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August 07, 2005

Why Oh Why Can't We Have Better Think Tanks (AEI Defense Policy Is a Real Embarrassment Edition)

The world would be much better off if the American Enterprise Institute's funders would simply pull the plug on defense studies. What do they produce that isn't a pure waste of photons?

Here we have the intelligent Justin Logan critiquing AEI on defense:

JustinLogan.com: How Do We Expect Rising Great Powers to Act?: Dan Blumenthal... at AEI. [He and his coauthors] present a long list of Chinese grievances that should lead us to see a strategic threat from China... such egregious and threatening postures as:

  • China's noncompliance with its pledges to the World Trade Organization;
  • Its failure to use its leverage with North Korea to end Pyongyang's game of nuclear Russian roulette;
  • Its continuing refusal to abide by human rights and refugee conventions it has signed; and
  • Its obstructionist policies on Iran, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Burma.

They did take the liberty of including issues that actually matter.... But... I'm simply confounded at the utter lack of not just realism but simple reality in this assessment. It's as though they absolutely expect a rising second-tier great power to simply prostrate itself at the feet of American "benevolent hegemony.".... We can argue about what we should do, but by convincing ourselves that China should do nothing in the face of its own growing might and our reluctance to give it an inch of respect is incredibly absurd....

Tom Donnelly rattled on (and on) about grand strategy regarding China, and ended up embracing what sounded a whole like Zalmay Khalilzad's old "congagement" schtick... a program of economic engagement, building up China's political and economic power, but military containment: not letting it close the gap in military capabilities in any significant way. But that's ridiculous: a great power whose economic and political might is growing is necessarily going to seek a larger security role, at the very least in its own region....

As Gene recently noted, "Having recently crapped the bed on the Iraq issue, one would think that Boot, Gaffney, Woolsey, Kristol, et al. would have the decency to maintain a studied silence on national security issues for a time." Maybe that the Axis of Hawkery would clam up for a bit...

And Matthew Yglesias adds:

TAPPED: August 2005 Archives: From where I sit the most frustrating thing is that, as is so often the case, our neocon friends are not being very clear.... China is getting richer and trying to tilt the balance of power in the region more in its favor. So why might China not succeed in accomplishing this? Well, they might just decide not to try.... They also might not succeed because we decide to fight a preventative war with them before they get more powerful. That, it seems to me, would "work," although the costs would be enormous. If that's what this crowd is after, they ought to say so. Last, they might not succeed because their economic growth might come to an end. Again, if the neocons want the United States to embark on an effort to cripple the Chinese economy, they ought to say so....

The reasonable alternative is to conclude that if all goes well -- if we don't fight a destructive war with China, if China's population doesn't remain trapped in dire poverty -- then it will eventually become unsustainable for the United States to be the dominant military force in the immediate vicinity of China. The thing to be afraid of, it seems to me, is not that China will become more powerful (it's bound to happen anyway) but that this more powerful China will have poor relations with the United States. Whether or not that happens is in large part outside our control. But it's certainly within our power not to ensure that it does happen by engaging in a futile arms race or a lunatic effort to keep China poor...

Posted by DeLong at August 7, 2005 07:05 PM