The Adventures of Chester: Conservative Critiques of the War, Part II: The Lone Realist
[This is Part II of "Conservative Critiques of the War." See Part I, the Introduction, here.]
Consider this, written in the autumn of 2003, as US forces had completely defeated Saddam's regime:
America has approached the war on terrorism as if from two dreamworlds. The liberal, in which an absurd understanding of cause and effect, the habit of capitulation to foreign influence, a mild and perpetual anti-Americanism, reflex allergies to military spending, and a theological aversion to self-defense all lead to policies that are hard to differentiate from surrender. And the conservative, in which everything must be all right as long as a self-declared conservative is in the White House—no matter how badly the war is run; no matter that a Republican administration in electoral fear leans left and breaks its promise to restore the military; and no matter that because the Secretary of Defense decided that he need not be able to fight two wars at once, an adequate reserve does not exist to deal with, for example, North Korea. And in between these dreamworlds of paralysis and incompetence lies the seam, in French military terminology la soudure , through which al-Qaeda, uninterested in our parochialisms, will make its next attack.Or this:
The unprecedented military and economic potential of even the United States alone, thus far so imperfectly utilized, is the appropriate instrument. Adjusting military spending to the level of the peacetime years of the past half-century would raise outlays from approximately $370 billion to approximately $650 billion. If the United States had the will, it could, excessively, field 20 million men, build 200 aircraft carriers, or almost instantly turn every Arab capital into molten glass, and the Arabs know this.Or this:
The war in Iraq was a war of sufficiency when what was needed was a war of surplus, for the proper objective should have been not merely to drive to Baghdad but to engage and impress the imagination of the Arab and Islamic worlds on the scale of the thousand-year war that is to them, if not to us, still ongoing. Had the United States delivered a coup de main soon after September 11 and, on an appropriate scale, had the president asked Congress on the 12th for a declaration of war and all he needed to wage war, and had this country risen to the occasion as it has done so often, the war on terrorism would now be largely over.And finally, this:
But the country did not rise to the occasion, and our enemies know that we fought them on the cheap. They know that we did not, would not, and will not tolerate the disruption of our normal way of life. They know that they did not seize our full attention. They know that we have hardly stirred. And as long as they have these things to know, they will neither stand down nor shrink back, and, for us, the sorrows that will come will be greater than the sorrows that have been.Although the critiques of the war from the left are well-documented, and even well-"documentaried" if one considers Michael Moore's oeuvre, conservative critiques of our current war receive scant coverage in the mainstream press.
The Adventures of Chester will continue this series by discussing the opinions of Mark Helprin. Helprin is a novelist, and has served in the Israeli military, the Reagan administration, and was a senior foreign policy advisor to Bob Dole during his presidential campaign. He currently writes not frequently enough for Opinionjournal.com and The National Review.
Helprin is an excellent writer, and it is a joy to read his prose whether you agree with him or not. In summary, his views are thus:
1. The US should shrink its goals and enlarge its means in the war.
2. Reforming the Middle East and installing democracy there is a fool's errand.
2. The current focus on terrorism as our most urgent enemy leaves gaps in our deterrent against a rising China.
Helprin was initially optimistic about the chances for the US after September, 11th. Consider his September 12th piece for the Wall Street Journal, We Beat Hitler. We Can Vanquish This Foe Too:
Let this spectacular act of terrorism be the decisive repudiation of the mistaken assumptions that conventional warfare is a thing of the past, that there is a safe window in which we can cut force structure while investing in the revolution in military affairs, that bases and infrastructure abroad have become unnecessary, that the day of the infantryman is dead, and, most importantly, that slighting military expenditure and preparedness is anything but an invitation to death and defeat.From the very start, Helprin is unafraid to mention Saddam and Osama in the same breath. He seems to know the nature of what is to come, and looking back at what might have been, his prose is heartening. From the very start as well, Helprin makes it very clear that there are material sacrifices to be made on the way to victory. The war he proposes is not one in which the President encourages Americans to go about their business, but one in which phrases like "Buy War Bonds," could conceivably reappear.
Short of a major rebuilding, we cannot now inflict upon Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden the great and instantaneous shock with which they should be afflicted. That requires not surgical strikes by aircraft based in the United States, but expeditionary forces with extravagant basing and equipment. It requires not 10 aircraft carrier battle groups but, to do it right and when and where needed, 20. It requires not only all the infantry divisions, transport, and air wings that we have needlessly given up in the last decade, but many more. It requires special operations forces not of 35,000, but of 100,000.
For the challenge is asymmetrical. Terrorist camps must be raided and destroyed, and their reconstitution continually repressed. Intelligence gathering of all types must be greatly augmented, for by its nature it can never be sufficient to the task, so we must build it and spend upon it until it hurts. The nuclear weapons programs, depots, and infrastructure of what Madeleine Albright so delicately used to call "states of concern" must, in a most un-Albrightian phrase, be destroyed. As they are scattered around the globe, it cannot be easy. Security and civil defense at home and at American facilities overseas must be strengthened to the point where we are able to fight with due diligence in this war that has been brought to us now so vividly by an alien civilization that seeks our destruction.
The course of such a war will bring us greater suffering than it has brought to date, and if we are to fight it as we must we will have less in material things. But if, as we have so many times before, we rise to the occasion, we will not enjoy merely the illusions of safety, victory, and honor, but those things themselves. In our history it is clear that never have they come cheap and often they have come late, but always, in the end, they come in flood, and always in the end, the decision is ours.
Helprin was one of the few Cassandras warning against terrorism in the 1990s. Consider his piece Terrorism in the New Century, from September 19th, 2000:
Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by the claims of incumbent politicians intent upon re-election. The surplus will accumulate forever, economic dislocation having been abolished. War is a thing of the less sensible past, when no one understood that it was bad. Now that we know it is bad, it won't happen again. And, even if it does, our military, truly sensitized and politically correct for the first time in its history, and composed of those stupid enough to volunteer for it, so that if they die it doesn't really matter, will deliver bloodless victory in the time it takes to wash and wax a BMW. Terrorism, the thing that worrywarts used to worry about even though no one alive today was ever killed in a terrorist attack, is a dead issue.Helprin has long been a lone voice crying for a dramatic increase in the US defense expenditure. His eloquence is again on display in The Fire Next Time, written some 5 months before the fall of the Twin Towers:
. . . What to do can be listed in a paragraph.
Ballistic missile defense. A comprehensive air defense to deal with cruise missiles and aircraft. Adequate control of entry to the United States and a system to track aliens within our borders. An increase in intelligence capabilities and operations to stem attacks at or near their sources. A vigorous, severe, and demonstrable deterrent policy wherein it would be clear to enemies of the United States that an attack upon the United States would be for them (and for countries that tolerated them even passively) the very end of the line. A competent civil defense including but not limited to the stockpiling of vaccines and antidotes, the organization and training of medical personnel, and the means for decontamination, quarantine, and treatment of the sick and wounded. None of this would guarantee anything, but it would make an attack with weapons of mass destruction less likely and ameliorate the effects of one that did occur.
The leading politicians of our age, however, are not farsighted enough to put the nation on the kind of footing that would see it through, although they could do this responsibly for 3% or 4% of the federal budget. It would not be too expensive, they might say, if the probability of attack were greater. As the probability is slight (after all, the Washington Post says so), the expense cannot be justified. But how do you measure the likelihood of a unique event that is not a function of probability but of obstinate and murderous will? You don't measure, you prepare, and you prepare meticulously and well. Not to do so is not only to fail (ultimately) in political terms, but to fail in human terms, to fail in moral terms, and to fail one's own. These sins may sound forbidding, but they are what our leading politicians do best, for our leading politicians are a class of people who are most adept at superficial success and achingly deep failure, and they seem to grow more skilful year by year.
Those with more than a superficial view of American national security, who would defend and preserve it from the fire next time, have by necessity divided their forces in advocacy of its various elements, but they have neglected its essence. For the cardinal issue of national security is not China, is not Russia, is not weapons of mass destruction, or missile defense, the revolution in military affairs, terrorism, training, or readiness. It is, rather, that the general consensus in regard to defense since Pearl Harbor--that doing too much is more prudent than doing too little--has been destroyed. The last time we devoted a lesser proportion of our resources to defense, we were well protected by the oceans, in the midst of a depression, and without major international responsibilities, and even then it was a dereliction of duty.Helprin's work following September 11th is a journey through his growing disillusionment with the US and its defense establishment. Consider the titles alone of some of his subsequent pieces:
For someone of the all-too-common opinion that a strong defense is the cause of war, a favorite trick is to advance a wholesale revision of strategy, so that he may accomplish his depredations while looking like a reformer. This pattern is followed instinctively by the French when they are in alliance and by the left when it is trapped within the democratic order. But to do so one need be neither French nor on the left.
Neville Chamberlain, who was neither, starved the army and navy on the theory that the revolution in military affairs of his time made the only defense feasible that of a "Fortress Britain" protected by the Royal Air Force--and then failed in building up the air force. Bill Clinton, who is not French, and who came into office calling for the discontinuance of heavy echelons in favor of power projection, simultaneously pressed for a severe reduction in aircraft carriers, the sine qua non of power projection. Later, he and his strategical toadies embraced the revolution in military affairs not for its virtues but because even the Clinton-ravished military "may be unaffordable," and "advanced technology offers much greater military efficiency."
This last one, from May 17th, 2004, is where he reveals his belief that the strategic aim of the invasion of Iraq is flawed: that the Middle East cannot be reformed, and even if it can, it does not fall to the US to do so:
From the beginning, the scale of the war was based on the fundamental strategic misconception that the primary objective was Iraq rather than the imagination of the Arab World, which, if sufficiently stunned, would tip itself back into the heretofore easily induced fatalism that makes it hesitate to war against the West. After the true shock and awe of a campaign of massive surplus, as in the Gulf War, no regime would have risked its survival by failing to go after the terrorists within its purview. But a campaign of bare sufficiency, that had trouble punching through even ragtag irregulars, taught the Arabs that we could be effectively opposed.Yet, the ferocity of Helprin's attacks gives no quarter to Democrats either:
Mistakenly focused on physical control of Iraq, we could not see that, were we to give it up, the resultant anarchy might find a quicker resolution than the indefinite prolonged agony through which our continuing presence has nursed it. Seeking motivation after the fact, we decided to make Iraq a Western-style democracy, and when that began to run off the rails, to make Iraq the mere model for a Middle East filled with Western-style democracies. Of course, instead of a model to inspire them (of which they have many, such as Switzerland), what the Arabs need is first the desire, and then a means to overcome the police states that oppress them, neither of which a reconfigured Iraq, were it possible, would supply. Japan and Germany are often cited in defense of this overreach, but rather than freeze our armies in place and set them to policing and civil affairs as we fought through the Second World War, we waited until we had won.
Having decided to remake a country of 26 million divided into warring subcultures with a shared affection for martyrdom and unchanging traditions, the administration thought it could do so with 100,000 troops. Israel, which nearly surrounds the West Bank, speaks its language and has 37 years of experience in occupation, keeps approximately (by my reckoning) one soldier on duty for every 40 inhabitants and 1/13th square mile, and the unfortunate results are well known. In Iraq we keep one soldier per 240 inhabitants and 1.7 square miles. To put this in yet clearer perspective, it is the same number of uniformed police officers per inhabitant of the City of New York. But the police in New York are not at the end of a 9,000-mile supply chain (they live off the land at Dunkin' Donuts), they do not have to protect their redoubts, travel in convoys, maintain a hospital system, run a civil service, reform a government, build schools, supply electricity, etc. And, most importantly, they do not have to battle an angry population that speaks an alien language, lives in an immense territory, and is armed with automatic weapons, explosives, suicide bombers, and rocket-propelled grenades. Imagine if they did, and you have Iraq. Imagine if then the mayor said, "We don't need anything further, it's just a question of perseverance: Bring it on," and you have the Bush continuum.
Leaving out entirely our gratuitously self-inflicted inability to deal with major contingencies in Asia, this has been the briefest summary of mismanagement, a full exposition of which could fill a thick and very unpleasant book. But to these failings the left offers no better alternative, for if the right has failed in execution, the left's failure, in conception, is deeper.
John Kerry may say one thing and another, but no matter how the topgallants break in the Democratic Party, its ideological keel is a leaden and unthinking pacifism, a pretentious and illogical deference to all things European, and the unhinged belief that America by its very nature transforms every aspect of its self-defense into an aggression that justifies the offense against which it is defending itself. After the enemy has attacked our shipping, embassies, aviation, capital, government and largest city, and after he has slit the throats of defenseless stewardesses, and crushed and immolated three thousand unwary men, women, and children, those who wonder what we did wrong are not likely to offer a spirited defense.
How are Helprin's ideas received? At the National Review, writing in May of 2003, Thomas Mackubin Owens says,
I agree with Mark Helprin that we can't cut our force structure, but I don't believe that we need to return to a World War II military structure.This seems a weak response, and it is. Owens then considers the realm of the transformers in military affairs, whom he divides into "technophiles,"
"who argue that technology is a panacea for all defense problems and who would accept substantial force-structure cuts and dump what they call "legacy" weapons systems — tanks, personnel carriers, manned aircraft, and many surface ships — in order to invest in advanced information technology.and "strategic monists," whose thoughts are
based on the idea that all of our security problems can be solved by a single approach to war or a single system. Advocates of "airpower can do it all" are a good example of strategic monism.While this is an excellent way of dividing those who would reform the military, it is less than appealing as a rebuff to Helprin.
The founder of The National Review, William F. Buckley, also examines Helprin's ideas:
Mr. Helprin’s vision is informed by the catastrophic consequences of modern weaponry. We can't be indifferent to movements in any country which are designed to accumulate the kind of power which could kill Americans by the millions. We did nothing, for two decades, to declare ourselves at war with the poison of armed anti-Americanism. The terrorists, “who, contrary to the common wisdom, always have an address, could strike, and strike, and strike again — our embassies, navy, and largest city — and not suffer a single punitive expedition.” September 11 changed that, but we haven’t learned that an effort hugely greater in scale and more refined in conception is required to signal our determination to take on the disease wherever it is nurtured.Buckley stops short of endorsing Helprin's ideas. In fact, his entire article is best viewed as an attempt to circulate them further in the realms of conservative discourse.
Helprin's tour de force comes in the Autumn issue of the Claremont Review of Books. [Helprin is a fellow at the Claremont Institute.] Entitled "Let Us Count the Ways,"
On increasing defense expenditure:
In the Second World War, we spent as much as 38.5% of GNP (in 1945), and at the peak had twelve million soldiers under arms, almost 10% of the population. This is a far cry from the situation now. Were we to replicate the same levels of effort, we would be spending not $400 billion but $4.235 trillion. We would not have 2.7 million in uniform (including reserves), but 30 million. I am not advocating any such thing. As pressing as our needs may be, we are not engaged in war against a major power, and the intensity of engagement in World War II is far and above what is necessary. I point it out to show what we can do, and what actually we have done, if we concert our will, especially because during World War II it was much more difficult to apportion 29% of the nation's output to defense (the average for the period 1942-1946) than it would be now, because we have so much more wealth per capita than we did then, coming out of the Depression. To relinquish almost a full third of income is much harder for a nation with barely enough to get by than it is for one that lives in an age of material excess.On the aims of the war:
Politicians of both parties badly judge the American character when, gazing at their own mirrors, they assume that we are a shallow people incapable of sacrifice and austerity. How would they know, never having had the courage even to ask? How can these same politicians have the temerity to expect and order so many military families to risk the ultimate sacrifice, and yet quake at the prospect of informing the rest of us that we may have to do with a little less? We can afford to pay many times over for anything this war requires. The money is there, and to direct it into well thought-out and effective measures for the common defense is an obvious responsibility of self-preservation.
The aims of this war have been remarkably incoherent and elastic, their character improvised, their direction changed instantly upon encountering an obstacle. Whatever it was in the beginning, the war has become a very grand enterprise, with very limited resources, to transform the entire Islamic World into a group of peaceful democratic states that, relieved of the stress of not being peaceful democratic states, will cease to breed terrorism. Not only is this based on a wrong assumption, impossible, and overreaching, it is backwards: although one may transform an enemy by defeating him, one does not, on the state level, defeat an enemy by transforming him.On the deployment and locations of our forces, Helprin argues for a structure and positioning which would make punitive strikes and expeditions incredibly easy:
Our aims should be less ambitious and more defensive. Were they disciplined to be so, they would also become more pertinent, justifiable, and attainable. We as a people surely should not wish to possess the Islamic states or convert them to our way of seeing things, politically or otherwise, but rather to insist absolutely that they refrain from attacking us. How then do we determine which states are involved, when they are masked by the structures and practices of terrorists who hide from the light? The Left facilitates their strategy when it holds that our tests of association in linking these states to terrorism are too fluid. To the contrary, they are hardly fluid enough, exempting, for example, Saudi Arabia. When the consequences are as grave as the potential for nuclear and biological warfare has made them, the slightest support, tolerance, or sympathy for terrorism directed at the United States should qualify the state manifesting them for open operations, its government for replacement, and its military as a target. To defeat Germany in the World Wars, we brought more suffering and destruction even to France, our ally, than in this war we have visited upon our enemies.
To coerce and punish governments that support terrorism, until they eradicate it wherever they exercise authority. To open for operations any territory in which the terrorist enemy functions. To build and sustain the appropriate forces and then some as a margin of safety, so as to accomplish the foregoing and to deter the continuing development of terrorism. To mount on the same scale as the military effort, and with the same probity, the necessary civil defense. To reject the temptation to configure the defensive capabilities of the United States solely to the War on Terrorism, as this will simultaneously stimulate China's military development and insure that we are unprepared for it. These should be our aims in this war.
They are neither modest, nor without risk, nor certain to succeed—by their very nature they cannot be. But they are a model of discipline and restraint when compared to the infinitely open-ended notion of changing the nature of the Middle East, changing the nature of the Arabs, changing the nature of Islam, and changing the nature of man. No army can do that. No army ever could.
Although so far on (and so deep in) that this may no longer be possible even as an alternative to failure, the 140,000 American troops struggling to pacify Iraq would be a much more effective instrument were they remounted, re-formed, and re-instilled with the mission for which they were forged into an army—to win battles against other armies. Working from the existing network of developed bases in northern Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, reinforced until doubled in number, safe from demoralizing attrition, able to exercise and train, supported fully by air and sea power, they would be equidistant from Damascus, Riyadh, and Baghdad, each of which they could reach en masse and despite opposition in two or three days to bring down any regime that did not suppress the terrorism in its purview. These capitals are the center of gravity of the Middle East and, perforce, of the terrorist enterprise. To control the center without continuous occupation of populated areas would confer immense direct, strategical, and psychological advantage, and would as well provide a secure base for dealing with enemy migration to outlying areas, an established pattern that will recur.Helprin's most explicit advocation for such punitive strikes and expeditions lies in his prescription for Iran:
But were the open and bleeding flank in Iraq closed, the center safely held, and the American military properly supplied, rebuilt, and rejuvenated, the sure way to strip Iran of its nuclear potential would be clear: issuance of an ultimatum stating that we will not allow a terrorist state, the legislature of which chants like a robot for our demise, to possess nuclear weapons; clearing the Gulf of Iranian naval and coastal defense forces; cutting corridors across Iran free of effective anti-aircraft capability; surging carriers to the Gulf and expeditionary air forces to Saudi Arabia; readying long-range heavy bombers in this country and Guam; setting up an unparalleled search and rescue capability. If then our conditions were unmet, we could destroy every nuclear, ballistic-missile, military research, and military technical facility in Iran, with the promise that were the prohibited activities to resume and/or relocate we would destroy completely the economic infrastructure of the country, something we could do in a matter of days and refresh indefinitely, with nary a boot on the ground. That is the large-scale option, necessary only if for some reason the destruction of Iran's nuclear facilities could not, as is likely, be accomplished by stealth bombers and cruise missiles. The almost complete paralysis of its economy, should it be called for, could be achieved with the same instruments plus naval gunfire and blockade.Finally, Helprin offers his thoughts on civil defense, or homeland security:
To the contrary, the borders must be controlled absolutely, as is the right of every sovereign nation. It is hardly impossible and would demand no more than adding to the Border Patrol a paramilitary force of roughly 30,000, equipped with vehicles, helicopters, unmanned aerial drones, fences, and sensors. Crowded and slow entry points should be expanded to provide quick and thorough inspection by traditional methods and inspection to the limits of technological advance where traditional methods are impossible, as in searching the interstices of vehicles, or packed cargo containers, for nuclear or chemical warfare material. The sea frontiers can be secured if we undertake to supplement the Coast Guard with a few dozen high endurance cutters, 100 coastal patrol vessels, 50 long-range reconnaissance aircraft, 100 helicopters, and the appropriate additional personnel; and if the navy, by expansion of its anti-submarine assets, fixed and afloat, guarantees against submarine infiltration.Perhaps the clearest sign that Helprin's advice is not being seriously considered is the prominence of news stories immediately after the 2004 election mentioning that the President is reading Natan Sharansky's new book, "The Case for Democracy," which supposedly argues that freedom is the ultimate means to defeating terrorism. Bush's recent inaugural address is no doubt heavily influenced by this work. [The National Review ran a series of excerpts from the book in December. Read them here, here, and here.]
Aliens with even the slightest record of support for terrorism should be summarily deported—no alien has or has ever had the absolute right to be in the United States—and American citizens with suspected terrorist connections should be subjected to at least the same level of surveillance and investigation as figures in organized crime, with the same constitutional protections unless waived by an emergency court that, in turn, is supervised by a court higher still, the task of which is to prevent abuse of even carefully created emergency powers.
The United States must have, once again, an air defense, with new provisions for aerial threats arising from within its borders. This would require only a few hundred new fighters, a small part of those necessary for the future power projection needs of the air force and navy, and assimilable in them as a stage of rotation and training.
Although the best way to prevent a nuclear detonation in an American city is to stop it as early as possible in the planning stages, the fact that many portable Soviet tactical nuclear charges are unaccounted for justifies not only the above-mentioned border detection measures but bringing to full maturity the spotty intra-city nuclear detection effort in, for example, Washington, D.C., and its extension to every major concentration of population in the country. Training in decontamination, and the stockpiling of radiation countermeasures are necessary elements, as are evacuation planning and infrastructure continuation. Although for some the existence of "low-intensity" warfare in the form of terrorism means—because of magic that I myself cannot fathom—that there is no danger of a nuclear weapon delivered to a target in the United States by missilery, the existence of missile and nuclear weapons programs in what Madeleine Albright called "states of concern" suggests that ballistic-missile defense is yet an urgent priority, especially given that both intermediate-range and short-range ballistic missiles can be launched at sea with relative ease, after being dropped into the water from a freighter.
An effort on a scale several times greater than that of the Manhattan Project, and with similar or greater urgency, should be made to find antidotes, immunizations, and effective treatment for the full range of chemical and biological warfare agents. Once these are brought into being, they should be channeled into an immense nationwide distribution and application system, so that every attack can be quickly and thoroughly isolated, suppressed, and ameliorated. Each American should have access to the full range of immunizations available. (This is not the case at present. For example, though most of the public has at one time been vaccinated against smallpox, often on multiple occasions, it cannot now be revaccinated, because for some this procedure is a frightful prospect due to their view of the risks.) And stockpiles should be waiting for latecomers and the fainthearted.
Even if Helprin's ideas are not made US policy explicitly, much of what looms in the future in Iraq and the Middle East points toward some version of them. If the US is going to draw down its forces into an advisory role, and if the US is going to forgo an invasion and instead use airpower against Iran, then Helprin's ideas will have won in a de fact manner, if not clearly named as such.
Helprin continues to warn against the rise of China. If one critique of his views is that they do not adequately account for the integrated, globalized nature of the world, then certainly his are worth keeping in mind as the views of most China watchers coalesce around the notion that an economically integrated China will never be a threat to the United States. Consider his latest piece in the Wall Street Journal,
From the beach at Santa Monica on a clear day in fall, with 3,000 miles of this country invisible at one's back, the Pacific horizon is a precisely etched line empty of event and set in alluring color. But beyond the rim lie two things now tightly interwoven: China, and the destiny of the United States.And,
There never was and never will be a "unipolar" world. The existence of one pole being conditioned upon the existence of another, the notion of such a thing is as sloppy conceptually as the thinking of the "leading international relations specialist," recently quoted in the Washington Post, who lamented that "The border . . . is becoming a dividing line."
The short unhappy life of whatever passed for unipolarity is emphatically over not merely because the strategy of the moment has allowed a small force of primitive insurgents in Iraq to occupy a large proportion of American military energy, but because China is now powerful and influential enough, at least as a "fleet-in-being," to make American world dominance inconceivable. And in the longer term, China is bent upon and will achieve gross military and economic parity with the United States.
China is methodically following the example of Meiji Japan in moving from a position of inferiority to one of military equality with far superior rivals, by deliberate application of a striking phenomenon of economics that is to the military relation between states what the golden section is to architecture.
A clue to how the world may yet divide is China's willingness, like America's in the Cold War, to take less-than-perfect states under its wing without a care for their moral improvement. In fact, China must be delighted (what rival would not be?) that America's war aims in the Middle East are conditioned upon reordering the Islamic world, the most inconvertible of all divisions of mankind. Although U.S. intervention is obviously required, the nature and scope of the enterprise as stated is a gift to China worth many years of effort.Helprin is again a voice in the wilderness in this regard, yet his is one deserving of an ample hearing, and worthy of much debate. For nothing less than the future of the United States, and therefore human freedom itself is at stake. Or, as he concludes in "Let Us Count The Ways:"
This and a persistent blindness in regard to China's probable trajectory are wounds gratuitously self-inflicted, for no country, ever, has had both the mass and income at the margin that the United States has now, but rather than anticipate, meet, and discourage China's military development, as it easily could, the U.S. has chosen to ignore it. America's métiers are the sea, the air, and space, and with one exception our major allies in Asia are island nations. These factors could be combined to keep China on the straight and narrow for generations longer than otherwise, but America's vision has been knocked out of focus by its ideals, and when China does develop the powerful expeditionary forces that it will need to protect its far- flung interests, the U.S. will probably have successfully completed transforming its military into a force designed mainly to fight terrorism and insurgencies.
Though the dangers of epidemics and terrorist nuclear attacks are now obviously pre-eminent, rising behind them is a newer world yet. This century will be not just the century of terrorism: terrorism will fade. It will be a naval century, with the Pacific its center, and challenges in the remotest places of the world offered not by dervishes and crazy-men but by a great power that is at last and at least America's equal. Unfortunately, it is in our nature neither to foresee nor prepare for what lies beyond the rim.
The United States must make up its collective mind and answer the simple question, are we at war, or are we not? If the answer is no, we need not worry, nor take nor modify action in regard to terrorism. If the answer is yes, then major revisions and initiatives are needed, soon. If they are not reasonably forthcoming, the nation may pay a price such as it has never paid before.
Posted by Chester on January 23, 2005 8:17 PM to The Adventures of Chester