“May You Live in Interesting Times”

The Economist Sept 22 Cover

The disputed Senkaku islands lie about 250 miles due west of our Marine—the distance from here to Dallas. And the turtle at the bottom right answers, “Sadly, yes.” Yikes. The above proverb could just as easily read, “…in interesting places.”

I posted earlier about “The New Global Hot-Spot: Asia Pacific.” Tensions have only risen since then.

photo from Getty Images. A Japanese coast guard vessel at right sprays a Taiwan boat with water cannon.

And now, Taiwan has entered the fray, also lodging a territorial claim. Similar claims swirl in the South China Sea between China, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand.The Economist article makes several good points:

  • • They draw a parallel between today’s situation and the rising nationalism in imperial Germany a century ago. “China is re-emerging after what it sees as 150 years of humiliation, surrounded by anxious neighbors, many of them allied to America. In that context, disputes about clumps of rock could become as significant as the assassination of an archduke.”
  • “Asian politicians have to start defanging the nationalist serpents they have nursed; honest textbooks would help.”
  • They suggest three “immediate safeguards:” one, “to limit the scope for mishaps to escalate into crises;” two, “to rediscover ways to shelve disputes over sovereignty, without prejudice;” and three, “to bolster deterrence.”

(A related article observed that when a Chinese policeman invited a local journalist to participate in a protest, she asked if she could also shout anti-corruption slogans. “He told her to stick to the approved anti-Japanese ones,” said the magazine. Herein lies my previously expressed doubt about the spontaneity, or lack thereof, of such demonstrations in totalitarian regimes. Anyone remember the excessive moaning and wailing when Kim Jong Il died?)

Photo from AFP. Funny title on “Economist” blog: 58,000 tonnes of coincidence

Adding fuel to the fire, China recently unveiled its first aircraft carrier—although the first flight won’t leave its deck for years.

US allies in the region continue to build ties with the military in general and the US Marines in particular. Already, US Marines are based in Darwin, Australia, and recently the Pentagon announced a training partnership with New Zealand. The Philippines are also interested in increased cooperation, and the US military hold regular exercises with both Japan and South Korea (all mentioned in my previous Asia/Pac post).Again from The Economist: “A century ago in Europe, years of peace and globalization tempted leaders into thinking that they could afford to play with nationalist fires without the risk of conflagration. After this summer, [incoming Chinese leader] Mr. Xi and his neighbors need to grasp how much damage the islands are in fact causing.” I’m paying close attention to headlines coming in from this part of the world.

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Posted on September 26, 2012, in III MEF, Marine Times Newspaper, Military Parent, Okinawa, US Marine Corps and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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