Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reflections on Earth Day

I write this on April 22 - known before 1970 as Lenin's birthday and since then in America as "Earth Day" (when you are reading this, of course, I cannot know). With each passing year, the irony of grafting environmental awareness on the birthday of Communism's founder and examining the ecological records of his largest political heir (the Chinese Communist Party) grows more painful, more cynically amusing, and more impossible to ignore.

This will surprise the casual observer who only sees the CCP press releases on alternative energy sources (yes, Tom Friedman, that means you), but there is arguably no regime that damaged our planet as much as the Chinese Communist Party. The cadres have been forced to account for such exotic chemical spills as cadmium, benzene, and heaven knows what else. They have a slew of mining accidents - annually. Their hydroelectric dam addiction has thoroughly disturbed and distorted water flows, while turning such natural treasurers as the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers into toxic soups. Air pollution is so bad in the interior that the cadres in one city actually explored cutting out the tops of mountains to allow fresh air in. Then there are the open-air nuclear tests from last century, which killed over 200,000 people in occupied East Turkestan (also known as Xinjiang) and sickened many, many more.

In short, the regime in Zhongnanhai has taken its rightful place among Communist defilers of the environment. The Soviet Union was infamous for its toxic-caused animal mutation, and the Chernobyl fiasco was a shocking example of Moscow's lax concern for nuclear safety both before an accident and during one. Yet in the free world, environmentalism remains a largely left-wing phenomenon, complete with the lack of concern for Communist regime's actual records.

What the Western left may be thinking is not the point here, but rather the strange dichotomy between the presumed notion in the free world of government superiority in ecological matters and the reality of totalitarian regimes where the government is itself worse than any corporation - or entire industry - imaginable.

Most economists, environmentalists, and elected officials in the democratic world understand that in making decisions about what to buy, build, or bring together, long-term environmental consequences are not usually a major factor (the term in economic geek-speak is "externality"), and that government can have a role in countering this. However, that assumes government is an arbiter, or at most a facilitator, in the market, without any interests of its own.

Whether this assumption is correct or not is one of the disagreements that have driven politics in the free world for decades, if not centuries. However, there is one important point missed: a totalitarian regime is never an uninterested arbiter; it will always have its own interest - namely survival - front and center. Therefore, the aforementioned long-term environmental consequences are just as irrelevant to the Chinese Communist Party as it would be to your average consumer in the free world. In fact, one could argue that it's less relevant to the CCP, as the regime will assume it has enough power to protect itself from the consequences of the ecological damage it does (the people are, of course, left to suffer).

Thus, tyrannical regimes - interested only in surviving and protecting the group of tyrants (however large or small) - are all but certain to be worse stewards of the planet than democracies are, and the Chinese Communist Party is proving it every single day.

In time, this reality will become harder and harder for the CCP to conceal (the truth about the Soviets started to leak out in the 1980s, but the USSR collapsed before it became common knowledge). Thanks to the regime's faulty policies, China has become the largest carbon emitter on the planet. Its major electric dams are pollution havens. I shudder to think what will happen as they build more nuclear power plants (and I say this as a fan of nuclear power).

As the Zhongnanhai regime limps ahead, it will become abundantly clear to the free world's legion of "green" activists that the CCP is as much their enemy as it is the enemy of everyone else. It may very well be an event celebrated on the birthday of Communism's founder that become the tipping point for the end of Communism's largest regime.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On the Chinese Communist Party and Nuclear Proliferation

So the nuclear summit has wrapped up in Washington, and we have learned that we are safer today because we no longer have to worry about loose nuclear material from . . . Canada. France, on the other hand, refuses to join the nuclear-free fantasy. I suspect Washington will be keeping an eye on Paris for a while - again (of course, it's not exactly unusual for America and France to be at loggerheads; it's just a little strange to see the Parisians take the side of reason - but that's for another day).

If the above paragraph sounds flippant, then I've written it correctly, because so much of what happened this week was utterly useless. The "big fish" in nuclear proliferation - namely, Iran and North Korea - were never really going to be "caught," largely because the regime responsible for each one's nuclear ambitions - the Chinese Communist Party - was let off the hook, again.

The two large mistakes Washington has made regarding the Iranian and North Korean regimes - and it's a mistake shared by both this Administration and its predecessor - were these: an insistence that the CCP can be a useful partner without being coerced, and a refusal to replace the chimera of non-proliferation with the more robust counter-proliferation.

The first problem is in no small part due to the actions of Tehran, Pyongyang, and Zhongnanhai. It is no accident that the CCP has escaped blame for the actions of the rogue regimes. The cadres have continually sought out allies who meet three key characteristics. They are
  • a willingness to frustrate American ambitions or American interests
  • a willingness to defend the CCP's interests on the global stage when asked to do so, and
  • most importantly, a willingness to take all the blame for their antics, leaving the CCP unnamed and unaccountable

These are what make Tehran and Pyongyang perfect allies and tools for the CCP, especially the last one - and it is only by removing that last characteristic that the free world can get the CCP to seriously address these two regime's nuclear ambitions.

Simply put, the president should tell Hu Jintao the following, in no uncertain terms:

  • If the North Korean regime uses a nuclear weapon, Pyongyang and the CCP will be held responsible
  • If the Iranian regime uses a nuclear weapon, Tehran and the CCP will be held responsible
  • If a terrorist organization uses a nuclear weapon, given that the sources would almost certainly be Tehran, Pyongyang, or CCP-ally Pakistan, that terrorist group and the CCP will be held responsible

The painful fact is this: Tehran and Pyongyang are looking to become nuclear powers in order to use the weapons as blackmail to the rest of the world. It is no surprise that both have pursued their ambitions amid signs that their regimes are undergoing serious decay. They see their survival in blackmailing the free world to keep them in power. Moreover, the Chinese Communist Party finds these regimes useful, and has no incentive to restrain their behavior. That may change if it becomes clear they will suffer consequences from the actions of their allies.

That said, while forcing the CCP to accept responsibility for their allies can help the situation, there is still the regimes themselves to consider. Beijing is not Moscow, and the CCP is still the party of the late Mao Zedong - who famously deadpanned that a weapon capable of blowing up the Earth would only be "a major event for the solar system." Thus, Tehran and Pyongyang probably need more incentive than half-hearted warnings from Zhongnanhai to behave.

This is where counter-proliferation comes in. I first mentioned it three-and-a-half years ago, and I still consider it valid. Tehran may not feel so frisky about its nuclear capability if it new Georgia had a nuclear deterrent of its own (in fact, while Georgia with nuclear protection may mean little to the CCP, it may be enough for Russia to push Tehran to disarm entirely). Pyongyang may have the same concern if Japan, South Korea, and/or Taiwan had ready nuclear deterrents (that would certainly get the CCP's attention). These actions would also make abundantly clear that these regimes will be held responsible for any "loose nukes" that wind up in terrorist hands (the latter set of nuclear deterrents could make the message more pointed for the CCP).

Of course, as I said back in late 2006, these actions won't solve our problem, because the issue is not the nuclear weapons per se, but who has them. This is where my opening paragraph becomes more serious. The idea of democratic France posing a threat to world piece is laughable, but tyrannies like Iran, North Korea, and Communist China are something else again. It is the regimes, not their weapons, that are the threat. Thus, as I've also said before: America will never be secure until Iran, Korea, and China are free.