Monday, August 25, 2003

If Iraq, why not China?

The next time a conservative justifies the invasion of Iraq to you by pointing to the atrocities Saddam Hussein committed against his own people, or the oppression he practiced, or his military incursions against his neighbors, or the (now evidently phantom) weapons of mass destruction Iraq supposedly possessed, ask them:

Well, then, what about China?

My friend Tenzin Choegyal (who I now find out is the nephew of the Dalai Lama) (!) mentioned this the other day in an interview in the Seattle P-I:
Tibet is illegally occupied by China. ... Yes, people agree it should be free. (While the United States had oil interests in liberating Kuwait in the first Gulf War), Tibet does not have something to offer. Kuwait was a factor in the heartbeat of America. But Tibet can never be that. No country has the moral courage to pick up Tibet's issue because they have so much interest in China.

Let's consider our criteria for invading a nation, at least under the precedent established in Iraq, and see how China fares:

-- Weapons of mass destruction? Check.

-- Tortures and brutalizes its own people? Check.

-- Oppresses its populace through police-state tactics and military force? Check.

-- Invades its neighbors and is a regional military threat? Check, check, check.

-- Has engaged in military confrontations with American forces? Check.

There are two substantial differences: A) China is a major American trading partner, and B) China has climbed aboard the "war on terrorism" bandwagon, nor is there any evidence of it trading with terrorists -- though its nuclear deal with Pakistan remains a significant source of concern. (Befitting China's established style of governance, it has turned the "war on terror" into a campaign of oppression against its Muslim minorities.)

Oh, and one other difference: an invasion of China would be militarily inconceivable.

The point of this exercise, of course, is not to actually argue for war with China. Rather, it's to point out the utter shallowness of the case being presented for our invasion of Iraq.

If we're going to be invading nations because they're a regional problem, and they have weapons that threaten us, and they oppress and torture and visit all kinds of horrors on their own people, then we have a big job ahead of us.

Point your friends who argue this way to the Amnesty International Web site and start making a list of such nations, because it is a fairly long one. Indeed, any number of the nations that fit this criteria are allies of ours. (You might even suggest to these friends that donating to Amnesty would be a good way of following through on their newfound concern for global political oppression.)

Because if the war with Iraq was all about fighting oppressive and troublesome dictatorships, and freeing oppressed peoples, then we need to be consistent about that. We need to be ready to attack oppression wherever it arises, and regardless of our level of commercial or political self-interest.

I'm all for attacking oppression. But the Iraq invasion, and its bollixed aftermath, and the comparative realities of a Chinese war, stand as stark examples of why military action should be our absolute last resort -- not our first.

And China, meanwhile, stands as a stark example of our national hypocrisy in rooting it out.

[Jesse at Pandagon points out that he posted the same point a few days ago. I read Jesse all the time, but honestly, I missed that one. In any case, give him due credit.]

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