View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Sunday, June 01, 2003

Thomas Friedman's latest piece is another attempt to "explain" why they hate us. Sadly, there's really nothing new in it, but he continues to repeat a few tired maxims about the rest of the world feeling bruited about by our technology, and scared by our military. All of this has some truth to it, and he at least gives us some credit for being a benign hegemon, but on just about every point he either overstates his case or repeats outright fallacies.

In the first place, he argues that the Seattle riots had a "fringe element." This "fringe element" isn't so fringe, as the International ANSWER folks have shown. Far from being a minor sideshow, they remain the motivating spirit behind the lawlessness that follows these demonstrations around the globe. The signs in Lausanne, in France, in Seattle, in Genoa, are almost all socialist. Far from being people who felt powerless in the face of US cultural hegemony, many of them are simply losers of history, trying to continue the fight by any means available

Secondly, we have heard the arguments about economies being too intertwined for war before. Almost exactly 100 years ago, in fact. Prior to World War I, it was proposed in respectable circles that Germany could never go to war against France again: the costs would be too devastating to both sides. Today, there's simply no country in Europe capable of launching a rival military force; in fact, Europe as a whole isn't militarily capable of challenging us, or economically capable of sustaining such a challenge. This hasn't kept France, Germany, and Belgium from trying, of course, but even they were too embarassed to admit this is what they were really trying to do.

China, on the other hand, has nowhere near the force projection of the US Navy, but is building up formidable coastal defenses and attack capabilities for a war to retake Taiwan. This qualifies as a local military response, but one which, if successful, could easily snowball into regional and theater responses as US allies hedge their bets in the face of a growling tiger. In short, all of the nonaction which Friedman attributes to more benign motives can be equally well-explained by less noble intentions.

Countries start wars because they think they can win. It is up to us make sure that our adversaries don't make that miscalculation - again.

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