This cartoonish depiction of villainy might be dismissed as campaign season hyperbole if it weren’t informing real policy proposals. And if lawmakers wanted to find the most wasteful, counterproductive and inflammatory way to confront China, they couldn’t do much better than the newly proposed Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI) — a multi-billion-dollar defense-spending initiative aimed at countering China’s rise.
How much money are we talking about, in this proposed buildup?
Throwing more money at tools of military confrontation is not only a waste of resources, but it likely invites blowback. A major military buildup in East Asia would needlessly antagonize China at a moment when cooperation with Beijing should be the focus, as it’s clearly necessary to address the global recession, current and future pandemics, and climate change.
Cooperation on these issues should not preclude assertive opposition to China’s human rights abuses and its crackdown in Hong Kong. But a military buildup will not help the US make progress on those fronts. And it could discourage American allies in Asia from building up their own defenses, which could ultimately help China expand in the region.
In the end, perhaps the biggest cost of a Pacific Deterrence Initiative is not that it would misread the geopolitics and security dynamics of Asia, but that it would mistake the security interests of America — and misrepresent the political preferences of Americans.