Sunday, September 25, 2005

The US and China: Tory Debate No. 3

Thursday, September 8th marked the Tories third debate. Resolved: The US should distance itself from China. The topic was originally planned to coincide with the visit to campus of the so-called “President” of China. His trip to the US was postponed, but some people protesting China’s persecution of the Falun Gong religious movement had set up shop on cross-campus, so the whipsheet still had something to chew on.

I felt very strongly that the US should not be doing any business with China, and so I was prepared to support the affirmative (for the third time in a row). I took the unusual step of thinking about what I might say in advance and finally decided to plan my speech out to the last detail.

I read (as per my newly formed habit) several articles in the Weekly Standard, and began to create a speech that would attack the problem from three different angles. Having figured these out, I lay on my bed, running through my speech in my head, making notes on the back of the weekly whipsheet. I did three run-throughs, so when I finished I thought I’d come up with quite a tidy little product.

I slipped into my battle dress and headed off for the debate, which was to be in the Branford Trumbull room. (It is indeed a curiosity that a residential college would have a common room with the name of another residential college). I showed up a little early and spent a few moments chatting with the former chairman, who had arrived with our box of Tory gear and some refreshments. The chairman presently showed up with the key and we moved in.

The Trumbull room was similar in design to the Athenaeum room where the last debate had been – oak panels from floor to ceiling with some beautifully carved posts at the room’s corners. There was an assortment of leather and cloth couches with some chairs (but no pianos). The chairman and the secretary’s seats once again bordered a table where our paraphernalia would be set up. A new freshman had shown up and I tried to make him as comfortable as the Tories had made me at my first debate.

As Tories filtered in we chatted about Toryhood and the upcoming debate – the former chairman said that he planned to speak in the negative. This came as little surprise to me because he had just spent two months in China studying Chinese. (As it would turn out, a unusually great proportion of the Tories take Chinese, which had the effect of unbalancing the debate). I learned that the provost would be in the affirmative (the first time we’d be on the same side) and we congratulated each other on our depth of perception.

At length the SSCY showed up – wearing pinkish-read pants. It was obvious to see which side of the debate he planned to speak on. Appearing for the second time was a member of the party of the right. (As a little aside here, the current p.o.r. and the Tories were once one party. They split in 1969 when the Tories decided they wanted a group with less of a libertarian and a fascist bent. Since we view ourselves as an extension of the real P.O.R., we use capital letters in referring to the traditional Party of the Right and lower-case letters in referring to the current one).

The chairman called the meeting to order and the secretary read the minutes from the last debate. Each speech was recounted in miniature, leading to the conclusion whereby the resolution (“Give us your huddled masses”) had passed eight to five with two abstentions.

There were no successful changes to the record, so the minutes were approved as read and the secretary was asked to read the topic of tonight’s debate: “Resolved: The US should distance itself from China.”

The chairman asked for speeches in the affirmative and the chief whip was recognized. He walked to the center of the room clutching some notes of his own (several typed pages). Seeing this, one of the Tories made a motion “that the gentleman be allowed to use a prop” which was seconded and passed.

The chief whip made a very perceptive speech, where he argued that sooner or later we were going to end up in a war with China if we let ourselves become weak; we must remain strong enough to fight them whenever the need may arise. They are our enemy, and we should thus not be consorting with them. He yielded to questions. Two or three times during questions sessions that evening the chairman would announce, “I think I shall take the next question.” This was invariably followed by a shout of “tyranny!” from one of the Tories. (The question would be asked, nonetheless).

The former chairman made the first speech in the negative. He argued that China is already democratizing (albeit slowly), and that the way to keep it democratizing is through continuing our relationship with them. He claimed that, were we to pull out of China, the economy would collapse and that would make the Communist leadership seem a beacon of hope to the people. I would later challenge him on this point – it seemed to me as though a collapsed economy would lead to a new government, which is exactly the effect we were looking for.

After the former chairman had answered questions and been thanked for his speech (all speakers are applauded in Tory style after their question session is over) I volunteered to give the second speech in the affirmative. The chairman recognized the provost, however, so I waited for the third round.

The provost gave another very perceptive speech (his role this time would not be a comic one). He noted that China is guilty of very evil practices and great human rights abuses. This is not a country we should be doing business with – we are merely lining our pockets (and the pockets of the corrupt Communist leadership) with money squeezed from the impoverished and abused Chinese worker.

I had agreed heartily with the two affirmative speeches I’d heard; it seemed as if we were in good shape.

The next speech in the negative was given by a Tory of longstanding [Mr. Elrod]. He suggested that we could not afford to separate ourselves from China economically. His speech and question session were cut short, however, as he was due to attend the “Help Can’t Wait” concert that had been organized to benefit the victims of hurricane Katrina.

As the gentleman concluded, I was recognized by the chairman for the next speech (which would be my longest yet) in the affirmative. I had my notes in my breast pocket, but decided there was something to be gained by giving the appearance of speaking off the cuff. I therefore recited my points from memory:

“It seems to me that there are three parts to this problem, all of which have been touched on in earlier speeches and which I will expand on. We can look at this problem, as I said, from three directions: ideological, economic, and strategic.

“First, the ideological, which should be of dominating consideration. China is a one-party dictatorship. Our provost has already enumerated various horrible human rights abuses that China is guilty of. Added to this, China continues to violate the conventions it has signed concerning human rights and refugees, they have broken and continue to break their promises to the WTO (that is, the World Trade Organization). They proliferate weapons and weapons technology to hostile nations, and they deliberately obstruct our diplomatic dealings with nations such as Iran and North Korea. This is an evil country, and it is not right to continue to do business with them.

“Churchill, in reflecting on Mussolini’s horribly miscalculated decision to join the axis powers, came up with the beautiful and trenchant statement that, ‘it falls to few men to know for certain what is in their interest, but it falls to a great many common folk, every day, to know what is their duty.’ And by duty he means the right thing to do – and doing business with an evil empire is not right.

“Secondly, there is the economic consideration. Our business with China is significant – they are our third largest trading partner in terms of import/export dollars, and they take up about 10% of total US trade. It has been suggested that pulling out of their economy (and pulling them out of ours) would devastate us, but I do not believe this is so. Certainly, in the short term, the prices of things such as those annoying little cheap plastic toys you get in party favors would go up, but in the long run, we would simply sell more goods to other nations, and buy more goods from those nations, and the slack would be taken up. The real danger is if we wait until a point when our economy really is reliant on the Chinese. This would give them a very dangerous weapon to use against us and I think it would be very foolish to let them have it.

“Finally, there is the strategic consideration. Now, when two countries (or two entities, or however many) reach approximately the same power, they have a choice to make about their relationship. They can choose to compete, or to cooperate. I believe it is very clear that China has chosen to compete. Not only is there the economic threat I mentioned before, but I find it very worrying that China is now building a large number of ballistic missile submarines and anti-ship cruise missiles. They claim that they need these weapons to keep Taiwan in check. If we choose not to take China’s claim at face-value, it seems clear to me that they realize that the key to a war with the US would be the destruction of our carrier fleet, just as the destruction of the Japanese carrier fleet at Midway was the turning point of the war in the Pacific.

“As China has chosen to compete, we must compete also. When a country cooperates with a country that is competing with it, it is called appeasement, and this hasn’t worked to well in the past.

“If we cooperate with China, we will run headlong into the Taiwan issue, which is of great importance. In 2001, we pledged to provide Taiwan with whatever support she needs to defend herself. But we cannot sit on the fence on this question – we have to take either the Chinese or the Taiwanese side, and if we cooperate with China we will end up going back on our pledge. If we no longer threaten China with retaliation for invading Taiwan, they probably will invade sooner or later. If China controls Taiwan, the entire map of the area is redrawn. Not only will China now have deep-water east-coast submarine bases, they will control the northern entrance to the South China Sea. This means that they will in turn control most of the South China Sea, and in turn all of the nations dependant on it. Then we will be shut out of that region, and we’ll be stuck.

“In 1938, as we discussed earlier, Hitler wanted the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. After all, it was full of German people; it was really part of Germany. It just happened to turn out that the Sudetenland also contained the mountain ranges that were Czechoslovakia’s natural line of defense, and it was consequently easy for Hitler to spill over into Czechoslovakia and the rest of Europe.

“In the modern day, China wants Taiwan. After all, it’s full of Chinese; it’s really part of China. It also just happens to control the entire region – for defensive or offensive purposes. If China gets that control, what makes us think that they will not want to pour back into areas they controlled long ago, such as South and Southeast Asia, and even Siberia? And who will be prepared to stop them?

“In the final analysis therefore, we must not continue doing business with China. Distancing ourselves from them is the safe, the responsible, and the right thing to do. And with that I yield the floor.”

Among the questions I was asked was the inevitable: Why should we be doing business with some “bad countries” and not be doing business with others? Fortunately I was prepared for this point – I had considered addressing it in my speech, but, as it would inevitably become a question, I thought it would be better to make that one less surprise question I’d have to answer:

“I thought this would come up sooner or later. The question inevitably arises, ‘doesn’t it seem like hypocrisy to talk to some evil nations and refuse to talk to others?’ The answer is that we cannot cut ourselves off from all evil nations right away, or all at once. What we can do is to step towards this one at a time, and remove ourselves from as many evil nations as possible.”

I was finally thanked for my speech, and we moved on to the next speaker in the negative, the SSCY.

The SSCY made an absolutely hilarious and yet completely wrong (from my point of view) speech. He contended that America’s purpose was to act in the best interest of Americans – not caring particularly about the rest of the world. If trading with China will make his suits cheaper, why not? Naturally he was well-hissed at by the provost, the chief whip, and myself. He seemed to view America as similar in value to any country that can insure similar security, freedoms, and standards of living (of which there are none, he neglected to mention). This view conflicted so violently with my own that I was prompted to ask the (good-natured) question, “Does the gentleman simply view America as some sort of big fat dumb happy* prosperous bubble that he is somehow parasitically attached to?” (This was worth a good laugh, but of course his answer was in the negative).

When the SSCY had answered the last question, the chairman requested a speaker in the affirmative, but there was none. With the observation “the chair frowns on a one-sided debate” the chairman asked for speeches in the negative, and recognized once again the former chairman.

The former chairman pitched into a lengthy and forceful restatement of his position. In talking the debate over later in the evening it turned out that both the former chairman and I had believed the affirmative position to be doing better than it was. It was for this reason that he made his second speech of the evening – and in turn I decided not to. I would later regret that.

The former chairman’s speech was followed by yet another speech in the negative, by the oriental Englisher. He argued that the US and China agreed fundamentally on the important points – “what is just, what is honorable, and what is worth.” He actually admitted that he was arguing for a sort of moral relativism (this too was well-hissed at). In the final analysis he claimed that the US should be talking to China, exporting our customs and values in a way that we could not do if we cut ourselves off from them.

That having been the final speech of the evening, the acting sergeant at arms was called upon to divide the room (creating amusing little classifications for the affirmative and negative sides of the debate). I was confident that the affirms would make a good showing, but I was decidedly wrong: the vote was 13-3 in the negative, with only the three Tories (myself included) who had spoken in the affirmative on the other side of the room. It was a crushing defeat.

Oh well.

The resolution was recorded as having failed, and the chairman asked for an appropriate motion, “perhaps from the SSCY?”

“I move that we adjourn to Yorkside…”

“As is traditional,” we chimed in.

The debate having thus ended, we milled about in discussion for a few minutes, reexamining the debate and pondering possible topics for the next one. At length, the remaining Tories (who had finished their homework and didn’t have to get up too early the next day) marched over to Yorkside.

We were five at the Pizzeria: the chairman, SSCY, the sergeant at arms, a longstanding but non-office-holding Tory, and myself. We were presently joined by the former chairman, who made a sixth.

While the majority of the Tories were contented with their pepperoni pizza and the chairman was doing his best to work his way through a club sandwich, I had attempted to order something small – “a scoop of ice cream” is what the menu called it. Little did I know that a Yorkside “scoop” amounts to nearly a truckload by classic standards. The chairman, making his meal complete, ordered a glass of orange juice, which he drinks for every meal and snack of the day, believing it to be healthy and hygienic, not to mention tasty.

Our conversation bounced around freely for a time before it settled on the topic of who was taking what language. I was the only Hebrew-speaker at the table, though Russian and Chinese were amply represented. It would seem a general rule that these Yorkside discussions never become too political – such things are no longer in order after 11 o’clock.

After I had waded through as much ice cream as I thought wise, and shown my compatriots the Hebrew spelling for Israeli “Bazooka” bubble-gum, the check arrived and we were free to leave.

As we were on the way out, we ran into the p.o.r., just coming in from their own debate. The brief conversation that thus developed was civilized, and perhaps even amiable; neither party shared the disdain it felt for the other. The p.o.r.’s dress had a wider range to it, running from suits to a few t-shirts. The Tories were clearly in more uniform uniform. We separated ourselves from the p.o.r. on a friendly note and struck out for our dorm rooms.

I finally parted with the chairman as we walked by Saybrook on Elm Street, and covered the last few hundred yards to my dorm by myself. I would be seeing the Tories again at lunch the next day – as is traditional.


* It should be noted that this particular series of words actually appears more-or-less in a dialogue at the end of the movie “The Caine Mutiny.”

5 Comments:

At 4:40 AM, Blogger Commander Mike said...

Who cares?

 
At 1:29 PM, Blogger Republican Dan said...

One can only infer that you value you own time very cheap.
While this is unfortunate (from your point of view) it is easy to understand.

 
At 9:54 PM, Blogger Alec Brandon said...

I swore off commenting here, but I felt the need to make a brief post.

There surely is hope! Even the Tories disagree with your ludicrous opinions.

Hmm...have sanctions ever worked ever?

Guess what the answer is?

I will give you a second to think about it.

Done? Oh, ok, sorry.

Done? Well too bad, because the answer is emphatically no.

What the hell makes you think it will be economically, militarily, and diplomatically efficient in this case?

Well based on what we know, nothing.

That is all.

-Mr. Alec

 
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