US FONOPS isn't meant to succeed
TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag (The Freeman) - October 7, 2019 - 12:00am

A story on page three in The Philippine STAR yesterday said American freedom of navigation operations, or FONOPS, in the South China Sea have failed to counter or stop Chinese aggression in the disputed waters. The story was based on an article written by two US maritime security experts and posted online by National Interest magazine.

The experts --Patrick Cronin, a senior director of the Asia Pacific Security Program at the Center for New American Security, and Hunter Stires, a fellow at the John Hattenford Center for Maritime Historical Research at the US Naval War College, an adjunct affiliate for maritime strategy at CNAS-- said American FONOPS have not altered Beijing's massive maritime advances and expansion in the South China Sea.

I do not dispute Cronin's and Hattenford's conclusions of American FONOPS failure. But I would like to empathically add that American FONOPS weren't meant to succeed either. Such freedom of navigation operations were carried out too infrequently by too few US warships to actually mean anything.

Rather than ensure freedom of navigation in the area, FONOPS look more to me like face-saving gestures by an America that, while unable to face up to the creeping reality of an emerging China, still nevertheless feels compelled to go through the motions of thrusting out its jaw at the enemy. Why, the US even has to ask permission from China to FONOPS.

US warships, with the exception of submarines, have never been known to navigate through the South China Sea as if they had the freedom to do so, as if the area belonged to nobody. Always, always, America has to make a big splash out of every FONOPS, its nifty way of alerting China of its intentions. America does this to avoid misunderstanding. In my book, it is asking permission.

Terrorism and other domestic problems such as a creeping liberalism, upside-down racism and gender cannibalism have all conspired to sap American resolve to remain as cop to the world. It is not only China that is getting away with its antics. So is Russia and Iran. America no longer has the balls for big boy confrontations.

You know what America is interested in these days? Why, such matters as Leila de Lima, bwahahaha! Or why the Oscars are so white. This palpable shift in the American horizon is the reason why I have repeatedly written about the South China Sea issue because there still are many people, many of them sadly my countrymen who think the matter can still have a different ending than with China on top.

In another time perhaps. But now no longer. Smaller and weaker states no longer have a champion in the United States. Without meaning to insult or disrespect a great American emblem, but I think change eventually comes to everyone and everything, and the great eagle has turned chicken. It says a lot when you confuse letting China be is just the same as setting De Lima free.

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