Friday, December 28, 2012

On the Front Lines of New Nonsense

The Nation is really a joke publication and I shudder when I think people get information from the magazine. They ran a piece on our "pivot" to the Pacific and it is incredible. I shrank from tackling the monumental level of ignorance (charitably) or deceit that could allow writers to express these views, but in the end I could not just delete the window and move on.

This fright piece about our military making plans to provoke a war with China is just amazingly dense.

Let's take a tour, shall we?

First, we are planning a new fleet for South Korean waters!

On the small, spectacular island of Jeju, off the southern tip of Korea, indigenous villagers have been putting their bodies in the way of construction of a joint South Korean–US naval base that would be an environmental, cultural and political disaster. If completed, the base would hold more than 7,000 navy personnel, plus twenty warships including US aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and destroyers carrying the latest Aegis missiles—all aimed at China, only 300 miles away.

Wow. Sounds ominous. Especially with the sound track of doom no doubt playing in the heads of the writers as they typed. But it isn't. Whatever the issues of local opposition to a base--not that uncommon but hardly indicative of national interests rather than NIMBYism--this is simply not a place where we are putting more forces into.

Yes, it could host US forces, but this is a South Korean base for South Korea's increasingly blue water navy. Those American ships the author mentions are simply the capacity of the new base. So if our ships wanted to use the base--and South Korea allowed it--we could indeed put elements of our fleet there.

Why we'd put them within reach of China's lengthening air power range is beyond me. Remember that we are pulling back forces on Okinawa to Guam precisely because we don't like having our forces so close to China that they could be a tempting target for a Chinese sneak attack.


Jeju is just one island in a growing constellation of geostrategic points that are being militarized as part of President Obama’s “Pacific Pivot,” a major initiative announced late in 2011 to counter a rising China. According to separate statements by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, 60 percent of US military resources are swiftly shifting from Europe and the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region.

Dudes. Seriously?

The pivot is a miniscule transfer of our overall power that has been going on for a couple decades. That 60% figure is just for our Navy in the Pacific, which in the Cold War was balanced 50-50 with the Atlantic. The shift to the Pacific is not new and it is not swift. And since our fleet will decline over the next couple decades, even having a few percentage points more of our smaller fleet in the Pacific is not exactly an arms race with China.

Surely, the authors have something better.

The Pentagon has also positioned Patriot PAC-3 missile defense systems in Taiwan, Japan (where the United States has some ninety installations, plus about 47,000 troops on Okinawa) and in South Korea (which hosts more than 100 US facilities).

Our total for Japan and not just Okinawa is about 47,000. That's 522 military personnel on average per base for those of you following along with the math. PAC-3s are a defensive system, so what of it? And we most assuredly are not putting our PAC-3s in Taiwan. We're selling them to the Taiwanese, but US troops are not going to man them. And 100 facilities in South Korea sound like a lot until you realize that most are pretty small and that our forces in South Korea have been dropping the last several decades and aren't going up.

Are these guys stoned?

But wait, there's more!

The United States has also begun rotating troops to Australia and has announced plans to build a drone base on Australia’s remote Cocos Islands. (Also targeted is the gorgeous Palawan Island in the Philippines and the resource-rich Northern Mariana Islands, to name only a few on a long list.) In a whistle-stop tour of the region intended to shore up more allies last September, Panetta said the United States hopes to station troops in New Zealand as well, though approval for that has not been granted. Obama made his own tour just after re-election, courting Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand as potential trade partners and military allies in the encirclement of China. The United States has even reopened discussions with the brutal Indonesian military—collaboration had been suspended for several years because of human rights issues—in an attempt to influence this key trading partner with China.

Yeah, we'll rotate 2,500 Marines through Australia when it is up and running. And drones are good for long-range recon. So what?

As for the Philippines, it is the Chinese who are targeting them rather than us targeting the Philippines. The Philippines is worried enough about Chinese aggression that Manila wants us back.

I hadn't heard about the Mariana Islands issue, but good--if true. They are US territories, you know. And away from Chinese forces.

New Zealand used to allow our navy into their ports but stopped us when they refused to allow nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships into their ports and we refused to confirm or deny whether any ship was so armed. Now we don't carry nuclear weapons routinely so that is an option--if the New Zealanders want us.

And heaven forbid that trade deals should surround China! Surely Peking's rulers are retiring to their fainting couch--if not already filled with writers and readers from The Nation. Thailand has long been an ally. Burma should be pried away from China if we can. And Cambodia is a loyal ally of China and we aren't making a dent there.

As for Indonesia, I do believe human rights are far more of an issue with China than with Indonesia.

And you'll also get imperialism!

Adm. Robert Willard, head of the US Pacific Command (PACOM), gave context to these maneuverings in September 2011. In a speech at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco, he labeled the entire Asia-Pacific region—which contains 52 percent of the earth and two-thirds of the human population—as a “commons” to be “protected” by the United States. Normally, the word “commons” refers to resources commonly shared and controlled by contiguous parties. But Willard seemed to have in mind a massive “US commons” that extends nearly 8,000 miles from the Indian Ocean to the west coast of North America.

Good grief. We do defend freedom of navigation for all nations--not just for us. China is the one trying to overturn established rules of the sea to claim control of exclusive economic zones--and more--as territorial waters where Chinese domestic laws hold sway.

Goodness guys, China freaking declared the South China Sea to be one of their cities! You want to see imperialism? Why look so hard to find it all the way across PACOM on the west coast of North America?

And hey, we'd be happy if other countries would help us defend the commons, unlike China which wants to fence off "their" portions.

God help us, these twits aren't done yet:

Less well known is that PACOM activity includes overseeing the South Korean military. This condition dates back to the signing of the 1953 ROK-US Mutual Defense Treaty, which is still in effect. In fact, US hegemony over the entire region has remained unchanged for more than half a century, locked into an anachronistic Cold War landscape marked by similar bilateral agreements with Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and a wide scattering of island nations. The rationale behind this “empire of bases” was once “containment” of communism. Obama’s Pacific Pivot is a turbo-charged update, not to contain communism but to contain China—economically, politically, militarily. China has responded by accelerating production of armaments, including a new aircraft carrier, while courting its own regional allies—especially among ASEAN countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Cambodia and others, including Russia—in addition to reasserting control of shipping lanes in the South China Sea.

That overseeing of South Korea's military would have ended by now--but South Korea asked us to put that day off for a couple more years.

And yes, we have agreements with other countries to defend them. Although we refuse to say whether we'd defend Taiwan, so I have no idea what these guys are talking about.

I have to wonder if these writers' first language is English, since as I've mentioned, our pivot can be called many things--including marketing with little behind it--but "turbo-charged" is not one of those things. Clearly, that word doesn't mean what they think it means.

Oh, and didn't the authors just mention that we are encircling China with agreements with Burma, Thailand, Camobodia, and Indonesia? Now our moves are reason for China to rally natural allies?

And what's with this gliding over of China "reasserting" control of the South China Sea as if traditional--and old--imperialistic habits trump modern international law? Heck, why shouldn't we "reassert" control over lots of territory we once dominated? Gander and goose, good for each, right?

That's it for the rush to war the authors see, since they spend a lot of pixels going on about local resistance to bases and love of pristine nature areas. Whatever.

A fascinating tale of aggression that is most fascinating for being 180 degrees wrong.

In reality, rather than Peking being a sad victim of the Pentagon's machinations to start a war, China has been an active participant in frightening China's neighbors into wanting America committed to stopping Chinese aggression from exploding into war:

The challenge facing the new leadership of General Secretary Xi Jinping is how to dig China out of its own geopolitical hole. Because of Beijing’s foreign policy missteps in the last three years, China today faces the worst regional environment since Tiananmen. Its relations with Japan are at a record low; China-ASEAN ties have similarly deteriorated due to the South China Sea disputes and China’s heavy-handed use of its clout to divide ASEAN. The Sino-American relationship is increasingly turning into one of strategic rivalry. Even South Korea, which has sought to strengthen Seoul-Beijing ties for two decades, has distanced itself from China because of China’s reluctance or inability to restrain North Korea’s aggressive acts (its latest missile test is but one example).

We hardly want a war. But we also can't abandon friends and accept Chinese domination of a vital part of the planet in the face of Chinese assertiveness:

The government [of the Philippines] is negotiating with the United States regarding the extent of increased American military presence in the Philippines and surrounding waters. China has reacted by proclaiming that its armed forces would be adequate to confront any foreign efforts to contest Chinese claims to most of the South China Sea (including areas off the coast of the Philippines where oil and natural gas have been found). The U.S. does not want to get into a war with China over its outrageous claims to the South China Sea, but there is the problem of allowing a nation to just grab islands that have long been recognized as belonging to a neighbor. The Chinese claims include revising international law (the 1994 Law of the Sea treaty) that finally (it was thought) settled who was entitled to what and where. This treaty left many disputed islands whose ownership still had to be settled by negotiation. But China is blowing right past the 1994 treaty (which China signed) and saying, in effect, “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine too.” Chinese leaders have made these claims a matter of national pride, painting themselves into a very dangerous corner.

Nor are the Indians particularly rattled by America. No, India worries about China:

China's creeping assertiveness towards its neighbours, evident since 2008-09, has become even bolder. Within weeks of his ascendancy, for the first time, four Chinese warships entered waters near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands that China calls Diaoyu. This was followed by a Chinese maritime surveillance aircraft flying over the contested islands, prompting Japan to scramble its own fighter jets. A confrontation was avoided as the Chinese plane had left the area before Japanese interceptors arrived. But the message was clear: China was ready to use force to change the status quo. Although the island has been under Japanese control for five decades, China's attempt to change the reality on the ground is perhaps based on calculation that a weakened and dispirited Japan would seek to avoid direct confrontation. China's aggressive moves also coincided with its submission of documents to the UN, detailing its claims to the continental shelf in the East China Sea.

This escalation comes in the wake of other incidents in the South China Sea, in which Chinese patrol boats had repeatedly intercepted Vietnamese and Malaysian survey vessels and cut seismic cables used for exploration. China's Hainan province has passed a law allowing its officials to search and repel foreign ships believed to be engaged in "illegal activities" in the territorial waters surrounding islands that China claims.

But no, really, it's our fault. If you listen to The Nation, of course. Or if you listen to the Chinese, I suppose. But if you listen to either, you either have no base of knowledge to judge the idiocy of these vanguards of The Nation on the front lines of nonsense, or you side with China in all these disputes.

Or both, I suppose. Lord, what a load of rubbish. I actually felt brain synapses snap and break as I lowered myself to actually address their lunatic fantasies of American aggression.