FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

To the Pacific We Go

by BINOY KAMPMARK

The Joint Force will be prepared to confront and defeat aggression anywhere in the world

– Leon Panetta, ‘Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership’, Jan 5, 2012

Empires huff and puff, and sometimes stutter.  Bloodied heels are not taken as a warning that their time has come – rather they are simply seen as part of the job prescription.  Despite a slow economy and stagnation in such theatres as Afghanistan, the United States is moving inexorably into the Pacific, and the military wise men are intent that they do so with speed.  The 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance called ‘Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense’ is the guiding document in that mission.

It is little secret that a primary focus of the report is China and its busy profile.  Indeed, Uncle Sam is eager to counter any such suggestions that another power might become dominant in the region.  Far from it being merely a neoconservative tendency, the Obama administration has come on board the global mission to combat rivals with enthusiasm and a highly mobile ‘joint force’.  ‘As Commander in Chief,’ remarked Obama in his introduction to the report, ‘I am determined that we meet the challenges of this moment responsibly and that we emerge even stronger in a manner that preserves American global leadership, maintains our military superiority and keeps faith with our troops, military families and veterans.’  Dick Cheney would have been proud.

Europe, well secured within Washington’s orbit of interests, and an increased role for NATO with the Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, along with the extended Operation Active Condor in the Mediterranean, to say nothing of the Middle Eastern jaunts, shows a power insatiable in design.

Washington has proven ever present in prodding members of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) into alliances and arrangements.  Even a once ostracised Vietnam is considered a valuable addition, as are Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.  Recently, the United States secured basing rights for its warships in Singapore.  It is also having discussions with Australia over the use of such territories as the Cocos Islands, which, it is hoped, will become a future base for the development of spy drones such as the Global Hawk.  (That move, incidentally, ran counter to the assurance given by Australia that the former British possession would not be militarised after being given over to Canberra.)

The comments of Pentagon chief Leon Panetta at the Shangri-La dialogue defense summit in Singapore over the weekend are instructive.  Partnerships with such countries as South Korea, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand and Australia are to be tightened.  The satraps are to be brought closer, their stabilising influence in the region key to Washington’s hungry eye.   Most strikingly of all, the Pacific will become the primary base of operations in terms of US naval power – 60 percent as against 40 percent in the Atlantic.  The beast is also streamlining – old naval vessels shall be retired, making way for 40 more advanced ships over the next five years.

As for China, the necessary cautionary notes were struck by the Defense Secretary, with their accompanying barbs.  ‘We are not naïve about this relationship, and neither is China.  We both understand the differences we have. We both understand the conflicts we have.’ Both countries had no choice other than to ‘improve our military-to-military relationships’ (Xinhua, June 2).

The Chinese have proven indifferent.  The previous Shangri-La dialogue saw the presence of Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie, reflecting a position adopted in 2011 to engage in regional, multilateral forums.  Beijing’s absence on this occasion was all too conspicuous, and renders any such security dialogue in the region marginal.  An argument has been made that this can be put down to China’s designs on the South China Sea.  The issue would only hold water were it not for the combative stance taken by Guanglie last year. The Chinese position on this has been a long held one: disputants shall sort out disagreements amongst themselves. Outsiders should be wise enough to stay on the outside (Wall Street Journal, June 3)

Looking glass gazers may well wonder if domestic considerations are at play here.  Could it be the leadership issues in the Communist party? The issues surrounding the controversial and volatile Bo Xilai?  ‘The failure to attend, or to provide an adequate explanation for not doing so,’ writes the Hudson Institute’s John Lee for the WJS (June 3), ‘has reinforced the view that when the heat is on, Beijing’s political culture and instincts are inherently secretive and paranoid, and not transparent or cooperative.’

Lee’s perspective tends to soften the imperial sting in the American effort to expand. China should be enthusiastic that the U.S. is ‘committed to engaging with Asia’, even if differences may well be had over what form that engagement takes.  And that is precisely what should be of concern.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Burkinis: the Politics of Beachwear
Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail