China Hawks Walk the Line on Advocating War

US Navy fleet in Asia-Pacific
US Navy fleet in Asia-Pacific

Writing at The National Interest, Robert Haddick, an independent contractor with U.S. Special Operations Command, welcomes “getting tough” on China. He argues that Washington has been too accommodating to China’s regional ambitions and has thus failed to provide a military deterrent to China’s rise.

“Heretofore, the U.S. has pursued a policy of forbearance with China,” Haddick claims, “with the hope that by going out its way to show respect for China’s emerging great power status, Washington would avoid a ruinous security competition.” However, he notes, there is some evidence that the Obama administration has begun to take a “stiffer tone” and a “tougher line” on China with regard to its maritime and territorial disputes with its neighboring rivals (most of whom happen to be U.S. allies).

Obama’s Asia Pivot, announced about two years ago, involves boosting support for all of China’s neighboring rivals, increasing the presence of U.S. military bases surrounding China’s coastline, and stationing sixty percent of U.S. naval and air power in the Asia Pacific theater. This sure doesn’t sound accommodative, but where Haddick gets the “forbearance” argument is from the official U.S. line on China’s territorial disputes, which is as follows, according to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel: “we do not take a position on the question of sovereignty in these cases” but “the United States stands firmly against any coercive attempts to alter the status quo.” (Leave aside for a moment the fact that, as a matter of routine policy, the U.S. employs coercion in an attempt to alter the status quo.)

A question China hawks might want to consider is, how should a “tougher line” on China’s rise manifest in terms of policy? If boosting military assets to encircle China isn’t enough to deter Beijing, what is the next step? Are we supposed to respond militarily and face China, a nuclear-armed state, in a war?

“As the Obama administration was reminded in Syria,” Haddick notes, “policymakers should not draw red lines unless they can convince the adversary that he has no chance to successfully challenge them.” In other words, we need to demonstrate that we will go to war against China if it continues to expand its regional influence.

What do we suspect China’s reaction will be if we act militarily? The same power that is building up its military assets and defense spending and provocatively establishing ADIZ’s and occupying disputed island chains is suddenly going to sit back and become a picture of docility just as soon as Washington takes a “tougher line”? Two scenarios are more likely: (1) a shooting war in the Asia Pacific that includes the China against the U.S. and all its allies, or (2) a reversion to Cold War politics in which Beijing and Washington retreat into the destructive policies of espionage and prolonged proxy wars.

When it comes down to it, the only pretext for a conflict with China – and a pretext is needed because Washington is too embarrassed to simply call for war because China has a bigger economy and military – are these territorial and maritime disputes. Notice, though, that China hawks are not suggesting that the United States take the position of an impartial arbiter of these disputes, which are complicated and ambiguous to say the least. Rather, they argue that we better ignore the legitimacy of the opposing claims in each dispute and simply take the anti-China position.

Is there anyone prepared to argue such an approach will yield peaceful conclusions?

24 thoughts on “China Hawks Walk the Line on Advocating War”

  1. The Japanese government claims that there is no dispute on the sovereignty of these islands, and that they belong to Japan when they first discovered these islands in 1884.

    However, there are many records that show that these islands have been part of China for more than 600 years since the Ming Dynasty, that Chinese fishermen on and off have been using these islands as temporary shelters, and many international maps (including Japanese maps) over the last few centuries have listed these islands as part of China.

    Based on analysis of official Japanese government documents (by both Chinese and Japanese scholars), Japan actually tried to secretly steal these islands from China in the late 1880s and early 1890s. When Japan defeated China after the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, these islands came under the control of Japan.

    When WWII ended, according to the 1943 Cairo Declaration, the 1945 Potsdam Declaration, and the 1945 Japanese Instrument of Surrender, the Diaoyu Islands should have been returned to China, just like Taiwan and other territories that Japan had stolen from China.

    It is important to note that the principal author of all these three documents was the USA.

  2. A cold war with the USSR made the war machine what it is today. The defense sector thrived during this time, with lines drawn in the sand. The US would love to do that again. The Soviets proved to be a profitable sparring partner. It's like America turned China into a dragon, to have an adversary, Otherwise, they might have to downsize to peacetime maintenance. Sooner or later Americans will tire of Washington spending that causes a Third World slump at home. The government may not need to search abroad for demons. They may get one locally.

    1. I think the US is already doing it (starting a new Cold War), or, rather, never stopped. Whatever happened to Clinton's so-called "peace dividend" after the fall of the USSR? New enemies had to be found, so it never materialized. But the US is no longer the post-WWII hyper power that set about conquering the world. The US multi-trillion dollar debt is propped up by China and the Saudis. If China withdraws its bonds all at once the US would not be able to pay and it would be bankrupt. What would happen then?

  3. Gorbachev should never have signed any agreement with Ronald Reagan, nor the Russian people should have given any support for that drunken idiot to rule Russia. But the news is a good one Johan…, Chinese are waiting and welcoming the USG militarism regime to start shooting, see what happens then.

  4. classic robber crying robbery.

    *china isnt biting so far, that damn abe is a sissy ,looks like we might've to do it ourself *

  5. It looks like the US is cruising to get in a shooting war with BOTH China AND Russia – all three of these powers have thousands of Hydrogen bombs. China has now officially (unsurprisingly and rightly) come down on the side of Russia in the Ukraine debacle against the west and accusing them of jump starting a new cold war. Inevitably, China, Russia and several other nations in the region will create a NATO type mutual defense clause sooner rather than later. The US is really leaving them no choice in the matter. Needles to say, A US led NATO war against Russia and China would leave most of the planet devastated. It's important that get the message out to Americans that NOTHING can be "won" whatsoever in such a conflict. To pursue belligerent foreign policy objectives which will ultimately lead to a nuclear quagmire is INSANITY.

    Have the US elites gone completely bonkers?????????

  6. Here is an idea, just leave the world alone and take care of your own problems.

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