Thursday, April 14, 2005

Still Our Century

The American century is going into the second one and I think this trend will continue.

Pinkerton thinks that this century will be an Asian century taking over from the 20th "American" century. And by his article, he clearly means to it will be China's century. He gives three reasons:

Thus the three wheels: First, China gets closer to India, as the two nations seek a New Asian Order. Second, China grows more hostile to the United States and Japan. Third, China bolsters nuke-crazy North Korea.

This is just ridiculous. One visit by the Chinese proclaiming they will be two pagodas dominating Asia. Maybe so, but India will not be in league with China. India seems far more likely to join America, becoming yet another nation containing China in Asia. As for the second reason, just how is pissing Japan off enough to align itself more closely with America part of a bold bid for Asian domination? How is angering America a plan for dominance? Rather the opposite I'd say. And the third reason this will be an Asian century is that China bolsters a nutjob regime that at best for China will collapse and at worst will prompt South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan to go nuclear and strengthen ties with America? Is Pinkerton serious? These three reasons he gives are more reason to think that China is pushing nations to ally with America to form a ring around China.

Given my posts on China's threat to Taiwan, you'd think I might seize on something like this and this article on China's naval build up to argue that China will overtake us as a world power.

(But I would like to highlight this: "Some American military analysts believe China could now defeat Taiwan before American forces could arrive at the scene, leaving a political decision about whether to attack, even though Taiwan would already be lost.")

But I don't think that China will overtake us. At worst, they will become a power that can dominate Asia but they will not gain a global reach. And in Asia, there will be local pillars of power to resist them as well as American power to contain China.

And I have no problem saying China probably won't overtake America (and may collapse in chaos instead) and that China will try to invade Taiwan. Essentially, I don't think that China has to be capable of beating America. China needs to be capable of beating Taiwan and capable of deterring and delaying American intervention long enough for China to beat Taiwan. Those are two very different things. We can beat China in a long war. Can we beat China fast enough to save Taiwan? That's the problem, eh?

Back in the late 1970s, I remember reading that the American century was a truncated one lasting from 1898 to 1975 and that the Soviets would own the next century. It clearly didn't work out that way.

I think we have a good lock on dominating this century, too. Even with a powerful China and India, both have major threats on their doorsteps that will keep lots of their power tied up. And India will likely be our friend anyway. By contrast, we can project almost all of our power since we have militarily weak neighbors, which will leave us the dominant player even if we are no longer the lone superpower.

Don't bet against America so easily, people. We've left a lot of challengers in a heap by the door.

UPDATE: VDH concludes nicely:

What we miss in statistics about relative national strength are the extraordinary vibrancy and inclusiveness of American culture. It has an uncanny ability to assimilate minorities and newcomers. The United States allows freer access of information and bases decisions more often on merit than on nepotism or tribalism.

We engage in greater self-critique and seem to foster in our citizens a stronger desire for constructive emulation rather than useless envy of the more successful in our presence. The American Constitution is unique in safeguarding prosperity, security and fairness--as Europeans, the UN and Asians all have learned when they have tried their own less successful versions.

All in all, America is still in pretty good shape, whether in Palo Alto or south of Fresno--and far stronger than its perennial critics think.

Still going strong.