James Mann is author-in-residence at Johns Hopkins’s School of Advanced International Studies. He is the author of Rise of the Vulcans (Viking) and The Obamians (Viking), which is being published this month.
On the face of things, the overseas focus of America's antiterrorist campaign should be on the Middle East. Osama bin Laden is a Saudi. His al-Qaeda network is made up primarily of Saudis, Egyptians, and others from the Middle East. No matter how you define the underlying causes of the problem--whether you blame Islamic fundamentalism, state support for terrorism, the corrupt and undemocratic nature of regimes like Saudi Arabia, the inequitable distribution of oil wealth, America's need for military bases to protect oil supplies, or, in bin Laden's recent redefinition, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--they all have their origins in the Middle East.
America is in the midst of a supposedly great debate over China policy. Congress will soon hold a seemingly momentous vote on whether to extend indefinitely China's trading rights in the United States. The Clinton administration and the business community are pressing hard, indeed desperately, for congressional approval, which they argue is necessary for American companies to reap the full benefits of China's expected membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO).