Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Blunder Down Under. China, Australia, and 2,500 U.S. Marines

Australia has agreed to host a full US Marine task force in the coming years, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced at a news conference with US President Barack Obama in Canberra.

She said about 250 US Marines would arrive next year, eventually being built up to 2,500 personnel.

The deployment is being seen as a move to counter China's growing influence.

.................. SNIP......................

I just cannot leave this one alone gentle reader. The more I think of this, the more I wonder what possessed Barack Obama to do this? The Chinese were not particularly happy about this shift in US foreign policy. From the same BBC News Article:

“Luo Yuan, a senior officer at the People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Sciences, told the paper that while neither the US nor China wanted to start a war, ‘if China's core interests such as its sovereignty, national security and unity are intruded on, a military conflict will be unavoidable’ ”

And why should China be happy with this escalation? It is a double scoop of arrogant big footing by the US. The prissy, schoolmarm lecturing by Obama that, "It is important for them [China] to play by the rules of the road," must have set many a politburo member’s teeth on edge.

I can not believe the sloppy messaging of Team Obama, it is like they deliberately ignored the two centuries of gun boat diplomacy that China suffered through. It is like the European and Japanese the imperialist misadventures of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries never happened. Was Hilary Clinton consulted? Did anyone bother to take one second to think how this might have played to the Chinese masses?

Sweet Baby Jesus On A Pogo Stick! Is there anyone in the DC bubble who has a clue? The US and Australia just poured a Exxon Valdez tanker of gasoline on the nationalist fires of China. The contemptuousness of Obama’s remarks, the arrogance, the bone-jarring foolishness, is absolutely jaw dropping. This is no small back-water nation, this is no dead-end developing nation, this is no basket case failing state, this is the Middle Kingdom. This is a nation and a culture that has a two thousand year head start on the cowboy parvenues of the United States. You do not speak to them like you would a spoiled five year old. A little respect is in order.

The US, for whatever reason, paid no heed to this deep history. It paid no heed to the prickly nationalist sensibilities of one point three billion Chinese citizens. It paid no heed to how the Communist Party of China uses those nationalist sensibilities, and supports them, to gain legitimacy for itself. It ignored China’s deep seeded need not to be seen as an easy mark, a push over. Instead of taking those considerations aboard, Team Obama channeled an elderly Catholic Nun at a parochial school, and broke out the steel ruler to wrap China’s knuckles.

I have seen some fairly awful foreign policy thinking and foreign policy action. I have seen a steady deterioration of caution and consideration. I have seen the “just do something” “we have to act” mentality of DC spiral ever further out of control. I have seen DC elites play fast, loose and sloppy with core National Security interests; but this move is a quantum leap in mindlessness.

When we are fully deployed, there will be twenty thousand, five hundred Marines gayly mucking about in the Australian Outback, to no purpose. That is two battalions of US Marines, ready to rock and roll. That is an endless source of pointless adventurism by the US, with Australia Fair along for the ride. What is the mission here? “Countering China’s influence” is not a mission. It is not a strategy.  It is not even a tactic It is a knee-jerk, and thoughtless reaction to the United States’ relative decline in Asia.

Such mucking about has a precedent. History has much to say about these types of endeavors; none of it any good. The area of the Coral Sea and northwards is a very dangerous place to be when you have no clear idea about what you are doing. But by basing the US Marines at Darwin, US intentions of going further north, into the Coral Sea and beyond, are fairly clear.  (

This is the area where the Spratly islands loom very large. Having 2500 Marines stationed near by is a direct threat to all the contending parties in the Spratly dispute. It is broadcasting your intent to toss everyone and anyone off their perspective island if they don’t  “play by the rules of the road.” Who’s rules of the road? Why ours, of course. Other than the Philippines, I can see none of the incumbents being particularly happy about this state of affairs; both Vietnam and China must be furious as a matter of fact. 

I wonder what Australia gets out of this deal? Other than getting her Margret Thatcher references, what is the pay out for Prime Minister Julia Gillard? Other than supplying the bases, and the odd shot gun wedding, what is Oz bringing to the table?

What is all that hardware doing and to what purpose? What are those B-52, Nuclear Submarines and Nuclear powered (but not nuclear armed) ships have on their to-do list? I hate to break it to the citizens of Australia, but the BUFFs (the B-52’s) and nuclear subs are perfectly useless for “humanitarian and disaster relief.” ( The Marines will cause more disasters (at least PR disasters) than they will ever relieve in Australia.

I also wonder if any Australian has caught on to what exactly what ships in the US Navy’s inventory sport nuclear power. There is only one ship in the inventory that does, and it is not the submarines because, technically, those are boats.  Hint; it’s big, it’s grey, it is 4 football pitches long, it carries five thousand sailors, plus 90 fix wing air craft and helicopters. I hope Stirling Navy Base and the City of Perth is ready for a port of call from the USS Ronald Reagan, or her sister ships, because they are coming on over.

Once you actually get under the hood of this deployment, it starts to reek of gunboat diplomacy. It is a big, nasty, stop sign to India and China. It is a line in the sand. But again, why and to what purpose? What Obama and company trying to achieve with all this saber rattling? It is all high concept, but with no real strategy in place. It is both misguided and dangerous.  Our economy is a mess. Our social safety net is being torn asunder in the name of austerity. Our Military is stretched wafer thin already by the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan plus the not-so-secret war in the badlands of Pakistan. Why are stirring up a hornets’ nest with China?

The Middle Kingdom will respond to this all too soon, and it will not be pretty. This is do or die, core interests for China. This is National Honor and National Interest, written in all caps for the Red Mandarins that run the People’s Republic. This is a near perfect way to blunder into a war with one point three billion Chinese.

This is one hundred and eighty degrees out from what the Obama campaign promised. It is final nail in the coffin of Obama as wiser, cooler, head; less likely to make a headlong rush into dubious foreign policy adventures. It is the final proof that there was no difference between Obama and Clinton on foreign policy worth mentioning. That is why Hillary is now Obama’s SoS. The speech on Iraq? Fluff and nonsense. Obama would have voted for the pack of Bushite lies that was casus belli for the Iraq invasion if he had been in the Senate.

I thought that Obama’s natural conservatism, his inbred cautions would prevent him from tearing around the world looking for monsters to slay. I was so wrong. The man is the absolute worst kind of Beltway, consensus driven, conventional wisdom believing, interventionist possible. He has taken the Pax Americana bequeathed him by Bush and placed it on steroids, plus human growth hormone. Obama is writing a check that a future Republican Administration will more than willing to cash. What will we do when the thing bounces?
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