November 8, 2016
Dear President Trump,
I believe that one of the main problems with our country’s international diplomatic efforts recently has been the unbridled mess in the South China Sea. The countries facing off against each other for territories and oil in the sea are in order of descending population are China, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei. These countries’ collective population is well over 1.5 billion, if we refer to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ list (compiled in July 2015). Approximately 1.5 billion people, or over 20% of the entire global population, whose differentiating governments are on the brink of conflict. This is what might happen if we don’t intervene now.
According to the declaration made by the Library of Congress, all significant changes made to the current, meta-stable situation in the diplomatic and military codes of conduct will be opposed with coercion or force (114th Congress of the United States, July 2016). However, China has already made aggressive claims to the majority of the Sea, its resources, and the island territories within the sea, despite numerous protests from other sovereign states in the region. This has led to increased tensions with China and Southeast Asia, resulting in frequent breaches into foreign waters by fishermen, usually resulting in death. Even though a major power has drastically shifted the attitude of the people of the South China Sea region, we still refuse to intervene in a security-reinforced multilateral diplomatic framework with the belligerents on both sides. On the topic of diplomacy, the Philippines have sided with China on the constant struggle for power in the sea, if we refer to the New York Times (Jane Perlez). Without significant US diplomatic intervention in supposedly allied countries (like members of ASEAN), even they can rupture in their alliance with us. The implications of this will be catastrophic. If the Philippines, which has long been a staunch US ally and fellow democracy, can align with a communist country like China, just with one president’s consent, imagine the damage that can do to the US’ influence in the region. Countries like Vietnam and most of Indochina, whom are much more similar than China than the Philippines, can easily side with China, going back to their communist roots in the Cold War. Giving up diplomatic and militaristic ties to these countries and letting them threaten long term allies like Japan and South Korea is unacceptable, yet we still let China control the mood of the situation, due to its size and power. The destabilization of US influence in Southeast Asia could spell the beginning of weakened East Asian influence and, thereby, loss of influence in the continent entirely. Do we really want our entire global reach to significantly weaken when we could have stopped our collapse at just one island nation? Do we need another Cold War with China and its strengthened influence over the countries surrounding it when tensions with Russia are already mounting (if we refer to CNN Student News)? Regarding the prospect of war, the rising tensions between China and Southeast Asia could break out into a major conflict if we don't act as a mediator. If this worst-case scenario does happen, a military foothold in the region would be a great way to keep the Southeast Asian countries in the fight against China and its supporters, instead of intervening at the last minute, resulting in something like the culmination of the Korean War (which I might add, didn’t go so swimmingly for us Americans). The US, as one of its responsibilities as a world superpower, should be diplomatically suppressing China and rendering any shadow of a possibility of war useless. Instead, we are even failing to keep supposed allies like the Philippines from realigning with us on as common ground as resentment of a particular country, as it had done according to the Los Angeles Times (John Broder) with military bases. We must be asking ourselves: Is it morally wrong for a superpower to do nothing to mitigate the possibility of a war encapsulating one fifth of the global population?
Some may say that giving one foreign side aid could cost unnecessary amounts of money and supplies that are being “overstretched” already through maintaining thousands of military bases throughout the world. In addition, a valid concern many may have is that we would waste the lives of our troops defending some faraway lands, separated from us by vast oceans and we would provoke China by intervening in “its” affairs.
While some may oppose the idea with US intervention with such statements, they are very much wrong. The US does not have economic issues maintaining its global reach in the first place, with one of the highest GDP/GDP per capita ratings in the world, according to the October 2016 list compiled by the International Monetary Fund. In fact, if we side with SE Asia (which we don't oppose more than China), we would most likely gain the money from spoils of war to replace the money spent, in the form of access to billions of tons of crude oil at the bottom of the sea, according to GlobalSecurity.org (John Pike). In addition, the conflict, if it were to drag on without US intervention, would disturb the five trillion dollars of trade flowing through the region, owing to data put forth by CFR.org (April 2015 last update, Bonnie Glaser). Again referring to the same source, we would most likely spend a large portion of that five trillion dollars trying to energize East Asian countries who depend on the trade route to deliver them energy. As these countries (Japan and South Korea) are bound to us by defense pacts, according to the multilateral diplomatic relation data forth by Wikipedia, we would be required to help them, when we could have avoided spending a huge sum of money by ending the conflict quickly. Regarding, the loss of life in the event of a war, intervention is guaranteed, as China would be breaking international law by invading Southeast Asia without US consent, and the US would be required by the UNSC to intervene. As the US is charged with maintaining international peace, it must intervene in this potential conflict (according to Wikipedia’s article on the UN Security Council, November 2016). Therefore, judging by common sense, it would be beneficial to already have a military stronghold in the region to ferry troops to, instead of losing even more lives trying to invade the countries in a manner similar to D-Day. Lastly, the thought that intervening in this diplomatic affair would upset China and we shouldn’t is most likely wrong. With the absence of the US, China would probably invade SE Asia anyway as it wouldn't face any extreme opponents. SE Asia would fall just as did Tibet, according to the 14th Dalai Lama's’ autobiography, Freedom in Exile (published in 1962). This is what would most likely happen if we don’t intervene, and again, we would be forced to enforce international law through force anyway, as declared by the UN/our own Congress.
I sincerely hope you will do your best to help in this messy situation and crack down on China’s hostility in the region. Please, help ease one of the main diplomatic issues we have today and take another worrisome thought off your people’s minds.
Lobo School of Innovation, San Jose, CA