The US Secretary of Defense is claiming the use of international law to counter China’s territorial claims. Here is the problem: Washington for decades has been highly corrosive to the support of international law and only uses it and the UN when it suits them. Thus, his credibility as an intervenor in the South China Sea island disputes has been put into dispute, itself.
Let us look at serious Washington infractions of international law. The Gulf of Tonkin incident was an illegal red flag operation to get the US excuse to effectively start the murderous Vietnam War in Asia that by the way it lost in the end. It cost both huge numbers of lives and the government a fortune and much inflation.
More international diplomacy might have helped even the US in the end but of course not its military industrial complexe that largely dislike road bumps on its quests for profits. Any defense secretary that gets in the way of that is toast. We will not go into all the illegal assassinations that likely continue to today.
More recently, the U.S. continues to fly into Syrian aerospace without the permission of that government which is necessary in this case as far as international law goes. It bombed Libya with no real full Security Council mandate. We can go on and on with this Wild West diplomacy.
Therefore US has undermined the UN to give force to resolutions that might have been helpful to the resolution of these island disputes. Realistically though, China with a veto in the Security Council could veto any resolution encouraging more diplomatic efforts over these island disputes.
In the face of US unilateralism on so many issues and heavy handed actions over it allies by its reps such as Victoria Nuland and John McCain, I doubt Beijing is in any mood to listen to America.
Furthermore, heavy-handed sanctions against Russia have just reminded Beijing that U.S. policy has become more aggressive against those who do not queue up to U.S. followership. This does not impress a country that is in no mood to be subordinated including in international finance or with its currency as it has successfully shown. And it has proven it can act independently there.
Ashton Carter is part of a huge apparatus that has killed off a lot of US credibility on international law with its “might over right” paradigm. connected to this from the previous administration, George Bush’s Iraq attack represented a fundamental lack of respect for international law which heightened the negative fall-out of Washington’s blunder. It basically told even its allies as Victoria Nuland has subsequently done over Ukraine to go stuff themselves. And Carter tries to infer high-mindedness by the US for international diplomacy?
So no surprise that China is taking a page out of Washington’s playbook? And no surprise that we have this kind of world disorder that America largely worsened after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
We need a Washington, first of all really committed to international law if we are to impress others to follow it. One that applies to all and does not exclude Americans from war crimes including US presidents.
Otherwise statements by Ashton Carter to encourage China to follow international rules will clearly have much less resonance. You really have to wonder whether it is amateur hour in the way much of Washington deals with China and overall foreign policy. Go figure. Enough said. China will continue on grab what it wants given Washington’s weak posture.