Cultural Revolutions

Scolding China

President Barack Obama’s nine-day Asian and Australian tour in November was marked by a sudden outburst of bellicose oratory at the sixth East Asian Summit in Bali.  China must “play by the rules” and stop her “military advances,” he declared, and the United States “will send a clear message to [the Chinese] that we think that they need to be on track in terms of accepting the rules and responsibilities that come with being a world power.”

Even more surprising was Obama’s subsequent announcement in Canberra that 2,500 U.S. Marines, as well as U.S. Navy and Air Force units, would be deployed to Darwin in Northern Australia.  As a Pacific power the United States “will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region,” the President told Australian MPs.  “We will preserve our unique ability to project power and deter threats to peace . . . and we will constantly strengthen our capabilities to meet the needs of the 21st century.”

Obama’s rhetoric and the attendant decision to broaden America’s overseas military commitments are difficult to understand.  There is no security crisis in Southeast Asia resulting from China’s aggressive military advances.  There is a complex dispute between China and two Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam and...

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