By The Nation
Washington insisted they were there, but no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq after American military forces occupied the country to the dismay and alarm of most United States allies around the planet. The consequences of that invasion are still being felt and its true motivation is still being debated.
With memories of the Iraq War nightmarishly fresh and wounds unhealed, the Donald Trump administration is waging a losing battle trying to convince the world that Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has the potential to spy on and manipulate to catastrophic ends any nation that embraces its technology. While there exists evidence that Huawei software, wherever installed, can be rigged to feed secure data back to Beijing, there is as yet no firm proof. In the meantime, Washington’s feverish warnings strike us as a ruse to limit China’s global technological reach, with American tech firms the intended beneficiaries.
In place of the vast Iraqi oil reserves that are widely believed to have been the genuine goal of the occupation there, we have a race to dominate the global 5G market, the achievement of which would give the victor almost incomprehensible advantage over any and every rival. China knows this just as well as the United States does. The sense of déjà vu stemming from Washington’s urgent warnings echoes in the doubt expressed by even its foremost allies. Beijing’s depiction of the US as a bully, paranoid over China’s rising influence from Botswana to Bolivia, demands a convincing American rebuttal. Trump, an untrustworthy and undependable leader, instead persuades us only of his determination to check China at every step.
Trump, personally and politically fearful of combat, prefers waging business wars. His tariff tussle with China affects not only Huawei but many other sectors in both nations, causing a domino effect that keeps rattling US stock markets. Americans have for decades relied on relatively cheap Chinese labour, and now their tycoons are scrambling for alternative manufacturing locales. The eventual damage might be incalculable, for both countries and for the global economy.
For this reason, we were startled to learn the outcome of Trump’s consultation with his 1970s Democratic predecessor Jimmy Carter. Trump wanted to know how a president who maintained cautious if friendly relations with Beijing would respond to its growing economic and technological clout today. Carter, humanitarian, devout Christian, one-time peanut farmer of Plains, Georgia, spoke plainly. He pointed out that the US is far too preoccupied with warfare, whereas China gets on with the job of running the farm. Compare, Carter told Trump, the number of wars communist Beijing has engaged in, to America’s bullet-headed overseas adventurism, ostensibly in the name of democracy. See where all the money’s been spent or squandered.
To be fair, many experts agree that future warfare will manifest in cyberspace, not on physical battlegrounds, and it is in that field of rivalry that the true “security threat” posed by Huawei has to be assessed. For now, we believe, Huawei and its technology do not appear to be a menace that might engender war. Rather, ruinous conflict will more realistically stem from American belligerence.
The United States lost the moral high ground it gained in World War II during the invasion of Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. From within its current government emanate noble appeals to other nations to improve their records on rights, yet even these collapse empty in the face of outrages its own citizens commit against one another. The world will progress in leaps and bounds with 5G. Which technologically capable nation should bring it to us – China, with a million ethnic Uighurs locked in “re-education camps”, or the US with state after state trampling on a woman’s right to decide her own biological future?