An examination of military confrontation in the western Pacific and the dangers it poses for those who now play a calculated game of chicken.
Take your pick: China is either our adversary or our friend. You’ll find plenty of books to support either position. Military journalist Fabey takes the former point of view; indeed, the first sentence is, “The United States and China are at war in the Western Pacific.” That war, he adds, hasn’t come down to widespread shooting—yet—but is nonetheless “warm,” waged over small atolls and islands that may not add up to much but stand as outposts of “military hegemony and the diplomatic and economic influence that naturally follows that hegemony.” Who the hegemon is depends on your point of view. The author would seem to agree with both the proposition that sovereign states have territorial rights and that U.S. shipping should enjoy freedom of the seas. He worries, naturally, that America is not playing hard enough—though the current administration supports hard power, it has isolationist tendencies, too. Fabey often writes as if possessed by the set piece– and cliché-happy ghost of Tom Clancy: “No other navy in the world would challenge it. But there was one navy that was willing to try”; “Can’t we just talk this over? At the highest echelons of the U.S. Navy there certainly are senior officers who are willing to do that…In short, they believe that the U.S. can actually trust China.” For all its alternately leaden and overwrought passages, however, there’s good on-the-ground (or, better, on-the-sea) reporting from both sides of the conflict. Fabey gives his Chinese sources a thorough workout, the little emperors and true believers alike, and he has a sharp eye for what faces the American fleet if push comes to shove, as well as for the countermeasures that U.S. military leaders are already taking by way of “naming and shaming” and otherwise containing China’s ambitions at sea.
Of interest to policy wonks, naval strategists, and specialists in the region.