Saturday, June 10, 2006

A Great Big Global Guffaw

Every so often---and it's becoming more often indeed---I'll read something that shows in stark relief what we've lost during the past few years. Here's one recent example:
U.S. Urges China to Reassess Tiananmen

The United States marked the 17th anniversary of China's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square on Sunday by urging Beijing to re-evaluate its actions.

"The U.S. urges China to provide a full accounting of the thousands who were killed, detained or went missing and of the government's role in the massacre," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement. "We also urge China to address the ongoing violations of the rights of victims and their families and to make public the list of those still in prison."
Rumsfeld urges China to come clean on military spending

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld urged China to explain its increased military spending to the world, saying it was in its interest to demystify actions that others find potentially threatening.

Speaking at an international security conference in Singapore, Rumsfeld said China had every right to decide how to invest its resources, but the rest of the world also needed to understand Beijing's intentions.

"The only issue on transparency is that China would benefit by demystifying the reasons why they are investing in what they are investing in, in my view," Rumsfeld said.

A Pentagon report last month said China was spending two to three times more on its military than the 35 billion dollars a year it has acknowledged.

He said he thought China's primary objective was a peaceful reunification of Taiwan with the mainland.

But, he argued that as China's stake in the global economy grows it will face pressure to explain its behavior to the outside world.

"In life you can't have it both ways," Rumsfeld said.

"You can't be successful economically and engage the rest of the world, and have people milling around your country and selling things and buying things and engaging in exchanges, and have them at the same time worried or wondering about some mystery that they see as behavior that is unsettling," he said.

"If the rest of the world looks at China and sees a behavior pattern that is mysterious and potentially threatening, it tends to affect the willingness to invest," he said.
We're doing a lot of inappropriate "urging" these days, aren't we? Look, I realize that lapsing into national self-doubt is a danger. But there's a difference between self-doubt and honest self-evaluation. When I read about the U.S. "urging" China on anything related to human rights, I laugh. And right now, which makes more sense: Donald Rumsfeld urging China to come clean on its military spending and "explain its unsettling behavior" to the rest of the world, or China urging the U.S. to explain its behavior in light of Iraq? (Oh, and off-the-books military spending? Perish the thought!) And in his own uncanny Orwellian way, Rumsfeld stumbled across the truth when he said, "You can't be successful economically and engage the rest of the world...and have them at the same time worried or wondering about some mystery that they see as behavior that is unsettling." A wonderfully pithy explanation for the steadily decreasing desire of foreigners to invest in dollar-denominated assets, particularly U.S. debt....

During the next two and a half years, how much more damage will we do to our moral standing and our ability to raise issues like human rights without eliciting a global guffaw? After this gang retires to ranches in Crawford and Taos and Maryland's eastern shore and leaves this mess to everyone else, how much time will it take to repair the damage, assuming it's reparable?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey thirdeye. Funny how we can't even cut a bit of the 1.7 billion to that country you think we forced into submission...when we actually paid them off with billions of aid and the Sinai.

6/10/2006 9:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After this gang retires to ranches in Crawford and Taos and Maryland's eastern shore and leaves this mess to everyone else, how much time will it take to repair the damage, assuming it's reparable?

I'm 39, and I despair for regaining our unquestioned credibility within my working lifetime. Given the fact that we are imperfect, I think it will be over a decade before the world thinks we are consistently trying to do more good than harm. All bets are off if everyone suffers through a great calamity -- at that point, our behavior during the crisis will be what's remembered. Personally, though, I hope we have to earn it the hard way -- I'm not wishing for a great disaster.

Financially, I see only about a 5% chance of making it ten years without being taken down a couple of notches.

6/12/2006 12:04 AM  
Blogger DED said...

Our credibility will be shot for a long time. When the time comes to go after someone who's a real threat, the rest of the world will look on us with disdain as the villagers did when the little boy cried wolf.

6/13/2006 10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh for heaven's sake - get over yourself. Do you want us to start a war with China instead? Fine.

Go back to Clinton, and remember how much "urging" he did. Remember the "let's tie China down with as many international agreements as we can and then *presto* they'll turn democratic" schtick. We tried that for a time. And how well did that one work? Liberal Internationalism doesn't work. The realists would just as much assume the world doesn't exist b/c they're too afraid to try and think of ways to fix anything. I had enough of those kinds of professors in grad school, and the whole concept is just a joke, it's run it's course. Bush might be having a tough time of it, but so has every other presidential administration in history. Don't pretend you and your "realist" buddies have any answers because you guys haven't even been paying attention to the problems since the wall came down more than 15 years ago. The answer to every problem isn't just to withdraw into a cocoon. Actually, that's not fair - the realists among us are still pulling their share - heaven knows if Russia still ever decides to invade Europe, your pals will be right on top of things.

Let me ask you, as the "realist," how do we get China to recognize human rights? I'm listening.

7/04/2006 10:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha - silly me. I almost forgot - what realist has ever cared about human rights?

7/04/2006 10:47 PM  
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