Time for China Hawks to Chill Out

A Cold War with China is a silly idea.

With his latest comic novel, They Eat Puppies, Don't They?, Christopher Buckley has done the truly improbable: He's made neoconservative war-mongering funny. And, er...sexy:

"Tall, blond, buff, leggy, miniskirted: Angel Templeton was hardly your typical Washington think-tank policy wonk. For the cover of her most recent book, The Case for Preemptive War: Taking the 'Re-' Out of Retaliation, she posed in a red, white, and blue latex dominatrix outfit. With riding crop."

This formidable Foxbot, the "directrix" of the "Institute for Continuing Conflict," forms a conspiracy of two with defense lobbyist Walter "Bird" McIntyre in order to gin up a pretext for a new Cold War with China. The CEO of defense contractor "Groepping-Sprunt" puts it plainly: "Bird, we need to educate the American people as to the true nature of the threat we face. If we can do that, then those limp [appendages] and fainting hearts and imbeciles in the United States Congress -- God love them -- will follow."

This novel could hardly be more timely. Republican nominee Mitt Romney has adopted a distinctly hawkish posture toward China, and the Obama administration announced Saturday that its "pivot toward Asia" will have 60 percent of the U.S. fleet stationed in the Asia-Pacific region by 2020.

Angel and Bird's scheme involves planting a story that China is trying to poison the Dalai Lama -- a plot device that seems almost pedestrian next the Buck-Rogers-style scenarios that addle the neoconservative imagination in real life.

Indeed, in D.C., reality outruns satire. Uber-hawk Max Boot once warned in the L.A. Times that China may be looking into "creating man-made earthquakes" as a way of fighting an asymmetric war against the United States: "Once you know what to look for," he wrote, "the pieces fall into place with disturbing ease."

The Center for Security Policy's Frank Gaffney worries that China might fry our circuits with an electromagnetic pulse weapon, bringing the U.S. economy to a halt--an odd move, you'd think, for the country that holds the largest share of our national debt. But who knows? The Heritage Foundation recently hosted a book forum for Kevin D. Freeman's "Secret Weapon: How Economic Terrorism Brought Down the U.S. Stock Market," which identifies China as one of the suspects behind the 2008 financial collapse. (And you thought it was Fannie Mae).

Bird's motive for stoking war fever is financial--his free-spending trophy wife has put him deep into debt. The leggy Angel, like her less glamorous real-life counterparts, is driven by ideological passion.

Her maxim might be, "War is Swell." It's a bracing tonic for the national spirit and an indispensable spur to national greatness.

"Winning the Cold War was the worst thing we could have done," Angel grouses at one point.

But a Cold War with China is a silly idea. The PRC has ramped up military spending in recent years, but it started work on its first aircraft carrier only last year. It lags far behind the United States, which spends 5 percent of its GDP on the military, 47 percent of the global total. The nations with the greatest interest in, and ability to check a rising China--Japan, South Korea and Taiwan--spend 1 percent, 3 percent and 3 percent of their GDP on defense, respectively.

If China needs to be contained, there's no reason the long-suffering U.S. taxpayer should have to bear the burden or the front-line risk of such a conflict.

"Not for them, dwelling on disasters," Buckley writes of the neocons: "No. Pass the ammo, pass the hors d'oeuvres, and on to the next calamity!" Still, Buckley's novel has a happy ending: Cooler heads prevail, and calamity is averted. Here's hoping we do the same.

Gene Healy is a vice president at the Cato Institute, the author of "The Cult of the Presidency," and a columnist at the Washington Examiner, where this article originally appeared

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  • ||

    I wonder who these uber-hawks are going to try scaring us with once Red China hits the shitter in the near future. Russia, maybe?

  • BakedPenguin||

    We'll always have Mooslims

  • Trueblueben||

    They will hit us with a sidewinder shitter right inthe aircraft carrier if we aren't vigilant. So called news articles like this are dangerous cause they want us to be all relaxed and blind to the fact china is preparing to destroy this country how ever it can. they bought out all our debt, they are making naval missiles and spyin gon us and beating us in the space race!! we better get these guys while they have under 400 nukes cause if they make more then that we have a real problem!!

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

    The thing that amazes me is the recent report that we (The U.S.) is shifting naval power into the pacific. Approx 60% by 2020 including stationing the first 'stealth' destroyer to Singapore.

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

    we *are*
    The U.S. *is*

  • ||

    I stick to the plural when referring to the United States.

  • sarcasmic||

    That's so pre-Lincoln.

  • ||

    It also makes some progressives weally, weally angwy.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Progressives? A few days ago, I was told by some soi-disant Libertarian here that a national ID card would be a "good thing" and any objections to that are the stuff of tin-foil hats and 9/11 Truther-ness.

    Because, you know, "State" or "Province", it's all the same thing, right?

  • ||

    National ID cards are a fucking awful idea. And wasn't it one of the trolls advocating them the time you're talking about?

  • ||

    National ID cards are a fucking awful idea. Wasn't it one of the trolls advocating them the time you're talking about?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Well, it's currently 50/50 between the Atlantic and Pacific, so it's not such a drastic shift.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Given the government's fav bogeymen, I'm surprised they don't have 80% of the Navy in the Indian Ocean right now.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    They would if they could, but we don't have too many bases in the Indian Ocean. Diego Garcia can only hold so much.

  • Tim||

    We don't want that Island to capsize either.

  • ||

    I still don't believe he was serious. I believe he was trolling.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    He was displaying a normal amount of concern for the homeland of Guamanian women.

    I wouldn't want that island to capsize, myself.

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

    Well, it's currently 50/50 between the Atlantic and Pacific, so it's not such a drastic shift.

    Not really. Right now its:

    2nd Fleet - Atlantic
    3rd Fleet - Pacific
    4th Fleet - The Caribbean, Central and South America
    5th Fleet - Arabian [Persian] Gulf area
    6th Fleet - The Mediterranean

    Not sure how that is 50/50

  • R C Dean||

    Kinda depends on how big each fleet is, no?

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

    Kinda depends on how big each fleet is, no?

    True.

  • ||

    2nd Fleet was retired in 2011.

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

    The navy has 6 fleets:

    2nd - Atlantic
    3rd - The central and eastern Pacific
    4th - Caribbean, Central and South America
    5th - Arabian [Persian] Gulf
    6th - Mediterranean
    7th - Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf

    This means two fleets right now out of 6 are in the Pacific. Not really a 50/50 split.

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

    WTF - I just looked and it wasn't there. FSCK'n squirrels.

  • ChrisO||

    What happened to the 1st Fleet?

  • ¿Ex Nihilo?||

    What happened to the 1st Fleet?

    In 1973, it was disestablished and its duties assumed by the Third Fleet.

  • ||

    If we antagonize China, who is going to loan us money so we can buy all the crap they sell us?

  • ||

    Paul Krugman.

  • DJF||

    “We must send troops and ships to Asia to prevent the Chinese communists taking over the small countries in Asia one by one in a domino effect.”

    “We must send US military forces to Vietnam or the communist will win”

    “If we allow China to dominate eastern Asia then they will control the sea lanes which allow the US to trade with the US largest trading partner China.”

    No matter how I say it, its either sounds stupid or repeating old failed policies or both.

  • Stephdumas||

    I wonder how India might react to this? Someone at http://future.wikia.com/wiki/T.....Indian_War have some imagination.

  • juris imprudent||

    "pivot toward Asia"

    Two land wars isn't enough?

    "the pieces fall into place with disturbing ease."

    Funny, I thought I first heard that from a Chemtrailer.

  • Tim||

    I say it's time for Japan, Vietnam and the Phillipines, etc, to all make their peace with China and leave us the hell out of it.

  • Tim||

    A Chinese aircraft carrier seems like an colossal waste of money, what with drones, missiles and those new 200MPH Russian designed torpedoes. Guess they got penis envy over all our large and undefendable flat tops.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    It is purely a status thing; i.e. you're not one of the big boys unless you have a blue-water navy.

  • Drake||

    What an aircraft buys is the ability to project power. It is pretty much a prerequisite for a successful amphibious and/or airborne assault out of range of land based aircraft.

    It is a big vulnerable target any can only operate in the middle of a task group with a big screen around it.

    It is a big stick to wave at countries farther away than Taiwan. Who China wants to wave that stick at and why can only be answered by China.

  • The Derider||

    India's got one, and India scares China. They invaded Tibet to serve as a buffer between them. The same with inner Mongolia and Russia.

  • Drake||

    I thought they invaded Tibet just to piss off Richard Gere.

  • R C Dean||

    I suspect this has a lot less to do with any kind of concrete long-range strategic stick-waving plan, and more to do with somebody's cousin's company landing a phat contract.

  • NotSure||

    And how does the average neocon fan think this war will play out ? Like the one in Iraq, where you watch a news story and then eat your supper and go to bed ? What would more likely occur is a military draft, economic collapse and the threat of nuclear attacks on your city.

    If you are a neocon itching for war with China I say stick to playing computer games, because I very much doubt this war that will be pleasant for you.

  • sarcasmic||

    You obviously do not own stock in Teh Military Industrial Complex.

  • Drake||

    Sinking most of the Chinese Navy and destroying their Air Force is probably doable if expensive.

    Invading mainland China = fucking insane.

  • ||

    Not at all, especially if nuclear weaponry is used. If it ever, ever gets bad enough that we're willing to consider an invasion, I'm guessing nukes won't be an outlandish option anyway.

  • The Derider||

    I don't think China is an expansionist threat. They lack the military hardware and navy to project force much further than their borders (other than nukes).

    On the other hand, the carrier task groups we've had close to the straight of Taiwan over the past 50 years are a big part of the reason it's called Taiwan and not Chinese Taipei.

  • ||

    Korea, Taiwan, and even Vietnam might take issue with that characterization. Although I suppose it depends a bit on your definition of "expansion" since those are all geographical neighbors.

    But there doesn't seem to be any question that China is scaling up a large, modern military, whatever the reason.

    An actual military incursion against the US by China is extremely unlikely for reasons already discussed, but China clearly wants to step up to the big leagues in terms of military hardware. It seems unlikely they are ramping up military expenditures to address some existential threat. So it's wise to be cautious, if not bellicose.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    I can't find a pic of "Angel Templeton" anywhere online. I am disappoint.

  • ChrisO||

    I'm guessing that Buckley's book is not illustrated.

  • fyodor||

    How can we have a Cold War with China when we're conducting joint military exercises with them?

    Well, that's what I heard a few years ago, hehe....

  • maillot de bain magasin||

    The Center for Security Policy's Frank Gaffney worries that China might fry our circuits with an electromagnetic pulse weapon, bringing the U.S. economy to a halt--an odd move, you'd think, for the country that holds the largest share of our national debt. But who knows? The Heritage Foundation recently hosted a book forum for Kevin D. Freeman's "Secret Weapon: How Economic Terrorism Brought Down the U.S. Stock Market," which identifies China as one of the suspects behind the 2008 financial collapse. (And you thought it was Fannie Mae).

  • Drake||

    I thought it was George Soros. Still do.

  • pet winkel||

    How Economic Terrorism Brought Down the U.S. Stock Market," which identifies China as one of the suspects behind the 2008 financial collapse. (And you thought it was Fannie Mae).

  • leren riem||

    Christopher Buckley has done the truly improbable: He's made neoconservative war-mongering funny

  • RFilburn||

    While "Cold War" may be a strong term, it is about time we stop subsidizing currency manipulation, human rights violations, and pollution. The race to the bottom needs to stop. Let China compete on true comparative advantage and stop letting them purchase our manufacturing capacity by devaluing their currency, killing their citizens, and polluting the global environment. Just start by revoking their "most favored nation" status. Not to mention their military investments are in satellite launched nuclear weapons to prevent detection of the heat imprint of a missile launch. China is a threat and while I am wholeheartedly against policing the world, they are much more of a threat than some two bit ignorant with a grenade launcher in a pile of sand somewhere.

  • RFilburn||

    For those of you who think China is somehow dependent on the US economy because we are their consumers. Think about this; China's savings rate has continued to rise at its government's urging. They have a surplus of capital and consumers (over 1B people). The US meanwhile has had a negative savings rate recently and 1/4 the number of consumers. If China flips the switch and starts spending and dumps currency and has all the manufacturing capacity, they hold all the cards. In fact, one could argue they already hold all the cards, which is why they also have "most favored nation" status.

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