Easter brought to television the pilot of the Navy P-3 still on Hainan Island. Big, broad Lt. Shane Osborn, the Cornhusker who found The Force just in time to muscle the gyrating plane gently onto the deck, is a revivifying dream who found the right words, too:
"The first thing I'd like to say on behalf of [Combat Reconnaissance Crew No. 1] is we're definitely glad to be back. I'd like to say thank you. And God bless America!"
He and his crew (including three women) had just had a crash course in powder-puff variations on the techniques POWs held by the North Koreans and North Vietnamese - as well as Chinese plebeians - know only too well.
The crew was home as a consequence of the good offices of President Bush - supported by three-quarters of the populace for his handling of the incident but maligned by chattering lofties for having provoked the incident or having prolonged it by days.
In the aftermath of the Hainan Incident, several things are important to keep in mind:
China's comrades stand in the direct line of Maoist terror operatives. The Communist Party's megalomaniacal paranoids elevated Jiang Zemin to power 12 years ago following his butcherous handling of freedom demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. Notes the Carnegie Endowment's Robert Kagan, writing for The Washington Post:
"The Chinese government tortures people. It tortures people who try to organize democratic parties, who practice Buddhism or Catholicism, or who engage in certain kinds of breathing exercises. It ties them up by their arms or upside down by their ankles and beats them with wooden poles. It listens to them howl, watches them bleed, and keeps on beating them. Sometimes it beats them to death."
During the Hainan Incident, Jiang himself tippled with various Latin generales (including Comrade Fidel), in hopes of neutralizing them in the run-up to yesterday's annual United Nations Commission on Civil Rights attempt to condemn Communist China's routine human rights abuses.
China is a place from which many still flee and defect. It recently has declared open season on Chinese scholars from America. It compels abortions, particularly of girl fetuses. It maintains a vast gulag, the laogai. Its economy runs on slave labor, even to the manufacture of tennis shoes and butterfly paperclips.
It is hugely increasing its military spending - by 18 percent in this year alone, particularly on (a) signals intelligence (SIGINT) and electronic intelligence (ELINT), and (b) short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Its apparatchiks relentlessly seek to steal our military secrets and to buy influence in American administrations (e.g., Clinton/Gore). It regards the United States as its principal adversary and wants to smother Taiwan in the mainland's embrace.
Finally, and of course, it detests surveillance of what it is doing.
George Bush campaigned giving every indication he would be a Pacific president rather than a European one. Shortly after moving into the White House he gave the Chinese notice Bill Clinton had departed - immediately redefining Clinton's ballyhooed "strategic partnership" with China as strategic competition. He began pushing hard for an anti-missile system to defend the United States against attacks by, among other rogues, China (notably, for the obvious reasons, China opposes our construction of such a system).
China caused the mid-air collision. Bush refused to apologize, though he ultimately did deliver up a letter containing double sorrys. The P-3 and the crew that Lt. Osborn salvaged were doing their reconnaissance thing: of China's two massive SIGINT facilities on Hainan, of China's most advanced fighting ship (a Russian-made Sovremenny-class destroyer), and of China's ELINT and decryption sites in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. China has ratcheted up its provocative practices - notably in the air, undersea, and specifically on March 24 when a Chinese warship aimed its fire control radar at a Navy surveillance ship.
In the 20 minutes it had, the P-3's crew may have managed to destroy crucial software and documents. But the Chinese, so smart at reverse engineering, will be able to learn a great deal about our strategic reconnaissance capabilities from a P-3 containing some of our latest antennas and tuners. A demonstration drop taking out our own aircraft on the ground may have been an option President Bush considered and rejected.
So, what now?
(1) Continue a policy of new realism toward China based on a clear, uncowed recognition of it as a Communist brutocracy targeting us as its essential enemy.
(2) Provide key Pacific Rim countries (including Taiwan) with their own surveillance capabilities (including Aegis-equipped destroyers for Taiwan) and their own enhanced self-defense (including the advanced PAC-3 anti-missile system for Taiwan).
(3) Reinvigorate our own military, build our own anti-missile system, and modernize our own intelligence fleet - notably by replacing aircraft such as the P-3, the average age of which is 29.5 years.
(4) Stand more vigorously for human rights in China on both the diplomatic and trade fronts.
(5) Drop "emergency" plans for the Chinese manufacture of black berets for the new American Army (no emergency exists). Oh, and
(6) Just to be on the safe side - in case God stops blessing America - better learn Mandarin.