Editor's note: This column was coauthored by Bob Morrison.
The world has watched in dismay as Russia’s ruler, Vladimir Putin, has gobbled up Crimea. Now, he seems bent on dismembering Ukraine. Much of our attention has been focused on Putin and his next targets. Perhaps Taiwan is next.
In the East, China’s Communist leaders are watching, too. They pay close attention to the actions of this former KGB agent. Putin is increasingly popular in Russia as he seeks to restore some of the power and prestige of the old USSR.
For its part, China has been rattling a saber over Japan’s Senkaku Islands. Concerned, President Obama recently rushed to Tokyo. There, he reminded the world of the U.S.-Japanese Defense Treaty. The President hastened to say:
“Obviously this isn't a red line that I'm drawing. It is the standard interpretation over multiple administrations of the terms of the alliance, which is that territories under the administration of Japan are covered under the treaty. There's no shift in position. There's no red line that's been drawn. We're simply applying the treaty,” said Mr. Obama in a speech to Japan’s leaders reported by our Voice of America
It was one of those assurances that was anything but reassuring. Clearly, the President wanted to make the point that this time he really means to take action if a dictator should make a threatening move.
His effort to assure us this was “not a red line I am drawing” only serves to jangle nerves already on edge. The last time he publicly invoked a red line was when he warned Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad there would be consequences if he used chemical weapons. Assad used them and nothing happened. Assad is even “running” for re-election.
But what if China is simply making a feint toward those tiny, uninhabited Senkaku Islands? It would not be unprecedented for China to so deceive the West. The great military writer, Sun Tzu spoke clearly on this point.
“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”
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