Reading the pre-final draft of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) 2010, one is reminded of the old adage, “plus Ã§a change, plus c’est la meme chose,” in the Pentagon’s handling of asymmetric war, counterterrorism, and other related issues. The ghosts of the Vietnam War, of how not to lose another war, are also very much alive. Since the QDR is usually long on the details of weapons systems–in its making, the four Services fight the bare-knuckle war of pushing their preferred weapons platforms, notwithstanding their commitment to joint warfare–and short on the discussion of strategy, it is seldom clear whether ample attention will be paid to strategy when it becomes operational.
Watching the developing spat between the PRC and the U.S. over the latter’s decision to sell $6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan, one is reminded of the reality that security affairs have remained part and parcel of “low politics,” if that type of politics can be redefined as politics where suspicion, the dark shadows of zero-sum-related competitiveness, and one-upmanship are still lurking and ready to poison the ties between these two important actors. Contrast that version of low politics with its counterpart, “high politics,” if that phrase can be redefined as a description of the new realities where China is catching up with the United States, and the latter is beginning to look like an old curmudgeon, getting grumpy about its declining economic power and the related effects.