Here’s some saber-rattling from John Bosco at the National Interest on the subjects on which I touched yesterday, China’s provocative actions on its periphery and our apparent inability to articulate clear objectives. Mr. Bosco recommends that the president take up one of the pens he’s mentioned recently:
The president should take that same pen and draw a red line across the Asia Pacific region in response to China’s threats of force in the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, and the East China Sea. The line would also transverse the Korean Peninsula at the 38th Parallel.
Then he needs to pick up that phone and enlist the cooperation of America’s regional allies—Japan, South Korea, Australia, Philippines—as well as friends and security partners like Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia. He should assure them of Washington’s commitment to maritime and aviation security in the region and seek their material and diplomatic support for that common good.
China’s leaders, and some U.S. commentators, will charge provocation. But such a presidential declaration will ultimately avoid conflict by affirming freedom of navigation and flight as a unifying theme in the regional and international order that has existed for over six decades.
It would not be the first time a U.S. leader drew a line on the map of Asia. Secretary of State Dean Acheson and General Douglas MacArthur, supported by President Harry Truman, did it in early 1950 to declare U.S. strategic resistance to Communist expansion. Unfortunately, their defense perimeter did not include South Korea or Taiwan. Beijing and Pyongyang saw not a red line but a green light, and the Korean War erupted.
I don’t think that’s any more in our interest than carrying so much of the water for our putative European allies has been but I strongly suspect I’d be out-voted on that.