The Most Dangerous Moment: A Debate on America’s Role in the Pacific


Dan Blumenthal is the director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute. During the administration of President George W. Bush, he served in the Department of Defense. Blumenthal’s most recent book is The China Nightmare: The Grand Ambitions of a Decaying State. Elbridge Colby is a founder of the new think tank the Marathon Initiative. During the administration of President Donald Trump, he served in the Department of Defense. Colby’s most recent publication is The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict. In this wide-ranging conversation, Colby and Blumenthal discuss what the United States and its allies can do practically to deter China’s expansion in the South China Sea and its aggression toward Taiwan.

Recorded on November 15, 2023

Published in General
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  1. Al Sparks Coolidge
    Al Sparks

    I guess a Hoover Institution podcast (I listen, don’t watch Uncommon Knowledge) would not be inclined ot give a fair hearing or debate to the isolationist argument.

    So here are some thoughts from someone who thinks we are slouching towards isolationism as we slowly defund our navy.

    We would lose the dollar as a worldwide reserve currency. I don’t claim to know all the economics of why having the dollar in that state is a good thing, but it seems to be. I’m also aware that because of that status, without understanding why, is that it has allowed us to be less disciplined in our spending, especially domestic spending. So maybe it’s a bad thing afer all, and we should go through that pain. Really the problem is we are overspending domestically, it’s catching up with us, and having the dollar as a reserve currency is becoming less of an advantage. That’s my take with my limited knowledge of economics.

    Regarding Taiwan, it would be a tragedy if China were to take it over, especially by force. But money and manufacturing, especially semiconductors, is moving away from that country. Taiwanese themselves are building semiconductor factories in Mexico. By 2028-2030, a Taiwanese takeover by China will be less of a blow to our economic interests.

    We already have a strong trade pact with Canada and Mexico. We could leverage that to manage our decline as a global power to a regional power. China, does not have a navy that can project its own power beyond 2-3 thousand miles from their coast. And Xi Jinping’s style of top down governance is a “mother may I” one. There is no “asking for forgiveness” versus “asking for permission” in their society. And that means that as their economy declines, their ability to maintain an Army and Navy declines also. And while they are able to draft people into their military, they are suffering a severe demographic decline, and they will continue to have troubles in manning.

    Since the chances of them projecting navy power worldwide the way we have, and the British before us is less likely, the lack of a hegemonic naval power keeping the sea lanes mostly clear of piracy will result in a breakdown of global free trade. China depends on free global trade because they import much more than they export. That too will be a big blow to their economy.

    Nor was any reference made to India as a rising power in the region.  As their economy, and population, continue to grow, they will be a counter balance.

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  2. Al Sparks Coolidge
    Al Sparks

    As someone who was an advocate of the world hegemony of the United States, I now have misgivings as the Democrats do things like appease Iran, a theocracy whose leaders hate our values, will always hate our values, and in a way is more of an enemy than China is from a clash of civilizations perspective. We no longer have a united vision in the United States when it comes to foreign policy. As I’ve watched the attempts to bribe Iran to our side with no success at all, I see Democrats continuing to sabotage the good things we’ve done over the last 70 years or so.  They won’t be in power forever in the United States, but they will regain it, and then continue to sabotage what we’ve done if the United States continues its hegemony.

    There will be some economic consequences to the United States if it goes isolationist. For me, it means that the United States will have to become more disciplined in its domestic spending. And after we go through those bad times, we’ll come out stronger as a country (and Canada and Mexico will benefit), while admittedly, most of the rest of the world will decline.

    Am I being selfish towards the United States at the expense of the rest of the world? Yes. But as we continue to scream at each other, a conflict that may result in a national divorce of some kind, we will be less capable of continuing the responsibilities we’ve taken on as a world power.

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