Memo to Pat Buchanan
Jude Wanniski
October 27, 1997


Memo To: Pat Buchanan
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: China & Our National Interests

In all the years I've known you, maybe 28, I've never seen you so exercised as you are these days practically rabid, foaming at the mouth. Your Saturday column, "Global Doormat," which I saw in the New York Post, is just short of hysterical about the doom that will soon befall the Republic because we refuse to strong-arm the world into doing your bidding. Listen to yourself: "Yet something even deeper than the supine character of our president is amiss. It is that U.S. foreign policy is being made today not with U.S. interests foremost in mind but to advance some gauzy vision of a world of friendly nations, all happily trading in peace and harmony."

It always is useful to have a loud, clear voice to remind us about our national security interests, but the United States today is more obviously at peace than at any time in the last 80 years. Our national interest, first and foremost, should be to advance the vision of a world of friendly nations, all happily trading in peace and harmony. Why not? The only way you can make the case that China is a military threat is by the ridiculous kind of exaggeration Michael Kagan of The Weekly Standard asks us to take seriously multiplying their known military expenditures by a factor often (which still doesn't get it close to our defense spending, certainly not within shouting distance of the West). On the Fox Sunday show with Tony Snow, you contested with Henry Kissinger, the former Secretary of State, who was being generous in making the point that it will be 10 or 15 years at China's current rate of increased military spending before they might pose a threat, and that is if we stand still, waiting for them.

Your fallback argument about how we are financing their military buildup is backwards, as I have been trying to explain to you for the last year. I'm disappointed that neither Tony Snow nor Henry the K called you on it, as I believe they both know the giant hole in your argument about their trade surplus with the United States. China has been a net exporter of capital for the last several years, which is how you define a trade surplus on current account. How do you think they acquired $130 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds? They send us capital and we give them bonds. As long as you continue to ignore this simple truth, which demand-side economists and supply-side economists and upside-down economists agree upon, your argument has the same obvious validity that the moon is made of green cheese. In the 1950s, when Japan was running a gigantic trade deficit with the United States, our nationalists were complaining that we were exporting capital to them.

There are a great many things you and I agree upon, as we have all these years. There are a great many things you and I agree upon, as we have all these years. We absolutely agree that "global warming" is a crock. We agree that Europe should be paying the bills for our imperial American legions and if they don't want to pay, we should come home. We agree that supply-side tax cuts should take precedence over paying down the national debt. We agree that everything should be done to promote entrepreneurial capitalism and nothing done to expand the level of corporate socialism. We agree on the social and cultural issues. What we do not agree on is the war, which I argue is over, and you argue is coming.

Explicitly where we don't agree:

In your column, you complain of Nelson Mandela meeting with Libya's Moamar Khadafy, suggesting the White House should have stated: "Mr. Mandela has spent so much time in prison, he apparently needs the occasional company of criminals." I think it proper that Mandela met with Khadafy, just as I cheer the decision of Pope John Paul II to establish diplomatic relations with Libya. I also agree with Khadafy that Scotland or the International Court of Justice is the proper jurisdiction for the Libyans accused to blowing up Pan Am 103, not the United States or Great Britain. We should also recall that when President Reagan ordered the bombing of Tripoli, it was on the assumption that Khadafy was responsible for the terrorism in West Germany, and it was subsequently determined that Libya was not involved. Khadafy does say bad things about the United States, but you would too if our government ordered your assassination on hearsay evidence.

In your column, you criticize France for doing a deal with Iran in defiance of U.S. sanctions. I agree with France, on the grounds that Iran shows no signs of harming our national interest. The material they are importing for their nuclear reactors indicate the reactors are not of the type that can be made into nuclear weapons. Iran belongs to the non-proliferation treaty. Its people have just elected a moderate who wants to get on our good side. France, Russia and most everyone else knows this. Why doesn't Pat Buchanan? You should be screaming about us losing business in Iran because of obsolete information about the Ayatollah and hostages way back when.

In your column, you denounce Canada for doing business with Cuba in violation of our sanctions on Castro. I agree with Canada. I also agree with the Pope, who has heard on Vatican radio that the Cold War is over, and that Fidel is trying to find an honorable way of admitting he was on the losing team.

In your column, you complain that we are aiding Mexico even though it also flaunts our sanctions against Cuba. I agree with Mexico, as I do with Canada. And you and I were shoulder-to-shoulder in arguing that our government and the IMF caused the peso problem in Mexico. You forgot about that, or you would not be so quick to criticize Mexico.

In your column, you criticize Japan for "ignoring countless U.S. protests and pushing exports to run up its annual trade surplus." This is another crock. Japan's trade surplus has been expanding because they have been following the disastrous advice of Bob Rubin and our Treasury Department, trying to please us. They are in the deepest recession of any industrial country, getting deeper all the time, which means they can't afford to buy stuff from us, and must unload their production on the world market in fire sales, in order to pay their creditors. Who is advising you on international money and banking, Patrick?

In your column, you argue that China recently arrested a Catholic bishop, and this is a clear sign of the religious persecution of Catholics in China. You know as well as I do that the Catholic bishop in question deliberately broke the rules by which China attempts to regulate all religion in order to minimize the political activities of religious leaders. I think you also know that religious freedom in China has been steadily improving for the past 20 years. Bill McGurn, formerly Washington Bureau chief of the National Review, has written recently on the marked improvement he has observed in recent years as a Catholic in China.

In your column, you criticize Saudi Arabia for dragging its feet on the FBI "I investigation of the deaths of American servicemen in the Khobar Towers massacre. This sounds pretty weak. You may be right, but with no other information, this citation does not contribute much to your thesis.

In your column, you complain that Israel sold fighter technology to China, even though Israel gets aid from us. This is extremely weak, as it suggests Israel does not view China as the mortal threat you suggest it may be.

In your column, you note that as soon as we agreed to a NATO defense of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, and France declared she would pay none of the cost of NATO expansion. "Other NATO nations echoed Paris." Now here we agree. But my reason is that I believe if we concentrate on a foreign policy that attempts to advance the vision of a world of friendly nations, all happily trading in peace and harmony, there will be no need for NATO expansion or for NATO.

Calm down. Take a deep breath. Things aren't so bad. If you put your intellectual energies where there are problems instead of where there are not, you would once again be a serious factor in moving the world in the right direction.