THE IDES OF WAR IN ASIA?
MELBOURNE, Australia, April 23, 2012
After stirring up a tornado of trouble in the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan, America's war lust has focused on Asia-
Oceania with the predictable result: A Chinese warning about the danger of imminent armed confrontation.
Only weeks after the first U.S troops arrived at a new U.S. base in Australia's Northern Territory and hours after joint U.
S.-Filipino naval exercises began near disputed shoals in the South China Sea, China's official Liberation Army Daily
has warned the beefed up U.S. military presence was a sure recipe for conflict.
"Anyone with clear eyes saw long ago that behind these drills (joint military exercises) is reflected a mentality that will
lead the South China Sea issue down a fork in the road towards military confrontation and resolution through armed
force........'' wrote the daily which is considered the mouthpiece of government and military thinking.
No one should be surprised Washington has finally decided to confront its main economic and military
global rival with an attempt to contain Beijing's growing influence not only in Asia but in the Oceania
region and the Pacific.
The problem is the Americans might be too late to achieve by peaceful means the re-conquest of a region,
once staunchly pro-American but now economically linked to and enriched by China.
In a baffling anomaly the Australian dollar and the Filipino peso are riding high thanks to trade with China while the
governments and the military of the two governments are doing their best these days to irritate Beijing by participating
in the obvious U.S. containment strategy.
Like imperial Japan nearly a century ago the survival of China's ruling Communist Party and the stability of
the nation depend on access to raw materials abroad and access to large tracts of land to cultivate vital
food for China's 1.3 billion people. If this access is curtailed or denied by new militarist politics the
Chinese, just like the Japanese before them, are certain to choose war to being starved and deprived of
what has now become for their people a legitimate expectation of a better lifestyle.
The focal point of a possible initial clash of naval forces could be the Spratly Islands, a South China Sea archipelago
of uninhabited shoals and atolls apparently rich in oil and gas and disputed for years by China, Vietnam, Philippines,
Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan. This month a Filipino naval ship confronted a Chinese warship in a stand-off around
one of the disputed shoals, a kind of naval jostling between a sling-shot armed David afloat in a rusty bathtub and an
armor-plated Goliath on a floating fortress spiked with canons.
Sooner or later someone will be sunk in such a similar standoff and it is unlikely to be the Chinese.
The Philippines and Australia (one of China's chief supplier of mineral resources, principally coal and iron ore) are
apparently destined to become the main Asian bases for the American containment policy. Traditionally an ally of the
U.S. Australia has sent troops to nearly every major U.S lead war, from Korea to Vietnam to Afghanistan. In return
Australians expect ˜Big Brother'' in Washington will defend them “eventually - against what Australians secretly still call
˜the Yellow Peril though in public China is praised as a vital and profitable trading partner and a friend.
When President Obama announced his country would take ˜a greater role'' in the Asia-Pacific area a doting Australian
government immediately opened its Northern Territory to the presence of a U.S. Marine base whose obvious intention
is to intimidate any Chinese 'adventurism' in the region. Australia's first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard sealed the
new beefed-up military concordat, including more American warplanes, during the President's visit Down Under with
kisses planted on Obama's cheeks at every official occasion.
Meanwhile the Philippines, a U.S. colony until 1948, quickly followed by re-embracing the military presence and joint
naval exercises of their old colonial masters - twenty years after the Filipino Senate had voted against renewing the
leases on the huge U.S. Air Force and naval bases at Clarke and Subic Bay, a watershed decision celebrated at the
time as a final act of Filipino independence.
No doubt China has been rattled by the slap in the face from both Canberra and Manila, especially
Australia where Chinese interests have bought up vast tracts of land to cultivate, where Chinese
corporations took out shares in major mining companies, where rich Chinese buyers sent the urban real
estate market booming, where more Chinese tourists and temporary residents seem to be on the central
streets of Melbourne and Sydney then locals and where coal and iron ore exports have become so bullish
that for the first time the Australian greenback has passed the U.S greenback in exchange value.
In Australia the age-old fear that the Chinese are coming to take over the country is apparently still greater than the
fear of losing lucrative export revenue â€“ and the need to tighten belts.
In the process of this military containment policy President Obama's election halo of a peacemaker not a
war monger has paled even more. In reality the President has turned out to be just another stooge of the
U.S. establishment which is run and controlled by a cartel of bankers, financiers and corporate lobbies
together with the Pentagon.
Long gone are the days when President Eisenhower, in his farewell speech to the nation, warned Americans against
corporate and militarist interests who he predicted would try to take over the democratic rights of the people and
embark on a strategy of permanent war which he defined as a lucrative business for them.
Was it not U.S Defense Secretary and businessman Donald Rumsfeld who bluntly told Americans only a few years ago
their country was now in a state of 'permanent war?'
Uli Schmetzer was Chief Asia correspondent for the Chicago Tribune for fourteen years mainly based in Beijing. He is the author of 'The
Chinese Juggernaut' available on Amazon.com with a digital version on Kindle.