Monday, May 16, 2005

Managing the ChiComs?

In the wake of 9-11-01 and the US retaliation, Robert Kagan wrote a seminal article in Foreign Affairs describing the Hard Power/Soft Power dichotomy, why the Europeans were wedded to soft power only and why the US use of armed might threatened EUtopian delusions.

Simply stated: Read whatever he writes. And yesterday he wrote about how the US is trying to "manage" the rising power in the Far East, China. Beware those efforts:

The history of rising powers, however, and their attempted "management" by established powers provides little reason for confidence or comfort. Rarely have rising powers risen without sparking a major war that reshaped the international system to reflect new realities of power. The most successful "management" of a rising power in the modern era was Britain's appeasement of the United States in the late 19th century, when the British effectively ceded the entire Western Hemisphere (except Canada) to the expansive Americans. The fact that both powers shared a common liberal, democratic ideology, and thus roughly consonant ideas of international order, greatly lessened the risk of accommodation from the British point of view.

Other examples are less encouraging. Germany's rise after 1870, and Europe's reaction to it, eventually produced World War I. Even the masterly Bismarck, after a decade of successful German self-management, had a difficult time steering Europe away from collision. The British tried containment, appeasement and even offers of alliance, but never fully comprehended Kaiser Wilhelm's need to challenge the British supremacy he both admired and envied. Right up until the eve of war, highly regarded observers of the European scene believed commercial ties among the leading powers made war between them unlikely, if not impossible.

Japan's rise after 1868 produced two rounds of warfare -- first with China and Russia at the turn of the century, and later with the United States and Britain in World War II. The initial Anglo-American response to Japan's growing power was actually quite accommodating. Meiji Japan had chosen the path of modernization and even Westernization, or so it seemed, and Americans welcomed its ascendancy over backward China and despotic Russia. Then, too, there was the paternalistic hope of assisting Japan's entry into the international system, which was to say the Western system. "The Japs have played our game," Theodore Roosevelt believed, and only occasionally did he wonder whether "the Japanese down at bottom did not lump Russians, English, Americans, Germans, all of us, simply as white devils inferior to themselves . . . and to be treated politely only so long as would enable the Japanese to take advantage of our national jealousies, and beat us in turn."

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