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Jewish World Review April 11, 2001/ 18 Nissan, 5761


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Consumer Reports

It's the evening of the day -- HERE'S some unsolicited advice for The Weekly Standard's office manager. Get rid of the Jolt Cola vending machine. How else to explain the overheated April 16 editorial by editor Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan that pummels President Bush and Colin Powell for their conduct to date in the current United States-China standoff? I'm a hawk on the increasingly dangerous crisis as well, and look forward to the rogue country receiving its due comeuppance, but in the meantime, Bush is hardly in Jimmy Carter territory for expressing "regret" that a Communist pilot lost his life in a reckless act of state-dictated aggression against an American surveillance plane. It's not humiliating to placate a grieving widow. Nor has he displayed the "weakness" or "fear" that the Standard so unconvincingly says he has.

Kristol and Kagan write: "The profound national humiliation that President Bush has brought upon the United States may be forgotten temporarily when the American aircrew, held captive in China as this magazine goes to press, return home. But when we finish celebrating, it will be time to assess the damage done, and the dangers invited, by the administration's behavior."

Given the Clinton administration's cynical approach to Chinese relations for eight years-cash for technology, broken pledges about addressing human rights violations, bombing its Belgrade embassy-Bush doesn't begin his own diplomatic agenda with an inside straight. So far, he hasn't at all sacrificed American integrity.

In fact, Bush inherited a basic problem. Was there an exact moment in the 1990s when Americans decided it was simply unacceptable for a U.S. soldier to perish in the line of duty? Maybe it was when the military's "Be All You Can Be" ads started appearing in Rolling Stone, which roughly dovetailed with Bill Clinton's squishy approach to incidents that couldn't be resolved by a bear hug and a few crocodile tears; body bags were just too icky for the first "rock 'n' roll president." It's not an occupation I'd choose, but the men and women who join the armed forces do so with the knowledge that should a war or international skirmish occur, they might die.

In a country where the death of a cop or fireman is commonplace, and often relegated to the back pages of daily newspapers, let one pilot-like Scott O'Grady in the Kosovo intervention-be shot down overseas and Washington's strategic goals are hampered by collective domestic horror. This is not normal, and it's compromised the ability of Bush and Powell to negotiate with the competing Chinese leaders. Nothing can really happen until the "detainees" are returned to the United States. Yellow ribbons, Tony Orlando and bottles of Bud all around.

This is unacceptable. I'm not saying Bush ought to pull an Ariel Sharon and start carpet bombing Beijing, but once the obstacle of the hostages is resolved, I believe a more aggressive, if not belligerent, stance will be taken. Whoever the real decision-maker in China is, he should be made aware that the opportunity of a graceful exit is fast expiring.

(If, however, in the upcoming days, Bush capitulates in the war over words, then Kristol and Kagan will be on target.) It's galling to hear lefties sigh and plead that the U.S. cave in to the demand for an apology that isn't deserved-just words, they say, and we should be respectful of the Chinese culture-when there's absolutely nothing to apologize for. There's also silly criticism of Bush for calling the Chinese "competitors" instead of "partners." The United States should be worried about offending a government that jails American academics of Chinese heritage?

The U.S. is not dealing with a stable political regime, where any number of factions are struggling for power and telegraphing mixed messages. I'm a free-trader, and the (until now) burgeoning investments in China by American corporations don't bother me at all, but the CEOs know the risks entailed. It's quite possible that if the administration takes the proper steps toward China-which means fortifying Taiwan with arms, troops and monetary aid, blocking the communist country's entry into the WTO and nixing the 2008 Olympics there-Americans could find their businesses confiscated. Including, of course, the businesses of Rupert Murdoch, who happens to own The Weekly Standard.

But the return of the U.S. plane's crew can't easily erase from the record this flagrant example of Chinese perfidy. Bush has no choice but to ratchet up the confrontation if China is ever to be expected to deal honestly with the U.S. The mainstream media doesn't miss an opportunity to criticize Bush for his alleged arrogance on the world stage: he's too rough on South Korea, he's alienated European leaders about the Kyoto Protocol, he's not sufficiently feeling Russia's pain.

Editors and pundits at The New York Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post ought to consider the following words from an April 4 Chinese People's Daily editorial before continuing to chastise Bush and his foreign policy team for being too hotheaded.

An excerpt: "The gangster logic of hegemonism won't work before the Chinese people. You shouldn't be so arrogant on the strength of your might. You should know China's present position in the world is won through the struggle, work and efforts of the Chinese people, it is not bestowed by anyone. The way of Chinese making friends is 'when friends come we have good wine to treat them; but when and if a wolf comes, we have hunting guns to cope with it.' Arrogance and haughtiness can only court others' resentment, and is unhelpful to a solution of the matter and harmful to the international image of the United States... The present urgent task for the US side is to make a sincere, earnest, modest and polite apology to the Chinese people and compensate for their losses. Then, they should sit down calmly and sensibly to solve other problems through negotiation with the Chinese side. This is the common desire of the Chinese and American peoples and is where their common interests lie."

Rough and tough talk. But if any one of the 24 U.S. military men and women "gangsters" is kept hostage, put on trial or harmed, there's little doubt that China will have sacrificed the economic and diplomatic gains they've achieved in the last 30 years.

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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