White House and Washington Drama Obscures Real Threats

“But he is an undisciplined twitterer-in-chief who has failed to translate the art of the deal into meaningful legislation.”

There is a good deal of noise coming from Washington that drowns out other news. The healthcare bill in the Senate failed by one vote, the White House has seen two communication directors come and go, there is a new chief of staff, and Trump banned transgendered individuals from serving in the military, which has not yet been implemented by the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, there are significant developments in the South China Sea that should put the Washington side show into perspective and force Trump and the politicians to focus on real problems.

The South China Sea is a body of water fiercely contested by China and other South Asian nations. It contains significant oil and gas resources, and it’s a vital shipping lane in worldwide trade. China has built up islands in disputed territories and placed bases, port facilities, anti-aircraft guns, and radar installations on them.

This week they also launched new underwater drones. Officially, the drones are taking environmental measurements. But the American use of drones in the war on terror suggests they have more potential. Drones are excellent at long-term surveillance of a given area, extending the range of the military that uses them, and they are particularly well-suited for targeted strikes. Ultimately the drones become one more tool for the Chinese military to control a pivotal shipping lane and seize their claims through force.

China has already flexed its muscles in the region. Vietnam has one of the largest navies in the region that can deter the Chinese, and they fought a war with China in 1979. Earlier this year, Vietnam built an offshore oil derrick within their exclusive economic zone. While this was within their rights according to international law, the Chinese objected because it was within territory they claimed as their “historic right.” Under intense pressure and threats from China, last week Vietnam capitulated and removed the platform.

This region is known for its tension, but some timely diplomatic maneuvers led by Trump might have prevented this. A Freedom of the Seas operation, combined with a joint training exercise in the region, flyover, and discreet diplomatic message to China from Secretary of State Tillerson or President Trump would have signaled American interest and resolve in the region.

Instead, Americans and politicians participated in a week-long circus over tweets, the transgendered, and a press secretary that makes Guido the killer pimp look charming. People will disagree over the relative merits of the healthcare bill, proper military policy, and other substantive items, but the circus originates in the White House.

Americans elected somebody with no political experience because he seemed to connect with their anger and frustration with the Washington establishment. But he is an undisciplined twitterer-in-chief who has failed to translate the art of the deal into meaningful legislation with an allied Congress and consistent policy in the South China Sea.

Morgan Deane

Morgan Deane is an OpsLens Contributor and a former U.S. Marine Corps infantry rifleman. Deane also served in the National Guard as an Intelligence Analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming book Decisive Battles in Chinese history, as well as Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon.

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