January 7, 2018 - tom
Interview: U.S. maneuver in South China Sea wastes money, harms national interest — constit
WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) — The recent maneuver in the South China Sea by the U.S. naval vessels is not serving America’s national interest, but will do exactly the opposite by squandering money and generating tensions, a veteran U.S. constitutional lawyer has said.
"Why are we in there trying to throw inflammatory elements by ourselves painting China as some kind of an expanding, menacing power? It just generates all of the wrong signals to other Asian countries," said Bruce Fein, a Washington D.C.-based attorney, consultant and author, in an interview with Xinhua over the weekend.
"And what does the U.S. get out of it? Nothing!" said an emotional Fein, who mainly practices constitutional law but also has expertise on international law and standards. "The last thing we need is something that looks like the Middle East carried over to Asia."
Last month a U.S. guided-missile destroyer, the USS Lassen, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Chinese islands and reefs in the South China Sea, in a so-called "freedom of navigation" patrol. Despite China’s strong condemnation of such "illegal" and "provocative" acts, the U.S. Navy is reportedly planning more "regular patrols" in the area.
The current situation in the South China Sea is "very unfortunate" for both China and the United States, as it seems to be setting the two countries on a "course of collision," the 68-year-old attorney observed.
Pointing to the fact that the South China Sea is near China and thousands of miles away from the United States, and that what China does in the Sea is not a threat to the U.S. sovereignty, Fein said: "In my view, we have no business there. And we are not the policeman of the world."
Any territorial disputes between China and its neighboring countries have to be solved by themselves bilaterally, while the United States should always remain a neutral party, noted Fein.
"We should urge anything to be done by peaceful means … We should support the freedom of the seas, but we should not be provocative there," he said, citing the fact that navigation has never been closed off in the South China Sea.
In a speech delivered on Saturday during his visit to Singapore, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that the Chinese government must take responsibility to safeguard territorial sovereignty and legitimate maritime interests in the South China Sea, but he stressed that "freedom of navigation and aviation has never been a problem and will never be a problem in the future."
According to Fein, it was definitely not the American people’s wish that pushed the South China Sea situation to the current stage.
"If you spoke to an ordinary voter on the South China Sea, most of them couldn’t even find where the Sea is," he said.
In the Lafayette Park in front of the White House, there is every kind of protest in the world and people protest for almost anything. "But thousands of times I walked there, I have never seen any sign anywhere saying that the United States needs to have more military projects in the South China Sea, never, not one," said Fein.
"I have been in Congress all the time, and I have never spoken to a single member who said ‘Oh yeah, I keep getting these emails from my constituency saying that we need to send our navy in the South China Sea.’ Zero," added the seasoned political attorney, who has testified before congressional committees on scores of occasions at the invitation of both Democrats and Republicans.
"So the impetus for the policy isn’t the people clamoring for it. It’s something that pushes at the top," said Fein, accusing some political and military leaders of seeking to get the "thrill of exercising power" or "sort of historical glory."
As the author of the 2010 book American Empire: Before the Fall, Fein also found a dangerous "psychology of the empire" in what the United States is doing right now in the South China Sea.
"It has this notion of preemptive action … Even if China doesn’t want now to destroy or upset navigation, maybe it will at some future time, so let’s not wait around," he explained.
"You can see how disastrous that kind of mentality is … It’s what we did even when defending our invasion of Iraq," said the lawyer.
With China becoming stronger and wealthier and its military budget also growing, it seems that some people in the United States are "just inventing a fear that really isn’t there," he observed.
"At this stage, the United States is almost concocting an excuse to project itself militarily in that area, South China Sea, East China Sea, whatever, so that they can justify the so-called ‘pivot to Asia,’ and maybe make conflict where there otherwise wouldn’t exist, which I say that’s what empires do even when it’s self-destructive," he said with deep worries.
"You can’t run rational international relations on the idea that anything you can hallucinate about in your sleep you’ve got to take military actions to prevent," he noted.
Moreover, he said, a great nation shouldn’t seek greatness from just showing how tough and strong it is, but needs to show that it knows how to restrain itself and use its power responsibly.
In Fein’s view, the U.S. military resources should be redeployed to "what they are envisioned by the Constitution to do" — defending the United States from any "actual or imminent" attack at home. "And you can defend the United States without being thousands of miles away."
"We also need to work within our political system here at the Congress and the executive branch, to say ‘No, we need to back off,’" added Fein, who used to serve in the administrations of late President Richard Nixon and President Ronald Reagan.