Peace is boring. How else to explain the US' seemingly incessant search for a new enemy?
After the Cold War the US' foreign policy establishment could have accepted peace, stopped meddling around the globe, and demobilized the US' oversized military. Instead, it found other enemies.
Former president Saddam Hussein's Iraq proved to be easy prey. Now Iran is getting the most attention.
But the Pentagon has just issued its latest alarmist assessment of Chinese military spending. Former Australian diplomat Gregory Clark writes of a "China threat lobby."
In fact, had there been no Sept. 11, which yielded both an enemy ("Islamofascism") and a conflict ("Global War on Terrorism"), China might have ended up in Washington's gunsites early in President George W. Bush's term. Years before former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz authored a Pentagon paper that advocated preventing "potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role."
However, after Sept. 11 Bush officials understood that they were unlikely to browbeat the PRC into compliance with their demands. But hostility towards China never disappeared.
The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission contends that "China's methodical and accelerating military modernization presents a growing threat to US security interests in the Pacific."
Clinton Whitehurst, writes for the Strom Thurmond Institute: "For the second time in half a century the US is engaged in a `cold war' with a powerful adversary -- the People's Republic of China."
The latest "China as enemy" book to hit the US market is Jed Babbin's and Edward Timperlake's Showdown: Why China Wants War with the United States.
Last year Roger Kaplan wrote in The Atlantic: History suggests "the result is likely to be the defining military conflict of the twenty-first century: if not a big war with China, then a series of Cold War-style standoffs that stretch out over years and decades."
These hysterical warnings look silly. China today is more prosperous, accessible, and responsible than ever before.
Although Beijing is not a close ally, it is not hostile either.
Rather, it is a significant power with a range of interests which, unsurprisingly, do not always match those of the US. The situation calls for thoughtful, nuanced diplomacy, not self-righteous scare-mongering.
Unfortunately, China critics routinely overstate Chinese capabilities and misstate US interests.
For instance, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recently suggested that "Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases?"
In fact, that question would be better asked by Chinese officials to Rumsfeld. The US' increase in military outlays over the last few years alone equals China's entire defense budget. Washington spends upwards of seven times as much as the PRC, is allied with every leading industrial state around the globe, and has allies ringing China.
Former US senator Fred Thompson, a Republican, contended that "They don't have to be a threat sufficient to invade the United States. They just have to be a threat sufficient to go against our interests."
That is, the Chinese "threat" is primarily a threat to the US empire, not the US republic.
The basic issue is Washington's predominance in East Asia.