February 24, 2006

UNREALISM (via Pepys):

A passage to India: The pitfalls awaiting George Bush in the subcontinent (The Economist Feb 23rd 2006)

Mr Bush needs to avoid two kinds of mistake. The first, and most serious, would be to shower America's new friend with gifts that the United States can ill afford. Unfortunately, this has already happened. In July, when India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, visited Washington, he came home with a remarkable present: a promise from Mr Bush that he would aim to share American civilian nuclear technology with India.

That was too generous. Under American and international law, such technology can be given only to countries that have renounced nuclear weapons and joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. India has never joined the treaty, and it tested nuclear weapons in 1998. Mr Bush, in effect, was driving a coach and horses through the treaty in order to suit his own strategic ends, a move that invites the accusation of hypocrisy from other nuclear states and wannabes not so favoured. The idea was that India, in return, should take steps to satisfy the Americans on a long list of nuclear-security concerns, such as not exporting weapons technology and continuing to observe a moratorium on testing. Most important, India was asked to separate its civilian and military nuclear programmes, with the former subject to a rigorous inspection regime.

So far, however, the proposals offered by the Indians actually to do all this are far from adequate. As Mr Bush packs his bags, desperate attempts are being made to bridge the gap. The obvious danger is that in order to portray his summit as a success Mr Bush will be tempted to accept even fewer safeguards from India. That would be a dangerous mistake: nuclear proliferation matters too much to allow excessive wiggle-room or create bad precedents. Fortunately, whatever deal is agreed between Mr Bush and Mr Singh will also require the approval of America's Congress, which has already taken a dim view of Mr Bush's nuclear generosity to India.

Sending the wrong signal on nuclear weapons is not the only potential pitfall in America's romance with India. Mr Bush should also be wary of sending the wrong signal about America's intentions towards China. Too often when Indian-American relations are discussed in Washington, the notion is invoked that India might somehow turn out to be a “counterweight” to China. Yet it is hard to see, in practical terms, what sort of counterweight India could actually be. On the contrary, that sort of talk is liable only to reinforce China's fear that America's grand strategic design is to encircle it and block its rise as a great power. That fear has already been strengthened by America's recent transfer of some of its military might from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The United States should not base its Asian strategy on that sort of balance-of-power diplomacy. Apart from anything else, India is far too canny, and cares too much about its own China relationship, to be drawn into such a game. Instead of encircling China, Mr Bush should concentrate on putting the American relationship with it on the right footing: deeper engagement, coupled with a determination to make China play by the rules. Yet Mr Bush's approach to this rising superpower has sometimes seemed almost casual: Hu Jintao, China's president, had been made to wait far too long for his state visit to Washington even before Hurricane Katrina forced him to cancel a visit last August. And Mr Bush has not worked hard enough at home to make the free-trade case against the protectionist hawks gunning for China (though, to be fair to him, he has not given them much comfort either).

Mr Bush must also take care to ensure that friendship with India does not damage his close ties to Pakistan, another American ally the president intends to visit on this trip.

India is a democratic ally. China is a nucleart-armed Communist nation and Pakistan a nuclear-armed, potentially Islamicist one. If you don't get that the India/America relationship is in good part about containing evil then you ought to have your Realist club membership privileges revoked.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 24, 2006 1:53 PM

Remember, these are the same people who think we should give Iran all sorts of nuclear toys in exchange for them promising not to use it to blow anyone up--though presumably not actually signing any treaties to that effect.

Posted by: Timothy at February 24, 2006 2:19 PM

These are the same people that put as much faith in treaties as little children do in the Easter Bunny.

("I know the Easter Bunny is tucked away safe in his toadstool house up in the fjords of British Columbia.")

Posted by: Mikey at February 24, 2006 4:13 PM

China [fears] that America's grand strategic design is to encircle it and block its rise as a great power.

How 19th century.

Global "greatness" is no longer measured by the extent of one's colonies, nor by the ability to invade and occupy one's neighbors.

In a military context, to be a 21st century "great power" requires first the ability to deliver nuclear weapons globally via ICBM, and second the ability to deliver large numbers of troops and equipment globally via air and/or sea.
Neither of those abilities is hampered in the slightest by whom one's neighbors are allied with, and in both categories China has quite a ways to go to reach "greatness".

However, the military route is not the only way to "greatness", there's also the economic route and the lesser scientific route.

Japan, for instance, is not a great military power, but they are an economic powerhouse and very influential in world affairs, while having a powerful enough military force to deter aggression.

China would be wise to emulate Japan before trying to emulate America, particularly since nuclear ICBMs will become much less powerful during the 21st century era of missile defense, and conventional forces will rise in power with remotely-controlled machines taking over half of the job of fighting wars, with the humans remaining in combat more Starship Trooper/James Bond/ninja than traditional dress-right-dress military formation.

If China doesn't become fabulously wealthy and technologically adept, they risk spending all of their money on nuke missiles and troop carriers, only to find out that such have only modest applicability on 21st century battlefields, and then not have the wherewithal to catch up.
Best to get rich first, powerful second.

Lastly, there is a low-level global power that can come from being very innovative.
Israel is regionally powerful, but not a global military power. They are modestly wealthy by advanced-nation standards, but not top-tier.

Where they really shine is in scientific R & D.

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at February 24, 2006 6:22 PM

Great post Noam, but maybe it's good that China appears to be following the Russian approach. Good for us, that is.

Posted by: jdkelly at February 24, 2006 6:44 PM

Ah, but see, it's not China making the choice, but the ChiComs. And they dare not embrace the End of History. Remember what Lou said.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at February 24, 2006 8:20 PM


While I usually phrase it differently, Lou Gots and I are in total agreement on that point.

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at February 26, 2006 8:21 AM
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