent Treasury Department + Economic Policy as Political Football = Another Attack on China's Exchange Rate Policies

From the LA Times:

In unusually harsh language, the Treasury Department, in a report to Congress, described China's 10-year-old exchange rate regime as "highly distortionary" and said it posed a threat to the global economy. Unless Beijing moves to a more flexible exchange rate system quickly, the report said, China is "likely" to be cited for currency manipulation, which would open the door for sanctions.

After all that snarling comes the rather contradictory call for China to continue manipulating its currency a baby bit more--but to our benefit.

Snow said the U.S. wasn't calling for an "immediate full float" because "China's banking sector is not prepared. What we are calling for is an intermediate step that … allows for a smooth transition — when appropriate — to a full float."

Not surprising, politics and not economics are at the bottom of this.

We shouldn't ignore the fact that Karl Rove has apparently taken over direction of domestic policy and sees all events--including relations with China--through his uniquely Machiavellian, short-term political prism. Under Rove's influence, I expect that the deference to the pro-China qualms and moderation of "Poppy Bush" that President Bush displayed during his first term may be at an end.

Paul Blustein of the Washington Post captured the underlying political dynamic nicely on May 11:

... the momentum in Washington is clearly in favor of turning the screws on Beijing over the currency issue. The administration's change in tactics is especially striking.


Asked what has prompted the recent hardening in their position, senior administration officials observe that circumstances have changed. For one thing, China's overall trade in goods and services was in deficit in the first quarter of last year, but the nation finished up the year with a trade surplus of $32 billion, and in the first quarter of this year its surplus was about $16.6 billion.

Moreover -- though administration officials are loath to discuss it publicly -- Bush's chief trade initiative this year, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, is in trouble on Capitol Hill, and by proving its mettle on China the White House stands a better chance of attracting pro-CAFTA votes from reluctant Republican lawmakers.

The markets responded positively to the move, not because they think a genuine reform of China's foreign exchange regime is in the offing--which might bring about the collapse of the Chinese economy, end the PRC's ability to fund our deficit, crater the West's financial markets, and perhaps bring an end to civilization as we know it--but because they believe that the Chinese will be forced over the next few months to make a political response to White House pressure and tweak the exchange rate in a limited, non-disruptive way as a purely political concession, and that will lead to an increase in exports and profits for some companies, and thereby goose the stock market.

It doesn't look like using an RMB revaluation as part of a serious attempt to reduce America's yawning current and capital account imbalances with the rest of the world is anywhere near the table.

That means a serious discussion on China's exchange-rate regime--and a terrifying foray into the mind-melting realm of macro-economics--can be postponed once more. Phew!

Nevertheless, I think it's worth exploring Morris Goldstein's views. Mr. Goldstein is a well-respected economist at the Institute of International Economics.

Mr. Goldstein has been proselytizing for the last year or so for a staged, managed Chinese revaluation of the RMB, designed to correct an undervaluation he pegs at perhaps 15% to 20%.

Therefore, he has been dragooned, I suspect unwillingly, into the role of providing academic credibility for the White House's whack-a-mole approach of using an economic club to try to resolve what it sees as transient political nuisances--in this case, the political heat Mr. Bush is attracting from the large trade deficit with China.

Mr. Goldstein and other economists apparently agree that a Chinese revaluation by itself would have minimal impact on America's trade deficit.

If I understand Mr. Goldstein's views correctly, the only way that the political and diplomatic costs of confronting China on its exchange rate policies can be justified as an economic imperative is if a Chinese revaluation triggers a revaluation by the whole host of Asian exporters--Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Taiwan that takes a $70 to $80 billion bite out of America's trade deficit.

He believes China and the other Asian exporters should and would nobly shoulder this onerous, unprofitable, and unpleasant burden because they know the alternative is a catastrophic hard landing for the United States and the world economy.

But, since the United States apparently feels that there's nothing better to do than play politics with this issue and demonize the Chinese in order to score domestic political points, I think his hopes for display of a trans-Pacific display of spirit of consensus and sacrifice--or even an exhibition of enlightened self-interest by the U.S. government-- are perhaps misplaced.

The current U.S. policy reminds me of the joke where a cuckolded husband surprises his wife in bed with her lover. The husband pulls out a gun, points it at his own head, and snarls "Don't laugh. You're next!"

Monday, May 16, 2005

The furor over some reported comments from a Chinese admiral concerning the purported advantages of sinking an American aircraft carrier in a hypothetical Taiwan Straits crisis consumed a depressing amount of bandwidth at The American Prospect, Liberals Against Terrorism, Matthew Yglesias, and Brad DeLong’s websites.

Perhaps unfairly, I chalk this up to a desire by liberals to verbally pummel China in order to demonstrate that the Left, contrary to the accusations of the Right, possesses sufficient will to fight, foreign policy gravitas, and national security credibility to lead America.

Happily, the commenters on these posts seemed to take a more measured and skeptical view.

The Left can stand for a foreign policy of resolve and integrity, one that balances moderation and multilateralism with human rights and American interests.

But recycling articles from the Cato Institute that ignore the true nature of the Chinese role in East Asia in order to engage in Rotisserie League fantasy contests between U.S. and PRC armed forces isn’t the way to do it.

In a convergence of economic interests, Taiwan and South Korea are decisively moving away from confrontation with China. Attempts to impose a front-line military containment role on these states--which is behind the bullying insistence that they should beef up their defense spending "or else"--would be disastrously counter-productive and misguided.

Liberal war-gamers should be contemplating the implications of a peaceful drift by Taiwan the the ROK into China's sphere of influence, and the dangerous consequences of a rightward lurch by Japan if the only regional ally it can turn to is the United States.

The Chinese aren't likely to give us an easy out from our China pickle by sinking an aircraft carrier and letting us blow the whole place up.
The weekend’s National Assembly elections provide an interesting snapshot of Taiwan’s political situation.

Voters cast their ballots for party slates, not individuals, that would make up the National Assembly, which in turn would vote along party lines for or against various constitutional amendments affecting election of the legislature, popular referenda and the like.

There were no real issues involved—both the DPP and KMT slates support the amendments, which are assured of ratification.

The election was billed to the DPP faithful as a critical show of strength after the KMT and PFP—thanks in part to a mushmouthed response by President Chen Shui-bian--had seized the political initiative with their China initiatives.

The election itself was confusing to many voters, overshadowed in the media by coverage of the visits of the KMT’s Lien Chan and the PFP’s James Soong to the mainland, and its turnout squelched by torrential rainstorms.

Not surprisingly, turnout was a whopping 23.1%--a historic low for Taiwan.

So the vote was can be taken as a pretty straightforward popularity contest among hard-core voters who would brave a confusing ballot and awful weather to vote for their guys.

In other words, only the base came out, and here's how they voted:

DPP 42.5%
KMT 38.9%
TSU 7.1%
PFP 6.1%

The KMT probably lost a percentage point because voters confused it with a similarly-named fringe party.

The DPP eagerly spun the result as evidence that its popularity had not been dented by the “China fever” surrounding Lien Chan and Soong’s visits. Certainly no tectonic shifts have occurred in Taiwan public opinion since the trips. At the same time, it looks like Chen Shui-bian’s base (DPP + TSU) caps out at 50%.

James Soong’s PFP, which drastically underperformed compared to its own expectations, was tagged as the loser.

The real loser might have been Taiwan’s multi-party system. If Soong’s weakness persists, his supporters may simply drift to the KMT and accelerate the development of two-party politics.

I would find that regrettable. A multi-party system offers flexibility and a chance for leaders to build ad hoc alliances to promote fresh policies. The two-party dialectic encourages polarization, base-pandering, and intransigence. That’s not an attractive option for Taiwan right now.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Our Korean Conundrum

North Koreans Heart "the guy with the white moustache"—But Nobody Else Does

As John Bolton’s “friends” in Washington pointed out, he took his eye off the ball in the Iran nuclear talks while lobbying feverishly for the Secretary of State position and then grinding through the nomination process for Ambassador to the U.N. this year.

So who’s doing the good work of insulting and terrifying North Korea’s Kim Jung-il now that Bolton is trying to shrug off reports that he is a maniacal manipulator of intelligence, a loose cannon, and a sex fiend to boot?.

The New York Times dished out an a disturbing report of an impending North Korean nuclear test—with “viewing grandstands”—that seems to have begun its soufflé-like descent promptly after its initial alarmist purpose has been achieved.

The LA Times pitched in today with a particularly witless editorial calling for China to force North Korea to the negotiating table with oil and food sanctions.

A little perspective here:

Asking the Chinese to implement sanctions that they believe would be counter-productive and destabilizing is a non-starter.

And presenting sanctions, as the LA Times does, as a consensus position of what China should do to join the club of civilized nations is not just condescending. It’s wrong.

Of the six countries involved in the North Korea discussions—Russia, N. Korea, S. Korea, China, Japan, and the United States—at least four of the nations disagree with America’s confrontational approach.

The real reason why the North Korean situation appears so intractable is because of fanaticism, denial, and division—within the United States.

North Korea is the battleground upon which the doctrine of “counterproliferation” is being fought.

We don’t just do non-proliferation anymore.

Non-proliferation—the attempt to control the diffusion of weapons of mass destruction through international organizations—is just one element of a proliferation strategy whose cornerstone is counterproliferation—pre-emptive activity against proliferators by one uniquely wise and virtuous state…

…OK, I’ll stop the sarcasm.

In the words of the Heritage Foundation:

As a means of hindering proliferation, multilateral arms control has become too dependent on a treaty regime managed by cumbersome international bureaucracies…Augmenting the treaty regime and its institutions… necessarily depends on encouraging individual states to exercise their sovereign authority to control proliferation.

As Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, John Bolton strove to take point on North Korea as a proliferation issue that overrode conventional diplomatic concerns about other nations' sovereignty and stability, much to the dismay of Richard Armitage and the State Department realists.

Even with Bolton, who openly sabotaged Administration initiatives to negotiate with North Korea, pensioned off to the UN, North Korea is unlikely to believe that the United States has abandoned the concepts of counter-proliferation and pre-emption.

With the brickbats that North Korea—a charter member of the Axis of Evil—has had tossed at it by the Bush administration, it’s no surprise that they believe that America’s actual objective in North Korea is not modification of the regime’s behavior—abandoning its nuclear program—but regime change.

Given the tottery nature of the North Korean regime, “sanctions” looks a lot like regime change. Let’s climb back in the Wayback Machine to November 2004, courtesy of Jim Lobe:

On Saturday, right-wing Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who claims to be on friendly terms with Bolton, told Fuji Television that Bolton wants to impose economic sanctions against North Korea, which, in the U.S. official's view, would lead to Kim's ouster "within one year."

No wonder the Chinese, the North Koreans, the South Koreans, and the Russians probably regard sanctions as an idiotic iteration of hardline demagoguery.

At the core of the counterproliferation strategy is the concept of “failed states”—states that have assumed rogue status, that are so tyrannical, unpredictable, and dangerous that America must reserve the right to take unilateral military action against them.

These are states that have sacrificed their right to have their sovereignty acknowledged, respected, and protected by other states and the international community.

China and Russia, in particular, are strongly resistant to American unilateralism and the “failed state” formula.

It’s important to these two countries, which are not exactly beacons of political and market freedom, that the United States not be allowed to unilaterally excommunicate enemies and rivals from the family of nations and use American military, economic, and diplomatic power in a overt campaign of destabilization.

At the bottom line, the sticking point of the North Korean crisis is America’s refusal to accept that the North Korean regime is legitimate and has a right to exist.

We refuse to negotiate with them directly because that would imply that we were ready to make representations and accept undertakings with a regime that we actually wish to destroy.

The closest we got appears to be in September of 2004, when the Bush administration—feeling election-year heat from John Kerry on the lack of progress in the North Korea talks—put a gag on Bolton and gave the State Department moderates a a chance to promote a negotiated approach over the objections of

“almost the entire Pentagon...an element within the State Department” led by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, members of Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, and a portion of the National Security Council led by senior director for counterproliferation Robert Joseph.

We offered to consider a “provisional” security guarantee linked to a WMD compliance and inspection schedule.

Not surprisingly, the initiative went nowhere, a victim of a lack of U.S. credibility and North Korean wishful thinking.

The North Koreans—no doubt remembering what happened when Saddam allowed the U.S. sanctions-and-inspections camel to stick its nose in the Iraq tent—found it too onerous and risky and let the proposal die, hoping they’d be dealing with John Kerry in a few months.

Kim Jung-il’s disappointment that John Kerry was not elected is understandable, since the Bush drive to override national sovereignty has grown even stronger in his second term.

The regime-change toothpaste is pretty much out of the tube as far as the Bush administration is concerned. The “democracy doctrine” legitimizes interference in the internal affairs of states that would previously have been considered WMD-and-terrorist-free sovereign nations in good standing, let alone archaic Communist dictatorships.

Given the U.S. government’s open intervention in the affairs of sovereign states in the name of democracy throughout Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia, it’s unlikely that any U.S. protestations today that the North Korean status quo is an acceptable basis for coexistence and state-to-state negotiations would be believed by any of the concerned parties.

At the bottom line, the right to violate the sovereignty of states that it considers beyond the pale is something the Bush administration is unlikely to surrender—perhaps because, in the absence of WMDs or terrorist links in Iraq, violation of subjective American criteria of acceptability is the only unassailable basis for our campaign of regime change that the Bush administration can cite.

It is the assertion of this self-granted right that has earned America the distrust of so many countries around the world—and dooms its attempts to bring North Korea to heel.

It must be said, there is a place that Bush and, yes, John Bolton and their regime-change policies are revered: North Korea.

Read this fascinating and moving post on interviews with North Korean refugees and their feelings about Chinese, South Koreans, Americans, and neo-cons.

(Among the émigrés) Every student genuinely admires George W. Bush firstly for his "axis of evil" comment, more recently for his comments describing Kim Jong-il as "dangerous" and the mention of concentration camps and for his vision of democracy. … To North Koreans human rights is the issue of most importance to them: more than the nuclear issue and even the removal of the present regime. Their belief is that Bush, Rice and "the guy with the white moustache" [Brendan says this is a reference to John Bolton] are the only ones who are doing anything about human rights.

But the disaster in Iraq should teach us that we can’t let our actions be guided by catering solely to the hopes and aspirations of émigrés, no matter how noble. We can’t blithely assume that pursuit of wrong-headed and counter-productive policies in the name of lofty aims will be without unacceptable collateral damage.

Accelerating the collapse of states we deem “failed” is a recipe for Armageddon, not nirvana.

To paraphrase the famous Vietnam era saying, We can’t destroy the world in order to save it.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Where Have You Gone, Richard Armitage?

Richard Armitage, ex-Deputy Secretary of State, Colin Powell’s right-hand man, a voice for moderation and caution in foreign affairs, is out of government service right now.

But he’s left the door open to come back.

He didn’t rejoin his old consulting firm. Instead, he set up a new business, just to peddle speaking engagements, so he can parachute right back into government without conflicts of interests.

He recently made a high-profile trip to Asia, pontificating on the roles of China, Japan, and Taiwan.

At this point in his career, he apparently wants to report directly to the president, or nobody. Certainly not Condi Rice.

So there are only a few slots available.

His name was bruited about as National Intelligence Director before John Negroponte got that job.

Now the rumor mill, presumably with his encouragement, is touting Armitage as successor to his despised rival, Donald Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defence.

What to think?

Well, here’s what I think.

As a reward for Condi Rice’s loyalty to George W. Bush—and because the U.S. military is bogged down in Iraq—she’s been given a few months of initiative and political cover in her new position of Secretary of State to make conventional diplomacy work again, mainly against Iran.

At the same time, Donald Rumsfeld is in the doghouse, reportedly for having concealed the extent of the Iraq insurgency and Abu Grahib from President Bush.

I can imagine the President slamming his fist on the table in frustration: “Why wasn’t I told?”

The true source of his anger and dismay is probably the fact that we have been unable to extricate significant numbers of troops from Iraq. Quite the contrary. Instead of putting an overpowering threat on Iran’s doorstep, we’ve given Teheran a front-row seat to an exhibition of how to bog down U.S. forces in a bloody Middle Eastern quagmire.

Therefore, any military threat against Iran is less credible and, if we choose to double down in order to prove Iraq has not compromised our ability to fight a second war, a lot more risky.

If some magic combination of Condi’s skill, European cooperation, and Iranian concessions—and the Iraqi insurgency--extract a diplomatic solution from the Iran mess, then there’s a chance that the neocons will be purged and the old-school diplomats and warmakers will be put in charge again.

And Richard Armitage could become Secretary of Defense.

If, on the other hand, the DoD civilian leadership persuades Bush that our campaigns in western Iraq have put paid to those nasty outside agitators and deadenders; the White House decides that the perception of America’s inexhaustible reserves of will and power would be fatally compromised if we shrink from a military confrontation with Iran; Condi gets steamrollered by Dick Cheney; and it looks like the insufferable Don Rumsfeld is the only man to squeeze another war out of America’s overstretched and resentful military…

…then Richard Armitage stays on the sidelines.

What does this have to do with China?

Richard Armitage is one of the foreign policy elders of the Republican Party, and has held a Pacific/Asia brief ever since the Reagan administration.

He’s not just a Foggy Bottom bureaucrat.

Armitage is a pedigreed CIA spook via the U.S. Navy, did all sorts of special envoy work in Asia and the Middle East for Bush I, received the highest decoration of the Pakistan government given to foreigners for doing god knows what, and is alleged to have tried to weaken the Communists in Indo-China in the 1970s by encouraging the heroin trade there.

His power and influence is presumably multiplied by the activities of Armitage Associates.

In one of those “doing well while doing good” things that we Beltway outsiders find so confusing, Armitage founded a consulting company, Armitage Associates, that provides services to the likes of JP Morgan Chase and Halliburton, and seems to be a revolving door for deserving members of the foreign policy establishment as well as politically useful individuals like Dick Cheney’s daughter (no, the other one).

So, consider Armitage a Bush I Jedi master of the foreign policy game as well as godfather of America’s current, even-handed approach to China.

He ran the China show at State and, even more importantly, brought in Richard Lawless, another old-school ex-CIA great power Asianist with Bush I links, to run East Asia matters in the Pentagon.

According to Spencer Ackerman, Armitage abhors ideology and presumably abhors ideology-driven neo-con foreign policy.

His current speaker’s profile contains the soothing statement

…the coming Asian Century need not be one which distresses us, however. Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state, addresses why we shouldn’t worry about the emergence of China and India, and points to our own success in the regions China and India are believe to dominate.

If Richard Armitage returns to Washington, that’s a good sign the grown-ups are in charge of China policy.

If, on the other hand, Condi Rice fails and the neo-cons regain their previous sway, then we’re in the Decade of Living Dangerously as far as China is concerned.

There is an apparatus of foreign policy adventurers in the Pentagon, at think tanks, and on Capitol Hill, known as the Blue Team, who have placed their bets on conflict with China as a driver for policy, prestige, and careers and would welcome the opportunity to ratchet up tensions with the PRC.

Recent events indicate that anti-China hardliners are taking advantage of the power vacuum left by Powell and Armitage’s departures, and are pushing a more overtly confrontational line against the PRC. The diplomatic effort led by John Bolton to maintain the EU arms embargo against China, critical CIA and DoD assessments of the Chinese military threat, and Tokyo’s willingness to publicly identify the Taiwan Straits as a shared security concern of the United States and Japan have put the PRC on notice that moderation and circumspection are no longer the status quo in U.S. China policy.

If China policy turns into a football for reckless, callow, and callous ideologues, we may all be singing…

Where have you gone, Richard Armitage?

The nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Is Taiwan's President Getting Ready to Abandon Independence?

It's Not Easy Being Green

"Green", in this case being the signature color of the pro-independence political forces in Taiwan.

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian has dismayed the pro-independence base of his DPP party with his strangely passive and lackluster response to the mainland visits by his rivals, KMT boss Lien Chan and PFP leader James Soong.

Maybe, as the Washington Post speculates, Chen is preparing for his Nixon-in-China moment, when he leverages his unique political capital as Taiwan independence spokesman to achieve the otherwise unachievable rapprochement with China.

Or maybe Chen has been caught in the middle of an anxious, awkward sideways scuttle from a pro-independence stance to a centrist, business-as-usual position.

Or maybe both.

Taiwanese politics, like those of Japan, are personality-centered and faction-driven. In the quest for power, alliances can form and policies can change with remarkable speed.

And there are signs that Chen Shui-bian and his faction are feeling boxed-in by their appeals to local Taiwanese pro-independence chauvinism.

Playing the independence card has earned Chen two terms as president. But five years of catering to the pro-independence fire-eaters and trying to govern Taiwan from a minority position in the teeth of opposition and out-and-out obstructionism by the KMT and PFP has been an exercise in futility and frustration.

The Taiwanese popular consensus and, not coincidentally, the business money are squarely in the middle—against the perils of reunification, against the dangerous and unprofitable heroics of independence, in favor of the fuzzy status quo.

By letting his policies drift to the center, Chen can gain the money, votes, and legislative muscle that accrue to a high profile moderate, and wean himself from dependence on the organizational muscle of the militant New Tide faction that currently sets the DPP agenda.

A strong indication that something is cooking is the fact the Chen has declined to play the pro-independence/anti-mainland card in the run-up to this weekend’s National Assembly elections, even as Lien and Soong are feted on the mainland and Chen is sidelined and left looking somewhat foolish trying to gain political traction from a presidential trip to the Marshall and Gilbert Islands.

As a result, the DPP is angry, divided, and ill-equipped to compete.

If the DPP doesn't do well in the elections, Chen may have to jump before he gets pushed into bed with James Soong, a charismatic ex-KMT supremo whose PFP party has a decided big-business, pro-mainland tilt but limited electoral appeal among the bentu (indigenous) Taiwanese who trace their local ancestry on the island to the years before the arrival of the mainlanders in 1949.

Chen paved the way this February by executing a ten-point communique with Soong outlining their areas of agreement on relations with the mainland.

Then Lin Chong-pin, a mainland-affairs guru for the Taiwan government said this in an interview in May:

As I have said publicly before, they (the PRC) have been toying with the name "United States of Chinese Republics." And they have been studying the concept of overlapping sovereignty -- by saying that sovereignty can be overlapped, but it cannot be divided. They have been studying the cases of the three seats held by the former Soviet Union in the UN. These three seats, since 1945 to 1992, have been held by Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine. And so, I think -- I'm pretty sure -- they have been looking at these things, toying with these ideas. What the final conclusion they will arrive at is not clear. I don't think they're clear yet. They just realized "one country, two systems" does not work.

Maybe the mainland’s thinking about it, or maybe Lin—and Chen--want them to think about it.

In either case, if Chen Shui-bian can normalize relations with China and at the same time mollify the pro-independence wing with assurances of Taiwanese autonomy and a seat at the U.N….

…and carry his large faction into a legislative alliance with James Soong’s PFP in opposition to the KMT and a rump DPP…

…it looks like he’s got a winner.

Of course, Chen can’t talk to the mainland directly right now. Neither the Chinese Communists or his own DPP base will permit it.

But James Soong can.

Makes you wonder what secret messages Soong will be transmitting to China’s Hu Jintao on Chen’s behalf.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Taiwan has apparently been thrown into a tizzy by Beijing’s offer to visiting KMT Chairman Lien Chan of two giant pandas:

The KMT sees this as a public relations coup for itself and its rapprochement policy.

Taipei mayor (and KMT hotshot) Ma Ying-jeou promised to form a task force so its zoo could get the bears.

In an expansive mood, he suggested that the bears be named Bian-bian and Lien-Lien, after the ROC’s president Chen Shui-bian and VP Annette Hsiu-lien Lu, sworn enemies of the KMT.

Vice President Lu adopted a tone of queenly hauteur:

Meanwhile, when asked for her opinion about China's pandas, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) said that she would welcome the Chinese pandas if they were presents celebrating the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of China (ROC) and the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Other DPP lawmakers fretted over the big picture:

"If we accept the pandas, that means we're admitting ourselves we're a local government," said DPP lawmaker Hsu Kuo-yung. "Our lovely next generation is more important than these two lovely animals."

And the environmentalists weighed in:

Local environmentalists meanwhile started a campaign yesterday to oppose Beijing's offer of two pandas, citing rehabilitation of the rare animal as their major concern.

Popular Taiwanese response seems to be Pandas! They’re so cuuuuuuuuuuute!

To me, there’s something endearing about the Taiwanese response, which shows all the message discipline of children scrambling for candy beneath a broken piñata.

Score one for the Chinese. They were able to demonstrate that significant portions of Taiwanese elite and popular opinion responded favorably to the PRC overture, and attitudes on the island trend toward co-existence and not confrontation.

Another, though perhaps lesser, audience was international.

The Chinese were saying, look, we’re showering these people with pandas, not missiles!

And it implicitly rebukes Japan for raising regional tensions with its increasingly overt anti-China containment policy, and for interfering with the relatively routine political and economic horse-trading that characterizes cross-straits diplomacy—and has traditionally governed the post-normalization relationship between the PRC and Japan.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Oceania has Always been at war with Eastasia!

For a time, the big anti-Japanese demonstrations in the PRC managed to steer the discourse between China and Japan back to the nationalist terms that favor the Chinese.

But in Japan there seems to be a greater willingness to play the democracy card in response.

From the Asia Times, Anti-China fear and loathing in Japan

Hiroshi, a teacher in his mid-forties, explained why a lot of Japanese feel China has no right to lecture them. He pointed out, "Japan is a democratic country, its leaders are openly elected and there is press freedom. We can express our views without fear of persecution or imprisonment. None of this applies to China. There you have no genuine elections, no free speech, just an undemocratic Communist Party."

I call this the Israel defense.

A rationale for American policy in the Middle East has been that Israel, “as the region’s only democracy”, had a special claim on America’s understanding and protection.

In fact, it turned out that being on the right side of the democracy equation gained Israel a lot of slack for behavior against the Palestinians that was considered pretty reprehensible, especially by the Europeans.

It also provided a moral justification for the American neocons’ callous decision to remake the Middle East in a more democratic and Israel-friendly image through a catastrophic America-led war against Iraq.

That “embattled democracy” line is powerful stuff.

Now it looks like some people in Japan may try to draw the distinction as one between democracy and tyranny, instead of China vs. Japan.

I consider Prime Minister Koizumi an acute observer, if not eager and obliging student, of the Bush administration’s utilization of democracy rhetoric as a tool of US foreign policy. That narrative of an existential struggle between the forces of democracy and tyranny gives Japan a lot of leeway in dealing with China, and assures American support.

Although Japan has a lot of ground to make up, what with that whole conquering-of-East-Asia hangup it had a while back, playing the democracy card allows it to assume a position of moral superiority to China.

The Chinese attacks on Japanese people and property are indeed disturbing and reprehensible.

But China’s nationalistic response to Japan can be altered by changes in Japan’s behavior.

If America and Japan's beef with China is recast in the mold of global democracy vs. local tyranny, then presumably our principled abhorrence of the PRC (or crusader posturing on our part) can be satisfied only by regime change.

Don’t go there.

We don’t need to inflate our disagreements with China into a hostility that is existential and immutable. Not just because turning American support of Japan into a moral imperative reminds me of the interlocking alliances that dragged all of Europe into a spat between Serbia and the Austrian Empire.

America’s rhetoric of democracy is becoming a tool of delegitimization, demonization, polarization, confrontation with regimes that don’t match up with our foreign policy objectives or the interests of our allies and proxies, instead of an instrument of freedom.

When democracy is used as a pretext for hate and fear, we’re well within 1984 territory.

Remember, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia! That’s the ticket!