Thursday, January 28, 2010

A bitterly disappointing night

Last night, the leader of the free world and one of the most dynamic members of America's loyal opposition took to the airwaves to present their cases to the people. For anti-Communists, it was a terrible night.

Whether one was inclined to trust President Obama over Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell - or for independents, both and/or neither - the night was punctuated by the near-total silence on the dangerous rise of the Chinese Communist Party on the global stage. Admittedly, politicians don't like to give foreign policy does much attention during a recession - especially the Great Recession, as this one is now known. However, those who have risen above politics to embrace the mantle of true leadership have insisted on keeping their eyes, and ours, on the world around us to thwart the dangers with which we must deal.

Franklin Roosevelt mobilized America to resist the Nazi Empire despite the Great Depression. Ronald Reagan continued to lead the fight against European Communism despite the only recession since World War II to challenge this one in length and severity. Sadly, neither Obama (for whom, I will confess, I did not vote) nor McDonnell (for whom I did) seemed eager to follow in the footsteps of these two late leaders.

To the extent the president mentioned Communist China at all, it was as an economic competitor similar to India - latently invoking a China-India linkage that has been repeatedly debunked by reality. More ominously, the threat from Communist China itself was completely absent from the speech. There was no mention of the regime's ties to our enemies in the War on Terror (or as it is now known, "Overseas Contingency Operations"), nor any mention of the continuing military threat to the island democracy known as the Republic of China (despite recent reports that he has approved a new arms package for the ROC, as reported by CBS News). Even the CCP's continuing currency manipulation - which has done more to damage American manufacturing than anyone is willing to admit - received deafening silence from the president.

When the president mentioned foreign policy at all, he simply recycled the Pollyannaish words of his predecessor on North Korea and the Iranian mullahs. Does he really believe the Stalinist Korean regime "faces increased isolation and stronger sanctions . . . vigorously enforced"? Has he really convinced himself that the Iranian regime "is more isolated"? The only way the president can say these words with a straight face is if he believes what Zhongnanhai tells him about these two regimes. However, Zhongnanhai has always told presidents that they're willing to work with Washington on these issues; they just have their own definition of "work with Washington."

It is painfully ironic to see a president so determined to lay blame at the feet of his predecessor simply following the Bush line in the one area where a departure from the past would do the most good.

In response to the president, the Republicans brought forth Bob McDonnell, recently elected Governor of Virginia. As a Virginian myself, I saw McDonnell's campaign up close, and as I mentioned earlier, I liked enough of what I saw to vote for him. However, foreign policy was not and is not his area of expertise, and as such, he gave scant mention to it. Unlike the president, he never even mentioned North Korea or Iran, let alone the CCP.

Now, one might think I'm being a little harsh on the president and the governor, given the current times. However, geopolitics don't simply stop for the free world to recover its economic balance. In fact, our enemies - from the CCP on down - have used recessions, depressions, or panics to take advantage of the free world and out-muscle it wherever possible. The 21st Century is no exception.

Nor is the largely domestic careers of the two politicians any excuse. In the 20th Century, America won two World Wars and one Cold War. In all three cases, the dynamic leadership required for victory came from governors (Woodrow Wilson - New Jersey, FDR - New York, and Reagan - California).

What we saw last night was not merely reflective of two men; it was a symptom of the continuing elite notion that the CCP is a "rival" at worst, a "potential partner" at best. That the CCP is in fact an enemy is hardly considered. That is the root of the free world's problem, and if last night is any indication, it will remain a problem for a long time.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tom Friedman and the elite point of view, revisited

Tom Friedman had another column out this week on Communist China - although it was somewhat disguised as a rant against the "War on Terror." Friedman makes it clear he would simply prefer the war go away; I prefer the term Wahabbist-Ba'athist-Khomeinist War, but that's not entirely relevant here. More to the point, Friedman's column reveals two things: first, the viewpoint of the Washington "elite" - which usually is very close to his own thinking - and second, the complete ignorance he, and they, have of the world around them.

We'll begin with an issue I normally don't discuss - the chimera of "energy independence." Friedman insists that "nothing would make us more secure" than becoming "independent of imported oil." This is a near-universal error among the chattering classes - and, sadly, much of the American people. It is, however, based on two seriously mistaken assumptions. The first is that most of America's oil imports come from the Middle East, and therefore enabling our enemies (the Wahabbists, Ba'athists, and Khomeinists, hence the term I use for this war). In fact, the our largest source of foreign oil has been - for six years and counting - Canada. Moreover, if present trends continue, by mid-decade the Great White North will export more oil to us than all of the Middle Eastern nations put together.

Secondly, and far more troubling, is Friedman's ignorance (shared by far too many people) of just where al Qaeda has received support over the years. In fact, the Chinese Communist Party has been an armer or funder of the Iranian mullahcracy, al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, and Stalinist North Korea. Yet for some reason, Friedman ignores this, and he's not alone. Hardly anyone in the corridors of power in the free world have paid proper attention to the role the CCP has played in this war - namely, as a benefactor of our enemies. Then again, if more of them accepted the fact that it is a war, they might pay more attention.

The important point is this: the United States of America could stop importing oil tomorrow, and it wouldn't even slow our enemies down. It could, however, knock the Canadian economy back into recession. Good thinking there, Tom!

Having gotten so much about the geopolitical realities of the world wrong, Friedman's other mistakes really shouldn't surprise. Still, amidst the wreckage, there is one jaw-dropper:

Has anyone noticed the most important peace breakthrough on the planet in the last two years? It’s right here: the new calm in the Strait of Taiwan. For decades, this was considered the most dangerous place on earth, with Taiwan and China pointing missiles at each other on hair triggers. Well, over the past two years, China and Taiwan have reached a quiet rapprochement — on their own. No special envoys or shuttling secretaries of state. Yes, our Navy was a critical stabilizer. But they worked it out. They realized their own interdependence. The result: a new web of economic ties, direct flights and student exchanges.

A key reason is that Taiwan has no oil, no natural resources. It’s a barren rock with 23 million people who, through hard work, have amassed the fourth-largest foreign currency reserves in the world. They got rich digging inside themselves, unlocking their entrepreneurs, not digging for oil. They took responsibility. They got rich by asking: “How do I improve myself?” Not by declaring: “It’s all somebody else’s fault. Give me a handout.”

So many errors, so little time.

First of all, despite the sweet talk of Ma Ying-jeou and Hu Jintao, the CCP is still aiming hundreds of missiles at Taiwan. The island democracy is just as threatened today as it was before Ma was elected two years ago. In fact, the Taiwanese people themselves seem to understand that better than their President - confronted with Ma's rose-colored-glasses policy, they have actually done the unthinkable and resurrected the much-maligned Democratic Progressive Party as a functioning opposition.

More to the point, the Taiwanese people have, in fact, depended upon the United States for decades. Two generations ago, President Eisenhower threatened nuclear war with Mao Zedong to protect Taiwan. A quarter-century later, the Taiwan Relations Act compelled America to ensure Taiwan had the ability and strength to defend itself.

I don't want to be too hard on Tom. He seems to be coming to the realization (however slowly), that the CCP is a genuine threat. He's not there yet, but I can see him making the journey. Unfortunately, his ignorance of the globe's past and present is hindering his ability to make the trip. More ominously, most of the free world's decision makers have the same blind spots that he does. That is a problem the electorates (i.e., you and me) need to fix - and quickly.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On the Google Incident

The hacking of Google, and the firm's decision to re-evaluate its entire operation in Communist China (h/t to NRO - The Corner) , may lead to dramatic changes on several levels, including bringing the day of liberation closer than before Google made its announcement. That may sound dramatic, but I believe it to be true. To understand why, let's take this step by step.

We'll start with the purpose of the attack on Google: "accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists." The first lesson we - and everyone else - can learn is this: any foreign business in Communist China will become part of the regime's surveillance system - whether they want to be or not. Ethan Gutmann has done a terrific job detailing how low the American business community had fallen in Losing the New China. In those cases, however, the firms were more than willing to help the cadres find and seize anti-Communists. In this case, Google clearly assumed (like most investors and businesses) that they would be "non-political." They found out the hard way that there is no such thing as non-political in Communist China. Current and future investors will take note, and hopefully make some very different decisions based upon this.

There is one line of thought that Google's decision is driven more by dollars and cents than common sense or moral outrage (see Sarah Lacy at Tech Crunch). In its own way, however, even this is good news, in part because the thrust of Lacy's column (revealed in this question: "Does anyone really think Google would be doing this if it had top market share in the country?") completely misses the point. The CCP will ensure Google will never win "top market share." Foreign business aren't supposed to succeed; they're supposed to throw good money after bad into Communist China while the CCP finds their intellectual property and robs them blind (again, Gutmann is a fantastic source). That hasn't stopped so many from dreaming of profits and "one billion customers." Google is no different.

What Google's action tells us is something about the American information technology sector: aiding repression is still considered bad business. We weren't sure if the old hyper-libertarian impulse that had been with the IT sector since its birth was still around. Now we know it is. This means it will be much harder for the CCP to convince Google's rivals or its successors to take its place as a dissident tracker (no one can claim they didn't see it coming anymore).

Given the fallout that is coming from this, why would the CCP risk losing so many investors - present and future - with this move? Well, here's the final (and most important lesson) here: The CCP cares about its preservation and its power first, last, and always. Economics, diplomacy, and everything else are just means to the above end. No one can claim otherwise. No one can be fooled by the CCP propaganda that they peddle about its "peaceful rise" and its supposed concern about economic growth above all else.

In short - to borrow and twist the famous line from The Usual Suspects - the devil can no longer convince the world that he doesn't exist.

This is something that will be remembered with every CCP acquisition abroad, every CCP foray into international politics. The elites of free world may finally began to view the CCP with the suspicion it deserves (the peoples of the free world have that suspicion already). However, this could be most damaging in the area it first started - outside investments in Communist China.

The CCP needs outside investors for a slew of reasons: the money, of course, the de facto endorsement that comes with an investment, and the new friends that can be used as apologists. As I have noted repeatedly, the CCP needs affirmation from outside to justify its regime to the suffering people inside. Without the former, the latter becomes that much harder (one of the lessons learned from European Communism in the 1980s), and getting more of the former took a major hit with Google's announcement yesterday.

Yes, the regime will survive if Google finally does withdraw, but it will be weakened, and with Iran in turmoil, anti-Communists gaining momentum in Taiwan, and India growing more leery of Zhongnanhai, the CCP cannot afford any more weakness.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Looking back, looking ahead

On this side of the Pacific (the east side), January is the beginning of the new year; on its western shores, it is close to the end of the old one. This gives us the perfect opportunity to look back and look ahead at the same time.

From one perspective, the anti-Communist had a very bad 2009 (for those readers suffering from pun withdrawal, one could say democracy supporters were quite gored in the Year of the Ox). A new Democratic president - Barack Obama - turned his back on nearly everything his predecessor did, except for "engagement" with the Chinese Communist Party. Meanwhile, the potential for the new Republican opposition in America to rediscover its anti-Communist past disappeared when Obama appointed Utah Governor Mike Huntsman to the post of Ambassador to the CCP. For the rest of the year, the Communist regime was largely ignored in Washington - not necessarily a bad thing, but it could have been much better. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi particularly disappointed with her near silence on the issue when there was never a better time for her to influence the debate in the capital.

Moving past the politicians and into the punditry, things actually got worse. What began as a discussion about global warming devolved into leading columnists pining for tyranny. Tom Friedman gushed over the "reasonably enlightened" CCP in a piece that should have embarrassed him. Canadian writer Diane Francis did Friedman one better by actually endorsing a global version of the hideous "one child" policy that made Zhongnanhai infamous around the world.

As all of this was going on, the regime seemed on the march across the globe. Beijing alone had the thrill of publishing good economic statistics (whether they were actually true statistics is for another column). More leaders of the free world - including Canada - seemed willing to do its bidding. Its chief Middle Eastern ally (the Iranian mullahcracy) moved closer to becoming a nuclear power. Its one-time Taliban allies were turning the tide in Afghanistan.

All in all, it's been a very good year for the CCP - on the surface. Scratch said surface, however, and it's a very different story.

While the American elite fell all over itself in praise of the regime, the American people maintained, and even increased, their wariness of Zhongnanhai. By the end of the year, even some of the "chattering classes" began to realize that the CCP's "peaceful rise" was anything but.

Meanwhile, the motivation for Tehran's hellbent quest for "the bomb" suddenly became known to the world: the Iranian people. Their continued defiance of the mullahcracy inspired the world, but it also sent a powerful message on the limits of dictatorship. About a decade ago, (First) Cold War historian John Lewis Gaddis reminded us that oppressed people do have the power to force their oppressors to spend financial and political capital keeping the regime in place - and Tehran had to spend massive amounts of it. We saw the effects in Lebanon, where the pro-democracy March 14 movement scored an upset victory in national elections, and to a lesser extent in Iraq, where previous Iranian meddling seemed to ebb as the regime was forced to turn inward.

Given that the CCP's anti-American objectives and policies have largely been outsourced to Tehran - in part because the mullahs are so willing to credit for them and get the CCP off the hook - weakness in Iran means weakness in Zhongnanhai. Moreover, the regime can't look at the convulsions in Iran without worrying about the Chinese people rising up to take their country back.

Finally, even in Taiwan, things went south for the regime. While the CCP-friendly Kuomintang governed without any threat for much of the year, the voters in the island democracy brought the anti-Communist Democratic Progressives back to life in local elections last month. This time last year, President Ma Ying-jeou was a popular leader of a people seemingly willing to reach out to the Communists over the future of the Republic of China. Today, Ma is the leader of the Republic of China; the rest no longer holds.

So what can we expect in 2010? It's hard to say, but I think we'll know where to look: Iran. The resistance of the Iranian people will continue to spook Beijing and Tehran, while forcing both to ignore opportunities elsewhere. Meanwhile, the mullahs quest for nuclear weapons (which in no small part is fueled by a need to have the free world knuckle under and accept their repression of their fellow Iranians) will lead to more problematic headlines for the CCP.

Of course, if the Iranian people succeed in ending the mullahcracy, that could send shockwaves through tyrannies around the world - especially the CCP.