Thursday, April 23, 2009

Paranoia and Hypocrisy

China is planning on acquiring a blue-water navy, with aircraft carriers.  For some reason, people are making a big deal about this.  The general attitude seems to be that China does not need a navy, should not have a navy, and is causing problems with their desire to have a navy.

"Admiral Gary Roughead, the American navy's highest-ranking officer, told reporters in Qingdao that "it may cause concern" among navies in the region if China failed to make clear how it planned to use a carrier."

from this article

The USA has, at the moment, eleven carrier strike groups.  Any one of them is capable of annihilating the entire military force of any small or medium sized country in the world, and then blowing up any target in that country, even without using the nuclear weapons that they all have packed away in reserve.  We have never been asked to explain to anybody how we plan to use them.  The world knows that we will use them for whatever we feel like doing.  This is the accepted order of affairs.  We take it for granted.  If anyone ever hinted that we had a duty to explain our reasons for keeping them, we would laugh in their face.

This is the kind of thing that makes people resent America.  We spend more on our military than the rest of the world put together, and our money is, believe it or not, spent more effectively than almost everybody else's.  ( We have lots of lethal hardware and force projection capability, while most country's military budgets are sunk into salaries and benefits for a lot of infantry that can't really reach out and touch anything. )  We act as if overwhelming power is our natural right.  And yet, we complain and moan and fret when China invests in a navy that, frankly, it makes sense for them to have.

We are not the only ones who have carriers to throw around as we please.  Our NATO allies have about five full-power carrier battle groups, any one of which could probably erase the entire Chinese navy.  India has an aircraft carrier, and is planning on getting two more.  Brazil and Thailand each have an aircraft carrier.  The Russians still keep a carrier around.  If the world accepts that the latter countries have the right to sail a carrier around, why not China?

We currently possess the ability to park a massive fleet off China's coast, and there is nothing they could do to stop it with conventional weapons.  Meanwhile, there is no way that China's one little carrier could cause any serious threat to our country.  It is not a problem for us. us.  We shouldn't care.  We have no right to interfere.  The Chinese have a right to a navy.  They are a sovereign country, and they have the right to maintain the military force to protect their interests.

The rest of the world doesn't really trust us, but they have to live with our casual possession and use of power.  If we get so paranoid about one Chinese aircraft carrier, imagine how they must feel about our navy.  If you are scared of what China might do with military power, imagine how scared the Chinese are about our possible use of military power.

If we were actually using our navy to keep the world's oceans safe, the way the British did 200 years ago, then we might actually have some right to complain.  But we aren't.  The Chinese have a lot of ships sailing around, and they need those ships.  Without access to safe marine transportation, China's economy would implode.  Recent events have shown that these ships are not being protected by anyone.  ( Sometimes they don't need protection.  The Chinese sailors have a fighting spirit.  As far as I know, of all the ships that have been attacked by pirates, the only ones that have successfully fought off the pirates had crews that were either American or Chinese. )

If the USA and our European allies fail to protect the world's shipping from pirates, then someone else will step up to do that job.  I wouldn't be surprised if that someone turns out to be China.  A part of me would love to see the Chinese sail a carrier strike group into the Somali pirate port of Eyl, lay waste to the entire place, and liberate all the ships being held for ransom.  Maybe we've gotten too soft to do what needs to be done, and someone more ruthless is what the situation needs.  I've talked about this kind of thing before.

This may sound crazy, but I think that the rise of China as a serious world power will be good for the USA.  I honestly think that the last 20 years of being the global hyperpower have been bad for us.  Power corrupts.  Monopolies become lazy and inefficient.  Clearly I don't want the Cold War back, with two mortal enemies staring at each other with a hand on the nuclear launch button.  But I don't think that will happen.  The Chinese are motivated mainly by wealth, not ideology.  In some ways they are more Capitalist than we are.  The world might be a better place if we engaged in a round of amiable competition, as between Wal-Mart and Target, for influence in the world.

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