mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
South China Sea Standoff
White House Oscillates on Plans for South China Sea

When asked about reports that Washington had made a decision to send U.S. Navy ships through the 12-mile exclusion zone claimed by China around its reclaimed reefs in the South China Sea, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter sounded unequivocal: “Make no mistake, the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as we do around the world, and the South China Sea will not be an exception. We will do that in the time and places of our choosing.”

However, despite reports circulating last week that the decision had been, or was soon to be, approved by the White House, an unnamed Administration official has now indicated that the final decision has not yet been made: “You know, doing the 12 nautical mile challenge is one among a variety of options that we’re considering. We’re waiting for an interagency decision that includes the White House.”

We find ourselves a bit bewildered by this equivocation—or, rather, we would be bewildered if we weren’t so familiar with this Administration’s style. It seems to us that a more judicious White House would either signal its intention to send ships and then quickly send them, or stay silent. Unless the White House simply can’t control its own agency employees from chattering about undecided policy (which would itself be worrisome), it’s odd, to put it mildly, that this White House seems so comfortable sending mixed signals.

Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • Gene

    I would like to believe that what I call “Claire Fisher Syndrome” does not exist to any degree in this administration, but almost every week I become more certain that it does. Claire Fisher was a character on the recent TV series “Six Feet Under” that ran for about 5 years. Claire was a teenager when the show began and in later seasons went on to college. Her character embodied a type of person I’ve known, and I even recognize some of my own past attitudes in her. She was exasperated and bewildered by the world as she found it. Claire seemed convinced that everything in the world she was born into–political structures; institutions of all types; moral, social and intellectual norms; philosophies; you name it–were incomprehensible, foolish, corrupt, bigoted and put into place by foul people for only the basest of reasons. To participate in any of these existing institutions was in one way or another a betrayal of her own integrity.

    Haven’t we all known such people in our lives? Haven’t many of us had some of those characteristics ourselves? These attitudes are pretty common among adolescents and even among 20-somethings. That a fair number of our leaders may have retained those attitudes into middle age is terrifying.

    • Fat_Man

      Nah, he is more like my wife. Just can’t make up his mind. And if you go ahead and do something anyway, he gets his back up and throws a hissy fit. It took ten years to get her to agree to put the picture I wanted up above the fireplace in my study. Fortunately, this circus has an expiration date.

      • CapitalHawk

        I hate to break it to you FatMan, but that doesn’t sound like it is *your* study. More like, *a* study that your wife lets you use.

        • Fat_Man

          Ten room house inhabited by two people, you would think I am entitled to one of the rooms.

          • CapitalHawk

            Indeed. Seize the day, I mean, study!

  • Blackbeard

    First threaten and then, when China signals resolve, humiliatingly and publicly back down. Could any president be worse at foreign policy than this one?

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Obama will always geek like the coward he is. Not that I want such an incompetent getting America into a war, I would prefer he never opened his stupid pie hole, but he makes all American’s look as cowardly, stupid, and dishonorable as he is.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service