Is China trying to bankrupt the U.S. by ramping up defense spending?

Most significantly, the success of the Cold War redux strategy – if it exists – depends on the United States surrendering the initiative to China. There’s little evidence that this is happening. But there is no mistaking the attention to Chinese developments and the potential threats they pose to US pre-eminence in the western Pacific, the protection of US and allied interests, and regional stability generally. That is the correct approach – but US decison makers shouldn’t hyperventilate about or overinflate the Chinese threat. As CSIS Pacific Forum President Ralph Cossa has noted, ‘When the Chinese finally deploy an operational aircraft carrier – and there is a big distinction between sea trials and becoming fully operational (measured in years, not months) – the proper US response should be to congratulate Beijing on finally achieving the status of the Soviet (or Ukrainian) Navy, circa 1984.’

Some historians challenge the Cold War narrative upon which this ‘strategy’ is based, arguing that the Soviet Union collapsed from within with little help from the United States. That doesn’t mean that the dangers of US implosion aren’t real, however.

Budget funds are tight. And, significantly, cracks are beginning to appear within the United States. National politics are increasingly polarized and paralyzed as the country debates how to get its economic house in order. A recent Wall Street Journal editorial told readers they have to choose between being a superpower or a welfare state. That is precisely the choice the new Cold Warriors would want us to face. Nothing could be more divisive or more capable of short-circuiting US politics.

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