Spencer-Churchill argues that “Invade that sovereign state!” can be a good answer – so long as the sovereign state is the Solomon Islands and the invader is the United States or Australia. His piece is devoted to arguing that these two allies should consider intervening militarily to keep the Solomon Islands from cozying up to China.
That article’s author is not the first one to suggest aggressive intervention in the Solomons in the last few months. Ever since the signing of a security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands was announced in the spring, some China hawks have been promoting the idea that the agreement is just a prelude to a Chinese base and that the US and Australia must not “allow” that to happen. It has simply been taken for granted in some circles that the US and Australia have the right to dictate how the Solomon Islands conducts its foreign and security policies, and states in the “free and open Indo-Pacific” are free to do as they like only as long as they do what Washington and Canberra endorse.
One of the more extreme responses to the security agreement came from David Llewellyn-Smith, the former owner of The Diplomat, who said that Australia should be prepared to invade and overthrow the government to halt the agreement. Llewellyn-Smith would win the gold medal in an Olympic threat inflation event with his declaration that the agreement with China was Australia’s “Cuban missile crisis” and that a Chinese base in the Solomons would be “the effective end of our sovereignty and our democracy.” Official responses have been much more measured and they have paid lip service to the sovereignty and independence of the Solomon Islands, but there has still been an undercurrent of menace in the refusal to rule out military action.
The agitation for an anti-Chinese intervention in the Solomons is a useful reminder that this sort of unhinged militarism is what usually happens when great powers begin vying for influence with one another. The great powers treat smaller states as valuable only insofar as they can be used as pawns in their rivalries, and they are willing to trample on the rights of small nations to gain an advantage over their rivals. Because the relationship with China is increasingly framed in adversarial, zero-sum terms, the US has taken to viewing any sign of growing Chinese influence as a potential threat to be countered. Once this view takes hold, it no longer matters whether there are any discernible US interests at stake. Thwarting China becomes an end in itself, and “failure” to do so is then spun as “weakness.”
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.