My Take

US senators undermine rational policy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 April, 2015, 12:40am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 April, 2015, 12:40am

US senators who sit on the foreign relations committee may be among the most dangerous people in the world today.

Such politicians want the US to pick a fight with China over the South and East China seas just as Beijing has toned down its belligerent rhetoric after several years of provocative behaviour. The same committee has now asserted itself over the Obama administration's nearly-done deal with Iran on its nuclear programme.

It appears those US lawmakers prefer to risk an armed stand-off in Asia's key sea lanes and a hot war in the Middle East than for their government to reach an understanding and a settlement with the two rising powers in their respective regions.

With an unanimous vote this week, the senate committee has passed a bill that would require both the Senate and the House of Representatives to vote on the final nuclear deal. It would bar Obama from lifting existing sanctions against Iran even after a deal is reached.

Obama can of course veto the bill. In the end, he may well have to do it instead of trying and failing to convince members of the Senate and the House. The nuclear deal also involves France, Britain, China, Germany and Russia, none of which have had to deal with such foreign policy obstructions from their lawmakers. In passing the bill, the senators, mostly Republican but also a few Democrats, help undermine the credibility of their own government. Meanwhile, the senators on the same committee have made a mountain out of a molehill about China's recent reclamation and construction works near some disputed islands and waters in the South and East China seas.

Big deal! Everyone has been doing it - Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines - with some over many years. If anything, China is actually a latecomer.

A fair-minded broker may ask all sides to cool it and slow down - or halt such provocative works altogether. By picking on one but not the others, especially the one who has the most ability to fight back, those US politicians are not helping to ease tensions, but make them worse.

Here are instances where American checks and balances undermine rational foreign policy.