This has to be a first. Environmentalists are now on the front lines of our national defense. They did what Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott, and a pack of other conservatives tried, but failed, to do. They stopped the Communist Chinese from invading America. At least for a while. At least in one small spot.
We are, of course, talking about a recent judicial decision to bar the Chinese from leasing the former U.S. Naval Base at Long Beach because of inadequate environmental impact reports.
Why not? After all, we jailed Al Capone for violating tax laws.
Now, I know it is not very fashionable to talk about our new, big trading partner in such Cold War terms. But the presence of a large military arm of the Chinese government in Long Beach should have raised national security concerns for the Clinton administration.
For those who need to be reminded, here are the facts. A shipping company owned by the People’s Republic of China has been leasing a major part of the Port of Long Beach since the early 1980s and now wants to expand its operations there.
To many it sounded like a great opportunity for jobs and commerce. But the rest of us remember how in China, the Communist Central Committee enforces its one-party dictatorship through the People’s Liberation Army. These are the same people who run the shipping company that wants to expand in Long Beach.
There are no private shareholders of the shipping company, called Cosco (an acronym for the Chinese Overseas Shipping Co.). It’s not a private company. It is an arm of the Communist government.
These are the same people who rolled over Tibet and uprooted a 1,500-year-old Buddhist civilization the most peaceful people on earth. This is the same country that last year threatened Taiwan with missiles because Taiwan insisted on holding elections. It’s the same country whose leaders identify the United States as an enemy in their newspapers almost every day.
But the folks in Long Beach didn’t think that was any of their business. So they went ahead with their plans to lease this once-sensitive naval base, blissfully ignoring the navy that China is building to challenge our navy in the Pacific.
It looked as if they were going to get away with it. But then the Chinese ran into some real warriors. Some folks who could teach Mao a thing or two about guerrilla tactics: U.S. environmentalists. They convinced a Superior Court judge to quash the whole deal because it might disturb 145 acres of historic “navy buildings” on the site.
Now, they may well be historic, but we still have to wonder about the long-term national security outlook of any country that has to depend on earth-shoe-wearing treehuggers to promote the national defense.
Forget about espionage. Forget about AK-47s smuggled to L.A. street gangs. Forget about intelligence gathering by the Chinese Communists. Forget Tibet. The important stuff is these historic clapboard buildings.
It’s typical California. It’s a wonder they didn’t find some ferrets there, or a few beetle-nosed lizards, or some little songbird that’s found nowhere else on the planet. That also would have done what no army on earth could do: Stop the Chinese military.
It’s a crazy way to run a national defense. We got lucky this time. We shouldn’t expect it to happen again.
Roger Hedgecock is a radio talk-show host in San Diego on KOGO AM-600, as well as the former mayor of San Diego.