Several days ago I recounted a story Gary Hart had told about Lynne Cheney, who was chomping at the bit to confront China militarily early in 2001 -- before her husband and his president had their attention directed elsewhere later that year. As Hart said in concluding the story, "I am convinced that if it had not been for 9/11, we would be in a military showdown with China today."
Various voices in blog-world have complained that there's nothing new here: Of course the neo-cons were raring for a confrontation with China. And of course that is true. Anyone who was paying attention to defense debates knew that during the "monopower" era of the late 1990s, when the familiar old Soviet enemy had gone away and the new enemy of Islamic extremism had not clearly announced itself, the long-term Chinese threat was what military thinkers were thinking about. The notoriety of a translated Chinese military text, known in English as Unrestricted War: China's Master Plan to Destroy America, is a subtle little clue that some people have been working this theme for a long time.
The point of the Lynne Cheney story is not that it confounded all previous understanding. It is that it confirmed what we already suspected. It would be like finding a recording of a conversation between Paul Wolfowitz and his mentor Donald Rumsfeld in the late 1990s, saying something like: You know, if we ever have the chance, we have to do whatever it takes to get rid of that damned Saddam. The details would be important even if the main theme was less than a dumbfounding surprise.
After Gary Hart told me about Lynne Cheney's petulance, I asked him: has this ever been publicized? He said, No (but he had no objection to people knowing about it now). That is the point of the story: new and interesting details in a tragedy whose central plot line we already know.