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thedrifter
06-30-05, 03:51 AM
06.28.2005
Two Eastern Powers Are Baiting the U.S.
By Michael S. Woodson

The United States must not bite the baited hooks set before it by Asia's two greatest powers.

The North Korean nuclear standoff is one of those hooks. Reeling it in is communist China (PRC), which has been using it as a distracter. One moment, the lure leaps, then it lags. It looks like a breakthrough, then it looks like a breakdown in talks. It is not hard to use another nation as a diversion when its leader is so deranged. Like a hapless parent of a grown man who throws temper tantrums, China can credibly shrug and ask what a rational country is to do with a neighbor like President Kim Jong-il. How fortuitous to have such a neighbor.

Meanwhile, China beefs up its military spending, posing an expanding threat to the region. Simultaneously, Russian-Chinese military cooperation is growing. As the United States feeds the Chinese economy, the Chinese economy buys Russian arms and expertise.

And if that is not enough of a concern, a hard-line Islamic revolutionary now ascends to the Iranian presidency while Iran upgrades its nuclear capability with the help of Russian companies.

President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the values of the 1979 Iranian revolution, brought to you by the people who took the staff of the U.S. embassy hostage for over a year. President Putin is playing this wireless lure through a corporate agent. One moment, Iran is seeking peaceful nuclear energy only. The lure sinks. And in the next, a Jihadist-elect smiles shark-like at a groaning world, and the silver spoon cuts a new wake in Israel's not so peaceful sleep. So Russia imitates a tried and true U.S. tactic, masking government action in a corporate agent. Challenged, one can imagine Mr. Putin saying, "Nyet! We can't tell our corporations what to do! That would be un-American!"

And Pakistan's government is a vulnerable constant. It is a nuclear power precariously balanced on the points of too many Islamic militant spears servicing Al-Qaeda at home and opposing the United States. These developments are the bait that China and Russia counted on to divert the United States from higher priorities such as homeland security, larger and better equipped ground forces, and a successful counter-guerilla strategy in Iraq.

The United States has not only been slugging it out in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has been trying to rebuild Iraq's shattered infrastructure and help Afghanistan to establish one. And of course we are also trying to broker peace between Israel and Palestine, going so far as to rattle sabers at Syria. Now look at Lebanon: Iran's pro-Syria surrogate, Hezbollah, shows its clout in Lebanese elections just as Iran puts another extremist in Khomeini's stead. There are so many coincidences, the world looks like a game of concentration without the hearts.

At the same time, the Bush administration is attempting a thorough overhaul of the U.S. armed forces and our military doctrine to adapt to the unstable strategic and tactical environment of the early 21st century.

With fewer future overseas military bases, the Pentagon is shifting to a force-projection model that will require a number of major supporting bases at home. And as some observers are warning, the ongoing BRAC process may lead to more centralized bases, giving our adversaries a smaller set of bigger targets for the WMD flavor of the day.

While we are so busy, various combinations of Russian and Chinese surrogates-of-necessity may be urged to provoke America with a stream of incidents and threats against us or to host terrorist bases. Such incremental distraction would scatter downsized American forces while the watchful Asian giants calmly continue their cooperative military buildup, working together as clandestinely as possible while America can do little to stop them.

A worse-case scenario would see Russia and China deepening military cooperation to create an Asian version of NATO, or perhaps a common force such as has been contemplated for the European Union. Combining Russian air, naval and materiel assets with the Chinese ground forces could create a formidable adversary as China's economy grows to supply it.

The PRC itself may not rest if it could make geographic gains in the interim. Pakistan cuts two ways should it be overrun by Islamist militants, and China would suddenly have a nuclear neighbor that considered it an infidel power.

A map of China and its neighbors suggests some flashpoints: A narrow strip of Afghanistan where United States military operations are continuing borders China, and a wider swath of Afghanistan is only about 300 miles away. How would U.S. leaders feel if there were active and lethal Chinese military operations going on 300 miles from the United States border somewhere in Mexico, with large military airfields being installed?

And yet China may be banking on American forces to invade Pakistan from Afghanistan should the pro-American Musharraf administration fall and radical Jihadists try to take over. I suspect that American, Indian and Chinese forces could meet each other in Pakistan if that happened. Recall also that India and China fought a brief, if inconclusive, border war in 1962, making forays beyond Nepal less inviting to the South. Raising the stakes is the fact that India, China and Pakistan are all nuclear powers.

To buffer itself to the south and west and defend in all directions, the PRC may look to Nepal. Nepal is a strategic mountainous kingdom between India and China that could serve as a tactical advantage for guerilla, missile or special operations by whomever controlled it. By controlling Nepal as a base and as a buffer, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) could achieve natural defensive and offensive options. Chinese and Russian military assets could also help the Chinese project force from Nepal, for example, with varied ranges and directions of first strike tactical missile batteries built into concealed mountain silos.

The recent successes by the Maoist rebels in Nepal, combined with some bad decisions from the Nepalese throne, may have already invited the PLA into Nepal to prepare to "liberate" it with a puppet regime. The PRC would then gain a mountain defense zone and more space for settlers, as it did in Tibet.

As U.S. forces and allies hem in closer to the PRC, such as in Afghanistan, South Korea, Japan and actively, in the Philippines, it is reasonable to believe that the PLA may prepare for more than an invasion of Taiwan.

And, while militant Islamists threaten American, Chinese and Russian interests, they have also been used as tools by all three powers to check the power of the others in competition for influence, power and security. Some tools backfire, however, as 9/11 proved when Osama bin Laden moved against the United States.

The Soviet Army chased bin Laden and the Mujahadeen into Afghanistan decades ago, its mouth firmly fixed with our hook. Now we have hooked ourselves, fighting for the cause of democracy for all nations against small cells of dangerous extremists. If our troops are under-supported and outnumbered, whose hook are they on?

Ellie