The philanthropic superpower
If a single word could sum up the goal of Barack Obama’s Asia tour, it would be “reassurance.”
Obama went to Tokyo to reassure Japan that, should China attempt to seize its Senkaku Islands, America will fight at her side.
He reassured Seoul of our commitment to defend South Korea.
He went to Manila to reassure the Filipinos, who threw our Navy out of Subic Bay at the end of the Cold War, that America will be there in any clash with Beijing in the South China Sea.
Yet, as Clyde Prestowitz writes in the Financial Times, while we are committed to go to war to defend all three countries if attacked, none of them is obligated to go to war if we are attacked.
What Tokyo, Seoul and Manila get out of their alliances with the United States is easy to see — the security of a superpower’s pledge to come and fight their wars for them.
But what do we get out of these commitments, other than an obligation to go to war with a nuclear-armed China or North Korea over shoals, rocks and borders on the other side of the world that have nothing to do with the peace or security of the United States?
Saudis, Turks and Israelis are angry because Obama backed down from his “red line” warning to Bashar Assad, when Syria’s army allegedly used chemical weapons.
They were all counting on the United States to attack their enemy, Syria, and we let them down. Now after the red line fiasco and the U.S. failure to stop Vladimir Putin from annexing Crimea, our allies want reassurances that we will not fail in our obligations again.
But if Assad’s alleged use of sarin or chlorine is a moral outrage, why did his neighbors not punish him themselves?
Why is this America’s duty? Why is Syria America’s war?
Historically, great powers and empires exact tribute, exploit colonies, and demand conscripts of their protectorates.
America is something new in the way of world powers. We not only provide the legions to protect “allies,” but provide the tribute in the form of foreign aid, IMF and World Bank loans, and bailout billions.
Moreover, America has thrown open her home market, largest in the world at $17 trillion, to Europe, Japan, Canada, Mexico, and even China, and invited them to come and capture it from our manufacturers.
In a quarter century, these trade partners have run up $10 trillion in trade surpluses at our expense, eviscerating our industrial base to where Detroit looks like Dresden in 1945.
But while we preach free trade our partners practice protectionism.
The Chinese undervalue their currency to keep imports low and exports high. We are too timid to confront them. The Europeans put value-added taxes on imports from the USA, and rebate the VAT on exports to the USA.
The Japanese, who look on trade as a form of warfare, killed our TV industry and now own huge slices of our auto market.
Last year, Tokyo ran a $60 billion trade surplus at our expense. After our trade deal with South Korea, Seoul’s trade surplus at our expense shot up 25 percent to a record $20 billion. China ran a $318 billion trade surplus with us in 2013, up from $313 billion in 2012.
Our trade deficits finance both the growth of our allies and of China, who threatens our allies.
For Beijing has used its hoard of dollars from trade surpluses with the U.S. to finance the military buildup that threatens us and our allies, whom Obama pledges to defend against China, with the lives of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
Does this make sense?
We pay three-fourths of the cost of defending NATO Europe.
But why is the defense of Europe seemingly more important to us than to the Europeans themselves?
The EU is as rich as America. Why were U.S. F-16s and U.S. troops sent to the Baltics and Poland, and U.S. warships to the Black Sea? Russians occupying buildings in Luhansk and Donetsk are no threat to America.
Where are the French and German troops in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland?
Neither China nor Russia nor Iran nor Syria threatens us. Yet, we are constantly goaded by allies to confront them for reasons that have virtually nothing to do with our security and almost everything to do with their agendas.
This role of philanthropic superpower is simply not sustainable.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC Poll reveals that while only 19 percent of Americans want this country more active in world affairs, 47 percent want it to become less active. This confirms a Pew poll where 53 percent of Americans said the United States “should mind its own business internationally.”
As China’s military power grows, and U.S. armed forces shrink, our allies had best prepare for the day, not too distant, when America decides she will no longer play the philanthropic superpower, and gives up the role and goes home.
As all world powers eventually do.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”