Withdrawal or Redeployment? China Fears the Latter

William R. Hawkins
In his speech to the nation Tuesday night, President Barack Obama raised concerns that America is not just withdrawing combat troops from Iraq, but is withdrawing from world affairs and turning inward. He said,

Unfortunately, over the last decade, we've not done what's necessary to shore up the foundations of our own prosperity. We spent a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits....

And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad.

There have already been cuts in major military programs that have nothing to do with the Iraq War. And even though the defense budget accounts for only 18 percent of Federal spending, the expectation at the Pentagon and in Congress is that the military will carry a disproportionate share of any effort to cut expenditures to reduce fiscal deficits.

On the other hand, the president renewed his commitment to the war in Afghanistan, saying "I've ordered the deployment of additional troops who -- under the command of General David Petraeus -- are fighting to break the Taliban's momentum." The Afghan War is now costing more than the Iraq conflict.

The Chinese see another consequence of the drawdown in Iraq. In its report on President Obama's speech, the Communist Party newspaper Global Times quoted Ding Yifan, a researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council, "By withdrawing from Iraq, the US can reinforce its control in Afghanistan, as well as its influence in the regions around Northwest China." As naval confrontations have heated up in Asia during the summer, Beijing may be seeing what it fears, a reorientation of U.S. forces and attention from the Middle East to the Far East, with a rising China as much the object of concern as Islamic terrorists.

The same issue of the ruling party's newspaper ran an editorial hailing China's new assertiveness that should spark an American response. It noted a port call by two Chinese warships in Myanmar (Burma) on their way home from anti-piracy patrols off Africa and visits to Egypt, Italy and Greece. As the editorial put it, "Conspiracy theories aside, China's navy has been growing stronger over the past few years, and has been reaching places it has never reached before." The editorial further stated,

The Indian press aligns Myanmar with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, where they believe China has helped build port facilities, and conclude that the neighboring giant is aimed at building a "string of pearls" for greater space on the Indian Ocean - long considered India's backyard.

Beijing sees the Afghan War with its connection to Pakistan as part of the larger China-India confrontation that runs all the way from Southwest Asia to Tibet. China fears growing American influence in Islamabad, its long time ally against New Delhi. Meanwhile, the U.S. and India are drawing closer in the face of mutual threats from both radical Islamists and ambitious Chinese.

This is not a time for the United States to turn inward. Rebuilding American economic strength after the financial crisis and recession is vital, but one of the uses of that strength is to provide what is needed to protect U.S. security interests overseas. If President Obama wants to improve "our manufacturing base" as he said Tuesday, he can start by maintaining and expanding our defense industries, whose output and skilled workforce the country will continue to need in a world that is becoming more dangerous.
In his speech to the nation Tuesday night, President Barack Obama raised concerns that America is not just withdrawing combat troops from Iraq, but is withdrawing from world affairs and turning inward. He said,

Unfortunately, over the last decade, we've not done what's necessary to shore up the foundations of our own prosperity. We spent a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits....

And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad.

There have already been cuts in major military programs that have nothing to do with the Iraq War. And even though the defense budget accounts for only 18 percent of Federal spending, the expectation at the Pentagon and in Congress is that the military will carry a disproportionate share of any effort to cut expenditures to reduce fiscal deficits.

On the other hand, the president renewed his commitment to the war in Afghanistan, saying "I've ordered the deployment of additional troops who -- under the command of General David Petraeus -- are fighting to break the Taliban's momentum." The Afghan War is now costing more than the Iraq conflict.

The Chinese see another consequence of the drawdown in Iraq. In its report on President Obama's speech, the Communist Party newspaper Global Times quoted Ding Yifan, a researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council, "By withdrawing from Iraq, the US can reinforce its control in Afghanistan, as well as its influence in the regions around Northwest China." As naval confrontations have heated up in Asia during the summer, Beijing may be seeing what it fears, a reorientation of U.S. forces and attention from the Middle East to the Far East, with a rising China as much the object of concern as Islamic terrorists.

The same issue of the ruling party's newspaper ran an editorial hailing China's new assertiveness that should spark an American response. It noted a port call by two Chinese warships in Myanmar (Burma) on their way home from anti-piracy patrols off Africa and visits to Egypt, Italy and Greece. As the editorial put it, "Conspiracy theories aside, China's navy has been growing stronger over the past few years, and has been reaching places it has never reached before." The editorial further stated,

The Indian press aligns Myanmar with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, where they believe China has helped build port facilities, and conclude that the neighboring giant is aimed at building a "string of pearls" for greater space on the Indian Ocean - long considered India's backyard.

Beijing sees the Afghan War with its connection to Pakistan as part of the larger China-India confrontation that runs all the way from Southwest Asia to Tibet. China fears growing American influence in Islamabad, its long time ally against New Delhi. Meanwhile, the U.S. and India are drawing closer in the face of mutual threats from both radical Islamists and ambitious Chinese.

This is not a time for the United States to turn inward. Rebuilding American economic strength after the financial crisis and recession is vital, but one of the uses of that strength is to provide what is needed to protect U.S. security interests overseas. If President Obama wants to improve "our manufacturing base" as he said Tuesday, he can start by maintaining and expanding our defense industries, whose output and skilled workforce the country will continue to need in a world that is becoming more dangerous.