China, Marc A. Thiessen, Mike Gallagher, national security, neoconservatives, North Atlantic treaty Organization, Our So-Called Foreign Policy, priorities, Republicans, Russia, semiconductors, strategy, Taiwan, Ukraine, Ukraine War
Neoconservative pundit Marc A. Thiessen has just written that neconservative Congressman Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin is the type of Republican who he thinks should “guide the Republican Party into the next era and shape conservative public policy, from national security to health to education to the economy.”
I’m far from convinced, especially on the national security front that’s the focus of this column, since Gallagher’s expressed views seem like a formula for exactly the kind of global over-extension that’s backfired so disastrously on America in the past (Google “Vietnam” or “Middle East.”)
This Wisconsin Republican’s main problem is one that’s dogged not only neocons and their constant exhortations for the United States to play or resume playing globocop indefinitely, but many other American leaders, including those on the Left – who favor similarly open-ended U.S. involvement in all manner of foreign crises and problems but either on the cheap, or with all manner of aesthetically and morally pleasing substitutes for military power, or coercion of any kind.
It’s a failure or an refusal to base American strategy and security and prosperity on the only basis practical even for a superpower – as an effort to (a) secure or defend goals that will promote U.S. interests on net in specific, concrete ways – like protecting countries or regions with important locations, or that possess needed resources; and (b) propose feasible approaches to generate the wherewithal needed to achieve those goals.
Put simply, a successful U.S. foreign policy needs to set priorities of some kind, and in an interview with Thiessen, Gallagher explicitly rejected these premises, at least when it comes to two current headline overseas challenges.
According to Gallagher,
“[T]his idea that, ‘Well, we can be tough on China, but we have to strike some grand bargain with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin in Europe because our resources are limited.’ I just think that reflects a naive view of the way the world is working right now.”
He did explain that
“for those of us who want to continue to support the Ukrainians and deliver a massive loss to the Russians … we have to do a better job of tying the threat posed by Russia to the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party. And it’s really teasing out the fact that for at least a decade, if not longer, these countries, who at times have interests that diverged and at times were outright hostile, at least in the present day, have locked arms to wage a new Cold War against the West….”
As for “the ultimate aim of China in particular”? That’s “to destroy the capitalist system led by the United States and make way for the ultimate triumph of world socialism with, you know, Chinese characteristics.”
I have no quarrel with Gallagher’s assumption of deep and dangerous Chinese hostility to the United States. And he has, in my view correctly and cogently, identifed several branches of China’s strategy that seek to weaken America from within, like propaganda spreading (which – I assume – he understands requires strong, overwhelmingly domestic policy responses).
But the other stuff – if you think about it logically, it simply doesn’t matter. That is, whether or not the Chinese and Russians are in cahoots, and however sweepin their aims, because different countries’ and regions’ importance to the United States varies dramatically (since they’re all so different in their characteristics), it’s inevitable that some of the targets of this “new [joint] Cold War” that they’re supposedly waging will significantly affect America’s fortunes, and some won’t.
And what Gallagher doesn’t come to terms with is
>(a) all the evidence cited by opponents of current U.S. Ukraine policy (like me), that Ukraine’s fate is irrelevant to America for reasons ranging from its tragic location right next to Russia and its lack of any assets needed by America to the continued refusal of the United States and its allies to admit it into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (which implicitly acknowledges Ukraine’s marginality); and
>(b) all the evidence that Taiwan is of vital importance – because of its matchless ability to manufacture the advanced semiconductors that are keys to ongoing U.S. security and prosperity, and therefore to America’s ability to keep fending off Chinese ambitions to control the island and this knowhow.
In Gallagher’s defense, he’s a strong proponent of the much bigger defense budgets that the United States would need to field the forces and weapons needed to resist both Russia’s Ukraine aims and China’s Taiwan aims.
But that higher spending will take many years to shore up American battlefield capabilities further, and Gallagher himself believes that the United States can’t defend Taiwan now, and doesn’t foresee success for another five years.
Worse, in the meantime, it’s being reported, including by a bipartisan Congressional commission, that “[t]he diversion of existing stocks of weapons and munitions to Ukraine and pandemic-related supply chain issues has exacerbated a sizeable backlog in the delivery of weapons already approved for sale to Taiwan, undermining the island’s readiness.”
So current American priorities could well be exactly backwards, and even if not, contrary to Gallagher’s blithe prior assertion, American resources are now in fact severely limited.
To top if all off, Gallagher also told Thiessen that by 2025 (if the Chinese haven’t already invaded), the President then should declare that “defending Taiwan [is] our most urgent national security priority….” But what about Ukraine? By then it’ll be No Big Deal? Or it’s safe to assume that conflict will be over? Nothing from Gallagher on that. But he did add that “by the way, I don’t think [keeping Taiwan secure] would cost that much money.”
Thiessen introduced Gallagher as someone who “has a bachelor’s degree from Princeton, a master’s degree in security studies from Georgetown University, a second master’s in strategic intelligence from the National Intelligence University and a PhD in international relations from Georgetown — all of which mean he’s deeply overqualified for any national security position.”
To me, what he’s really done is unwittingly reveal some of the institutions you want to avoid like the plague if you hope to develop a U.S. foreign policy strategy worthy of the name.
“Gallagher himself believes that the United States can’t defend Taiwan now, and doesn’t foresee success for another five years.”
If we had provided Taiwan with tactical nukes a decade or two ago (perhaps in parallel with China’s collaboration with DPRK), this wouldn’t be an issue. Xi Jinping would never invade the island against a local nuclear deterrence, and there would be little risk or need now for U.S. involvement.