Who Is Using Muscle to Dominate?

Obama and US diplomacy toward China

“Where we get concerned with China is where it is not necessarily abiding by international norms and rules and is using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions,” said US president Barack Obama in Jamaica on Thursday.

What is it they say about people living in glass houses throwing rocks?

A quick analysis of Obama’s criteria seems in order.

When Obama speaks of abiding by international norms and rules does he mean to imply that the USA was abiding by such rules when it used $5 billion in cash to engineer a coup against the elected president in Ukraine?1

Was the US abiding by international norms when it broke its word to Russia not to push NATO eastward?1

Is it an international norm to characterize another state as an “extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” as Obama did to Venezuela. Are other states supposed to get approval for their foreign policy from the US?

Is the unilateral imposition of sanctions against Venezuela an international norm?

It it an international norm to remain outside the scope of international law? The US was found in breach of international law by the International Court of Justice in 1987 for its unlawful use of force, a decision that was disregarded by the US. It seems the US has a penchant for being rogue as opposed to abiding by international norms.

Being in breach of security council resolutions and international law seldom seems to ruffle American feathers when its arch ally Israel is the culprit. As Jewish Voices for Peace noted, “Forty-one times, the US has been the one country to protect Israel no matter how many settlements it builds, orchards it destroys, or acres it takes. The one country to say no to democracy, fairness and justice for Palestinians …”2

When the US with its NATO allies, sans UN security council approval, helped overthrow the government and destroy swaths of Libya was it not “using its sheer size and muscle to force [Libya] into subordinate positions”?

When the US engages in bombing in Syria without the Syrian government’s approval (nor UN security council approval) is it not “using its sheer size and muscle to force” others? Is this an international norm?

When the US aggressed Iraq based on a lie3 and destroyed its infrastructure and antiquities, causing millions to become refugees and unleasing a genocide4 was this not war crimes epitomized by Nuremberg law as the “accumulated evil of the whole”?

More words from Obama on Chinese activities in the South China Sea: “We think this can be solved diplomatically, but just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China doesn’t mean that they can just be elbowed aside.”

Unlike the US, however, China has not resorted to militarism to solve disputes in recent decades.

As Xinhua countered, “While he [Obama] is thinking about diplomacy, China is practising it.”5 Xinhua noted that Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong had visited China at the invitation of Chinese Communist Party chairman Xi Jinping and achieved “important common understanding on some major orientations and measures.”

Was the US engaging in diplomacy when Vice Admiral Robert Thomas, commander of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet, urged ASEAN states to patrol the South China Sea, and offered US backing?6 Was the US engaging in smart diplomacy when it suggested Japan partake in South China Sea patrols?7

Was the US engaging in diplomacy when it favored the defeated Guomindang (KMT) forces of Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-Shek) against the People’s Army led by Mao Zedong? The history of the separation of mainland China from the island of Taiwan and the role of Japan as a colonizer of Taiwan as well as the US 7th fleet’s role in providing security across the Taiwan Strait for the KMT is not forgotten on the mainland.8

Besides, what business exactly does the US 7th fleet have to do so far from the US mainland in the South China Sea? Is the Chinese navy patrolling off Baja California?

Xinhua had an admonition for the US president: “As an outsider, the United States should respect China’s sincerity in solving the disputes through direct negotiation with the countries concerned and do more to contribute to regional peace and stability, rather than stir the quiet waters by mischief-making words and deeds.”

  1. See Walter C. Uhler, “Seeking the Truth about Ukraine,” Dissident Voice, 19 February 2015. [] []
  2. No More US Vetoes at the UN,” Jewish Voices for Peace. []
  3. See “The Downing Street Memo(s).” []
  4. See Abdul Haq al-Ani and Tarik al-Ani, Genocide in Iraq: The Case against the UN Security Council and Member States (Clarity Press, 20). I reviewed the al-Anis’ book, and previously I had noted that the aggression of Iraq was genocidal: Kim Petersen, “Genocide in Iraq: The Numbers Tell the Horrific Story of a Lying Government and Complicit Corporate Media,” Dissident Voice, 16 October 2006. For numbers of excess mortalities see “Iraq: the Human Cost.” []
  5. Xinhua, “Is Obama really ‘concerned’ or stirring concern?” 11 April 2015. []
  6. Shane Fuentes, “US Navy Chief stirs hornet’s nest on South China Sea,” FMT, 18 March 2015. []
  7. Sam LaGrone, “U.S. 7th Fleet CO: Japanese Patrols of South China Sea ‘Makes Sense’,” USNI News, 29 January 2015. []
  8. See John H. Holdridge, Crossing the Divide: An Insider’s Account of Normalization of U.S.-China Relations (Rowman & Littlefield, 1997: 7-9. []
Kim Petersen is an independent writer and former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be emailed at: kimohp at gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.