Bush gets first tough lesson in foreign policy

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 3, 2001

As United States diplomats scurried Monday to quickly resolve the growing tensions after a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese jet over the weekend, President Bush is getting his first tough lesson in foreign policy.

On Monday, Bush demanded the immediate release of the 24 crew members of the EP-3 surveillance plane. The Chinese countered with an offer to give U.S. officials access 20 hours later – not exactly what Bush had in mind.

It was a quick reminder that the world doesn’t always do as the U.S. wishes. The incident is a microcosm of how different the two nations are.

Americans want action – now. And don’t dare question them.

The Chinese want to consider carefully all options. Don’t dare question them either, because they’ve been using this patient system for a few thousand years.

If each side puts itself into the other’s shoes, they would see that we’re not all that dissimilar.

Americans are aghast at the idea that the Chinese are searching the aircraft looking for secret technology. But U.S. officials would do the same. In fact, years ago they did with a Russian spy plane the U.S. got its hands on.

And wouldn’t U.S. military officials want to stall a bit in order to have a few extra hours to examine another country’s technology – especially if they thought it superior to their own?

The EP-3 aircraft contains some of the most-sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment in the U.S. arsenal – and almost every other country in the world would love to take a peek at it.

Bush was correct to quickly push for access to the crew, but he and other U.S. officials need to use extreme care in dealing with the issue. No matter how &uot;friendly&uot; the modern Chinese may appear to some people, the Chinese are still communists to the core.

So long as the pilots aren’t harmed and China relinquishes control of the crew and the airplane, America should use caution in its response. This small accident can easily spiral down into a big incident if it’s not handled carefully.