by Jim Lobe Ê
(IPS) WASHINGTON --
years after their coalition began falling apart over the Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, various strands of the right-wing alliance behind the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s are coming back together to mobilize public opinion against a new enemy: China.
The mainly informal coalition of neo-conservative and far-right groups and activists sees eventual confrontation with Beijing as virtually inevitable. They believe that Washington's efforts to co-opt China into a Western-dominated global economic and security system are dangerously naive.
In their view, China is already preparing for such a confrontation -- as evidenced most recently by the almost 20 percent hike in its military budget -- and the United States should do the same.
While these forces have not yet netted any top appointments in the new George W. Bush administration, they will likely enjoy a sympathetic hearing in high places, notably among the top ranks in the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld and in Vice President Dick Cheney's office.
The coalition is pursuing its aims on five main fronts:
While most neo-cons enthusiastically backed prosecution of the war against Iraq, key elements of the New Right, led by Patrick Buchanan, reverted to a pre-World War II isolationist stance, arguing that Washington had no vital interest at stake in the conflict.
The Soviet Union's disappearance made the split even more bitter. While the neo-cons cheered for an aggressive interventionism in Iraq, the Balkans, East Asia, and even Africa, other right-wing elements, while also ardently unilateralist, argued for a much more restrained posture, especially in Europe, the Mideast, and Africa.
But, over the past several years, the two sides have gradually come back together over their shared conviction that China represents the greatest and surest long-term threat to the United States.
of the leaders of the emerging coalition are familiar to anyone who was engaged in the political battles over the Contra war in Nicaragua during the Reagan administration when the same forces depicted the Sandinista government as a particularly menacing outpost in the Soviet Union's "evil empire."
Among the former Contra boosters who have turned their sights on China are polemicists William Kristol and Robert Kagan of the Rupert Murdoch-financed Weekly Standard; former Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Elliott Abrams; former National Security Council aide Constantine Menges; former senior Pentagon official Richard Perle and his acolyte Frank Gaffney; as well as Freedom House's religious rights activist Nina Shea; and Michael Ledeen, a State Department consultant under Reagan and major sponsor of the now-discredited theory that Bulgaria was behind the 1981 assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II.
Among the leading New Right figures who also gave prominent backing to the Contras are Gary Bauer, head of the influential Family Research Council (FRC); Richard Scaife, widely regarded as the most effective among far-right philanthropists; Phyllis Schlafly, a leading far-right figure for four decades; Reagan's Pentagon chief Casper Weinberger; and a number of lawmakers, such as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Jesse Helms, and retired military officers, including ret. Lt. Gen. Gordon Sumner, one of the Contras' earliest boosters.
They also are backed by several publications, including the Washington Times and Insight, both owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church, a major Contra war backer; the National Review weekly published by William F. Buckley, and the Scaife-funded Regnery and neo-con Encounter publishing houses, which were also active in support of the Contras.
In the last 18 months, Encounter published two books which focused on China as a major threat to the United States -- "Hegemon: China's Plan to Dominate Asia and the World," by Steven Mosher; and "Present Dangers," edited by Kagan and Kristol.
In the same period, Regnery published two others: "Red Dragon Rising: Communist China's Military Threat to America," by two Congressional staffers, Edward Timberlake and William Triplett II; and "The China Threat: How the People's Republic Targets America," by Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz, whose earlier screed on Bill Clinton's "appeasement" of China, "Betrayal," made the New York Times bestseller list.
The authors form part of a self-described "Blue Team" (after the color of the U.S. side in most war games run by the government) of like-minded activists and analysts from Congressional staff, lobby groups, and think-tanks -- such as the Heritage Foundation, Gaffney's Center for Security Policy (CSP), the William Casey Institute (named for the CIA chief who ran the Contra war), and the U.S. Business and Industry Council, a protectionist group backed by a major Buchanan supporter.
The Blue Team has lost some influence in the last two years, both by discrediting itself over charges that China was taking over the Panama Canal through the acquisition of long-term leases to two ports by Hong Kong-based Hutchison-Whampoa and by engaging in McCarthyite tactics against experts and lobbyists deemed too soft on Beijing, so-called "panda-huggers" or members of the "Red Team."
Alarmed at some of the anti-Chinese hysteria generated by the Blue Team and its fellow travellers, corporate interests, including major backers of Republican campaigns, also weighed in during last year's debate over permanently normalizing trade ties with Beijing with the result that Richard Fisher, a prominent Blue Team member, found himself exiled from the influential Heritage Foundation.
But that doesn't mean that larger anti-China alliance does not lack for influence both in Congress and in the new administration. In recent months, two big Contra-boosters with no known expertise in China, Ledeen and Abrams received senior Congressional appointments. Ledeen is to serve on a commission on export controls, while Abrams now chairs the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Several members of the Advisory Board of Gaffney's CSP, one of the biggest boosters of the brouhaha over Hutchison-Whampoa, have also been recruited for top Bush posts, including I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby as Cheney's top national-security adviser, and Douglas Feith, who will head the top policy post in Rumsfeld's Pentagon.
Another anti-China stalwart loosely associated with the Blue Team who also was a big Contra backer under Reagan, John Bolton, was appointed as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Strategy.
April 5, 2001 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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