Monday, November 14, 2011


“The most significant threat to our national security is our debt.”
-Adm. Mike Mullen

Paul Kane is a former Marine and worked at the Harvard Kennedy School as a national security expert, so you'd think he would understand world strategy and national security. However, in a recent opinion piece in the New York Times, he demonstrated a surprising naivete and ignorance.

The op-ed bit was about the economy and Taiwan:
There are dozens of initiatives President Obama could undertake to strengthen our economic security. Here is one: He should enter into closed-door negotiations with Chinese leaders to write off the $1.14 trillion of American debt currently held by China in exchange for a deal to end American military assistance and arms sales to Taiwan and terminate the current United States-Taiwan defense arrangement by 2015.
In other words, he wants to trade Taiwan away for debt forgiveness from the Chinese. He wants to serve up Taiwan to zero out our debt. Now, his reason for doing so is to save the US economy, which he thinks would turn around if we only were out of debt. And while I disagree with Admiral Mullen's quote above, debt certainly is one of the greatest threats to national security.

Debt is making us dependent on and beholden to a hostile nation. Debt means we won't be able to afford the military might needed in the modern world. Debt corrodes our economy by weakening national confidence. It is a serious problem.

However, Kane's understanding of debt, the economy, and national security is a bit flawed. He thinks if we're rich enough we'll somehow be safe: [President Obama] needs to redefine America’s mindset about national security away from the old defense mentality that American power derives predominantly from our military might, rather than from the strength, agility and competitiveness of our economy.Get that? Kane believes if only we earn enough money and are rich, then we won'd need a strong military.

That's not the only place Kane is confused. Consider these lines:
There will be “China hawks” who denounce any deal on Taiwan as American capitulation, but their fear of a Red China menacing Asia is anachronistic. Portraying the United States as a democratic Athens threatened by China’s autocratic Sparta makes for sensational imagery, but nothing could be further from reality.

The battle today is between competing balance sheets, and it is fought in board rooms; it is not a geopolitical struggle to militarily or ideologically “dominate” the Pacific.
Again there's something to what he's saying: China is engaged in economic and computer warfare with the US, they've openly said so. China would continue to be so if we simply served up Taiwan on a platter, but we'd lose a trading partner in the process who is not hostile to the US and its way of life.

But more importantly, he seems to think, like so many in the west, that China isn't our enemy, isn't aggressively seeking to harm the US, and does not have the slightest interest in military action or expansion. China is a brutal Communist dictatorship, with a massive surplus of men that has sworn eternal enmity to Democracy and the west. What exactly does Kane think that adds up to? Peace? Friendship?

In any case, the Chinese would turn down such a deal. If they really wanted Taiwan bad enough, they'd just sail over and take it, President Obama wouldn't do anything. We can't afford another war, and we wouldn't attack China over it. We'd complain and shake our fists, but remain "most favored nation" with our enemy, and nothing bad would come of it for China. Giving up defending the island nation isn't sufficient enticement to zero out hundreds of billions of dollars in debt for China. There's just not enough gain for them.

And worse, even if for some reason they did take the deal, it would be a massive encouragement for the federal government to spend even more, which is probably the only reason China might consider it: they know the government would just rack up more and more debt almost overnight. Gone would be any slim hope we might have of fiscal discipline. Gone would be any excuse to not just go insane spending again. Gone would be the pressure to actually reduce spending and the size of the federal government.

But next time, we'd be even more enormously in debt with an even harder time cutting back. This idea is wrong on every single level, and monstrously so, given that it would involve selling out the people of Taiwan to a dictatorship just to let the government spend more money. To betray the Taiwanese people for such an awful, selfish reason is unconscionable, and I'm shocked anyone would betray such a lack of character, ethics, and virtue to even formally suggest such a thing.

Immoral, naive, self destructive, cowardly, treacherous, and foolish are the words that spring to mind. Which is why I wouldn't at all be shocked if this isn't being seriously considered by the Obama administration.

1 comment:

Eric said...

I'd trade Taiwan for total debt forgiveness in about two heartbeats, but you are absolutely right to say China wouldn't ever put that deal on the table.

But still, I'm not willing to to shed American lives or taxpayer dollars to protect Taiwan from China, so if a deal can be made to forgive our Chinese debt by diplomatically admitting something that I consider to be true, then I say make the deal.

Likewise, we are spending a fortune in Ameircan lives and dollars to encourage Democracy in the mid-east, where China gets 2/3 of its oil and has lots of allies. We are basically policing China's back yard for them. Get our butts out of there, let China deal with those people (yes, even at the expense of Isreal) and in 30 years Iran will be threatening to nuke China instead of us, and it will be their problem.

We have too many problems here in American to spend this much blood and treasure in far off places that don't appreciate our help and will never make good on it anyway. Let China try its hand at being hall monitor for a decade or two and at least the rest of the world will see why the dreaded "American Hegemony" really wasn't so bad after all.