Koch: Time to reconfigure U.S. commitments to cope with emerging China threat
Friday, January 14, 2011 E-Mail this story Free Headline Alerts
By Ed Koch
On Jan. 6, The New York Times reported that China has rolled out the J-20 tactical fighter, its first stealth (radar evading) plane, which appears to be a copy of the U.S. F-22. According to The Times, the “Hong Kong editor in chief of the Canadian journal Kanwa Defense Weekly, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday, “They want to show the U.S., show Mr. Gates, their muscle.”
While experts concede that China “remains a generation or more behind the U.S. in military technology,” and even further behind in “naval and air capabilities…it is now unveiling capabilities that suggest that it intends sooner or later, to be able to challenge American forces in the Pacific.”
Today China surpasses the U.S. in energy consumption. It was not expected to do that until 2015. It now ranks second behind the U.S. in its economic standing in the world, surpassing Japan. Also, China owns 25 percent of America's national debt and remains our largest ongoing lender creditor. If Beijing were to stop lending to us, the interest rates we would have to pay others to lend to us would be so high that they could cause another Great Recession.
China’s huge edge in our balance of trade is a serious situation which doesn’t appear solvable without tariffs or quotas, which are unacceptable to the Obama administration. The 10-month trade imbalance between China and the U.S. is $227 billion through October 2010.
All this underlines the dangers that face us in the event of war with China. Why should we even talk of war? Because the U.S. has a “commitment to defend it [Taiwan] should Beijing carry out an attack,” reports The Times. That China is capable of attacking Taiwan is not in doubt.
Are we in a position to engage in such a war? Not as long as we continue to be mired in the war in Afghanistan and have a substantial military presence in Iraq and rely on Pakistan.
We now have 100,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan, where President Obama recently authorized the commitment of another 1,000 Marines. American and NATO fatalities in Afghanistan continue to rise. The outlook for a successful conclusion to the war appears increasingly bleak.
The U.S. also maintains 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq where suicide bombers continue to kill on a sectarian basis hundreds of civilians, and when possible, American soldiers as well. The Iraqi government has just welcomed back to the country Moqtqada al-Sadr, an avowed enemy of the U.S. who left Iraq to receive political sanctuary in Iran. He has stated that he will not be attacking U.S. forces, provided they leave this year.
Also, Islamic terrorism is on the rise in Pakistan, where last week the governor of the Punjab Province, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by a member of his own security team, reported The Times, for “speaking out against the nation’s strict blasphemy laws, which impose a mandatory death sentence on anyone convicted of insulting Islam.” Taseer defended a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death.
The assassin murdered the governor in the presence of his fellow security members and no shots were fired at the assassin to protect the governor, raising the suspicion of a conspiracy. This is reminiscent of the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, in which Egyptian soldiers working with Islamist opponents of Sadat allowed the assassins to get close to him.
The government of Pakistan is so fearful, according to The Times, that the “President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, a friend and ally of Mr. Taseer, [did not attend the funeral] out of concern for his own security.” The Times reported, “The interior minister, Rehman Malik, went as far as to say he would shoot any blasphemer himself.” I believe the interior minister is in charge of all domestic security forces. According to The Times, “[m]oderate religious leaders refused to condemn the assassination and some hard-line religious leaders appeared obliquely to condone the attack.”
Almost all political commentators in the U.S. say Pakistan is more important than Afghanistan or Iraq in terms of our national security, since the Al Qaida leadership is located in Pakistan. We also know that Pakistan’s national security service, the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), has worked with Al Qaida, and, India has charged, was involved in the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India. It is foolish to believe that Pakistan is in the fold of moderate Muslim nations seeking to end Islamic terrorism. Yet, our government supports Pakistan with billions of dollars and continues to reassure the American people that Pakistan’s nuclear bomb inventory is in safe hands and not a danger to the world. I’m not convinced our government really knows much about what is actually happening in Pakistan.
What should we do? First, we should recognize that we cannot win a land war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and that our military involvement in those countries is seriously hampering us from addressing the threat posed by China’s rising military power. We should then find a way to withdraw from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan as soon as possible (and, in the case of Afghanistan, sooner than the 2014 deadline which is the Obama administration’s current plan). As I have stated before, our national security needs — relating to Afghanistan — can be addressed with special forces and our air force. We should also seek to form a real military alliance with the Sunni countries of the Gulf region led by Saudi Arabia, together with Israel. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries are afraid of Iran’s getting a nuclear bomb and are surely fearful of Pakistan’s existing nuclear bombs. Perhaps these countries will accept working with Israel against common enemies in order to have an agreement with the U.S. to defend the region from attack.
Finally, we should strengthen our military alliances with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, so as to prepare for military threats by China. China’s economic might cannot be underestimated. Neither should its military ambitions.
Edward I. Koch, who served as mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989, is a partner in the law firm of Bryan Cave.