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

 

More articles by:

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

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
Hamid Yazdan Panah
Remembering Native American Civil Rights Pioneer, Lehman Brightman
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail