Let me put a string of assumptions about the Middle East, the USA and China together and see if we draw similar conclusions.

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars are not about democracy, they are about the free flow of oil. While the USA and China are not in agreement about democracy, they both want free flow of oil. Free flow of oil benefits both nations.

The Middle East is a region that is not driven by economics in the same way that the USA and China are driven by economics. In the Middle East, ideology and religion are extremely powerful. There were successive attempts by leaders like Qaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and now Ahmadinejad to be the rulers of the Muslim world, and this is something that neither the USA nor China want, because they both have oil dependent economies. In general, the strategy of the Muslim leader is always the same. It resembles that kid who tried to kill Reagan to impress Jodie Foster (replace Jodie Foster for the average inhabitant of the Middle East). Stand up against the USA and Israel, and get Muslims to admire you. Then become the “natural leader” of the Muslim world. So far this has not worked. Now Ahmadinejad is going at it with nuclear weapons, making it ever more urgent for the USA to align with the Chinese.

Free flow of oil benefits the Chinese Communist government more than the American government. The USA is a solid democracy that can withstand a recession, China is an unstable autocratic nation with a government whose people tolerate it because it gives them prosperity. Cut off the flow of oil and the Communist government becomes very unstable.

Russia is not a natural ally for the USA in the Middle East for the simple reason that Russia is an energy exporter. It is only partly an ally in the sense that Russia, as well as China, are frequent victims of Muslim extremism. But Russia does not want the free flow of oil.

China has 2.2 military personnel and spends $60bn per year on the military. The USA has 1.4 million and spends $600bn. The economic advantage that China has in manufacturing jobs is similar to what China has in military costs. China is a low cost military producer whose labor is especially good in wars of occupation. The USA is a high cost high quality military producer whose advantage is in air and tactical wars which is exactly what the current Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan wars are not.

The cost of the Middle East wars over the last 10 years has been estimated at $1 trillion. Coincidentally, USA debt to China grew to close to $1 trillion during these wars. So it is fair to say that it is China who is financing the wars for the free flow of oil. It benefits from them, but does not fight them nor spend on them. China just lends money and expects to be repaid in full. Owing a lot of money to the Chinese is not a great idea for the future national and foreign policy of the USA. For example, the next time the USA says that Chinese should revalue or that they are dumping goods, the Chinese will say shut up and pay your debt. The Chinese will do what the USA did to the UK and France in the Suez Canal dispute (USA told the UK that if they insisted in fighting the Egyptians over the Suez canal it would pull off the financing of the pound and destroy its value. The UK gave up. I learned this reading IOUSA).

Given these assumptions I come to the following theses. I think the USA should have China fight and equity finance the Middle East wars for free flow of oil instead of just debt financing them. If China fights it, it is China that spends the money, not the USA indebted to China. Moreover, China can do the job 90% cheaper than the USA. If the Chinese can send a soldier to Afghanistan for $100K per year, and the objective to send this soldier is to prevent an Al Qaeda takeover of the middle east, why send a US soldier for $1M?

The USA may be afraid of having China become a global military power, but the sooner the USA drops its pretenses that it fights wars to promote democracy (why not fight the most undemocratic Saudi Arabia then?), the sooner it realizes that it fights them to promote free and cheap oil, the sooner the US government will come to the conclusion that it should partner with China. That either it gets China to fight and pay or otherwise it just waits it out. The USA has to stop thinking of itself as the first victim of any global crisis. The Communist Party of China would be the first victim. But they know it, and that’s why they pile up while the USA spends.

The last US president who understood how to make others pay for war and not take the country to bankruptcy was Bush senior who able liberated Kuwait with little investment of US money. He knew how to fight an efficient war (USA is best in the world at short tactical wars) and when to pull out.

Moreover, while many are afraid of China, I think that the Chinese, at least so far, have proven to be much more gun shy than the USA when fighting what they believe is right. China waited to regain Hong Kong without fighting, it will probably regain Taiwan amicably and will continue to deal with the uncomfortable situation of Tibet without a war. This is because the Chinese are patient and smart. This is also why, if the Chinese are willing to fight for free oil, then we should join them because when they are ready, things will be really serious and not fake serious (WMD).

Now don’t take me wrong. I prefer democracy to dictatorship and I still overall prefer the USA to China, in spite of the US voracity for foreign interventions . I especially still prefer a USA led world over a Communist Chinese led world. But if the USA doesn’t realize how China is both getting to own the USA and benefit from free oil while not contributing any sweat or real equity in the war efforts, it will go bust. And if somebody goes bust, I prefer it be the Chinese Communist party. That is why if I had anything to do with US military policy, I would not go on fighting without engaging them.

Lastly, I would like to say the same about North Korea. If anyone should worry about North Korea it’s the Chinese who are next door. They should worry about their nuclear ambitions, the potential for a nuclear war at their borders, and the enormous economic disruption that could come from a conflict in the region. And yet, the USA goes at this problem alone, and so far it has achieved nothing. This is another conflict that the USA should work closely with the Chinese on.

What brought the USSR down was the combination of a corrupt regime that was unable to deliver prosperity to its people and its disproportionate level of military spending. So long as the USA makes it easy for China to focus on prosperity and outsource most of its foreign policy to USA, the Communist will stay in power.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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eduardo on March 15, 2010  · 

I cannot seem to imagine any good outcome from having China invade the middle east.

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Martin Varsavsky on March 15, 2010  · 

China would not have been a partner of the invasion of Iraq. Therefore there would have been no invasion. But I can see China in the future preventing Iran from invading Iraq and Kuwait for example. Or I can see China preventing North Korea from attacking South Korea.

Henry on March 15, 2010  · 

China has been, and will continue to get the natural resources it needs from around the world without needing to collaborate with the USA because of several reasons.

Firstly,The USA wants to ‘Democratise’ the world. China doesn’t question foreign Governments and their policies like the USA does. This leads to minimal political conflict. If a country has something China wants, China will do a deal and will not interfere politically. As you mention above, it was oil the USA wanted from Iraq. However the costs were high; they spent a lot of money fighting the war, as well as the loss of the thousands of innocent lives in the process. I doubt China would go to war to get oil from the middle east. In fact, I feel China would have done a deals with Iraq years ago if there wasn’t a war.

If you look at China’s presence in Africa you’ll see that my above statement isn’t far fetched. They are every where in Africa quenching their thirst for natural resources; Angola, Sudan, Nigeria, DRC to name a few. Lets not forget China’s big involvement in oil exploration in Iran and Venezuela worth Billions of dollars.

You make a very good point in that “China is both getting to own USA and benefit from free oil while not contributing any sweat or real equity in the war efforts…” But I believe China would be benefiting regardless of the war. China has no problems doing business with regimes the USA finds undesirable. China doesn’t have a squeaky clean human rights record, it would be hypocritical if it started pointing the finger at anyone. The USA however cannot enter these markets directly because of its own political ideology. The ‘Democracy for all” mantra is at conflict with many of the resource rich nations. So under the pretence of bringing Democracy it conducts a war, then regime change in order to acquire the rights to drill for oil.

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Antoin on March 16, 2010  · 

You are assuming that the superpowers can collaborate as companies might for a technological goal. But they cannot. The war for oil is a zero sum game. There is only so much oil and there is not enough to go round. If china wins, America loses and vice versatile.

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Bill on March 16, 2010  · 

The war in Iraq is not simply war for oil, it is also war for the military suppliers in the States. The estimated cost of the war does not just simply went to bang-bang, in fact I would imagine a good portion of it went on the balance sheet of those corporations supplying military equipment for US army.

US government is run by corporate interest and political ideology, and a military alliance with China fulfills neither.

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frank on March 16, 2010  · 

i rather prefer peace

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Another on March 16, 2010  · 

I cannot believe you believe in what you have posted, indeed that is the reason I have just read half of it. Or you have posted looking someone provides more logical reason you don’t want to post for logical reason or you just want to open a discussion to promote your self inside this public target that you think is FON users’, probably kif-kif.
Anyway I give you the honor to be the first to suggest a business diplomacy war deals, or whatever is what you suggest. Mixing China, debts, War costs and Iraq war is something I did not read before, congratulations.

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George on March 16, 2010  · 

Brilliant. And I believe China will not participate in the military: Why bother? The USA are all about showing off, “defending world democracy and peace”, and I also agree with Bill: this is also an armament business.
So the Chinese just sit and wait while the USA debt grows, and oil flows…
Also no USA President (or politician) will ever agree in having the Chinese trooping with the G I Joe’s !!

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XL on March 17, 2010  · 

Do you really think is a good idea that USA pays the chinese army development?

As an example If FON want to expand it’s business in India, you will pay to a unfair & untrustable competitor, to take care of your expansion, because is cheaper?

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Polac on March 17, 2010  · 

China will wait patiently as long as needed, while the USA are loosing political influence among the emerging countries, which have natural resources, their military arguments would no longer convince anyone. China gets what it needs without getting angry with anyone., While extending its population abroad, quietly, stealthily. His style is another very different from the USA, much more effective, they get this, as you’ve mentioned it at a cost ten times less than the USA. They have no need to collaborate with USA, they can managed alone perfectly well.

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XL on March 17, 2010  · 

Few Examples were USA administrations have done outsourcing on military resources, to save money:

Ho Chi Min, It was created, equiped, trained & financed by USA during the World war II, the idea it was to save money and american lifes creating a new army that fougth the japaneses in Vietnam.

Taliban, American were not ready to figth against URSS so they decided to train, finance and equiped the Taliban Army.

Al Qaeda, USA decided that Taliban need help, so they provide assistance to create an Islamic army ready to figth against the URSS.

Saddam Hussein…

Eduardo Noriega….

Armed Forces of Kurdistan …

Chiis Militia…

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Boyd Jones on March 22, 2010  · 

China is saving its military to retake Taiwan. They can’t spare troops for the Middle East…

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Sameer Nadkarni on March 24, 2010  · 

Martin, the premise for your argument is too simplistic. Yes China is in favor of access to oil, but they have been busy securing supplies from Iran. China’s perception of Iran is as an ally and not a threat. Economic interests always determine behavior and with regard to Iran, economic interests of USA and China are definitely not aligned.

China and Iran are big trading partners. China has been making aggressive deals with Iran to lock in LNG, oil and other supplies. China is #2 in market share of Iran’s imports (ready to surpass Germany) and Iran is the third largest supplier of crude to China. Iran’s oil and natural gas exports combined provide a meaningful 11% of China’s energy needs. China has consistently opposed UN sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program and supported UN resolutions only after they were watered down to the extent they would not threaten China’s interests and oil flows. Rest assured China wants to sustain its high GDP growth and is quietly securing the resources and supplies they need, from Iran, Africa, Canada, etc.

China is the behind-the-scenes participant in many of today’s geo-political issues and their interests don’t always align with the USA. Pakistan is another example of this dynamic.

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marko on March 29, 2010  · 

This is your best blogpost ever, by far. The logic and simplicity of your argument is poetic. Anyone who is outraged by this post is probably someone who loves a nice steak but can’t stand the idea of seeing a cow die. You are just highlighting the (absurd and inefficient) reality.

The reason this solution will never happen is not ideals, national strategies, democracy, blah, blah, blah….its because it would remove the american oil and military businesses (i.e georgeW & friends) who make boatloads of cash as the middlemen in this flow of goods (oil) and services (war).

My Caveat: I am peace loving person who thinks that humans live in a post-scarcity world, but our brains have not caught up to that fact. In other words, our ‘zero-sum’ mentality which is the cause of all human problems is merely a hangover of our lizard brains. There is no need for war, we have enough, enjoy!

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Oscar Portman on March 31, 2010  · 

I like the post, i like the position. I admit i don’t know a lot about it, but i read a bit about it all. China doesn’t have the ability to master a full scale heglian dialectic the way america does, America/West is an expert orchestrator of world affairs through ‘Global’ Institutions ie white, preferably english, still even now. Sure there are great forces that command greater global competition than ever before, (eg Brazil) but none master propaganda the way the US does, it’s brilliant. China is still a ‘red’ industrial 2nd world country- no matter how many domestic shopping malls and western architects are tacted onto the newest concrete bastion of ‘greed is glorious…’ oops i mean ‘to be rich is glorious’ they are essentially just another player the ‘white’ boys have gotten to play ball. To outsource global violence on the angle you pursue would be a conlfict of ‘branding’ and ultimate ‘rents’- ie oil, and the other benefits of war ie loans, military industrial production etc.

As has already been mentioned- china loves africa- a late arrival to it’s pillaging/pilferring history made by the euro clans.

And then, we shouldn’t forget israel, it’s there, it’s hated, it’s supported by america, it’s foot soldier to a ‘godfather’. i don’t want to pursue this avenue more, but i will say that situation is perceivably irreconciliable, i know it’s religious and all sentimental, but the jews are better off within all other nations, well networked, benefitting from strong business ties, providing services etc. I know that will always be a touchy subject- BUT america ‘cares’ or is at least a performing receptical for israel, whereas china will not be so ‘buddy’ about it, and at the moment china can still play ‘tough & red’ whereas openly being a lacky to western ‘peace’ efforts might be ruining a status quo that says china has real world power, as apposed to really being the 1st world’s slaves with ‘healthy’ dreams. it’s an irreconciliable allegory, it’s not hollywood- “they die so that we live” is not healthy prol music on any side of the heglian dialectic- even if it is a little more accurate than the propaganda at large. my thoughts, i’m up for criticism

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