In his piece on Afghanistan (‘Comment: Afghanistan’, October), Hugh White argues that America’s strategic dominance in Asia “faces a fundamental challenge from China”. This claim is problematic, because, so far, Chinese and American interests barely clash – with the possible exception of Taiwan. Even the threats allegedly posed by China’s developing navy are vastly exaggerated; it will take many years to build and train a navy comparable to that of the US. Also restricting China’s rise to primacy is the presence of an excellent Japanese naval force and, more importantly, America’s vast superiority in two critical areas: space and cyber-war.

At another point in his piece, White remarks that ‘Canberra’ doesn’t think it matters much who wins or loses in Afghanistan, then he quotes a passage from the Defence White Paper about not putting Australian troops at risk “in distant theatres of war where we have no direct interests at stake”. It is true that there must always be a hierarchy of governmental priorities at play, and Afghanistan may not rank highly. But Australia cannot afford to be indifferent to a Taliban win, given how this would affect the fate of Pakistan and, for that matter, the future of Islamic radicalism in Indonesia.

Harry Gelber