Monday, July 1, 2013

1914 redux

redux: brought back —used postpositively

The shadow of 1914 falls over the Pacific (gated)
Gideon Rachman, Financial Times, 4 February 2013 (hat tip: NC)

The flickering black and white films of men going “over the top” in the First World War seem impossibly distant. Yet the idea that the great powers of today could never again stumble into a war, as they did in 1914, is far too complacent. The rising tensions between China, Japan and the US have echoes of the terrible conflict that broke out almost a century ago.
The most obvious potential spark is the unresolved territorial dispute between China and Japan over the islands known as the Diaoyu to the Chinese and the Senkaku to the Japanese. In recent months, the two countries’ aircraft and ships have shadowboxed near the islands.
U.S. emissaries to China have warned the Chinese that an attack on the islands will trigger security guarantees made to the Japanese.  In Ryu Murakami's apocalyptic novel, From the Fatherland, with Love the U.S. backs down on any commitments. That is not happening here. 
The emissaries themselves note the problems of interlocking alliances, and unintended consequences: 
The mechanism in 1914 is instructive. Who could imagine that Serbian terrorists could an archduke no had heard of and trigger a great war, at the end of which all contestants were devastated? My view is that the Chinese leadership has no intension of challenging the U.S. military, yet. But what about the hothead nationalists in China or Japan.
They also note that China, much like Germany and Japan earlier, felt barricaded by the existing power structure, and the legacy of history.
What is interesting is what the article does not mention.
The Austrians felt confident that they could go forward with their claims against Serbia because the Germans gave them what is now referred to as the "blank check", in other words, unconditional support.  The Germans appear to have known what they were doing, and were willing to have a war start.  But has not the U.S. given the Japanese a "blank check"?  Is it wise to give such unconditional quarantines when a full blown nuclear war is a possible outcome?  Do the people of Patagonia (remote section of Argentina) merit heavy nuclear fallout because of U.S. commitments?
Perito Moreno Glacier Patagonia (from here)


PioneerPreppy said...

I am not sure backing Japan in this claim equals a blank check especially with Japan's Constitution in place although I do acknowledge the similarities.

Not sure I would agree that the US is really honoring it's commitments either. If push comes to shove will Obummer actually back Japan?

I have my doubts.

russell1200 said...

Pioneer: Japan is not Austria, but then the Chinese aren't being Russia (or Germany) either. The biggest difference is that the Germans offered the support anticipating that it likely would lead to war, while the U.S. does not. Thus, no matter how "unconditional" the promise, as you noted, nobody can be sure if Obama will keep his word.