A quote from Gary Kasparov in Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must be Stopped, via Ace:
Unfortunately, Putin, like other modern autocrats, had, and still has, an advantage the Soviet leadership could never have dreamed of: deep economic and political engagement with the free world. Decades of trade have created tremendous wealth that dictatorships like Russia and China have used to build sophisticated authoritarian infrastructures inside the country and to apply pressure in foreign policy. The naive idea was that the free world would use economic and social ties to gradually liberalize authoritarian states. in practice, the authoritarian states have abused this access and economic interdependency to spread their corruption and fuel repression at home.
There is a myth out there which asserts that capitalism and free trade will lead to greater global interdependence, more political liberty and less chance of war. I don’t quite know where this idea comes from and I can’t for the life of me figure out how anyone can believe it. There was no more free trade in the world than in late July of 1914, when the whole world crashed into war. The British Empire was the guardian of free trade back then, much as we are today. The economies of France, Russia, Germany and Britain were deeply intertwined. Wealth was accumulating. Germany, especially, was the beneficiary of this. And what did they do with their increasing wealth? Built up the most massive military force in the world and then unleashed it as soon as they thought the time was right (they calculated that with Britain nearly in civil war over Home Rule for Ireland and Russia suffering a renewed wave of pre-revolutionary activity, they could get a smashing victory in just a few weeks). Today it is even worse because with modern propaganda techniques, the Russians and Chinese have an easy way to twist our own domestic political processes in a way which helps them – they can lie to us, as it were, through our own media; lull us to sleep, get us worked up over anything other than what is important (and, of course, the Islamists and their fellow travelers also do this).
This is not an argument against capitalism or free trade – it is just a cautionary tale: don’t trust such things to solve the world’s problems. Right now, Russia and China (and especially China) are using the global economy to build up their military power. Russia is already striking – using their old, old method of eating the artichoke one leaf at a time. Will China strike? I can’t see why they wouldn’t. When China’s government figures the time is right, they’ll strike (and we can actually call their activities in the South China Sea as a preliminary moves).
Let no one ever sell you on the notion that there is a panacea for what ails humanity. We are a Fallen species. We will make the most astounding mistakes. Russia is already making them – by attacking us and the EU, they are alienating the very forces they’ll need if China ever turns its hungry eyes on Siberia. China is also being monumentally stupid because no conceivable action of theirs will secure them the precious talisman of control of the seas – and without massive imports, China’s economy grinds to a halt (though making a grab at Siberia would relieve some of these economic pressures on China).
Of course, it doesn’t help the situation at all that we’re being dumber than anyone. Under Obama, we’re signalling to the whole world that we won’t fight. That we are not only a sleeping giant, but a cowardly giant, as well. A bit of vigorous response now and over the next five years and we can at least give massive doubts to Russia, China and the other bad actors in the world that we’re serious (this would mostly involve massive increases in our Navy and Air Force). At long as Obama is in office, we won’t do this – we can only hope the next President will.