by Adam Yoshida

If  the United States is to maintain its military supremacy into the 21st century, it is  absolutely vital that the federal government ensure that its defense efforts are  directed at preparing for the next war, rather than for re-fighting the wars of  the past.  Too often historically — and I fear in the future as well — America has been caught by surprise by global developments and forced to  improvise a solution to challenges on the ground.  While brilliant  soldiers, diplomats, and politicians have often risen to this challenge, it may  well turn out to be the case that the wars of this century will not allow us  such latitude.

After  both World Wars and the end of the Cold War, the United States has demobilized  in a haphazard fashion that has left the nation ill-prepared to meet future  challenges.  Yet, as Donald Rumsfeld memorably and correctly reminded us  vis-à-vis Iraq, “you go to war with the Army that you have.”  A careless  reduction in defense spending today, as advocated by the left and even accepted  by some on the right, would be a penny wise, pound foolish solution that will  cost future generations tremendous amounts of blood and  treasure.

The  tremendous costs of the War on Terrorism, however one feels about the events of  the last decade, do not contain therein a justification for reduced spending  going forward.  On the contrary, the fighting of the last decade has  redirected resources towards systems, equipment, and training that, while vital  in overcoming the challenges of the post-9-11 decade, would be of minimal value  in a great power confrontation.  Indeed, deep down, all of us know which  nation America and the Western world must be prepared to confront in the coming  years: the People’s Republic of China.

The  conflict between the United States and China is driven by mutually incompatible  systems and ambitions.  While economics is not a zero-sum game, power  is.  Our world can have only one hegemonic power at a time — only one  power can effectively control global institutions, defend world sea lanes,  regulate international trade, and respond to emergencies as they occur.   The alternative to the existence of such a leader — a primus inter pares among  the world’s nations — is a form of devastating global anarchy, where  dictatorial regional powers conquer their neighbors and trade is disrupted by  the whims of tyrants.  In the end, either the United States will control  such a system — at a vital time in history, as advances in science and  technology allow us to both settle human beings off this planet and, through  advances in bio-tech, change the nature of humanity itself — or it will be  controlled by a vicious and dictatorial People’s Republic of China, whose  leaders are absolutely willing to brutally crush any who oppose them and who  murder and exploit without compunction.

Whatever  disagreements we in the West may have amongst ourselves — and there are so very  many — even the most committed adherent of the “Occupy” movement, were you to  catch him in a moment of unguarded honesty — would admit that, from the  perspective of an individual who values freedom, flawed American liberty is preferable to resolute Chinese despotism.   If China is allowed to become the leading global power, it will not hesitate to  oppress the rest of the world’s people with as much cruelty as its leaders  presently show to their own people.

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