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The Yellow Peril, Redux

One of my "libertarian" correspondents, a military man, made the incredible claim that the Chinese Army is poised to invade the United States from Panama. The first time I challenged his position, he ignored my questions. The second time, he half-heartedly defended his claim before dropping out. That wasn't enough to keep me from excoriating him for it.

>> Believe me that I feel no embarrassment at dropping out of this one. <<

Believe me, I'm not embarrassed at your losing another argument either.

>> Your job is political commentary, mine is defending the country. <<

Free speech is the greatest defense this country has. If people talked through the issues and came to better decisions, our national policies would evolve intelligently. Then terrorism would dry up like a pond in the Sahara, making these war games unnecessary. It's called being proactive, not reactive.

>> I know my job, and this is a case where I can't use some of my sources to argue. <<

Hm-mm, sure. Are these the same sources who ignored the dozens of warning signs that Bin Laden was plotting against the US? Ever hear the one about "military intelligence" being an oxymoron?

>> Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see the Chinese regime fall in the next couple of years, and nothing does that better to a collectivist society than free trade <<

Which may explain why Bill Clinton was such a strong proponent of free trade.

>> Maybe in six months or a year they could muster that many people, and arrange the logistics to feed and shelter them. Meanwhile, we'd have the same six months or a year to prepare countless countermeasures. <<

>> I said they could, but let's face it, they don't have to. Just two divisions could get across Mexico in a week <<

They'd have to get to Mexico first. In case you and your buddies in "intelligence" weren't aware, Central America is thick jungle between Panama and Mexico's Yucatan. The entire million-troop convoy would have to travel single-file on the Pan-American Highway. One bomb from a US plane and the convoy would stop dead in its tracks.

I'd say they wouldn't make it to Mexico in one week, or even one month. And then their problems would begin.

Unless I miss my guess, the Chinese Army hasn't fought more land wars than the Mexican Army has in recent years. Both are untested at modern warfare. The Chinese Army, for one, is known for not having the latest technology or training.

Given that, plus the fact that the Mexican Army would be fighting for its homeland, plus the fact that it would have the combined tactical support of every US plane and ship within a thousand miles, the Chinese Army wouldn't get further than 100 miles into Mexico.

Were you paying attention when the US bombed the Iraqi army into the Stone Age? Where exactly do you think the Chinese troops would hide while traipsing across hostile Mexican territory, including the difficult mountains and deserts? In their impregnable Chinese porta-bunkers?

Moreover, the Chinese government would face the world's military and diplomatic and economic resources collectively mobilized against them. The US wouldn't have to have troops in the Southwest when its Pacific fleet could steam into Chinese ports and shell them into submission. The Chinese troops would never make it to the US border—in two weeks or two years.

Apparently you and your people haven't begun to think through the problem, which doesn't surprise me one bit. This is possibly the stupidest scenario I've ever heard from a supposedly intelligent person.

The Southwest in Chinese hands?
>> with our military spread out babysitting the rest of the planet there will be sizeable chunks of the Southwest in Chinese hands before we arrest the advance. <<

Sure. I've already shown the innumerable flaws in your "reasoning." But let's defy all logic and assume you're right. Where exactly would this Chinese force get its supplies from? How would it maintain its supply lines? Which supply lines...from Panama to the Southwest? An airlift across the Pacific Ocean? Stupidity on top of stupidity.

History has shown that those empty desert stretches are easily defended—not. Study your American history on the point. The sedentary Pueblo tribes had little or no defense against the invading Spanish conquistadors. In contrast, the Apache guerrilla fighters survived for years by retreating into the hills.

The occupying Chinese army would be sitting ducks for literally every Army, Air Force, National Guard, and police unit—not to mention the armed and unarmed citizens who would mass against them. In three days 50 million Americans could travel cross-country to fight the invaders. End of invasion.

Your scenario is such a joke I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Do you have contingency plans against space invasions too?

>> Isn't it better to prepare now as a deterent? Being reactionary is bad strategy, let's do those countermeasures NOW. <<

If you can suggest effective countermeasures against the invisible Chinese troops in Panama, go ahead. What do you suggest? Maybe we could air-bomb them with red paint so they'd finally show up. Because they must be invisible if our satellites—which can read license plates from space—can't spot them.

>> The Chinese can't move troops? What, are we the only deployable military in the world? <<

Not enough to invade the US. Not without being highly visible and giving us six months to a year to prepare.

Let's think a bit about your stupid scenario. How many troops are we talking about: a million? Let's make it 100,000 to be ultra-conservative. And suppose your cargo ships carry 1,000 troops each—a gross overestimate of the likely number.

That's 100 cargo ships above and beyond the normal number. Are you saying US intelligence is so incompetent it wouldn't notice 100 extra ships steaming to Panama in a short amount of time? I'm guessing they'd notice any unusual activity—a mere five or ten extra ships.

And where do these 100,000 Chinese troops eat and sleep? In vast, underground hideways? You don't think US intelligence would notice all the Panamanian activity necessary to feed, shelter, and clothe 100,000 extra people?

>> If a major military foothold is established in Panama, how many "cargo vessels" will be full of troops? <<

You tell me, Mr. Fantasyland. How many cargo ships would be necessary to ferry over troops you think would be necessary to invade the US? How many troops would that be, exactly? Put some real numbers on your daydreams so we can ponder exactly how many troops China would have to feed, arm, and transport 1,000 miles through hostile territory before they reached the US.

When a major military foothold is established in Panama, we can worry about it then. When these fictitious cargo ships unload, the disembarking troops will be plainly visible to our observers and satellites. Really, this fantasy of yours—that China could move millions of troops in secret, without countless people being aware of it—is nothing short of insane.

In World War II, without advanced technology to reveal them, the Allies barely managed to ferry thousands of troops across a narrow channel to Normandy. You're postulating a operation hundreds of times larger being carried out clandestinely. There's no precedent for undertaking such a massive operation in secret—because it can't be done.

Army man learns about Navy
>> How much longer will it take us to get the Atlantic fleet to supplement the Pacific without use of the canal? <<

That's why the US has multiple fleets—so they don't have to sail around the world.

Of course, we have multiple military sites along the Pacific Coast and Gulf Coast, all of which would come into play. Remember the Halls of Montezuma? US troops would converge on all sides of Mexico the second the first Chinese soldier stepped out of his hidden Panamanian bunker.

Your point about our farflung fleets is moot since the fleets would never have to go anywhere. Nor would our coastal defenses have to move an inch. The first time Chinese troops threatened US territory, we could drop a nuke on Beijing. End of yellow peril.

>> A search of civilian sources on Yahoo gives 55700 hits for "+panama +china +military." <<

I hope your military skills are better than your search skills. Or your math skills, your English skills, etc. Any site that lists the world's countries would mention both Panama and China. Your number is meaningless unless you search for something specific like "Chinese military in Panama."

I tried the same search using your terms and got "only" 28,900 hits. Many of them, even on the first page, were obviously false hits. So much for your 55,700 number.

>> Please notice my keeping this to the civilian info... http://www.afpc.org/issues/panama.htm <<

I wouldn't trust any military source if they think the way you do. This seems a clearcut case of inventing a fantasy scenario to guarantee a paycheck. The two-war scenario looks like a sure thing compared to this fairy tale. I've read Dr. Seuss books with more realistic takeover schemes.

Let's see what we can learn from your one link—The Panama Canal in Transition, a report by the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC):

  • First, we have no idea whether the noble-sounding AFPC has a political agenda. There's no "About Us" information on this site. As I said before, give me a citation from a reputable source like Rand Corp., not from one of the many right-wing nutcases on the Web.
  • An assistant to Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, one of the more alarmist right-wingers in Congress, wrote this report. He's reporting on his own boss's fact-finding mission. Is he going to say his boss wasted his time and the taxpayers' money? Unlikely. So much for the report's credibility out of the gate.
  • The report repeatedly uses the phrase "communist China," as if that were the country's official name. Once would be enough to make the point. More than once is blatant propaganda.
  • China isn't a pure communist state anymore. It's arguably more capitalist than communist these days. China has shown zero inclination to go to war with anyone in the last 25 years, with the possible exception of Taiwan.
  • The major "problems" identified by the report are weapons, drug, and illegal alien smuggling. Repeat: Smuggling, not real or imagined invasions.
  • The **only** military threat listed in this report is the following: "Some public interest organizations warn of Chinese military bases eventually being created in Panama and even a future missile threat."
  • Missile threat? I suppose that's vaguely possible. But your fantasy scare scenario is an overland invasion, not a missile threat. I'll restate the obvious for onlookers: There isn't one shred of evidence to justify your goofball fantasies. Not here and apparently not anywhere.

    Speaking of right-wing nuts, the fifth hit in the search I did was Red China: Gatekeeper of the Panama Canal. Sounds ominous...until you notice this is the Nov. '99 edition of the Phyllis Schafly report. Nothing's happened since 1999...and if Phyllis Schafly is your source of information, Dan, you're more ignorant than I thought.

    Conservative Cato Institute repudiates "peril"
    The 12th hit in my search was Ghosts of the Cold War by the extremely conservative Cato Institute . Here's what these ultra right-wingers had to say on the Chinese invasion issue:

    Old cold warriors never die, they just get more paranoid. A prime example is Sen. Trent Lott's request—and Sen. John Warner's assent—for the Senate Armed Services to investigate allegations that China is undermining U.S. security by attempting to gain control of shipping through the strategic Panama Canal. Nothing could be more preposterous.

    ..[D]o the Hutchison-Whampoa owner's links to the Chinese military and intelligence services and the Chinese government's ownership stake in Panama Ports necessarily constitute an insidious geopolitical plot by China to control a strategic asset in America's backyard? The contract by a shipping company to operate port facilities may simply be designed to make money. Even the Chinese government and military have routinely been engaged in business activities overseas to turn a profit—for example, in the food and clothing industries.

    Because he felt that commercial distractions undermined the Chinese military's effectiveness, Jiang Zemin, China's leader, recently ordered the armed forces to get out of such activities.

    Furthermore, the Panama Canal Commission insists that Panama Ports cannot determine which ships can transit the canal. In fact, according to the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977 which ends U.S. military presence in Panama in December 1999, U.S. military vessels will continue to have priority for passage through the isthmus.

    Even if the Chinese business activities in Panama have a geopolitical motivation rather than a commercial one, they will likely have little strategic effect. After the demise of the Soviet Union, which was capable of launching simultaneous, coordinated attacks in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Panama Canal is much less important for U.S. security. Today, the two large American navies—the Atlantic and Pacific fleets—each can maintain overwhelming dominance in their respective regions. Even during the Cold War, the Navy's capital ships—the aircraft carriers—were too large to fit through the canal.

    The Chinese would probably be reluctant to close a waterway that they also use for commerce. In the worst case—if Panama Ports blocks the canal or refuses U.S. Navy vessels passage during an international crisis—the world's most powerful naval forces could open up the waterway rapidly. Even conservatives admit that the treaty allows the United States to intervene if access to the canal is blocked. Although the alarmists hint that China could extend the range of its navy by controlling Panamanian ports, the antiquated Chinese fleet has problems just patrolling the nearby South China Sea.

    According to Gen. Barry McCaffrey, former head of the U.S. Southern Command when it was based in Panama and now the U.S. anti-drug czar, "We don't have vital national security interests in Panama." In addition to McCaffrey's assessments, a report written in 1997 by a member of the staff of Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also seemed to discount threats to the canal. After conducting extensive discussions with U.S. and Panamanian government officials, the staff member concluded, "All those interviewed for this report state the HPH's [Hutchison Port Holdings] development of the two ports does not translate into a direct national security threat to the Panama Canal."

    Finally, the timing of the alarmists' shrill warnings is suspicious. The search for threats to a man-made body of water that has declined in strategic importance is a desperate attempt to roll back the treaty-mandated withdrawal, to take place in December of this year, of an unneeded U.S. military presence. Imperialist cold warriors just cannot bear to give up Panama. They will have postpartum depression, but the rest of us can celebrate the rebirth of Panama without a humiliating and anachronistic colonial presence on its territory.

    >> I love it when people claim to be "libertarian" when they want the US government to own the Panama Canal. Can you say "contradiction"? If the Chinese are buying land in Panama, that's a perfect example of the free market at work. Are you a libertarian or aren't you? <<

    >> I say again for the record- I AM A BAD LIBERTARIAN. <<

    But you're a good "imperialist cold warrior," apparently. See above.

    Libertarian = hypocrite?
    Another word for "bad libertarian" is hypocrite. Do you have any principles at all? If so, what are they? "Small government is good, except when it's bad"? That's not a principle, it's expediency.

    The Cato Institute's libertarians are good libertarians, at least in this case. Maybe you should try to emulate them rather than scary Republicans like Rohrbacher.

    >> The US can stay out of my life- I am an American citizen innocent until proven guilty. <<

    So was Bill Clinton.

    >> You don't mind the US buliding bases in Bosnia, but you're against it in Panama? Who's got a contradiction now? <<

    It must be you, since it isn't me. A documented problem in Bosnia justified our incursion there. No such documented problem exists in Panama.

    Now that I've informed you how our Navy actually works—that our fleets operate independently and don't shuttle back and forth through the Canal—maybe you'll provide the real evidence for your scare scenario. Or maybe you'll keep waving at me from your loony bin.

    >> Thanks, you too, happy Fourth of July. <<

    At least you took a stab at answering my questions, however pitifully. I wonder why you didn't do that the first time I asked them. I guess you realized how ridiculous your "phantom menace" sounded.

    Now we've exposed it as the silliest tale since Goldilocks. Next time you want to debate something, try a subject you're competent in. That way, I won't have to kick your butt so badly.


    Related links
    Libertarianism = anarchy
    A well regulated militia...

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