The world is descending into a very dangerous place and there seems to be a missing factor — American leadership. Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet that wandered into its airspace. Of course, we must await the Putin response, which could invoke a NATO Article V response — if Turkey were to make the request. Iranian influence is expanding in the Middle East, especially with their Quds Force and Hezbollah freely operating in Syria, which is a major concern for Israel. But it’s not just the morass which has become the Middle East, as we’ve previously written, the Pacific Rim faces challenges.
As reported by Reuters, “China said on Friday it would not stand for violations of its territorial waters in the name of freedom of navigation, as the United States considers sailing warships close to China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea.
A U.S. defense official told Reuters on Thursday the United States was considering sending ships to waters inside the 12-nautical-mile zones that China claims as territory around islands it has built in the Spratly chain.
Western media reports quoted U.S. officials as saying the action could take place within a matter of days, but awaited a decision by U.S. President Barack Obama. The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral Harry Harris, declined to say on Friday whether the United States would carry out the plan. But he made clear it was an option he had presented to Obama and said the United States must carry out freedom of navigation patrols throughout the Asia-Pacific.
“I simply won’t discuss future operations,” Harris told a Washington seminar. “With regards to whether we are going to sail within 12 miles, or fly within 12 miles, of any of the reclaimed islands that China has built in the South China Sea, I will reserve that for later.”
Earlier on Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying warned against any such patrols. “We will never allow any country to violate China’s territorial waters and airspace in the Spratly Islands, in the name of protecting freedom of navigation and overflight,” she told a regular news briefing. “We urge the related parties not to take any provocative actions, and genuinely take a responsible stance on regional peace and stability,” she added. China claims most of the South China Sea, where The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.”
Remember it wasn’t long ago that President Barack Obama hosted China’s President Xi Jinping and rolled out the red carpet, complete with twenty-one gun salute and state dinner. We were told about serious discussions that Obama had with Jinping — guess we now know who dominated that discussion. All of this comes after China has been fingered for the massive cyber attack on our federal government.
If you haven’t been following, as we’ve shared here, China has been building a series of islands in the South China Sea and emplacing military fortifications — to include airfields — on these man made archipelagos. You may ask, so what?
Well, these islands have been strategically built along a sea lane through which some 35 to 40 percent of the world’s commerce transits. Let’s considers what this episode means for America. First of all, the Obama administration made a declarative statement that it was “pivoting” away from the Middle East to focus on the Pacific theater. The only real shift that could be realized was the positioning of a battalion of Marines in Australia. Now, I have little understanding of what they’re doing there, but I suppose they’re enjoying being “in the land down under.”
The Trans Pacific Partnership has supposedly been completed — that word came last week (funny, Hillary Clinton has decided not to support the trade agreement after she supported the trade agreement). But could it just be that China is flexing its muscles — hence why they built these islands — to say, “you’re not coming here and have any free trade over the maritime lanes of transit, unless you ask please and we say ok.”
It just appears that everyone is sensing American weakness — not in the people, but in the lack of leadership or resolve to stand up for anything. It’s like President Barack Obama is that skinny little fella at the beach getting sand kicked in his face — Russia, Iran, China, North Korea, ISIS, Boko Haram, Taliban, al-Qaida. They all seem to have gotten the same message — we have a green light for at least another fifteen months. They’re not deterred by – and certainly don’t appear to respect — the United States of America. Some of you may say that’s fine, but trust me, the long-term ramifications of going absent at this critical time will be damning. Even worse, believing rhetoric and “strong language” are going to deter the efforts of our adversaries is delusional.
China has made a direct threat to the United States, and why not? Here is President Obama threatening to veto the National Defense Authorization Act because he wants more domestic spending. Ok, China just told you it doesn’t respect the long-standing concept of freedom of navigation. Like I said, we should have taken President Jinping to Five Guys – that’s the amount of respect he’s showing to us (not that I have anything against Five Guys, but it’s no state dinner).
What would I do as SecDef? It’s simple. We would not be decimating our maritime capability, but ensuring we have capable force projection in every geographic area of responsibility. I would not have backed down one bit towards China, and made them blink. I would be strengthening our economy so we are not depending on China in any way when it comes to our debt. And I would be developing regional alliances in the Pacific Rim, building our trust and confidence that we will not abandon our allies.
To think that Japan is seeking to change its Constitution from having a “self-defense” force to a full capacity military. We must join with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and yes, Vietnam and Taiwan, and let China know that we do have friends in the region with whom we shall stand. We must let China know in no uncertain terms that we shall not be pushed around. The Chinese people are good folks, but their government is our enemy.
We need to hit China’s military cyber unit back for its actions and cripple them. I will continue to say this: until something changes, weakness is enticing, and soaring rhetoric only confirms the desire to avoid confrontation and escalation. The clock is ticking and there may be immense irreparable damage done before anything can change.
One thing that could make a difference, is who becomes the next Speaker of the U.S. House — maybe that individual can evince American strength, resolve, and exceptionalism — not the abject cowardice being shown at this time.