Op-Ed Contributors

Military should never be 'solution'

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-09-28 08:06
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Patriotic or nationalistic voices are strong in China following the tension with Japan over Japan's illegal detention of a Chinese trawler captain as well as the US military drills in the South China Sea and Yellow Sea.

These people might think China will:

Increase its military spending so that the budget exceeds the combined defense budgets of Japan, South Korea, Russia, India, Germany, France and Britain.

Create a constellation of forward-deployed People's Liberation Army (PLA) garrisons in strategically sensitive areas around the world to express the global range of Chinese interests.

Partition the Earth under sprawling territorial commands, with one four-star Chinese general being responsible for the Asia Pacific, another general for Africa and a third for the Middle East and North America.

Institute a vigorous program of war games and exercises in countries worldwide.

Form a PLA Long-Range Strike Force, capable on very short notice of conducting intercontinental attacks, employing conventional or nuclear weapons or operating in cyberspace.

In fact, the US has been doing these across the world for the past half a century - on a much larger scale.

In his book Washington Rules: America's path to permanent war, Boston University professor of history and international relations Andrew Bacevich challenges the US government and public consensus over national security, from the time of Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

Bacevich, a graduate of West Point who served 23 years in the US Army including the war in Vietnam, argues that the basic edifice of Washington's rules has remained the same for the past 50 years: A worldwide military presence; armed forces configured not for defense but for global power projection; and a penchant for interventionism, whether overt or covert, anywhere at any time.

The Washington rules, forged at a moment when US influence and power were approaching their peak after 1945, have led the US into a condition of war without end.

Bacevich disagrees with the notion that the US always represents the good and the country has to be in permanent war in the name of achieving permanent peace.

He has been critical of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and believes Obama lacks the guts to end the war. The US leader succumbs to the status quo rather than change it.

The author of many excellent books, including the best-selling The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, believes this is the moment for the US to reassess its approach to the world to reject militarism and to acknowledge that fixing Detroit should take precedence over fixing Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, brilliant insight by such a scholar is not likely to change the widespread consensus among the US government, corporations, military consortiums, interest groups, think tanks, news media and public who are used to such doctrines.

Bacevich says at his recent book launch that if the US has a mission for the world, it will be better served by being an exemplar to others rather than by imposing liberal values on the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan.

He says the US is not an imperialist nation in the sense of Britain and France in the old days, but it is imperialistic in the sense that "we wish to dominate and wish the norms work to the advantages of the US across the world and we wish at this moment to use military power to enforce those norms". That strategy, according to Bacevich, is not working as it is bankrupting the nation and risking the liberty of its own people.

People might get a better sense now why the US has always tried to justify its military presence all over the world, including the South China Sea.

Many Chinese people, who still recall the humiliation by Western powers due to their country's poor military strength in the last two centuries, might hope that China's rise as an economic superpower will also bring about a military superpower.

But given the numerous US failures of projecting military power as described by Bacevich, these people should have second thoughts.

Using the military in these ways is never a solution and we should never include these as part of China's future.

The author is China Daily's chief correspondent in New York.

He can be reached at chenweihua@chinadaily.com.cn.

American Diary

(China Daily 09/28/2010 page8)