It’s widely recognized that the greatest beneficiary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq has been Iran. Just as clearly, the biggest beneficiary of a U. S. attack on Iran will be China.This is why the administration’s recent exhortation to China’s leader, Hue, to intervene in getting Iran to drop its nuclear ambitions is likely to be futile. Hue of course will want to create the appearance of trying to bring the Iranian leadership around, but it is not in China’s strategic interest for that to actually happen. Secretly, in fact, Hue must be hoping that the Bush administration will be foolish enough to attack Iran—preferably with tactical nukes—just as they were fooling enough to invade Iraq.
The consequences of a U. S. attack would be as positive for China as they would be negative for the United States. Hue diplomatic task is to nod and pretend to assist while making sure not to actually do anything that might be perceived in the Muslim world as abetting the U. S. attack.
China has already benefited indirectly from the invasion of Iraq, but what they stand to gain from a repeat with Iran is far greater. Some might object that a U. S. strike against Iran will lead to oil disruptions – both in the flow of Iranian oil and in retaliatory sabotage elsewhere. But whereas China depends on oil in order to fuel its extraordinary growth rate, the U. S.depends on oil to avoid economic collapse. To put it another way: for China oil is an enabler; for the U.S. oil is an addiction. China is in a vastly stronger position to weather oil disruptions than is the United States or Europe.
Which is why any oil disruptions which result from striking Iran can only lead to further engagement of the U. S.military in the middle east. We may be forced to commit troops to defend oil facilities and shipping lanes and engage in military strikes against suspected terrorist cells throughout the region. Thus we are likely to become embroiled in a wider middle-east/Islamic terrorist war which will look to the world very much like oil-hungry Christians against oil-possessing Muslims. At which point bin Laden will have achieved his wildest dream.
And note that U. S. defense of middle eastern oil supplies will surely include defending China’s oil supplies as well. This is because the U. S. economy has become dependent not just on oil but also on cheap Chinese manufacturing. Having outsourced our industrial capacity, our economy is susceptible not just to an oil shock but also – perhaps even more so – to a “China shock” thanks to our incredible dependence on Chinese imports. And let’s be clear: having dismantled manufacturing within the U. S. mainland over the past 3 decades, it would take years to rebuild that capacity.
With the United States terminally embroiled in a fight for economic survival against Islamic terrorism in order to safeguard our oil supply, China would soon catapult into the leading economic superpower in the world. Furthermore, the likehood of another major terrorist attack on U. S. soil within the decade, already increased 3-fold by the invasion of Iraq, would increase 3-fold again with the bombing of Iran, especially so if we used tactical nukes.
Internally, the next major attack on U. S. soil (we are talking 9-11 size or greater) would inflict a possibly fatal blow on American freedom, particularly if we continue to have political cowards holding office. Politically the United States would start to look a lot more like China, perhaps with more economic freedom but indistinguishable in terms of civil liberties.
That is the path we are embarked upon.
And make no mistake, striking Iran is the Administration’s preferred option. Most likely they will try to use the election cycle to get Congressional authorization for military action “upon determination by the Administration that diplomatic efforts have failed” (similar to the authorization for the Iraq invasion) before November, though the actual attack would not come until after the election.