My article evoked some major media interest, and I was given a half hour to express my views on CNN International with Riz Khan.
Judging by the reaction from the program, and more international e-mails, people were somewhat startled by what I had to say.
I am surprised that many Americans aren't more concerned about the events of the past two weeks, and the meaning these events may pose for the future.
Let me address some issues raised by readers:
Let me say that I think Bush has been a good president so far, and may turn out to be a great president. He is a good man. During the first 90 days of his presidency he has engineered a remarkable turnaround. He has selected top people throughout the government and restored respect to the Oval Office.
Bush's performance is even more noteworthy considering the nadir Clinton had left the Oval Office, not to mention the fact the military has been dramatically cut to the lowest point since before World War II.
Bush also inherited Clinton's bitter legacy with China, one that has empowered and emboldened them.
My only criticism of Bush centers around matters of national security. I believe that because of Bill Clinton's actions, America's adversaries will make their move on the U.S. in the near future, before Cheney and Rumsfeld finish their buildup. This is why I have supported emergency funding for the Pentagon – even if some money will be wasted – and why I believe Bush's handling of the Chinese matter was not strong enough.
I strongly disagree with this prevailing notion, though I admit it is more prevalent than my view.
President Bush's main duty is spelled out in his oath: to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Implicit in that, and in the Constitution, is the idea that the president must protect the freedom of ALL Americans.
People in the armed services join with the president to fulfill his oath. They understand their lives may be lost to keep us free.
So the president, when he makes decisions, must think not solely about individual military personnel, but about the implications of his actions for all Americans and all servicemen and women around the world.
My view is that our actions with China have imperiled the safety of Americans, both civilians and military. A reader named Louis wrote to me: "Now we kowtow to a totalitarian government, stuck in its imperial delusions. What's next? Issuing 1.5" X 1.5" red bulls-eyes on every American outside of this country?"
Louis understands that every two-bit dictator like Saddam Hussein knows that he just needs to hold Americans hostage to get his way.
Forget about the letter for a moment. The reality is that China held 24 American servicemen and women hostage for 12 days.
These service people were flying in international waters when their plane was harassed and struck by a Chinese jet to the point that our plane almost crashed.
The U.S. plane, following international protocols subscribed to by all civilized nations, conducted an emergency landing on Chinese territory.
China then held these people hostage in demand for an apology.
For almost two weeks, China was able to hold Americans hostage as America appeared helpless. This action by the Chinese is the problem. China has demonstrated that for almost two weeks they could hold Americans against their will, and the American government looked helpless and eventually capitulated by apologizing in a letter.
Whatever we may think the word "sorry" means, I believe the letter is viewed by the Chinese, our allies and enemies as an apology.
We had no reason for writing that letter, other than to fulfill a demand made by hostage takers.
The U.S. had done nothing wrong, and had nothing to show sorrow for. If we had harassed a Chinese plane, nearly killing those on board, yes, then we should have apologized.
One reader asked bluntly, "What do you want, Bozo, war?"
No, but by trying to avoid war and appease aggression, we will most certainly get it.
Our handling of this situation may now well embolden China to make a play for Taiwan, where the consequences for the U.S. would be much more significant.
Churchill, to his dying day, called World War II the "unnecessary war." But public opinion was such in the democracies that when Chamberlain returned from Munich with a piece of paper in his hand saying that Herr Hitler "guarantees" peace in our time, Chamberlain was cheered, the British public was relieved, and Churchill was scorned and alone. Within two short years world war raged.
Such lessons were not lost on people like Ronald Reagan. He showed us the formula for dealing with dictators when he brought down the old Soviet Union. Hang tough, don't accommodate, be honest in your rhetoric (remember his "Evil Empire" speech) and make sure your rhetoric matches you actions. Reagan's military buildup spoke volumes.
Bush is being tested. He will learn and grow.
The next few months will be critical for him, as he needs to take steps to avoid this type of situation from happening again. He should focus on rebuilding U.S. defenses and penalizing China for its hostage taking.
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