An employee of the Cato Institute who was fired for planting articles on behalf of Jack Abramoff for money, (And was later rehired) is now suggesting that the best way for America to deal with China’s increasing power is to encourage our allies to develop their own nuclear arsenals.
This is way worse than invading Iraq, drafting Heath Shuler, or the New Coke:
Nobody envies U.S. President-elect Joe Biden at the moment. The problems he faces seem insurmountable.
China likely will be the administration’s most serious foreign challenge. The United States is wealthier and more powerful, but remains committed—overcommitted, in fact—around the globe. The world’s finest—and most expensive—military goes only so far.
Can the United States defend Taiwan, destroy Chinese naval outposts on artificial islands, keep sea lanes open, protect territories claimed by Japan and the Philippines, and so on? Beijing is focused on developing Anti Access/Area Denial capabilities: It costs much less for China to build missiles and submarines capable of sinking aircraft carriers than for the United States to construct, staff, and maintain the latter. The Pentagon is concocting countervailing strategies, but they will be neither cheap nor risk-free. How much can Americans, facing manifold, expensive challenges at home and elsewhere abroad, afford to devote to containing the PRC essentially within its own borders?
It is difficult to make a credible case for extended deterrence even for Japan. Would any American president really trade Los Angeles for Tokyo? The promise is made on the assumption that the bluff will never be called: Advocates simply assume perfect deterrence. However, history is littered with similar military and political presumptions, later shattered with catastrophic consequences.
What to do? There is one way to square the circle. The Biden administration should reconsider reflexive U.S. opposition to “friendly proliferation.” Ironically, current policy ensures that nuclear weapons are held by only the worst Asian states—authoritarian and revisionist China and Russia, Islamist and unstable Pakistan, illiberal and Hindu nationalist India, and totalitarian and threatening North Korea. Against all these, Washington is supposed to defend Japan and South Korea, certainly, the Philippines and Australia, possibly, and Taiwan, conceivably. That is dangerous for everyone, especially the United States.
Reversing a policy supported by neoconservative nation-builders, unilateral nationalists, and liberal internationalists would not be easy. The change would be dramatic, and not without risk, whether from potential terrorism, nuclear accidents, or geopolitical provocations. Although the nuclear age has been surprisingly stable, proliferation necessarily creates additional risks for conflict and leakage. Nevertheless, the existence of nuclear weapons probably helped contain conventional conflict, especially between the United States and the Soviet Union. Even more, nations are convinced that modest arsenals keep rival states at bay, which is why countries as disparate as Israel, North Korea, and India have developed arsenals at great cost.
This is completely bonkers.
This makes Dick Cheney look like Mahatma Ghandi.
To quote Terry Pratchett:
If complete and utter chaos was lightning, then he’d be the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armour and shouting ‘All gods are bastards!’