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We Need a New 9/11 Commission to Probe the Rising China Threat

By James E. Fanell and Bradley A. Thayer


The growing threat from China is evidence of what may be the greatest intelligence failure in U.S. history. It needs to be investigated and addressed before another disaster strikes.

The United States depends upon its intelligence community to define the capabilities and intentions of its enemies. The U.S. spends more than any other nation to provide decision-makers with vital information and has developed an intelligence-gathering apparatus with unrivaled abilities, skills, and talents. When major intelligence failures occur, such as Pearl Harbor, the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, before 9/11, and regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before the 2003 invasion, they always have mighty consequences for U.S. national security interests. More importantly, those events compel an explanation of how such colossal failures could occur and what lessons should be learned to prevent them from happening again.

As significant as the aforementioned failures were, however, they pale in comparison to the United States’ greatest intelligence failure. That is the rise of China. For a generation, the intelligence community has failed national security decision-makers when it comes to the growth of China’s capabilities and intentions. They missed it year after year. Yet, no one has asked why and how this could occur.

This failure happened in plain sight. China has grown from about 1.6 percent of the world’s gross domestic product in 1990 to roughly 19 percent today. Every year, its economy grew without warning from the intelligence community of what the consequences would be. China’s economic power has made it a military powerhouse. China’s nuclear capabilities have grown from a modest force to one that will exceed that of the United States by 2030, if not sooner…



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