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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