This is the difference between strong leaders and weak leaders. And it will have consequences for the United States
I was about to write a post – and would have before if I wasn’t trying to get in a little break for Thanksgiving – about how President Obama had finally made a bold move in the international arena and immediately reaped a reward. He stood up to Chinese aggression by saying Thanks but no thanks to China’s unilateral expansion of its “air defense” zone, sending a couple of B-52s right through the area without notifying the Chinese, as had been demanded.
The Chinese then sputtered that they didn’t mean to hurt anyone and generally seemed to be backing off, though they started sending up some jets to “escort” those in the area.
And then I read this in the New York Times:
Even as China scrambled fighter jets to enforce its newly declared air defense zone, the Obama administration said on Friday that it was advising American commercial airlines to comply with China’s demands to be notified in advance of flights through the area.
While the United States continued to defy China by sending military planes into the zone unannounced, administration officials said they had made the decision to urge civilian planes to adhere to Beijing’s new rules in part because they worried about an unintended confrontation.
The decision contrasted with that of Japan’s government this week, when it asked several Japanese airlines, which were voluntarily following China’s rules, to stop, apparently out of fear that complying with the rules would add legitimacy to Chinese claims to islands that sit below the now contested airspace.
Although the officials made clear that the administration rejects China’s unilateral declaration of control of the airspace over a large area of the East China Sea, the guidance to the airlines could be interpreted in the region as a concession in the battle of wills with China.
Well, your damn right this will be interpreted as a concession. Because it is a concession, and a dangerous one that will encourage more Chinese aggression in the region. And not only those we’re supposed to be protecting in the region will notice our weakness. It will be duly noted in Tehran and Jerusalem as well.
The concern with the safety of civilian flights is understandable but must not be determinative. We live in a dangerous world. We must accept some dangers in the interest of our national security, lest the world become even more dangerous.
It’s just the latest attempt by the the Obama administration to put the world on notice that the United States IS to be messed with and must not be counted on.
This is a striking contrast to Ronald Reagan’s handling of the illegal air traffic controllers’ strike in 1981. He fired them all, and there was plenty of consternation in the nation and even within the White House about the chance of an accident. But some of the strikers caved, new ones were hired and trained, and nothing happened.
What’s more, the Soviet politburo realized it was no longer dealing with a feckless America, and the knowledge that they were up against a serious and determined adversary helped lead to the end of the Cold War.
A serious and determined adversary is not what our enemies face today.