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Belmont Club

Enter the Dragons

July 25th, 2013 - 3:04 pm

For the best part of a year Assad was deemed “dead man walking”. But it is not unusual for the dead to keep living longer than the quick in this age of zombies. And so we learn that the White House now believes that Assad won’t go. That was no surprise. Walter Russell Mead writes:

The big winners are Russia, which with no cards in its weak hand has now re-inserted itself into Middle Eastern politics, and Iran. Secondary winners include Butcher Assad, Hezbollah, and the people around Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who tell him that Obama is too weak to protect Israel against Iran, and argue for a pre-emptive Israeli strike against the Iranian nuclear program. There is one unwelcome conclusion that everyone in the Middle East and beyond is drawing: don’t worry about what this President says. He shoots off his mouth a lot, but he’s in retreat and he will always choose the path of inaction—even if it weakens him.

That vast carlessness should worry the Phiippines which the Washington Post describes as defying Chinese expansion against all odds. “China’s most daring adversary in Southeast Asia is, by many measurements, ill-suited for a fight. The Philippines has a military budget one-fortieth the size of Beijing’s, and its navy cruises through contested waters in 1970s hand-me-downs from the South Vietnamese. From that short-handed position, the Philippines has set off on a risky mission to do what no nation in the region has managed to do: thwart China in its drive to control the vast waters around it.”

One of the reasons for Filipino confidence is the ingrained, almost religious belief in the United States of America. The Philippines may be the only country in the world whose population believes in the United States more fervently than the Americans themselves. Conditioned by memories of FDR, Harry Truman (and in the case of the EDSA revolution) Ronald Reagan, Filipinos have an almost 1940s view of America. The Washington Post notes this fact.

Some Filipinos say their country is more suited than others in the region to play tough with China. The Philippines has deep ties to Washington, stemming from a U.S. colonial period that ended in 1946. China and the Philippines took opposite sides in the wars in Korea and Vietnam, as well as in the Cold War.

But as I point out my pamphlet, Storm Over the South China Sea, that was then. This is now. Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan are long gone. Barack Obama is new occupant of the White House. Just ask Assad what that means. I argue in my pamphlet that China is now so powerful that in a major conflict the USN would have to resort to blinding China’s surveillance systems or blockading it to ensure victory. And that would be too dangerous to risk lightly.

The consequences of a naval conflict in the South China Sea are so great that any Philippine request by the United States to honor the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty in the event of a Chinese attack on Philippine ships in the South China Sea will probably be answered in the negative. An article in the Wall Street Journal says the Philippines has been seeking ironclad assurances from Washington:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is so far holding to the line she laid down last July in Hanoi: The U.S. doesn’t take sides on the territorial disputes, but it wants to play a role in their peaceful resolution because of its interests in the region and support for freedom of navigation. As China ratchets up tension, it’s time for something stronger.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario was in Washington last week seeking to clarify the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries. In case of an attack on the Philippines, that agreement only obligates Washington to “consult” and “act to meet the common dangers.” The Philippine media has been chasing its tail trying to figure out whether Mrs. Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas firmed up this U.S. commitment.

Naturally Washington has been coy about giving a definite answer. That is understandable given what the USN must do in order to gain superiority over China — shoot down its satellites, blind its radars, destroy its reconnaissance aircraft. Short of an attack on the Philippine mainland by China, the United States will probably elect to stay out of the fray. The fallout would simply be incalculable. A major disruption of world trade; the interruption of fuel supplies not only to China but Japan and South Korea — not to mention the risk of a nuclear war, would simply be too great a risk to take in order to back an ally in a naval skirmish in disputed waters.

In other words, Manila should think long and hard before assuming the Obama administration will back them. However, as I argue in my pamphlet,  Japan will not be so reluctant. They may take a far harder line than Washington against China out of sheer necessity. Japan cannot watch the Chinese seize control of the Luzon Straits.

The prediction that Japan would be bound to react was borne out by a recent article in the China Post. “Japan is likely to start considering acquiring the ability to launch pre-emptive military strikes in a planned update of its basic defense policies, the latest step away from the constraints of its pacifist constitution.”

The expected proposal, which could sound alarm bells in China, is part of a review of Japan’s defense policies undertaken by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, an interim report on which could come as early as Friday. The final conclusions of the review are due out by the end of the year….

“The acquisition of offensive capability would be a fundamental change in our defense policy, a kind of philosophical change,” said Marushige Michishita, a professor at the National Graduate Institute of Policy Studies.

Obtaining that capability, however, would take time, money and training, meaning any shift may be more rhetorical than real. “It’s easier said than done,” Michishita added.

The updated guidelines could also touch on Abe’s moves toward lifting a self-imposed ban on exercising the right of collective self-defense, or helping an ally under attack, such as if North Korea launched an attack on the United States.

The defense review may also urge replacing with new guidelines a self-imposed ban on arms exports that has already been eased to let Japanese contractors take part in international projects.

In other words, Japan is removing the doctrinal constraints on its forces to permit offensive action. It is amending its laws to permit arming its allies in the region. It is already making overtures to Manila and has given it patrol boats. This can only incense the Chinese, who will respond in kind. There are still enough memories in the collective psyche of the region to realize where that can lead.

For years what was once one of the most volatile regions of the mid-20th century has lain quiet and bustled with prosperity. Now long dormant forces are threatening to rise again. The Obama administration has presided over the dismantling or at least the degradation of the Pax Americana and it will not be without cost. As I write in pamphlet, “in retrospect, the years of calm it enjoyed between 1945 and the present are an aberration, a consequence of the idyll of the Pax Americana. For good or ill, the tale of history has restarted in the South China Sea. The waters are troubled again.”

It always gets you thinking when the current ships are named “Haruna”, “Kongo”, “Sōryū”, “Unryū”, “Tone” and “Chikuma”. Maybe it’s time to start worrying when we see the JDS Yamato and JDS Shokaku.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres

Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age

Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small

No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific

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Top Rated Comments   
The Philippines would do well to study the relations between the US and Viet Nam during their joint venture. If, after a thorough examination they're still undecided, they should weigh the commitment the US gave to its Ambassador in Benghazi.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Major shifts underway in the Chinese economy that Stratfor has forecast and discussed for years have now drawn the attention of the mainstream media. Many have asked when China would find itself in an economic crisis, to which we have answered that China has been there for awhile – something not widely recognised outside China, and particularly not in the United States. A crisis can exist before it is recognised. The admission that a crisis exists is a critical moment, because this is when most others start to change their behavior in reaction to the crisis. The question we had been asking was when the Chinese economic crisis would finally become an accepted fact, thus changing the global dynamic. -- http://australianconservative.com/2013/07/recognising-the-end-of-the-chinese-economic-miracle/

Who knows but President Obama will prove to be the Coleman Young of foreign policy -- heir to a magnificent legacy which he will spend down until it is as ruined as Detroit. It must have seemed that Motor City was so rich it could never be bankrupted. But never is a long time. And it always begins now.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
if the Chinese economy slows to 3% as some are warning, expect war.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (79)
All Comments   (79)
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Taiwan eager to restore ties with Philippines: president
http://www.chinapost.com.tw/print/384858.htm
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment

Singapore, US armies conclude annual training exercise
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-us-armies/757354.html
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
So the head of the "veterans of the KGB" group says Snowden has applied for membership, according to Bill Gertz by way of an interview published in Ria Novosti...

http://freebeacon.com/edward-snowden-seeking-to-join-kgb-veterans-group/

Yep. Absolutely no evidence Snowden is anything but Patrick Henry with a laptop...
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Then I'd have to say that the NSA and D.C. snoop-hounds of both parties have backed themselves into quite a well-deserved corner if so many law-abiding American citizens consider Snowden (and by extension; the "veterans of the KGB") a national hero for exposing their tax payer funded work.

Isn't that about the gist of it?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment

9/23/2012 @ 6:45AM |14,512 views
Is the U.S. Committed to Defend the Senkakus? Text of Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Treaty
http://www.forbes.com/sites/stephenharner/2012/09/23/is-the-u-s-committed-to-defend-the-senkakus-text-of-article-5-of-the-u-s-japan-treaty/
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
There are several chinese companies that have interests in USA oil fracking plays. As soon as they learn how to frack oil & gas, they'll be fracking in China which is reputed to have the world's largest shale gas deposits under their land.

If they master the fracking business, they won't really need to go to war in the south china sea. However, this undermines the raison d'etre of the PLA which calls for aggressive expansionism based on competition for scare natural resources. Their their reasoning is much similar to the IJN before WWII.

Because the Chinese are currently leaning on the USA to learn new oil drillling tricks -- on US land -- they are in a very delicate position. But this period won't last long.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Holy crap. Charles42, Charles here. Please continue to post here. The geopolitical game is the game the leftist play. Think about it though. What if American tech renders every country on Earth energy independent. What then?

The Eagle Ford shale field in Texas is on the same scale as North Dakota. The shale formations in the permian basin are now over 10 times North Dakota and the Eagle Ford combined. The only thing in the way is government.

Holy crap, turns into Holy shite. The game changes in a big way. The leftist won't have a leg to stand on. But of course by then the Chinese will have stolen the technology like they do in every American industry.

As you say, it will not last long in this hyper tech age.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
fwiw:
http://blog.heritage.org/2013/07/22/enhanced-military-cooperation-tu-s-and-philippines-should-seize-the-day/

Sounds like they want it, but not enough to actually do it.

So, um, good luck guys.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
A couple months ago a bunch of firebrand Chinese colonels were in the USA visiting the Pentagon. They asked pretty pointedly as to whether the USA would honor treaty obligations to Japan. The answer that US generals gave back was in the affirmative.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Who knows but President Obama will prove to be the Coleman Young of foreign policy -- heir to a magnificent legacy which he will spend down until it is as ruined as Detroit. It must have seemed that Motor City was so rich it could never be bankrupted. But never is a long time. And it always begins now.
............
The USA may become politically bankrupt by the time Obama's term is over. But financially, as long as US oil production keeps rising annually by 1 million barrels@day byo of fracking--there is little chance the US will be financially bankrupt. http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=WCRFPUS2&f=W
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Correct. Especially when you consider that the government gets almost 25 times in taxes what the oil companies get in profit on a gallon of gas.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
O/T

The Democrat/MSM love affair is showing signs of a breakup.

Crony capitalism in Illinois has hit the Chicago newspaper that carries Jesse Jackson's column.

http://www.suntimes.com/21526344-761/110000-man-madigan-crony-was-collecting-city-pension-when-he-sought-metra-raise.html

The Illinois bond rating downgrades are finally seeping into the LIV's news sources, even in Obama's hometown. Financial reality looms large over all those ghost payrollers and their pensions and healthcare.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
What strikes me is that the “visualize whorled peas” set firmly believes that the world would be better off without the US playing the “world police” role. The fact of the matter is the mantle of responsibility that we came to us by circumstances not by actively seeking it and to eschew our role in providing security in the world is to actively seek to unravel security and by extension to ensure much death and destruction. Heavy lies the crown…

There is a certain feminist orthodoxy to this whole system of belief; ‘Me with my grand knockers and alluring looks, who’d not care to submit to my charm?’ But the women who sally forth in this world sanguinely do so with the unconscious belief that hard men willing to do violence on their behalf will be there to protect them when their charms fail to keep away the brutes and the criminal elements intent on pursuing Darwin’s prerogative. We see a nation that is being wed to the patriarchy of government largesse and all is fine until the checks stop coming so we will print them to ensure that party continues unabated while the shrewd hosts calmly back to the doors.

It is well that that we balance our psych with our kinder, gentler nature but we are seeing the yin standing triumphantly upon the carcass of the yang pronouncing the end of history. We now have a nation that behaves politically like a battered house wife hardly cognizant of the world outside her neighborhood but stubbornly defiant that the husband not be allowed around the kids.

The new order of the day is to embrace victimhood because doing so confers power while simultaneously abdicating personal responsibility. We are becoming a nation of irreconcilable differences so it is certain that we will not be working on the same side of the levee when the pitter patter of rain drops turns into a deluge. There are growing a new order of mutual relationships that are replacing the old order of reliance. An individual can turn on a dime when their folly proves a bad experiment. It will be interesting to see how agile our ruling class will turn out once they have made a nation of Detroits and they have sucked every last dime out of the economy even while debauching its value.

And what do the triumphant do with their new found power? They abuse it like Weiner, Spitzer, and Filner, names that sound as biblically lascivious as does Sodom and Gomorrah. It is just like the lot of them in the executive who would wield their power to consolidate but one does not ask the Djinn for 3 more wishes. You make the best of the wishes you have and apparently world peace wasn’t on the list.

And kudos, word of the day – fissiparous. Brilliant!
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
To sum up your comment...

To much is given, much is expected.

The given is Freedom. One cannot live in freedom when it is denied to others. It is the anti-thesis of human nature.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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