Sunday, December 04, 2011
How Much is Enough?
A recent series of events in the East Asian/South Pacific area have prompted many bloggers, academics, and newspapers to focus their attention on the U.S.-China relationship and what these events mean for U.S. national security. An earlier speech by President Obama promised to "pivot" focus to East Asia, along with a pledge of 2500 Marines based in Australia, a "mere 2500 miles" from Chinese territory. After the Canberra speech by Obama, the foreign policy world was buzzing concerning this "aggressive" move toward China. The United States keeps tens of thousands of troops stationed in Japan and South Korea, right on China's doorstep. It is my opinion that this particular issue has been read into too much. And I agree with a comment Dr. Farley made stating the importance of this for Australia, rather than as an overt signal to China. I doubt the Chinese are getting worked up over the U.S. placing troops almost as far away as Hawaii.
A second event that has garnered attention recently is the renewed diplomatic ties between Myanmar and the U.S. Secretary of State Clinton visited there earlier in the week, the first time in 56 years a U.S. official of such rank has been to the country formerly known as Burma. Just before the Clinton visit, the head of the Myanmar military, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, met with the Vice-President of China and the head of the Chinese PLA. These visits are a somewhat regular occurrence, seeing as how China is Myanmar's top trading partner. However, as an entire article in the NY Times shows, there are scholars and certainly journalists attaching special significance to both the visit by Secretary Clinton and the visit to China from the head of the Myanmar military. While the visit to Myanmar is important, perhaps it is important strictly for what it is? Maybe seeing it as a play towards Chinese dominance in SE Asia is reading too far into it. The U.S. already has strong allies in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Maybe the U.S. simply wants to initiate a stronger connection with Myanmar because it would like to see democracy take hold there after so much brutal oppression?
My point with this diatribe is that I believe that we, as students of national security and foreign policy, are bombarded with blogs, news articles, think tanks, and ticker alerts every day, and it would behoove us to be able to sift through it all more effectively by being more critical of opinions and discussion topics that seem to exist simply so someone can have an opinion. In my opinion, and I may be alone, we(academics, bloggers, students) tend to read into things too much. While it is a good idea to view an issue from several angles, I feel that sometimes we get carried away and lose focus. Having said all that, please do not read too deeply into this post, as I tried to leave nothing between the lines.