Why Obama sent the Syria question to congress

Obama doesn’t want to launch a missile strike on Syria – he just can’t say so. But there is the Party of No in full bloom over in Congress. Send the issue to them, let them say no, then Obama has political cover to turn to the world and say ruefully, “The people have spoken and I must respect their wish.”

Besides, the Republicans who have had a field-day with Bengazi (or at least tried to) need to start wear a little of the bad PR linked to Syria.

Further, if it divides the Republicans, exposing the chasm behind the interventionists and the isolationists, all the better. This is part of the identity crisis that the Republicans face. And Rand, while he will score short-term points, will still look too radical come 2016. People know the rise of libertarian right has coincided with more misery for the middle-class, and that includes middle-class Republicans and independents.

On the surface, if Obama accepts a congressional ‘no’ on Syria, this will make Obama look weak. But as time moves on, he’ll be able to re-route the blame over to the GOP which is already in a much more dire state of disarray than the the Dems going into 2014. We’ll see. Moreover, avoiding another US military disaster is a greater feather in his cap (and a better legacy and direction for the US) than driving the country into another ditch so he can look like a strongman to the world for a few hours.

If I am right about Obama’s motives, it would be one of the most politically savvy moves of modern politics.

A word about Donilon’s words

Worth noting that Donilon’s words were the White House’s most explicit comments on Chinese cyberhacking.

Before the White House commented in response to the Mandiant report, but were mostly happy to let Mandiant do much of the talking. Now the White House is talking…

I see US rightwingers are finally taking notice.

How to tell?

They are accusing Obama of not having acted soon enough

According to the Washington Times:

On plans to deter Chinese cyber attacks, senior administration officials turned down a series of tough options designed to dissuade China from further attacks that were developed over a three-month period beginning in August 2011.
According to administration officials familiar with internal discussions, the options were dismissed as too disruptive of U.S.-China relations.

And this gets at the US’s conflicted position with China. On one hand, China is a massive trade partner that the US was wary of offending. On the other, China is a massive, long-term strategic competitor.

I wonder if voices calling for a more critical view will grew in the White House, and in the US overall.

For Repubs in search of an issue, this is a no-brainer. I ask them: who is tougher on Chinese hackers? The Republicans or the Democrats?

Chinese missiles being deployed near the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands: report


The Washington Free Beacon says China is deploying missiles near the Senkaku Islands. (Notice they are only referred to as the Senkaku.)

United States intelligence agencies recently detected China’s military shifting road-mobile ballistic missiles closer to its southern coast near the disputed Senkaku Islands amid growing tensions between Beijing and Japan over the islands dispute.

U.S. defense officials said the movements are being watched closely as China’s military is also holding large-scale military exercises that some fear could be a trigger for a conflict with Japan that could involve U.S. forces.

The article says:

…The People’s Liberation Army Second Artillery Corps, which operates missile units, were preparing to target the disputed Senkaku Islands as well as U.S. military bases in Okinawa.

The Daily News stated that the missile movements were signs the PLA is “preparing for the worst regarding the territorial dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands.”

The fact that the upstart Washington Free Beacon is focusing on this suggests America’s right may be discovering the multi-faceted China Challenge.

One question: What took you so long, guys?

Good that America’s right, short a cause or two, are looking past Iran and the problems of the Middle East to notice the long term strategic challenger rising in the Far East. Could this be something that galvanizes them and gives them an issue they can run with in US politics? Too early to say.

A more intriguing article may possibly be this comment piece from the libertarian Cato Institute that says:

If Washington isn’t comfortable with a more powerful China demanding a greater say over Asian security issues, making China wealthier by trading with it doesn’t make much sense.

Very good question. A very good question indeed. I suppose it could form the basis of a lot of American political thinking in the years ahead. A wise Republican would spend some time considering this question and see what he comes up with. I’d be very eager to speak to these kinds of Republicans. To see these Republicans. To hear their ideas.

(Image courtesy: Cain and Todd Benson)

Mandiant/Unit 61398 Hysteria and what comes next

What comes next from America after the revelations about the People’s Liberation Army’s Unit 61398?

How about a little healthy outward-facing hysteria? 

Maybe the question Americans should rightly be asking themselves is.. How do I know the  People’s Liberation Army Unit 61398 isn’t the cause of my slow computer? Are Chinese hackers causing the lights to flicker? Have PLA hackers stolen and bootlegged my Power Point presentation? Maybe they have.

Even if they haven’t, the PLA’s cyber attacks to steal intellectual property are real. People will say, all countries hack each other. But the difference between the US and China is that the US government is not using cyber attacks to pinch intellectual property. Just imagine the outrage if the US Army had a division that was surreptitiously illegally downloading all the designs and plans it could from companies located in commercial rivals of the US. But evidence shows the PLA systematically hacking all the intellectual property they can, to pass it on to industries, over whom the Communist Party of China has the final say. Is this again another example of how the Chinese system operates, in which those in power sit in government and deal themselves the best hands, passing along the IP to their circle of friends? Whatever the nature of China’s systematic rip-off of US inventions, it’s not the American Way. It’s nothing like the American Way. In fact, it’s entirely antithetical to the notions of invention and property rights and competition that are dear to America. Because it’s a threat to the US projected directly into the US, the China Challenge must be addressed. China, through its scale and determination to influence the way of the world, represents a threat to American values in commerce, trade, diplomacy, state-craft, design etc. Sounds like a great a challenge for American politicians. My question is: where are the Republicans on this? Weren’t they the hawks during the Cold War? So I ask, where is the hawkish party on this? A party, coincidentally in need of a huge galvanizing issue or two in order to rediscover their relevance in American politics. Here is a galvanizing challenge that affects many aspects of America, a huge force that is exploiting America’s openness. Even the measure Obama proposed today are being criticized as too tepid by Jason Healey of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative. Who dares talk about freezing assets of companies and organizations involved in this kind of hacking? Who dares block relevant Chinese nations from activity in the US because of their hacking? Not these Republicans. If you want to know where the Republicans are as the Chinese seek to displace the US, the Republicans are busy delaying the nomination of Chuck Hegel until they can be sure he has the right stance on Iran and Israel.

Guys, Iran, for all of its risks, is not a risk to America that China is. China has the power to challenge America in unimaginable ways, starting with economic prowess.

And that’s why just a scintilla of hysteria could be a good thing. People need to realize doing nothing about China is not going to make the problem go away. Doing nothing about China is not an option.

So for a rough draft of contemporary history, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mandiant report pushes Americans, well, back into their own arms. One of the first major events, following the end of historical Cold War, that forces Americans to seek the Other not across the aisle in Congress, or the radio waves of talkback programming, but abroad, in another nation, whose government, not to mention people, have the goal of ushering the US into strategic decline.