There is a term that comes to mind with the recent activities surrounding U.S. foreign affairs: The most relevant is FUBAR – known in cleaner terms as “Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition.”
To demonstrate the accuracy of this term, I need only cite the recent meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Russian foreign minister. Mrs. Clinton presented the Russian foreign minister with a gift of an oversized button, which was labeled peregruzka. According to Hillary it meant “reset” – a term to signify what the U.S. and Russia can do to their relations under the new administration.
“You got it wrong,” stated the Russian foreign minister. “Peregruzka means overloaded.”
Of course, this is the kind of mistake one would expect from a first-year Russian language student and not the secretary of state. Still, the mainstream media quickly buried the story, and late night comics – ever known to point out the previous administration’s follies – never uttered a single joke.
Then there is the exchange of gifts between British Prime Minister Brown and President Obama during their first meeting in the White House. Brown presented Obama with a penholder carved out of the oak timbers of the HMS Gannet, a warship best known for enforcing the ban on slave trading.
In return, Obama presented Brown with a DVD collection of classic American movies.
One can only wonder what the six-foot, two-inch invisible rabbit from the gifted “Harvey” would think, much less what America’s closest ally thinks, of a comparison between our movie legacy and the Gannet’s noble acts on the high seas.
Still, the seas have been rough in places far from Washington. For example, several Chinese ships recently challenged an unarmed American vessel working inside international waters. Apparently this was not the first time in recent weeks that U.S. ships have been subjected to abuse around the friendly People’s Republic.
In response, a warship was dispatched and a formal protest lodged with Beijing. The Chinese, however, replied with a demand that U.S. ships stop plying international waters that they consider important. They too responded by sending in a warship. So now there are two warships tensely watching each other.
It would seem that treaties covering free passage in international waters are only for Chinese vessels – especially those passing illegally into the territorial waters of other nations.
China is both testing the new administration and pursuing an old policy of intimidation. China sent a submarine inside Japanese waters and laid claim to the entire South China Sea when their fighter jet collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance aircraft.
The view of China inside Washington is that of a friendly trading partner and not a hostile power, but the reality on the oceans is much different from the world of corporate profits. The fact is that China is not a single voice, and neither is its government.
The Chinese military is known to act on its own without consulting the civilian leaders. It is also a known characteristic of the totalitarian regime that individual warlords and power brokers can take potshots at foreigners in order to enhance their standing at home.
For example, the Chinese shootdown of a satellite caught the civilian government by surprise. The foreign minister, someone who should be in the chain of communications, was completely unaware of the shootdown and embarrassed himself in front of the foreign press.
In fact, the Chinese Foreign Ministry was about to hold an international conference on space debris to demand a ban on anti-satellite weapons inside Beijing when their own military plastered near-earth space with the leftover garbage from the shootdown. The conference was quickly cancelled.
The one-voice view of the Chinese government is the basis for all our current policy decisions. Yet this view varies from day to day. When a foul act can be pinned on a single warlord or princeling and not the main government, the Chinese apologists inside D.C. are quick to point out that the culprit did not have approval in Beijing.
So the view inside the State Department of one China, held by such policy experts as “Reset” Hillary, is a false front, hiding factions and dangerous players. The reality is that China’s government is a totalitarian state that could quickly change from partly hostile to very hostile on the push of a button from some low-level Chinese military officer seeking to score political points.
There were those of us who warned that putting a rookie in charge of our foreign policy was dangerous. Right now two armed warships plying the South China seas hunting each other is a demonstration of that danger. The amateur players at State and the White House have yet to be put to the big test. That test – according to Vice President Biden – will come soon.
One only hopes that talented amateurs and luck will prevail when experience and strategy are needed.