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South China Sea
Does Obama Have a Plan for the South China Sea?

After the U.S. conducted a high-profile freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea on Monday, we’ve been wondering what President Obama’s next step will be. We aren’t the only ones, according to Josh Rogin at Bloomberg:

U.S. officials told me Tuesday that the Chinese reaction was as expected and that the Obama administration had publicly signaled for months that the freedom of navigation operation would take place. There is no expectation that one ship’s action will deter the Chinese expansion in the South China Sea. Instead there is a new internal debate over what the U.S. should do next and when.

Bill Bishop, who pointed us to Rogin’s article in his excellent Sinocism newsletter, asks, “Does the author mean the U.S. sent the ship without a longer term plan?” It’s a worrying thought—the possibility that the U.S. would conduct such provocative activities without a follow-up plan is deeply troubling. At first blush, it may appear to be a ridiculous suggestion. Yet it would be only too consistent for a White House that doesn’t seem to like longterm strategic planning. So, alas, we find ourselves worried that the President hasn’t properly thought through even one of his wiser foreign policy maneuvers.

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  • JR

    No, Obama does not have a clue what he is doing in South China Sea. That was an easy question to answer!

    • Andrew Allison

      The last four words of the first sentence are redundant. From the Greater Middle East to the South China Sea, the administration is clueless.

    • Fat_Man

      That is not true. He checks the polling numbers every day to find out what he should do.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Are we pretending that Donald Trump or Ben Carson has the kind of long-term plans on China that are being queried here? Are we pretending that John McCain or Mitt Romney had such plans in the event(s) they either had become president?

    C’mon. NOBODY “knows” far in advance how to handle the rise of China’s phony islands or any other world event. It’s always touch and go.

    • Dale Fayda

      I think the article is pretty much saying what it wants to convey – Obama is weak and indecisive and has telegraphed that impression to the entire world since day one. He doesn’t know how to deter anyone from doing anything and he doesn’t really want to. He’s just running out the string until he leaves office and everything he’s doing until then is just for show. Seemed pretty clear to me.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Of course that is what the article is saying. The question is what is the article suggesting as an alternative to the actions of the supposedly-weak Obama?
        I didn’t see anything, which is an odd stance for critics to have.

        • Dale Fayda

          It’s not the author’s nor the critics’ job to provide an alternatives to Obama’s plan or to the lack thereof. They’re not the ones running the American foreign policy, but Obama and his crew of incompetents are. Or do you think Valerie Jarrett is scouring obscure blogs for useful suggestions on the regime’s next move?

          The article is posing a legitimate question, within the space constraints of its format. The commenters are replying to the question posed in the title of the article within the time and space constraints of the comment section. If you look to the right side of the main page of this blog, we’ll see links to a variety of editorials, which deal with some of the issues raised in previous posts on this blog in more detail. Perhaps, one of TAI contributors will grace us with an opinion piece on this question and will offer a number of alternatives to what Obama is doing. Or not.

          Or maybe one of the commenters will expound on this subject at length and give us something more to chew on. Give it time, FG.

          Feel better?

          • FriendlyGoat

            No. I wasn’t (even as a liberal) “with” the critics who endlessly bashed George W. Bush for having hope for democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan and I’m not with those who endlessly bash Obama for presiding over the similar FAILURES OF ISLAMIC VOTERS in Egypt, Libya and Syria.

            With respect to China, there are LIMITS to America’s power to command the actions of that giant nation, both now and in the future.
            So, I do not see “bluster” from any White House as constructive. And this article and comments are demanding more bluster and not much else.

          • Dale Fayda

            Once again, misdirection.

            Neither the writer of the article nor any of the commenters are demanding anything, least of all “bluster”. The author is posing a question about Obama’s plan or the lack thereof in response to China’s blatant expansionist aggression in the South China Sea. The commenters are pretty much in agreement that no, Obama doesn’t have a plan to deal with the ChiComs and “bluster” is about all he can offer and even that he doesn’t do well. Bluster only works when the other side thinks you’re prepared to follow through on your threats with steely – eyed determination. History has shown that concept and Obama to be mutually exclusive, hence the apparent consensus among the commenters. Well, when it comes to our foreign enemies, anyway. When it comes to “fundamentally transforming the United States of America”, Obama is Iron Man.

            No reason to overthink this, really. The TAI posed a fairly simple question and most of us gave a fairly simple answer.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Yes. The “fairly simple” question was an over-sized clay pigeon lobbed very slowly overhead and the sport shooters all hit it with a wide-spray shotgun. But nobody was enhanced by either the question or the answers.

    • Matt B

      “Are we pretending that John McCain or Mitt Romney had such plans in the event(s) they either had become president?”
      It’s not that McCain had a plan in 2008 for events in 2015, but any competent leader develops a strategy and then acts within that strategy.
      Obama threw strategy out the window when he took office, confident that his good intentions and the enlightened self-interest of other nations would usher in a new era of peace.

      Heck of a job Barry!

      • FriendlyGoat

        “good intentions and enlightened self-interest” are not dirty words for anyone to contemplate—-whether it’s Obama or nations doing the contemplating.
        We’d rather blow people up, or what?

        • Tom

          They are dirty words, if they do not match up with readily observable reality. Paging Woodrow Wilson on line 1919.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You have already written enough about morality on this site for us to just say “Stop it, Tom” when you start spinning crap like this just to argue with a liberal. Good intentions are never “dirty”. Never.
            You CANNOT be a Bible man and a perpetual cynic at the same time.

          • Tom

            First, in point of fact, I can be a Bible man and a cynic regarding this fallen world. If you don’t believe me, go read Ecclesiastes. If there was ever a cynical man on this earth, the writer of that book was he.

            As to the rest, I have found that “good intentions” too often pave the road to hell, and, in that context, are in fact “dirty words.” You are confusing two of the senses of “dirty.”

          • FriendlyGoat

            I’m hoping for the best and the nearest the world can behave to what Jesus asked of us. I want to stay on that top side and that latter part of the Bible. There are always negative realities, but we have to keep trying, don’t we?

          • Tom

            Gentle as doves, as cunning as serpents. Each will fail without the other, and leave everyone worse off.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Of course I am familiar with the source of your first sentence, but not the second.

          • Jim__L

            Both the cynic and the Christian believe the world is screwed up so badly only divine intervention can help.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Some cynics don’t believe in “divine anything”. I’m hoping that those who believe in “divine” and talk about “divine” will not be falling in with the other cynics. This is why I am frustrated that right-wing political tone has infected our churches to the detriment of both the politics and the churches.

            Flat-out insisting that “good intentions” are dirty words is a symptom of this conflicted state in the minds of too many Christians. Jesus is not “conflicting” them. Something else is.

    • Jim__L

      Did Bismark have a plan for defeating Denmark during the Schlesewig-Holstein question, or did he simply leave it to von Moltke?

      • FriendlyGoat

        George W. Bush wanted to believe that if we cleaned Taliban out of Afghanistan and Saddam out of Iraq that the people of purple fingers would point the way to better—-and more secular—-beginnings in both places.
        President Bush and we all share in disappointment that Islamic voters did not respond in the way we hoped. Obama was continuing the hope to try to let elections fix Egypt and Libya if the dictators were side-lined. Again, the “hope” (which was the “plan) did not pan out in any desirable results.

        Now we are back at the point of realizing more or less that we have to support dictators to prevent Islamic chaos—-and that realization stinks.
        I see Obama as having continued with the Bush “hope” with the belief that his own healing words would help—-but they didn’t. Islam is a TOUGH NUT to crack. We all know that now, and none of us have a clue what to do about that, especially since we have already worn out the public patience with endless deployments of our service people to such hell-hole places.

        • Jim__L

          Are you suggesting that if the public hadn’t been worn out about deploying troops to the Middle East, that would be a useful part of a solution here?

          • FriendlyGoat

            I doubt it would be “useful”, knowing what we now know about Islamic voters in Islamic places, but the march toward doing something with military force is easier to drum up when the public isn’t already worn out on war like now is the case. It’s not lost on us that Afghanistan is/was the longest USA war and not producing the fruit anyone expected from it, no? So who wants to go to Syria with 300,000 American soldiers?

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