Jared Bernstein and I Cannot Credit Greg Mankiw
Why Is the Washington Post Still Printing?

What Is the China Policy of "Team Bush"?

Daniel Drezner praises "Team Bush."

danieldrezner.com :: Daniel W. Drezner :: A post I knew I'd have to write sometime before January 2009: Here are ten policies that team Bush implemented that I would qualify as a) important; b) constructive; c) not simply a continuation of prior policies; and d) not guaranteed to persist in their current form or at current funding levels past 2009....

(2) The Strategic Economic Dialogue with China...

(8) Trying to cut China and India into existing global institutions....

None of this outweighs the screw-ups in Iraq or New Orleans. But they are policies that suggest Hiatt has a small point. Reflexively rejecting a Bush policy only because Bush proposed it is as stupid as... as.... rejecting Bill Clinton's policies because Clinton favored them (which is pretty much what the Bushies did when they took office in 2001).

The problem, of course, is that constructive engagement with China is not the policy of "Team Bush" but rather the policy of "Team Paulson" or "Team State Department" or "Team Reality-Based Interest Groups." The China policy of "Team Bush" was and is Cold War followed by Hot War--but fortunately they got distracted by other things:

James Fallows Anecdote of the day (from Gary Hart, at Aspen): I don’t know any other major political figure who has been as right about as many national-security matters, as consistently, and as early, as Gary Hart has been. I’m thinking about his role in creating and leading the Congressional “military reform caucus” in the 1980s. But I know that the most famous illustration in most people’s minds is his role as co-chair of the “U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century,” aka the Hart-Rudman Commission.

Early in 2001, the commission presented a report to the incoming G.W. Bush administration warning that terrorism would be the nation’s greatest national security problem, and saying that unless the United States took proper protective measures a terrorist attack was likely within its borders. Neither the president nor the vice president nor any other senior official from the new administration took time to meet with the commission members or hear about their findings....

Hart told me that in the first few meetings, commission members would go around the room and volunteer their ideas about the nation’s greatest vulnerabilities, most urgent needs, and so on. At the first meeting, one Republican woman on the commission said that the overwhelming threat was from China. Sooner or later the U.S. would end up in a military showdown with the Chinese Communists. There was no avoiding it, and we would only make ourselves weaker by waiting. No one else spoke up in support.

The same thing happened at the second meeting — discussion from other commissioners about terrorism, nuclear proliferation, anarchy of failed states, etc, and then this one woman warning about the looming Chinese menace. And the third meeting too. Perhaps more.

Finally, in frustration, this woman left the commission.

“Her name was Lynne Cheney,” Hart said. “I am convinced that if it had not been for 9/11, we would be in a military showdown with China today.” Not because of what China was doing, threatening, or intending, he made clear, but because of the assumptions the Administration brought with it when taking office. (My impression is that Chinese leaders know this too, which is why there are relatively few complaints from China about the Iraq war. They know that it got the U.S. off China’s back!)

Lee Hamilton, who had also been on the commission, was sitting at the same lunch table and backed up Hart’s story. Another chapter in the annals of missed opportunities in recent years.