Posts Tagged ‘threat’

Missile Crisis

30 December 2010

Dear J-

The radio is squawking some kind of panic over a new Chinese anti-ship missile (some sort of surface-to-surfrace missile that threatens the premiere force projection unit of the US Navy, the carrier battle group). There’s been a lot of hand-wringing lately over the rise of China as an economic force, which couples with the increasing prominence of its space program (manned orbital flights on homegrown rockets) and military presence. The People’s Liberation Army is already the largest in the world by numbers, and the Navy keeps adding new weapons to their arsenal. It would be foolish to underestimate China but I think the breathless articles and news segments miss the greater point of 1849 and the lessons of the Opium Wars.

You must first realize that the recorded history of China is far longer than we’re familiar with — at least 2500 years, versus the 200=500 over here depending on where you start count at 1776 or Columbus running into Hispanola in 1492. After two thousand years of ruling the known world you’d be pretty stuck on the last hundred or so if you weren’t in charge of yourself. 1849 was the start of the first Opium War, when China attempted to ban the import of Opium into the country for its social malaise and Great Britain used its military strength to force the Chinese ports open (and then, unsatisfied, demanded that China cede land for the so-called Treaty Ports — Hong Kong for one and my dad’s old hometown of Tsingtao (Qingdao) was another, though that was a German Treaty Port). It would be as if the US, tired of having drugs shipped across its border, banned them but was subsequently attacked by Mexico and Columbia, lost, and was forced to hand over Houston and New Orleans. More than the sting of losing the US would face the humiliation of no longer being in control of its own affairs.

So it was for the next hundred and fifty years, China considered a weak country unable to govern itself effectively and subject to the whims of foreign governments. I see the measures as effectively defensive: we’re not going through that again, they tell the world. Yet really it’s their economic position that protects China best — the radio may bleat about the latest weapon but the economic war is already over, lost sometime in the US Government’s rush to deficit spending (Reagan may be credited with ending the Cold War by spending the Soviets under the table, but have we figured out what the acceptance of deficits* has cost us yet?) and the quiet assumption of purse strings. It’s impossible to read motive into actions, but a glance at history is enough to tell us if we’re panicking over missiles, we’re worried about the wrong things.


* To be fair Reagan-era deficit debt was extended mostly from Germany and Japan during the 80s.


Spider Juggle

4 August 2008

Dear J-

The last couple of mornings, I’ve managed to blunder into a spider’s web (to be precise, one of the long support lines) coming out of the door with the dogs.  By the time I get back, ten or fifteen minutes on, the web has completely disappeared, taken down either in haste or panic.  They say that spiders can sense threats by the nature of vibrations transmitted through the web — a leaf isn’t going to feel the same as a trapped insect, and no doubt a giant mammal blundering through a web brings on a clear message:  get out, potential predator.  Likewise, the web is usually down by dawn; nothing quite so easy for a bird to spot as a spider dead-center on a web by daylight.

I can’t help but think of the efficiency of the spider and contrast it to work, where, like Kevin Bacon’s character shouts, increasingly hoarsely at the end of Animal House, “all is well.”   Surely the first few reports have come back with discouraging results; I bluntly stated on Friday that we’re headed for the cliff in an e-mail that eventually got forwarded to one of our site VPs.  Yes, I know we’re not going to be able to go back.  Question is, what did we hope for in forging forward anyway?

I’m not much of a multitasker; give me enough balls to juggle and I can guarantee you that I’ll start dropping them before long.  It feels like when I’m not on the phone, I’m answering e-mails or personal supplicants, and there’s just not enough time in the day to do everything absolutely correctly.  As correct as possible, sure, but even that becomes a moving target when you get to reinvent your work processes on a daily basis.