World / Reporter's Journal

US' constant war footing clouds thinking on South China Sea

By Chen Weihua (China Daily USA) Updated: 2016-03-14 04:42

The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, which includes five US naval vessels, made a high-profile appearance in the South China Sea recently, angering many in China.

When I asked Mark Toner, State Department deputy spokesman, on March 7 whether such a move was raising tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, he repeated his government’s line about the US exercising freedom of navigation rights. The US will continue to do so in accordance with international law, he added.

Common sense says that everything that is not forbidden is allowed. So assuming for a moment the five-day show of the carrier strike group in the South China Sea was in accordance with international law, it does not mean to many that it didn’t escalate tensions there.

One of the examples would be that it is absolutely legal for a passer-by to stand and look into your house. But it will make you feel uneasy, even angry, if that person does it every day. And he or she will drive you crazy by standing on the sidewalk outside your house for hours with a Swiss Army knife in hand.

To a large extent, that is what the strike group did a few days ago; the USS Curtis Wilbur did in January; and the USS Lassen did in October last year in the South China Sea. In fact, US military planes and ships have been conducting annoying surveillance operations near China’s coasts for a long time.

That the US is in talks to base long-range bombers in Australia within striking distance of the South China Sea, as reported last week, is the latest disturbing news raising questions about Washington’s intentions.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a news conference last week on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress session: Freedom of navigation does not give anyone the license to do whatever they want.

To many Chinese, US actions are certainly militarizing the South China Sea and heightening tensions in the region. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” a Confucian saying used in US war propaganda during World War II to describe the good nature of the Chinese seems to be largely forgotten by today’s US leaders.

If you think there is too much China-bashing already in the US, not to mention on the presidential campaign trail, imagine what would happen if China’s People’s Liberation Army planes and ships appear frequently off the coasts of California, Florida, New York and Washington, or if China started building military bases in Latin America and conducting military drills in the Caribbean Sea.

With a defense budget larger than that of the next eight countries combined, a nuclear arsenal that could destroy the PLA net many times over, and more than 800 military bases across the world — including 113 in Japan and 83 in the Republic of Korea — the US military is indeed unrivaled.

Such an obsession with absolute military superiority was displayed in the last few weeks when US military chiefs went before Congress to argue for a large defense budget for 2017. China has often been described, along with Russia, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as “adversaries”.

Yet among the complaints in Washington is that US politicians are easily tempted to use military solutions because of the country’s might. This was echoed at a talk given by Gregory Treverton, chairman of the National Intelligence Council, on March 4 when he spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

When asked about the mess in Libya and other places as a result of US military actions, Treverton admitted that the US is better at carrying out military operations than caring about the results it wants to achieve.

US President Barack Obama, who gave the green light to regime change in Libya in 2011 by abusing a UN Security Council resolution on no-fly zones, was in the spotlight the past few days when he blamed European allies, in particular British Prime Minister David Cameron, for failing to follow through in Libya after toppling Muammar Gaddafi. Libya has been thrown into total chaos and civil war, a situation much worse than the days when Gaddafi was in power.

What all these actions entail is that when US leaders and politicians keep boasting and advocating military superiority, they clearly do not realize their country’s military power has proved to be as much of a curse as a blessing. No wonder the US has been continuously engaged in wars.

Such a mindset has prevented many US leaders and politicians to think straight when it comes to the South China Sea to flex their muscles in the region.

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