The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Middle East as America's Maginot Line

Serious foreign policy troubles are brewing for the US in the Far East. Meanwhile, most of our army is hunkered down in Iraq and few reassurances exist that we are preparing for the most realistic threats.

Aside from terrorism, the greatest threat to our security lies with North Korea and China. North Korea's threat is obvious. But China gets less attention. Last week, an article in the New York Times gave further reason for worry.

At a time when the American military is consumed with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, global terrorism and the threat of nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran, China is presenting a new and strategically different security concern to America, as well as to Japan and Taiwan, in the western Pacific, Pentagon and military officials say.

China, these officials say, has smartly analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of the American military and has focused its growing defense spending on weapons systems that could exploit the perceived American weaknesses in case the United States ever needs to respond to fighting in Taiwan.


Since China is such an important trading partner you don't hear a lot of discussion about the threat from this country. The State Department has long held sway over the US public line on China and whenever Presidential candidates succeed in becoming President, they quickly tone down any rhetoric on issues like the rmb/dollar peg, trade issues, human rights abuses, and China's aggressive and expansionist eye on territories like Taiwan and the disputed islands off China's coast. Clinton and Bush out did themselves in the speed with which they both back-pedaled on campaign rhetoric.

The Times article makes clear that China's aggressive efforts to build up the military pose serious long term threats to US interests in the region. But there are also other signs that should concern an interested observer. At a briefing at the Aspen Institute two summers ago, intelligence experts told attendees that China conducts all its war games with the US as the opponent in mind. Of even greater concern is the growing imbalance between the proportion of males in that society and the proportion of females. Due to birth restrictions and the social preference for males, by some estimates, "110.51 male infants were born for every 100 female infants." In the 1990s, the ratio rose to 120 males for every 100 female births. Two MIT political scientists have published a book which argues that such imbalances threaten world peace since countries with skewed proportions of males have an increased likelihood of going to war.

1) too much testosterone flowing in society can be destabilizing
2) war provides a corrective mechanism
In a new book, Bare Branches: Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population (MIT Press), Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer warn that the spread of sex selection is giving rise to a generation of restless young men who will not find mates. History, biology, and sociology all suggest that these "surplus males" will generate high levels of crime and social disorder, the authors say. Even worse, they continue, is the possibility that the governments of India and China will build up huge armies in order to provide a safety valve for the young men's aggressive energies.

"In 2020 it may seem to China that it would be worth it to have a very bloody battle in which a lot of their young men could die in some glorious cause," says Ms. Hudson, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University.
Futurepundit has a more extensive discussion of demographic issues related to China and their implications.

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