We are now into Hillary Clinton's second day of "blitzkrieg" in Australia where she is showing her potential presidential charm and vision of dividing up the world just like the "axis" powers tried to do during WWII.
Hillary now wants to "outsource" U.S. cooperation with India to Australia so the U.S. can work to clean up the mess in Pakistan created by clandestine missions and murder of innocent people with their drones. Hillary can't afford Pakistan asking why the U.S. is giving assistance to its rival India, so she innovatively came out with the "outsourcing and encirclement of China" by proxy plan.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her Defense Minister Stephen Smith seemed thrilled to be called upon to play "deputy sheriff " again, and agreed to increase the number of U.S. marines stationed in Australia — from 400 to 2,500 by 2014. They also agreed to a spy satellite tracking station to be established in the north as well, but were hesitant about allowing more U.S. ships into Australian ports, in the hope that holding out will get Australia service contracts for the Pacific Fleet in Adelaide. Watch this space!
Defense Minister Stephen Smith is on such a "high," that in a press conference he claimed that the U.S. had listened to his advice about the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile, all the backbiting and unhappiness about Australian defense budget cutbacks have been smoothed over by Defense Minister Smith and the U.S. Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich after this website and others reported U.S.'s unease last Sunday. Fortunately for all, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Asian Affairs Kurt Campbell had a bout of amnesia and suddenly recalled that the budget cuts were NOT on the agenda.
This is all going on while the Chinese leadership is in transition, where Australia is acting like a school kid with the teacher out of the classroom. Last year's AUSMIN meeting riled China that probably isn’t delighted that the U.S. is in town 'rubbing salt on the wound'. China, which is not at ease with the Australia-India defense tie up-scaling, will demand a lot of explaining by Australian diplomatic officials over the coming year to eliminate the tension Australia has caused with their rash behavior.
China's new leadership has to deal with an Australia where another former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been "advising" the U.S. to reserve the military option against them," according to Wikileaks cables.
It's not just China that is perturbed about all the childish behavior going on. Former Australian Prime Minister, and the original visionary about Australia needed to stamp its place in Asia, Paul Keating couldn't bear all the placating between Hillary and Julia and stepped in with some wise advice. Keating warned Julia that she is making the same mistake as conservative and self-styled deputy sheriff, former Prime Minister John Howard in just falling over for the U.S. without regard for the consequences throughout the region.
Australia's blind obedience to the U.S. has compromised the region's perception of the country's independence. At the Keith Murdoch Lecture in Melbourne last night Keating said that Australia had been "traded down in the big stroke business" from the days it once played a key role in the creation of the APEC Forum. "Even states like Indonesia are dubious of us (Australia) because they do not see us making our way in the world or their world other than in a manner deferential to other powers, especially the U.S.," he said.
Meanwhile, Obama is getting ready for his Asian trip and ready to go all out for it. Expect a big pep talk to Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra about boosting U.S.-Thai military cooperation. Thailand is expected to join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will fly in from Australia on Thursday to solve a few issues about Thailand's disappointment with lack of benefits arising non-NATO ally (MNNA) status before Obama arrives on Sunday. There are a number of covert matters that the U.S. wants — such as access to the U-tapao airbase. Maybe a new initiative or two will be announced in the trade area to get trade relations back on track.
On November 19, Obama will then travel onto Burma to meet President Thein Sein, who is perceived as a potential U.S. ally with the country's yearn to become less dependent on China. Obama's last stop is on November 20 in Cambodia to attend the 7th East Asia Summit (EAS) where he will meet with ASEAN leaders and work on stemming the close Cambodia-China alliance, where China is now Cambodia's largest aid donor — through the EAS platform.
Obama is in a region where China sees itself as a natural leader, and has earned this position through hard work. Obama is coming right up "nose to nose" against China that increases the stakes and could escalate into what could be metaphorically called a "cold war" — without the political dogma.
However, the United States is no longer the incumbent in the region and cannot dominate the game through aid. In fact, Obama has many fiscal problems at home he has to face upon his return. The rules are different now, and the second time round the Asian region is much wiser. As a consequence Obama's strategy is one of high risk.
What we are about to see is Obama at his best, just like an Olympic 100 meters gold medalist before the start of the final. Suave, focused and confident — and a powerful persuader.
However, China is yet to play any cards in retaliation. And people forget China is the home of Lao Tzu and Sun Tzu. China is good at their game now with a young technocrat generation, with a capable country behind them. For the sake of the U.S., let's hope Obama has some contingencies up his sleeve.
It seems that this trip is also about Hillary, the statesperson who could become the first female president of the United States.