Kung Pao Chicken, with a Side of Human Rights

I wonder if that was on the menu at the state dinner. If so, Chinese President Hu Jintao didn’t order it.

Obama talked about America’s views of freedom of speech, religion, and assembly, and the universality of such freedoms. Hu replied that China is willing to engage in dialogue with the US and other countries, but they need to exercise “the principle of noninterference in each other’s internal affairs.”

“Universality” is what gets me. These freedoms are extremely important to us, Americans. It’s what makes this country great, in my opinion. Yet, ours isn’t the standard by which other governments should be measured.

The human rights violations are atrocious. That’s a given. The student protester being run over by a tank in Tiananmen Square is an image that will be burned in my brain forever. Is it our business, though? I would argue no. It’s China’s. If they want to see these human rights violations stopped, they have more than enough people to revolt.

The United States has played the role of the world’s police too long. We should stay out of other countries’ business, like we would want them out of ours. We don’t have the right to tell other countries how to conduct themselves. If we don’t like the way a country is run or how they treat their citizens, we should have as little to do with them as possible.

Sadly, this won’t work with China. We are in this weird codependent relationship with them. With their growing middle class, we want to “sell them stuff,” as Obama said. And as Americans, I don’t see us giving up all the Made in China crap we can get at the local Dollar Tree.

Do I even have to mention how much money we owe them? It was ballsy of Obama to bring it up considering China is like daddy with the fat wallet. Gotta keep him happy so we can keep shopping, right? Ugh. The picture of Uncle Sam should be replaced with an American teenage girl holding a Chinese ATM card.

Maybe this is the bitter pill that we have to take because of our entanglements with other countries. A bottle of Tsingtao makes it easier to swallow. No worries, China says this one’s on them. Gan bei!

18 responses to “Kung Pao Chicken, with a Side of Human Rights

  • Terrance H.

    Not that this is your fault, but you repeated a myth that, for some reason, many people believe.

    China holds about $900 billion of America’s debt; our debt ceiling just reached $14 trillion. That’s less than 7% owned by China. Their trade surplus would be a deficit if not for us, so who do you really think has the leverage?

    The real reason, in my opinion, people believe China somehow owns so much of our debt is because of the interest that’s paid. But then again, nobody takes into consideration the trade surplus we provide them.

    I do find it a bit ironic that the 2009 winner of the Nobel Peace prize is honoring the man who threw 2010 winner in jail.

    • SpinnyLiberal

      I didn’t know that about the debt, but like on any credit card or mortgage, is that interest going to be the killer? Nice that you picked up on that irony. Hu loves all the pomp and circumstance, so I think Obama saw it as an opportunity to bring up the human rights violations, currency, and trade.

  • Kendrick Macdowell

    You raise an important point about America as world police. Here’s why I believe we abdicate the role at our peril, and the world’s peril, mindful that it will become increasingly difficult to pay for this role. We agree that the human rights record of some greater and lesser regimes is truly atrocious. That’s not automatically our business, but, I believe, becomes our business when the human rights abominations become either genocidal or predatory. Both of these are very bad, and many innocent people are slaughtered. The rest of the world will send its regrets. Abominable regimes — the abominable impulse itself — will be empowered. There must be a power, and it can only be the strongest power, that is willing — not always, but on unpredictable occasion — to draw the line in the sand and confront evil. The willingness of a superpower to keep that posture in play has a powerful deterrent effect, and will save many innocent lives. The fact that we cannot intervene in all places that warrant intervention does not mean we should abdicate the posture of intervention altogether — else we surrender the most basic power of 5th-grade poker, the power to keep the enemy in check because it cannot know for sure how we may react. After the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, Libya forswore any nuclear ambition because it believed it might — who knew for sure? — be next. Keeping the human-rights-violating regimes off-balance, just a bit, because they can’t be certain of our reaction, is the best foreign policy tool in our arsenal. The liberal insistence that we adopt a predictably passive, non-interventionist, non-militaristic posture is the surest way to embolden evil — precisely as Osama bin Laden was massively emboldened by American withdrawals in Somalia and Lebanon. I’m not saying let’s be arrogantly militaristic. Just saying let’s not be entirely predictable and squander the deterrent power we have.

    • SpinnyLiberal

      Unfortunately, I would say that our own actions have emboldened evil. Saddam Hussein, for instance. He was an OK guy to us when he was fighting Iran. We gave him what he needed, which he then used to kill the Kurds. The enemy of our enemy is our friend is now our enemy? This is the kind of stuff that gets us in trouble. Then, we invade looking for WMDs, killing innocent civilians. Just collateral damage, right? Not to terrorists that we’ve just emboldened with our actions. Can’t we just leave well enough alone?

      At this point, we have spread ourselves so thin militarily that I don’t know if we can really call ourselves the “strongest” power anymore. Soldiers are going on their 4th and 5th tours of duty. We’re so close to being spent.

      I don’t know what we should do, but I do know we can’t keep traveling this path. If China can’t keep North Korea in check, do we fight another war? Would we have the resources to fight another war?

      • Terrance H.

        I don’t know how you can say we emboldened them. We were attacked more than once and responded with impotence until the invasion of Afghanistan; 9-11 was the straw that broke the camels back, to use a stock phrase.

        I will admit that this whole mess is, in part, our fault. You only need to look to the Treaty of Versailles for evidence. We blew it big time after World War I. The four nations that ultimately decided the fate of the Middle-East screwed us all – and big time.

      • SpinnyLiberal

        9/11 was horrendous and a direct attack on us. What do we do? Invade Afghanistan and Iraq? Afghanistan was the only place we should have been. At the time, that was the hotbed for terror and where we should and could have started to look for Bin Laden. Instead, we put 90% of our energy into a country who did not orchestrate the attack. Afghanistan becomes the forgotten war – until now when we don’t have a popsicle’s chance in hell at this point.

        So, we invade a country that didn’t attack us. That lovely picture (and video) of U.S. soldiers dragging out an Iraqi family is pretty much plastered on Al Jazeera 24/7 (with camera shots mainly on the woman and child). That is more than enough to embolden evil. They don’t need a reason, of course, but let’s not hand them one either.

  • Terrance H.

    Spinny, read the Duelfer Report. It clearly shows that Saddam Hussein was in the process of developing WMDs – not that he had, but that he was attempting to – and was, in fact, looking to facilitate some kind of relationship with al-Qaeda. It is true that Saddam didn’t necessarily trust al-Qadea, but they had a presence in Northern Iraq long before the U.S. invaded. The implication that al-Qaeda had no presence before the invasion is simply a lie; it’s not grounded in fact.

    I do agree that the Bush administration focused too much on Iraq; but it’s useful to understand their motives. Given what they knew about al-Qaeda and Saddam, it was worth their while to take control of a country that will have the largest oil reserves in the world.

    If we control the oil, nobody will mess with us again mindset.

    I like a non-interventiolist policy, unlike your other commenter. I find it extraordinary that the majority of warmongers have never served a day in uniform. But unlike the liberals, I understand their motives.

  • SpinnyLiberal

    I wasn’t saying that al-Qaeda did not have a presence there. They weren’t working with Saddam Hussein to take down the towers. Osama bin Laden was, who was most likely in Afghanistan. There should have only been one war.

    The fact that Saddam might have had WMDs and transported it to Syria (according to the addenda was unlikely) was not a reason to invade Iraq. Neither was having the yellow cake mix. He was far from having anything resembling WMDs.

    Saddam/Iraq: no plan and no means to take down the United States anytime soon.
    Osama/Afghanistan: direct attack and took down 3 towers, taking 3K lives.

    I don’t think I’ll ever understand a “warmonger’s” motives unless it’s self-defense. We have every right to defend ourselves when we’re under attack. That’s why the war in Afghanistan was warranted but Iraq was not (and just “warmongering”).

  • Terrance H.

    You can’t say he didn’t have biological and chemical weapons, Spinny. We know he had those. That fact coupled with al-Qaeda’s growing presence is, to some people, more than enough reason.

    Saddam Hussein and his petty little country had no chance of ever taking down the United States. At present, no country has a chance of that – lest they risk destruction themselves. But it’s not about annihilating a country so much as trying to get even, or, in al-Qaeda’s case, trying to get to heaven. I don’t think terrorists harbor any delusions, save religious ones.

    I agree with you, but only because I’m a non-interventionalist. I think it’s better for the United States to keep to ourselves because it’s cheaper, safer, and proper. It’s not our Right or even duty to police the world. When and if the many people of oppressed nations get tired of it, who better than them to stand up and take control – like our Founding Fathers did?

    If anything, the U.S. should only launch covert wars, like helping Afghanistan crush Russia back in the early 80s (before I was born).

  • SpinnyLiberal

    The weapons we gave him. I know that people see that as enough to be preemptive, but why divide resources when you actually have a direct attack to deal with?

  • Terrance H.

    I really don’t know why. You win this one because I’m trying to defend an untenable position. Afghanistan should have been the focus.

  • Kendrick Macdowell

    Wow, you guys were kind of brutal about the “other commenter” (please, call me Kendrick, we’re family of sorts), and “warmongering,” and never serving a day in the military, and such. 🙂 I thought I mapped out a straightforward narrative about keeping a stick along with our carrot, and how being just a little unpredictable might prevent enormous problems from lunatics who would otherwise view the United States as a “paper tiger.” I grant you the case for Afghanistan was more compelling than Iraq — more Democrats (almost all) supported the Afghanistan war than the Iraq war (most), before Howard Dean hijacked the Democratic party with anti-war rhetoric, and Democrats were suddenly against the war before they were for it, or vice versa, or something. The world is a much better place because Saddam Hussein is not in it, and his two brutal hoodlum rapacious sons are not in it. When the history is written a century from now, America did a good thing stripping the Middle East of that nasty cancer. Saddam Hussein had already used WMD — on Iran and on his own people, the Kurds. The man was evil. We weren’t speculating, as we must with some other nasty regimes, about what Saddam might be capable of. He had already done it, and wanted more. And the connections of his regime with the world’s worst terrorists has been well-documented — even if he didn’t, so far as we know, directly participate in the horror of 9-11.

    Is there a difference between good and evil? Are we so post-modern and ultimately self-destructive that it’s really all gray? Have we no further capacity to draw the line in the sand and say, for reasons other than oil, no, you cannot be horrible?

    Again, not saying we always have to do that, or even often — just saying it helps the history of our species if the world thinks we might.

    • Terrance H.


      Please understand I wasn’t specifically mentioning you. I don’t know if you’ve ever served in the military or not. I was talking about people like Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and various other neocons.

      I do agree the world is a better place without Saddam, but so what? The world would be, I think, a better place without Castro, Chavez, Putin, Hu, and every other despot. Should we take them down to protect American interests?

      I understand your argument, but where does it stop? How far do we go?

  • SpinnyLiberal

    Thanks for the comment, Kendrick. I apologize for not addressing you by name. I also wasn’t thinking about you when I was using the term, “warmongering.” Not that excuses my behavior. I absolutely believe that the planet is better off without Hussein & his sons. Did we have to get rid of them then? No. We had a more pressing matter – Osama and Afghanistan. Evil will always be here. Our eradication of it has to be prioritized, starting with the one who just attacked us. I want us out of Afghanistan now for a number of reasons. Mainly because any real chance we had we blew by concentrating on Iraq. It has nothing to do with anti-war rhetoric. We’re spent, financially and with our troops. Time to pack it up and go home.

  • Kendrick Macdowell

    You both raise a form of the same point, and a very fair point it is: how do we do what I propose in a principled, consistent way? But in a way, that’s precisely my point. I don’t want our foreign policy to be formulaic or predictable. I don’t want to draw any lines that make us the world’s worst poker players. I don’t want to invade a country every time circumstances like Iraq arise — but neither do I want to take military options categorically off the table. That weakens us pointlessly. I agree with both of you. The cost of the Iraq invasion has been enormous. That’s part of the calculation, and reasonable minds can differ in sorting out that policy angle. In my opinion, the cost has been worth it. You all disagree. I believe you can make a compelling case that I am wrong based upon the cost of the war, but I don’t believe a compelling case can be made that we should never invade a country that presents a set of circumstances like Iraq.

    I presume you believe the Vietnam War was mistaken as well. I don’t, merely its inept and shackled execution. But what about the Korean War? No power involved in that confrontation had ever attacked the US. Indeed, if the only guiding principle is self-defense, then declaring war on Japan after Pearl Harbor was fully justified, but declaring war on Nazi Germany was not. The Nazis had never attacked us.

    What about the escalation that occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis? Kennedy put the military option directly on the table, and indeed expected some form of military confrontation with the Soviet Union. Under the current view, we’d have announced that military confrontation was not an option, and pointlessly crippled ourselves. (Democrats were wiser then. :))

    What you call “warmongering” rarely leads to actual war, and actual war should never be undertaken lightly. But in my view — and this has been my general theme throughout our exchange here — it’s a good and useful thing for the rest of the world never to know for sure whether those “warmongers” in America might just gain the ascendancy. It’s that unpredictability that gives American power its most persuasive deterrent effect.

    • SpinnyLiberal

      The idea of being “unpredictable” is great if we weren’t already so predictable. I would say we’re already seen as a war-loving nation. We will react predictably – side with S. Korea against Kim Jong Il, and Israel against Iran. Not getting involved would throw everyone for a loop.

      I definitely believe in self-defense as being the guiding principle, and true non-intervention. Dropping the bombs on Japan was justified because of Pearl Harbor. Declaring war on the Nazis wasn’t. I know that’s harsh, but it’s about self-preservation. Iraq, same thing.

      As far as the Cuban Missle Crisis is concerned, the US should never have been involved with Batista. We supported a dictator. Fidel was karmic payback with interest (Cuba turning to the Soviets for help). The crisis, I believe, was a way to save face after the Bay of Pigs. All of this could have been avoided with simply not supporting Batista.

      John Quincy Adams pretty much sums up how I feel about our involvement in foreign affairs. I really wish we listened:

      “[America] goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.”

      • Kendrick Macdowell

        Very interesting. Converting my “predictability” avoidance to the predictability of our allies. Hmmm. Okay, I think we’re using “predictability” in two different senses here. One is the predictability of siding with allies over enemies in the event of conflict. No-brainer. The other is the predictability of response to a conflict — which I don’t believe needs to be, or should be, predictable.

        I love the Adams family 🙂 — really, actually — but John Quincy Adams spoke those words at a time when America was relatively weak, barely a power, much less a superpower. It made perfect sense in the early 19th century for America to posture as an example, never an enforcer (for lack of any meaningful resources with which to enforce).

        Now, America is a superpower, the superpower. To whom much is given, much is expected. America, notwithstanding much European dithering and ridiculous American self-doubt, finally stopped the genocide in the Balkans. Not as decisively as we should have, given that it was genocide, but we did stop it and we saved many Muslim lives. No one else was in a position to stop that genocide. Had we abdicated that role, then we would have been, in my view, immoral pacifists, and much blood would have been on our hands.

        Similarly, and much more profoundly, had we declined to war against Hitler simply because Hitler had not warred directly against America, we would have allowed an even greater Nazi slaughter, an even greater genocidal success, and quite possibly the conquest of Europe by Hitler, and the consequent acquiescence of multiple European mini-powers to Nazi hegemony — with all the consequent horrors that would have entailed. I honestly cannot think of anything more horrible in the 20th century than handing Hitler a victory in Europe. I don’t think you’re okay with that, but your argument seems to point that direction.

        I think you want to define self-defense as a fair and rational basis for American foreign policy, and I get that. It’s clean. But I don’t believe it accounts for all the circumstances we confront as the world’s pre-eminent superpower — or all the good we can do with our power, judiciously exercised.

  • SpinnyLiberal

    Heh. I think the predictability in alliances was my subconscious screaming about not being entangled in them – a la Jefferson -“Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations…entangling alliances with none.” I guess we have honor the alliances since we “signed stuff. ” Ugh. Let’s just pray that Kim Jong Il and Ahmadenijad keep taking their meds regularly.

    Wednesday always gave me the creeps. 🙂 I knew you would bring up the fact that it was a very different world back then and how we weren’t a “superpower.”

    I wouldn’t be OK with Nazi Germany taking over, you’re right. I suppose when you’re the last hope, you have to do something. But when they can fight their own battles, why interfere?

    Yes, we can do a lot of good, but right now, we have to concentrate on staying afloat. I would take the “not our problem” stance right now. The draw down in Iraq was good, but not good enough. And now, Afghanistan? How much longer are we going to be there? Both countries have something that resembles democracy, only with the added bonus of insurgents and getting killed on the way to the ballot boxes.

    Utter failure. Both wars. The only good thing we did was get rid of Saddam and his sons. And even I don’t know if it was a good thing to get rid of them. Eek! My example is what’s happening to Christians. Under Saddam, they were left alone. Now, insurgents are killing them left and right.

    I took a long, winding path only to return to my original belief. Non-intervention is the way to go.

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