On Thursday night, U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (VA) received an early Christmas gift. In the serene atmosphere of the U.S. Senate, an amendment was unanimously approved to reaffirm the U.S.’s commitment to Japan under Article 5 of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. The amendment was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.
Webb stated, “Over the past several years, China has taken increasingly aggressive actions to assert its claim over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and in a broad expanse of the South China Sea.”
And according to the Pacific News Center, the amendment reemphasized the U.S. interest in freedom of navigation, respect for international law, peace and stability, and unimpeded lawful commerce.
As Sen. Webb rides out his last days in the U.S. Senate, it is worth considering the foreign policy leadership, whether you agree with his policy positions or not, that will be lost with his departure from the upper chamber. Indeed, with the departure of Webb, perhaps only a handful of U.S. Senators will be left with strong foreign policy credentials. And some of them, like John McCain, are more like boars than hawks.
Webb has always fit into the mold of the American foreign policy pragmatist whose main foreign policy concern is protecting America’s business interests and economic allies. Webb, however, mixed his foreign policy pragmatism with a real-life knowledge of war and the kind of anarchic world of international relations that we live in.
And given his wartime experience in Asia, perhaps it is little surprise that Sen. Webb has focused much of his foreign policy attention on the so-called rising tiger of that continent, China.
It is impossible to tell at present whether Webb’s forceful approach to dealing with China’s aggressiveness in East Asia is the most appropriate foreign policy route to take. That is, such an approach by America could be further fueling the power of the Chinese military and their belief that the U.S. is a belligerent force that will be confronted militarily sooner or later.
But Sen. Webb is, above all, a man of integrity that will be missed (even if his positions on the environment won’t).