A look in the mirror

"An aging society with rising expectations, burdened with rates of chronic diseases exacerbated by sedentary lifestyles, will probably divert spending from both military development and the economic growth that sustains it."

Prepare for some enormous cognitive dissonance. That paragraph is not a description of the United States circa 2014 but the way that military strategists are describing China circa 2034.

Yesterday I was reading an article about our military preparedness and the capacity the U.S. has to stop China if they decided they wanted to attack Taiwan or Japan, two places we’ve promised to defend. I was hooked into reading the article by two absurd assertions: (1) that our submarines are all that is really needed to deter an attack for the next 20 years and that (2) after that, China will implode and we won’t have to worry about them doing something crazy like attacking Taiwan or Japan.

Now I’m not a military tactician, but I do believe history reveals that both Kaiser Wilhelm and Adolf Hitler received similar confident words of insight in regards to deploying their U-Boats against the U.S. and British fleet. It should also be noted that said insight did not occur before the war but only when Germany was starting to grasp that they could lose. I’m confident (at least hopeful) our senior military tacticians know there are countermeasures to submarines and so I’ll chalk this one up to lazy reporting.

What is more interesting to me in the article is the last section on future Chinese decline. Here’s how that begins:

If American subs can hold the line for another 20 years, China might age right out of its current, aggressive posture without ever having attacked anyone. That's because economic and demographic trends in China point towards a rapidly aging population, flattening economic growth, and fewer resources available for military modernization.

To test the validity of this hypothesis, we need only look at the United States. Has a rapidly aging population and flattening economic growth given us fewer resources for military modernization? Has it reduced our capacity for an aggressive posture? Now one data point does not prove anything, but it certainly refutes the notion that, after twenty years, China is going to age right out of an aggressive posture.

There’s more:

Another factor is the unusual speed with which the Chinese economy has expanded to its true potential, thanks to the focused investment made possible by an authoritarian government…

I read this sentence and replaced “authoritarian” with “centralized” which is a more accurate description of both China and America’s economic sunburst. A lot can be accomplished in a short period of time through centralization. What is lost is resiliency; the ability to adapt to change. Our highly touted ability to recreate ourselves is being undermined by the very success it created.

Warren Buffet said that the rear view mirror is always clearer than the windshield. Not always, especially when the rear view mirror involves looking at yourself.