Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Is Trump Itching to Start a War with China?

During last year's presidential primary campaign Donald Trump blamed George W. Bush for 9/11 and excoriated Bush and VP Dick Cheney for lying in order to start a wasteful, stupid war with Iraq that Trump claims he never supported (even though he publicly agreed that Bush should attack Iraq, admittedly with some reluctance).

Now Trump seems bound and determined to start his own war. This time with China. And not just a trade war -- he seems to be aiming for a shooting war.

All through the presidential campaign Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Chinese goods. He blamed the Chinese for stealing American jobs. Though, in fact, American companies like Walmart were responsible for forcing suppliers to move their production to Asia, and companies like Apple were only too happy to do so, and also hide their profits overseas to avoid taxes.

Such tariffs would be against WTO agreements, and would cause Americans to pay much higher prices for the foreseeable future, since so many products are produced in China. It would also invite retaliation from China, closing markets for American exports, such as agricultural goods, which would hurt American farmers and manufacturers -- because we do export a fair amount to China as it is.

Days after the election, Trump called the president of Taiwan, breaking with a decades-long one-China policy. This was a huge insult to the Chinese, who have dogmatically insisted that Taiwan isn't its own country, but a "renegade province." China reacted negatively, of course.

And then, shortly after assuming the presidency, Trump vowed that the United States would prevent China from expanding into the Spratly Islands, imposing a blockade if necessary.

Such a blockade would be an act of war.

Trump's secretary of state nominee said as much during his confirmation hearings:
"The U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there," Spicer said when asked if Trump agreed with comments by his secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, on Jan. 11 that China should not be allowed access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea.

"It's a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we're going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country," he said.
What exactly are our interests there? Nobody lives there, because until China started building these islands from scratch they didn't exist. Over the last few years China has been dumping sediment from the seafloor onto coral reefs in the South China sea.

Peter Thiel, a huge Trump supporter, proposed "seasteads" as a way to try out his libertarian ideals: guys would just go out and build islands on the ocean to create free enterprise paradises. The only difference between Thiel's proposal and what China is doing is a matter of a few miles -- the Spratlys are 150 nautical miles from the Philippines, 50 miles short of the 200 required by international law.

I don't think that China should just be able to start creating new territories for itself in the back yard of the Philippines. But Philippines President Duterte just got done telling America to go to hell, saying that he's going to ally himself with the Chinese. He seems to be fine with what China's island building project. In other words, we don't have an ally or other interests to defend there any more. Other than the gas and petroleum deposits that just happen to be there, which is probably the only reason Rex Tillerson cares about it.

Trump also just killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have cemented our relations with the countries most affected by China's expansionary policies. Although Trump characterized the TPP as benefiting China, in reality it would have united the US and Asian nations against Chinese economic hegemony.

So, Trump seems to be willing to go to war with China over a few sand bars on the other side of the world, to defend the territories of a president who soundly rejects America as an ally and trade partners that Trump just rejected.

Compare that with Trump's remarks about NATO, which he claims is obsolete. We have treaties, troops and actual economic interests in Europe, an alliance that has endured for more than 60 years. An alliance that proved strong enough to bring down the Berlin Wall and destroy communism.

An alliance that Trump now wants to abandon to pursue "good deals" with Russia.

Any time Donald Trump says the word "deal" you know that means more money in his pocket: he's willing to sell out our democratic allies to a Russian dictator for a few shekels.

China has the largest army in the world. It has a sophisticated space program. It has advanced military technology such as drones. It has greater industrial capacity than the United States and four times the population. It has nuclear weapons. It has killer satellites. War with China could mean hundreds of thousands or millions dead, the destruction of our entire communications and power infrastructure from EMP attacks, global economic chaos, not to mention the destruction of our GPS and weather forecasting capabilities after the Chinese blow our satellites out of the sky.

Going to war against China absent a direction provocation against US territories (another Gulf of Tonkin deception won't cut it) would be a catastrophically stupid move. It would be make Bush's Iraq blunder look like a bar fight.

And right before threatening war with China Trump is blowing off all our NATO and Asian allies. Smart move. Our new president is such a great negotiator.

Trump appears to be under the delusion that he can team up with Russia to defeat China. But Trump seems to be playing the US and China against each other, the same way he used Syria and ISIS to play the Europeans against each other.

I can just imagine Putin egging Trump on: "Da, Meester Trahmp, I vill khev your beck against Cheenese."

And then Volodya will just sit back and watch China and the US destroy each other while he gobbles up eastern Europe. After all, Russia is north of the fallout zones in China and the US. It wouldn't be any worse than Chernobyl. The Russians are a hardy people, used to radioactive fallout.

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