Remember "Remember the Maine"?
By Scott Sumner
If you are my age, you might have been taught about how “Remember the Maine” was used as a rallying cry by the government and certain corrupt media outlets as a pretext for war against Spain. In fact, there was never any evidence that Spain attacked the Maine.
About the time I was being taught about this event, the US government lied about an incident involving a US warship in the Gulf of Tonkin. They claimed that North Vietnam fired first in an altercation with a US warship. (And also lied about a second altercation.) This was used as a pretext for going to war with North Vietnam.
In 2003, the US government exaggerated evidence that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction, and used this “intelligence” as a pretext for war.
The Vietnam War and the Iraq War turned out to be disasters for the US. Actually, the Spanish American War was also a disaster, although this fact is not widely known. US and Filipino casualties ended up being comparable to US and Iraqi casualties in the Iraq War.
Now there is evidence that the US government intends to blame China for the coronavirus epidemic, and use this as a pretext for a sort of “cold war” with China. Of course cold wars can turn hot, as might occur if an accident occurs during a confrontation between US and Chinese warships in the South China Sea. And unlike Iraq, China really does have weapons of mass destruction.
In the previous three cases, there was reason to object to the behavior of Spain, North Vietnam and Iraq. But not enough to justify war. Similarly, there are aspects of Chinese behavior that are objectionable, but not enough to justify a cold war.
The political nature of this war is obvious once you begin to look at the specifics. There seems to be great interest in the US in a theory that the virus escaped from a lab in Wuhan, rather than from an animal market (as claimed by the Chinese government.)
Regardless of the truth of the matter, there is absolutely no reason to trust either government’s account. That’s because both countries are advocating positions that, objectively speaking, work against their own government’s objectives.
Why would the US be so interested in claiming that the virus accidentally escaped from a lab, rather than accidentally escaped from an animal market? After all, research labs that study viruses exist in many countries, and are considered perfectly legitimate enterprises. In contrast, many people in Western countries view China’s animal markets with extreme distaste. These are places where all sorts of wild animal are treated poorly before being consumed as food. Some argue that they should be shut down.
If you thought about the issue logically, it should be China claiming that the virus accidentally escaped from a research lab and the US claiming that it escaped from a “wet market”. But politics is not logical. The US government did not use logic when it tried to convince Americans to go to war against Spain, North Vietnam and Iraq. Rather they relied on propaganda that played on the public’s most basic instincts, their “reptilian brains”.
The average voter is not well informed on the issues. When they hear “virus escaped from a Chinese lab” they think in terms of mad scientists in Hollywood movies, creating a sort of “Frankenvirus”. Both the US and the Chinese governments know this, which is why they frantically try to put out stories that, objectively speaking, advance the interest of the other side. The US puts forward a theory that is actually pro-China, but sounds anti-China to the public, and China responds with the reverse.
If the US government were seriously interested in the truth, you would not see them accusing China of covering up a lab accident. Why act outraged when a foreign government admits to something even worse than what you privately believe happened. That makes no sense. For that reason, I am almost certain that the US government is purposely engaged in anti-China propaganda with the objective of creating a new cold war. We may never know exactly where the virus originally came from, but that doesn’t matter at all to the leaders of the US or China. (Nor does it matter to me, unless it was artificially created, which seems extremely unlikely.) Theories are weapons, to be used to advance certain foreign policy objectives. The US government has made up its mind that it wants to have a cold war with China, and it will do whatever it takes to make that happen.
As I get older, I increasingly wonder why we even teach history to our students. What’s the point? Why explain the Maine incident, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the Iraq War fiasco to students? Do we really believe that students will learn something from these lessons?
PS. President Trump is replacing more independent-minded intelligence officials with his own loyalists:
A Trump loyalist nominated as director of national intelligence (DNI) looked set to sail through Senate confirmation hearings on Tuesday, only nine months after being forced to withdraw for having exaggerated his security experience.
John Ratcliffe, a Republican congressman who fiercely defended the president in last year’s impeachment hearings, told the Senate intelligence committee that he would speak truth to power if confirmed as DNI.
Ratcliffe was reminded by Democratic senators that his two predecessors had been forced from their posts because the findings of the intelligence community irritated Donald Trump, and that the spy agencies were currently under pressure to provide evidence for Trump’s claim that the coronavirus outbreak started in a Chinese laboratory.
Get ready for the next manufactured (cold) war hysteria. It’s coming.