It Takes One Bully to Read the Mind of Another

A longish email hit my inbox the other day, forwarded by a friend from I know not what source. It had the alarming title, "China and the Final War for Resources." Early in the story there were five words set in boldface type: "China's Master Plan to Destroy America." I think from just this much you can readily get the drift of the piece.

It was by no means a stupid or merely inflammatory tract. In fact, the basic contention, that China is laying strategic plans to dominate Asia in the years ahead, and probably even the globe, is very likely true. I would consider the Chinese rulers derelict if they did not make such plans, or at least make plans to maintain China's existence in the face of the American thrust to dominate the Middle East and its oil, and therefore the globe, as we advance into years of ever scarcer oil and ever burgeoning demand.

There is a chicken and egg problem here, that is, a question of which came first, China's wicked plans to destroy us, or our (wicked) plan to control world oil and destroy any and all that get in our way.

How is it possible to answer that question? Quite readily, I think, by looking at the behavior of the two powers. The psychiatrist Alfred Adler made some very practical suggestions with respect to evaluating the intentions of people we are trying – as we say nowadays – to relate to. Pay absolutely no attention, he said, to what such people say; instead watch closely what they do.

We march around the world talking endlessly and rather inflatedly of our democratic and fair-minded approach to things, making the claim that we, as the elder daughter of Lady Democracy, are intending only to bring the blessings of that great damosel to lesser breeds who have known them not. All that other nations have to do, to end up blissfully and democratically happy, is exactly what we say they should do.

Unfortunately, however, when push comes to shove, and even after some nation in particular may have made substantial efforts to do what we say, it simply may not be good enough. We may have to invade to assist their earnest but unavailing efforts to progress democratically. Have we done this? Yes, rather often, it seems. We have a long record of forcing ourselves on people that goes back over a century. Our most recent adventure is in Iraq, where we are clearly the aggressor nation. And we are now making unsatisfied noises heard all over the globe about the wretched non-cooperation of Iran and others in that neighborhood who may need to be enlightened next.

Has China invaded anyone lately under its present set of rulers? I am not aware that it has. In fact the last clear instance of Chinese aggression that I recall is the case of Tibet, where there was at least the argument that the place was a near relation. Hong Kong returned to China peacefully amid predictions that it would go at once to utter ruin and its inhabitants would be enslaved. I think that did not actually happen. When it comes to making complaints about other polities, China has made a lot of fuss about wanting Taiwan back (also a near relation) but has so far not taken action to seize it, despite the fact that Taiwan cozies up to us the way Castro did to the old Soviet Union. We complained about Soviet missiles in Cuba and forced them out. Now we are considering a Marine airbase on a Japanese island, Shimoji-shima, less than 250 miles from Taiwan, which is nearly as nervy a move as putting a U.S. military base on Taiwan itself. While it remains technically independent of China, Taiwan is legally able to permit us to establish a base. The whole thing is a game of chicken, but, once again, it’s clear we started it.

My proposition is simply this. We are the outfit "making the new reality" to which all the others are having to "react," as one of the stalwarts of the present regime kindly explained to reporter Ron Susskind, so that he, and we, might understand how the world presently works. We are the outfit that has launched a kind of "final war for resources," and it is hardly surprising that other states are sharpening their knives.

If anyone were to ask me what we might do instead, I should recommend going back to George Washington's foreign policy of maintaining defensive power (or sufficient distance) that would be enough to deter anyone, and otherwise befriending those who would be our friends. To my mind we are in the gravest danger of nuclear war not from China or Russia but from ourselves and Israel, because we and they are messing so seriously with the peace and quiet of the Middle East and are doing so apparently without the least understanding of any principle but the brigand's principle: grab it and run like hell.

To do this under the guise of spreading "democracy" is bad enough; to do it with a kind of crusaders' gloss on it of Christian jihad is insufferable. That should discredit Christianity for a millennium to come. (I note in passing that Israel does not argue it is advancing the cause of Christ, but somehow passionately pro-Israel Christians think they are.) I have so far not gotten into what it is we think democracy is. If it's what we've got, I pity anyone else who catches it from us.

Gandhi made a remark to the effect that we need to be what we want the world to be. If we want a peaceful world, we need to be a peaceful people.

Axiomatically, the safest and quietest neighborhoods are the ones where everyone is armed to the teeth and ever ready to repel boarders.

The human race doesn't have the chance of the proverbial snowball in hell if it continues to count on huge, statist organizations to make peace by waging perpetual war. I don't know how to do much about the mess we are in right now except pray, and believe me I do that; but I do know it has no long-term future. The people need to rise up against their masters, not violently but in a way that would delegitimate them. How do you get that ball rolling?

February 15, 2005