The China Cold War Will Unstick America’s Glue
Can an America that off-shored much of its manufacturing capacity to China, for short-term profit, afford the de-coupling?
Washington isn’t quite sure what to do after the chaotic end to America’s ‘forever’ war. Some in Washington bitterly regret exiting from Afghanistan at all, and advocate for an immediate return; some just want to move on – to the China ‘Cold War’, that is. The cries from the initial Establishment ‘melt down’ and its articulation of pain over the Kabul withdrawal débacle, however, indicates the extent to which the almost obsessive focus on ‘Hobbling China’ nevertheless seems like an humiliating retreat to U.S. hawks, habituated to more global, and unlimited interventions.
It is a retreat. ‘Rome’ is relegating its ‘distant provinces’ to their own devices, and even its abutting loyalist inner circle is being downgraded to ‘benign’ indifference. It is a drawing-in towards the ‘hub’, a ‘circling of wagons’ – the better to muster energies for a lunge out at China.
There are the acquiescent regions that Americans occupied after WW II (the psychologically-seared Japan and Germany), and then there is the American world empire, which exists chimerically wherever U.S. commercial and cultural power reaches, and more practically in its patchwork of client states and military installations. This third empire is regarded by many Americans as its most remarkable achievement – a triumph of the ‘City of Light’.
The post 9/11 era’s final ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ dénouement scene at Kabul Airport did however, clearly convey a strong end-of-the-Roman Empire feel. Yes, failure in Afghanistan may have taken place far from Rome itself, yet something more profound today hangs in the air: a Change of Era.
And defeats on distant frontiers, can entail profound consequences – closer to the imperial core – as a sense of accelerating imperial decline bleeds into domestic arguments, widening already yawning ideological rifts.
An embedded national consensus can change very slowly, and then, under the right pressure, all at once. And in many subtle and sometimes chaotic ways, that trigger for change came from Trump. No dove or systematiser, he nonetheless made realism and anti-interventionism, quasi-respectable again.
Elbridge Colby, who was in Trump’s Pentagon helping devise its national defence strategy, has a new book, The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict, making the case for a foreign policy that leaves the post-9/11 era clearly and decisively behind. The outer circle of the ‘periphery’ reduces to over-horizon, necro-tech management, and the ‘near provinces of empire’, such as Europe are dismissed as ‘sideshows’ to the main event – China. To focus on Iran or North Korea, he says, is simply misguided.
It is “a realist’s book, laser-focused on China’s bid for mastery in Asia as the 21st century’s most important threat”, Ross Douthat writes in the NY Times. “All other challenges are secondary: Only China threatens American interests in a profound way, through a consolidation of economic power in Asia that imperils our prosperity and a military de
Article from LewRockwell