Is the U.S. Warming up for a Hot War With China?

Just in time for the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks, the U.S. seems to be goading yet another Asian empire into hostile action….

We note the passage of the anniversary in our typical Whiskey way: pissing off everyone in the room. Depending on your take on the Japanese “sneak attack” on Pearl Harbor, you may never forgive us for the next handful of sentences.

In his 2007 review of the book The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable by George Victor, John V. Denson writes:

“The author, Victor, includes a chapter from the viewpoint of the Japanese. They were being pressured strongly by Germany to enter the war by attacking the Soviet Union, thereby creating a two-front war for the Communist nation. This strategy came within the actual interests of Japan since they, like Germany, saw communism as a great evil and a threat to their respective nations. Furthermore, Japan had substantial claims to parts of Manchuria as a result of defeating Russia in the war of 1905. Both Germany and Japan wanted to avoid a war with America at almost any cost.

“Roosevelt was well aware of this pressure on Japan by Germany but he felt that it was necessary to protect the Soviet Union as being the best weapon against the Germans, and therefore, he wanted to prevent Japan from attacking Russia. Roosevelt began extensive provocations to cause Japan to abandon its attack on Russia and instead attack America, which also served the purpose of giving Roosevelt the reason to enter the war.

“Roosevelt launched an eight-point provocation plan primarily through the cutting off of oil supplies to Japan so that by the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor Japan was virtually out of oil and on the verge of industrial and military collapse. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines also would provide Japan with the ability to attack the Dutch interests in the Pacific, thereby giving them a new supply of oil.”

Some of you Whiskey Shooters will be incensed at this recounting of events. World War II was the last good war in the minds of so many…and the Japanese unforgivable cowards who attacked a blameless nation whose leadership had no idea it was coming. We risk earning some ill will at suggesting otherwise in order to draw a disturbing parallel about U.S. actions in Asia today.

Whether it was a deliberate machination of the progressive Roosevelt or not, interrupting the flow of the lifeblood of industrial civilization to an Asian power resulted in the U.S. entering a world war.

Looks like much the same is set to happen again.

We read in this morning’s Financial Times:

“The U.S. has sought to reassure China that its recent diplomatic and military initiatives in Asia were not directed against Beijing.

“‘The U.S. does not seek to contain China, we do not view China as an adversary,’ said Michele Flournoy, U.S. undersecretary of defense, after bilateral military talks.”

Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan of China doesn’t seem to agree when he says, “The United States is making much of its ‘return to Asia’, has been positioning pieces and forces on China’s periphery, and the intent is very clear — this is aimed at China, to contain China.”

The U.S. government may be whispering soothing words, but those words can’t be heard over the screaming of its actions. And come to think of it, not all those words are the soothing sort, either.

We gently remind you, good patron, that President Obama recently announced 2,500 Marines will be based in northern Australia. The president also made some rumblings about China’s dispute with its neighbors in the resource-rich South China Sea.

And then, also from the Financial Times, there’s this…

“The U.S. has also adopted a new strategic concept, AirSea Battle, which involves closer integration of the operations of the Navy and Air Force. The concept is meant to make U.S. forces more capable of operating in an environment where enemy forces are trying to deny area access.

“Chinese analysts see AirSea Battle as an anti-China concept. ‘Even if you say it’s not completely aimed at China, it is still mainly aimed at China,’ said Li Yan, a researcher at the Chinese Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. ‘For the Americans have said very clearly that AirSea Battle is mainly directed at anti-access and area denial warfare, and [past U.S. assessments] al l show that they believe China is conducting anti-access and area denial warfare.'”

Michael T. Klare writes in his article “Playing With Fire: Obama’s Risky Oil Threat to China” (found on

“President Obama said in Canberra, the U.S. is now in a position to begin to refocus its military capabilities elsewhere. ‘After a decade in which we fought two wars that cost us dearly,’ he declared, ‘the United States is turning our attention to the vast potential of the Asia-Pacific region.’

“For China, all this spells potential strategic impairment. Although some of China’s imported oil will travel overland through pipelines from Kazakhstan and Russia, the great majority of it will still come by tanker from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America over sea lanes policed by the U.S. Navy. Indeed, almost every tanker bringing oil to China travels across the South China Sea, a body of water the Obama administration is now seeking to place under effective naval control.

“By securing naval dominance of the South China Sea and adjacent waters, the Obama administration evidently aims to acquire the 21st-century energy equivalent of 20th-century nuclear blackmail. Push us too far, the policy implies, and we’ll bring your economy to its knees by blocking your flow of vital energy supplies. Of course, nothing like this will ever be said in public, but it is inconceivable that senior administration officials are not thinking along just these lines, and there is ample evidence that the Chinese are deeply worried about the risk — as indicated, for example, by their frantic efforts to build staggeringly expensive pipelines across the entire expanse of Asia to the Caspian Sea basin.

“As the underlying nature of the new Obama strategic blueprint becomes clearer, there can be no question that the Chinese leadership will, in response, take steps to ensure the safety of China’s energy lifelines. Some of these moves will undoubtedly be economic and diplomatic, including, for example, efforts to court regional players like Vietnam and Indonesia as well as major oil suppliers like Angola, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. Make no mistake, however: Others will be of a military nature. A significant buildup of the Chinese navy — still small and backward when compared to the fleets of the United States and its principal allies — would seem all but inevitable. Likewise, closer military ties between China and Russia, as well as with the Central Asian member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan), are assured.

“In additon, Washington could now be sparking the beginnings of a genuine Cold-War-style arms race in Asia, which neither country can, in the long run, afford. All of this is likely to lead to greater tension and a heightened risk of inadvertent escalation arising out of future incidents involving U.S., Chinese, and allied vessels — like the one that occurred in March 2009 when a flotilla of Chinese naval vessels surrounded a U.S. anti-submarine warfare surveillance ship, the Impeccable, and almost precipitated a shooting incident. As more warships circulate through these waters in an increasingly provocative fashion, the risk that such an incident will result in something far more explosive can only grow.”

We feel we’d be remiss not to note where we find issue with Mr. Klare’s analysis. He spends a few sentences wringing his hands over this mess resulting in drive for greater domestic energy dependency. He worries that that could lead to another Deepwater Horizon-type oil spill…greater reliance on the “dirtiest” of energies — the tar sands — and an increase in greenhouse gas emmisions.

But those are point to take issue with on another day. Mr. Klare’s take otherwise appears to be spot on.

A new Cold War is in the making. We’d all be lucky if that were the worst of it. The last time the U.S. tried to starve an Asian power of energy, the U.S. president got the war he was looking for…and the U.S. was the only one with atomic fire.

Things are a little different this time around. Nuclear weapons are in the hands of the nations the U.S. is provoking. And the current president may not actually be looking to start a fight…though he will likely get one anyway.


Gary Gibson

The Daily Reckoning