U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first-ever attendance by a Secretary of State at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in the Cook Islands capital of Avarua on Rarotonga has international observers wondering about the Obama administration’s plans to extend the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) deep into the Pacific Ocean, as well as into South East Asia. Clinton had in tow with her U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) Commander Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the chief American proconsul who deals with military relations with the Asia-Pacific region. Clinton was accompanied by some 60 other lower-ranking U.S. diplomatic, military, and intelligence officials in Rarotonga. After the Cook Islands stop, the delegation’s itinerary included Brunei, East Timor, Indonesia and China before a final stop to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vladivostok…
Locklear’s presence as the number two U.S. representative to the PIF summit and on the first visit by an American Secretary of State to the self-governing Cook Islands is a testament to the steady militarization of American foreign policy. In Africa, it is the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) that calls the shots. For the Middle East and South Asia the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and for Latin American and the Caribbean the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), respectively, dominate U.S. foreign policy decisions in their respective areas of operation.
Mrs. Clinton’s trip to the South Pacific comes after a strategic decision by the Obama administration to “pivot” U.S. foreign policy toward Asia in an attempt to counter a perceived Chinese military presence in the region. The pivot decision has seen an increase in U.S. naval fleet strength and air power in the region, with new U.S. military bases being established in Darwin and Perth, Australia and talk of another U.S. Indian Ocean base in the Australian-run Cocos (Keeling Islands) to supplement the U.S. air and naval base on Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean Territory.
Although Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard left the Cook Islands summit early to deal with the deaths of five Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, the other chief water-carrier for U.S. military goals in the region, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, helped handle Clinton’s interaction with the heads of government of the small Pacific island states for which New Zealand has been granted direct oversight by the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Ominously, most of the PIF meetings, held at resort hotels in Rarotonga and on Aitutaki, were closed events. Mrs. Clinton’s reported knack for finger-pointing at such venues as the PIF was not on display for the international media, which traveled to the Cook Islands for the summit. Many of the island nations have been both courted and warned by Israel to withhold support for Palestine’s application to become a full observer state at this year’s UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Clinton has never failed to finger point at leaders of other nations when their lack of support for Israel is an issue.
The UK-USA intelligence alliance created after World War II handed over primary responsibility for monitoring political and economic affairs in the South Pacific English-speaking islands, all of which were colonies of New Zealand, Britain, and Australia, to New Zealand. Australia played a more minor role in the alliance, particularly with regard to Papua New Guinea.
New Zealand monitored the occasional presence in the South Pacific of Soviet fishing trawlers that doubled as intelligence collectors, diplomatic agreements between newly-independent Pacific states and the Soviet Union and China, including Kiribati’s fishing agreement with the USSR in 1985 and its establishment of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1980 and agreement for China to establish a satellite tracking station in the island nation in 1997. Pacific island nations traded off diplomatic recognition of China and Taiwan in what became known as “checkbook diplomacy,” with recognition going to the country that provided the most economic aid. With recognition by Tuvalu and Nauru, and Vanuatu of the independence of Abkhazia and Tuvalu and Nauru of South Ossetia’s independence, charges of checkbook diplomacy by Russia have emanated from the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia. With Obama’s pivot of foreign policy to the Asia-Pacific region, it seems certain that Washington’s desires for a PATO includes eventual membership for the Pacific Island Forum states of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Tonga, Samoa, Palau, Micronesia, and Marshall Islands, with associate membership for the Cook Islands and Niue.
NATO is increasingly moving eastward and through the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), it has developed military and political relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council nations of Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates with Saudi Arabia and Oman showing an increased interest in the initiative. NATO and the United States are attempting to re-create the defunct Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), a Cold War alliance of the United States, Pakistan, Britain, Iran, Turkey, and, before it withdrew, Iraq.
Mrs. Clinton’s foray into the South Pacific to pivot U.S. foreign policy toward Asia is clearly an attempt to re-create another defunct Cold War-era alliance, the South East Asia treaty Organization (SEATO), which was composed of the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, France, and Pakistan. The transformation of NATO into PATO – the Pacific-Atlantic Treaty Organization – is, like the former CENTO and SEATO, directed against China and Russia.
During the Nixon administration, there was an attempt to expand NATO by creating a South Atlantic Treaty Organization (SATO), that would have included the United States, apartheid South Africa, Portugal, and the right-wing fascist Latin American regimes of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil that cooperated with the CIA in Operation Condor, which exchanged intelligence that targeted leftist activists, students, and regime opponents. Although SATO never materialized, the program provided evidence that NATO was never intent on its North Atlantic-only charter but sought to expand it around the globe.
Today, the United States is pursuing the acquisition or re-acquisition of bases it lost in the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, and Cambodia. Clinton’s visit to Indonesia and recent visits to Laos and Myanmar had a military dimension, one that seeks to establish around China a cordon sanitaire to pen in China’s growing military power in the region. Conceivably, Vietnam, Brunei, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Mongolia, and Myanmar could be coaxed into joining a PATO, along with more certain probabilities of South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and, unofficially and through secret protocols, Taiwan. Such an expanded alliance would be certain to throw down the gauntlet to China over disputed islands in the oil- and natural gas-rich South China Sea. PATO would also signal to Russia that they would be boxed in to the West and East.
The history of failed empires – Persia, Rome, Byzantium, and Ottoman — show that before they collapsed, they over-extended their reach and fell from collapse from within and invasion from without. The collapse of representative democratic republicanism in the United States, coupled with economic malaise and a resuscitated Cold War-era global military American hegemony, means that all China, Russia, and other emerging powers have to do is wait. For when America reaches the inevitable event horizon of collapse, it will occur so fast the world will be left stunned.