China’s Goal Is Global Domination, And It Must Suffer The Soviet Union’s Fate

4 08 2020

  By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

China launched the deadly Coronavirus—as a bioweapon or inadvertently—with so much suffering globally; and like Adolf Hitler’s “Thousand-Year Reich” and the Soviet Union, it must pay with its very existence.  Nothing less will suffice.[2]

Michael Doran (a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.) and Peter Rough (the former director of research in the office of George W. Bush, and a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.) have written a seemingly-exhaustive article for the Tablet about China’s role in the future, which is worth reading in its entirety:

American policymakers have long assumed that Chinese and American goals in the Middle East are largely complementary. Beijing, so the prevailing wisdom holds, is fixated on commerce, with a special emphasis on oil and gas. “China’s strategy in the Middle East is driven by its economic interests,” a former senior official in the Obama administration testified last year before Congress. “China . . . does not appear interested in substantially deepening its diplomatic or security activities there.” According to this reigning view, China adopts a position of neutrality toward political and military conflicts, because taking sides would make enemies who might then restrict China’s access to markets.

This oft-repeated shibboleth ignores clear signs that China is very actively engaged in a hard-power contest with the United States—a contest that the Chinese occasionally acknowledge and are capable of winning. In 2016, Xi Jinping toured the Middle East for the first time in his capacity as president of the People’s Republic of China, visiting Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran. Chinese propaganda hailed the trip as a milestone. The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a white paper on its Arab policy, the first of its kind. “We will deepen China-Arab military cooperation and exchange,” the paper read. “We will … deepen cooperation on weapons, equipment and various specialized technologies, and carry out joint military exercises.”

The following year, in 2017, the Chinese navy opened a naval base in Djibouti, the first overseas base it has ever established—a tacit renunciation of the traditional Chinese credo of noninterventionism. Djibouti sits on the southern end of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which guards the passage to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal from the Gulf of Aden. On the northern end, only 18 miles away, lies Yemen.

China is advancing on the Middle East with ruthless determination, because the region is of more vital interest to China than any other, aside from the Western Pacific. Indeed, China is actively working to oust the United States from the Middle East—a reality that the American strategic community would overwhelmingly prefer not to recognize, but one that is nonetheless becoming glaringly obvious.

Don’t believe us? Ask the Uighurs, the brutalized people of Xinjiang province, which the Chinese government is actively colonizing by moving in millions of ethnic Han Chinese. The lucky among the Uighurs, who number some 11 million in total, are trapped in an inescapable web of surveillance and oppression. The unlucky ones, numbering perhaps 1 million, are interned in ideological indoctrination camps where they are exploited as slave labor, tortured, and, according to recent reports, subjected to forced sterilizations.

What motive can China have for its ongoing torment of a small ethnic minority, which brings Beijing an ongoing avalanche of negative publicity in the West? Xi’s policy flows, the experts tell us, from Beijing’s fear of terrorist and separatist movements among the Uighurs, who are a Turkic Muslim people with ethnic and religious ties to their neighbors and to Turkey. Whatever the validity of this analysis, it misses the strategic vector, which again points directly to the Middle East.

Xi’s signature foreign policy achievement is the Belt and Road Initiative, a $1 trillion program that invests in infrastructure projects across the world designed to funnel resources back to a hungry China, thereby creating a global Chinese sphere of interest. The jewel in the crown of the Belt and Road Initiative is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor—a multibillion-dollar program to build highways, rail lines, and pipelines from the port of Gwadar on the Indian Ocean to Xinjiang, the Uighur heartland. The northern terminus of the corridor is Kashgar—a Uighur city which, with cameras in every crevice, is likely the most surveilled metropolitan area in the world. China is crushing the Uighurs, in other words, because their territory sits athwart China’s critical overland supply routes.

How determined is China in its advance toward the Middle East? Determined enough to commit genocide.

The assumption of compatibility between Chinese and American interests in the Middle East is the residue of an otherwise defunct strategic belief system. Call it “harmonic convergence.” From Presidents Nixon to Obama, American leaders mistakenly assumed that globalism would transform China into a kinder, gentler communist power.

This theory began with the basic recognition that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) faced extraordinary pressure to grow its economy to create jobs for an exploding population. By necessity, therefore, Beijing had no choice but to accept several core components of capitalism, chief among them the flexibility that only decentralized decision-making can provide. As China decentralized its economy, so the thinking went, a new middle class would rise and demand more say over government policies. Full-blown democracy might not ensue, but relations between rulers and ruled would become ever more consensual and transactional. The iron laws of market economics would transform the CCP from a tyrant into the largely benign technocratic manager of a giant outsourcing park for Apple and Nike.

Harmonic convergence is a materialist theory of history, a capitalist analogue to Marxism. It assumes economics to be the main driver of human affairs, and it sees the “liberal international order” as the product of the immutable laws of political economy—universal laws that would shave the rough edges off communist China just as they had shaped Europe, America, Australia, Japan, and South Korea into modern liberal states. For decades, successive American presidents from both political parties worked to integrate the economies of China and America, turning them into conjoined twins.

The dynamics on which harmonic convergence focused were real enough. But the theory’s exclusive focus on economics blinded American leaders to countervailing factors—cultural, political, and demographic—of equal or greater weight. Culturally, China sees itself not as one country among many, but as a great civilization that is central to humankind. Politically, the CCP has proved more capable than anyone ever dreamed possible of adapting single-party rule to the demands of a modern economy. Thanks, in part, to the rise of new technologies, the CCP now manages to efficiently surveil 1.4 billion people, permitting them latitude in their economic affairs while ruthlessly policing their political life and social interactions.

CCP oppression of the Chinese people would be troubling but manageable if China were a middling actor on the world stage. But size matters. In 2010, Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, stormed out of an international conference in protest over U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s criticism of aggressive behavior by the Chinese military in the South China Sea. He subsequently justified his rage with this terse observation: “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact.”

China resents the efforts of the United States to defend and support “small” countries in order to sustain an international order China had no say in creating and whose values—liberalism, democracy, free speech, free and transparent markets—it sees as daggers aimed at the CCP’s continuing rule. Beijing is therefore determined to break the liberal capitalist mold that the West built for it, and its heft gives it the power to succeed.

Of late, some analysts have taken to identifying the source of China’s hostility to the West as “communism.” Though anachronistic, the term is not entirely inaccurate. To be sure, no one in China still believes in the hidebound tenets of Marxist economics. Still, the CCP continues to rely on the one-party state structure and the traditional communist party tools of repression, subversion, and ideological warfare—including, to name just three, the secret police, a global system of front organizations and espionage networks, and a colossal propaganda machine—to advance nationalist ends.

In foreign policy, the CCP remains dedicated to international revolution. The new world they envision, however, is not a Marxist paradise but one in which China will replace the United States as the dominant power in a Sinocentric world order.

In achieving this goal, China’s leaders see business and scientific research as subordinate branches of the national security apparatus. The “Made in China 2025” initiative, which the CCP unveiled in 2015, envisions near-complete Chinese independence from foreign suppliers, especially in next-generation high-tech industries, with the goal of transforming China into the undisputed leader in the fields that will drive global economic growth in the coming decades.

The idea of supplanting the United States as the motor of high-tech innovation is integrally connected to the second track along which the CCP is moving: military modernization and expansion. Although reliable numbers are difficult to come by, between 2000 and 2019, China’s defense budget is estimated to have increased more than fivefold, from $43 billion to $266 billion—a sum that exceeds the combined defense budgets of Russia, Israel, Great Britain, and France. While Beijing’s immediate goal is to gain superiority over the United States in the Western Pacific, its long-term aim is to develop, within three decades, a fully expeditionary military, one capable of projecting power to the four corners of the globe with state-of-the-art weaponry matching or surpassing the firepower of the United States, and one trained in tactics designed to neutralize existing American advantages.

The third track of China’s strategy is political: to make the world more hospitable to the CCP’s single-party state. The new security law for Hong Kong, issued in late June, reminds us that as China grows in stature, it is becoming more aggressive and expansionist and hostile to democracy, not less. The CCP routinely uses front groups to organize expatriate Chinese communities and mobilize them in support of Beijing’s goals. It forces foreign companies operating in China to toe its ideological line in their own homes, and exploits Chinese businesses, universities, and research institutes to infiltrate Western institutions and companies.

In this context, the Middle East presents Beijing with a unique mix of threats and opportunities. On the threat side of the ledger is the fact that around half of China’s oil imports either originate in the Persian Gulf or flow through the Suez Canal. In addition to oil and gas, many of the other resources that feed China’s economy wind their way to ports such as Shanghai or Guangzhou only after passing through Middle Eastern choke points, where they are vulnerable to interdiction by the United States.

On the opportunity side for China, the Middle East is not only the source of much-needed oil, it is also home to the Jewish state. In terms of population, Israel is miniscule, but it is a cyber superpower, a global leader in artificial intelligence, and a spectacular innovator of next-generation weaponry. What China’s heavily bureaucratized one-party state lacks in the capacity to innovate and solve real-world technical challenges quickly, Israel has in spades—along with a unique ability to see inside and understand the capacities of the American techno-military complex. Jerusalem could play an indispensable role in helping Beijing achieve both its “China 2025” goals and its military modernization efforts—if it were not sheltering under the protective umbrella of the United States military.

“The World Island” is the name that Halford Mackinder, the father of modern geostrategy, gave to the single landmass created by the three interlocking continents, Europe, Africa and Asia, whose point of intersection we call “the Middle East.” The power that dominates the World Island commands the globe. The economic lifelines of not just China but also much of the world crisscross the region. Today, the United States military guarantees those lifelines, ensuring American global preeminence. If the era of American primacy in the Middle East were to end, the global balance of power would shift dramatically toward Beijing.

Last June, Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, director of intelligence at the U.S. Africa Command, drew public attention to the problem of the harassment of American forces at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti—the only permanent American base on the continent—by their new Chinese neighbors. The Chinese, she explained to reporters, were working to “constrain international airspace” by barring American aircraft from flying over the Chinese military base, deploying drones that were designed to interfere with U.S. flight operations, and flashing military-grade lasers at American pilots, causing minor injury to their eyes. On more than one occasion, Chinese soldiers have also attempted to infiltrate the American base.

From Beijing’s point of view, hard-power competition with the United States in the Middle East is a direct extension of the military contest in the Western Pacific. In the event of war between China and its Asian adversaries, Beijing intends to deny the United States the ability to operate militarily within “the first island chain”—the string of archipelagos stretching from the Kuril and Japanese Islands in the north, southward through Taiwan and the Philippines, and terminating in Borneo. These islands—America’s unsinkable aircraft carriers—hem in China from the east, turning the Asian behemoth into a peculiarly landlocked country.

To date, Beijing has had no means of breaking out to the sea. But China’s new route through Pakistan to the Indian Ocean changes all that. Beijing calls it the “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” (CPEC), because Americans, whose thinking is steeped in harmonic convergence, drop their guard when they hear the word “economic.” In reality, the Pakistan-China relationship is a military alliance in all but name, directed at India. The corridor will terminate on the Indian Ocean at Gwadar, where a port is currently under construction with generous help from the Belt and Road Initiative.

While Beijing is now presenting Gwadar as an entirely commercial venture, upon completion it will certainly become a military base, which will assist Beijing in flanking India. CPEC will also shorten and harden China’s supply lines. Gwadar will serve as a transshipment hub for oil and natural gas and other raw materials that will flow overland through pipelines to Xinjiang, then on to points farther east in China.

To put the strategic import of the China-Pakistan link in quantifiable terms, the total distance from China to the Persian Gulf is over 5,000 nautical miles, through waters that, in time of war, will likely be impassable. By contrast, the distance from the Persian Gulf to Gwadar is less than 600 nautical miles.

The strategic advantages of this base-to-be will transform it into the most lustrous pearl in China’s growing “string of pearls”—the network of entrepôts along the sea lanes of communication that stretch from Hong Kong to Djibouti and Port Sudan on the Red Sea. With the exception of Djibouti, China presents these positions as commercial hubs—but at least some are clearly dual-use facilities that will be openly militarized whenever Beijing is ready to unsheathe its sword.

These martial intentions are not lost on China’s Asian rivals. If viewed from Delhi, Tokyo, Taipei, Seoul, Manila, or Canberra, the hostile purpose of the string of pearls is obvious. In the event of war, China is positioning itself not simply to defend its own energy supply lines but also to threaten the lines of its adversaries, all of whom are highly dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Among the most dependent are Japan and Taiwan, both of which have virtually no domestic oil and gas and rely overwhelmingly on Middle Eastern imports.

Among the pearls, the offensive strategic potential of Djibouti and Gwadar are particularly notable. Djibouti guards the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, a chokepoint in the route between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean, through which oil flows to Europe. Gwadar, for its part, is located just off the Gulf of Oman, situated within easy striking distance of the Strait of Hormuz, through which oil destined for India, Japan, and Taiwan must pass.

If Beijing were in a position to interdict the cargo passing through these two key Middle Eastern chokepoints from its new bases in Djibouti and Gwadar, it would have its thumb on the world’s windpipe. Which appears to be exactly the vision that shapes the ambitions of Chinese war planners. A 2016 U.S. Naval War College study warns that within a decade China will have as many as 530 warships and submarines, up from the estimated 400 currently in its fleet. Under current budgets, the United States has little prospect of keeping pace.

Some analysts argue that the counting of vessels is a meaningless exercise: American ships are larger, more sophisticated, and more lethal than their Chinese counterparts—and may remain that way for decades to come. The American navy, moreover, is supposedly better trained in combined arms conflict and in coordination with allied militaries. Whatever the truth of such assertions, Beijing is not planning to assert its domination over the United States in an epic big-screen set piece event like the Battle of Midway. Instead, it’s chipping away at American power, slowly and methodically, with the aim of persuading America’s allies (and potential allies such as India) that the global balance of power is shifting against Washington, and that they are foolish to rely on the Americans for their security.

China’s Middle East strategy is not hard to parse. It is not trying to defeat the Americans in armed combat; it is waging a campaign of political warfare. To borrow a phrase from the Cold War, Beijing is trying to Finlandize America’s allies. That job does not require a military that can match America’s weaponry gun for gun. It just requires that the Americans appear unreliable.

Even now, before its buildup is complete, the Chinese navy is successfully pinning down and thinning out American forces. In 2018, Secretary of Defense James Mattis changed the name of the combatant command for Asia from United States Pacific Command to United States Indo-Pacific Command. In doing so, he tacitly acknowledged that if war were to break out in Asia tomorrow, the United States navy would have no choice but to increase patrols in the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf to deter the Chinese from attacking the supply lines of its enemies. The more thinly spread the forces of the United States become, the easier it is to make smaller powers afraid that America won’t be able or willing to protect them.

China’s message to Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea (to say nothing of Saudi Arabia and Israel) is clear: America is in decline; China is ascendant, its rise to glory inevitable.

In recent years, Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, has treated Xi Jinping to lessons on how to erode American prestige on the cheap. In the Syrian civil war, Putin deployed a force that was not large enough to constitute a significant threat to American preeminence, but it was still strong enough to turn the tide of the war. By establishing Russia as the leading actor on the ground in Syria, Putin turned himself into an indispensable interlocutor for America’s allies in the Middle East, especially Israel and Turkey, both of whose leaders began visiting Moscow more often than they flew to Washington.

China’s involvement with Russia’s Syria campaign extended well beyond watching Putin meet with Erdogan and Netanyahu in Moscow on television. Chinese warships were a regular part of Russian naval deployments in the Mediterranean, and the canisters of gas that Bashar Assad’s forces dropped on civilians in the early parts of the war were made in China.

One observable effect of China’s military engagement in the Middle East, through its active military alliance with Russia and elsewhere, over the past decade, is that many of America’s closest Middle Eastern allies have become customers for Chinese arms. In 2017, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) signed a partnership deal with Riyadh to construct a drone manufacturing plant in Saudi Arabia. Previously, CASC had entered into only two such deals: with Pakistan, China’s closest ally, and in Myanmar, which it hopes to turn into an ally and thereby flank India in the East.

China is also gaining experience in force projection through its participation in United Nations peacekeeping missions, to which Beijing sends significantly more personnel than any other permanent member of the Security Council. While Beijing receives plaudits from internationalists for this contribution, the Chinese military gains logistics experience, collects valuable intelligence, and forms enduring relationships. Best of all, it dips into the United Nations peacekeeping budget, to which Washington contributes significantly more than Beijing, to help protect China’s growing overseas assets. Of the 13 countries that accepted Chinese peacekeepers between 2012 and 2018, nine were home to significant Chinese investments. In time, at least some of those contingents will swap out their blue U.N. flag for the red flag of the People’s Republic, transforming themselves into official Chinese military missions.

The rise of the naval base in Djibouti provides the model for this kind of transition. Chinese vessels first arrived in the Horn of Africa in late 2008, to cooperate with (but not to join formally) a multinational anti-piracy task force. The move marked a dramatic change: Never before had China sent warships beyond its territorial waters to cooperate with foreign militaries on an issue of mutual interest. Nor had the Chinese navy ever maintained daily communication with the United States military at the tactical and operational levels. Before then, military-to-military engagements between the Chinese and American navies had been limited to formal meetings between senior officers.

At the time, some in the Pentagon did suggest that this change represented the beginning of serious competition with China in the Indian Ocean and the Middle East. The proponents of harmonic convergence, however, drowned those voices out, arguing that the shift in Chinese policy signaled the eagerness of Beijing to become a “responsible stakeholder”: Cooperation against pirates today would open the door to other forms of cooperation tomorrow.

They were wrong. By encouraging such happy thoughts, the Chinese navy made the Americans comfortable with the presence of Chinese warships in the Horn of Africa. Before long, their temporary mission became a permanent base from which lasers are now directed into the eyes of American pilots.

China does have a deep, obvious, and abiding interest in guarding the free flow of oil—that much the proponents of harmonic convergence got right. Nor was the theory wrong in perceiving that China consciously benefits from the regional stability that the United States military provides. There is indeed a genuine overlap between Chinese and American interests. But that is the least interesting half of the story. China is also dedicated to transforming the liberal international order by undermining the United States and supplanting it as the dominant power in the Middle East. The goal of China’s formal neutrality is to manage the contradiction deftly, not least by diverting Western attention from its hostile long-term intentions.

The coordination between Moscow and Beijing in the Middle East is part of a much larger story. “In the past six years, we have met nearly 30 times,” Xi Jinping said about Vladimir Putin last year upon his arrival in Moscow for a state visit. “Russia is the country that I have visited the most times, and President Putin is my best friend and colleague,” Xi said. For his part, Putin replied that Chinese-Russian ties had “reached an unprecedented level” and described the relationship between the two countries as “a global partnership and strategic cooperation.”

These were more than just diplomatic pleasantries. While significant areas of friction remain, China and Russia are now working hand-in-glove in many key areas, including in defense. The U.S. intelligence community’s “Worldwide Threat Assessment” last year led with the statement: “China and Russia are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s.” The assessment did not identify the Middle East as an area of major alignment between China and its Russian partner, but it should have. Together, they are searching for ways to loosen the bonds between Washington and its allies and to strengthen anti-American forces in the region, which are led by Iran.

Harmonic convergence, however, has obscured the nature, extent and even the existence of a Chinese-Russian condominium in the Middle East by overemphasizing the shared Chinese-American interest in regional stability against Russia’s interest in instability—which boosts Russian oil revenue and arms and security exports. Alas, the presumed clash between Russian and Chinese interests is more theoretical than real. As a practical matter, China’s mercantilist approach to energy mitigates friction with Russia over questions pertaining to oil pricing.

Wherever possible, China purchases long-term concessions at favorable rates, thus insulating itself from the vicissitudes of energy markets. Similarly, Putin’s military interventions in Libya and Syria have not threatened China’s interest in stability, which focuses on the oil exporting countries of the Persian Gulf. On the contrary, they have created many opportunities for Chinese diplomacy and commerce. Consequently, little stands in the way of Russia and China forming an active or tacit alliance aimed at weakening the American order in the Middle East, which is an interest that both countries share in common.

Another fact that Americans tend to miss is that China’s economic size and strategic advantages position it as the senior partner in the relationship—meaning that Xi Jinping, not Putin, calls the shots. It is Russia’s job to intervene militarily in the Middle East and, thereby, to take the heat from the Americans. Meanwhile, China benefits from Russia’s “destabilizing” activities.

The behavior of Chinese diplomats at the U.N. is instructive. For at least two decades, they have mostly deferred to their Russian counterparts on the weightiest Middle Eastern issues, such as the Iranian nuclear deal and the Syrian conflict. If approached by American or European diplomats regarding Beijing’s position on an issue under debate, Chinese diplomats indicate that there is no point in discussing matters with them, because they will vote however the Russians decide to vote. By behaving as if Beijing has no independent policy, Chinese diplomats succeed in providing Russia with staunch support while appearing passive almost to the point of indifference. This ploy reinforces the American presumption that trade is all that China really cares about in the Middle East—and that Russia, not China, is the most serious challenger to American primacy in the region.

Russia’s ability to perform as China’s stalking horse in the Middle East depends significantly on its military alliance in Syria with Iran, which has produced the bulk of the ground troops buttressing Bashar Assad’s regime. But Russia cannot afford to pay for the Iranian effort. For that, China’s resources are essential.

While China does not directly subsidize the Syrian war, it is Iran’s biggest trading partner and its biggest source of foreign investment—just as it is Russia’s. While Beijing’s cooperation with Tehran centers on China’s energy needs and nonenergy economic investments, the relationship has also included, for many years, defense cooperation. As the Trump administration’s sanctions have ravaged the Iranian economy, China’s importance to Tehran has only grown.

And Beijing has grown increasingly willing to demonstrate that fact. Last December, China held joint naval exercises with Russia and Iran in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman. The event was notable for being the first of its kind among the three countries, but also for the timing. It came in the midst of significant conflict between Washington and Tehran in which Iranian forces were conducting attacks on tankers hauling oil from the Persian Gulf.

If China were truly neutral in Middle Eastern conflicts, and if it were truly concerned exclusively about trade, then wouldn’t it have refrained from holding joint exercises at that moment—and encouraged its closest friend in the Middle East to settle down, compromise, and get on with the exciting business of building the Chinese and Iranian economies?

Instead, China advertised itself as the silent partner of the Russian and Iranian axis and, by extension, of the so-called “Resistance Alliance,” the string of Iranian allies, including the Assad regime, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis of Yemen.

Of course, Beijing does not explicitly support the malign activities of the Resistance Alliance. On the other hand, neither does it mount opposition to those activities. Iran, too, is China’s stalking horse.

The benefits to China of the destabilizing activities of Russia and Iran in the Middle East are many and substantial. The strategy, first, exhausts America. The last two American presidents have been elected on platforms dedicated to reducing commitments to the Middle East. Sizable segments of both political parties do not understand why the United States is playing a major role in the region, and some significant portion of them advocate leaving it altogether.

Second, the Iranian-Russian axis and the Resistance Alliance damage American prestige. The continuing failures of the United States to prevail over the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, and to outmaneuver Russia in Syria, allow the propaganda machines of Russia, China, and Iran to foster the impression, both inside the Middle East and beyond, that America is past its prime.

Third, keeping the Iranian regime alive and maintaining its military capacity helps the Chinese forces in the region to pin down the American navy, because Iran’s threatening behavior in the Persian Gulf diverts American resources from the Western Pacific.

Fourth, China is sowing division between America and its allies. Few issues have caused a deeper rift between the United States and its European allies than the disagreements over how to handle the Iran challenge in all of its dimensions—not just the nuclear file. The Syria conflict has similarly divided the Americans from their regional allies, especially Turkey, and it has sent very large refugee flows into Europe that have vexed the European Union and roiled its politics.

Finally, support for Iran and Russia, especially in an era of doubts about America’s long-term commitment to the Middle East, forces major allies of the United States such as Saudi Arabia and Israel to hedge their bets by cultivating their ties with Beijing. For American allies, the best way to gain entree to Beijing without annoying the Americans is by accepting its open invitation to engage economically. Indeed, China is now the number one trading partner of Saudi Arabia, from which it imports more oil than from any other country. Israel, for its part, receives significant capital investment from China along with high-level visits from Chinese military brass, and is employing a Chinese company to develop the port of Haifa—despite repeated American requests to cancel the contract.

In a perfect world, neither the Israelis nor the Saudis would choose to manage their Iran problem through Beijing; they would prefer instead to solve it through a strong alliance with the United States. But both are realistic, and they can see clearly that America’s staying power is uncertain.

The very best lies are grounded in truth, and Beijing’s declaration of neutrality is a very good lie. It broadcasts half of the thoughts that are actually in Xi Jinping’s head, openly acknowledging China’s hunger for energy and need to prevent disruption of its supply. But by emphasizing these truths, Beijing’s neutrality deflects attention from its darker objectives.

Tacit support for the military interventions of Russia and for the terrorism and subversion of the Islamic Republic does not threaten China’s economic interests. On the contrary, brutish violence, if kept within limits, is good for business. What is more, a modicum of mayhem also keeps America on its back foot. In short, China is neutral against the United States.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, China’s annual crude oil imports, the highest in the world, averaged 10.1 million barrels per day in 2019. Expert forecasts predict that those imports will rise significantly in volume over the next decade. To mitigate the risk of disruption, China has diversified its portfolio of suppliers. In 2019, the top 10 sources of Chinese oil imports included, in addition to Middle Eastern suppliers, Russia, Angola, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. Spreading a dependency of this magnitude across many different suppliers is also a campaign of influence, part of Beijing’s political warfare against the United States.

The purchase of British oil is a case in point. Between 2018 and 2019, China’s imports from Britain increased more than its demand from any other supplier—by 44%. Is it an accident that China invested so dramatically in the British economy at a moment when London was in heated negotiations with Washington about whether Britain would allow the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to build and operate its 5G network infrastructure? If it is indeed an accident, the Chinese ambassador in London would like to hide that fact from us. When Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently reversed course and decided to phase out Huawei, the ambassador warned him that Chinese companies investing in Britain were “all watching.”

Such threats to punish governments with loss of “private” investment have become a normal part of China’s interaction with close U.S. allies like Britain, Canada, and Australia. In America, however, the prevailing wisdom, based on harmonic convergence, depicts China’s Middle East policy as nothing but a single-minded exercise in resource extraction, as if the Chinese private sector makes decisions on the basis of profit-and-loss calculations, and the bureaucrats in Beijing then run along behind it.

The propensity of Americans to see economics as an autonomous sphere blinds them to a simple fact: China is consciously deploying its economic influence to undermine the American order in the Middle East. Since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, Beijing has invested more than $123 billion in the Middle East and North Africa. If these numbers suggest that the region is a top strategic priority, the relative trend lines are even more expressive. China is now the Middle East’s largest source of foreign investment. While China’s global investments decreased by $100 billion in 2018, its investments in the Middle East and North Africa actually grew that year by over $28 billion. Almost three-quarters of that sum went to American allies: Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia—all countries which China designates as “strategic comprehensive partners,” a major honor in the Chinese diplomatic system. By 2018, annual bilateral trade between China and Persian Gulf allies had nearly doubled from a decade before to $163 billion; in 2000, it was only $10 billion. China is now the largest trading partner of Oman, Kuwait, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia, and is among the largest partners of Israel.

But Beijing has singled out one Middle Eastern country for special attention. Between 2008 and 2018, bilateral trade with Iraq increased by over 1,000%, from $2.6 billion to more than $30 billion. In 2013, China became Iraq’s leading source of foreign investment and top trading partner, not to mention the recipient of over half of its oil. Iraq is now the third-largest supplier to China, just behind Saudi Arabia and Russia. When President George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, his detractors, including China, accused him of launching a war to seize control of Iraq’s oil reserves. Ironically, no country has benefited more than China from the postwar oil dispensation. Last year, China Construction Third Engineering Bureau Company agreed to a $1.39 billion deal to build a wide variety of projects in southern Iraq, including low-cost housing, education and medical facilities, and tourist centers.

During a five-day visit to Beijing in September 2019, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi elevated formal cooperation even further, announcing that Iraq would join China’s Belt and Road Initiative. For his part, Xi Jinping committed to an “oil for reconstruction program,” where China would construct a wide array of projects in Iraq, ranging from roads and airports, to hospitals, sewage systems, and schools, in return for 100,000 Iraqi barrels of oil per day. The United States military defeated the Islamic State for the Iraqi government, but it was Chinese companies, not American, that have reaped the rewards. Thanks to harmonic convergence, the Americans harbored no resentment toward the Chinese for their apparent good fortune. On the contrary, Washington welcomed the growing Chinese economic role, even giving Beijing credit for joining the “American” project of building the Iraqi economy and stabilizing the country.

As sad as this story is, it gets even worse. While Iraq is a wonderland for Chinese business, it is a hostile environment for Americans, due to the widespread influence of Iranian-backed militias. Last December, Iran launched a campaign, spearheaded by those militias under the guidance of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), to expel the United States from the region as a whole, starting with Iraq. Once again, Iran’s “destabilizing” activities did not receive any visible rebuke from China.

Given the vital importance of China to Iran as its economic lifeline in the era of the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign, one cannot but wonder if Qassem Soleimani received a wink and a nod from Beijing before he launched the violent anti-American campaign that ended in his death. Even if there was no such consultation, the growing influence of China in Iraq still represents yet another example of how Beijing’s use of Iran as a stalking horse pays economic and strategic dividends simultaneously. The IRGC exhausted and confounded American forces in Iraq, thereby creating a vacuum that Iran’s patron, China, is filling.

The realization that China poses a serious threat to the United States in the Middle East comes at an inopportune moment. Public trust in American leaders is at historic lows, and trust in their judgment about the Middle East is especially jaundiced. On both the left and the right, influential voices in the United States demand a reduction of American military commitments. President Obama first planted the idea of retreat in the public mind, with the announcement from his administration of a “pivot to Asia.” This line of thinking is alive and well among supporters of President Donald Trump. “We’re getting out. Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand … The job of our military is not to police the world,” Trump said last October. Though he was referring directly to his decision to pull American troops from northeast Syria, his rhetoric signaled agreement with those who favor a broad retreat from the Middle East.

The transformation of the United States into a net energy exporter, thanks to the fracking revolution, has strengthened the bipartisan claim that an American retreat from the Middle East would be both sane and safe. Shouldn’t those who are actually dependent on Middle Eastern oil police the region? While we sympathize with the sentiment behind the question, the simple answer is that no power other than the United States has the wherewithal to contain China. Far from strengthening the United States, a retreat from the Middle East would do severe harm to American interests and deliver a strategic victory of very large proportions to Beijing.

Consider this entirely plausible scenario of the immediate consequences of an American withdrawal. As a first step, Xi Jinping would back Tehran politically and militarily in the development of so-called “anti-access/area denial capabilities.” These are the mix of tactics and weapons that the Chinese military is now deploying inside the first island chain in the Western Pacific with the goal of turning the region into a no-go zone for American forces. With Iran so equipped, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman would become Chinese lakes.

As a second step, Xi Jinping would follow a similar strategy along the coast of the Red Sea. Dramatically expanding the base in Djibouti, he would then transform the Chinese commercial hub in Port Sudan, across the Red Sea from Jedda, into a sister military base. With both of these installations equipped with anti-access/area denial capabilities, the Red Sea, too, would become a Chinese lake.

From Djibouti, Beijing would assist Iran to realize its objective of turning the Houthis into a Yemeni clone of Lebanese Hezbollah—an Iranian-directed militia equipped with a large arsenal of precision guided ballistic missiles capable of destroying Riyadh. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf sheikhdoms would find themselves surrounded by Chinese and Iranian firepower. Their ability to export oil, the lifeblood of their economies, would become entirely dependent on the goodwill of China, which would be the only power capable of restraining Iran. The leaders of the oil producing Arab states would then race each other to Beijing to see who could kowtow first to the Chinese Communist Party.

Israel, too, would have no choice but to kowtow, as its shipping lanes from the Port of Eilat to Asia would be at the mercy of the Chinese in the Red Sea. No sooner would the Sino-Russo-Iranian axis rise in the Persian Gulf than a revivified Russo-Iranian alliance would appear in Syria, with direct or indirect assistance from the Chinese military. The Israeli prime minister would make his own mad dash for Beijing to negotiate the place of Israel in the new, Sinocentric Middle Eastern order.

As the representative of a country with nuclear weapons, a state-of-the-art military, and a diversified economy, the Israeli leader would likely receive better terms than his Arab counterparts. Xi Jinping would be more than delighted to treat Israel as close friend of China—provided Israel agreed to downgrade its ties with the United States and Europe, establish a Sino-Israeli cyber research and development center in Beijing, participate in a joint missile defense development project, and allow the Chinese navy to conduct port visits in the Haifa harbor that China built and runs.

The swift hegemony of China over the oil transport chokepoints of the Middle East would lead to panic among America’s East Asian allies and India. Was China readying itself to strangle them economically? Should they search for sources of oil from the Western Hemisphere? Should they work with one another to build emergency oil reserve systems?

In response to the panic, Beijing would launch a charm offensive to reassure panicked U.S. allies that China remained fully committed, as always, to freedom of navigation and to the free flow of oil at stable prices. Beijing would then begin the slow, deliberate and systematic work of exploiting its favorable strategic position in the Middle East to transform itself into the undisputed king of the global energy trade, building up positions of unrivaled power at every stage of the oil production process, from extraction, to transport, to refining, and marketing. 

Oil and gas are unique commodities. Their price and availability affect every individual in the world, yet they are controlled by a relatively small group of powerful companies. Merely through the choice of contracting partners and terms of sale, producers and distributors have the power to redirect billions of dollars from one set of pockets to another. Energy companies are thus inherently attractive to Chinese communist leaders, for whom it is second nature to seek out and acquire instruments of mass influence that can be kept under the tight control of a privileged few.

Under the new, Sinocentric Middle Eastern order, companies and individuals critical of America would see their stars rise. This web would include Europe and, indeed, all other regions where Middle Eastern oil and gas are consumed. Nor will the energy self-sufficiency of the United States protect us from Chinese pressure. The recent Saudi-Russian price war serves as a reminder that oil is produced locally but priced globally. When the Saudi-Russian dispute collapsed the price, it threatened to destroy the American fracking industry, on which much of the growth of the American economy is now predicated.

If China succeeds the United States as the dominant power in the Middle East, a major shift in the global balance of power will result, significantly diminishing the clout of the United States, even to the point of eroding the control that Americans exercise, as a free people, over their own destiny.

Retreating from the Middle East would go down as one of the greatest strategic blunders in American history. Nevertheless, the political climate in the United States constrains the options of America’s leaders. The last two presidents gained office by promising to end wars in the Middle East, not start new ones. Neither President Trump nor Democratic candidate Joe Biden will display anything but a reluctance to introduce new forces into the region.

How then, can the United States strike a balance between containment of China and the electorate’s demand for a light touch in the Middle East? The key is finding partners on the ground who will do the work that the American military cannot do.

In American politics today, there are only two available methods for identifying partners and assigning them roles and missions. The first, co-optation, was the method Obama used. Attempting to create a concert system in the Middle East, Obama started from the assumptions that Moscow and Tehran were open, under the right conditions, to being co-opted; and that America and its major allies shared more in common with them than they had heretofore been inclined to acknowledge. Obama saw himself not as the head of a coalition dedicated to undermining Russia and Iran, but as a leader intent on bringing together all of the various regional “stakeholders” and helping them find mutually beneficial solutions to the challenges of the region. America, its allies, and Iran and Russia all shared, Obama believed, a vital interest in containing Sunni radicals such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State, and in stabilizing the Middle East more broadly.

By the lights of this theory, Iran is a status-quo power, merely struggling to hold on to what it has, not attempting to overturn the existing order. The worst policies of Iran—pursuit of nuclear weapons, support for terrorism, and building of subversive militias in surrounding states, to name just three—were indeed ugly, but they were essentially defensive acts. Iran has a weak regular army, which poses no threat of invading its neighbors. Its deep sense of insecurity, historically, has derived largely from the fact that its regional rivals, Israel and Saudi Arabia, had persuaded the United States to take an aggressive position toward it, thus convincing Tehran that America’s real goal was regime change. As long as America sought the destruction of the Islamic Republic, a more productive relationship was impossible.

Obama approached Russia with an analogous set of assumptions—which, intellectually, fit hand-in-glove with the harmonic convergence approach to China. If the United States were to treat Moscow and Tehran as partners, not as adversaries who needed to be contained, then it could change the calculus in Moscow and Tehran. Thus, on one hand, the president repeatedly scolded Saudi Arabia and Israel, lecturing them on the need, in his words, to “share” the region with Iran. Meanwhile, on the other hand, he engaged in an ambitious attempt to arrive at a strategic accommodation with Moscow and Tehran. The main focus of that effort was the Iran nuclear deal, but it included diplomatic engagement over the future of Syria and Iraq as well.

The foundational assumptions supporting this approach, however, were false. Russia and Iran are not simply playing defense against American imperialism. They are anti-status quo powers seeking to oust the United States from the region—and they were backed in turn by a more powerful anti-status quo power, China. Obama’s precipitous withdrawal from Iraq; his repeated announcements that America was war weary and eager to rebuild at home; his refusal to take the lead, whether diplomatically or militarily, in stabilizing Syria; his explanations that East Asia was the new foreign policy priority—all of these and more convinced Moscow and Tehran that the United States was racing for the exits in the Middle East. Once America left, they had good reason to believe that the Chinese would work with them.

Thus, the spirit of partnership that the United States hoped to spark by adopting a more accommodating position on the Iranian nuclear program did not generate a reciprocal response.

On the contrary, the Iranians recognized that Obama’s ambition to complete the nuclear deal gave them a free hand elsewhere in the region. Tehran’s shared interest with Moscow in the survival of the Assad regime generated unprecedented cooperation between the two countries in Syria. The moment the nuclear deal was completed, this cooperation flowered into a full-blown military alliance.

Iran and Russia were not alone in deepening their involvement in the Middle East on the heels of the nuclear deal. In January 2016, Xi Jinping toured the region for the first time, visiting Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and, the highlight of his trip, Iran. Chinese propaganda framed the visit as the arrival not just of a leader, but of China as a great power. The co-optation method of stabilizing the Middle East opened the door to a Sino-Russo-Iranian coalition dedicated to overturning the American order.

The United States cannot leave the Middle East. But neither can it stabilize the region with large numbers of its own ground troops. Nor can it create a concert system with Iran and Russia. Only one option, then, remains: to contain the anti-American powers—China, first among them—by building up a regional coalition made up of America’s traditional allies, which will shoulder much of the work on the ground.

Alas, containment has been getting bad press these days. On July 11, The New York Times reported that China and Iran were on the verge of signing a 25-year trade and military agreement. The article would have us believe that this is a stunning new and dangerous development—the direct consequence of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. But it is not. As even the article concedes, without digesting the implications, Beijing and Tehran first announced a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” when Xi Jinping visited Tehran in 2016—a year before Trump took office, and only one week after the JCPOA brought sanctions relief to Iran.

The New York Times encourages us to conclude that the only remedy to the Sino-Iranian alliance is a return to Obama’s policy of co-optation. But the great flaw of Obama’s policy was that it forced no hard choices on Iran, which was free to pocket concessions from the West while cooperating even more closely with China and Russia in ways that eroded American power. Tehran could enjoy sanctions relief while building a web of rapacious militias explicitly dedicated to attacking and subverting America’s allies and to driving the United States from the Middle East.

Similarly, Obama’s model of co-optation failed to take advantage of the glaring contradiction at the heart of China’s grand strategy, which seeks to enjoy all the benefits of American hegemony while working, indirectly, to destroy it. Indeed, the contradiction strikes at the core of the Sino-Iranian relationship, which now consists of a delicate balancing act: While China tacitly supports Iran in order to undermine the American position in the Middle East, it cannot afford to take that support too far, lest the blowback harm its economy or provoke a damaging counterreaction from the United States.

The modern Sino-Iranian relationship was forged shortly after the Iranian Revolution, when both Iran and China were still international pariahs united by overt hostility to the American-dominated global order. Since then, China has adopted a more restrained posture—at least in appearance—especially since its accession to the World Trade Organization and its integration into the global economy. China’s economic ties with the United States put limits on China’s support for Iran: In 2018, China’s annual trade relationship with Iran was $42 billion, while its trade relationship with the United States ran at about $737 billion.

At present, China is too dependent on exports to the United States, too weak militarily, and its energy supply lines are too vulnerable to risk direct confrontation with the United States; instead, China mounts indirect challenges through Iran and Russia. A return to the cooptation approach will assist Beijing in its strategy of having it both ways. More specifically, it will strengthen the Russian-Iranian alliance, turning it into a more effective sword for China to swing at the American regional security structure.

If the Russian-Iranian alliance should die, or become weak and ineffectual, China will not step in directly to build it back up—because Beijing fears a direct confrontation with the United States. The first priority of American policy, therefore, is to remove the sword from China’s hand by crushing the Russian-Iranian alliance. The domestic American political climate will not permit the use of large numbers of American troops in this project, but four other tools do exist:

1) Economic sanctions. The Trump administration has been imposing these effectively. The Iranian economy is in perilous condition, and the economic situation of Iran’s allies, the Assad regime and Lebanese Hezbollah, are equally dire.

2) Clandestine operations. In recent months, Iran has experienced a wave of mysterious fires and explosions at industrial complexes and military installations. One of these events, at the nuclear fuel enrichment site at Natanz, reportedly set back the country’s nuclear program significantly. A foreign hand is suspected in at least some of these episodes, and the finger of suspicion points most often at Israel. But the sabotage could just as easily be the result of a joint American-Israeli operation.

3) Direct military action by allies. The Turks and the Israelis have both carried out very effective operations in Syria that have significantly degraded not just Iranian but also, in the case of the Turks, Russian capabilities.

4) Selective and judicious use of American military capabilities. The killing of Qassem Soleimani in December did more to shake the Iranian regime than any step the United States has taken in the last 30 years, with the possible exception of the invasion of Iraq. It not only removed from the game an indispensable player, but it boosted the morale of America’s allies and demoralized its enemies.

These tools, taken together, can effectively remove the Russo-Iranian sword from the hand of China. They are already being used. Are they the result of a conscious Trump administration strategy, or have they simply materialized as a set of ad hoc responses to the president’s insistence that his national security team contain Iran aggressively, yet with an economy of force? Whatever the answer, they point the way forward. The goal of American policy should be to use them separately and in coordination so as to increase their lethality.

The greatest advantage that the United States has in its competition with China and, indeed, with any of its adversaries, is hard power. In the realm of trade and investment, Washington simply cannot compete with China and hope to win. If it is to contain China successfully, then it will win with its sledgehammers: military power and economic sanctions. In the Middle East, what America’s allies crave most is the security that comes from the might of the American military. Nothing does more to encourage allies to hedge their bets and cozy up to Beijing than the fear that the United States has decided to abandon military competition as a tool of statecraft.

As China works to make the Middle East a factor in the Western Pacific balance of power, the United States should respond by bringing the Pacific to the Middle East. China’s energy supply lines and its aspiration to become the dominant power in the Persian Gulf should become a regular and significant part of America’s discussions with its Pacific partners and India. The goal of this dialogue should be to arrive not just at a shared picture of the threat but also at strategies for assuring that China’s supply lines remain highly vulnerable. China’s partners and potential partners in its plan to become a Middle Eastern military power—Iran, Djibouti, Pakistan, Iraq, and others—should be put on notice that the days of harmonic convergence are over. Support for Chinese hard-power aspirations must come at a steep price. The U.S. must bury harmonic convergence as an organizing principle, or risk ceding control of the international system to a hostile, anti-democratic power.[3]

As I have written:

China’s economy was almost in free-fall before it unleashed the Coronavirus and caused so much suffering globally.  Now, the consumers of the world must boycott anything and everything containing Chinese components for the next twenty years—by “voting” with their pocketbooks—just as Americans did with German and Japanese cars after their savagery in World War II.[4]

And I added:

[Y]es, China’s evil leadership tier thirsts for power, but so did the Soviet leadership that is no more. Perhaps symbolic is that China’s aircraft carrier the Liaoning was a Soviet-era rusting hulk that the Chinese acquired and put a [flat top] on. For the longest time, [China] couldn’t land jets on it, and it was a joke. . . .

The longer that India exposes the weak underbelly of the Chinese military, the better. However, it appears that China is willing to sacrifice Hong Kong’s position as a global financial center in order to subjugate its residents and snuff out democracy. Similarly, it is “reeducating”—persecuting—at least 120,000 and possibly over 1 million Uyghurs.[5]

At the very least, the thoroughly-evil regime of Xi Jinping in China must be crushed.

Lastly, Putinism in Russia will die with the death of the country’s brutal dictator-for-life Vladimir Putin.  And cut off China’a oil supplies and it is dead in the water, quite literally.[6]


Xi Jinping and Coronavirus


© 2020, Timothy D. Naegele

[1]  Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass). He and his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, specialize in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see and Timothy D. Naegele Resume-20-6-30). He has an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal (see, e.g., Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g., and, and can be contacted directly at

[2]  See Timothy D. Naegele, The Coronavirus and Similar Global Issues: How to Address Them, 137 BANKING L. J. 285 (June 2020) (Naegele June 2020) (Timothy D. Naegele) [NOTE: To download The Banking Law Journal article, please click on the link to the left of this note]; see also (“The Silent Voices Of Stalin’s Soviet Holocaust And Mao’s Chinese Holocaust”) and (“Can We Coexist with Asia’s Communists?”) and (“Coexistence With China Or War?”) and (“The Coronavirus Must Become China’s Chernobyl, Hastening The Collapse Of Its Evil Regime”) and (“Why Should The World Trust China Ever Again?”) and (“China Infects The World, Then Lies And Blames America”) and (“Expert Warns Quarantine Process Failed, As China Stands Ready To Crash World Economy”) and (“China Is America’s Enemy, And The Enemy Of Free People Everywhere”) and (“China Is America’s Enemy: Make No Mistake About That”)

[3] See (“China’s Emerging Middle Eastern Kingdom”); see also (“China Must Be Crushed”) and (“Caught in ‘Ideological Spiral,’ U.S. and China Drift Toward Cold War”—”Relations are in free fall. Lines are being drawn. As the two superpowers clash over technology, territory and clout, a new geopolitical era is dawning”)

[4]  See (“China Must Be Crushed”)

[5]  See (“Will America Be The Great And Glorious Republic Of The Past, Or The Social And Cultural Marxist Hellhole That Is The Promise Of The Mobs?”); see also (“Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning”) and (“China Sea carrier operation meant as message to Beijing, say U.S. admirals”) and (“Persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang”) 

[6]  See (“The Death Of Putin And Russia: The Final Chapter Of The Cold War”) and (“The Real Russian Conspiracy: Barack Obama, The Clintons, And The Sale Of America’s Uranium To Russia’s Killer Putin”)

China Must Be Crushed

16 07 2020

  By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

China launched the deadly Coronavirus on the world—as a bioweapon or inadvertently—and it must pay with its very existence, and not be pampered as some would suggest.

Steven Lee Myers and Paul Mozur have written in the New York Times:

One by one, the United States has hit at the core tenets of Xi Jinping’s vision for a rising China ready to assume the mantle of superpower.

In a matter of weeks, the Trump administration has imposed sanctions over punitive policies in Hong Kong and China’s western region of Xinjiang. It took new measures to suffocate Chinese innovation by cutting it off from American technology and pushing allies to look elsewhere. On Monday, it challenged China’s claims in the South China Sea, setting the stage for sharper confrontation.

And President Trump said on Tuesday that he had signed into law a bill to punish Chinese officials for the new security law that curbs the rights of Hong Kong residents, along with an executive order ending preferential trade treatment for Hong Kong.

“The power gap is closing, and the ideological gap is widening,” said Rush Doshi, director of the China Strategy Initiative at the Brookings Institution in Washington, adding that China and the United States had entered a downward “ideological spiral” years in the making.

“Where’s the bottom?” he asked.

For years, officials and historians have dismissed the idea that a new Cold War was emerging between the United States and China. The contours of today’s world, the argument went, are simply incomparable to the decades when the United States and the Soviet Union squared off in an existential struggle for supremacy. The world was said to be too interconnected to easily divide into ideological blocs.

Now, lines are being drawn and relations are in free fall, laying the foundation for a confrontation that will have many of the characteristics of the Cold War — and the dangers. As the two superpowers clash over technology, territory and clout, they face the same risk of small disputes escalating into military conflict.

The relationship is increasingly imbued with deep distrust and animosity, as well as the fraught tensions that come with two powers jockeying for primacy, especially in areas where their interests collide: in cyberspace and outer space, in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, and even in the Persian Gulf.

And the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with China’s recent aggressive actions on its borders — from the Pacific to the Himalayas — has turned existing fissures into chasms that could be difficult to overcome, no matter the outcome of this year’s American presidential election.

From Beijing’s perspective, it is the United States that has plunged relations to what China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said last week was their lowest point since the countries re-established diplomatic relations in 1979.

“The current China policy of the United States is based on ill-informed strategic miscalculation and is fraught with emotions and whims and McCarthyist bigotry,” Mr. Wang said, evoking the Cold War himself to describe the current level of tensions.

“It seems as if every Chinese investment is politically driven, every Chinese student is a spy and every cooperation initiative is a scheme with a hidden agenda,” he added.

Domestic politics in both countries have hardened views and given ammunition to hawks.

“What cooperation is there between China and the United States right now?” said Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore. “I can’t see any substantial cooperation.”

The pandemic, too, has inflamed tensions, especially in the United States. Mr. Trump refers to the coronavirus with racist tropes, while Beijing accuses his administration of attacking China to detract from its failures to contain the virus.

Mr. Trump, in a statement delivered from the Rose Garden Tuesday evening that focused harshly on China and his presidential rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., referred to the pandemic as “the plague pouring in from China,” and said that the Chinese “could have stopped it.”

Both countries are forcing other nations to take sides, even if they are disinclined to do so. The Trump administration, for example, has pressed allies — with some success in Australia and, on Tuesday, in Britain — to forswear the Chinese tech giant Huawei as they develop 5G networks. China, facing condemnation over its policies in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, has rallied countries to make public demonstrations of support for them.

At the United Nations Humans Rights Council in Geneva, 53 nations — from Belarus to Zimbabwe — signed a statement supporting China’s new security law for Hong Kong. Only 27 nations on the council criticized it, most of them European democracies, along with Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Such blocs would not have been unfamiliar at the height of the Cold War.

China has also wielded its vast economic power as a tool of political coercion, cutting off imports of beef and barley from Australia because its government called for an international investigation into the origins of the pandemic. On Tuesday, Beijing said it would sanction the American aerospace manufacturer Lockheed Martin over recent weapons sales to Taiwan.

With the world distracted by the pandemic, China has also wielded its military might, as it did by testing its disputed frontier with India in April and May. That led to the first deadly clash there since 1975. The damage to the relationship could take years to repair.

Increasingly, China seems willing to accept the risks of such actions. Only weeks later, it asserted a new territorial claim in Bhutan, the mountain kingdom that is closely allied with India.

With China menacing vessels from Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia in the South China Sea, the United States dispatched two aircraft carriers through the waters last month in an aggressive show of strength. Further brinkmanship appears inevitable now that the State Department has declared China’s claims there illegal.

A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, Zhao Lijian, said on Tuesday that the American declaration would undermine regional peace and stability, asserting that China had controlled the islands in the sea “for thousands of years,” which is not true. As he stated, the Republic of China — then controlled by the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek — only made a formal claim in 1948.

“China is committed to resolving territorial and jurisdictional disputes with directly related sovereign states through negotiations and consultations,” he said.

That is not how its neighbors see things. Japan warned this week that China was attempting to “alter the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.” It called China a more serious long-term threat than a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Michael A. McFaul, a former American ambassador to Russia and professor of international studies at Stanford University, said China’s recent maneuvering appeared to be “overextended and overreaching,” likening it to one of the most fraught moments of the Cold War.

“It does remind me of Khrushchev,” he said. “He’s lashing out, and suddenly he’s in a Cuban missile crisis with the U.S.”

A backlash against Beijing appears to be growing. The tensions are particularly clear in tech, where China has sought to compete with the world in cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and microchips, while harshly restricting what people can read, watch or listen to inside the country.

If the Berlin Wall was the physical symbol of the first Cold War, the Great Firewall could well be the virtual symbol of the new one.

What began as a divide in cyberspace to insulate Chinese citizens from views not authorized by the Communist Party has now proved to be a prescient indicator of the deeper fissures between China and much of the Western world.

Mr. Wang, in his speech, said China had never sought to impose its way on other countries. But it has done exactly that by getting Zoom to censor talks that were being held in the United States and by launching cyberattacks on Uighurs across the globe.

Its controls have been hugely successful at home in stifling dissent and helping to seed domestic internet giants, but they have won China little influence abroad. India’s move to block 59 Chinese apps threatens to hobble China’s biggest overseas internet success to date, the meme-laden short-video app TikTok.

Last week, TikTok also shut down in Hong Kong because of China’s new national security law there. The American tech giants Facebook, Google and Twitter said they would stop reviewing data requests from the Hong Kong authorities as they assessed the law’s restrictions.

“China is big, it will be successful, it will develop its own tech, but there are limits to what it can do,” said James A. Lewis, a former American official who writes on cybersecurity and espionage for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Even in places where China has succeeded in selling its technology, the tide appears to be turning.

Beijing’s recent truculence has now led the United Kingdom to block new Huawei equipment from going into its networks, and the Trump administration is determined to cut the company off from microchips and other components it needs. To counter, Beijing has redoubled efforts to build homegrown options.

Calls for a total decoupling of China’s supply chain from American tech companies are unrealistic in the short term, and would prove massively expensive in the longer term. Still, the United States has moved to pull Taiwan’s microchip manufacturing — crucial to the supply chains of Huawei and other Chinese tech companies — closer to its backyard, with plans to support a new Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing plant in Arizona.

Mr. Wang, the foreign minister, urged the United States to step back and seek areas where the two countries can work together. Pessimism about the relationship is nonetheless widespread, though most Chinese officials and analysts blame the Trump administration for trying to deflect attention from its failure to control the pandemic.

“It is not difficult to see that under the impact of the coronavirus in this U.S. election year various powers in the U.S. are focused on China,” Zhao Kejin, a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University, wrote in a recent paper. “The China-U.S. relationship faces the most serious moment since the establishment of diplomatic relations.”

While he eschewed the idea of a new Cold War, his alternative phrasing was no more reassuring: “The new reality is China-U.S. relations are not entering ‘a new Cold War’ but sliding into a ‘soft war.’”[2]

China’s economy was almost in free-fall before it unleashed the Coronavirus and caused so much suffering globally.  Now, the consumers of the world must boycott anything and everything containing Chinese components for the next twenty years—by “voting” with their pocketbooks—just as Americans did with German and Japanese cars after their savagery in World War II.  Nothing less will suffice.[3]

As I wrote recently:

[Y]es, China’s evil leadership tier thirsts for power, but so did the Soviet leadership that is no more. Perhaps symbolic is that China’s aircraft carrier the Liaoning was a Soviet-era rusting hulk that the Chinese acquired and put a [flat top] on. For the longest time, [China] couldn’t land jets on it, and it was a joke. . . .

The longer that India exposes the weak underbelly of the Chinese military, the better. However, it appears that China is willing to sacrifice Hong Kong’s position as a global financial center in order to subjugate its residents and snuff out democracy. Similarly, it is “reeducating”—persecuting—at least 120,000 and possibly over 1 million Uyghurs.[4]

At the very least, the thoroughly-evil regime of Xi Jinping in China must be crushed.



© 2020, Timothy D. Naegele

[1]  Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass). He and his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, specialize in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see and Timothy D. Naegele Resume-20-6-30). He has an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal (see, e.g., Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g., and, and can be contacted directly at

[2]  See (“Caught in ‘Ideological Spiral,’ U.S. and China Drift Toward Cold War”—”Relations are in free fall. Lines are being drawn. As the two superpowers clash over technology, territory and clout, a new geopolitical era is dawning”)

[3]  See Timothy D. Naegele, The Coronavirus and Similar Global Issues: How to Address Them, 137 BANKING L. J. 285 (June 2020) (Naegele June 2020) (Timothy D. Naegele) [NOTE: To download The Banking Law Journal article, please click on the link to the left of this note]; see also (“Can We Coexist with Asia’s Communists?”) and (“Coexistence With China Or War?”) and (“The Coronavirus Must Become China’s Chernobyl, Hastening The Collapse Of Its Evil Regime”) and (“Why Should The World Trust China Ever Again?”) and (“China Infects The World, Then Lies And Blames America”) and (“Expert Warns Quarantine Process Failed, As China Stands Ready To Crash World Economy”) and (“China Is America’s Enemy, And The Enemy Of Free People Everywhere”) and (“China Is America’s Enemy: Make No Mistake About That”)

[4]  See; see also (“Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning”) and (“China Sea carrier operation meant as message to Beijing, say U.S. admirals”) and (“Persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang”)

Can We Coexist with Asia’s Communists?

20 06 2020

  By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

Pat Buchanan—an adviser to Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, and a former GOP presidential aspirant himself—has written in an article with this title:

Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met for seven hours at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii with the chief architect of China’s foreign policy, Yang Jiechi.

The two had much to talk about.

As The Washington Post reports, the “bitterly contentious relationship” between our two countries has “reached the lowest point in almost half a century.” Not since Nixon went to China have relations been so bad.

Early this week, Chinese and Indian soldiers fought with rocks, sticks and clubs along the Himalayan truce line that dates back to their 1962 war. Twenty Indian soldiers died, some pushed over a cliff into a freezing river in the highest-casualty battle between the Asian giants in decades.

Among the issues surely raised with Pompeo by the Chinese is the growing bipartisan vilification of China and its ruling Communist Party by U.S. politicians the closer we come to November.

The U.S. has been putting China in the dock for concealing information on the coronavirus virus until it had spread, lying about it, and then letting Wuhan residents travel to the outside world while quarantining them inside China.

In America, it has become good politics to be tough on China.

The reasons are many.

High among them are the huge trade deficits with China that led to an historic deindustrialization of America, China’s emergence as the world’s first industrial power, and a U.S. dependency on Chinese imports for the vital necessities of our national life.

Then there is the systematic theft of intellectual property from U.S. companies in China and Beijing’s deployment of thousands of student-spies into U.S. colleges and universities to steal security secrets.

Then there is the suppression of Christianity, the denial of rights to the people of Tibet and the discovery of an archipelago of concentration camps in western China to “reeducate” Muslim Uighurs and Kazakhs to turn them into more loyal and obedient subjects.

Among the strategic concerns of Pompeo: China’s fortification of islets, rocks and reefs in the South China Sea and use of its warships to drive Vietnamese, Malaysian, Indonesian and Philippine fishing vessels out of their own territorial waters that China now claims.

Another worry for Pompeo: China’s buildup of medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, a nuclear arsenal not contained or covered by the Cold War arms agreements between Russia and the United States.

Then there were those provocative voyages by a Chinese aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait to intimidate Taipei and show Beijing’s hostility toward the recently reelected pro-U.S. government on the island.

Finally, there are China’s growing restrictions on the freedoms the people of Hong Kong have enjoyed under the Basic Law negotiated with the United Kingdom when the territory was ceded back to Beijing in 1997.

Also on the menu at Hickam was almost surely the new bellicosity out of Pyongyang. This week, the building in Kaesong, just inside North Korea, where bilateral peace talks have been held between the two Koreas, was blown up by the North. With the explosion came threats from the North to send combat troops back into positions they had vacated along the DMZ.

The rhetoric out of the North against South Korean President Moon Jae-in, coming from the 32-year-old sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the rising star of the regime, Kim Yo Jong, has been scalding.

In a statement this week, Kim Yo Jong derided Moon as a flunky of the Americans: “It is our fixed judgment that it is no longer possible to discuss the North-South ties with such a servile partner engaging only in disgrace and self-ruin, being soaked by deep-rooted flunkyism.”

North Korea’s state media published photos of the destruction of the joint liaison office. Pyongyang is shutting off communications with Seoul, and a frustrated South looks to be ginning up and reciprocating.

The North-South detente appears dead, and President Trump’s special relationship with Kim Jong Un may not be far behind.

There are rumors of a renewal of nuclear weapons and long-range missile tests by the North, suspension of which was one of the diplomatic achievements of Trump.

Whether Trump’s cherished trade deal with China can survive the growing iciness between the two nations remains to be seen.

What the Chinese seem to be saying with their actions — against India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan — is this: Your American friends and allies are yesterday. We are tomorrow. The future of Asia belongs to us. Deal with it!

No one should want a hot war, or a new cold war, with China or North Korea.

But if Trump was relying on his special relationships with Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping, his trade deal with China and his commitment by Kim to give up nuclear weapons for recognition, trade and aid, he will have to think again.

For the foreseeable future, Communist bellicosity out of Beijing and Pyongyang seem in the cards, if not worse.[2]

As I have written:

China launched the Coronavirus, intentionally (as a bioweapon) or inadvertently; and many would argue that it must pay reparations or restitution to the world for having done so, which would likely run into trillions of dollars.

Also, a global boycott of anything and everything from China may ensue, as Americans and their counterparts abroad “vote” with their pocketbooks against the suffering that China unleashed.[3]

Second, the only thing that China and North Korea respect is power.  Donald Trump has provided the leadership vis-à-vis both countries that they have not witnessed in decades.  Now is the time to turn the screws even tighter, not to lessen them.  And American and global consumers must be galvanized to boycott China’s exports.


Chinese dragon


© 2020, Timothy D. Naegele

[1]  Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass). He and his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, specialize in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see and Timothy D. Naegele Resume-20-5-11). He has an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal (see, e.g., Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g., and, and can be contacted directly at

[2]  See (“Can We Coexist with Asia’s Communists?”)

[3]  See (“The Coronavirus And Similar Global Issues: How To Address Them”); see also Timothy D. Naegele, The Coronavirus and Similar Global Issues: How to Address Them, 137 BANKING L. J. 285 (June 2020) (Naegele June 2020) (Timothy D. Naegele) [NOTE: To download The Banking Law Journal article, please click on the link to the left of this note] and (“Coexistence With China Or War?”) 

America: A Rich Tapestry Of Life

26 02 2010

By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

What makes a country special and, yes, great?  Its land, its people, its history, its culture, its belief systems or its soul?  All of these, and so much more—including intangibles that most of us never think about.  The United States is that country, unlike any other on the Earth.  There is no need for Americans to flaunt it or be arrogant or condescending or aloof.  Those are not the American way.  Deep beneath the surface, there is love for people everywhere, and an appreciation of each person’s God-given gifts and uniqueness.  In a recent interview, I said:

I believe in this country, and I believe in Americans of all colors, faiths and backgrounds.  The United States is the only true melting pot in the world, with its populace representing a United Nations of the world’s peoples.  Yes, we fight and we even discriminate, but when times are tough—like after 9/11—we come together as one nation, which makes this country so great and special.  Also, all of us or our ancestors came here from somewhere else.  Even the American Indians are descended from those who crossed the Bering Strait—or the “Bering land bridge”—according to anthropologists.[2]

Most of us spend a lifetime dealing with issues and challenges that we believe, rightly or wrongly, are not of our own making; and we react accordingly. Some are big, but most are small and petty, albeit each seems so important at the time. For example, last night I bought a new Apple iPod on which I loaded music and other data from my laptop, but I could not find the icon on my desktop this morning. I called Apple’s technical support line, and was routed to a fellow in India. He was very nice and courteous, but I told him that I wanted to speak with someone in the United States. When he said that he would let me talk with his supervisor, I thanked him but said no, and hung up and called Apple again. The same thing happened, so I tried a third time and a very nice woman came on the line named “Abby.” I detected a slight accent and asked where she was located, and she said the Philippines. I thought about hanging up a third time, but decided against it.

Abby was delightful, and really tried to help.  Having been an Apple customer for about 20 years, I know how diligently she tried.  Finally, she routed me to “Amy,” who turned out to be located in Boise, Idaho.  Amy was delightful too; and we tried everything, but nothing worked because the “Made in China” iPod is apparently defective and needs to be replaced.  In the course of our discussions, I learned that Amy hailed from California, where I was born and raised.  Having had bad experiences with HP recently—where Amy’s husband has worked—in terms of its nonexistent customer support, I was pleased to tell Amy how I had gone through Apple’s ups and downs, but have been generally quite pleased with its telephone support.  It has kept me in the fold and a loyal Apple customer through thick and thin.  Something struck me in the gut though, about companies like Apple farming out calls to India, the Philippines and other countries.  It just seemed very un-patriotic.  It meant the loss of jobs that might have gone to Americans; and it was the first time that I found Apple doing it.

If I had purchased Apple stock at about $12 per share many years ago, I would have made out like a bandit.  If I had bought stock in Ford when it reached a low of $1.01 in November of 2008, which was not too long ago, I would done very well.  Ford has announced plans to hire more American workers; its new cars are great looking; and their quality is apparently superb.[3] Despite the fact that the U.S. may be in the “doldrums” for the rest of this decade, I have been pleased to tell friends and acquaintances that Ford is back, or so it seems, just like Apple came roaring back.  My first four cars were Fords, before I switched to foreign brands—with two Chevrolets thrown in—and it is nice to think about Ford once again and to have an American automaker to be proud of.  Lots of people are avoiding cars from Barack Obama’s “Government Motors” and Chrysler, and I share their views.

Whether it is a computer-related product or a car or almost anything else in life, there is a newfound pride in buying American that is surfacing in this country.  Will it result in harmful protectionism that sent the global economies into a tailspin during the 1930s?  I do not believe so because at the very least, complicated products like cars and computers often have parts that are made abroad.  However, as times get tougher, Americans and others may buy their own country’s products before turning abroad.  This is human nature; or their decisions may be dictated solely by price not sentiment.  Apple’s iPod and its computers are made in China, but even that might change—although it seems unlikely anytime soon.

In April of 2009, I wrote: “America and other nations are in uncharted waters [economically, politically, and in other ways]; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times.”[4] Even harder days are ahead, and politicians may experience electoral “bloodbaths.”  These will be years of taking stock, and of being thankful for the little things—for families and helping others.  The limits of hedonism, godless secularism, and paying homage to the false gods of materialism will become self-evident.  We may opt for simpler lives because we have to, and because we come to like and prefer a return to the basics.

When I decided that I wanted to work on Capitol Hill after spending two years in the Army, rather than rejoin a prestigious San Francisco law firm where I could make more money, I tried to get a job with then-U.S. Senator Alan Cranston from my home State of California.  To my surprise and disappointment, his staff was headed by a fellow from New York who apparently wanted to propel Cranston into the foreign policy arena, and was less interested in hiring Californians like me.  Hence, I pounded the Senate corridors and learned that then-U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke—the first black senator since Reconstruction after the U.S. Civil War, with Barack Obama being the third—was hiring an attorney for the Senate Banking Committee.

I was hired by his chief of staff, Dr. Alton Frye, without ever having met the senator.  I was honored that a white man from California was working for a black man from Massachusetts, but that is how America works.  I went on to write the “Brooke Amendment” relating to public housing; and the national “Housing Allowance” that morphed into the Section 8 housing program, which has helped millions of Americans.  The nicest thing that some people might say about me is that I am “outspoken.”  Ed Brooke put it another way one day, when he said that I lacked “tact.”  Perhaps this is the beauty of being an American.  Each of us can speak our mind on any and every issue, without qualms about doing so.

I criticize President Obama regularly, often in scathing terms, but I almost voted for him.  Even though I disagree with almost everything he does, because I am much more conservative than he will ever be, I would prefer him any day of the week to a leader like Russia’s murderous dictator-for-life Putin.[5] Perhaps I will never forget the way Obama wrote lovingly about his mother and his maternal grandparents, “Toot” and “Gramps,” in his book “Dreams from My Father.”[6] Yet, after working in Washington, D.C. for 21 years nonstop, the one lesson I learned is that government does not work; and the Obama presidency is a shining example of that.  Only the Pentagon—where I spent two years as an Army Officer—and our military are remotely efficient and effective.  The rest of government is a vast “wasteland,”  even though there are good people working at all levels of government.

America is magnificent geographically, whether one thinks about the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and other breathtaking parks, or its deserts, mountains, lakes, inland waterways and coastlines.  Its metropolitan areas are unparalleled, be it New York City or San Francisco, or thousands of cities and towns in between.  Its people are like a rainbow, with diversity undergirding all.  Its culture is rich because of the many cultures that have been blended into the American experience, which is unique in all the world.  Its belief systems are as varied as there are colors in the rainbow.  And its soul . . . ah yes, its soul . . . embraces the souls of more than 300 million people, woven together into a rich tapestry of life.

When we have decisions to make or feel that we are being called in a particular direction, our strength comes in putting our faith in God within and trusting the guidance we receive through prayer, intuition or love.  As individuals and as a country, we walk by faith not by sight.  Yes, America is great . . . from sea to shining sea—and deep in the Pacific where volcanic peaks of the Hawaiian Islands loom, and in the majestic northernmost reaches of Alaska’s tundra, and in the azure Caribbean too.  God blessed us beyond belief, although we take it for granted much of the time.  Everyone does.  This is human nature.  After all, we are not perfect.  Neither is America.  Only God is.[7]

© 2010, Timothy D. Naegele

Statue of Liberty

[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass), the first black senator since Reconstruction after the U.S. Civil War.  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates (  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years.  See,

[2] See’s-legacy-more-suffering-to-come/ and

[3] See, e.g.,; see also and

[4] See; see also

[5] Compare and and’s-second-emperor/ and and with

[6] See Obama, “Dreams from My Father” (paperback “Revised Edition,” published by Three Rivers Press, 2004), pp. xii (“[S]he was the kindest, most generous spirit I have ever known, and . . . what is best in me I owe to her”), 89 (“[Toot and Gramps] had sacrificed again and again for me.  They had poured all their lingering hopes into my success.  Never had they given me reason to doubt their love; I doubted if they ever would”), 343 (“I looked out the window, thinking about my mother, Toot, and Gramps, and how grateful I was to them—for who they were. . . .”); see also

[7] Some years ago, I had a law student from UCLA who worked for me as a law clerk doing research and legal writing.  He made a small mistake in a brief, but one that I considered important.  I jumped all over him.  He had worked in Saudi Arabia as an engineer before coming to law school; and he stopped me, and asked if I knew how the Saudis made Oriental rugs.

Some were made by hand and others by machines, he said, but in every case there was an intentional mistake inserted somewhere in each rug.  He asked if I knew why, and I said no.  He said the Saudis believed that only Allah—or God—is perfect; and of course I believed that too.  Since then, when I have jumped all over myself for making mistakes, or thought about criticizing others, I have recalled his story.  None of us are perfect.  Only God is.

Alexander the Great

17 01 2010

By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

In the pantheon of the greatest human beings who ever lived, in terms of influencing the history of the world, Jesus Christ “ranks” number one and Alexander the Great ranks number two, for similar albeit different reasons.  Both influenced history more than others, and died at essentially the same age, 33.  Jesus changed Man’s perception of his relationship to God and thereby “conquered” much of the world, while Alexander’s territorial conquests spread democracy and the assimilation of disparate cultures.  Both were remarkable leaders who possessed super-human qualities, including wisdom and fearlessness.

In a sense their lives were intertwined, for without the common language of Greek, Christianity might not have spread beyond Judea to become a world religion.  The Roman Empire and the long centuries of Byzantium are all said to be the fruits of Alexander’s achievements too.  In his short life, this young king and student of Aristotle conquered the known world as far as India to the east—”at the farthest end of Earth”—and changed the course of history.  Among the ages, he is a giant; a man who became a mythic god.

As a general, Alexander (or Alexander III of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.) is considered to be among the greatest the world has ever known.  His conquests dwarf those of other conquerors, such as Julius Caesar, Napoleon and Hitler.  He was recognized as pharaoh (or god incarnate) of Egypt; and his general Ptolemy founded the fabled Egyptian dynasty that ended with the death of Cleopatra (who was named for Alexander’s full sister[2]), the last of the Ptolemies.  Alexander’s wife, Roxane, is a story of love and alliances—and of their son, born posthumously, who succeeded him.

Even the taming of his great black stallion, Bucephalas—which his father Philip had proclaimed unmanageable to the youth of 12, and which became Alexander’s loyal companion during his campaigns on three continents, as far as India—has been immortalized in history and legend, and in movies such as Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Black Stallion.”  According to tradition, Alexander also solved the riddle of the “Gordian knot”—a rope knotted so intricately that whoever could undo it was to rule Asia—by cutting it with his sword.

Alexander’s numerous acts of both savagery and gallantry in war have been chronicled throughout recorded history, such that 2,300 years after his death he often appears more like a mythic figure than a man of flesh and blood.  His conquests ushered in what has been called the Hellenistic Age—or the “Golden Age”—dating from his death in 323 B.C. to 31 B.C. when Ptolemaic Egypt fell to Rome, a period in which the Greek culture and language spread through northern Africa and southwestern Asia, creating an era that has been described as the first giant step toward the establishment of an international culture.

At the time of his death, his empire stretched from Albania, the former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, the Danube and the Black Sea in the north, through Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and what was the Persian Empire, to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Punjab of India in the east, and encompassing strategic parts of present-day Libya, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Born around July 20, 356, at Pella in Macedonia[3], west of what is now Thessaloniki in the rugged northern reaches of Greece—in the shadow of Mount Olympus, the home of the gods—he was the son of Philip II, king of Macedonia, and Olympias, daughter of the king of Epirus.  Philip was considered one of the most brilliant generals of his day[4], whose family had ruled Macedonia for more than 300 years.  Alexander is said to have owed much of his tactical genius to his father, although emotionally he is considered to have been closer to his strong-willed, proud and ruthless mother.  Philip was married at least seven times; and after his death, it is said that Olympias roasted his last and youngest wife alive.

From his mother, Alexander acquired a belief that he was a descendant of Achilles, the legendary hero of his beloved Iliad by Homer, whose code was upheld by warriors: Glory in war was life’s highest honor.  Plutarch, who wrote a biography of Alexander in the first century A.D., noted that “[h]e regarded the Iliad as a handbook of the art of war and took with him on his campaigns a text annotated by Aristotle which he always kept under his pillow together with a dagger.”  Alexander was groomed by Philip to inherit his kingdom; and Philip acquired Aristotle, a former student of Plato, who became Alexander’s tutor and taught him philosophy, medicine, and scientific investigation from age 13 to 16.  Also, Alexander was reared among his father’s hard-drinking professional soldiers, and hunters.

In 340, during his father’s attack on Byzantium, he was left in charge of Macedonia.  He defeated the Maedi, a Thracian people; and two years later, at the age of 18, he commanded the Companion Cavalry, Macedonia’s elite mounted unit, at the Battle of Chaeronea in which Philip decisively defeated an alliance of Athenian, Theban and other Greek forces.  Taking advantage of a break in the enemy line, Alexander is said to have displayed personal courage in leading the attack against Thebes’ legendary crack unit, the Sacred Band.[5]

A year later Philip divorced Olympias; and after a quarrel at a feast held to celebrate his father’s new marriage, Alexander and his mother fled to Epirus, and he subsequently went to Illyria. Shortly afterward, father and son were reconciled and Alexander returned to Macedonia, where he spent all but 11 years of his short life.  In 336, however, on Philip’s assassination by a bodyguard[6], Alexander at 20—supported by the army—installed himself on his father’s throne.

He at once executed those who were alleged to be behind Philip’s murder, along with all possible rivals and the faction that was opposed to him. He then marched south, recovered a wavering Thessaly, and at an assembly of the Greek League at Corinth was appointed generalissimo for the forthcoming invasion of Asia, already planned and initiated by Philip whose ultimate goal was to attack Persia, Greece’s old enemy across the Aegean Sea.

Before turning to Persia, whose wealth was needed if he was to maintain the army that Philip had built and pay off 500 talents that he owed—and following a rumor of his death that precipitated a revolt of Theban democrats—Alexander marched 240 miles in 14 days from Pelion (near modern Korçë, Albania) in Illyria to Thebes.  When the Thebans refused to surrender, he entered and razed their city to the ground; 6,000 were killed, and all survivors were sold into slavery; and the other Greek states were cowed by this savagery.

The Persian expedition and the Battle of Issus

In 334 B.C., Alexander crossed the Hellespont—the strait known today as the Dardanelles—to Asia Minor and set out for Troy, leaving Antipater, who had faithfully served his father, as his deputy in Europe with more than 13,000 men.  Alexander himself commanded more than 5,000 cavalry and 30,000 infantry, as he began his campaign against Persia whose empire extended from modern Turkey to Pakistan.

At the fall of Troy, Alexander and his closest companion, Hephaestion, paid tribute to the great Homeric warrior Achilles, by anointing altars at his alleged tomb with oil and offering sacrifices.  Indeed, it has been said that blood was the characteristic of Alexander’s whole campaign, and that there is nothing comparable in ancient history except Julius Caesar in Gaul.

He confronted the Persians first at the Granicus River (now the Kocabas), northeast of Troy, in May of 334.  The Persians were arrayed on high ground with approximately 15,000 cavalry and 16,000 infantry, a third of them Greek mercenaries.  The Persian plan to tempt Alexander across the river and kill him almost succeeded.  Alexander, ignoring the advice of his father’s general Parmenion to delay the attack, forged into the river and up the steep opposing bank to where the Persians waited.  However, in hand-to-hand combat, he and his men were able to break the enemy lines and surround the mercenaries of the Persian king, Darius III, and Alexander’s victory was complete.  The mercenaries were largely massacred, except for 2,000 survivors who were sent back to Macedonia in chains.

In addition to having his father’s Companion Cavalry, Alexander had the Macedonian phalanx that had been refined by Philip into a highly mobile unit of foot soldiers armed with wooden thrusting pikes up to 16 feet long.  It was the length of these pikes—as much as nine feet longer than the average spear—that protected Alexander’s men as they climbed the river bank from their vulnerable position below the Persians, according to one account.  This victory at Granicus exposed western Asia Minor to the Macedonians; most cities opened their gates; and in contrast to Macedonian policy in Greece, democracies were installed—on the condition that they were obedient to Alexander.

While the Persian forces fled inland, Alexander and his army marched triumphantly along the coast, liberating the region’s Greek cities from their Persian rulers.  By the winter of 334-333, Alexander conquered western Asia Minor.  Darius and his Persian army advanced northward, and intelligence on both sides was faulty.  Alexander was already encamped near modern Iskenderun, Turkey, when he learned in the fall of 333 that Darius was at Issus, north of Alexander’s position, near the present-day Turkish-Syrian border.  Turning, Alexander found Darius drawn up along the Pinarus River; and in the battle that followed, Alexander won a decisive victory.

Exhausted from a two-day march, Alexander’s men were outnumbered: a Macedonian force of about 50,000, to as many as 70,000 Persians.  Nonetheless, Alexander rallied his troops and led the charge into the Persian lines.  It is said that amidst the dust and savagery of battle, Alexander spotted Darius in his war chariot and made straight for him, followed by his cavalry.  Darius fled; the struggle turned into a Persian rout, leaving Darius’ family in Alexander’s hands; and on Alexander’s orders, the Persian king’s wife and daughters were not harmed.  Yet, at 23, Alexander had met the great King of Persia and defeated him.

Conquest of the Mediterranean coast and Egypt

From Issus, Alexander marched south along the Mediterranean coast, into Syria and Phoenicia, his object being to isolate the Persian fleet from its bases and destroy it as an effective fighting force.  City after city allied to Persia surrendered to him; and Alexander’s second in command, Parmenion, who had secured a foothold in Asia Minor during Philip’s lifetime, was sent ahead to secure Damascus and its rich booty including Darius’ war chest.  In response to a letter from Darius offering peace, Alexander replied arrogantly, recapitulating the historic wrongs of Greece by Persia and demanding unconditional surrender to himself as lord of Asia.

He met his first resistance at Tyre, an island city located a mile offshore, which was a strategic site because of its fabled sea power.  Alexander’s forces included a special engineering unit similar to the modern American Seabees, and they began constructing a causeway to the island.  While his siege of Tyre was in progress, Darius sent a new offer: he would pay a huge ransom of 10,000 talents for his family and cede all his lands west of the Euphrates.  “I would accept,” Parmenion is reported to have said, “were I Alexander”—”I too,” was the famous retort, “were I Parmenion.”

The storming of Tyre in July of 332 is considered to be Alexander’s greatest military achievement; however, it was attended with great carnage and the sale of the women and children into slavery.  It took Alexander seven months to conquer the city; and when his Macedonians triumphed, it is said of Tyre that 7,000 were slain outright, 2,000 young men were crucified, and 30,000 sold into slavery.  Leaving Parmenion in Syria, Alexander advanced south without opposition until he reached Gaza.  There, bitter resistance halted him for two months, and he sustained a serious shoulder wound during a sortie.[7]

In November of 332, after neutralizing Persian allies along the way, Alexander reached Egypt where the people welcomed him as their deliverer, and the Persian satrap wisely surrendered.  At Memphis, Alexander was crowned with the traditional double crown of the pharaohs; the native priests were placated, and their religion was encouraged.  He spent the winter organizing Egypt, where he employed Egyptian governors, keeping the army under a separate Macedonian command.  He founded Alexandria, one of the greatest cities of its time, near the western arm of the Nile on a site between the sea and Lake Mareotis, protected by the island of Pharos, and had it laid out by a Rhodian architect.  He is also said to have sent an expedition to discover the causes of the flooding of the Nile.

From Alexandria, he trekked inland to visit the famed Oracle of the god Ammon, in its lush oasis at Siwah.  Hoping to confirm his divine status and secure favorable omens for his invasion of Asia, the priest gave him the traditional salutation of a pharaoh, as the son of Ammon, a title that fueled his growing sense of invincibility.  It is said that throughout his campaigns, he made daily sacrifices to sway the gods.

His conquest of Egypt had completed his control of the whole eastern Mediterranean coast; and in July of 331, Alexander was on the Euphrates.  Instead of taking the direct route down the river to Babylon, he traveled across northern Mesopotamia toward the Tigris; and Darius, learning of this move from an advance force, marched up the Tigris to oppose him.  The decisive battle of the war was fought on the plain of Gaugamela, between Nineveh and Arbela.  Alexander pursued the defeated Persian forces for 35 miles to Arbela, but Darius escaped with his cavalry and Greek mercenaries into Media.

Alexander now occupied Babylon, city and province. Susa, the capital, also surrendered, releasing huge treasures amounting to 50,000 gold talents.  Here, Alexander established Darius’ family in comfort; and he pressed on into Persia proper.  At Persepolis, he ceremonially burned down the palace of Xerxes, as a symbol that the Panhellenic war of revenge was at an end.  In the spring of 330, Alexander marched north into Media and occupied its capital.  The Thessalians and Greek allies were sent home; and henceforth, it is said that he was waging a purely personal war.

Alexander’s views on the empire were changing.  He had come to envisage a joint ruling class consisting of Macedonians and Persians, and this served to augment the misunderstanding that now arose between his Macedonians and him.  Before continuing his pursuit of Darius, who had retreated into Bactria, he assembled all the Persian treasure and entrusted it to Harpalus; and Parmenion was also left behind in Media to control communications.   In midsummer 330, Alexander set out for the eastern provinces “at a high speed” via modern Rayy (near Tehran) and the Caspian Gates, where he learned that Bessus, the satrap of Bactria, had Darius stabbed and left him to die.  Alexander sent his body for burial with honors in the royal tombs at Persepolis.

Campaign eastward, to Central Asia

Darius’ death left no obstacle to Alexander’s claim to be “lord of Asia”—of the Persian Empire.  He also accepted the surrender of Darius’ Greek mercenaries.  His advance eastward was now rapid, and he founded Alexandria of the Arians (modern Herat).  At Phrada, he took steps to destroy Parmenion and his family as well.  Parmenion’s son, commander of the elite Companion Cavalry that Alexander had once commanded, was implicated in an alleged plot against Alexander’s life; he was condemned by the army, and executed; and a secret message was sent to Parmenion’s second in command, who obediently assassinated him.  This ruthless action excited widespread horror but strengthened Alexander’s position relative to his critics and those whom he regarded as his father’s men.  All of Parmenion’s adherents were now eliminated, and men close to Alexander were promoted.

From Phrada, Alexander pressed on during the winter of 330-329, over the mountains past the site of modern Kabul, Afghanistan, into the country of the Paropamisadae, where he founded Alexandria by the Caucasus.  Bessus was now in Bactria raising a national revolt with the usurped title of Great King.  Crossing the Hindu Kush northward over the Khawak Pass (11,650 feet), Alexander brought his army, despite food shortages, to Drapsaca.  Outflanked, Bessus fled and Alexander sent his general Ptolemy in pursuit; Bessus was captured, flogged, and sent to Balkh[8], where he was mutilated after the Persian manner (losing his nose and ears); and in due course he was publicly executed.

From modern Samarkand, Alexander advanced to the Jaxartes, the boundary of the Persian Empire.  There he broke the opposition of Scythian nomads by his use of catapults and, after defeating them in a battle on the north bank of the river, pursued them into the interior.  On the site of modern Leninabad (Khojent) on the Jaxartes, he founded a city, Alexandria Eschate, “the farthest.”  It took Alexander until the autumn of 328 to crush the most determined opponent he encountered in his campaigns.

Later in the same year, he attacked Oxyartes and the remaining barons who held out in the hills of modern Tadzhikistan.  Volunteers seized the crag on which Oxyartes had his stronghold, and among the captives was his daughter, Roxane.  In reconciliation Alexander married her, and the rest of his opponents were either won over or crushed.

At Maracanda (or modern Samarkand), an incident occurred that widened the breach between Alexander and many of his Macedonians.  He murdered Cleitus, one of his most trusted commanders, in a drunken quarrel, but his excessive display of remorse led the army to pass a decree convicting Cleitus posthumously of treason. The event marked a step in Alexander’s progress toward Eastern absolutism, and this growing attitude found its outward expression in his use of Persian royal dress.

Shortly afterward, at Balkh, he attempted to impose the Persian court ceremonial—involving prostration (or what has been described as a “courtly kiss”)—on the Greeks and Macedonians too; however, to them this custom, habitual for Persians entering the king’s presence, implied an act of worship toward a god and was intolerable before a man.  Even Callisthenes, historian and nephew of Aristotle, whose ostentatious flattery had perhaps encouraged Alexander to see himself in the role of a god, refused to abase himself.  Macedonian laughter caused the experiment to founder, and Alexander abandoned it.  Shortly afterward, however, Callisthenes was held to be privy to a conspiracy among the royal pages and was executed (or died in prison).

Invasion of India

In early summer of 327, Alexander left Bactria with a reinforced army under a reorganized command.  If Plutarch’s figure of 120,000 men has any reality, however, it must have included all kinds of auxiliary services, together with muleteers, camel drivers, medical corps, peddlers, entertainers, women, and children—the fighting strength perhaps stood at about 35,000.  Recrossing the Hindu Kush, Alexander divided his forces.  Half the army with the baggage, under Hephaestion and another Cavalry commander, was sent through the Khyber Pass, while Alexander himself led the rest through the hills to the north.  His advance was marked by the storming of the almost impregnable pinnacle of the modern Pir-Sar, a few miles west of the Indus and north of the Buner River, an impressive feat of siegecraft.

In the spring of 326, crossing the Indus, Alexander entered Taxila, whose ruler, Taxiles, furnished elephants and troops in return for aid against his rival Porus, who ruled the lands between the Hydaspes (modern Jhelum) and the modern Chenab.  In June, Alexander fought his last great battle on the left bank of the Hydaspes.  He founded two cities there, one of which was named Alexandria Nicaea, to celebrate his victory; and Porus became his ally.

Although Alexander gained a rajah and a new troop of elephants, he also lost a life-long friend.  It is said that Bucephalas was a man-eater and a unicorn, and that he was born of the same seed as his master, and that he whinnied and fawned with his front legs at the sight of the only man he ever trusted.  What we do know for certain is that not far from the defeat of Porus and the site of Bucephalas’ last river crossing, Alexander founded a second city and named it Bucephala, in memory of his beloved horse that died there about the age of 30.  The great black stallion had carried his master to the “eastern edge of the world,” and a funeral procession was organized, which Alexander led in person.

How much Alexander knew of India beyond the Hyphasis (probably the modern Beas) is uncertain; there is no conclusive proof that he had heard of the Ganges.  While he was anxious to press on, he had advanced to the Hyphasis when his army mutinied, refusing to go farther in the tropical rain; they were weary in body and spirit, and Coenus, one of Alexander’s four chief marshals, acted as their spokesman. On finding the army adamant, Alexander agreed to turn back.

On the Hyphasis, Alexander built a fleet of 800 to 1,000 ships.  Leaving Porus, he then proceeded down the river and into the Indus, with half his forces on shipboard and half marching in three columns down the two banks. Nearchus commanded the fleet; and the march was attended with much fighting and heavy, pitiless slaughter.  At the storming of one town near what is now called the Ravi River, Alexander received a severe wound that left him weakened.

On reaching the head of the Indus delta, he built a harbor and docks and explored both arms of the Indus.  He planned to lead part of his forces back by land, while the rest in perhaps 100 to 150 ships under the command of Nearchus made a voyage of exploration along the Persian Gulf.  Local opposition led the ships to set sail in September of 325, and they were held up for three weeks until they could pick up the northeast monsoon in late October.  In September, Alexander too set out along the coast through Gedrosia (modern Baluchistan), but he was soon compelled by mountainous country to turn inland, thus failing in his project to establish food depots for the fleet.

Craterus, a high-ranking officer, already had been sent off with the baggage and siege train, to rejoin the main army on the Amanis (modern Minab) River in Carmania. Alexander’s march through Gedrosia proved disastrous; waterless desert and shortage of food and fuel caused great suffering; and many, especially women and children, perished in a sudden monsoon flood while encamped.  At the Amanis, Alexander was rejoined by the fleet, which also had suffered losses.

Consolidation of the empire

Alexander now proceeded farther with the policy of replacing senior officials and executing defaulting governors, upon which he had already embarked before leaving India. Between 326 and 324, more than a third of his satraps were superseded and six were put to death; three generals in Media were accused of extortion, arrested, tried, and executed.  Whether the conduct that Alexander displayed against his governors represented exemplary punishment for gross maladministration during his absence, or merely the elimination of men he had come to distrust (as in the case of Parmenion), is debatable; however, ancient sources generally favorable to Alexander comment adversely on his savagery.

In the spring of 324, he was back in Susa, administrative center of the Persian Empire.  He found that his treasurer, Harpalus, had absconded with 6,000 mercenaries and 5,000 talents to Greece.  Arrested in Athens, he escaped and later was murdered in Crete.  At Susa, Alexander held a feast to celebrate his conquest of the Persian Empire, at which, in furtherance of his policy of fusing Macedonians and Persians into one master race, he and 80 of his officers took Persian wives.  He and Hephaestion married Darius’ daughters Barsine (also called Stateira) and Drypetis, respectively; and 10,000 of his soldiers with native wives were given generous dowries.

This policy of racial fusion brought increasing friction to Alexander’s relations with his Macedonians, who had no sympathy for his changed concept of the empire.  His determination to incorporate Persians on equal terms in the army and the administration of the provinces was bitterly resented.  This discontent was now fanned by the arrival of 30,000 native youths who had received Macedonian military training, and by the introduction of Orientals from various parts of the empire into the Companion Cavalry.  The issue came to a head when Alexander’s decision to send home Macedonian veterans under Craterus was interpreted as a move toward transferring the seat of power to Asia.

There was an open mutiny involving all but the royal bodyguard; however, when Alexander dismissed his whole army and enrolled Persians instead, the opposition broke down.  An emotional scene of reconciliation was followed by a vast banquet with 9,000 guests to celebrate the ending of the misunderstanding and the partnership in government of Macedonians and Persians—but not, as has been argued by some, the incorporation of all the subject peoples as partners in the commonwealth.  Ten thousand veterans were now sent back to Macedonia with gifts, and the crisis was ended.

In the autumn of 324, Hephaestion died and Alexander indulged in extravagant mourning for his closest friend.  He was given a royal funeral in Babylon with a pyre costing 10,000 talents.  It was probably in connection with a general order sent out to the Greeks, to honor Hephaestion as a hero, that Alexander linked the demand that he himself should be accorded divine honors.  Legend offered more than one example of men who, by their achievements, acquired divine status.

Alexander had on several occasions encouraged favorable comparison of his own accomplishments with those of Dionysus or Heracles.  He seemed to have become convinced of the reality of his own divinity and to have required its acceptance by others.  There is no reason to assume that his demand had any political background (divine status gave its possessor no particular rights in a Greek city); rather it has been said to be a symptom of his growing megalomania and emotional instability.  The cities complied, but often ironically—the Spartan decree read, “Since Alexander wishes to be a god, let him be a god.”

In the spring of 323, at Babylon, he received complimentary embassies from the Libyans and from the Bruttians, Etruscans, and Lucanians of Italy.  Representatives of the cities of Greece also came, garlanded as befitted Alexander’s divine status.  Following up Nearchus’ voyage, he now founded an Alexandria at the mouth of the Tigris and made plans to develop sea communications with India, for which an expedition along the Arabian coast was to be a preliminary.  He also dispatched an officer to explore the Caspian Sea.

Suddenly, in Babylon, while busy with plans to improve the irrigation of the Euphrates and to settle the coast of the Persian Gulf, Alexander was taken ill after a prolonged banquet and drinking bout.  Ten days later, on June 10 or 13, 323, he died before reaching the age of 33.  He had reigned for 12 years and eight months.  His body, diverted to Egypt by Ptolemy, its later king, was eventually placed in a golden coffin in Alexandria.  Both in Egypt and elsewhere in the Greek cities, he received divine honors.

No heir had been appointed to the throne, and his generals adopted his father’s half-witted illegitimate son, Philip Arrhidaeus, and Alexander’s posthumous son by Roxane, Alexander IV, as kings, sharing out the satrapies among themselves, after much bargaining.  Both kings were murdered, Arrhidaeus in 317 and Alexander IV in 310/309.  The provinces became independent kingdoms; and the generals, following Antigonus’ lead in 306, took the title of king.

Who was Alexander?

Like Napoleon, in physical terms, Alexander is said to have been short, perhaps not more than five feet tall; stockily built; and apparently unable to grow a full beard, thus setting a fashion of being clean-shaven.  He was said to be famously good-looking, with long curling hair and fair skin that, according to Plutarch, had “a ruddy tinge . . . especially upon his face and chest.”[9]

In his later years, Alexander’s aims seem to have been directed toward exploration, in particular of Arabia and the Caspian.  In the organization of his empire, he had been content in many spheres to improvise and adapt what he found.  His financial policy is an exception; it is clear that he set up a central organization with collectors perhaps independent of the local satraps.  That this proved a failure was partly due to weaknesses in the character of Harpalus, his chief treasurer.  But the establishment of a new coinage with a silver standard based on that of Athens in place of the old bimetallic system current both in Macedonia and in Persia helped trade everywhere and, combined with the release of vast amounts of bullion from the Persian treasuries, gave much-needed stimulation to the economy of the whole Mediterranean area.

Alexander’s founding of new cities—Plutarch writes of more than seventy—initiated a new chapter in Greek expansion.  No doubt many of the colonists, by no means volunteers, deserted these cities, and marriages with native women led to some dilution of Greek ways; however, the Greek (rather than Macedonian) influence remained strong in most of them.  Since the process was carried further by Alexander’s successors, the spread of Hellenic thought and customs over much of Asia as far as Bactria and India was one of the more striking effects of Alexander’s conquests.

His plans for racial fusion, on the other hand, were considered a failure. The Macedonians, leaders and men alike, rejected the idea; and in the later Seleucid Empire, the Greek and Macedonian element was clearly dominant.  How far Alexander would have succeeded in the difficult task of coordinating his vast dominions, had he lived, is hard to determine.  The only link between the many units that went to make up an empire more disparate than that of the Habsburgs, and far larger, was his own person; and his death came before he could tackle this problem.

What had held it all together was his own dynamic personality.  He combined an iron will, and ability to drive himself and his men to the utmost, with a supple and flexible mind.  He knew when to draw back and change his policy, though it is said that he did this reluctantly.  He was imaginative and not without romantic impulses—figures like Achilles, Heracles, and Dionysus were often on his mind.  He was swift in anger; and under the strain of his long campaigns, this side of his character grew more pronounced.

Ruthless, he had increasing recourse to terror, showing no hesitation in eliminating men whom he had ceased to trust, either with or without the pretense of a fair trial.  Years after his death, it is said that Cassander, son of Antipater, a regent of the Macedonian Empire under Alexander, could not pass his statue at Delphi without shuddering.  Yet he maintained the loyalty of his men, who followed him to the Hyphasis without complaining and continued to believe in him throughout all hardships.  Only when his whim would have taken them still farther into unknown India did he fail to get his way.

His military genius is undisputed, and he was blessed with the gift of leadership.  When he gave the command to attack, it is said that he knew his men would confidently do so.  Alexander himself led the cavalry charge at the Granicus, in a white-plumed helmet; and empathy for his men was part of the Macedonian warrior code.  Arrian, a Greek historian of the second-century A.D. whose account of Alexander’s campaigns is considered one of the best of ancient sources, wrote: “For the wounded he showed deep concern.  He visited them all and examined their wounds, asking each man how and in what circumstances his wound was received, and allowing him to tell his story and exaggerate as much as he pleased.”

In addition, Alexander showed unusual versatility both in the combination of different arms and in adapting his tactics to the challenge of enemies who commanded novel forms of warfare—the nomads, the Indian hill tribes, or Porus with his elephants. His strategy was skillful and imaginative, and he knew how to exploit the chances that arose in every battle and that might be decisive for victory or defeat.  He also drew the last advantage from victory by relentless pursuit.  His use of cavalry was so effective that it is said he rarely had to fall back upon his infantry to deliver a crushing blow.

Alexander’s short reign marks a decisive moment in the history of Europe and Asia.  His campaigns and his own personal interest in scientific investigation brought many advances in the knowledge of geography and natural history.  His career led to the moving of the great centers of civilization eastward, and initiated the new age of the Greek territorial monarchies.  It spread Hellenism in a vast colonizing wave throughout the Middle East and created, if not politically at least economically and culturally, a single world stretching from Gibraltar to the Punjab, open to trade and social intercourse and with a considerable overlay of common civilization.

. . .

Two thousand three hundred years ago, Alexander and his army began a 22,000-mile expedition from Greece to India, and conquered most of the known world before he was 30.  It was a turning point in history.  It is said that there was never a king before or since with exploits as vast as those of Alexander.  He was the world’s first authentic hero—a worldly genius who succeeded, whereas others before and after him failed.

He is one of a handful of men who, in striding across the pages of history, left the world marked forever by their presence.

This was the Age of Alexander . . . Alexander the Great!




356 B.C. Birth of Alexander the Great (Alexander III) in Macedonia to Philip II, king of Macedonia, and his wife, Olympias

344 B.C. Alexander tames the giant horse Bucephalas (age 12)

343-340 B.C. Alexander is taught by Aristotle (ages 13-16)

340 B.C. Philip attacks Byzantium; Alexander is left in charge of Macedonia, and defeats the Maedi (age 16)

338 B.C. Philip II defeats combined Greek armies (consisting of Athenian, Theban and other Greek forces) at Chaironeia (or Chaeronea); Alexander commands the Companion Cavalry, Macedonia’s elite mounted unit, and displays personal courage in leading the attack against Thebes’ legendary crack unit, the Sacred Band (age 18)

336 B.C. First invasion of Asia; King Philip assassinated at Aigai; accession of Alexander to the Macedonian throne (age 20)

335 B.C. Alexander’s campaigns in Thrace and Illyria; the destruction of Thebes (age 21)

334 B.C. Alexander begins his invasion of the Persian Empire; the Battle of the Granicus River; the sieges of Miletus and Halicarnassus (age 22)

334-333 B.C. Conquest of southern Asia Minor; visit to Gordion near Ankara

333 B.C. The Battle of Issus (age 23)

332 B.C. The siege and capture of Tyre and Gaza (age 24)

332-1 B.C. Alexander conquers Egypt, founds Alexandria, and visits the Oracle of Ammon at the Siwah Oasis

331 B.C. The Battle of Gaugamela (age 25)

330 B.C. The burning of Persepolis; death of the Persian Great King Darius III; murders of Philotas and Parmenion (or Parmenio); the Hindu Kush and the “eastern edge of the world,” according to Aristotle; the pursuit of Bessus (age 26)

329-8 B.C. Campaigns in Bactria and Sogdia (or Sogdiana); the capture of Bessus; the murder of Cleitus; the Royal Pages’ Conspiracy, and the arrest and death of Callisthenes; the revolt and death of Spitamenes

327 B.C. Alexander marries Roxane (or Rhoxane); the invasion of India (age 29)

326-5 B.C. The Battle of the Hydaspes against Porus, during which Bucephalas is gravely wounded and dies (at about 30 years); the mutiny on the Hyphasis river; the voyage down the Indus; the campaign against the Malli (or Malloi), and the fortress of Multan

325 B.C. The march across the Gedrosian desert (age 31)

324 B.C. The mass marriage at Susa; the mutiny at Opis; the death of Hephaestion (or Hephaistion) (age 32)

June 10 or 13, 323 B.C. The death of Alexander the Great at Babylon (before the age of 33)

31 B.C. Rome overcomes the last of Alexander’s successor kingdoms with the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra

© 2010-2015, Timothy D. Naegele


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass), the first black senator since Reconstruction after the U.S. Civil War.  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates (  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years.  See,

This article was written as the basis for a movie script and film.

[2] Also, the last wife of Alexander’s father, King Philip II, was named Cleopatra.

[3] Macedonia was a large region of northern Greece, not to be confused with the former Yugoslavia, or the province of that name in present-day Greece.  In the Fourth Century B.C., it stretched to the north and covered much of the former Yugoslavia and parts of Bulgaria, to the east as far as Thrace and the Black Sea, in the south as far as Thessaly, and to the west across the Pindus mountains into modern Albania.

[4] He was considered to be an insightful leader, unrivaled by any except his famous son, Alexander.  In 359 B.C., at about the age of 23, Philip became king of Macedonia, which consisted of many clans.  He consolidated the kingdom, increased its wealth and status, and built a mighty army.  With shrewd diplomacy, alliances and brute force, he conquered much of Greece and headed the Greek League that was formed to invade Asia Minor; however, in 336, an assassin’s sword ended his life, leaving the invasion to his ambitious son, Alexander.

[5] As promising as his performance was, few would have guessed that he would conquer the known world to the east and change the course of history in the next 14 or so years.

[6] It has been written that the bodyguard might have been a former lover of Philip since—like most Greek upper-class men—Philip was considered to be bisexual.

[7] It is said that there is no basis for the tradition that he turned aside to visit Jerusalem.

[8] Also, this appears to be referred to as Bactra.

[9] It is also said that he held his head slightly to the left and had a “melting look” in his eyes, traits that have led some modern doctors to suggest that he suffered from a rare eye condition known as Brown’s syndrome.  If this diagnosis is accurate, the characteristic tilt of his head may have enabled him to see straight.

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