Financial Times, letter to the editor, Jan. 18, 2011. Continue reading?
This regards “Stealth, snubs and the art of surprise” (Editorial) and Philip Stephens, “The perils of mutual miscalculations” (Op-ed) Jan. 14, 2011.
The hopes for more Chinese military transparency and mutual trust and cooperation with the U.S. are idealistic and perhaps naive. China will act according to its stature and means. For centuries, Western and other nations muted and stymied this sleeping power. The Tiger is now out of a decrepit cage, and the Tamers are tired and arthritic. Showboating China’s J-20 stealth fighter during Robert Gates’ visit is a brazen display of China’s audacity and confidence.
The U.S. squandered much of its fire on the two pointless conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. still has some fight left, but there is simply no going back to unquestioned global dominance without a severe clash. The U.S. signaled weakness in “showing restraint” in the face of the unprovoked attacks against South Korea by North Korea, China’s proxy. Timidity shines through in the U.S.’s requests for joint military exercises and disclosure of China’s arms buildup. Would China turn its back on Sun Tsu, its fabled military tactician, who said words to the effect that a key to military victory is deception?
Regrettably, principled persuasion (war-is-bad-for-everyone) and diplomatic finesse (let’s-play-nice) work best when backed by the willingness and ability to use force.
The Chinese have Sun Tzu, while the U.S. have the fictitious character of Frank Pentangeli in The Godfather: Part II. Pentangeli’s words — “This is a street thing… Let’s hit them all. Now while we got the muscle.” — were rejected for a more “sophisticated” albeit failed approach. Those unpolished words deserve reflection.