Wednesday, September 11, 2019

why the US can never win

If we intervene somewhere, we're called imperialist, interventionist, etc. If we fail to intervene somewhere, we're derided for not having helped when we had the power to do so. We can never win. I just saw this tweet, embedded over at ROK Drop:

I'm happy to pledge my support, publicly on this blog, to the demonstrators in Hong Kong who see Beijing's current machinations as a violation of the agreement put in place after Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997. But aside from that, what more can I do? Go to Hong Kong and crack some mainland-Chinese skulls? Uh-huh. Granted, I can sign online petitions and contribute online to certain causes, but what's that really going to do? Not much.

And what more can the US do? China will view this whole mess as an internal affair, whatever its international dimensions and repercussions. For the US to intervene in some meaningfully physical way, we'd have to violate Chinese sovereignty. That in itself becomes a sticky question because—let's be honest—we violate other countries' sovereignty all the time, in ways both obvious and subtle, and other countries do the same to us and to others. This is one reason why all the shrill, self-righteous paranoia about Russian election-meddling over the past three years rings hollow: even if Russia were somehow deeply influential, we (i.e., the CIA) quietly work to undermine Russian politics, too. We have no moral right to complain. Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother's eye.

So our foreign policy regarding Hong Kong could go the possibly pragmatic route by trying in earnest to intervene in Chinese affairs. After all, as the above tweet shows, it's the people of Hong Kong who are openly calling for US intervention. We've been given carte blanche by the people to step in and do something, and it's an open secret that we meddle in other countries' affairs, anyway (hence my use of "pragmatic": this action would stem from a realistic appraisal of the situation and of our own moral standing). That, or US foreign policy could take the seeming high road and affirm that this is an internal matter for China to resolve. Such a move opens the US to calls of hypocrisy, based on the US's aforementioned involvement in overseas regime change. President Trump, who has alternately cozied up to Xi Jinping and engaged in a trade war (one that includes sanctions) with him, could break either way, or he might find some strange, squiggly middle path between these alternatives. Whatever the case, I don't see a way forward that looks good for the US. We lose again.

Here are some tweeted responses to the above-quoted tweet by Gordon Chang:

"As we have been calling for, @realDonaldTrump must speak with moral clarity in support of the Hong Kong people."
—Todd Griffith

"First they took Taiwan, then Hong Kong and the South China Sea[,] extending to the waters of Vietnam[. Show] more support for the people of Hong Kong[,] @POTUS—be the difference as you were with Jerusalem[.]"
—Charles Jenkins

[Editor's note: I'm not sure what is meant by "took Taiwan." Did Taiwan recently fall to Beijing or something? Or is this a protest of the "one China" policy?]

"No UK flags......why would that be?"
—Kevin Walsh

"That’s a sad question[.]😢 Then I’ll ask[,] 'Where is the UK when we're suffering from China government's persecution?', 'What did the UK do when China obviously violates the commitment of the Sino-British joint declaration?' We have waited for the UK for 22 YEARS. Really disappointed[.]💔"
—A Yu, in response to Kevin Walsh

"Sadly, the world does not run on right and wrong. It runs on commerce. Hong Kong protestors should not overplay their hand."
—Mark White

"Great thanks to USA in advance for taking the world leadership responsibility.
SOS to USA by [Hong Kongers] and the entire world!"

—Sarah Zhou

I feel a pang when I read the words of people thanking the USA for help that's probably never going to come. What's worse is that the lack of help will probably be for good, rational reasons.

1 comment:

John Mac said...

I agree. Other than providing moral support there is nothing we can or should do. Not our business. Besides there are other and better ways to to leverage against Chinese aggression than over intervention.