Sol Sanders | Follow the money No. 92 Obama [tries] to move the drama East

rcwhalen's picture

Latest from Uncle Sol.  A version of this column is scheduled for publication Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, in The Washington Times. -- Chris

Follow the money No. 92 | Obama [tries] to move the drama East

Sol Sanders

The Obama Administration is trying to turn an historical page.

The president’s current Pacific tour is promoted as “a return to Asia”, an acknowledgement of its rapidly growing economies, and, of course, recognition of China as a world power. History has a way of dictating its own terms, however. [When asked what next in his agenda, Britain’s Prime Minister Harold Macmillan reminded a young inquirer, “Events, my dear boy, events!”]

As much as the Administration stages in a too long neglected legitimate theater, it’s also an attempt on the eve of a presidential campaign to shuck emphasis on the continuing dismal Middle East scenarios – where Barack Hussein Obama plunged with such enthusiasm only a little over two years ago.

Massive PR only partly obscures how far Washington can escape the Mideast – even with a much publicized exit from Iraq [with an intermediate stop in Kuwait] and a devil-take-the-hindmost Afghanistan withdrawal. The Arab Spring is turning as feckless as its 1968 Prague Spring namesake, offering little resolution of fundamentals -- e.g., jobs for the world’s largest demographic bulge. Syria, where wish has betrayed realism in American policy, ticks ominously. Mr. Obama’s repeated profitless overtures to Tehran’s mullahs are concluding with an eminent threat of Iranian nuclear weapons. NATO’s vaunted southeastern tentpeg, Turkey, lurches from one contradictory foreign initiative to another with an overblown economic bubble about to burst.

Furthermore, the President’s company of players including speechwriters cavalierly promoted to geopolitician will encounter a host of equally difficult – many no less pressing -- issues. Meetings with an alphabet soup of Asia-Pacific organizations and brief encounters with national leaders won’t resolve outstanding strategic issues Washington long has had on backburner.

Taking precedence is Japan, cornerstone of all U.S. Asian strategies, after this Administration too often has given it short shrift. But Washington will have to continue dealing with a Japanese administration holding on to power by its geta hana-oh. Unresolved is Okinawa military redeployment, with this current Tokyo government more beholden than former conservative administrations to rapacious locals threatening invaluable U.S. regional bases. And now Washington has handed Prime Minister Yoshikiho Noda another piece of hot tofu: the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed nine-nation free-trade pact from Chile through the U.S. and Japan to Singapore. Tokyo’s highly subsidized and politically powerful agricultural lobby sees a threat to protected food markets at a time commercial and political relations with China – not included in this party round -- are Tokyo’s overriding concern. The North Korean ghost haunts from offstage: a juvenile delinquent holding weapons of mass destruction to neighbors’ heads, a trading and technological partner to every other world pariah with its own only alternative strategic prospect anarchic implosion.

Realists would ask more seminal questions: Will Mr. Obama’s one-on-one in Hawaii with outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao smooth the unequal bilateral trade playing field, not a small cause of current world currency and fiscal imbalances? It’s not likely Chinese manipulated currency and intellectual property theft will be remedied. Complicating negotiating these Chinese practices will be Beijing’s ultra-mercantilism becoming a louder and louder wild card in coming American presidential debate. In Beijing, itself, a Communist generational switch – perhaps not going as smoothly as thought a few months ago – struggles with Party dogma attempting to finesse restraining inflation while simultaneously spurring super rapid growth, so long seen as the only card the regime holds as civil dissidence rises.

Thus the combination of Mr. Obama’s continued denigration of America’s historic role, the Washington domestic economic policy tangle, the increasingly aggressive Chinese menace, all challenge the Obama Administration’s modeling a new American Pacific presence.

In fact, it’s a call historically as inaccurate as Mr. Obama’s earlier Istanbul and Cairo speeches summoning myth rather than history for an accommodation with Islam. America’s Asian role always has loomed large since the late 19th century. But alas! Mr. Obama did not take a leaf from Pres. Ronald Reagan’s economic strategy: The Gipper used his “stimulus” in part to rebuild American defenses to face down the Soviets. A new call now to American Pacific destiny rings hollow as the U.S. Navy’s decades-old hegemonic East Asian role erodes in the face of a rapid Chinese buildup with an American fleet soon smaller than any since pre-World War II -- however revolutionary its new technologies.

Careful! That trumpet call could sound tinhorn.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
zippy_uk's picture

The world, US, and other Western countries are in a bad place at the moment. But I have to take issue with this article.

Take the UK experience. Once India left the empire as it was, there was a brief attempt to hold on to what remained. Once the economic chill wind blew, combined with nationalism of remaining states, it became clear that this "global" role for the UK cost us much more than we could ever recieve. Trade and our local trading partners in Europe wete the new answer. The first Aftican states got independance in 1961 and by 1965 it was all over. The UK however was better off - so many problems (always "our fault" now belonged somewhere else). We adapted, and we moved on. Now we have our culteral enterprise - education, entertainment, knowhow and tourism - we have become a cultural superpower - something that can be sustained for decades or even longer. In fact in some respects, the rise of India will actually underpin this further.

For the US, a similar story is being played out. Not only is (currently) the dollar the world reserve currency, but what is also forgotten is the post 1945 settlement. When the world needed rebuilding the US was the only power left standing. The US financed the rebuilding of the world, what it looked like and who benefitted, who was to be brought up and who was to be kept down. This settlement ment that Europe, latin America, key parts of Asia, Japan and the Middle East followed the American way and chased the American dollar to the tune of Washington. Simply put there was no other game in town.

What is now happening however, is that other players have emerged. They are not necessarily even that strong in relation to the US - but the balance of power has shifted, and will continue to shift like a rising tide. There is no stopping it. Even the EU has managed to face down massive corportate companies such as Microsoft and make them play by EU rules - unthinkable only 20 years ago.

It has been obvious for outsiders that the American century won't make it past 75 years. Its time the rehtoric about triple A rated for ever and delusions about controlling events for the next 100 years comes to an end. The real issues are how to wind down the bases in overseas countries to maximise stategic reach while keeping cost and sustainability. How to force the Chinese to get their trading practice on a level playing field and who are to be the US allies in the future.

This means difficult decisions on defense, cutting the budget deficit and retreating to a surplus, getting close to proven allies and cutting lose others which double deal or are ineffectual. If you think US military power is forever, remember what the US did to the UK and France over Suez - without a shot fired a successful mitary campaign stopped over finances - Then remember that US finances are in hoc to the Chinese.

Finally, the US has to throw problems it thinks it has to deal with to other countries. China looks smart at the minute because it muscles in to clean up trade after Western military interventions - its time the West, and the US in particular turns that equation around. Let the Chinese sort out some of these geo-political problems, let Iran have to deal with security problems in the Middle East.

US thinking about Asia is that Asia is the economic future. What the US does not understand it that is correct, so the top decisions will be made by Asian countries - China / India and the US won't be a part of it - nor anyone else. Accepting that fact will be key to working out what is defenable, and what needs to be left to managed flooding when the geopolitical turn turns.

AurorusBorealus's picture

Very well put.  Same point that I am making.


zippy_uk's picture

Yes  - only saw you post after I had put mine. Totally agree with what you are saying also. The same point infact.

As an outsider - the to me points to Ron Paul as the candidate Americans should be voting for. None of the others cut it.

AurorusBorealus's picture

America's "historic" role in the Pacific has been as caretaker for defunct European imperial provinces: Vietnam, the Phillipines, and as gunboat diplomats, forcing open ports and trade routes with Japan and carving out a sphere of influence in China.  We did not "build-up" Japan or Korea, we simply rebuilt Japan after we had destroyed all of their industry (the same industry that had built aircraft, tanks, and a navy superior to what the Americans could put to sea circa 1942).  Our naval bases in remote imperial provinces have never been much of a deterrent to a determined, armed Asian power.  America watched helplessly as the Japanese smashed the Russian fleet, invaded Manchuria, Korea, and China.  The Americans fled the Phillipines and retreated to Australia and Hawaii, until a decisive naval victory at Midway turned the tide and allowed America's arms industry the time necessary to build a fleet sufficient to be more than an interloper in Asian affairs.

To suggest that a massive four-year naval build-up after the attack on Pearl Harbor be sustained for decades and somehow constitutes America's "historic" role in the Pacific is beyond absurd.  Put away your fancy post-modern jibberish and write in English. I doubt anyone here will buy your snakeoil war-mongering because you read Jacques Derrida in college.

anonnn's picture

"The Arab Spring is turning as feckless as ...

Feckless? Without effect?

 Need to shift viewpoint to "Who or what benefits",  like, hmmmm, "What plan includes the apparent clusterfucks as a  step toward its goal?"

When you posit it, then feckless it aint.

The Big Ching-aso's picture

Denigrations Gone Wild.     Compromised audiences only.

eaglefalcon's picture

denigrate?  I thought it was politically incorrect to use the n-word

Divine Wind's picture

I cringe every time POTUS leaves the country,

More so when he heads to Asia.

Even if he never opened his mouth, he is at a disadvantage the moment the plane door opens due to his complexion. Asian cultures associate darker complexions with farm labor. Just part of the societal stratification of an historically agrarian society.

But while the world sees that Obama carries the TITLE of POTUS, they all know he is nothing more than a pimped out shuck and jive playa. Nothing about this man says leader, deep thinker or gifted statesman.

Conversely, everything about the man says pop culture, symbolism over substance and slick packaging.

He is also a piss poor negotiator going head to head with the masters of the art, holding a shitty hand and heavily in need of more Chinese Kwan.

It makes me wonder what state / defense secrets he and Lil Timmy will be handing over in order to buy their continued forbearance?





max2205's picture

I thought Col Sanders past away a while ago....

NoClueSneaker's picture

"Intellectual property theft", "manipulated currency",

- "we shall overcum"


Any chance to get the phone of his dealer ?

granolageek's picture

Jingo, jingo jingo, jingo all the way.


If Bibi wants a war, let him fight it. Firing on a NATO (Turkish) warship would be a good way to get one. If the ozzies need backup (and they do) , I volunteer the Japanese and the kiwis. Only when they've stepped up should we and the Canadians.

Printfaster's picture

Shakedown tour.

The NY Times put out an OP-ED page yesterday that proposed selling out Taiwan for all US debt.  Here is the review from Taiwan:

What it means is:  Hey Taiwan homies, pay up or we breaka your legs.  Fill up my campaign funds or bad things can happen.  Your sister has a pretty face.  Be a shame if there were an accident.


buyingsterling's picture

Bring the men home, leave the bases and most of the equipment as payment on debt.

lindaamick's picture

more war mongering and amerika empire talk.

kaiserhoff's picture

Lots of pompous verbiage, but what did he say?  Investor's Business Daily still has consistent, solid coverage of Asia without the froth, or better yet, just ask WB7 or Chindit13.

bank guy in Brussels's picture

Sol Sanders, dude, it is really weird to have your Neanderthal Republicans-versus-Obama piece here. You have been drinking the neo-con & zionist juice too much.

So you think Iran's « eminent » - that should be 'imminent', dude - 'threat of nuclear weapons' is some kind of real issue, something important to all the American workers and business people robbed of everything they've worked for all their lives, by thieving US oligarchs and bribed regulators and legislators and US judges?

You think the US overseas military empire, bases in Japan, a trillion US dollars for this shite, is something important, while nearly fifty million Americans are on the food stamp credit card?

You think China's second-string military is some kind of 'threat' to US workers and small business people? You think ZeroHedge is the place for this kind of Drudge Report shite? You talk about the 'Chinese menace' - your ridiculous words - like you are some 'yellow peril' idiot of fifty years ago.

You think North Korea is another big 'threat', with 'weapons of mass destruction', all f*cking two nuke bombs they have?

Dude, you need a dose of America's Ron Paul, quick. He's not perfect, but he can sure tell ya about American foreign policy and what the US really needs to defend itself against foreign 'threats'.

Oswald Spengler's picture

Imagine peace and love all you want. It's against human nature.

11b40's picture

I won't argue with the aggressive nature of man, but so what.  If we stopped funding every new weapons program we have, it would take decades for any country on the planet to pose a viable military threat against America.  IF anyone even came close, we could quickly takecare of that problem.  The real threat is from the rot and corruption within....the one we are exposing more evey day.

So far as China & militarism, where are the funds coming from that even allows them to build even a semblance of a Navy?  If you guessed that it is us, you win the prize.  Screw the military adventures and gunboat diplomacy.  Fix our economy, start enforcing the rule of law, punish the lawbreakers, and watch our world grow brighter.

catch edge ghost's picture

quick read:

Hu's your daddy.  Elvis needs boats.

earleflorida's picture

This tells all,... nothing to add, but lots  to take away - absolutely brilliant.


sleepingbeauty's picture

Obama has not forced the inclusion of Canada in the group. Now that seems like they do not have as much power in this group as they usually do. Canadian and American interests usually co-incide, so Obama in a normal set of circumstances would include Canada, as it is another vote for the American thought process and bargaining. If Canada is not getting invited, then it means that either US cannot influence enough to get them in or US is not happy with Canuckistan. And Canada is talking about selling Oil to others instead of the US of A. Hmmmm.

Just wierd.

earleflorida's picture

america has no energy program - why?

america's energy program is of the highest national security -

energy independence = nat'l security = paying down debt -

avoiding energy independence is treason, period!     


Strongbad's picture

Why would we tap our own vast natural resources and use them up when its just as easy to print paper tickets and exchange them for everyone else's resources?  Game theory says we should use up everyone else's resources for as long as they will take worthless digits for real resources.  When the paper ponzi collapses, we have the most advanced oil, gas, timber, coal, and gold mining companies in the world that can quickly get us up and running from domestic sources.  Why do you think the gov't is dragging its feet tapping the Alaskan and North Dakota oil?  So long as we just default on the debt through inflation, we are basically getting all the oil and resources we want for free under the current system.  Enjoy $3 gasoline and $1700 gold while it lasts!

EDIT: I'm not saying the current fiat system is honest or good (End the Fed!), I'm just explaining one possible strategic explanation for why our gov't doesn't seem to care about inflation or domestic drilling at the moment.

Steroid's picture

You would be right if it were only materials and commodities.

However, what the US gets for its free tickets are not only oil, metals and other commodities but

Chaos, central planning, lazy immoral welfare recipients of a fascist state as well.

How much oil does this worth? Can America stil come back from the abyss?

On the other hand, only bankrupcy stops the beast. It could be a double whammy or total...itarianism!

This is the ultimate bet in this CASINO!

Madcow's picture

Bingo. Well use their oil and consume their goods. Then nuke the. Currency and implode the global ecOnomy. Then we can rebuild by tapping nat gas and heavy oil - of which there is plenty in N America. Brilliant. USA wins again. Yes - the intl. community will no longer trust the USA but it won't matter at that point. The east will be struggling with starvation and energy shortages ( sadly Europe too ) and won't be able to retaliate -

zippy_uk's picture

Yes - except trading partners will begin to wise up to that and not trade with you any more, no matter how much "FIAT" you put on the table. They may decide to stop your exports also or gouge them with unfair tarriffs no matter what the WTO says.

Then, as the US scambles to develop domestic resources, "US global" companies start to behave like just "Global" companies and gouge the fees for developing these resources. In the process the US industry starts to become uncompetative and has ever less to offer for the materials it does need to purchase overseas.

In fact, this is already happening. Look at the US car industry - once a world beater its now a division 2 player at best.

Mr. Firstname M. Lastname's picture

Well said. I had the same realization a couple years ago. Why utilize finite resources when others are willing to sell you theirs on the cheap? My only concern, is  .gov smart enought to generate a cohesive long term plan such as this or is it a happy byproduct of an idiotic group of politicians? It does seem like an awfully long term view for a group of individuals who are more concerned with where the next campaign contribution is coming from rather than the health of our nation.

LawsofPhysics's picture

Spot on.  Despite what the academic eCONomists say, infinite growth in a world with finite resources is impossible.  He who has possession of resources last, wins.  Everything else is simply noise and for now Amerika seems to have no problem keeping everyone else's spice flowing to their shores, for now.  Things would be dramatically different in the absense of the military presence and world's reserve fiat.


Hedge accordingly.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

Focusing on foreign policy when the domestic economy is rotting is the ultimate in fiddling while Rome burns.  I don't care if Obama wins or loses his game of 'inside baseball'.  This stuff has a low to no priority.

Dollar Bill Hiccup's picture

Accepting worthless paper in large amounts employs real workers and in the end is the price of growth under the Pax Americana. I would say that those in the Middle Kingdom understand this all too well. That energy is held in reserve in the home market fits nicely. Less energy, more inflation, quicker evaporation of the fictional value which fools the best of us with the fiat.

12ToothAssassin's picture



This is precisely what I tell the buffoons that want to use our own resources for a $.05 discount at the pump. Idiots.