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 Administration's 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 sense.

Consider what China's harvest of U.S. military technology will enable China 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 task forces.

With these missiles, China will be able to hold hostage Japan, South Korea, 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 Clinton 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 street."

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 Lee 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.

See Also:
  • The True Motives Behind the Sentencing of Jonathan Pollard: An Interview with Angelo Codevilla

  • Return to Wen Ho Lee Page