Why Spy: Round II

"Rediscover with joy and wonder that the world is no longer a slave to the inevitable. This world of ours can change: peace is possible even where for too long there has been fighting and death."

~ Pope John Paul II in his 2001 Easter Sermon

With our US servicemen and women home safely from China, now is the time to reflect on what spying on China portends for Americans in general, and not just the Chinese or our military captives. The stats on the EP-3 are well known. It's a four prop, specially modified electronic surveillance plane designed to pick up radio, cell-phone calls, telephone calls, emails, and the like. Folks, I'm sure the Chinese had better physicists than I pretend to be, and since they knew these flights were taking place (along with who knows how many CIA double-agents), any hush-hush military strategy session would be taking place in electronically shielded military facilities. Can you imagine two Chinese generals discussing nuclear strike plans on cell phones? Well, if their military keeps secrets like ours, maybe that's a bad example.

So what is the purpose of our surveillance flights? In a word: Intimidation. We aren't there to figure out if the Chinese are about to launch a 6,300-mile amphibious invasion of the United States. With sateliliites capable of this, 10 years ago no less, we aren't even there to glean information about an imminent invasion of Taiwan. We're there to show the Chinese who's boss. We're there to “send a message” as the politicians love to say. We're there because we have the “defense” budget to do it; we have the equipment to do it; we have the personnel to do it; and we have a fun house full of generals and defense industry lobbyists (or do I repeat myself) with a Cold War mentality who have always done it, and are itching for Cold War II in order to keep doing it.

With the flimsy justification of "We have to know what China's doing!" as the official war party line, allow me to point out several reasons why support for continued military harassment of China is a very bad idea.

  1. Escalation from Cold War II to World War III — The USS Kitty Hawk is sailing to the South China Sea, stocked with 70 fighters to escort our next EP-3. What better way to get into a shooting war with China than to start spying again within seconds of having our personnel returned? The "double sorry apology that wasn't" is still echoing in their ears, as the din of another EP-3 reverberates through Beijing. Only this time we have some escort fighters to shoot down any Chinese that dare to "aggressively intercept" our new spy plane. The best case scenario right now is that after a few weeks of showing China who's boss, the media in the United States of Amnesia will lose interest and the Kitty Hawk will be quietly re-deployed elsewhere. The worst case is another incident that leads to shooting, and then more shooting. Putting an aircraft carrier stocked full of fighters just off the coast of China is a provocation no matter how you look at it. When I visit relatives in Florida, we routinely go fishing more than twelve miles offshore. I can't imagine trolling along, and suddenly spotting a hulking gray mass coming ever closer and clearer only to make out a single red start amidst all the gray paint. But that's what Chinese fishermen will see when venturing out to make their catch, with the exception being the color of the star.

  2. Loss of Liberty at Home — The relatively small invasion of privacy meted out to the handful of Chinese civilians who had phone calls tapped and emails read as part of the larger surveillance net designed to pick up Chinese military and government communications could be considered electronic collateral damage. The fact that our military see no problem with picking up a phone call or two of foreign civilians begs the question: Shouldn't our military and government recognize that the only difference between the natural civil rights of foreign civilians and American citizens is which government is supposed to protect them? After all, we don't just let our military go around doing things to other civilians they wouldn't do to us, right? Then again, maybe not. Viewed in this light, it's obvious why the CIA, FBI, NSA, and military have fewer and fewer reservations about trampling our liberties. They invade our privacy (Carnivore and Echelon) and watch us without our consent or knowledge (Superbowl face-cams, bank wire transfer tracking, highway traffic cameras, cameras in downtown areas, etc.). These people think the only reason we have civil rights at all is due to some artificial distinction called United States Citizenship, instead of natural rights or moral mandate. It's easy to ignore an artificial designation for convenience sake, compared to an educated government that realizes it's in place to protect our liberties. The Declaration of Independence and our heritage of rule of law does not limit natural rights to just Americans. Dusty old notions like universal humanity, innocence until proven guilty and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure should apply to the way the United States treats the Chinese and other citizens of the world. It is the height of hypocrisy for our politicians to lecture the Chinese about human rights after taking the life, violating the property, and invading the privacy of the Chinese people.

  3. Economic Downturn becomes Economic Meltdown (China Syndrome) — The last thing you want during a recession is a sudden decrease in supply and an increase in prices for consumer goods. Refer to the Hawley-Smoot tariffs for a lesson in strangling trade known as the Great Depression. Naturally, the unions are on the side of the war-hawks for the imposition of economic sanctions, revocation of most-favored-nation trading status, and the resulting increase in demand for domestic union goods. The jingoistic tune in Washington D.C. is music to the ears of the defense industry and the labor unions that build the bombs, planes, and other "military hardware".

  4. Increased Defense Spending – With national wealth destruction day, April 16th, so recently past, consider that about $1 of every $3 you paid over the last year, and are paying even now, went to funding the “secret empire” of United States military personnel, bases and equipment stationed oversees. So, as the pundits foam and froth for war with a country an ocean away, remember who pays now in treasure, and who might pay later in blood. As usual, it won't be the laptop bombardiers.

China is not the new Soviet Union. Jiang Zemin is not the new Adolph Hitler. Stop the spying.

April 20, 2001

Political Theatre

LRC Blog

LRC Podcasts