John McCain wants us to think that he’s on the case for stronger national security policies once again. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the Arizona Republican and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee – along with several colleagues – recently sent a letter to the Obama administration demanding that it develop “a formal policy and clearly articulated strategy to address” Chinese muscle-flexing in the South and East China Seas.
According to McCain and three other leading Senate national security voices, the strategy should entail
“specific actions the United States can take to slow down or stop China’s reclamation activities in the South China Sea; the possible benefits of releasing intelligence more regularly about China’s destabilizing behavior; what forms of security cooperation with China would be inappropriate to continue if land reclamation activities proceed and what forms of engagement might provide incentives for China to alter its behavior; the region’s Maritime Domain Awareness needs; how to help regional partners enhance their own capacity; and additional diplomatic engagement with ASEAN countries or others in the international community to support unimpeded access to the Indo-Pacific maritime commons.”
What none of the Senators mentioned were measures that might staunch the massive flow of American resources and technology that have helped create this Chinese challenge in the first place – or certainly enabled it to reach its current scale. None of the letter’s signers – in addition to McCain, Democrats Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee – has been a leader on China or Asia issues. In fact, none of them has a particularly great record on the votes that over the past quarter century have fueled America’s enormous, growing trade deficits with the People’s Republic and thus spurred the flows of literally trillions of dollars into the Chinese government’s coffers, and militarily invaluable knowhow to its armed forces. (You can examine their records through the search engine here.)
But none has been as aggressive a champion of these potentially disastrously shortsighted policies as McCain – while simultaneously warning about the Chinese beast his decisions have so ceaselessly fed. (Click here for my report on the Senator’s professed concern about counterfeit Chinese electronics components in American military systems – and on his responsibility for their prevalence as leader of the successful opposition to stricter Buy American requirements for the Pentagon.) It’s just more evidence that, however dreadful President Obama’s conduct of U.S. foreign policy, nothing we know about his Republican critics indicates they’d be an improvement.