Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Are People Just Making Things Up to Worry?

In an age when America is opposing China's attempts to claim the South China Sea and is working hard to see if diplomacy can be used to denuclearize North Korea before we have to use military force, how is it possible that Secretary Mattis has to refute worries that America is abandoning Asia?

Is this the La La Land Dialogue or the Shangri-La Dialogue? Get a grip, people!

Mattis’s comments [about resisting China] appeared to be an attempt to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Asia’s security, even as President Donald Trump’s decisions to levy tariffs on allies and withdraw from international agreements raise questions about America’s postwar alliances.

The tariffs are relatively small and the opening bid of negotiations on the terms of trade rather than an opening salvo for a trade war. Take a breath. I assume we don't want a trade war.

As for questioning America's postwar alliances, just what alliances has Trump abandoned? None.

What international agreements have been abandoned that call our commitment to allies in question?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership? That proposed trade agreement wouldn't have been approved by the Senate even if Clinton had won the 2016 election. There will be something else.

The Paris Climate Agreement? That was--until Trump walked away--considered even by global warmers to be pretty worthless.

The Iran nuclear deal? The multilateral aspects of that US-Iran deal (and front-loading benefits to Iran) were all about constraining American ability to exit. And I strongly argue that walking away is the best thing we could do to defend our allies.

And when you consider that America under Trump is conducting actual freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea rather than the Obama era FONOP Theater that pretended innocent passage was a FONOP, you really have to question the ability of these attendees to recognize reality.

America is committed to our post-war alliances. We just want our allies to be as committed as we are.

UPDATE: Speaking of defending the South China Sea where we have no territory to defend and stand up for international law that benefits weaker allies who do have territory:

China lashed out at the U.S. on Wednesday after a pair of B-52 bombers flew past a Chinese-held shoal in the South China Sea, amid escalating words and displays of military strength from the two major Pacific powers.

It is international air space notwithstanding Chinese claims, and we have every right to fly there with nobody's permission required. Who else out there is standing up to China over this issue?

And in Europe we have skittish allies in need of hand holding:

The informal portfolio of soothing traditional U.S. friends upset by Trump’s often sharp comments and tweets on foreign policy is one that the retired Marine general is becoming used to.

"Mattis is the standard bearer for America's international commitments in this administration and there is no better figure than him to be talking to our European allies right now," said Jeffrey Rathke, deputy director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

I'd take European worries about American security commitments if the Europeans weren't simultaneously underfunding their defense establishments.