Paper Tiger

There has been a disturbing development in the South China Sea, an area of the world toward which Our government claims it’s pivoting as central to American security.

Scarborough Shoal is a dinky little set of islands lying 140 miles west of Luzon Island, Republic of the Philippines, and 750 miles south of the People’s Republic of China.  This is a wholly unremarkable set of islands, except for the rich fishing and the equally rich oil deposits below the bottom of the region there.  And it’s entirely within the Philippine 200 mile Economic Exclusion Zone.

Because of its wealth, the PRC sent its fishing vessels and its armed patrol boats to the area in a naked attempt to occupy it.  The Philippine navy responded with two of its coast guard cutters, and the face-off lasted until a typhoon forced everyone to leave.

President Obama’s response?  Against the backdrop of a 1951 treaty that binds us to the defense of the Republic of the Philippines and that’s still, nominally, in force, Obama did nothing.  Nada.  Just meekly watched from the sidelines (if he was paying even that much attention).  He did not execute his favored tactic of getting a coterie of nations together to cry out and shake their collective finger very firmly at the Chinese.  He sent no USN destroyer to the area.  He raised no objection at all.  He left our ally to twist in the wind.

While this was going on, the PRC also sent a fishing boat into the territorial waters of the Republic of Palau, another dinky little island—population 21,000—way on the other side of the Philippines.  Palau objected, and when the Chinese vessel refused to leave, they fired on it, captured it, and forced the Chinese to pay a fine for their trespass.

As the WSJ (not quite) put it, it’s a sad day when the government of a tiny speck of an island shows more courage in standing up to an enemy than does our own President.

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