Nothing causes anxiety in America quite like China. The rise of this nation is perceived as our greatest threat in many critical places the US is used to dominating – economic power, military might, and technological leadership. It’s not a question of where China is today as much where it might be if the growth keeps up.
Yet for all of this, Richard Nixon’s observation in 1972 remains true – “China is not a threat.” To understand why it’s best to turn not to the policies and pronouncements of politicians but to popular culture. This is ultimate gauge of the most important resource of China and every other nation, the people.
On the surface, the huge summer hit “Wolf Warrior 2” may seem like everything we have to fear. Yet it shows exactly how China’s self identity and culture are evolving as much as their economy.
Let’s imagine a foreign policy based on promoting freedom, stability, and peace. Let’s assume that our drive to energy independence makes this not only possible, but desirable. Let’s assume that we no longer use our military to “protect vital resources” or some other euphemism for imperialism as we come to respect and develop a truly free market globally.
With these assumptions our view of the Middle East, in particular, changes dramatically. Like many situations in this rapidly integrating and evolving world, it demands attention to fundamentals – both our principles and an examination of the real powers which shape the world.
In the Middle East there are really only three permanent powers which have survived the test of millenia – Egypt, Turkey, and Persia (Iran). No matter who or what has swept through the region, these three have always been there. They are the best place to start when considering how we promote what matters most to free people around the world.
The Middle East is dangerous, complicated, and generally just plain messed up. You may respond to that statement by saying, “Yeah, and the sun rose this morning,” or something less polite. But for all the turmoil that the region has been through in recent years it’s actually much worse right now.
A combination of shifting alliances, horrific blow-back from past adventures, and an ancient rivalry blowing up fast are converging rapidly into one regional conflict. Who is on whose side? Who might or might not be winning? It’s nearly impossible to tell, and that makes everything far more dangerous than ever.
Netanyahu’s tone was measured and direct, fitting the prestige of the chamber he was addressing. “That deal would not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons — it would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them,” he told Congress last Tuesday. It was classic Netanyahu in many ways – bold, dire, and ultimately a load of cowpuckey.
Netanyahu can’t claim to know what is happening in the “P5+1” talks to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program, and if he does know he can’t prove it publicly. These talks have been going on for nine years now and have always hinged on one sticking point – Iran cannot obtain nuclear weapons. Any other result would have made the talks much easier and they would have been over by now. But these are important talks for reasons even larger than weapons of mass destruction.
If you can think of two things no one would like to do in Russia at the end of January, standing around in a line and fighting a war come to mind pretty easily. But that’s exactly what seems to be in the cards for far too many Russians as the Ukraine and economic crises continue howling like a bitter wind that never ceases.
The acceleration of both appears to be assured right now, especially if the West continues to link aggression in Ukraine with more economic sanctions – which at this point will have to be severe to be considered “new”. The new Cold War is definitely on, but there are no assurances that it will continue to be cold much after the freeze of midwinter.
Why is foreign policy so difficult? If you were to ask Tip O’Neill, he’d tell you that “All politics is local,” a phrase he credited to his Dad. Take that mindset and set it loose in an integrated world and pretty soon you have nations talking right past each other with no hope of ever finding common ground.
That’s what brings Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Washington on 3 March to speak to a joint session of Congress – but not President Obama. It’s also what makes it very likely that this will be an epic disaster for at least some of the parties arranging this trip.