South China Sea Showdown: The Law and the Lawless

China and the US just had a confrontation over the South China Sea – Business Insider.

Whatever other disparaging thoughts you may hold about the US, and its actions in other theaters, it is difficult to ignore that, in brazen defiance of international law and convention, China has laid claim to vast swaths of the South China Sea that are, in fact, international waters and airspace. Recent incidents are simply the US is simply the right of any other nation to navigate those waters and that airspace.

I am uncomfortable with our seeming addiction to intervention far from our shores. In this case, however, we are trapped between two unpleasant alternatives. Either we send ships and planes and young Americans into harm’s way, or we allow China to believe that we have accepted their ahistorical and illegal claims in the South China Sea.

You may side with China’s claims, but prepare to be challenged to   support those claims with something more than passion and rhetoric.

And you may object to the US playing the “world’s policeman.” I sympathize. Unfortunately, when one country engages in practices that challenge international law and norms, the world faces a stark choice. Either we can find someone to draw a line around law and practice, or telegraph to the miscreant that international law is ought more than a doormat.

Chinese rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding, these incidents in the South China Sea are the US putting its blood and treasure forward in the defense of international law. Until some other country has the fortitude and resources to do same, I guess we’re stuck with the job.

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Author: David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.

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