24 August 2005


My high school US History and World Lit teacher, Mrs. Parsons, was well known in the school for her strongly held political and social ideas. One position she held that has always stuck with me was her assertion that the United States is a declining power, and that China would rise up and take our place as the primary world superpower. I don't know how much I ascribe to that idea myself, given the broad spectrum of arguments on both sides and the unavoidable (and hopefully not entirely unwarranted) hubris that comes from being an American citizen.

Regardless, cf. the Washington Times:

Kazakhstan’s foreign minister yesterday pledged his country’s support for U.S. military operations in Central Asia and said his country worked to water down neighboring countries’ efforts to evict American troops from the region.

Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev added that the U.S. military presence since the 2001 Afghanistan war and China’s emergence as a regional and global power were helping revive the 19th-century “Great Game” struggle for influence in the region.

“Yes, to some extent, the ‘Great Game’ is coming back to our region,” Mr. Tokayev told editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

“All of the major countries are expressing their own interest to be present [in Central Asia], which is only natural because this region turned out to be important geopolitically and from a strategic point of view,” he said.

Kazakhstan, a U.S. ally and the only Central Asian nation to contribute troops to the postwar mission in Iraq, startled the Bush administration last month when it endorsed a communique from the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) widely interpreted as demanding a deadline for shutting down U.S. bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, set up to support the Afghan war.

The increasingly influential SCO includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, but is dominated by its two largest members—Russia and China. Both Moscow and Beijing have been unnerved by the prospect of permanent U.S. military outposts in their strategic backyard.

Whether or not China is on a crash course for a head-to-head confrontation with us, there are certainly plenty of theaters within which such standoffs might occur, including Hong Kong and the above-mentioned central Asia. And that doesn’t even address the economic grappling that’s likely going to happen in the next decade or so.

Eternal vigilance, the price both of freedom and success.

(Hat tip: Captain's Quarters)

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