Category Archives: Philippines

Asia’s Mad Arms Race

Asia’s Mad Arms Race

Dispatches From The Edge

May 18, 2012

Asia is currently in the middle of an unprecedented arms race that is not only sharpening tensions in the region, but competing with efforts by Asian countries to address poverty and growing economic disparity. The gap between rich and poor—calculated by the Gini coefficient that measures inequality—has increased from 39 percent to 46 percent in China, India, and Indonesia. While affluent households continue to garner larger and larger portions of the economic pie, “Children born to poor families can be 10 times more likely to die in infancy” than those from wealthy families, according to Changyong Rhee, chief economist of the Asian Development Bank.

This inequality trend is particularly acute in India, where life expectancy is low, infant mortality high, education spotty, and illiteracy widespread, in spite of that country’s status as the third largest economy in Asia, behind China and Japan. According to an independent charity, the Naandi Foundation, some 42 percent of India’s children are malnourished. Bangladesh, a far poorer country, does considerably better in all these areas.

And yet last year India was the world’s leading arms purchaser, including a deal that will spend $20 billion dollars on high performance French fighter planes. India is also developing a long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying  multiple nuclear warheads, and buying submarines and surface craft. Its military budget is set to rise 17 percent this year to $42 billion.

“It is ridiculous. We are getting into a useless arms race at the expense of fulfilling the needs of poor people,” Praful Bidwai of the Coalition of Nuclear Disarmament and Peace told the New York Times.

China, too, is in the middle of an arms boom that includes beefing up its navy, constructing a new generation of stealth aircraft, and developing a ballistic missile that is potentially capable of neutralizing U.S. carriers near its coast. Beijing’s arms budget has grown at a rate of some 12 percent a year and, at $106.41 billion, is now the second largest on the planet. The U.S. budget—not counting the various wars Washington is embroiled in—runs a little over $800 billion, although some have estimated that it is over $1 trillion.

While China has made enormous strides in overcoming poverty, there are some 250 million Chinese officially still considered poor, and the country’s formerly red-hot economy is cooling. “Data on April spending and output put another nail into hopes that China’s economy is bottoming out,” Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital Economics told the Financial Times.

The same is true for most of Asia. For instance, India’s annual economic growth rate has fallen from 9 percent to 6.1 percent over the past two and a half years.

Tensions between China and other nations in the region have set off a local arms race. Taiwan is buying four U.S.-made Perry-class guided missile frigates, and Japan has shifted much of its military from its northern islands to face southward toward China.

The Philippines are spending almost $1 billion on new aircraft and radar, and recently held joint war games with the U.S.  South Korea has just successfully tested a long-range cruise missile. Washington is reviving ties with Indonesia’s brutal military because the island nation controls the strategic seaways through which pass most of the region’s trade and energy supplies.

Australia is also re-orientating its defense to face China, and Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith has urged “that India play the role it could and should as an emerging great power in the security and stability of the region.”

But that “role” is by no means clear, and some have read Smith’s statement as an attempt to rope New Delhi into a united front against Beijing. The recent test of India’s Agni V nuclear-capable ballistic missile is largely seen as directed at China.

India and China fought a brief but nasty border war in 1962, and India claims China is currently occupying some 15,000 square miles in Indian territory. The Chinese, in turn, claim almost 40,000 square miles of the Indian state of Arunachai Pradesh. While Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says that “overall our relations [with China] are quite good,” he also admits “the border problem is a long-standing problem.”

India and China also had a short dust up last year when a Chinese warship demanded that the Indian amphibious assault vessel Airavat identify itself shortly after the ship left the port of Hanoi, Vietnam. Nothing came of the incident but Indian President Pratibha Patil has since stressed the need for “maritime security,” and “the protection of our coasts, our ‘sea lines of communications’ and the offshore development areas.”

China’s forceful stance in the South China Sea has stirred up tensions with Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia as well. A standoff this past April between a Philippine war ship and several Chinese surveillance ships at Scarborough Shoal is still on a low simmer.

China’s more assertive posture in the region stems largely from the 1995-96 Taiwan Straits crisis that saw two U.S. carriers humiliate Beijing in its home waters. There was little serious danger of war during the crisis—China does not have the capability to invade Taiwan—but the Clinton Administration took the opportunity to demonstrate U.S. naval power. China’s naval build-up dates from that incident.

The recent “pivot” by Obama administration toward Asia, including a military buildup on Wake and Guam and the deployment of 2,500 Marines in Australia, has heightened tensions in the region, and Beijing’s heavy-handedness in the South China Sea has given Washington an opening to insert itself into the dispute.

China is prickly about its home waters—one can hardly blame it, given the history of the past 100 years—but there is no evidence that it is expansionist. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in February “No country, including China, has claimed sovereignty over the entire South China Sea.” Nor does Beijing seem eager to use military force. Beijing has drawn some lessons from its disastrous 1979 invasion of Vietnam.

On the other hand, Beijing is seriously concerned about who controls the region’s seas, in part because some 80 percent of China’s energy supplies pass through maritime choke points controlled by the U.S. and its allies.

The tensions in Asia are real, if not as sharp or deep as they have been portrayed in the U.S. media. China and India do, indeed, have border “problems,” but China also describes New Delhi as “not competitors but partners,” and has even offered an alliance to keep “foreign powers”—read the U.S. and NATO—from meddling in the region.

The real question is, can Asia embark on an arms race without increasing the growing gulf between rich and poor and the resulting political instability that is likely to follow in its wake? “Widening inequality threatens the sustainability of Asian growth,” says Asian Development Bank economist Rhee. “A divided and unequal nation cannot prosper.”

More than half a century ago former General and President Dwight Eisenhower noted that “Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket fired signifies…a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed…this is not a way of life at all…it is humanity hanging from an iron cross.”

Americans have ignored Eisenhower’s warning. Asian nations would do well to pay attention.

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Obama’s Dangerous Asia “Pivot”

Obama’s Dangerous Asia “Pivot”

Counterpunch

Conn Hallinan

Dec. 8, 2011

“On his recent trip to Asia Pacific, the President made it clear that the centerpiece of this strategy includes an intensified American role in this vital region,” Financial Times Nov. 28, 2011

–Tom Donilon, President Barak Obama’s national security advisor

“An Indo-Pacific without a strong U.S. military presence would mean the Finlandisation by China of countries in the South China Sea, such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore,” Financial Times Nov. 30, 2011

–Robert Kaplan, senior fellow Center for a New American Security and author of Monsoon: The Indian Ocean the Future of American Power

Donilon is a long-time Democratic Party operative and former lobbyist for Fannie Mae and a key figure in the Clinton administration’s attack on Yugoslavia and the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe. Kaplan is a Harvard Business School professor and advisor on the Mujahedeen war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, as well as current U.S. military intervention in the Horn of Africa.

Something is afoot.

Indeed, it is. The Obama administration is in the middle of a major shift in foreign policy—a “strategic pivot” in the words of the White House—in two regions of the world: Asia and Africa. In both cases, a substantial buildup of military forces and a gloves-off use of force lie at the heart of the new approach.

The U.S. now has a permanent military force deployed in the Horn of Africa, a continent-wide military command—Africom—and it has played a key role in overthrowing the Libyan government. It also has Special Forces active in Uganda, Somalia, and most of the countries that border the Sahara.

But it is in Asia that the administration is making its major push, nor is it coy about whom the target is. “We are asserting our presence in the Pacific. We are a Pacific power,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the National Defense University in August, “we know we face some long-term challenges about how we are going to cope with what the rise of China means.”

There is whiff to all this of old fashioned Cold War hype, when the U.S. pumped up the Russian military as a world-swallowing force panting to pour through the Fulda Gap and overrun Western Europe: the Chinese are building a navy to challenge the U.S.; the Chinese are designing special missiles to neutralize American aircraft carriers; the Chinese are bullying nations throughout the region.

Common to Clinton’s address, as well as to Kaplan’s and Donilon’s opinion pieces, were pleas not to cut military spending in the Pacific. In fact, it appears the White House is already committed to that program. “Reduction in defense spending will not come at the expense of the Asia Pacific,” Donilon wrote, “There will be no diminution of our military presence or capabilities in the region.”

The spin the White House is putting on all this is that the U.S. has been bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, allowing China to throw its weight around in Asia. Donilon’s opinion piece was titled “America is back in the Pacific and will uphold the rules.”

It is hard to know where to begin to address a statement like that other than with the observation that irony is dead.

Asia and the Pacific has been a major focus for the U.S. since it seized the Philippines in the 1899 Spanish-American War. It has fought four major wars in the region over the past century, and, not counting China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), it deploys more military personnel in the Pacific than any other nation. It dominates the region through a network of bases in Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, the Marshall Islands, and island fortresses like Guam and Wake. The White House just announced the deployment of 2,500 Marines to Australia.

The American Seventh Fleet—created in 1943 and currently based in Yokosuka, Japan—is the largest of the U.S.’s naval fleets, and the one most heavily armed with nuclear weapons.

We aren’t “back,” we never went anywhere.

But the argument fits into the fable that U.S. military force keeps the peace in Asia. Kaplan even argues “A world without US naval and air dominance will be one where powers such as China, Russia, India, Japan and others act more aggressively toward each other than they do now, because they will all be far more insecure than they are now.”

In short, the kiddies will get into fights unless Uncle Sam is around to teach them manners. And right now, China is threatening to upend “the rules’ through an aggressive expansion of its navy.

China is indeed upgrading its navy, in large part because of what the Seventh Fleet did during the 1995-96 Taiwan Strait crisis. In the middle of tensions between Taipei and Beijing, the Clinton administration deployed two aircraft carrier battle groups into the Taiwan Straits. Since there was never any danger that China was going to invade Taiwan, the carriers were just a gratuitous slap in the face. China had little choice but to back down, but vowed it would never again be humiliated in its home waters. Beijing’s naval buildup dates from that crisis.

And “buildup” is a relative term. The U.S. has made much of China acquiring an aircraft carrier, but the “new” ship is a 1990 vintage Russian carrier, less than half the size of the standard American Nimitz flattop (of which the U.S. has 10). The “new” carrier-killer Chinese missile has yet to be tested, let alone deployed. Only in submarines can China say it is finally closing the gap with the U.S. And keep in mind that China’s military budget is about one-eighth that of the U.S.

If the Chinese are paranoid about their sea routes and home waters, it is not without cause. Most invasions of China have come via the Yellow Sea, and 80 percent of China’s energy supplies come by sea. China ships much of its gas and oil through the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. With major suppliers based on the west coast of Africa, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, it has little choice. Those sea-lanes are controlled by the U.S. Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain and the Seventh in Japan.

China is also building friendly ports for its tankers—the so-called “string of pearls”—and why Beijing is suspicious about the sudden thaw in U.S.-Myanmar relations. China plans to build a “pearl” in Myanmar.

Indeed, a major reason why China is building pipelines from Russia and Central Asia is to bypass the series of choke points through which its energy supplies pass, including the straits of Hormuz and the Malacca Strait. The Turkmenistan-Xingjian and Eastern Siberia Pacific Ocean pipelines are already up and running, but their volume is not nearly enough to feed China’s 11 billion barrels of oil a day appetite.

In spite of protests, the U.S. recently carried out major naval operations in the Yellow Sea, and Washington has injected itself into tensions between Beijing and some of its neighbors over the South China Sea. In part, China has exacerbated those tensions by its own high-handed attitude toward other nations with claims on the Sea. In responding to protests over China’s claims, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi remarked, “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that is just a fact.”

China’s initial arrogance on the issue has allowed the U.S. to wedge itself into the dispute and portray itself as the “protector” of small nations. Less than 40 years ago it was trying to bomb several of those nations back into the Stone Age, and Vietnam just recorded its 100,000th casualty since 1975 from explosives left over by the American war.

Beijing has since cooled its tone on the South China Sea and is backing away from defining it as a “core” Chinese area.

Why the “strategic pivot?”  Undoubtedly, some of it is posturing for the run-up to the 2012 elections. Being “tough” on China trumps Republican charges that Obama is “soft” on foreign policy. But this “pivot” is more than cynical electioneering.

First, China does not pose any military threat to the U.S. or its allies in Asia, and the last thing it wants is a war. Beijing has not forgotten its 1979 invasion of Vietnam that ended up derailing its “four modernizations” drive and deeply damaging its economy.

Part of this “China threat” nonsense has to do with the power of the U.S. armaments industry to keep the money spigots open. When it comes to “big ticket” spending items, navies and air forces top the list. An aircraft costs in excess of $5 billion, and the single most expensive weapons program in U.S. history is the F-35 stealth fighter.

But there is more than an appetite for pork at work here.

China is the number two economy in the world, and in sharp competition with the U.S. and its allies for raw materials and human resources. It is hard to see the aggressive U.S. posture in Asia as anything other than an application of the old Cold War formula of economic pressure, military force, and diplomatic coercion. From Washington’s point of view, it worked to destabilize the Soviet Union, why shouldn’t it work on China?

“If you are a strategic thinker in China,” says Simon Tay, chair of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, “you do not have to be a paranoid conspiracy theorist to think that the U.S. is trying to bandwagon Asia against China.”

Since U.S. foreign policy is almost always an extension of corporate interests, squeezing China in Asia, Africa and Central Asia helps create openings for American investments. And if such a policy also protects the multi-billion dollar military budget, including the likes of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, so much the better.

It is a dangerous game, first, because military tension can lead to war, and, while that is an unlikely event, mistakes happen. “If we keep this up, then we are going to leave the impression with China that we are drawing battle lines,” Douglas Paal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told the Financial Times. In fact, the Obama administration has drawn up a plan called AirSea Battle to deny China control of the Taiwan Straits.

The consequences for those caught in the middle will be severe. China has pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, but it still has a ways to go. An arms race will delay that. For the average American, racked by double-digit unemployment, a vanishing safety net, and the collapse of everything from education to infrastructure, it will be no less of a tragedy.

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China and the US: Things That Go Bang

China and the US :Things That Go Bang

Dispatches From the Edge

Feb. 24, 2011

Reading the headlines about U.S.-China relations might lead one to conclude that current tensions between the two have less to do with political differences than chemical imbalances: “The Chinese Tiger Shows Its Claws” vs. “China Helps Defuse Korea Crisis”; or “America is far too soft in its dealings with Beijing” vs. “Blaming China will not solve America’s problems.” What comes to mind is a dose of Thorazine, or maybe a Lithium regime?

In fact, there are both real differences and common ground, but sorting through them can be a taxing exercise in deep analysis.  Are the tensions over an increasingly aggressive Beijing beginning to assert itself in a world formerly dominated by the Americans? Or is Washington encircling China with allies and military bases aimed at blocking the rise of an up-and-coming international rival?

On the surface this antagonism resembles the imperial competition between Britain and Germany at end of the 19th century, but the world of 2011 is very different than in 1914, far more connected, far more interdependent, and yet still dangerous. What does seem clear is that every time either side brings in its military, tensions increase and solutions turn elusive.

The partnership between Beijing and Washington is built on money and trade. China currently holds almost a trillion dollars in U.S. Treasury Securities, and yearly trade between the two is over $400 billion.  In comparison, China’s trade with the entire European Union is about the same.  Both economies are interdependent, and trouble in one generally means trouble in the other.

But as the number one and number two economies in the world, China and the U.S. are also competitors for markets and raw materials.

China is currently the number two energy user in the world, and, to fuel its explosive industrialization, it will require 11.3 million barrels of oil a day (bpd) by 2015. Since it only produces 3.7 million bpd on its own, much of China’s foreign policy in aimed at insuring a steady flow of energy. How that energy gets to China, and who supplies it, is the rub.

China’s major suppliers are Saudi Arabia, Angola and Iran, which means about 80 percent of its energy supplies travel by sea through two choke points, the Straits of Hormuz and the Malacca Straits. Both are controlled by the U.S. Navy.

Beijing has adopted a two-pronged strategy to deal with its energy insecurity. First, it is increasingly moving its energy supplies via pipelines from Russia and Central Asia. The Turkmenistan-Xingjian pipeline is up and running, as is the huge Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline from Russia.

Secondly, it is beefing up its sea borne forces and establishing a “string of pearls”: a series of Chinese navy-friendly ports in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Gwadar, Pakistan. The Gwadar port could also serve as the jumping off point for an Iran-India-Pakistan-China pipeline. Iran and Pakistan have already signed on, and India and China have signaled their interest. If the U.S. successfully pressures India to keep out, China will step in with investment money.

But the naval buildup is only partly due to Chinese nervousness over its sea routes. A major impetus behind the increase came out of a 1996 incident, when the Clinton administration sent two aircraft carrier battle groups into the Taiwan Straits during a tense standoff between Formosa and the mainland. Since the Chinese did not have an aircraft carrier, or much in the way of weapons that could challenge them, Beijing was forced to back off. It was a humiliation in their home waters that the Chinese were not about to forget.

China’s navy, however, is a long way from presenting any serious challenge to the U.S. For instance, China’s lone aircraft carrier was originally constructed by the Russians in the 1980s, and is half the size of a Nimitz-class carrier, of which the U.S. has 10.

Much has been made of a new Chinese ballistic missile that U.S. Admiral Robert Willard recently claimed was a major threat to U.S. carriers. But the missile is not yet operational, and no one really knows what its capabilities are.

“China’s military rise is not to attack America, but to make sure that China is not attacked by America,” says Chinese military analyst Liu Mingfu.

However, China’s push to keep the U.S. out of areas it considers “core” has also put it in conflict with a number of south Asian nations that have equal claims on islands in the South China Sea. Some of that tension is the result of some serious high handedness by Beijing. In responding to protests over China’s claims, Yang Jiechi, China’s foreign minister, sounded almost imperial: “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that is just a fact.”

The spat gave Washington an opportunity to extend its support to countries in the region, including Vietnam, which as welcomed U.S. naval vessels back to Cam Ranh Bay and carried out joint military maneuvers with their old enemies.

Beijing views U.S. efforts to “mediate” disputes in its core areas as part of a campaign to encircle China with hostile bases and allies. The U.S. has more than 100 bases in Japan, 85 in South Korea, plus ones in the Philippines, Guam, and even a few in Central Asia.

“If you are a strategic thinker in China, you do not have to be a paranoid conspiracy theorist to think that the U.S. is trying to bandwagon Asia against China,” says Simon Tay, chair of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

But, in the case of the1996 Taiwan incident and the recent South China Sea brouhaha, military threats ended up backfiring on both China and the U.S. The Clinton administration’s gunboat diplomacy ignited a naval building program by China that now presents a local challenge to the U.S. And China’s cavalier approach to its south Asian neighbors ended up giving Washington an opening and handing Beijing a diplomatic setback.

Likewise China’s prickliness with India over their mutual border has given the U.S. greater influence in New Delhi, and a recent dustup between China and Japan over the disputed Senkaku-Diaoyus islands has pushed Tokyo closer to Washington.

In short, military threats, even veiled ones, generally end up blowing up on whoever makes them.

In part this is a reflection of the difference between the world of 1914 and today. Back then imperial adventures generally brought benefits. Today the terms “adventures” and “overreach” are almost synonymous.

The U.S. has the most powerful military in the world, but its sojourn in Iraq has been a strategic disaster, and it is bogged down in an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. The U.S. could probably win any conventional battle on the planet, but it increasingly finds that it cannot win a war. It could flatten Iran, but does anyone believe the Iranians would then surrender? It would be far more likely that the consequent jump in oil prices would topple economies across the globe.

In contrast, the Chinese have recently cut a deal for Iraqi oil, and Afghan minerals, all without losing a single soldier.  They have also invested $120 billion in Iran’s energy and become Teheran’s number one trading partner. While the U.S. was building new military bases in Central America and firing up its Fifth Fleet to rattle sabers in Latin America, China was toppling the U.S. as the continent’s major trading partner.

The recent U.S.-China summit went smoothly, countering much of the rhetoric that the two giants were on a collision course. But while Washington and Beijing found much to agree on (and tip-toed past some of what they did not), the tension is still there.

What both sides must avoid is letting their respective general staffs have a say in what relations between the two nations should be. Irrespective of the language they speak, every admiral wants a new ship, and every general wants a new missile. The job of the military is to win wars and that requires lots of things that go bang.

But these days things that go bang are increasingly expensive and more likely to cause grief than win laurels.

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Slight of Hand


Dispatches From the Edge

May 17, 2002

On the surface, the deployment of U.S. troops in the Philippines is part of the White House’s war on international terrorism. Senator Sam Brownback (R-Ka) calls the archipelago “the next target, after Afghanistan, in the war on terrorism,” and U.S. Dep. Sec. of Defense Paul Wolfowitz describes it as a strike against “the extended Al Qaeda network.”

But is it?

Americans are virtually alone in describing Abu Sayyaf, the target of the more than 1200 US soldiers on Basilan Island, as anything more than a collection of particularly brutal thugs. Southern Philippine commander Lt. Gen. Roy Cimatu describes them simply as “criminals,” and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo admits there has been no contact between Abu-Sayyaf and Al Qaeda since l996. Even those “contacts” consist of little more than a tenuous relationship between Abu Sayyaf’s founder Aburajak Janjalani and Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Osama bin Ladin’s brother-in-law.

The Philippine government seems more concerned with the bottom line than any threat a tiny organization like Abu Sayyaf poses. Arroyo picked up $100 million in military aid when she visited Washington last November, plus a pledge of $4.5 billion in economic aid to help jump-start the Philippine economy.

Arroyo’s motives seem obvious. Not only is Abu Sayyaf an economic windfall, but supplying Philippine military with M-16s and helicopters will allow the government to be more aggressive toward other Muslim insurgent groups in Mindanao, as well as the New People’s Army on Luzon. But modern weaponry will do little more than make a bad situation worse, particularly if it feeds the illusion that a military victory over anti-government groups is possible. What it will certainly do is increase casualties among civilians, and it may torpedo on-going talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government. MILF negotiator Al Haj Murad told the Financial Times that American military aid and personel will “only complicate the situation in Mindanao.”

The deployment has already sparked a growing opposition movement and charges that Arroyo has violated the 1987 Constitution, which bars the stationing of foreign troops in the island nation. So why is the Administration pouring soldiers and equipment into the Philippines? Is all this sturm und drang really about a scruffy band of pirates in the Sulu Sea, or is something else afoot?

A tip off was a recent statement by Arroyo’s top foreign policy advisor, Roberto Romulo. A strong U.S.-Philippine relationship, he argued, would “balance any hegemonic tendencies from China, to discourage them from ambitions in our part of the world.”

Once China comes into the picture, the Philippine adventure begins to make more sense. While the American media has focused on U.S. advisors and combat units on Basilin Island, the U.S.has quietly been seeking an agreement to store military equipment throughout the Philippines and secure the rights for military over flights. The U.S. is also negotiating a return to its former port at Subic Bay, as well as securing “temporary basing” rights for U.S. troops.

“The U.S. has always been interested in setting up supply depots in the Philippines to replace the bases (it lost a decade ago),” says Ronald Simbulim of the University of the Philippines, “and the joint US-RP (Republic of the Philippines) military exercises may provide the perfect cover to set that up.”

One such exercise, Balikitan 2002, has been extended from several weeks to up to a year. The operation brings together 2,900 US troops and 2,900 Philippine troops to practice repelling an external threat. Except this time around, South Koreans and Japanese, plus observers from 10 regional countries, have been invited to take part. The Bush Administration also wants to link Balikitan (“Shoulder to Shoulder”) to the Asia-wide US military maneuvers called Team Challenge.

The Chinese are likely to view all this as an attempt to ring them with hostile bases, much like the “containment” policy aimed at the Soviet Union during the Cold War. As Stephen Rosen of the influential Olin Institute for Strategic Studies puts it in The Future of War, “China is not yet powerful enough to be a challenger to the American empire, and the goal of the United States is to prevent that challenge from emerging.”

The Bush Administration has already said it is willing to use nuclear weapons in the advent of a war between China and Taiwan, and the new anti-ballistic missile system the White House is building in Alaska will precisely cancel out China’s 18 to 20 ICBMs. Add to that a much more aggressive U.S. posture toward intelligence gathering off China’s coast, and the Philippines looks increasingly like it is in the process of becoming once again, America’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier” in the Pacific.

So the Philippines gets a hotter and bloodier civil war, the American people get a slight of hand about fighting terrorism, and the U.S. gears up for a face off with China. Does any of this sound like a very good idea?

Conn Hallinan

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