By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

April 08, 2016

…Some friction between the military commander in theater and civilian policymakers in DC is to be expected, said a former aide to the Chief of Naval Operations. “The back and forth, the friction if you will, is normal,” said Bryan Clark, now with the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments. “But what’s been different [is] the lengths that they’ve gone to keep things calm on the military or security side.” So among the military and policy specialists, Clark said, “the level of frustration’s maybe a little bit higher [than usual].” China keeps creating facts on the ground, such as military bases and artificial islands. Because they’re getting more entrenched all the time, every day we do not act, action gets harder to take…“The No. 1 thing the secretary could say would be a clarification of our treaty commitment to the Philippines [to] send a strong deterrent message,” Poling said: a declaration that any unprovoked attack on Philippine forces in the disputed waters would trigger the defense treaty. Bryan Clark isn’t so sure. “The US should say we’re going to help countries protect their EEZs [Exclusive Economic Zones, but] there is a moral hazard here,” he said: “The Philippines may provoke China, expecting the US to have their back.” Then the US has the unenviable choice of confronting China or leaving an ally in the lurch, since “the Philippines don’t have a lot of military capability to do much about this.”..

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