The US is in a tough spot militarily.
In Syria, Russia and Iran have taken advantage of the fact that the plan hatched by the West and its regional allies to destabilize the Assad regime took far too long to develop. The idea was to foment discord and provide covert support for the various armed militias fighting to overthrow the government. But the effort is entering its fifth year and Assad is still there. Not only that, there have been a series of unintended (well, at least we hope they’re unintended) consequences. First, one of the rebel groups the West and its allies supported morphed into an insane band of white basketball shoe-wearing, black flag-waving, sword-wielding desert bandits. Second, the fighting created a horrific refugee crisis that now threatens to destabilize the whole of Europe. Sensing a historic geopolitical opportunity, Moscow and Tehran simply stepped in and outmaneuvered Washington. Now, the US basically has to decide whether it wants to go to war with Russia, because paradropping ammo into the middle of the desert isn’t going to be a viable strategy.
Meanwhile, the US faces another superpower confrontation in the South China Sea.
When Beijing began its land reclamation efforts in the Spratlys, we’re reasonably sure the Pentagon didn’t anticipate the extent to which the effort would quickly become a giant headache for Washington.
As a reminder, it’s not so much the dredging that has Washington’s regional allies in the South Pacific upset. Island building has been done before in the area. Rather, it’s the scope of the project that has everyone unnerved as Beijing has so far constructed over 3,000 acres of new sovereign territory atop which China has built everything from cement factories, to greenhouses, to runways.
Whether or not the US really cares about this is debatable although these shipping lanes are indeed critical for world trade. But with The Philippines and others crying foul, Washington is left with little choice but to put on a brave face lest the world should get the idea that China can just redraw maritime boundaries at will and establish a Sino-Monroe Doctrine in the process.
So finally, the US decided that it would sail some warships by the islands just to see if it can do so without getting shot at.
No, really. That’s the whole plan. “Let’s see how far we can push them.”
In any event, China hit back on Thursday, saying the PLA would “stand up and use force” if necessary should the US make a “mistake” with the whole warship plan.
So in short, Washington is now in a staring contest with both Moscow and Beijing and both Russia and China seem to have gotten the idea that the US has lost its resolve lately and will probably blink first in both standoffs.
Full article: With US Warships En Route To Islands, China Asks: “What On Earth Makes Them Think We Will Tolerate This?” (Zero Hedge)