Monday, April 20, 2009


I've mentioned recently that I'm not particularly brave, rather a chicken, in fact. People, especially, tend to make me wary, because they are unpredictable and it's hard to read their motives. You just can't know what's going on inside another person. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, because it's what I want from them, but it's hard not to interpret certain signals negatively and go into emotional-self-protection mode. My tendency is to duck and cover. I don't want to be hurt, and my instinct is to make myself a smaller target and "disappear" when I think other people are unhappy with me, or have rejected me. It's probably not the wisest approach to life. Things go unresolved when you disappear, and if other people can possibly interpret your motives wrongly, it's a pretty good bet that they will a large portion of the time. Protecting yourself emotionally by withdrawing from potential sources of pain can be interpreted as rejecting others, for example, or as punishing someone else for previous hurts. It doesn't matter what's true, usually, or how much internal good will you have toward others. What matters is what's perceived, and it's hard to reengage once walls have been built to hide behind. I usually need encouragement to come out from behind them, and it's often the case that that encouragement never comes. It would be far better never to hide in the first place, but instinct is a hard thing to fight. That's a problem I'm still wrestling with, the struggle between instinct and wisdom. May God grant me grace and strength for the ongoing struggle.

So what happens when this occurs on an international scale? What happens when it's countries interacting, interpreting motives, and even "disappearing?" China, for example, withdrew from the world for a good deal of the twentieth century. Isolating herself from other nations, she put up a big Do Not Disturb sign and turned her back on the rest of humanity. That has changed for the most part these days. China wants trading partners, and customers to buy the goods of her billion or so budding entrepreneurs. The world has pretty much thrown its arms wide to China, buying her merchandise and exploring this once closed land. The Olympics gave the Chinese government the perfect chance to cast as benign a light as possible on her culture, people and intentions. Still, the international community does not know China very well after all those years of isolation, and there's bound to be some legitimate suspicion.

As an example of a "how am I supposed to interpret that" scenario, what should the world make of China's development of new and extremely powerful weapons systems? Gizmag has an article out today about what is believed to be a new and truly scary Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile, "capable of targeting and destroying US aircraft carriers"--in one shot. How does the world, and the U.S. in particular, go about giving China the benefit of the doubt here? Are the Chinese, in their own way of thinking, just protecting themselves from real or perceived threats, or are they getting ready to attempt a take-over of Taiwan? How should the countries of the world react?

Is China's development of aircraft carrier killers any different than the U.S. developing what we would consider defensive weapons systems, like Star Wars, or is China just keeping ahead of the game in a big, bad world? Many would say that China has shown herself to be a bully, and that once places like Tibet are free, then we can talk about China's legitimate right to self-defense. Of course, many in the world (I consider them in error) would say that the U.S. is a bully, and has no right to limit the military acquisitions of any other sovereign nation. For example, some people would say Iran has a perfect right to develop nuclear weapons capability. They would claim that if we can do it, Iran should be able to as well. Of course, the U.S. doesn't go around supporting Canadian terrorists and threatening to wipe Mexico off the map, as Iran has done with Iraq, Lebanon and Israel, so I'd say there are moral canyons between America and Iran, but that doesn't change the fact that reasonable people can disagree on the rights of nations, and that it's a difficult task to interpret the motives of another person, let alone another culture. I'd say Iran is pretty hard to misinterpret, if you take them at their word at all, but China is a different story. China is not nearly as talkative as Iran. Can we really know what the Chinese powers intend?

So, how should the U.S. react to this Chinese development? The Gizmag article makes it seem that the U.S. is taking this new weapon pretty darned seriously. I'm glad that I don't have to make the decisions here. As I've said, I'm a bit of a coward. I'd probably just duck my head and hope the situation went away. Okay, not really, but I'm taking my earlier analogy to its ludicrous extreme. Hmm... is it so ludicrous, though? I'm sure there are lots of people here in the States who would love to give China the benefit of the doubt, as we would like others to give it to us, and assume that her intentions are totally self-protective and not at all aggressive in nature. They would love to simply ignore the situation and assume that China will just happily go along supplying Wal-Mart with inexpensive merchandise, but can we afford to be that charitable and trusting? Probably not. Instinct says that not everybody can be trusted. Wisdom actually says the same thing. I hope the Chinese motives truly are as benign as the face they tried to show the world during the Olympics, but I also hope that the U.S. military finds a counter to this aircraft carrier killer soon. Both instinct and wisdom are telling me that's a good idea. May God grant us all grace and strength for the ongoing struggle.