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The Avoidable War, The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping’s China

American Politics, History stuff Posted on Tue, April 18, 2023 15:02:00

Kevin Rudd: The Avoidable War, The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping’s China, published by Public Affairs (Hachette Book Group), New York 2022.

Rudd is an interesting guy. There are numerous videos with him talking about China on YouTube. He has been the Labor Party Prime Minister of Australia twice. At the moment he is busy moving to Washington as Australia’s new Ambassador to the US.

From High School he entered the Australian National University where he graduated with honors in Chinese studies and is fluent in Mandarin.

He became a diplomat stationed in China numerous times. He took time off to get another degree from a University in Taiwan. He has interacted with Xi and many of the other leaders in China many times and seems to know them well.

In this book he puts Chinese-American relations into historical perspective, pointing out how the Chinese leaders study America in so many ways all the time. Xi’s only child (girl) has graduated from Harvard. How many American leaders have had their kids study in China?

American political leaders and policy makers have sadly no idea at all about what makes China say what it says and do what it does. Ignorance rules in the US.

For Zi Taiwan is the last great shame from the Century of Shame when China was dominated by the West and the Chinese treated as less than animals by the West. Zi sees his goal in life to reunite China by any means needed, including war.

When Zi took power in 2015 he began to transform the Chinese military. China has also put a lot of effort into Cyber warfare and in rapidly expanding their Navy. They have also added a new branch of the military, in addition to the Army, Navy and Air Force they now also have a land-based Missile Force. The Missile Force is stationed along the coast and is tasked with blowing enemy ships and or aircraft out of the water or sky if they threaten China. They have the new Chinese subsonic (speeds of Mach 6/7) missiles that are intended to sink American Aircraft Carriers as they are just too fast to intercept.

Xi has tasked the military with being capable of invading and reuniting Taiwan with China by 2027.

American Military leaders say that 2025 is a more likely date. Add to that the political storm that will be on-going in the US towards the end of 2024 and it becomes more likely than not that China will attack during 2025.

American political and military leaders take for granted that China is incapable of upholding any agreement that they sign, and will lie about everything. Deception is considered a Chinese specialty. China, on the other hand, takes for granted that the US wants to destroy China by any means necessary and doesn’t trust the US at all.

After Rudd has shown how both China and the US have strategic interests that will lead to conflict (war) sooner or later, he goes on to present how such a war can be avoided.

His solution is called Managed Strategic Competition. He wants China and the US to sit down behind closed doors and agree on guidelines for peaceful conflict in a great many areas, from Cyberspace to the South China Sea. By doing so Rudd thinks that they will be able to build a trusting relationship over time; however his book has just shown on page after page why such a trusting relationship is absolutely unthinkable.

Rudd says that the alternative is unthinkable, as any war between the two will have devastating consequences for China, the US and the rest of the world.

Leap of Faith – The War on Iraq

History stuff Posted on Fri, December 13, 2019 14:12:27

While visiting my family in North Carolina in July of this year I ran out of reading material and found a small bookstore, The Country Bookshop, in downtown Southern Pines, located on 140 NW Broad St if you ever find yourself close by. There is really only one main street in the town, so you can’t miss it. My home town, Aberdeen, is even smaller and doesn’t have a bookstore.

To my great surprise, they had a relatively large section for history books, perhaps 4-6 shelf meters. There I found a new book (Leap of Faith – Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy), published in March 2019, and found it of interest as I’ve already read perhaps far too many books about American involvement in the Middle East and still can’t really understand how we screwed up so badly, to put it mildly.

As a child, growing up in North Carolina, I had assumed that we had the best possible leaders for our country and that they were both knowledgeable and talented individuals with high moral values. As I grew older I realized that the American historian Barbara Tuchman was probably right when she said in one of her books that we seem doomed to always choose the worst possible leaders of our countries. She was talking about the countries participating in the negotiations at Versailles in 1919 to establish the Peace Treaty to end WWI. Their thirst for vengeance created the soil in which the Nazis could grow to threaten world peace. Today’s leaders haven’t improved much. This morning I read in the on-line version of the Guardian about Boris victory in the UK elections, paving the way for Brexit on 31 January 2020. Our President in the US is busy getting impeached and Putin in Russia is busy trying to influence elections in many countries, not just in the US.

Before I bought the book I checked to see who wrote it. Michael J Mazarr is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation and has previously served as the associate dean and professor of national security strategy at the US National War College in Washington, DC. With 95 pages of notes and bibliography it can be said to be well-researched. He had over 100 interviews with the decision makers of that time and ploughed his way through numerous memoirs written by government officials that were active then. Perhaps most importantly, he accessed every declassified document available, from both the US and British governments. As Mazarr was an employee of the Department of Defense (DoD) during part of his time working on the book, he submitted the draft manuscript for security clearance and was cleared by the DoD for publication.

So, what does he have to say in 500 pages? The short version is that we screwed up big time and that we risk doing it again and again in the future.

The longer version:

President George W. Bush was a born-again Christian that truly believed that he was on a mission from God. Before 9/11 senior government officials were already convinced that sooner or later Saddam had to go. The events of 9/11 functioned as a turning point or catalyst pushing the administration forward towards what was already seen as an inevitable war with Iraq.

After the end of the Cold War in 1989-91, the consensus of opinion within the US national security community was one of messianic purpose. God had made the US the chosen one, we were bringing civilization to the barbarians. If you were not for us, you were against God, and you would regret being on the wrong side of history.

Our American leadership actually thought that the Iraqi people would be so pleased by the arrival of American troops that they would welcome us as saviors, in much the way of the French when we marched into Paris after the D-Day invasion. They planned accordingly.

No plans were made for administrating a defeated Iraq, as it was assumed that our friends in Iraq would create a new pro-American government and take care of their country themselves. When that didn’t happen we had no plans for solving the chaos that followed. To make matters (far) worse, one of our first acts as an occupation force was to dissolve the Iraqi military and send them home to unemployment and frustration. We also blacklisted all Baath-Party members from participation in government and from holding positions of responsibility – effectively ostracizing the vast majority of educated and qualified Iraqis. Arms and ammunition dumps were left unguarded and frustrated Iraqis could collect the arms and ammunition needed to fight the foreign occupiers.

The US did not set aside any funds at all for civilian law enforcement and/or reformation after a victory in the war was won. We just assumed that the Iraqi police and courts would continue with business as usual. Unfortunately, their business, as usual, was administrating law and order in a single-party dictatorship, aided by 5 different secret police agencies that all used rape and torture as part of their SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). The police went home, taking their weapons with them. In many cases they joined the armed fight against foreign occupation.

Those within the US government that saw these problems did nothing to prevent them. Their usual excuse being that they assumed that the leadership knew what it was doing. Those that voiced a conflicting opinion were quickly silenced by a compact majority that “knew” we were doing the right thing. To criticize was seen as disloyal conduct in a time of national crisis.

Mazarr warns us that “It is the marriage of these two factors – the driving engine of the messianic sensibility in US foreign policy and the emergence of a specific moralistic urge to act in service of sacred values – that so often produces disasters.” (page 411)

He fears we will see more of the same in the future. I really wish I could say that he must be wrong about this, but I can’t.

70 years ago today

History stuff Posted on Fri, June 06, 2014 05:44:05

D-Day, 6 June 1944

During the buildup for the invasion many thousands of Americans invaded England. The British said at the time that there were three problems with having so many Americans in Britain.

The Americans are 1) over paid, 2) over sexed, and 3) over here

In general they were happy to have us on their little island as it signaled the beginning of the end of WWII for the beleaguered British. They had stood alone for far too long against an enemy that occupied most of Europe.

The D-Day attack was close to failure, perhaps too close for comfort. If the German Panzer reserves had been sent to the beachheads the troops landing would have never survived the attempt. Luckily enough for the Allies, only Hitler could give the order to use the Panzer reserves, and nobody wanted to wake him up and ask. Weird, but true.

My father was in the South Pacific at the time. He never spoke of his wartime memories, so I assume that they were painful.

Historical Distortions

History stuff Posted on Thu, June 05, 2014 09:26:09

All history teachers must have long lists of historical distortions on the part of students and fellow staff members, not to mention the “general public”.

As an American I keep hearing Europeans say that there are 52 States in the USA, and I’ve always wondered how they could possibly think so. There are only 50. If you doubt me, just count the stars on the American flag, there is one for every State.

Another (very) popular misconception has been related to the American Civil War. It is common in Europe, and even in parts of the USA, to maintain that the Civil War (1861-65) was fought to bring an end to the evils of slavery.

That slavery was an evil is beyond any doubt, however it was not the reason for the Civil War!

The short version is as follows, according to me at least:

The South was populated by plantation farmers and small farmers. The majority of all farmers had no slaves at all. A small minority of farmers had large farms with imported slave labor. Cotton was the main cash crop. Cotton was produced and shipped by boat to England where it was sold for use in the British textile industry. Money from the sales was used to buy manufactured goods (such as guns, boots, horse saddles, window panes and much else), and these goods were then sent back to the South for sale.

The prices were lower than for similar products produced in the industrialized North, due to economies of scale. A factory in England that makes 5,000 guns a year can price each gun lower than a factory in the North that only makes 100 guns per year.

The North was not suitable for extensive agriculture and was therefore settled by artisans, shopkeepers, and tradesmen of various kinds. Surplus population crossed the mountains and went on into the open plains areas in search of land to cultivate.

The small industrial enterprises in the North were very angry about the “unfair competition” created by the cheap imports from England, and demanded of their elected representatives that import taxes should be imposed so as to bring the price of the imports up to and hopefully above the prices they themselves were asking for their products.

The South found no reason to pay higher prices for industrial products and demanded of their elected representatives that no such import taxes be levied.

The North felt that their “way of life” was threatened by the South and the South felt that their “way of life” was threatened by the North.

In the Constitution of the United States it very clearly says that the participant States have joined freely, implying that they are free to leave whenever they choose.

When South Carolina chose to leave, and together with a total of 13 States chose to create a new country, “The Confederate States of America“, President Lincoln refused to accept it.

Legal historians are in agreement about Lincoln being in breech of the Constitution when he refused to allow the States in question to leave the USA.

In any case, Northern troops were “occupying” part of the State of South Carolina, an island off the coast of Charleston named Fort Sumter.

When the North refused to withdraw their troops the South attacked and threw them out. The Civil War had begun.

On 1 January 1863, after the North had lost numerous battles against the Southern forces, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln, freeing all slaves in the States in revolt. States that were not in revolt, such as Maryland, West Virginia and others, were allowed to keep their slaves.

The idea behind the freeing of slaves in the South was to encourage slave revolts behind enemy lines. It didn’t happen.

After the Civil War was over all slaves were freed in the entire USA, which was of course a good thing.

Between 1865 and 1877 the North occupied the South with military force. When they withdrew in 1877 they turned the political power over to the same people that they had fought against during the Civil War.

There is so much more to relate, however I promised the Short Version.