Jun 10 2005

China’s Military Build Up

Published by at 6:08 pm under All General Discussions

I have been watching silently as the blogosphere attempted to address Bill Gert’s recent article in the Washington Times to see what would come out. I was initially disappointed that people could so obviously miss something inherently flawed with the reporting – that we missed something we apparantly knew about somehow. “Missed” is a vague word. When does one get a first indication of new military upgrades in a foreign land – on the drawing board, in testing, in deployment? At which of these stages of detecting the activity does it go from uncovered to missed?

Well Powerline was one blog that jumped into this with both feet and sort of blind. Having worked for the DoD before, I am well aware the gap between those who know what is going on in the classified world and those on the outside who are blindly grasping. The higher the security level the fuzzier the truth is from the outside. And rightfully so.

Well someone with detailed, personal knowledge on this subject wrote to Powerline today to set the record straight. To Powerline’s credit they posted the entire comment from this person whom they besmirched in their original post by denigrating that area of the intelligence community (which ain’t that small). Showing class, John Hindraker apologized to this person publicly for jumping to conclusions.

I am not surprised at all in the response in general, but everyone should read it to understand why it is not wise to jump to conclusions about highly classified subjects – there is no way to know what is going on from the outside. But there was something truly amazing hidden in it that needs to be picked up on.

Quotes from the gentleman in the know, setting the record straight:

I take personal exception to this. I worked with the CIA and with ONI for 20 years; I am myself an expert on both Soviet Russia and China. I am not a panda-hugger nor I do [I] think highly of the Soviet Union. Quite the contrary. Nor do those terms apply to any of my colleagues in the Intelligence Community — I exclude of course various traitors like Aldrich Ames that have sometimes crept into our midst. On my behalf and theirs, I ask for an apology for that comment. [Ed.: I’ve apologized to Owen.]

In short, I am saying that if we missed “more than a dozen Chinese military developments” I am one of the principal guys who missed them — one of the “close-knit fraternity of government China specialists”; one of the ” …’self-selected group’ of specialists who fooled the U.S. government on China for 10 years”.

And yet, every example cited in the Washington Times article I have personally written a report on, in considerable detail, and those report[s] at have been briefed up to the NSC level. So I can say with authority that insofar as the article mentions specific “surprises” either the report or the people writing the report are badly mistaken or promulgating outright falsehoods. So far are these from being surprises that most, if not all of them, are familiar to regular readers of Jane Defense publications.

There was a great deal of legitimate debate on the topic; not so much on the details of what was happening but rather on how well the Chinese were learning to integrate the new technologies they were acquiring and how successful they were being at creating new doctrine to use the new capabilities they sought. Acquiring a whole bunch of new weapons does not automatically confer the ability to use them skillfully or intelligently, nor does new technology automatically improve operational capability — often the reverse since it can be quite difficult integrate it properly with existing systems.

But as often happens, a legitimate debate among analysts was misused by many during the 1990s to either try to inflate the Chinese threat or to downplay it or ignore it for political reasons. This latter group was lead — not by some “close-knit fraternity” of analysts out to fool the government — but by Bill Clinton himself. Clinton went so far as to declare certain collection activities against China as “off-limits” and also put certain topics off-limits as well. In practice that meant, while we knew what was going on, we were not allowed to say some things, or to officially report certain obvious conclusions.

OK, this was a stunning statement to me. I have never heard of a President going this far in not wanting to hear bad news that will make his job tough. This is BIG!

Now I notice with considerable interested that the main author of this report is Robert Suettinger, “a National Security Council staff member for China during the Clinton administration and the U.S. intelligence community’s top China analyst until 1998” and I also note at least one other Clinton apparachnik was involved with this so-called “highly-classified” report. Now Mr. Suettinger may be a fine fellow but he was not the U.S. intelligence community’s “top China analyst” at any time. He was a simply a customer of the work I and others did. He is a not an analyst; he is a politician. And I suspect he is in part responsible for the Clinton Administration’s disgraceful and dangerous conduct with regard to China — conduct that continues to threaten US national security.

This will be erupting in the days and weeks to follow. Why? Because if this is true (and I have no doubt that it is) then it would imply that Clinton’s posture towards the Taliban and AQ was similar to this posture on China. And it may have been even worse since he was placing his entire legacy on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. This will lead to some hard soul searching on the left and MSM to determine if they were being played as dupes regarding Clinton’s actions leading up to 9-11. They have defended him blindly so far as well, but no one likes being made the fool. And the MSM can exact some vengeance when it wants to.

One response so far

One Response to “China’s Military Build Up”

  1. Decision '08 says:

    A Growing Chinese Threat?

    http://sAJStrata has been on the story of what he sees as a shocking lapse in security regarding the buildup of Chinese arms, specifically, a seemingly willful ignorance on the part of the Clinton Administration that makes him wonder what other areas…