Watch Your Back!

Read one of those Clancy-type techo-thrillers recently. The premise of this one was that the Russians used threats by the Chinese against Taiwan to distract US attention away from an operation in Europe, which, in turn, would be a distraction from their real objective, which was recovery of some rare-earth mine in Kenya.

It was typical format for one of these novels: Undermanned, unprepared, friendly forces get their butts kicked for the first half and then, slowly, the signature individual heroes rally a few pockets of resistance to prevail over overwhelming odds.

While some of the details and the eventual outcome in the novel were preposterous, the overall strategy outlined, given the current situation in Ukraine, along with the recent bro hugging between Putin and Xi, is very concerning. It’s doubtful that we could successfully carry out a two-front war if the Chinese decide to take advantage of our focus on Europe to make their long promised move against Taiwan.

And the reality is that we no longer have the luxury of taking the initial fusillade and then bouncing back. The world has changed since we were the arsenal of democracy. Now we are reduced to being marketers and consumers.

There is some thought that we should have previously put NATO troops into Ukraine. Not so much to be able to help them withstand the onslaught that the Russians have mounted, but to act as a tripwire…a deterrent. To make the Russians think a little more carefully about what they might get away with.

Unfortunately, we didn’t do that. Can you imagine the heat that Biden would have taken from all sides…Fox News, the Republicans, even our European allies…if he’d proposed that? But could it have prevented what we’re seeing unfolding today: Ukrainian mothers and children huddling, blitz–like, in subway tunnels to avoid the barbaric Russian bombardment.

While we can’t undo what I feel was an error, we can look ahead to what may be similarly in store for Taiwan. Are we going to let the Chinese see our weakness and indecision and make a move on that democracy?

Certainly there is no current love lost between the Chinese and us. What’s to loose at this juncture by diplomatically recognizing the Taiwanese government and stationing a token force there? Will it really make the Chinese hate us any less? Or will it make them think twice about grabbing our “paper tiger” by the tail.

As someone recently related to me, “I like Joe Biden and I respect him. But we need a strong leader.” I couldn’t agree more. Biden’s job was to not be Donald Trump. Mission accomplished. But what has since evolved, with the virus, the Russians, the economy, seems beyond his ken. Let’s not confuse someone corrupt like Donald Trump with someone of strength and principle, like John McCain, when we’re shopping for “strong.”

Unfortunately, in our current climate of CYA and playing to bases, I’m hard pressed to identify anyone who has the capacity to emerge to lead us out of this wilderness. But this is America, and hope springs eternal. If we can get past fighting among ourselves and see the multiple, existential threats that surround us, we certainly have the creative capacity to deal with any and all of this. If not, then we really don’t deserve to prevail.

© 2022, David B Bucher

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