As useless and timid as our foreign policy “strategy” has so graphically shown itself to be in the Middle East and northern Africa, it’s just as foolish in Asia, most especially regarding the People’s Republic of China.
In response to Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama’s much ballyhooed (in some circles) “pivot toward Asia,” Ambassador John Bolton, writing for The Wall Street Journal at the above link, points out these small details concerning the PRC and its relationship with us.
Whoever becomes president in January will require a policy of sustained American involvement and leadership…. The US is already perilously close to the point strategically where China will simply run the table with its claims [to the South China Sea, right up to the shores of the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia]. Potential hostilities are no longer hypothetical.
Last week in Beijing, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated the usual US bromides, namely: resolving the region’s maritime disputes peacefully through negotiation consistent with international-law principles regarding freedom of navigation.
The PRC answered this nonsense with a naked threat of war if we don’t shape up and accede.
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi replied bluntly that China was sovereign over the territories, and government media mouthpiece Xinhua warned the US that “strategic miscalculations about a rising power could well lead to confrontations and even bloody conflicts, like the war between ancient Athens and Sparta. To avoid such a catastrophic scenario, Washington has to change its obsolete and doubt-ridden thinking pattern and cooperate with Beijing to settle their differences.
So. Obama has received his marching orders.
Bolton then offers a solution, albeit one that the present administration will find itself unable to implement after looking in the mirror.
Such [timidity] must give way to a strategic approach based on three key elements.
First, the US must decide unequivocally that Beijing’s expansionism…is contrary to American national interests. There are high, tangible stakes for us and our Asian and Pacific friends, ranging broadly from Japan and South Korea to Australia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) including Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines. The stakes include undersea mineral resources and sea lanes of communication and trade critical to US and global prosperity.
This is about power and resolve.
Second, we must rapidly rebuild America’s Navy, without which any shift in strategic thinking is hollow. This is a maritime problem at the operational level, demanding adequate resources
China is building its own blue-water navy…actively pursuing anti-access, area-denial tactics and weapons systems intended to push the US back from the Western Pacific. Unless we increase the Navy’s capabilities, or essentially abandon other ocean spaces, the negative direction and ultimate outcome in the waters off China are clear.
America’s current approach—watching while initially minor incidents risk escalating—puts us at a distinct disadvantage. Passivity will allow Beijing to prevail repeatedly, incident after incident, until US weakness becomes so palpable that there is no doubt of China’s across-the-board success.
Third, we must work diplomatically, largely behind the scenes, to resolve differences among the other claimants. In the East China Sea, Japan is the major competitor, while Beijing butts heads with Vietnam, the Philippines and other ASEAN members in the South China Sea. These regions…for China both are part of the same strategic picture. So it must be for America.