My previous mocking of conspiracy theories in past postings shows I have little time for such approaches, mainly because they are evidence proof, as per the cartoon at the foot of this posting that I re-post because it is relevant. But obviously sometimes there are indeed conspiracies or maybe just some systemic forces line things up a bit. So what I post below is just a plausible hypothesis. I am not suggesting it is true, but that it might make you think a little differently about our current problems in the US and in other places.
Some years ago, I read that the Chinese Government was studying British history of the 16th and 17th centuries to try to figure out how it was that England was able to overtake Spain, the previous dominant power without much direct confrontation, leave aside an Armada or three. That’s all I read, but knowing that period well, I guess it does not take long to guess what the Chinese may have learned: namely that England, for much of the period, supported the Dutch who were fighting the Spanish for independence. This war, like most wars, drained Spain and so by the time it was all over, in mid 17th century, Spain was broke and no longer any real threat to England’s rise to dominance, which also soon overtook the Dutch too. So when overtaking a previous dominant power, proxies help diffuse the direct conflict, and may avoid it altogether. Hmmm, that is interesting.
So what might China have done with this insight in say 1998. Well, I guess they could have said: ‘How can we involve the US in a draining war, with someone other than ourselves? Well how about talking to our allies in the Pakistan military and use them as a proxy, and in turn have them use the Taliban in Afghanistan as a second order proxy and even Al Qaida a third level proxy and have them carry out some terrorist outrage that will force America to invade Afghanistan, well known sink for empires?’. No real risk and lots of upside for China.
Actually involving the US in Afghanistan (and subsequently Iraq) has a major military advantages: faced with immediate challenges of counter-insurgency, the US military will lose sight of the challenges that a fast-rising Chinese military poses, and not understand what is happening, overwhelmed by the challenges of ‘eating soup with a fork’ as counter- insurgency is often described. The result: not enough focus on cyber warfare, anti-ship missiles, satellite-killing missiles and a lot of focus on defeating IEDs and AK-47s, which is what is currently killing our boys and girls. Cunning eh?
Of course, even China could not have known that 9/11 didn’t just lead to the US invading Afghanistan, which it did very economically and effectively to begin with, but that 9/11 was used as an excuse to invade Iraq, which had nothing to do with it. And that this war cost the USA trillions of dollars and severely weakened the USA and immeasurably strengthened China. Guess who loaned the money to the US to keep it wasting away? China by buying US Government bonds. Well there you go: George W Bush as force multiplier for the Chinese plan.
Now an external war might weaken the USA, but would not be enough to really avoid confrontation, if America remained strong and united. China might also have wanted to co-opt large American companies by giving them a stake in China’s growth. This would ensure that the political lobbying industry in Washington would make sure nothing adverse to these interests would happen. Imagine if the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War was supplying Wal Mart with $40 billion of cheap goods and you get the idea.
But that was not enough. You need to attack the central nervous system of the American public, and polarize it and dumb it down. Enter Rupert Murdoch. He can see the writing on the wall. He has growing business interests in China. He has moved from the small pool of Australia, to the larger pool of the UK and then the US. And he wants to be on the side of history. He has Fox News, a successful US conservative TV station. Why not have him magnify the culture wars and convince conservatives, the most obvious worriers about the rise of China, that their real enemy is internal: liberals! Big government! A Black President! Bingo! You have now really paralysed America, made it hard to achieve compromise on its fiscal deficit problems, and in all likelihood, made major defense spending cuts inevitable. Thank you Rupert Murdoch: this is the real damage he has done: fomented a cultural political civil war between left and right and who gains: China! So Murdoch and the Tea Party are China’s Trojan Horses. Neat eh? And it gets better: China owns about a third of News International, Murdoch’s holding company. The Saudis that other great force for progressive politics owns another third I think.
So I have no data whatsoever for this hypothesis, and am very happy if someone can undermine or disprove it. But it is plausible, and even if not literally true, it re-frames the last ten years of history in a new way, and this blog is all about such fresh perspectives. So let me know what you think?
And by the way, I have no wish for conflict with China, but I do think that these periods of shifting balance of power are very dangerous, and caused the First and Second World Wars for example, and so, above all, I want to stop the US sleep walking into situations it does not understand, deluded by shrill political voices aka Fox News and the Tea Party pointing at the wrong problem, which is ‘behind you!‘ as they say in pantomime.