In the past, Washington has repeatedly been careless in its diplomacy with Asia, and this administration has continued the trend.
From President George W. Bush’s Axis of Evil doctrine, to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld being suprisingly outspoken on China, this proves once again that the United States repeatedly mismanages diplomacy in Asia.
This has already been criticized as lending itself to the creation of an Asian arms race, and still, the United States simply ignores the potential for sending another region into instability.
More importantly, amid a tradition of poor diplomacy, Rumsfeld is now throwing stones at China without realizing he himself is in a glass house. This past week, Rumsfeld called upon China to explain its military expenditures.
“Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases?” Rumsfeld asked at a regional security conference in Singapore.
Analyzing the U.S. military and defense budgets alone might be useful in understanding its argument towards China’s military spending. Certainly U.S. rhetoric should be in alignment with its actions.
The word “budget” in Washington does not mean the same thing it means to an average person or family. When the United States sets a budget for defense spending, it only provides in that budget for maintenance and other expected costs.
When the United States started the war in Iraq, a whole new set of funds was allocated for that operation. This means that the total defense budget you see on paper is lower than actual military cost. All of this, the budget and the additional costs, is supported by American taxes and additionally through the cuts to American services such as Veterans Affairs, child care and aid to families.
Diplomatic mistakes, such as creating one new enemy or waging war, mean fewer services for the American people. The budget is then divided, rationing money to defense before all other concerns. This is the reason why diplomatic blunders in China affect a person living in the rural Midwest.
How much money is desperately needed towards defense spending and away from public concerns?
$441.6 billion to be exact. That is only the defense budget, proposed for fiscal year 2006.
Remember, this number does not represent funding for all other operations, including an estimated $49.1 billion for Iraq in 2006. Meanwhile, all other pieces of the pie become smaller, and diplomatic disasters continue unchecked.
And if the term “disaster” is too strong, consider this: Russia and China are the two greatest defense spenders after the United States. America spends a great deal on defense, which has made it not only the most secure nation (although that fact is debatable), it has also ranked as first in defense spending.
The U.S. so far above other nations that the combined amount of Russian and Chinese defense budgets do not equal that of the United States. Triple the Chinese defense budget, and it does not come close to the American budget.
Compared to America’s defense budget, China’s was only $56 billion. Since Washington demands to know why China has an increased focus on acquiring sophisticated weapons, it might be prudent to note that China had very few sophisticated weapons to begin with. Most of its weapons are relics from the Cold War and will soon be retired.
Of course, the spending could be attributed to all those new global threats recognized by Washington, but more likely China wishes to simply modernize its military. Regardless of the reasons, the United States should take care of its own glass house and its own defense spending.
The director of the Asia bureau of China’s foreign ministry Cui Tiankai made an insightful observation in response to Rumsfeld’s comments: “Since the U.S. is spending a lot more money than China – the U.S. should understand that every country has its own security concerns,” Tiankai told the AP after the conference.
Considering the circumstances, it is likely that other nations, maybe even the American people, will soon demand an explanation from Rumsfeld for the U.S. defense budget and aim a few stones in his direction.
Christina Diaz is a senior majoring in political science.