A few months ago, I wrote a column about how China’s growing influence over America was very worrying, and the situation between China and Japan was unstable. In that column I said a war between the US and China was unrealistic, but events in the months since have added further complications to the situation, and a real war could be in the not-so-distant future.
Both Japan and China have relatively new leaders who both stress strong nationalist tendencies and heavy military spending. The two nations have had a mutually-antagonistic history, with the Chinese trying to invade Japan numerous times, and during the Second World War, in which Japan butchered its way across the Chinese landscape.
This current controversy stems from competing claims over a sparsely-populated island chain which is claimed by the Japanese, Chinese and Philippines as well. China has been getting bolder in its claims, launching naval patrols closer to these islands.
The United States has agreements with both Japan and the Philippines promising to intervene militarily should either nation ever be outright attacked. This may be the only reason China has restrained itself as much as it has, but America’s fiscal state could prevent an appropriate strategic response. Throughout history, very few great empires have been toppled by military conquest alone. Generally a nation decays by its own cause and a rising power is there merely to nudge them over the edge.
If the Chinese do act militarily, there are a number of possible outcomes. The United States could completely abandon her allies, which would be the beginning of the end of America. Even if you disagree with American foreign intervention, it’s hard to disagree with keeping your word on something, even if you may not agree what the preceding generation decided. If we do not stand by our allies in their time of need, how can we depend on them to stand by us in ours?
A war could also be quickly diverted by diplomacy, but our leaders consistently make the mistake of using diplomacy for diplomacy’s sake, and not because it’s the best way to solve an international dispute. Plus, both sides would have to agree to diplomatic solutions, and if it’s only us seeking diplomacy we will get nowhere, since diplomacy implies both sides cooperating.
Another outcome, and the worst possible outcome, is that America does fight, which would more than likely spark another world war. America will call her allies to fight, and Europe would hopefully join us. China is powerful in her own right, but has strong allies like Russia on her side. I said before that America would almost certainly win an all-out military brawl with China. We have the means to win a war, but do we have the will? America has had a history of anti-war movements, notably in the Vietnam era and in Iraq. Even in Vietnam the United States killed 10 enemy combatants for every one man lost, and that was apparently still too high.
If Americans truly have lost their will to fight, then it is pointless for Americans to even have these treaties, knowing what is truly at stake if they move to enforce them.
Hopefully, these problems with the Chinese and Japanese will be resolved peacefully, but if that means compromising the integrity of the United States or her allies, then it would have been a pointless resolution.