Obama: We Will Go To War For Other Nations’ Petty Territorial Disputes

John Glaser, April 24, 2014
President Obama with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

President Obama with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

President Obama, who is in Japan today, has announced that the U.S. defense treaty with Japan applies to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Japan and China are in dispute over who has sovereignty over the largely uninhabited island chain in the East China Sea, but Obama’s statement, simultaneously meant to reassure Tokyo and threaten Beijing, made clear that the U.S. will go to war against China if the territorial dispute erupts into conflict.

Ankit Panda at The Diplomat:

In an interview ahead of his trip with Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun, Obama said that the United States regards the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands as falling under the purview of the U.S.-Japan security treaty and that the United States would oppose any attempt to undermine Japan’s control of the islands. “The policy of the United States is clear—the Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands,” Obama stated in the Yomiuri Shimbun.

The statement naturally drew protest from the Chinese foreign ministry. ”The so-called US-Japan alliance is a bilateral arrangement from the Cold War and ought not to harm China’s territorial sovereignty and reasonable rights,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang noted. The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are disputed by China and Japan, both of whom regard the entirety of the islands and their surrounding waters as their sovereign territory. In 2012, Japan purchased some of the islands from a private owner, effectively nationalizing them. Since then, the dispute has been a major feature of relations between China and Japan.

Throughout a range of U.S. foreign policy issues, references to Chamberlain’s 1938 appeasement to Hitler at Munich are ubiquitous. Wherever the U.S. chooses diplomacy or neutrality over threats and military action, you have hawks screaming “Munich!” in an attempt to argue that “weakness” invites world war.

But what about the lessons of the First World War? A perilous system of alliances and defense treaties helped plummet Europe into one of the most bloody conflicts in human history. A relatively petty and localized issue, like an Austrian archduke getting assassinated by a Serbian anarchist nationalist, triggered Germany’s involvement in hostilities against Serbia, which triggered Russia’s involvement which triggered France and Britain’s involvement, and the rest is history.

Surely, if hawks are just trying to stave off devastating conflicts, they should be warning against reckless entangling alliances just as much as they warn against “appeasement.”

China and Japan have been patrolling the waters around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in deliberately provocative ways to demonstrate their sovereignty over the territory. This could easily result in a minor clash that would trigger an explosion out of all proportion to the actual dispute.

“My biggest fear is that a small mishap is going to blow up into something much bigger,” says Elizabeth C. Economy of the Council on Foreign Relations.

“If there is a use of force between Japan and China,” warns Sheila A. Smith, also of CFR, “this could be all-out conflict between these two Asian giants. And as a treaty ally of Japan, it will automatically involve the United States.”

The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are not a vital U.S. interest. The dispute over them between Japan and China has nothing to do with Americans. But Obama just promised the world he’ll go to war over a bunch of rocks in the East China Sea, if he has to.

48 Responses to “Obama: We Will Go To War For Other Nations’ Petty Territorial Disputes”

  1. The audacity of that guy!

    A historyless community organizer and "constitutional scholar", untouched by the capacity to think in real-world terms.


  2. He is bluffing,he is drawing the proverbial 'red line' now but will recant when reality look him in the eye if he is to go up against the Chinese, just like Syria.

  3. Hope Obama and his neocon advisers are ready to go fight because that's a "lovely war" that even the dumbed down US public can see involves no real US interests.

  4. But "I am not a war president", I just creat them.

  5. It is high comedy to regard the Senkaku dispute, one wholly invented by China in the late 1960s and then connected to its bogus claims to Okinawa and Taiwan, as a "petty territorial dispute". It is deadly serious and deadly dangerous, involving two large islands and scores of smaller ones, and important oceanic territory. We're careering towards war out here over any one of China's numerous expansionist claims. Writing like this piece obscures rather illuminates, sadly.


  6. Remember this the NOBEL PEACE PRIZE winner

  7. http://news.antiwar.com/2014/04/24/30-killed-in-a

    Let's hear more about the shelling of civilian neighborhoods by the so-called "rebels" Ditz… "Let's" not be one sided here in the so-called "reporting" of unverifiable so-called "facts" Dunce…

    I'm still not entirely sure what you're trying to accomplish here other than "intervention" in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation… .

    I guess that is for the "donors" to decide… The direction of which seems self evident…

    Enough is enough…


  8. we should give Obama another NOBEL PEACE PRIZE for this.

  9. Sadly, Confederate General Robert E. Lee has been proven WRONG by his well meaning comment: "it is good that war is so terrible less we grow too fond ot it" – proven wrong because we love war!!

  10. Robert E. Lee for his time was a rational thinking person so in this case he was right.

    The same exact sentiment was expressed between Habsburg emperor Franz Josef and Napolean III in their conflict in 1858. The result was that the Franz Josef kept his promise to promote peace for 66 years until 1914 when he had become to old at 84 to withstand the pressures from his own "war hawks"… another bunch of fools…

  11. I do not think that this is a change in policy. It shouod be a call to better diplomacy not to automatic war. Why were these islands territories issues not reolved 20 years ago where we were in a better position to negotiate. Now like fools we gave china markets technology and money to capitalize so they could become capatalist. Now they want to expand and dominate resources and markets. Go figure.

  12. Michael, I guess in your world-view it is wrong for China to defend its sphere of influence. You probably think the same about Russia. I guess you think only the "expansionist" US can go around the world telling other countries what to do and how to behave.

  13. Lee is still considered a great general. But I have been to Gettysburg several times. His forces got there first and could have easily taken the high ground that day over the outnumbered North. Instead, Lee rested his men which allowed the Northern reinforcements to arrive and keep the high ground. If Lee had secured the high ground when he had the chance, he would have won the battle and the war may have turned out differently due to growing Northern opposition to Lincoln. In addition, on the final day, Lee ordered Pickett's charge. The battlefield shows that Lee's men were in a valley, way below the North, and his poor infantry were ordered to charge uphill. It was a turkey shoot. I guess you could say that Lee's mistakes at Gettysburg were the defining reason why the South lost the war.

  14. I certainly hope so.His foeign policy is no better than Bush

  15. The neocons make Mel Gibson's rant seem restrained and reasonable.

  16. "All wars are banker wars" Gen.Smedly Butler

  17. And Micheal Turton, it is none of our fucking business.

  18. What a joke!! Obama is a' creator of war', not of peace! Maybe it should be called THE NOBEL WAR PRIZE!

  19. It's off-topic, but Lee would have better off if he had listened to General Longstreet, who suggested that instead of attacking the Union forces while they held the high ground, the Confederate Army should turn southeast and head towards Washington. This would have forced Meade off the high ground, and allowed Lee to pick a better battlefield. I think Sun Tzu said something about never allowing your enemy to choose your ground for you.

  20. […] Read more […]

  21. […] http://antiwar.com/blog/2014/04/24/obama-we-will-go-to-war-for-other-nations-petty-territorial-dispu… […]

  22. After World War II, the United States forced Japan to incorporate into its Constitution a clause that forbade it from ever developing a competent, capable, independent military force of its own. This rather racist, imperialistic provision was designed to prevent Japan from ever becoming a military power strong enough to threaten the United States again. Now, however, it is woefully outdated and has just become a crutch used by Japan, similar to those used by NATO countries in Europe, to get the United States to pay for all of its national defense while they devote their own funds towards various social(ist) welfare schemes. The United States should withdraw from any such arrangements around the world and allow countries to manage their own national defense. We can provide them with the armaments they need (for a price, of course), but we should not directly entangle ourselves in their affairs and risk American lives for something that has no strategic benefit whatsoever to the United States itself.

  23. Now like fools we gave china markets technology and money.

  24. Yup. And think of all the dumb $h1t lefties who voted for him. Us libertarians tried to warn them but as usual they thought The Great God Government was going to save them. LOL!

  25. […] lower on the trade lower in Taiwan, EWT, and South Korea, EWY, as John Glaser posts in Antiwar Obama Says Pact Obliges US to Protect Japan in Islands Fight. One can follow the ongoing debt deflation and failure of currencies with this Finviz Screener of […]

  26. Why no, actually, I find US foreign policy just as heinous as Chinese. The trick is to be against imperialism in all its forms, not merely the forms that emanate from the US/West. I don't believe any nation has the right to "defend its sphere of influence" — whatever that means — and you certainly wouldn't accept the US right to threaten Latin America on the basis of its "sphere of influence." So why do you accept it when China does?

  27. So your position is that America has no friends and the treaties we have signed are worthless and the rest of the world is a place we should take no action about?


  28. Sounds like a plan. Let the old men who signed the treaties go fight to defend them. The interests and business of the US government end at our territorial borders.

  29. The NeoCons who love war and drive all of our wars don't fight in them or let their kids fight in them. We draft the Kristols,Boots, Goldbergs, and Krauthammers and the cheerleading for war will stop.

  30. This makes me sad. The U.S. needs so much work..we are like a puzzle randomly put together..totally undone. Put the U.S. together first securely. . For us Americans!

  31. […] 2014/04/24: AntiWar: Obama: We Will Go To War For Other Nations’ Petty Territorial Disputes President Obama, who is in Japan today, has announced that the U.S. defense treaty with Japan applies to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. […]

  32. So in all the scenario’s it looks like history just could repeat itself. Because we have fools leading us.

  33. What append with Obama ? he has urgently to check whether he has a brain cancer.Symptom : the impression to be surrunded by ennemies.

  34. before china toke over marketing flat panel TVs[32inch] cost $10,000ea and DVD players $2,000 to 3,000ea,thanks to China that we have cell phones and other stuff you people love that you can afford it at a cheap price like computers, most of you would not have if USA made

  35. […] 2014/04/24: AntiWar: Obama: We Will Go To War For Other Nations’ Petty Territorial Disputes President Obama, who is in Japan today, has announced that the U.S. defense treaty with Japan applies to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. […]

  36. This US President is simply encouraging conflict in the East and South China Sea. Why is the USA keep on create troubles and wars all over the world, all the time?
    The Diaoyu Islands belonged to China since historic time. The US was given to look after these islands as caretaker and supposed to be returned to China. But instead, the US gave them to Japan in the 1970s just because they are allies. This is really immoral and shameful.

  37. Michael, using your logic, I assume that you were against Russia retaking Crimea, even though the Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia. If Russia and China do not defend their "spheres of influence," the US hegemon has a plan for them. Also, throughout its history, the US imperialists thought they should control all of Latin America. Remember the Monroe Doctrine.

  38. It is interesting that the agreement between two nations can overturn the international agreement. By deliberately ignoring the Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Proclamation, and the terms of surrender Japan agreed to at the end of World War II, Obama has betrayed the postwar international order and endorsed Japan’s de facto control over the Diaoyu Islands. Russia has demonstrated in a dispute only military force counts. May be this is going to be the norm.

  39. Yes, you strike the nail on the head. The only super power in this world is resorting to force and military might to settle all disputes! No wonder the USA is getting more and more enemies.

  40. Who is giving who money? The USA owes the PRC Billions of $s. Like a fool, China is willing to lend such huge sum of money to a bankrupt nation.

  41. The USA is the most trouble-maker in the world. Yesterday it was Vietnam, Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan; today it is Libya, Syria and Ukraine; tomorrow it will be Asia, Iran and the Middle East.

  42. […] just returned from a trip to South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia to reassure all those allies that America will go to war against China in case such a conflict breaks out. He […]

  43. If it is owned by china then take it by force to cut the story short

  44. Air-Sea Battle strategy. The idea is to have enough US bases and Air Force capabilities peppered throughout the region so that China would be too surrounded to safely attack in the event of a conflict.

  45. The idea is to have enough US bases and Air Force capabilities peppered throughout the region so that China would be too surrounded to safely attack in the event of a conflict.

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