Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 05:56 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 05:56 | SYDNEY

Accepting the limits of power


Sam Roggeveen


20 February 2009 15:04

I've been a bit slow to latch on to the new blog offerings at foreignpolicy.com, but Thomas Ricks' blog looks quite promising. Shadow Government, on the other hand, which bills itself as the 'loyal opposition' to Obama's foreign policy, I'm less sure about. Two recent items jumped out at me, the first by Aaron Friedberg, which argues that China's improving military capabilities erode America's security guarantees to regional allies:

Unless we respond in a prudent and timely fashion, we could find that our commitments to defend our friends and interests in the region are no long regarded as credible. Over time this could eat away at the foundations of our alliances and diminish our ability to deter conflict.

In one way, I think Friedberg understates the case — Chinese modernisation has probably already passed the point at which the US could intervene in a Taiwan conflict at acceptable cost. But the 'response' Friedberg recommends is all military — that is, he wants to take unspecified steps to restore America's military advantage over China. It never seems to occur to him that the US may have little choice but to accept China's military rise, and would be far better taking early steps to accomodate it rather than joining an arms race.

Which brings me to the second post, by Philip Zelikow, about rumours that North Korea is about to test a long-range ballistic missile. Zelikow's recommendation is that if Pyongyang readies a missile for testing, the US should hit it:

If the United States strikes North Korea's missiles on their launch site, other would-be proliferators will take notice -- thus lending much greater weight to the fresh diplomatic initiatives the Obama administration has in mind. The downside, as in 2006, is the possibility of North Korean escalation against South Korea.

'Downside'. Yeah, you can say that again, especially if you live in Seoul.

The common denominator here is a refusal to grant that any other state should be capable of placing constraints on US freedom of action.