Swans Commentary » swans.com November 15, 2010  



Thinking It Over


by Michael Doliner





(Swans - November 15, 2010)   The New York Times quotes one David Shambaugh as follows:

'This administration came in with one dominant idea: make China a global partner in facing global challenges,' said David Shambaugh, director of the China policy program at George Washington University. 'China failed to step up and play that role. Now, they realize they're dealing with an increasingly narrow-minded, self-interested, truculent, hyper-nationalist and powerful country.'

Some Peter Lee at Counterpunch notes, "[W]hen Dr. Shambaugh says something like that, one has to think about it."

Okay, so let's think about what Dr. Shambaugh has said. Stripped of gobbledygook Dr. Shambaugh is saying, "The United States wanted to play nice with fair rules for all, but China didn't want to play nicely with others, so now China is forced to realize that the U.S. is no longer Mr. Nice Guy."

So, I guess, the U.S. wasn't narrow-minded, self-interested, truculent, and powerful before China's naughtiness? Or was it already all these things but China just discovered it? Of course, if it already was these things, then the US offer to play nice was a sham. And, of course again, anyone with any brains has known for years that playing nice with the U.S., for other countries, meant exposing oneself to Wall Street financial manipulations. Do we think that the Chinese have forgotten the Asian monetary crisis of the late nineties, from which only Malaysia, who restricted currency flows against US neoliberal dogma, came out all right? Do we seriously think China doesn't know how the U.S. benefits from dollar hegemony and that the U.S. destroyed Iraq in large part for threatening to do business in another currency? China did not just realize that the U.S. is not Mr. Nice Guy.

So, clearly, China had nothing to realize, the US offer to play nice was a sham, and Dr. Shambaugh's pissed off nice guy of a USA is twaddle. Dr. Shambaugh is a highly respected China expert; so, after thinking about it, I conclude that he is blowing smoke up my ass. I just wonder whether he is blowing smoke up his own ass as well. In other words I don't know whether Dr. Shambaugh is a con man or an idiot. But, for the sake of interest, let us assume that he is a con man. He wants me to think that China's bad behavior has awakened this angry, righteous, "powerful" giant. Why does he want me to think this? Is he preparing me, the ordinary reader of The New York Times, for some kind of a US military attack on China? Does he want me to think that China's bad behavior will justify this attack? But surely the U.S. does not intend to get into a war with China. China has nuclear weapons. How about a limited war, a little fuzzy cuddly war we can all profit from? Uh uh. Big powers don't get into little fuzzy cuddly wars with each other. Once it's war it's all out war. For no one is going to quietly lose. If the U.S. tries to, say, limit traffic through the Straits of Malacca, China will take that as an act of war.

Dr. Shambaugh suggests that there might be ways to put "pressure" through alliances and the diligent application of economic pliers. I frankly don't see how. China makes almost everything people want. China has all the money. No one is going to stop trading with China. The BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, and China -- are aligning against the U.S. Our ability to affect China financially is nil unless we want to turn the dollar into Weimar confetti. On the contrary, it's China who is applying the economic pliers to us.

Dr. Shambaugh knows that the U.S. has no leverage against China, but he wants me to think that it does. Why? I must admit that throwing in the word "powerful" at the end sounds a bit like whistling through the graveyard to me. Then again, maybe he doesn't care what I think and is merely trying to cheer up the ruling class? For if Dr. Shambaugh is trying to con me, it's hard to see the point. After all, they've pursued all their wars against my wishes so far; so why wouldn't they continue doing it? What I or any other duped reader of The New York Times thinks will certainly have no influence on what they do. And if they are not going to go to war, what's the point of trying to convince me that such a war is justified?

In the end I have to think that Dr. Shambaugh is indifferent to what I think. He is writing for another audience. He wants to con them. But who are they? Why, the only possible candidate is the rulers themselves. Even though no one in the "outside world" believes the fantasy of honest Sam trying to make the unruly heathens play nice, they want to believe in it themselves. You see, here's the thing: it's not easy to talk out of one side of your mouth in private and the other in public. Far easier to swallow your own bullshit. If everyone you talk to, all the experts and big shots say the same thing, it's easy to believe it. Those in charge have to shovel the shit into their own brains to talk the talk to us. Dr. Shambaugh is weaving this illusion for himself and the other important thinkers who are in charge of this policy. In other words Dr. Shambaugh is a con man conning himself into becoming an idiot. Nice work if you can get it. I guess you have to be a China expert.

Like Obama with his saber rattling against Iran, Dr. Shambaugh wants to work himself up into a fit of insanity. They want to work themselves up into a world-annihilating war. It is a war they know, in their saner moments, is insane. But the alternative is for the United States to give up its empire. Can't we see that the US bases in Iraq have no effect on politics there? We have destroyed their country, committed horrors, and they are still telling us to go fuck ourselves. We can't beat people into submission any more. Everybody knows Iran has more influence in Iraq than we do. Also, our armies are falling apart. They are committing suicide. Vietnam vets say they came home to hostility; these guys are coming home to jack shit. Oh, were you in a war? Didn't know there was one. Our grip is slipping and will slip ever faster unless... unless what? Unless all you faggoty little countries start listening to us Americans right now! If you don't we'll...we'll... but all we can do is start world-annihilating atomic war. For we are not capable of even launching, let alone pursuing, a little war. All our drones and death squads are only building the opposition. Only the true sociopaths in the army supply it with any energy. The ordinary everyday guys, those who have managed to fail Sociopath Studies, the course of instruction the military gives new recruits, know all they were told is bullshit, and it bothers them. I don't know why. Our grip is slipping, has already slipped, but the tight little bat-shit clique at the top can't let go. With nothing else left, their ruling ideology of empire maintenance now requires them to launch global war. And this is what Shambaugh and the rest of the rulers are trying to make themselves crazy enough and stupid enough to do!


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About the Author

Michael Doliner studied with Hannah Arendt at the University of Chicago (1964-1970) and has taught at Valparaiso University and Ithaca College. He lives with his family in Ithaca, N.Y.   (back)


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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published November 15, 2010