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China is winning the battle for the Red Sea America has retired as world policeman

Members of the Chinese Navy (VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Members of the Chinese Navy (VCG/VCG via Getty Images)


February 11, 2024   5 mins

Hardly for the first time, remote Arab tribesmen are reshaping the world. Piratical attacks on international shipping by Yemen-based Houthi rebels have created a significant security crisis in the Red Sea. The world’s largest shipping lines have been forced to suspend transit through the Red Sea and thus the Suez Canal. And with nearly a third of global container traffic typically flowing through Suez, this has seriously disrupted world trade. Yet the most enduring impact of the crisis may be on the geopolitical balance between two great powers, each many thousands of kilometres away from the scorching sands of the Arabian Peninsula: China and the United States.

As the world’s largest trading nation, China has much at stake in the Red Sea. Europe is China’s top trade partner, and more than 60% of that trade by value usually flows through the Suez Canal. With that route disrupted, cargo vessels are diverting around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, adding up to two weeks in additional travel time and vastly increasing shipping costs. By 25 January, the average cost of shipping a 40-foot container from Shanghai to Genoa spiked to $6,365, an increase of 464% from two months earlier. Insurance rates have also skyrocketed. What’s more, Chinese companies have in recent years poured billions of dollars’ worth of investment into assets in the region, such as the 20% stake in the East Port Said container terminal of the Suez Canal that is now owned by Chinese state shipping giant COSCO. At a time when China’s growth rate is already struggling, the crisis risks imposing a serious further drag on its economy.

Apparently perceiving this vulnerability, Washington has tried to use it as leverage to convince Beijing to help end the crisis. China is the top economic and geopolitical backer of Iran, which in turn backs the Houthis, using them as a proxy to needle Israel, the United States and its allies. Some officials in Washington are convinced that, if it really wanted to, Beijing could quickly pressure Tehran into ending the Houthi attacks. Biden administration officials have “repeatedly raised the matter with top Chinese officials in the past three months”, according to the Financial Times, and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan recently flew to Thailand to directly plead the administration’s case in a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

This diplomatic effort seems to have failed. Aside from a tepid public statement calling on “all relevant parties” to “ensure the safety of navigation in the Red Sea”, Beijing appears to have made no move whatsoever to remedy the situation. Instead, it called on Washington to “avoid adding fuel to the fire” in the Middle East. The attacks continue.

Some in Washington are pouting. Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Massachusetts), for instance, slammed China in a Congressional hearing in late January for being “not only missing in action as a purported upholder of international commerce and rules, but
 in fact actively undermining the potential for a peaceful resolution to this issue”. This failure to intervene was just “another example of the malign and malicious attempts at global leadership from the Chinese Communist Party”.

But Auchincloss and others of like mind in Washington should perhaps be careful what they wish for. For decades — indeed, arguably for the better part of two centuries — it has been the United States that has served as the world’s “upholder of international commerce and rules”. In fact, it was a determination to protect the flow of maritime commerce from pirates that induced the young United States into its first foreign intervention, the Barbary Wars of 1801 and 1815, and permanently forged its identity as an international actor. If the nation were truly to become and remain a merchant republic that meant that it must, as then-President Thomas Jefferson declared, “superintend the safety of our commerce” through “the resources of our own strength and bravery in every sea”.

Two centuries later, the US Navy was still operating under the slogan of “A Global Force for Good”. Which is to say that the whole image — and reality — of America as a superpower largely rests, like the British Empire before it, on its ability to secure global trade. If there is any remaining shred of the “Pax Americana” on which the whole recent era of globalisation was built, this is it.

It is in this context that Washington officials ought to consider what it would mean if Beijing were to listen to their pleas and actually take over America’s role as a security provider. If the nations of the world were to begin turning to China for “global leadership” rather than the United States whenever their merchant ships were in need of protection, it would decisively mark the transition from an American century to a Chinese one, much as Britain once yielded the seas to its former colony. Washington should count itself lucky that Beijing has so far declined to try out for the role.

Meanwhile, America’s own effort to perform its old job of securing the sea lanes has proved little more than a fiasco. With the US Navy severely undermanned and overstretched around the globe, it attempted to assemble “Operation Prosperity Guardian”, a multinational coalition of forces under its command meant to patrol the Rea Sea. But this effort functionally collapsed almost immediately when France, Italy and Spain — all of whom Washington prematurely announced would be members — declined to participate, saying they wouldn’t accept US command. No Middle Eastern countries other than Bahrain signed up either. In a throwback to yesteryear, navies are instead each going solo and escorting the vessels sailing under their own flags and titles. What we are seeing, then, is a true breakdown in the “international order” — in the sense of there being any order — that was once imposed by American power. We are returning to an older, more typical world in which there is no world policeman, and everyone is obliged to protect their own national interests.

The Chinese are well prepared to capitalise on this situation. Although COSCO has for now also abandoned the Red Sea route, other smaller Chinese shippers have spotted commercial opportunity and leapt to fill the gap. China United Lines (CULines), for example, has rushed to start up a “Red Sea Express” service linking Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah to Chinese ports. They are able to do so because the Houthis seem to be under strict orders to try to avoid attacking China-linked vessels. Ships still running the straits into the Red Sea now regularly make sure to prominently display Chinese flags and use their satellite identification data to announce that they have Chinese owners, or even just Chinese crew members. The number of vessels transiting the area while preemptively broadcasting that they carry Chinese crew has surged from less than two per day to more than 30 in late January. Apparently this is the magic talisman to keep pirates at bay — though China’s navy has at least three warships in the area to escort its vessels, should it prove insufficient.

The reason Beijing seems so relaxed about the crisis is obvious: this is a situation in which China wins either way. Either the threat continues but shipping is safer for Chinese vessels than for others, in which case sailing under the protection of the red and gold flag may become a coveted competitive advantage, or Beijing finally tells Iran to knock it off, in which case China becomes the principal beneficiary of the security vacuum left by the United States. Both outcomes would be geopolitical coups. No wonder China is willing to accept a little short-term economic pain as the situation plays out.

Meanwhile, the crisis also provides China with a real justification for continuing to rapidly build out a “blue water” navy able to project power far from its own shores. As it happens, this is the same justification traditionally been offered by the United States: that, in the absence of security and stability, it needs the ability to protect global sea lanes and the lives of its citizens abroad. The military base China built in Djibouti in 2016 to enable the deployment of its warships across the Indian Ocean and around the Horn of Africa now looks prudent.

This is how the “world order” has always been shaped and reshaped: by nations and empires acting abroad to protect their own interests — or progressively failing to do so while others move to fill the void. The crisis in the Red Sea is therefore both symbolically and practically meaningful. Unless the United States and its allies can get their act together, we may look back on this as a moment when a vast geopolitical shift was revealed for all to see. As for everyone else, it’s likely that the crisis will serve as a sign that the time to prepare for the harsh realities of a far more “multipolar”, less globalised world has by now well and truly arrived.


Nathan Levine is a Visiting Fellow in the B. Kenneth Simon Center at the Heritage Foundation and a non-resident Research Fellow with the Asia Society Policy Institute.


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Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
5 months ago

This analysis is so dumb. China is winning nothing at all. China has done nothing. China will be China tomorrow, only more so. A dragon does not change its spots ……

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Was your first sentence a comment on the article or a preface to yours?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Be careful not to inhale too much sand..

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago

The first thing the U.S. needs to do is get all of its troops out of the Middle East where they are vulnerable to enemy attack. Then they sink an Iranian naval ship everytime its proxies destroy a commercial ship.

William Brand
William Brand
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

That is what we should have done before Iran got the bomb. Now we have to fear them. The martyr complex of Shia Islam may lead them to sacrifice Iran in a mutual assured destruction situation MAD. They all go to Islamic Paradice if they take down America and Israel with them in a nuclear war. Ordinary Iranians are not insane, but their ruler may well be that fanatical.

D Walsh
D Walsh
5 months ago
Reply to  William Brand

What bomb ? What the hell are you talking about

Stop listening to neocon propaganda, it’s rotting your tiny brain

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

The Iranians are very likely going to develop and acquire nuclear weapons. The US has been pathetically weak in preventing them.

It is rather alarming that an ill defined group of domestic “neocons” worries you more than the out of control Iranian regime. We can see this in plain sight now, with flagrant daily attacks mounted on international merchant shipping. The denial is incredible.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Clearly you are unaware of the cause of the attacks on shipping! It is due to a Satanic regime carrying out a genocide on defenceless women and children aided and abetted by a murderous US regime.. or hadn’t you heard?

Emily Critchley
Emily Critchley
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony




Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago

Didn’t come through Emily.. first time anyone attacking me was ever censored! ..or were you supporting me? ..now that WOULD make sense..

Ron Kean
Ron Kean
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Maybe you haven’t heard of Hamas. Hamas attacked Israel is the most savage way on October 7th. That this has to be repeated demonstrates either ignorance or hatred on your part. What’s happening is war. War is hell. If genocide was the goal there’d be a million dead by now. Hamas can stop the war easily right now but it enjoys hiding behind civilians for sympathy from the easily persuaded like you.

Ron Kean
Ron Kean
5 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Iran says it’s conducting nuclear research to supply its country with energy as it sits on a sea of oil. Iran stopped UN inspections of its nuclear facilities long ago. All the while its leaders threaten Israel with nuclear destruction calling it a ‘one bomb state’. This is well known evidently to nearly everyone but you.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  William Brand

Please list…
A All countries invaded, bombed, destroyed, looted etc by Iran.
B All countries invaded, bombed, destroyed, looted etc by the US.
Then have a rethink as to who is the planet’s mad, aggressive, warmongering degenerate.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The US is incapable of engaging any modern, well equipped large army.. it is only good at bombing lightly armed or defenceless desert and cave dwellers. Putin’s Ryssua beat the US (masquerading as NATO, masquerading as Ukraine) as did the Afghans and Vietnames so it’d be well advised to stear clear of Iran and China. Best stick to bombing defenseless children in Gaza.. more in its line.

Burke S.
Burke S.
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

lol what utter nonsense

Nobody has directly challenged the US since 1991 because we are so good at destroying other peoples armies. Ask Saddam. There is no other power that could defeat the US Navy alone head to head, which is why the death by a thousand cuts strategy is used.

Since Desert Storm it’s been the cave dwelling Islamists launching terrorist attacks on soft targets. Zero times that’s been done by Israelis.

Putin can’t even take Ukraine!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Burke S.

Israelis haven’t targeted soft (Palestinian) targets? ..in the last 70 years we’ve had one massacre after another, time and time again, over and over again.. the 4th most powerful army and armed settlers attacking lightly armed (usually unarmed) civilians.. But you are unaware of all that? ..really? ..are you serious? ..do you read? ..are you compus mentus?..are you a grown up? ..does you IQ exceed 80? ..have you been to school?

Kim Harrison
Kim Harrison
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Hmmm…What are the definitons of “Loaded statements?” and “Ad hominem?”

Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
5 months ago

Very little American commerce transits the Red Sea and the presence of the US Navy there is arguably a greater risk to the US than a benefit. The nations most at risk of economic disruption are European. It would be foolish for the United States to be baited into taking responsibility for every waterway in the world by being taunted with the prospect of losing our pre-eminence. It cannot be entirely predicted what the Biden administration will do in this regard, but the feeling of many American citizens is that the Red Sea, like the Black Sea, should be completely avoided by our navy.

The US has not been rewarded for its role as “Policeman of the World”, certainly not its average citizens for whom the global world order of the Davos elites has been catastrophic. We in the US are well-aware that on the lips of many Europeans “American” is an epithet. Increasingly, more and more Americans have come to question the rationale for their country shouldering a disproportionate responsibility for the security of nations that, while enjoying equivalent or greater standards of living, do not meaningfully contribute to their own defense, and view Americans with palpable contempt. Americans resent the neglect of their domestic priorities such as public education, infrastructure, and public health in order to pay the massive cost of ensuring the defense of “allies” who often appear to despise us. The peoples of Europe, often rightfully, find much to criticize and resent in the hegemony of the US but may miss America in a future world dominated by some mix of the PRC, rampant Islamic fundamentalism, and banana-republic dictators. But at least, as the US sinks below the waves, Europeans will be able to savor the long-awaited schadenfreude of witnessing America’s demise.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
5 months ago
Reply to  Ex Nihilo

“The US has not been rewarded for its role as “Policeman of the World”, certainly not its average citizens for whom the global world order of the Davos elites has been catastrophic.”
This is the point: there is a clear distinction in practice (and increasingly, in politics) between the US Republic and the American Empire. These two entities are not the same and they do have identical constituencies.
The American Empire represents the economic interests of the US Coastal elites, but also the interests of wealthy Europeans and ‘internationals’ generally – (ex pats from Australia who work as engineers in tax-free Dubai building infrastructure financed by the World Bank…). It wants a large, aggressive American-led military, a cheap flow of unrestricted labour from the Global South, lots of international trade defended by an international rulebook controlled by powerful elites. Democracy is a useful screen to keep populations content, but it should not be allowed to impact the Empire’s actual decision-making, which in any event is too vast and encompassing to be subject to such atomising forces…
The US Republic represents the interests of middle class and poor citizens of the US. It doesn’t need a massive army to do so; indeed less trade with abroad would increase its fortunes. It wants a closed southern border, aggressive tariff policies to defend US manufacturing and a regearing of public spending away from the military and towards civilian infrastructure.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Well said!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

This is making a far too stark contrast with previous US policy, at least after 1945. It’s an example of complete right wing naivety. You could have your way. but then with little doubt, we would have geopolitical dominance by China. No power can today truly isolate themselves from global interactions and conflicts, any more than was possible in 1914. The US could have, had it not had an active containment policy, allowed Soviet backed Communism to dominate Latin America as well as Eurasia. This would have happened; it was a very good thing for both the world and the US that it didn’t but it wasn’t by default. This doesn’t mean however that the US has to unthinkingly pile in to every conflict zone – some of these have undoubtedly been foolish and hubristic “wars of choice” – especially Iraq which has ended up strengthening arch enemy Iran

You also seem to be rather over sensitive to the stupid anti Americanism uttered by a noisy minority.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

It is the majority, ie the silly, gullible, naive, suckers for propaganda that are the problem. The minority such as Jeffrey Sachs et al are the ‘noisy’ voices of reality while the rest fiddle as the Empire burns..
Backing Satanyahu and his cabal of devil’s is the US’s swan song.. what a way to go. Good riddance..

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago
Reply to  Ex Nihilo

Well said. America’s isolationist streak, thought dead and buried in the decades after WWII, is back with a vengeance. WWII was a very long time ago now, and there are few alive who remember it. We’ve had two generations come of age since the end of the Cold War. I was eleven when it ended and have only a vague recollection of having a bitter rival halfway across the world. Without a major international conflict, the US is sliding back to its default state of disinterest in the international world. Even during the Pax Americana, Americans remain among the least traveled, least internationalized, populations. America was always an awkward fit for a global superpower and the mismatch between the people and now the mismatch between the people and the power is catching up with us. I suspect part of the reason the elites in the US are pushing a ‘tough on China’ agenda is not so much that they recognize how China’s bad behavior has leveraged the global economy to its exclusive advantage and are trying to correct the errors of the past, but rather they see an opening where the sentiments of Americans align enough to create a new Cold War and a justification for defense spending and international engagement. Unlike everything else they’ve tried, this one might work, especially if China/Russia continue to play the villain so convincingly. That’s still a form of deglobalization that will push us away from the dynamic that prevailed from 1991-2016 but I suspect the elites view it as better than the alternative of the entire system crashing down around them.
I’ve maintained for a while now that America is as well positioned as any to survive the end of globalization and thrive in the aftermath. It’s probably in a better position than China, whose export driven economy still stands to suffer as they begin to lose the American export market and possibly Europe as well. The Europeans, on the other hand, are not at all well positioned for a deglobalized economy. Every European should be praying for a Biden victory next November. Trump is, to be charitable, unpredictable. He might or might not follow through on any or all of his threats to upend the global order and change the US’s relationship with the world. He might or might not even be allowed to take office, but in the long run, that’s immaterial. A Trump victory, especially after what he’s done and what the elites have done to try and stop him, would send a clear message that Americans are done playing the globalist game, and it’s time for the world to move on. Europeans can’t count on free riding off American protection much longer. As Americans increasingly ask ‘what’s in it for me’ when it comes to American hegemony, the patronage of the still formidable power is going to come with costs. For whatever it’s worth, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea seem to understand that and are likely to remain comfortably within the American sphere. Europeans need to wake up to the realities that are coming down the pipe. They seem to me to be badly positioned, woefully unprepared, and disturbingly nonchalant about the direction America and the world is heading.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

There are 8 million dead Vietnamese, Iraqis, Afghans, Syrians, Libyans, Chileans etc etc who might have a different view of American ‘protection’

Burke S.
Burke S.
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Chileans? Excuse me, but we saved Chile. Now, the hundreds of thousands of Cubans and Venezuelans we have here


Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Burke S.

Ha ha.. you saved Chileans! By installing the murderous Pinochet? Do you think we’re fools? Save your naivety for Americans!

Kim Harrison
Kim Harrison
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Was it not Russia who bombed Syria? As for Iraq, did S. Hussein not invade a neighboring country? But I must agree, Afghanistan is indeed much better off under the Taliban.

Liam F
Liam F
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Agree. But what to do about it? As a European (in U.K) its disheartening to see how many countries in western europe has become fat dumb and happy over the last 50 years whilst quietly lapping up American largesse. The USA is probabaly the only country which can afford to turn its back on the world and prosper just fine -its pretty self-sufficient on everything that matters. Europe -and the EU particularly- has feeling of Weimar republic about it.

Mark Melvin
Mark Melvin
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam F

What to do about it? Well where should we start? Get a navy, do a proper Brexit, fund defence properly (perhaps with the tax coming from banned tobacco products that the mad PM has just introduced)… basically grow a pair and stand up for ourselves. Looking at the impending election, I fear for the future…

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam F

Afraid I’ve got no answers for you. I’m just telling you how it is. I’m also telling you it’s likely to get worse, maybe much worse. The mismatch between the American people and their international role is simply too great for it to last much longer. America is unique for how its people have self-selected over the centuries. It’s a culture founded by people who turned their backs on their homes and cultures to attempt a new life across the seas. Even the most recent immigrants share that in common with the millions who came before. If they cared more about their cultures, communities, and homelands than they did about themselves, they and their descendants probably wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be shocked if there were even genetic components that correlate to a higher incidence of antisocial behavior, introversion, individualism, etc. America was a fickle ally even at the best of times. America’s isolationist tendencies kept it out of WWII until Pearl Harbor. Now, there’s two decades of anti-elite anti-globalist anger built up. Ukraine was a relatively cheap conflict where no Americans were even at risk with clear geopolitical and economic benefits. It was also unambiguously the invasion of a smaller weaker countries by one of America’s principle adversaries both recently and historically. Even so, public support is wavering after just two years, and how many wars are over in two years? The people don’t trust or respect their own government. Regardless of which party’s in power, about 60% of the people won’t support them and many will actively undermine the government . The writing is on the wall. Europe is only ever one election or one domestic crisis away from being abandoned entirely. it’s time for everyone to look to their own protection.

Jules Anjim
Jules Anjim
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

A tad overwrought, perhaps. America is (was) as well positioned as any country to succeed from the globalisation it crafted, but made some short-sighted political choices along the way which gifted the global manufacturing capacity to a ruthless autocratic country, and pretended that service industries would lift the living standards of its people (while the capacity to expand debt papered over that particular fallacy). It’s a victim of its own success and short-sighted capitalist pathology. Regrettably, it’s just nine months away from delivering the Virgin mother of bad political decisions.

JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
5 months ago

First you state that China as a trading nation has much at stake in Yemen’s actions against shipping in the Bab el Mandeb, then in the end you confirm the actual truth: Yemen is not impeding Chinese vessels.
So the situation in the Bab el Mandeb is not about trade or unimpeded transit after all. What is it about then?

A D Kent
A D Kent
5 months ago

That is, of course, the dirty great big elephant in the cargo hold here. They’re not impeding Russian ones either. The ownership of most shipping these days is extremely opaque with various layers of shell & holding company involvement and flags of convenience. Before the US & UK decided to stir the pot and add their own vessels to the target list the Yemenis were doing a pretty good job of singlng out those associated with one particular state.

Kent Ausburn
Kent Ausburn
5 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Correct. Iran may be the head of the snake in the ME, but China is the head of the snake that is the China-Russia-Iran-N.Korea axis. China is/was aware of and complicent in everything that has gone down in Ukraine and the ME, including the Oct 6 Hamas invasion of Isreal. China is choreographing it all. The sooner that relationship is recognized, the better.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Kent Ausburn

Ease off on the propaganda.. it’s making you look very silly.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

I don’t understand this comment, but the implication is it is fine if Israeli shipping is targeted.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Yes it’s 100% OK.. the whole objective of the Houthis is to stop the genocide in Gaza.. try to keep up will you?

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Not doing too well are they? The Israelis must be quaking in their very nice army boots.

Henry Mayhew
Henry Mayhew
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Yes that is a highly appropriate response to genocide.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago

The Houthis have specifically linked it to support for Israel.

j watson
j watson
5 months ago

Complicated World isn’t it and the choices facing western leaders far from simple.
There can be no doubt though the CCP, Putin and Iran would be delighted if they could exert a ‘choke-hold’ on the West via key shipping/trade routes. Where next – straits of Hormuz, Malacca straits and of course S China Sea?
Of course Europe must better recognise the reciprocity requirements for US help but the idea that because no US bound containers route via Red Sea a ceding of control to malign actors would have little impact on the US is simpleton thinking too.

Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
5 months ago
Reply to  j watson

You lost your credibility at “simpleton”. Intelligent people don’t traffic in epithets. By your logic the US Navy should be escorting Ukrainian grain ships in the Black Sea, which would be foolishly provocative and also not in the interest of American citizens. No country has unlimited resources and a country as deeply in debt as the US is obliged to marshal its resources to best effect. Nothing in my premise precludes the US exerting its navy power in the waterways key to its interest. The Red Sea simply is not. If that is news to you I suggest you consult a map. American citizens need not put their shrinking purses and the precious lives of their sailors at risk to ensure that the price of a pair of “trainers” doesn’t go up in Europe.

We are well past the point at which the defense inter-relationship between the US and Europe can be repaired by “better recognizing reciprocity requirements”. With the exception of a minority of countries such as Finland, Europe is devoid of effective defense. The UK has a pitiful eleven surface warships and its army is in even worse condition. To bring the defense capability of most Western European countries to effective levels would require vast sums of money they don’t have and resolve they have even less of. The much-hyped pivot of Germany was just talk that has been followed by the cold reality of the true cost and scant action.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Ex Nihilo

Alternatively Europe can go back and repair its far more important relationship with Russia and abandon its toxic relationship (Nordstream2!) with the dying US Empire..

Jules Anjim
Jules Anjim
5 months ago
Reply to  Ex Nihilo

If you can’t see that America hasn’t already spent the best part of a century ensuring the price of “sneakers” by protecting far flung waterways, then you’ll just have to wear the epithet.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  j watson

It seems China and Russia have already near full control of the Artic Ocean which is arguably more important now that the ice is no longer a problem.. something the,Americans seemed not to have noticed!

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

CCP toady cheering on his masters.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
5 months ago

Seems to me it’s time to make flying the American flag on your vessel mean something. The Chinese can protect their vessels. We can protect ours. I’m guessing the Indians can too. After that, y’all that don’t have aircraft carriers might want to put your cards on the table with someone who does. That’s multipolarity. And I welcome it.
Multipolarity will do for most nations what federalism does for US states: give them options. And for the United States, it will force us to save a lot of money on useless foreign military bases.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago

The Chinese don’t need to protect their vessels because they are not part of the n genocide in Gaza.. join the dots will you! The Chinese war ships are there but not required.

Burke S.
Burke S.
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

But who’s going to protect your vessels from the Israelis? Or the Americans? Or anyone else who wants your goods?

It’s only a matter of time before we’re all out for ourselves again. If that’s how you want to play, so be it!

Sacrificing freedom of the seas because you’re worried about the Yemenis? Arabs? Seriously? Just wait until the people who have Navies start playing.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Burke S.

What are you talking about? We have no enemies.. we don’t invade, bomb, sanction, loot so no one hates us.. it’s an alternative approach, ie the BRICS++ approach.

Tony Price
Tony Price
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I’m not sure who you mean by ‘we’, but if that includes Russia and China (and India and Brazil but that’s mostly internal) then saying that they don’t ” invade, bomb, sanction, loot” etc is incorrect.

A D Kent
A D Kent
5 months ago

It’s all too typical for Western media to write and comment on the ‘battle for the Red Sea’ without mentioning the frequently stated reasons the Yemenis have given forv their attacks whilst simultaneously attributing them no agency at all (they’re under strict orders from elsewhere apparently). I’m sure there’s a trope in there somewhere, but there are so many of those around these days it’s hard to keep up.

As for America being the ‘World’s Policeman’ – it may well be, but it went all Harvey Keitel in the 1950s.  

William Brand
William Brand
5 months ago

China also is able to reduce competition from other Asian nations. A ship charring Chinese cargo passes through the red sea, but an Indian or Vietnamese cargo must go around Africa. Expect Ships passing the red sea route to be inspected to ensure that Non-Chinese cargo is not on them. China may impose taxes upon the trade of other Asian nations that are shipped on Non-Chinese ships thus taxing would be vassal states. India and Japan must get their navies to escort their ships, or their industry will be paying tribute to China. Britan needs to rebuild the British empire and Navy. America’s navy is now unavailable. Let India take the lead this time. It’s not a colony anymore. Its rich. Add Australia. Add the Philippines, they do not want to be China’s tributary state and America can’t save them. Vietnam will join. Add Japan and South Korea to the alliance. They have the shipyards. Add Canada once the conservatives replace Trudeau. Then try to get the first country to leave the empire to return: the USA. Don’t let them lead they are too fickle. America is incapable of running an empire. Ask all of its scared tributary allies to switch to an experienced Professional Empire Ruler Britian. They might even pay Mercenary dues for British naval support. Make the navy a export commodity that nations pay insurance to. In Addition, manning difficulties are secured by Philippines. Their sailors fill many merchant fleets.

Sayantani Gupta
Sayantani Gupta
5 months ago
Reply to  William Brand

Incidentally the Indian Navy is already playing a key role in protecting vessels. It hasn’t been projected in Western MSM for the usual biases against us, but there are several Indian naval carriers which rescued ships( including with Pakistani crew), though ISI possibly used it’s submarines to attack us to stage a false flag with potential conflict with Iran.
There can be no question of accepting US command when a dysfunctional situation in Myanmar and Pakistan occupied Kashmir is being stoked by the usual suspects( who sometimes make strange bedfellows)

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago

Could you expand a little on the Royal Navy’s role in 1971?
Sadly, my memory fails me on this one.

Sayantani Gupta
Sayantani Gupta
5 months ago

Indo Pak War of 71. Nixon sending Seventh Fleet led by USS Enterprise and asking R Navy to join to support Pakistan.

https://militaryview.com/which-nation-supported-pakistan-during-the-india-pakistan-war-of-1971/

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago

Thank you so much.
I am glad to see that the former HMS Hercules played her part.

Sayantani Gupta
Sayantani Gupta
5 months ago

In fact the Royal Bombay Yatch Club may have proved a more salubrious place for “R and R” than the bazaars of Hiramandi- Lahore!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago

‘She’ earned a few medals including two MVC’s

Sayantani Gupta
Sayantani Gupta
5 months ago

Admiral Sir Charles Mark Pizey still gets his deserved recognition –

https://www.bharat-rakshak.com/NAVY/Personnel/Chiefs/50-Mark-Pizey.html

George Venning
George Venning
5 months ago

It finally happened Charles!

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
5 months ago
Reply to  George Venning

I hope it is not Alzheimer’s!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Carl Valentine

Worse, I fear.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Carl Valentine

Alzheimer sounds foreign.. Mr Stanhope will only permit British diseases to affect him!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Bidenitis sounds better!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  George Venning

I’ve booked my place with Dignitas!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago

I’ll help!

Rob Cameron
Rob Cameron
5 months ago

Sayantani, India made the Soviet Union it’s allie; that’s why the US looked more favourably on Pakistan. If you keep cosying-up to the Kremlin, you’re not going to have many friends in the West. There’s an awful lot of posturing by politicians.
Meanwhile, sailors will be talking to each other and quietly co-operating.

Sayantani Gupta
Sayantani Gupta
5 months ago
Reply to  Rob Cameron

I don’t think it’s as simple as that. If you read the history of the Partition you will know that an important geo strategic aspect was of Pakistan being created as a counter to independent India. Nehru in fact kept India non aligned and till the JFK era India had close ties with the US. Plus the heads of the Navy and IAF till the 1950s were British, and M15 continued its India operations with the Intelligence Bureau well till the early 1960s.
The shift came first under LBJ and then Nixon who built up a Pak- China anti India axis.
The treaty of 1971 you possibly refer to is in reaction to the US building up Pakistan and it’s military dictatorship amidst a cold war context.
” Cosying up” was what the US did with Pakistan more. In fact the formal 1971 treaty came about after Nixon was sending the 7th fleet.
Republicans tend to be more pragmatic nowadays on Indo US relations compared to the Democrats.
Having said that I do agree that there is quiet cooperation among the Navies and some Quad meets are probably in the offing too.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Rob Cameron

“To be an enemy of the US is dangerous; but to be a friend is fatal” – Henry Kissinger, famous US warmonger and war criminal.

Matt M
Matt M
5 months ago
Reply to  William Brand

I like your thinking William!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  William Brand

This is truly ridiculous. Britain can run an Empire better than the US although the latter’s GDP being 9 times greater?.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

“Can” ..surely you mean “could” not that that is accurate either..

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
5 months ago
Reply to  William Brand

Leave it out! Our parliamentarians are not fit to shovel **it and the (un)Civil Service is no better. And as for the Navy, well I try not to defend the indefensible, even after 18 years in it plus another 18 in the MN. These days I try not to mention my sea service as I am legally a retired haulier.

Peter B
Peter B
5 months ago

Bizarre. China is far more dependent on global trade than the US and clearly has far more to lose.
Does the author seriously think that Houthi pirates are a reliable ally for anyone ? Or that vessels won’t suddenly start flying fake Chinese flags if they think it reduces their risk ?

Flibberti Gibbet
Flibberti Gibbet
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

The presence of AIS transponders on ships and civilian databases that catalogue AIS ship movements (sometimes with a photo) around the world mean that cloaking a ship’s identity is harder.
Techniques that worked for Sir Frances Drake or the fictional Captain Jack Aubrey won’t completely fool the Houthis.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

This isn’t “bizarre” by any means. China’s diplomacy is much more sly, unprincipled and cunning that the West’s. The West feels obliged to support Israel – I have to say I completely support that sentiment. China doesn’t give a damn and as a matter of fact its ships are not being attacked.

It would be an utter tragedy if Israel, the only Jewish and democratic state in the Middle East, went down – and not only for the Jews – it would be a world shattering defeat for the West.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Quelle volte-face!

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago

We can ask the Chinese to lend a hand but they see Biden as little more than an asset or puppet, so what would their incentive be? A bit of lost trade is not the answer. The Chinese view of time and money is not like ours; they are far more acculturated to the long game and when your rival is being attacked, one strategy is to get out of the way.
Unless the United States and its allies can get their act together, we may look back on this as a moment when a vast geopolitical shift was revealed for all to see. 
Which of these options is more likely? The West as whole is busy undermining itself, its history, its traditions, and its way of life, often with petty arguments over first-world problems but also in more substantive ways, such as crackdowns on farming, the electrification craze, and a hostility to free expression.
The US is being colonized – and it’s worth appropriating the word from its typical user – by people with no affinity to America or the West, no demonstrated skills that will contribute to society, and no expectation of assimilating. These people are just another source of division, creating enormous friction between the govt and governed in multiple cities. Taxpayers are funny about seeing their money used for people who should not be in the first place rather than on the locals and their issues.
Worse, there are plenty of people here and, from what I see in Europe, too, who are fine with seeing the West crumble. They think something worthy will come of that and they’re fine with dragging down the rest of us.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

When the US Empire crumbles the West will retrench, Trump style, and it’ll be America first (and only) and Europe first and the (economic) colonies will all turn to BRICS+.
The West will crumble as a world power but the better aspects of Western Culture will, of course, survive just as (old) Hindu, Chinese and Arabic cultures survived the demise of their Empires. Only the warhawks, neocons and similar degenerates will die off and not a moment too soon.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
5 months ago

I have always thought the reflexive claim that “America shouldn’t be the world’s policeman” is wrong-headed. The world needs a policeman, and A) the US is (or was) the best equipped to do it and B) who would we prefer to act in that role if we’re not going to do it? Don’t say the UN or I’ll fall out of my chair laughing.

R Wright
R Wright
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

“The world needs a policeman”

No. It does not.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

..certainly not one with 8,000,000 deaths in its wake (US University figures).. just like American cops at home murdering it’s own citizens..

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

‘Murdering its own citizens’? Black / people of colour are disproportionately represented in crime, so is it unexpected, given the huge amount of guns, population, crime and humans involved that some deaths are questionable? Is enmity not to be expected?

tawona kariramombe
tawona kariramombe
5 months ago
Reply to  Carl Valentine

Root cause analysis. What is the cause of the disproportionate representation?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  Carl Valentine

Not in a disciplined force.. kneeling on the neck of an unarmed, defenceless, dying person isn’t the best advert for any police force.. I’ve been to the US. A policeman is the last person I’d ask for help if I was in need.

Ron Kean
Ron Kean
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

There are about 350 million people in the USA and a tiny minority feel threatened by police. The greatest majority appreciate the safety they feel thanks to law officers. You’ve been too heavily influenced by communist propaganda.

Michael Layman
Michael Layman
5 months ago
Reply to  Carl Valentine

They also murder a disproportionate people of color.

Michael Layman
Michael Layman
5 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

What are you talking about… apparently nothing to do with this article. Less than 1% of the US population dies annually from all causes.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
5 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

OK. We’ll just shut down the Red Sea shipping lanes.

Brian Lemon
Brian Lemon
5 months ago

The re-emergence of isolationism in the USA should trouble much of the world, as several have pointed out in these comments. It is a cause for deep concern that it is not more troubling in the USA, at a time when military technology has so eroded the geographic protections historically enjoyed.

R Wright
R Wright
5 months ago

“We are returning to an older, more typical world in which there is no world policeman, and everyone is obliged to protect their own national interests.”

Thank God.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
5 months ago

The shipping world is in a significantly more dangerous place with the easy access of missiles and suicide drones to every nation or rebel groups. Its not the same sea anymore.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago

I could hardly keep myself from laughing out loud! I suspect the Chinese reacted similarly? The writing is giving ‘delusion’ a bad name!

G M
G M
5 months ago

A multipolar world would be less stable.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
5 months ago
Reply to  G M

Only if you’re white and Judeo-Christian and or a US vassal or have no oil. If you’re brown, Muslim, Buddhist and have oil or other resources you’ll find it’s a bit unstable.. you’ll recognise the instability by the fact you’re being blown to pieces, looted, sanctioned, starved or otherwise made to feel less than stable.. Ask the 8 million* already murdered by US aggression in the last 30 years.
* US University figure..

angusmckscunjwhich
angusmckscunjwhich
5 months ago

Imperial hubris mixed with begging… What a sad end to white supremacy.