America must think outside the ‘pax’

By Joe Hung

President Barack Obama has no way out from an insoluble quandary of his own making. He inherited the tough job of disengaging the United States from its involvement in Iraq after the country ended Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in a bid to help Israel. However, his country then exacerbated regional instability by trying to topple Bashar al-Assad’s Soviet-supported government in Syria through aiding armed rebellion. One of those rebel groups was al-Qaida’s Iraqi contingent, which later went on to become the Islamic State in 2014. Obama is now doing what he can to contain Islamic State (IS) with the help of Putin on the one hand and the People’s Republic of China in Asia on the other, with additional support from Shinzo Abe’s Japan. Obama knows full well that neither of the two fronts of this containment effort will succeed in their task before he steps down in January 2017, and his successor, most likely to be Hillary Clinton who was his first Secretary of State, can do next to nothing to get the United States out of the mess resulting from his enforcement of Pax Americana. This won’t change unless Washington acknowledges the end of Pax Americana and works out a practical and peaceful solution for the region it has attempted to contain.

Pax Sinica in East Asia was enacted by Emperor Wuti of the West Han Dynasty (207 BC-9 AD) — bringing about a period of “peace as enforced by China or Zhong-guo (中國: Middle Kingdom),” which continued until Kublai Khan conquered China and a new era of Pax Mongolica began — an era in which the Mongols enforced rule over Russia and parts of Asia Minor. Khan tried to extend his rule to Japan, but his invasion force was defeated by the “Kamikaze” — the so-called “divine wind.” Pax Sinica was resurrected under Emperor Hong Wu of the Ming Dynasty, who made Shogun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, in desperate need of tributary trade, the King of Japan by investiture. This time Pax Sinica lasted until the mid-19th century, when Qing China was defeated by Great Britain in the Opium War. The People’s Republic is now trying to revitalize Pax Sinica for a third time. Washington is convinced, wrongly, that the United States could stop the resurrection of Pax Sinica by containing the People’s Republic under Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” policy, just as it saw the end of Pax Russiana of the Soviet Union not by containment but because of its own implosion. There is a big difference between Pax Sinica on the one hand and the imperialistic expansion of any Western power on the other. China does not enforce its “peace” by force of arms but by awarding extremely lucrative tributary trade to its vassal states, while Western powers employ military conquest in enforcing their respective “Pax.”