Monday, December 05, 2005

A wake-up call for who?

Here’s a curiously incoherent piece by Fareed Zakaria. Summation: China is using soft power to out-charm us, but they’re not really that charming, but it’s working anyway and the U.S. is missing the boat by not being invited to the upcoming Asian summit that was designed by China to leave us uninvited, though this year we did receive an open invitation from China though we’re not going. Still with him? He goes on: the region resents American involvement in the region to counteract Chinese power…I mean soft power…though they are now realizing that Chinese power…I mean soft power….isn’t in the region’s interest so they expanded participation in the summit to Australia, New Zealand and India…and the U.S., which is still not going. And the above countries don’t share U.S. interests so our interests will not be represented? Oh yeah, and anti-Americanism is rampant all over Asia, including, Zakaria tells us, Japan. According to Zakaria, an Asian government with close alliances to the U.S. is at a political disadvantage if there be voting in that country…

To believe that last statement, you’d have to disregard the pro-American leaders recently voted in by the people in places like Indonesia, Australia, Mongolia and…Japan. And I’d bet that the Taiwanese people feel safer and freer under the U.S. military than that of China. And if push came to shove, I would bet on the S. Koreans to come to their senses and side with the U.S. instead of China. And if the Burmese could decide for themselves, little doubt they’d cling to the U.S. over their own autocracy or China’s.

Zakaria, like most other Newsweek and Time reporters, apparently believes that overly hedging your bets is the best way to create an aura of objectivity. As in a recent piece of his where hs was saying that China is a growing threat, war might be on the horizon, but then again it’s unlikely, but there are ominous clouds nonetheless. Does the future belong to China? Maybe, maybe not. What’s the point? The problem is that by layering caveat over caveat, Zakaria convolutes everything until his article is practically meaningless.

If you dig down deep enough in his current article to hit the thin vein of logic therein, that the U.S. needs to pay more attention to Asia as a whole, then you’ve reached a conclusion the that Bush Administration reached quite some time ago. Zakaria laments that everyone in Washington is too dense to know that the charming/uncharming China is out-charming/uncharming us…but hold on there, Fareed! Bush just got back from the region where he tried to put a focus on American relations to the region. Bush deftly criticized China’s human rights record and encouraged reform there as well. He also did so through other countries in the region, and behind the cameras, Rice was doing the same. Bush was the first president ever to visit Mongolia – an ally on the war on terror and a country that worries about its southern neighbor. Bush’s message was comprehensive, dynamic and forward looking – touching on increasing freedom, reforming government, taking care of health crises and improving trade, etc. The press, of which Zakaria is a member, had little interest in Bush’s message. I happened to watch much of Bush’s visit on Japanese television & it seemed that every time an English speaking journalist opened his/her mouth it was to ask about Iraq or prison abuse or the Mertha deal – just to let you know what they consider the pressing issue to be. True enough, Iraq has occupied much of the President's time. Yet, he still has not forgotten about all the things that the press has forgotten: Afghanistan, trade issues everywhere, bird flu (though if that can be used against the President, they’ll quickly remember), Taiwan, etc. It’s true that Zakaria has been warning about Chinese power for years, but when he frets that there is nobody in Washington to define the long term American role in Asia, he betrays his bias against the President who has been defining that very role since his first day in office. Perhaps the wake up Zakaria seeks is for his own colleagues.

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