By Robert Arvay
Before the ink was dry on the treaty that ended World War 1, planning began for the Second World War. That is not far from the truth. The 1920s and ’30s saw Japan, Germany, and Italy seeking to expand their military forces, including in the case of Japan and Germany, in violation of treaties.
Japan transitioned from a nascent democracy to a brutal military dictatorship, while Hitler began laying the groundwork for his rise to power. Mussolini of Italy had plans to establish a sort of second Roman Empire and sent his army to Ethiopia to begin it.
The history of that era, the 1920s and ’30s, is a convoluted interplay of events that seemed almost orchestrated to lead to war. Large wars do not begin spontaneously. Long before the first shot is fired, years of preparation have taken place.
Today, the prelude to the next major war is underway. While the events are different, the parallels are striking.
China’s dictator, Xi Jinping, has over-extended himself. Squandering his nation’s wealth on weapons, and on ideological policies, his communist system has created an unsustainable economy. The communist bureaucrats and the Chinese army must be fed and supplied. Their need for lebensraum is increasing and will prove insatiable.
As the United States begins to counter the Chinese strategic moves, Xi finds himself pressured into what for him personally will be a no-win situation. On the one side, he is faced with the United States, which now belatedly recognizes that China is an implacable enemy. On the other side, inside China, the parasitic officialdom and the career military officers will not accept retreat. They can’t. Their lives depend on fending off the wrath of their exploited people.
History shows clearly what dictators do when faced with such desperate circumstances. They deflect attention and then attack an external rival in hopes of unifying their populace and appealing to their patriotism for support. It is what dictator Leopoldo Galtieri, of Argentina, did in 1982, when his power structure began to unravel. He attacked the British-ruled Falkland Islands. For a short time, his plan worked, as Argentinians applauded him, but losing that war cost Galtieri his power.
The Falkland Islands War was small and almost spontaneous. Such has not been the case with China’s rise to power. The decades-long buildup has been methodical, and the inevitable war will be massive.
Is war really inevitable? History warns us that it well may be, unless wise and determined statesmanship can prevent it.
Surely, behind the scenes, President Trump is lining up allies, both domestic and foreign, to secure commitments in the struggle against China. In front of the scenes, before cameras, and on the news pages, Trump is making it clear, both to the Chinese and to everyone else, that he is, as he says, “disappointed” in China’s duplicitous and aggressive behaviors. We might add reckless and overconfident to those adjectives.
In the U.S., the move is to sever the American economy from dependence on Chinese suppliers and manufacturers. In this regard, the foolishness of past presidents has been exposed by the Chinese virus, and that would be true even were the Chinese to be found completely innocent of having unleashed that deadly disease. In fact, the Chinese are guilty at the least of having multiplied the adverse effects of the disease. That, in itself, constitutes an act of war.
The nuclear bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945 killed 80,000 people in one moment. The Chinese virus has killed 100,000 Americans. If China had killed that many Americans with a nuclear bomb, what would we do? In effect, China has nuked us. How could we not respond?
While isolating China from the world economy is necessary, it also forces China’s hand, just as in 1941, the isolation of Japan from its war materiel forced Japan to either cease its aggressions or bomb Pearl Harbor. Japan chose war.
China is also, no doubt, rallying support from such nations as Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and to some extent Russia. At the moment they choose, China’s leaders can be expected to strangle Hong Kong into submission and then to openly attack Taiwan, which China knows will be the tripwire for all-out war. That war will devastate one or both major belligerents, the U.S. and China.
Hang on to your helmets.