I was in Waikiki, Hawaii, recently. But not for pleasure. I was there out of obligation, fulfilling my parental duty to visit my son and his husband, who live there. I’ll admit, though, that I was getting some pleasure, looking out from the balcony of the 19th floor studio apartment I had rented. Across the street there were none of the high-rise buildings that block the view from most Waikiki balconies. Instead, there was a large, lush park. Beyond it I could see Diamond Head and the endless blue of the Pacific.
Then curiosity took over. Why such a large open space where the real estate is so fabulously valuable? And why, in the middle of that park, a set of buildings that were only two stories high, while all around the buildings rose to 30, 40, 50 stories?
Google soon gave me the answers. The park is military property, protected from commercial developers. And those two-story buildings are military, too. They house something with the innocent-sounding name, “The Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.” It has a “non-warfighting mission,” according to its website: to “build capacities and communities of interest by educating, connecting, and empowering security practitioners to advance Asia-Pacific security.” Sounds pretty benign.
But then a little YouTube video tucked away in a corner of that website caught my eye, provocatively titled “The Struggle for Dominance without Fighting ” It gave me a presentation by Dr. Mohan Malik, Professor of Asian Security at the Center. He informed me in a matter-of-fact, academic manner that “the U.S.-led order is coming under challenge” in the Pacific. China wants to “subvert overwhelming US military power.”
The professor did not use the word war. I suppose that word would be a bit awkward when talking about an adversary that holds over a trillion dollars worth of our bonds. But if it looks like a war, sounds like a war, and acts like a war, why not just call it a war?
This is not a war with weapons of the traditional kind, the ones that shoot bullets or explode, the professor explained. But it’s war nonetheless, being fought every day in many arenas, such as international financial institutions and economic organizations, foreign aid, telecommunications systems, ocean beds, outer space, cyberspace, as well as political maneuvering for control of the South China Sea, Tibet, and other lands on China’s rim.
We are at war with China. Who knew? Apparently, the Pentagon knew. So did all the “security practitioners” from friendly nations in the Asia-Pacific region who come to Waikiki to learn the arts of this new kind of war. The rest of us may not yet have gotten the memo.
Now every time I looked out at Diamond Head and the Pacific from my balcony I saw those two-story buildings reminding me that we are already at war with China. Thoreau once said, “The remembrance of my government spoils my walk.” I had to say, “The remembrance of my government spoils my…