Roiling the Waters: Why the United States needs to stop playing peacemaker and start making China feel uncomfortable.
BY Elbridge Colby, Ely Ratner
History has demonstrated the perils of focusing too much on stability at the expense of deterrence. The Cuban missile crisis, the modern world’s closest brush with the apocalypse, was precipitated by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s perception that the United States, especially President John F. Kennedy, was overly concerned about stability and cooling tensions between the superpowers. Khrushchev’s sense that America could be pushed was formed by Kennedy’s cautious reactions to assertive Soviet moves toward Berlin, as well as Khrushchev’s measure of Kennedy at the 1961 Vienna superpower summit as “weak” and accommodating……..
OF COURSE, CHINA IS NOT THE SOVIET UNION. And 2014 is not 1962. The point is simply that a country with the power of the USSR or China, unsatisfied with features of the existing order, motivated to do something to change it, and skeptical of the resolve of the United States, could well pursue a policy of coercion and brinkmanship, even under the shadow of nuclear weapons. As historian Francis Gavin has argued, the whole history of the Cold War shows that countries like China — and, at times, the United States — can bluff, coerce, and threaten their way to geopolitical gain.
The worst way to deal with such a power is to leave it with the impression that these approaches work. Just as the United States would have been far better off if Kennedy, at the Vienna summit, had squelched Khrushchev’s doubts about his resolve to defend Berlin, it will be far better if the leadership in Beijing has the clear sense that the United States will meet each challenge to its and its allies’ interests resolutely.
Read more at Roiling the Waters.
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
~ Winston Churchill