Growing evidence of US as unreliable partner

It is important to point out that the major theme related to security in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to the US Congress on January 28 evening was military retrenchment.

Highlighting the fact that he had reduced foreign deployment (mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan) from 180,000 when he took office to 60,000 troops today, he emphasized that the main threat was terrorism, not what Senator John McCain earlier in the day in the confirmation hearings for former Senator Max Baucus as Ambassador to Beijing said was “the rising threat from China”. And even as regards terrorists, Obama said “America must move off a permanent war footing” and that he “will not send our troops into harm’s way unless it’s truly necessary; nor will I allow [Americans] to be mired in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us – large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.” Included in this reduced effort is imposing “prudent limits on the use of drones – for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence.” Rather, the US, he stated, would “aggressively pursue terrorist networks – through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners” Further, the US president elaborated that “in a world of complex threats, our security and leadership depends on all elements of our power – including strong and principled diplomacy.” he attributed the supposed success the America has had in Syria, in moving Israel towards accepting an independent Palestine, and in halting “the progress of Iran’s nuclear program” to “American diplomacy backed by power”.

Mirroring his boss’ views, Sen. Baucus responded to McCain’s threat perception of China as “a rising threat or challenge to peace and security in Asia because of the profound belief in the Chinese leadership that China must, and will, regain the dominant role that they had for a couple of thousand years in Asia” by saying that “The overarching goal here is for us as a country…to engage China with eyes wide open to try to find common ground,” such as through improved military-to-military cooperation in a complicated relationship.

It provides more and growing evidence of a US that’s simply unwilling to risk a fight with China and a Washington bending over backwards to avoid it including, as mentioned in my piece — “America an unreliable partner”, any conflict between China and any Asian strategic partner in which American security interests are not directly engaged. In fact, military-to-military cooperation will only end up benefitting the Chinese military by exposing PLAN to new ways of fusing and using its forces, and new technologies and novel ways of utilizing them, etc.

It compels the governments of India and other countries of Asia on the Chinese periphery and with manifest security problems with China to think of joining in a collective hedging strategy to curtail Chinese ambitions and the use of its military muscle. This the Asian countries won’t be able to do if New Delhi, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Hanoi and the ASEAN states continue to disregard the imperatives of strategic geography and believe that accommodating China will prevent and preempt conflict with it in the future.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Asian geopolitics, China, China military, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Politics, Japan, Northeast Asia, South Asia, South East Asia, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, United States, US., West Asia, Western militaries. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Growing evidence of US as unreliable partner

  1. Subhash Bhagwat says:

    Partnerships based on total inequality never succeed. The only partnership that can be considered to have succeeded (or at least not ended in disaster) is that between America and Europe after WW II. This is because America had a genuine interest in strengthening western Europe as a bulwark against Communism and also saw western Europeans as “relatives”. China recognized the importance of dealing with other countries from strength but avoided the pitfalls Russians fell into by pursuing economic diplomacy as well. Today, China has become the world’s manufacturing shop. American consumer is utterly dependent on Chinese goods and American government sleepwalked into accepting China as the moneylender of last resort. This dependency relationship tied American hands in dealing with China. Pakistan exploited her geographic advantage as the only feasible route for American war supplies to troops in Afghanistan, thereby blackmailing America into handling Pakistan with kid gloves. Both neighbors of India have made themselves indispensable to the United States. What has India done? India has neither the military nor the economic strength to make itself important from the U.S. point of view. India’s views can, and actually are, ignored, not only by America but by almost every country small or large because India never cared for her own national interests. Instead of bemoaning the “unreliability” of America as partner India needs to focus on building her strength. The goal should be to make America seek India’s partnership instead of India whining for not getting it. That is where China has brought America to. One hopeful sign that it can be done is seen in the State of Gujarat. Official American policy to void Mr. Modi’s visa based on agitations of a handful of leftist Indian academics at U.S. universities stands in complete contrast to the beeline American industrialists are making to Gandhinagar to grab the chance to invest and make profits. Their pressure will force the U.S. government to eat humble pie if Mr. Modi becomes the next PM of India. Mr. Modi has demonstrated the power of development and self-respect at the state level. The hope is that he will do the same at the national level.

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