Hamilton — Grand strategy: China opts for the blue waters
International commerce runs on oil. What drives international affairs these days is that Saudi Arabia needs to sell oil and Red China needs to buy oil. But there is a lot of water between the oil of the Middle East and the factories of Red China.
Prior to the advent of Team Obama, the Red Chinese could count on the United States to help the Saudis provide them with oil and to use the U.S. Navy to guarantee freedom-of-the-seas to all nations engaging in peaceful commerce.
Now, the Red Chinese view our problems in Libya, our premature retreat from Iraq, the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Iran’s proxy control of the Red Sea and the Suez Canal via Yemen, and how a nuclear-armed Iran could shut down the Persian Gulf, as a serious threat to its supply of oil from the Middle East.
So, China’s recently announced military strategy calls for the creation of a robust blue-water navy designed to keep open the waters between the Middle East and Chinese ports and, more ominously, to push the U.S. Navy out of East Asian waters so the Chinese can seize the supposedly oil-rich Spratly Islands that lie in the waters between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
Historically, with the exception of the period between 1405 and 1433, under Admiral Zheng He, the Chinese have focused on land power rather than sea power. But with the U.S. Navy shrinking below pre-World War II levels and U.S. foreign policy in world-wide retreat, the new Chinese strategy proclaims: “The traditional mentality that land outweighs sea must be abandoned … and great importance has to be attached to managing the seas and oceans and protecting maritime rights and interests.”
Of course, if the United States re-imposed the Pax Americana on the Middle East and re-established our guarantee of freedom-of-the-seas, the Red Chinese would not need a blue-water navy nor would they be trying to perfect a territorial claim to one of the Spratly atolls by raising it up out of the water with sandbags stuffed with Chinese soil.
But the Chinese, taking the long view of history, probably recall America’s weak response to the sinking of the HMS Lusitania. On May 7, 1915, without warning, the German submarine U-20, sank the British passenger liner the HMS Lusitania, killing 1,198 men, women, and children — to include 128 Americans. This atrocity might have been prevented if President Woodrow Wilson had made it abundantly clear at the outset of World War I in August 1914 that atrocities committed by Germany on the high seas would compel him to ask Congress for a Declaration of War. Instead, after the widower Wilson married the widow, Edith Galt, the two played golf almost every day of World War I. Sound familiar?
So, unless the United States makes it abundantly clear that the Red Chinese will not be allowed to make the Spratly Islands part of China, the CHICOMs will start construction of a military airfield on top of that sandbagged Spratly atoll. But don’t worry. President Obama has a secret weapon: Global warming. The melting of the polar ice caps and the rise of the oceans may outpace the CHICOM’s supply of sandbags.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame, and is a recipient of the University of Nebraska 2015 Alumni Achievement Award. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
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