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The Great Illusion That War With Red China Is Impossible

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

In Frank Gaffney’s Secure Freedom Minute of Friday, August 5, our friend Mr. Gaffney

compared the saber rattling in which Red China has been engaged since Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan to the events and military build-up of August 1914 that precipitated the outbreak of World War I.

Wrote Mr. Gaffney:

Historian Barbara Tuckman’s account of how this month in 1914 was marked by military mobilizations and maneuvers that set the stage for World War I was called The Guns of August. Welcome to the missiles of August.

In recent days, the Chinese Communist Party has accompanied live-fire exercises effectively blockading Taiwan with ballistic missiles sent over the island. These actions cap months of CCP preparations reportedly aimed at transitioning China’s home front “from normal to war” to achieve Taiwan’s “reunification- by-force” with the mainland.

To date, the Biden administration has ignored repeated appeals from those like our Committee on the Present Danger: China to deter such Chinese aggression by dramatically increasing its risks and costs. Unfortunately, our inaction before this ominous August and in its course will not prevent a kinetic Sino- American conflict, but decrease the odds of our ultimate victory when it comes.

The allusion to Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August prompted me to dig out my copy of that must-read book, which is now rather shabby and dogeared from being moved from dorm to apartments, to the various houses I’ve occupied over the past 50-years, but I didn’t need to reread the entire book to pull-out a key point that seems to confirm Mr. Gaffney’s warning about Red China.

Early in The Guns of August Mrs. Tuchman explained that in 1910, The Great Illusion, a book by journalist (and later Nobel Peace Prize winner and Labour Member of Parliament) Norman Angell swept the “smart people” of Europe and America into believing that war was becoming obsolete as a tool of foreign policy.

The thesis of the book was that in the first years after the turn of the 20th century, the integration of the economies of European countries had grown to such a degree that war between them would be entirely futile, making militarism obsolete.

Mr. Angell wrote, rather naively in 1909:

…it is assumed, therefore, that a nation's relative prosperity is broadly determined by its political power; that nations being competing units, advantage, in the last resort, goes to the possessor of preponderant military force, the weaker going to the wall, as in the other forms of the struggle for life.

The author challenges this whole doctrine. He[Pg x] attempts to show that it belongs to a stage of development out of which we have passed; that the commerce and industry of a people no longer depend upon the expansion of its political frontiers; that a nation's political and economic frontiers do not now necessarily coincide; that military power is socially and economically futile, and can have no relation to the prosperity of the people exercising it; that it is impossible for one nation to seize by force the wealth or trade of another—to enrich itself by subjugating, or imposing its will by force on another; that, in short, war, even when victorious, can no longer achieve those aims for which peoples strive.

Angell’s book became a sweeping success among the “smart set” in Europe and America, perhaps because it confirmed their own self-congratulatory view that they were too civilized and too modern to engage in the violence and uncivilized actions that war requires. The militarists, including Germany's Kaiser Willhelm II, thought differently.

In The Great Illusion and in university lecture halls and the salons where the smart people lived it was assumed that war is folly because merely changing governments does not change all the foundational elements of commercial and business life – what did it matter if Germany or Great Britain had the larger navy, because even if Germany were to defeat Great Britain commerce and trade would go on as before, or so they assumed.

The rise of Communism, Islamism and Nazism were in the future, and in 1910 Norman Angell and those who bought into the idea that finance, commerce, and communication had made war obsolete lacked the imagination to see that there are those human beings who do not desire the comfortable middle-class western lifestyle that peace brings. The notion that there are those who desire war for its own sake, or to right historical grievances or to impose their will or religion on others was simply dismissed as illogical.

And so, contrary to all the logic put forth in The Great Illusion, in August 1914 the world slid inexorably into war.

That war is “illogical” might have been a reasonable way of looking at the world in 1909 when The Great Illusion was written, but if there is anything the 20th century, and the rise of Nazism, Islamism and Communism should have taught us, it is that there is nothing “logical” about Nazism, Islamism and Communism and that nothing remains the same after losing a war with a totalitarian opponent.

Unfortunately, today we see much the same “war is illogical” (or at least bad for their business) attitude among our own “smart people,” especially in Democratic Party politics, finance, business, and technology.

Left-leaning politicians and pundits regularly assure us that, while Communist China may be prepared to “eat our lunch” as President Joe Biden put it, the banquet will be conducted according to peaceful means. A shooting war, they say, is too old fashioned and the trade, cyber and cultural domains are where our war with Red China, if America actually gets around to engaging in it, will be fought.

Forgetting that the enemy always has a vote in such matters, today’s “smart people” seem to think a shooting war with Red China is impossible. “Why would we go to war with the country that provides us with all those cool Apple products, cheap toys, and Christmas tchotchkes?”

Today’s “smart people” like BlackRock CEO Larry Fink and the thoroughly Red China-compromised Biden family haven’t gotten the message that international money flow does not negate the imperative for Red China to right perceived historical grievances and impose the “community of common destiny” on the rest of mankind by force, should commercial and economic warfare prove to be too slow.

It is safe to say that writing in 1909 Mr. Angell never met a member of the Chinese Communist Party or an officer of the People’s Liberation Army. If he had, he might have come to some very different conclusions, because their doctrine “all domain warfare” is almost the opposite of the commercial pacifism propounded in The Great Illusion and we ignore it at our peril.

  • China

  • Frank Gaffney

  • Nancy Pelosi visit to Taiwan

  • Nazism

  • Islamism

  • Communism

  • China trade

  • cyber war

  • BlackRock CEO Larry Fink

  • community of common destiny

  • all domain warfare

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