Sunday, September 6, 2015

Appeasement - Follow Up

By now, I'm sure you've read about the Chinese task force passing through United States territorial waters (inside the 12 mile limit) near Alaska in an exercise referred to as "innocent passage".  This procedure allows ships to pass through another country's territorial waters under certain conditions.  ComNavOps has no problem, per se, with the Chinese exercising their rights.  There are, however, a few noteworthy aspects to this incident.

First, the timing was such that the incident occurred as President Obama was conducting a trip to Alaska.  The timing and the implicit message could not be more obvious.  However, we'll leave the political aspects and move on.

The maneuver cannot be interpreted as anything but provocative.  The Chinese ships were not in a position where they had no choice but to take that particular path.  The choice was deliberate.  This should speak volumes to us about our current policy of appeasement.  The more we back off, accommodate, and make peaceful gestures and concessions, the more aggressive the Chinese behave.  That's not surprising, really.  History tells us with 100% certainty that appeasement only encourages further aggression.

Remember the incident in Dec 2013 when the Aegis cruiser Cowpens was harassed and chased off from observing a Chinese carrier in international waters in the South China Sea?  We meekly left the area after being harassed and warned off.  We left international waters!  Despite this appeasement, China engages in deliberately provocative maneuvers in US territorial waters.  Do you see the blatant failure of appeasement?  And this is just one example.

So, the Chinese pattern of response to our appeasement is further provocation and aggression.  So much for appeasement.

What we should have done is observe the Chinese innocent passage by having our ships literally bump the Chinese the entire passage and having a non-stop succession of aircraft conduct low level supersonic observation passes over the Chinese ships throughout the entire passage.  If they wanted to send messages, we should have answered with our own.

I can already hear the sniveling and whining.  "We can't risk escalation".  Well, I've got news for you if you can stop wetting yourself long enough to hear it - the Chinese are escalating the situation on a daily basis.  We need to either get in the fight or back completely out of the Pacific and learn to speak Mandarin while we wait for the Chinese to reach San Francisco.


  1. Totally disagree with you. The Chinese no doubt timed the passage to coincide with Obama's Alaska visit. But it was a huge flop as far as Chinese nationalists and militarists are concerned. They wanted to provoke a US response in order to provide precedence for future Chinese military harassment of (US) vessels in the SCS and other near shore waters. US officials did precisely the right thing by doing nothing other than noting the passage and commenting that it conformed to internationally accepted maritime rules and procedures.

    1. So, now you're thinking that they'll stop flouting international law and cease building artificial land on disputed islands because we backed off yet again? You're thinking they'll rescind their claim to control of all shipping and air movements within their EEZ? You're thinking they'll now honor international law regarding disputed territories and submit their claims to international adjudication? You're thinking they'll stop harassing US military aircraft and ships?

      So now there will be no future provocative incidents because we didn't respond to this one? Let me know how that works out.

      You are free to disagree with me but, in fairness, you should acknowledge that your approach is an utter failure.

    2. Com, that is the problem, they did *not* violate international law, which means that the degree of response is limited. Other countries ships practice "innocent passage" every day, if you had reacted, they would have pointed out that you singled them out for biased treatment.

      A good stiff ignoring is the best policy in this case. When people play for an audience, the worst thing you can do to them is to leave them with no audience. Makes them feel ignored.

    3. I'm going to have to agree with Charley here.

      It's mostly posturing by the nationalists in China. Best to shrug and say whatever.

      The only thing worth doing is to quietly improve the USN. In other words build up a defense, but don't provoke.

      Actually CNO, I'm a bit worried about the direction that you're taking this. If a person who thought like you did during the Cuban Missile Crisis, I don't think any of us would be here to type our thoughts out.

    4. Alt, you might want to review the events of the Crisis. Kennedy imposed a blockade in international waters. That's extremely provocative but it drew a line in the water and solved the problem.

      You don't solve a bully problem by appeasement. You solve it by punching the bully in the nose.

      If you don't care for my approach, and given China's clear intent to annex the entire East and South China Seas, where do you draw the line? Hawaii?

      Had someone stood up to Hitler and Germany earlier we might have avoided a world war.

    5. The problem with that is that China is not Hitler. It's not looking to conquer the entire world and commit genocide.

      I'd be far more worried about the economic competition than anything else.

      China is in danger of someday overtaking the US in:
      - Manufacturing output
      - Science and technology, along with basic research
      - Total economic power

      That's the real problem, because if the US loses that, then it will be unable to provide the quality of living standards it once did. Sadly the leadership on top, business and government (if it can be called leadership - as it is quite unworthy IMO of the term) is helping cause the problem.

      As far as a line in the water, well the US needs to draw one. Probably an attack on Taiwan, Japan, or any of the other allies would be a fair line.

      Likewise, the US could adopt other strategies:
      1. Don't recognize the 9 dash line
      2. Another option is to encourage others like Japan to build their own "islands" in a defensive manner.

      But don't actively try to start WWIII.

      The other consideration is the moral one. If China attacks, then they will lose huge reputation points in the eyes of the world. That could have huge implications because their economy is so dependent on trade.

      The US too if it deliberately starts a war would lose reputation-wise. World opinion is already low of the US due to the actions of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. That can hurt economically. Abroad, American tourists for example have gotten a bad reputation. Many Americans I hear and I have seen this first-hand pretend to be Canadian. I'm very angry as a Canadian about this, but I can see why.

      The other issue is if the US provokes China, will its allies join the US reliably? Many of the EU nations might demand neutrality for example.

    6. Alt, I think you're missing the reality of the China issue. I think they are looking to conquer the world or at least a major portion of it. As far as genocide, you might consider the Chinese attitude towards the Japanese and what the result of that might be.

      I see a lot of parallels between Hitler's Germany and China - far too many to be comfortable with giving them the entire East and South China Seas which is where they're headed now due to our unwillingness to forcefully engage.

    7. Sorry Com, but I think you might be working on caricatures of the "Chinese". They're proud, obnoxious, parochial and arrogant, but they are not raving madmen out to rule the world. They want recognition and influence, not territory (partially because they have so much of their own already). Spratleys is a matter of pride and resources, Taiwan is a matter of national pride. Japan is simply a grudge match. None of which involves territory. If the Spratleys were as dry as a bone, they won't even bother.

      As for China vs Japan, I have friends on both sides of the line. You have to understand that the Chinese hate the Japanese *government*, not the Japanese people. Hell, I got friends from both nationalities getting married, and hardly an isolated case. It's something like the hate people have for the "US government". It's an institution that is hated, not the people. The ones that really, really hate the people are in their 80s and are about to die off soon, they are hardly a driving force in the country.

    8. China seems more interested in money and economic development than anything else at this point.

      They don't want to fight as much as they want to be the top dog economically. The Communist (technically it's not really Communist) Party of China too has depended on "performance legitimacy" to stay in power over democratic reforms. Finally there is the matter that China has huge internal challenges - bigger than the US.

      Heck, if you think the Chinese don't like Japan (they don't), look at South Korean attitudes towards Japan (especially the older generation). As if to complete this, they even have their own dispute.

    9. Anon, the only thing I'm working from is the demonstrated actions of the Chinese. There is no other way to interpret them. Failure to see that is voluntary blindness. But, you're welcome to your opinion.

  2. As reported by "The Diplomat' at the time:
    On December 5, a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ship made radio contact with the Cowpens and asked it to leave the area. The USS Cowpens replied that it was in international waters and declined to change course.

    The Cowpens was then shouldered by a PLAN Amphibious Dock Ship that suddenly crossed its bow at a distance of less than 500 meters and stopped in the water. The USS Cowpens was forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision."

    And back in 2009 something similar happened:
    "The USS Chung-Hoon, armed with torpedoes and missiles, is stationed in protection of the USNS Impeccable, an ocean surveillance ship. On Sunday, five Chinese vessels surrounded the Impeccable, which is unarmed. The Chinese ships approached to within 25 feet and blocked the Impeccable's path with pieces of wood, the official said.- Washington Post.

    With 'these countrys ( inc DPRK) you just have to sink them

  3. But I agree.

    It has been normal for the UK to attach an escort to any Russian ship(s) to escort them in and out of “our area of interest” usually several hundred miles, with RAF maritime patrol en suite.

    Can’t really agree with the provocative bumping and supersonic passed, we have to have SOME decorum. However with the forces at your disposal I would have expected a significant response.

    Say 4-5 escorts and continuous overflight through the entire EEZ should have got the message across?

    Do you have details on when and how they were picked up ? AWACS \ P8 etc
    Obviously some monitoring took place.

    1. Can't agree with the provocative stuff, huh? OK. Do you agree with the Chinese forcing down and seizing our EP-3 aircraft or was that not provocative enough to warrant a response in kind? Do you agree with chasing off the Cowpens by committing unsafe acts in international waters or was that not provocative enough to warrant a response in kind? Do you agree with surrounding the USNS Impeccable and harassing it or was that not provocative enough to warrant a response in kind? Do you agree with illegally declaring a military exclusion zone component to the EEZ or was that not provocative enough to warrant a response in kind? I can do this all day but you should be getting the message.

      If you believe we should not be provocative then you are espousing a unilateral restraint which is just appeasement. Tell me how that's worked out in history.

    2. Oh no. You missunderstand. Im personally with you. Largly anyway. But ....

      Difficult for the military to make a statement when the western governments and people seem to be saying the opposite. There seems to be no coherance on china.

      Appeasing them would imply we see ourselves directly in conflics economically, Politically or militarly. I dont thing we are that clear minded ?

  4. We (USN) do 'freedom of navigation' events just like this all the time, all over the world, for decades. To make an incident of Chinese event would be hypocritical in the extreme.

    1. Yes, we do freedom of navigation (which rarely includes entering territorial waters) and it's usually uneventful. However, in the case of the Chinese, our ships and aircraft are routinely harassed, bumped, forced down, and put in harms way by unsafe acts - and all this in international waters!! To fail to respond in kind would be hypocritical in the extreme.

    2. I would be very surprised if we did not passively monitor the Chinese SAG transit. Via MPRA or perhaps SSN.

      Acting as the PRC does in the South China Sea would serve no real purpose.

  5. I think the overt lack of response by the US is fine. My hope is that there was a sub that was tracking them beneath the waves and that the AF had been tracking them since they left port. While the convert actions can't be determined, I'm skeptical that such took place.

    But to your point regarding US efforts in the SCS, it's time to acknowledge that while the US doesn't think it's in a war, China clearly believes they are. It's imperative that the CCP militarization of the EEZ is challenged by the US. The problem is no one else is interesting in participating in this kind of brinkmanship. It's not a fight that America can conduct alone, but I don't see anyone willing to ride shotgun with the USN


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