China's New Hostages
The Washington Times - June 7, 1999
[May be Reprinted]
By Angelo M. Codevilla
China's acquisition of U.S. strategic technology threatens to undo the
United States' World War II victory in the Pacific. The Clinton
complaisance about it can not be understood as an intellectual error.
The private interests of William Jefferson Clinton and of his closest
associates explain that complaisance all too well.
The military technology that China has acquired from the U.S. through
espionage, through U.S. companies' stretching the bounds of cooperation,
as well as by legal means, adds up to more than the Soviet Union got a
half century ago through atomic espionage, the capture of a B-29 bomber,
and lend lease. And yet the U.S. government has not deprived any
company of contracts. It has not punished, or even demoted,
anyone---except for the Energy Department's security chief who uncovered
a big chunk of the espionage. Nor has the Administration changed
military plans to account for a China that will shortly be able to make
good on long-standing bloody threats against America. In what may be
the most obvious indicator of the Administration's priorities, Wen Ho
Lee and Peter Lee, who reportedly passed the most clamorous secrets, are
not even in jail.
Contrast this with the fact that the Administration vehemently insists
on imprisoning for the rest of his life Jonathan Pollard, who gave
secrets of an incomparably lower order to Israel which, unlike China,
poses no threat to America. From the standpoint of U.S. national
security, this makes no sense. Alas, in other terms, it makes perfect
Consider what China's harvest of U.S. military technology will enable
to do. Through cooperative satellite launch programs China acquired the
technology for accurate staging and orbital placement of large rockets,
as well as multiple satellite release. The Clinton Administration
licensed the sale of a McDonnell Douglas manufacturing facility. This
means that China will be able to build a force of big, mobile, accurate,
multiple warhead missiles better than
the ones we designed nearly two decades ago. This force will be
invulnerable to any preemptive strike, and will be able to penetrate the
dumbed down "Theater Missile Defenses" that the Clinton Administration
is preparing. As for warheads, through the efforts of Wen Ho Lee at Los
Alamos, China apparently got the entire dump on design and manufacturing
of all our major nukes,
including the W-88 warhead: 150 Kilotons delivered to within about 80
yards. Through Peter Lee at Livermore, China apparently got the key to
testing these warheads through simulations and in a camouflage mode.
The same Lee seems to have given China the software for radar detection
of operating attack submarines. Good-bye protection for U.S. carrier
With these missiles, China will be able to hold hostage Japan, South
and Taiwan. With its new knowledge of submarine detection, it will be
able to defeat any attempt by U.S. forces to help these allies. More
important, China is gaining the capacity to back up the warning it gave
the U.S. three years ago: interfere with our plans in Asia, and you
will lose Los Angeles. In sum, thanks to its new technological edge,
China will not have to invade our Asian allies to tear up the
Pax-Americana that the Pacific basin has enjoyed for a half century.
Very soon then, our erstwhile allies will have to seek their security
outside the framework that has served us, them and the world so well.
We cannot know in advance how Japan will provide for itself. But odds
are that a Pacific Rim dominated by Sino-Japanese nuclear rivalry will
export more trouble than consumer electronics. So much has been lost so
very fast. All of us will have to pay.
The inherent seriousness of these events contrasts sharply with the
Administration's attitude: China has not yet deployed its new weapons.
The Chinese government's whipping up anti-American hysteria is only for
domestic purposes. American anti-missile defense would be
de-stabilizing. Mr. Clinton knows that China's new missiles are coming,
and that the Chinese regime's public opinion campaigns are the truest
indications of its policy. But it is enough for Clinton that two
powerful constituents, the Democratic Party's domestic core, as well as
Chinese officials, object to missile defense.
The Clinton Administration's attitude toward China's spies is even more
revealing. The Administration's formal explanation for not even
bringing charges against Wen Ho Lee is that evidence shows only that he
downloaded the information onto a non secure computer site, which was
then accessed by persons unknown. By this logic no one could be
prosecuted for espionage for putting stolen documents into "dead drop"
such as a hollow tree, for later
pickup by foreign agents. But what about Peter Lee? He did in fact
give China our warhead testing techniques and, it now turns out, our
radar submarine location technology. And what did the Administration
ask for a penalty? Not one day in the pen. Both Lees are "on the
But why? Real trials would focus the public's attention on the Clinton
Administration's larger relationship with China, which has been most
profitable for some of the Democratic Party's largest constituents and
contributors. If, as is probable, Chinese officials also do not want
the American public to think in such terms, the Clinton Administration
may well have listened to them. After all,
China now holds some four dozen persons fleeing subpoenas from American
courts regarding the Clinton administration's activities. If China's
spies were handled roughly, China might well dump a lot of anti-Clinton
witnesses into the U.S. court system.
And so, even as the Administration finds legal excuses to keep Wen Ho
and Peter Lee out of jail, it continues to scratch for excuses to keep
Israel's spy, Jonathan Pollard, behind bars. The heaviest items of the
official indictment against Pollard are that he gave Israel pictures of
Middle Eastern countries other than the ones the U.S. government wanted
to give, and that he gave parts of
a list of electronic surveillance addresses that the U.S. government had
withheld, as well as a host of reports about Middle Eastern countries.
It does not take expertise in national security affairs to see that
these items are in a league orders of magnitude different from the
Lees. The differences between the two sets are so big that no mind, no
matter how dull, can confuse them.
This takes us back to our original observation: The Clinton
Administration's decisions about national security affairs are being
driven by private interests, loves, and hates---everything but what
should drive a serious country.
Angelo M. Codevilla is a professor of international relations at Boston
University. He is a former staff member of the Senate Select Committee
on Intelligence. Other Articles by Angelo Codevilla include Israel's Spy Was Right About Saddam.
The True Motives Behind the Sentencing of Jonathan Pollard: An Interview with Angelo Codevilla
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