Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Signing Off

MeiZhongTai is officially signing off. I hope you have enjoyed my 160 posts over the last 9 months. I have certainly enjoyed writing them. I'd like to thank all the bloggers on my blogroll and all my commenters for making this an enjoyable ride. My e-mail address will still work for anyone interested in keeping in touch.

Those mourning the loss of this source of info are encouraged to head to the other blogs in the blogroll to fill their needs.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Taiwan's MND on China's Missiles

Considering the recent discussion between Dylan and I, a Taipei Times article offers some interesting new insight.
"China was producing around 50 Dong Feng [DF] series ballistic missiles annually, but ... our intelligence has found it is now increasing by 75 to 100 ballistic missiles annually," said Lieutentant Colonel Chen Chang-hwa, an intelligence analyst specializing in the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) missile development, at a press conference held by the [Ministry of National Defense] yesterday.
I can't help but wonder if the "intelligence" the colonel is referring to is the Pentagon's 2005 China report which reached this same conclusion last July.*
Chen said if cruise missiles are included, China now has more than 800 missiles aimed at Taiwan
Using last year's Pentagon estimate (650-730 missiles) and predicted annual increase (75-120 missiles), China should have 725-850 missiles in a few months when the annual count is released. I'm not convinced that China reaching 800 now indicates any increase in production.
The PLA's ballistic missiles are now also more precise, according to Chen. They used to have a 600m margin of error, but that has been reduced to 50m, giving China the capability to more accurately hit Taiwan's power stations, radar bases, airstrips and military, economic and political nerve centers.
I said in my last post that I wasn't aware of anyone attributing the reduced circular error probability (margin of error) of 50 meters to the entire missile force. I stand corrected. Either the colonel has just made this claim or the reporter extrapolated the characteristics of the most accurate missiles to the whole force carelessly. I'm not ruling out the former, but also recognize the possibility of the latter.

*The Pentagon report was actually slightly more generous, saying the increase was 75-120 per annum.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Overestimating the Missile Threat

Rowan Callick wrote an article entitled "China's Missile Threat 'Unstoppable'" in yesterday's The Australian claiming
The balance of terror across the Taiwan strait[...] gives China the capacity to pulverise and close down the island but not yet to invade it.
Readers of this blog (especially this post) know that China's ability to "pulverize" Taiwan is often overestimated, as it is in this article. I do, however, agree with his characterization of China's inability to invade.

Let us examine his supporting evidence:
China is capable of deploying several hundred transportable short- to medium-range ballistic missiles within a few days
With the caveat that the number of missiles deployed does not equal the number of missiles hitting their targets, I would agree.

...which could take less than five minutes to reach targets in Taiwan...
True, but not particularly relevant unless he is trying to claim that the launch sites are too close to Taiwan for Taiwan to mount an effective missile defense, an unlikely claim since it would take days to deploy them by his own estimate.

...each destroying an area of about half a city block.
If you will pardon a Clintonian moment: That depends on what your definition of "destroy" is. Or "city block" for that matter. I won't quibble, but rather clarify this point. He assumes, as I did in my own analysis of China's missile threat, that a missile will destroy all within its blast radius--a reasonable assumption if the buildings are not hardened to protect against such a blast (as many military installations surely are) and partial destruction is good enough. The lethal radius of a CSS-6 or CSS-7 is approximately 60 meters if a conventional high-explosive warhead is used, as it likely would be if the target is an urban area (a nuclear blast would obviously be a completely different situation). A radius of 60m would cover an area of 11,309m (2.79 acres). According to Wikipedia, a city block can vary from one acre to ten, so it seems his assertion, if caveated with some reasonable assumptions, is certainly reasonable.

Leading strategic expert Hugh White, a professor at the Australian National University, said yesterday that China had overtly built up its capacity to between 600 and 700 missiles to make a political point - that it would not tolerate any move by Taiwan to declare itself independent.
Reading political points into military build-ups isn't always safe, but I find this reasonable.

No missile defence system could stop them, because the numbers were so great, Professor White said. "And missile defence is a raw numbers game."
The professor is correct that Taiwan will be not be able to stop every missile, especially since at present only the northern half of the island is protected by Patriot missiles (to the best of my knowledge). Taiwan can use its Patriots to attrit those incoming missiles, reducing their destructive capacity. Lets play the "raw numbers game." My calculations of the subject tell me that accounting for mechanical malfunctions (a modest 10%), missile defenses (50% as a ball park estimate, until Taiwan runs out of missiles), and strategic reserves (1/3 seems to be the rule), about 320 missiles will hit their targets.

"The number of Chinese missiles gives Beijing a lot of political and strategic flexibility," Professor White said. "It could, for instance, fire off 20 missiles and say, 'What do you think of that?' - leaving a lot of rounds in its locker.
The problem with this is one of accuracy that is further elucidated in the following sentence:
And if China did decide it wanted to take even stronger action, it could target power stations and airstrips and ports and army barracks, and could stop Taiwan functioning for awhile."
Taiwan probably wouldn't be overly intimidated by attempts to hit specific buildings, because they would either miss the target or be so inefficient as to demonstrate the missiles' impotence. With a circular error probability of 200-280 meters, it would take 44 CSS-6s or 23 CSS-7s to destroy a target with 75% certainty, which doesn't seem to be particularly intimidating to me. Using between one out of every 30 of your missiles (or 1/15 with the less accurate missiles) to have a three-in-four chance of destroying one building won't scare anyone into submission. If China has upgraded all of its missiles with GPS-guidance systems, a technology China is rumored to be deploying on its most advanced missiles (NOT all of them), China could reasonably expect to destroy 240 non-hardened targets with its 320 missiles that reach their targets or 461 targets if no missiles were held in reserve. Once again, not particularly devastating and certainly not enough to "stop Taiwan functioning."

The author, or the professor guiding him, seems to believe that every missile China launches will hit its target. That is not a reasonable assumption. Let's hope that China is not as prone to miscalculation.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

China Reports Taiwan to UN

Forbes reports:
China has expressed its concerns directly to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan about Taiwan's scrapping of a unification council with the mainland, Xinhua news agency reported.
China's Ambassador to the UN, Wang Guangya, told the UN's leadership that Taiwan was threatening to destablize the "current peaceful situation."

Forbes notes the irony:
China's direct approach to Annan and the United Nations comes despite its repeated insistence that the Taiwan issue is an internal affair and that it tolerates no interference from outside forces.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Foreign Currency Reserves

An International Herald Tribune article informs us that this isn't the first time China has amassed vast foreign currency reserves by trade imbalances. (Hat tip: Economist's View)
China will soon release statistics showing that it has passed Japan as the biggest holder of foreign currency the world has ever seen. Its reserves already exceed $800 billion and are on track to reach $1 trillion by the end of the year, up from just under $4 billion in 1989. But China has held a similar position before.
Lest one should start to panic, remember that America receives more gain than pain from its trade with China.

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National Unification Council

There isn't anything to say about the National Unification Council that hasn't already been said by the numerous commentators around the Sinosphere:
  • Jerome Keating's "Inane Flap Over an Outdated and Inept National Unification Council"
    Some called it a bombshell but it was only the bursting of a bubble. Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian has recently caused quite a stir among the biased and uninformed by proposing to abolish the country's ineffective National Unification Council (NUC). The continued flap over the NUC and its guidelines highlights that most people know nothing about this outdated and ineffective organization, how the guidelines themselves contradict reality, and how the council comes from an era when the Kuomintang (KMT) wished to substitute its personal agenda for that of the people of Taiwan.
  • Michael Turton's "NUC Scrapped"
    [Taiwan] got rid of a US$32 budget item, and managed to piss off the two most powerful nations in the world. What do have for it? Anything concrete? Maybe for an encore, Chen can personally call the heads of the Hong Kong triads and tell them their wives are ugly and their children are stupid too.
  • David's (Jujuflop) "The NUC 'Ceases to Function'"
    So does ‘cease to function’ mean that it’s been abolished? Or did it cease to function back in 2000? The answer to both these contradictary questions is probably ‘yes’. Perhaps Chen has decided that if the US is going to base their Taiwan-China policies on ’strategic ambiguity’, then there’s no reason why Taiwan can’t either.

  • Angry Chinese Blogger's "Independence or Bust: Brinksmanship Across the Taiwan Strait"
    Under The Four Noes and One Without, Chen pledged that, so long as China did not use military force against the island, he would not[...] Nullify either the National Reunification Council or the The Guidelines for National Reunification.


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Monday, February 20, 2006

Tour of the Sinosphere

The blogosphere has had an abundance of must-read articles as of late. Here are some of my favorites with a brief excerpt of each.
  • Jujuflop explains the friction in Taipei-Washington relations since 2000.
    The majority of diplomats and Taiwan-experts in the US had regular contact with senior KMT officials and built up their relationship with the KMT. When the DPP took over power in 2000, the US suddenly found that their contacts weren’t in control, and they had to develop a whole new set of relationships.
  • China Confidential asks if China has a Wal-Mart problem.
    China Confidential has learned that certain officials in Beijing are concerned about the ways in which Wal-Mart affects China's international image, especially in the United States, where the company has become synonymous with products--and, in the eyes of millions of Americans and many of their elected representatives--unemployment--made in China.
  • Michael Turton and Jerome Keating look at the Ma Ying-jeou shuffle. Michael also looks inside the KMT.

There have also been quite a few articles in the mainstream media worth a perusal.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Pirates Attack Great Firewall

According to an article in The Guardian (also in the Taipei Times), the Chinese government is losing their battle to control information flow into China. Many previous discussions on controlling information flow, both here and around the blogosphere, have focused on the internet. This article entitled "Pirates and Bloggers Beat China's Great Wall of Propaganda" focuses primarily on movie pirates.
Pirate DVD shops might not normally be considered outposts of free expression, but they are among the many gaps in the great wall of propaganda, which is being breached by a motley crew of bloggers, copyright dodgers and curious consumers.

It seems that the Chinese are learning a lesson about trying to control markets.
The motivation is purely business, but the effect is partly political. Much of the material for sale is officially prohibited because it contradicts the government line. Among many banned items on sale is Seven Years in Tibet, in which Brad Pitt plays a character sympathetic to the Dalai Lama; Devils at the Doorstep, a film about Japanese troops in a Chinese village that won the 2000 Grand Jury prize at Cannes; and Stanley Kwan's Lan Yu, set around the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement.

When there is demand, there will be supply. Markets will always arise. You could argue that the Chinese government isn't really trying that hard to stamp out these controversial pirated DVDs (after all, the article cites the piracy police themselves buying pirated discs), but that doesn't really matter since all they can really hope to do is make the disc slightly more expensive, not wipe out its sale.

All in all, this article is worth a look just because it is a much more optimistic (from the perspective of freedom and the consumer) take on censorship than most other articles on the subject.


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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

Kuomintang (KMT) chairman Ma Ying-jeou gave a speech in London last weekend that has shaken up the KMT line on China.
China must agree to discuss dismantling its missiles pointing at Taiwan before talks can be held, Kuomintang Chairman Ma Ying-jeou said in comments aired Saturday by Taiwan's ETTV Station.

Michael Turton has been covering the original comments and the backtracking since.

My question is: Was Ma just hoping to portray himself as a centrist to get elected President in 2008 or is he actually moving in that direction? As odd as it may seem, the idea that China should stop openly threatening the existance of Taiwan is a pretty controversial stance for a KMT politician.

A comment by David of Jujuflop on Michael's first post is worth repeating here:
Some of the statements that Ma has been making would be impossible for CSB to make without getting accused of trying to block talks with China (Ma has also said that PRC would have to admit to and apologise for Tiananmen before any talks about unification).

This is certainly an interesting situation and worth keeping an eye on.

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How to Misunderstand Your Neighbor

Monday, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) hosted a talk entitled "How to Misunderstand Your Neighbor" in its beautiful Wohlstetter Conference Center in Northwest Washington (it was advertised under the title "Troubled Ties"). The presenter was Akira Chiba, assistant press secretary for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who has recently authored a book by the same name on Sino-Japanese relations.* Mr. Chiba served six years in Japan's embassy in Beijing in various posts and is fluent in Chinese (in addition to English, Russian, French, Spanish, German, and obviously Japanese).

AEI invited Bojiang Yang (Brookings) and Randall Schriver (Armitage International, CSIS) as discussants for the Chinese and American perspective respectively. Dan Blumenthal of AEI served as the moderator.

Chiba's presentation was quite similar to a series of letters between he and Lanxin Xiang (Professor, Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva) on Sino-Japanese relations published in the journal Survival (Summer, 2005). That fifteen page exchange does a far better job summing up the issue than I could hope to do here, so if you have access to Survival, give that a read.

Akira Chiba
Chiba's PowerPoint presentation began with a discussion of the history and strength of the relationship between China and Japan. Japan and China currently have the largest bilateral trade of any two countries in the region. Japan is the largest source of official development aid (ODA) to China. The numbers of foreign direct investment, exchange students, and sister city relationships are also impressive and expanding.

Second, he addressed Japan's role in World War II and its contrition in the years since. Japan paid for its aggression with lives (those executed or imprisoned for life as a result of the war crimes trials) and with its checkbook (Japan paid close to 20 billion USD in reparations). Japan, as a country, has apologized numerous times, most importantly the 15 August 1995 statement of then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama. Mr. Chiba also spoke of Prime Minster Junichiro Koizumi's 2001 visit to the Marco Polo Bridge Anti-War Museum (I'm not sure of the museum's exact name), where he bowed deeply.

Third, Chiba spoke to Chinese perception of Japan. He cited a recent survey showing that roughly 75% of Chinese people admitted to a negative perception of Japan. He pointed out that 71% of the same didn't know Japan provided ODA to China and many didn't even know that Japan is a democracy.

To clarify this point he spoke to what he calls "one-way mirrors," the reasons that China and Japan have a hard time understanding one another and often speak past each other. Most important of those "one-way mirrors" is the Chinese tendency to think in terms of dialectics, while Japanese tend to thing in idealistic terms. Additionally, China maintains "politics in command" (a rally cry from the Cultural Revolution), while Japanese, on the other hand, are "order freaks" who never run red lights. Additionally, Chinese tend to be atheists while Japanese tend to be pantheists (Shinto) and the Chinese prefer a linear outlook of history while the Japanese history books favor a cyclical outlook.

Fourth, he spoke about historical discrepancies (like the number of Japanese soldiers killed in the World War II battle of Taierzhuang), differences in how Japanese and Chinese people treat historical figures viewed as traitors, and different notions of the meaning of some Hanzi/Kanji characters and the resulting disagreements on translations (relevant because of disagreements over words like "apology" and "soothing the souls," which is the rationale for visiting the Yasukuni Shrine).

Perhaps most controversially, he pointed out that foreign protest over visits by Japanese leaders to the Yasukuni Shrine only began in 1985, even though the burial of Class A war criminals there had been revealed in 1979 and the Prime Minister visited numerous times in the interim. He found no correlation between visits by the leadership to the shrine and militarism (which he measured by Japanese defense expenditures) over the years.

In conclusion, he said that small gestures (like a well dedication that he attended in China because it was funded with Japanese ODA) are a good starting point to build a better relationship between China and Japan.

Bojiang Yang
Mr. Yang agreed with Chiba on the importance of the relationship between their two countries and that the nations were often divided by their common written language (he offered an example of a word which is read as "writing a letter" in one language and "toilet paper" in the other).

He opined that it has taken thirty years for normalization to occur between the two countries and it will take thirty more years for normalization to occur between the two societies.

Yang rebutted Chiba's attempts to explain the Yasukuni Shrine controversy as a misunderstanding of Shintoism. He pointed out that the shrine was used before World War II to mobilize the people for war.

Due to differing international situations, he said comparisons between the visits of Prime Ministers Yasuhiro Nakasone and Koizumi to the Yasukuni Shrine were inappropriate. This seems to support the notion that the shrine visits (and the resulting protests) are a symptom or symbol of the problem, not the cause itself--an assertion Yang himself made later in the discussion.

He then concluded with three key points:
  • Sino-Japanese relations must be viewed in the strategic context of a growing China. Just over a decade ago China's economy was one-tenth the size of Japans. Today it is closer to one-third. Due to China's relative growth and the expanding interests of both countries, friction is inevitable.

  • Domestic political agents must be considered when hoping for a breakthrough in relations between the two countries. Yang said he was especially hopeful after September of this year. While he did not explain his rationale for increased hope after September, there is little doubt that he was referring to Koizumi's planned retirement that month.

  • The United States has a role in Sino-Japanese relations. The size of the Japanese economy, importation of foreign rice, and American policies have played a role in each of the three waves of Japanese nationalism (early 1960s, early 1980s, and current).

Randall Schriver
Mr. Schriver began by thanking the moderator for arranging for him to speak last because this is an issue for Japan and China to work out, not America's problem. Having said that, he admitted that America always meddles and therefore offered his thoughts as to what role America should play.

First, Schriver countered the arguments one sometimes hears that Sino-Japanese tension is good for America. It keeps China occupied and Japan on its toes, the argument goes. Schriver said for for that "logic train" to work, one had to believe that the American foreign policy apparatus is deft enough to maintain just the right amount of tension (as war is in no one's interest) and he wasn't sure that was the case.

Second, America should not try to maintain neutrality in the issue or treat both sides equally. There is no reason for America to be apologetic about the close nature of its relationship with Japan. America should work to strengthen that alliance and to convey the message:
We have full faith and confidence in our friends in Japan.
Third, America should try to disaggregate the problems. On one hand, America should stay away from historical issues because of their sensitive and emotional nature. America wouldn't appreciate other countries meddling in the writing of its own history, after all. On the other hand, America has a clear role to play in working with Japan to improve crisis management and thus reducing the risk of unnecessary escalation.

Audience Q&A
Two particularly interesting questions were asked. The first came from the moderator, who asked about the common perception in Japan that Japan is a Chinese scapegoat. No matter what Japan does, the harassment from China will not cease, the logic goes, because China will continue to need an outlet for the people's frustration. Chiba, who had addressed the issue in a previous article, said that the view is common but that he does not necessarily share that belief himself. Yang countered that the argument implies that the legitimacy of the governing Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is in doubt. In fact, he argued, the CCP has significantly widened its constituent base and thus is stable enough that it would have no need for a whipping boy.

The second question came from Chris Nelson, whose affiliation I did not catch. He spoke to a recent discussion between the editors of the the Asahi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun. They concluded that the government should construct a depoliticized war site that the Prime Minister and others could visit without raising the ire of the victims of past Japanese militarism. Mr. Nelson asked the speakers their thoughts on the proposal. Chiba replied that it was unworkable because the government cannot tell the shrine what to do. Government interference in religious affairs had created trouble in the past and should thus be avoided. Schriver stated his belief that Japan could best work through its history and have a thoughtful debate (such as the one that occured between the editors) on the subject without outside interference.

Related News from China Confidential:*Mr. Chiba's book is available in Japanese or Chinese, but not in English.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

PLAN a Factor for USN Planning

The Congressional Research Service's Ronald O'Rourke wrote "China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities" (pdf) last November in response to widespread concern on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in the U.S. government. O'Rourke has written widely on American defense requirements, especially as it relates to the Navy, making this report well-worth a read.
China has come up repeatedly in congressional debate over the size of the Navy. The 288-ship fleet of today is half the size it was three decades ago. "You never want to broadcast to the world that something’s insufficient," [Senator John] Warner says, "but clearly China poses a challenge to the sizing of the U.S. Navy." [1]

I won't seek to summarize this lengthy and detail-packed report, but rather will offer a few hand-picked facts that I found to be of particular interest:
  • China appears to be developing short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) with maneuverable reentry vehicles (MaRV) capabilities that would potentially allow them to target naval vessels. (I previously posted on China's SRBMs as relevant to land-attack missions but did not include a naval analysis.)

  • China may have advanced Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) that are somewhat effective against "stealthy" aircraft. (I previously posted on China's ability to detect American stealth aircraft, but didn't analyze the kill capability that is needed to operationalize that information.)

  • China's submarine acquisition will soon surpass the previous average of one per annum.
    China will have a net gain of 35 submarines over the next 15 years. [9]

  • John Tkacik of Heritage is cited offering a new translation of ShaShouJian: "Poisoned Arrow" (9). I would argue it isn't a particularly accurate translation, see here for more.
  • O'Rourke quotes heavily from a fascinating article in Signal:
    It is unlikely that Russian advisers would be onboard [Russian-made Sovremnyi and Kilos] during actual combat operations against Taiwan and U.S. Navy air, surface and subsurface threats. PLAN officers and crew are not expected to be able to handle operations when under fire, sustaining hits and suffering system degradation or loss. [21]
    I hadn't yet seen this argued. Provocative thought worthy of further study. That same article addresses China's "Aegis-like" systems.
In terms of what all this means for the US Navy:
A key potential issue for Congress in assessing the adequacy of the Navy’s ship force structure plan is whether it includes enough ships to address potential challenges posed by China’s naval modernization while also meeting other responsibilities, including maintaining forward deployments of Navy ships in the Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean region and the Mediterranean Sea and conducting less-frequent operations in other parts of the world, such as the Caribbean, the waters around South America, and the waters off West Africa. If increased numbers of Navy ships are needed to address potential challenges posed by China’s naval modernization, fewer ships might be available for meeting other responsibilities. [40]
He also addresses how many carriers, submarines, etc. the USN needs and how many of those should be forward-deployed in the Pacific.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

The Science Threat

Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby writes of "The Fake Science Threat" (mirrored by French, hat tip to SimonWorld). He argues that worries of competitiveness with China in math and science is misdirected.
The science lobby should also stop pretending that countries compete the same way companies do. Firms such as Toyota and Ford really do go head-to-head against each other; if Toyota has superior technology, it will steal Ford's customers -- and Ford may even disappear. But if China produces Nobel-quality science, it won't put the United States out of business; rather, Chinese discoveries will help American scientists discover more, too. Equally, Toyota doesn't sell cars to Ford workers, so there's no benefit to Ford's people if Toyota's quality advances. But China does sell to Americans, so whatever makes it more productive has some upside for the United States as well.

Hollow Threat
Science needn't always be a competition. Mallaby is correct that international economics differs from economics of corporations. International economics is not a zero-sum game and therefore an advancement in one country can bring about advancements for all. In addition to economic considerations, the same argument works for medicine. If a cure for AIDS is discovered it won't matter one iota where it was first discovered.

The type of scientific discovery that wins Nobel prizes and is discussed by Mallaby involves publishing in academic journals. That type of advance quickly spreads beyond national boundaries. The economic growth brought about by such scientific advances results more from the diffusion of the advance than the discovery itself. America needn't fear this type of competition. No matter where the advance occurs, America is well-prepared to take maximum advantage.

There are more ways than one to apply scientific advances. Not all science is intended to spawn economic growth. One other pursuit that is heavily dependent on scientific advances is military weaponry. The research, development, and acquisition of new weapon systems is heavily dependent on scientists and a technological edge can make the difference between victory and defeat. Unlike medical or commercial technologies, scientific progress with likely military application is not usually published in open-source journals. Much military research is secret and therefore relying on foreigners to conduct the research might not be possible/advisable, thus in large part negating the oft-proposed immigration solution.

If America loses its edge in science and engineering education, its military edge is likely to follow. I'll leave it to Thomas Friedman and William Odom to debate whether or not we are losing our high-technology edge, but to argue that such an erosion is not potentially threatening is to not consider the issue fully.

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