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America’s War on Chinese Technology

Summary:
In the run up to the Iraq War, then-US Vice President Richard Cheney declared that even if the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into terrorist hands was tiny, say 1%, we should act as if it were certain by invading. The US is at it again, creating a panic over Chinese technologies by exaggerating tiny risks. NEW YORK – The worst foreign-policy decision by the United States of the last generation – and perhaps longer – was the “war of choice” that it launched in Iraq in 2003 for the stated purpose of eliminating weapons of mass destruction that did not, in fact, exist. Understanding the illogic behind that disastrous decision has never been more relevant, because it is being used to justify a similarly

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In the run up to the Iraq War, then-US Vice President Richard Cheney declared that even if the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into terrorist hands was tiny, say 1%, we should act as if it were certain by invading. The US is at it again, creating a panic over Chinese technologies by exaggerating tiny risks.

NEW YORK – The worst foreign-policy decision by the United States of the last generation – and perhaps longer – was the “war of choice” that it launched in Iraq in 2003 for the stated purpose of eliminating weapons of mass destruction that did not, in fact, exist. Understanding the illogic behind that disastrous decision has never been more relevant, because it is being used to justify a similarly misguided US policy today.

The decision to invade Iraq followed the illogic of then-US Vice President Richard Cheney, who declared that even if the risk of WMDs falling into terrorist hands was tiny – say, 1% – we should act as if that scenario would certainly occur.

Such reasoning is guaranteed to lead to wrong decisions more often than not. Yet the US and some of its allies are now using the Cheney Doctrine to attack Chinese technology. The US government argues that because we can’t know with certainty that Chinese technologies are safe, we should act as if they are certainly dangerous and bar them.

Proper decision-making applies probability estimates to alternative actions. A generation ago, US policymakers should have considered not only the (alleged) 1% risk of WMDs falling into terrorist hands, but also the 99% risk of a war based on flawed premises. By focusing only on the 1% risk, Cheney (and many others) distracted the public’s attention from the much greater likelihood that the Iraq War lacked justification and that it would gravely destabilize the Middle East and global politics.

The problem with the Cheney Doctrine is not only that it dictates taking actions predicated on small risks without considering the potentially very high costs. Politicians are tempted to whip up fears for ulterior purposes.

That is what US leaders are doing again: creating a panic over Chinese technology companies by raising, and exaggerating, tiny risks. The most pertinent case (but not the only one) is the US government attack on the wireless broadband company Huawei. The US is closing its markets to the company and trying hard to shut down its business around the world. As with Iraq, the US could end up creating a geopolitical disaster for no reason.

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