Obama Fails to Start a War and Our Allies Are Worried

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For some reason, I’ve been thinking lately about news memes that I’m tired of hearing about. For example, I’m tired of hearing about how containers revolutionized shipping. I’m tired of hearing about Van Halen’s brown M&Ms. And I’m tired of hearing endlessly about how US allies are supposedly worried because we haven’t started a war over something. According to the New York Times, the latest sign of America’s worrisome restraint is President Barack Obama’s response to China’s seizure of one of our research drones near the Philippines:

Across Asia, diplomats and analysts said they were perplexed at the inability of the Obama administration to devise a strong response to China’s challenge. It did not even dispatch an American destroyer to the spot near Subic Bay, a former American Navy base that is still frequented by American ships, some noted.

…The end result, analysts said, is that China will be emboldened by having carried out an act that amounted to hybrid warfare, falling just short of provoking conflict, and suffering few noticeable consequences. “Allies and observers will find it hard not to conclude this represents another diminishment of American authority in the region,” said Douglas H. Paal, the vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Who knows? Maybe this kind of thing really does worry our allies. But if that’s the case, maybe our allies need to settle down. Not everything is worth a military response. Not everything is even worth a sternly worded note. These kinds of penny-ante provocations are usually designed precisely to evoke a response, and it’s usually best just to ride them out. That’s especially true when there’s nothing much we can do in the short term anyway, which means that any kind of aggressive response would almost inherently end up looking weak and incompetent.

Anyway, I have a feeling that if Donald Trump starts responding more belligerently, we’ll start getting stories about how our allies are worried that America is stirring up trouble and they’re the ones who will have to pay the price. They should be careful about what they wish for.

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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