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12 April 2001

The China Incident

Yesterday, we reached final resolution on the China incident, and Gordon Bethune sent one of his favorite 737-800 jets over to pick up the 24 US crew members. A year from now, hardly anyone will even remember the affair. And for that reason, I have had great difficulty getting very excited about it from Day One. Sure, Presidential mismanagement could have blundered the whole thing. But the Bush foreign policy team wasn't going to allow that, and Bush himself proved up to the task. In short, a minor affair was resolved about as quickly as possible (the Chinese had their reasons for this carrying on for ten days or so, and there was little we could do to affect their timing) with no loss of American prestige or strategic assets (aside from the plane itself -- but planes are really tactical assets, not strategic assets).

I don't care to write about the strategic aspects (Charles Krauthammer's article on the topic is excellent), although it was interesting to me to see just how many conservatives during the 8 years of the Clinton foreign policy black hole have adopted mindless hawkishness as their single guiding principle of foreign policy. The folks at the Weekly Standard (which wrote nonsensically about America's "humiliation" as it ripped Bush's leadership -- then again, what should I expect but nonsense from a bunch of McCainiacs?) and NewsMax are pretty much of this school. Now, I'm a foreign-policy hawk myself, so it takes a lot for me to write about mindless hawkishness. But these RightWingNuts seem to have forgotten the Reagan dictum of projecting power because of principle. The end game is NOT simply to project power, and in many cases that mindset can have just as bad an effect as the preferred approach of LeftWingNuts (appeasement without principle, or appeasement AS principle). For one of the few times ever, Ollie North actually made sense talking about the China incident last night, because as simple as Ollie is, he has always linked power and principle (though sometimes he's been misguided).

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect for me was a chance to see the Bush leadership style in action. The Washington Post ran a short article on this today. Early on, Bush set his parameters, and let a very talented team of diplomats (no doubt many career state department people, since SO MANY nominations are still awaiting confirmation) carry out his bidding, while staying informed on the situation and asking key questions. This is a textbook corporate management style, and highly unusual to see in the Presidency. Certainly, we've had eight years of the President injecting himself in the minutiae of affairs of state (and resulting in embarrassments similar to the Middle East peace efforts, for which no groundwork had been laid other than the President's desire to have a legacy other than cigars and stained dresses), and even before that, elder Bush had a bad tendency to inject himself personally in the middle of foreign policy minutiae. Bush wisely avoided injecting himself personally in such a minor affair, and let the diplomats do their jobs within HIS parameters (certainly not always the case when, say, Kissinger was Secretary of State, and occasionally disobeyed directives from the President, as he did in the SALT negotiations, for example). It's really quite a different approach to Presidential governing, and something that will probably give political scientists much to write about in time, if they can push aside academia's typical snobbery towards anything "corporate."

* * * *

Blogger is a pain in the ass when it dies, like today. I really need to get the weblog ported over to GreyMatter and be done with it. Blar.

[Posted @ 11:56 AM CST]


Why is this comments box so tiny? Has it always been so tiny? Maybe I am used to the EZboard now.


I'm floored at the variety of opinions on how Bush handled the China incident. I'm not sure what to make of it. You have people saying the apology was too late, the apology was meaningless, or the apology was kissing China's butt. That last view seems to be what this Don Feder guy thinks.

I was very interested to see the description of Bush's leadership style. I like it a lot. I want to smack the people who say he's letting other people run things. Yeah, they're doing the grunt work, but he's DIRECTING; he's SETTING the PARAMETERS. In addition to the efficiency of his management, I like the message it sends to China -- that the incident/apology was not important enough for the President to get directly involved.

Why do you think China wanted to drag this out for 10 days?
[Posted by Evelynne on 13 April 2001, 12:56 PM CST]

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