This week, we've been marking the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway. The dramatic victory turned the tide of the Second World War in the Pacific and paved the way for a long era of American dominance, but, as we hear from Neal Conan in today's Pacific News Minute, nervous allies are beginning to question whether that era is coming to an end.
Last weekend, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis delivered a speech to the Shangri-la conference in Singapore that hit familiar notes. He declared that the United States would stand by its allies, he called North Korea a “clear and present danger” and criticized China’s militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea. Underlying it all, he said, was America’s determination to uphold the network of alliances, organizations and agreements established after the Second World War; quote: “We have a deep and abiding commitment to reinforcing the rules based international order.”
But pointed questions noted President Trump’s abandonment of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement and the Paris Climate Accord; the head of an Australian think tank asked if the US was destroying the very global order that Secretary Mattis had just defended. The Malaysian Defense Minister wanted to know President Trump’s true policies for the region. And while Secretary Mattis declared unequivocal support for America’s NATO allies, no one missed the fact that President Trump had declined to say that in his speech in Brussels earlier this month. In short, despite the Defense Secretary’s speech, they concluded that President Trump and National Security Advisor Steve Bannon have distinctly different views.
While some saw an epochal American retreat, Secretary Mattis begged for patience. “Bear with us,” Mattis said, and cited Winston Churchill.
“Once we have exhausted all possible alternatives, the Americans will do the right thing.”