China and Iran and Grand Strategy

I hope that Iran and nuclear (that’s nucular to you, Mr. President) proliferation are on the agenda during Hu Jintao’s visit to the US.

I don’t see how we can have a Grand Strategy for Iran or other potential, future problem states that want nuclear tech without thinking through the China angle. 

I suspect China is reasonably happy to have us worry about this issue. Think about it from their perspective.  If you were Hu, and you were trying to devise your 30-year plan vis-a-vis the predominant global superpower, and your plans to achieve global supremacy by, say, 2040, you’d want to do two things:

1. Make them (meaning, us) feel less threatened now by your rise, with a "peaceful" rise slogan and program that the Chinese are vigorously promoting. That’s their #1 message this visit.

2. Keep that other, incumbent superpower (again, that’s us, the US) off-balance by not doing anything much about problem states like Iran and North Korea.

Sure, I get that part of what drives China’s unwillingness to grapple with Iran in particular is that they want to keep the oil flowing to drive their economy. But, be real, it’s ideal for them to have the US bogged down with yet another international crisis, depleting our treasury, taking focus away from dealing with our domestic problems, and allowing the internal rot to worsen. Invest in roads, schools, our health care systems, fostering our technology industries? Hard to do when we’re spending money on lots of foreign adventures and lowering taxes and increasing our debt and debt obligations.

Of course, because we adopted our Pre-emptive Unilateralism grand strategy a few years ago, back when we still believed Chalabi’s assurances we’d be greeted in Iraq with flowers and cheers, we’ve boxed ourselves into a corner when it comes to actually pressuring China to help out on this and to behave more responsibly.

We have an uphill battle with the Europeans, who we’ve blown off and told we don’t need or want. Besides, they don’t want to piss off the Chinese, especially the French and Germans, who are too busy trying to sell them as much stuff as they can (including arms, someday). The Japanese have to tread carefully. So we’re on our own.

You keep going back to those weeks and months after 9/11 — when there was sympathy and potential for unity of action among democratic nations and governments, particularly those in the West — and what we could have done differently. What George 41 might have done, for example (not to mention Al Gore).  We might have tightened our Atlantic Alliance in particular, and been in a position to force China to engage more productively on these issues with the combined economic weight of Europe, the United States, and maybe other economies like Brazil and India.

Now all we can do is just jaw-jaw. They’ll nod politely, use their WTO membership to keep sending us lots of cheap goods, keep working to drive a wedge between us and the Europeans, and happliy ignore Ahmadinejad and his fellow crazies.