U.S. Opposition to Silk Road Belt is Like King Canute Trying to Stop the Tide

A very insightful article in the “Indian Punchline” blog by M.K. Bhadrakumar, notes the stark contrast between the conflict in Syria, and the arrival in Tehran of the first Chinese train along that new link of the Silk Road Belt. Under the headline, “A Silk Road Train in Times of a New Cold War,” he writes: “Two days after the international Syria Support Group met in Munich, the Middle East witnessed an extraordinary event — the arrival on Monday in Tehran of a freight train carrying 32 containers after a long journey of over 10,000 kilometers originating from China’s eastern province of Zhejiang. The journey took 14 days — at an average of 700 kilometers per day, through the steppes of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. It’s hard to tell which is going to be more crucial for world politics in an enduring way — Syrian conflict or the first Silk Road train to the Middle East from China. In immediate terms, it could well be that the conflict in Syria and the war with the Islamic State dominate world attention, but from a historical perspective, the Silk Road train will stand out as a milestone beating the Islamic State by a mile….

“Can it be that the United States has missed the plot? Take a look at the Silk Road train. China has tested the efficacy of freighting a consignment to Iran in a time frame of a fortnight, which is 30 days less that what a sea voyage is presently taking from Shanghai to the port of Bandar Abbas in Iran. And this is the first attempt at an overland rail route. Trust Beijing to upgrade the infrastructure to make the route faster and cheaper,” Bhadrakumar writes. He also notes that China is also building a high-speed rail line between Tehran and the eastern city of Mashhad.

He then comments again on the total failure of the U.S. policymakers to get the message, citing Graham Fuller’s Feb. 13 article, “NATO America’s Misguided Instrument of Leadership” “American strategy seems fundamentally stuck in defensive mode against rising powers. Such powers indeed do challenge American aspirations for continued hegemony. But a defensive posture robs us of our vision and spirit; it represents a basically negative orientation, like King Canute on the beach trying to stop the encroaching tide. Worse, American military power — and the budget keeps rising — seems to have become the default U.S. response to most foreign challenges. The Pentagon has put the State Department out of business.” Then he notes that NATO in particular symbolizes this myopic orientation.

“So while Washington focuses on building defensive military structures, bases and arrangements overseas against Russia and China, we are being rapidly outflanked by a whole array of new economic plans, visions, projects for a new continental infrastructure and institutional developments that span Eurasia. These developments are indeed spearheaded by China and Russia. But they are not fundamentally defensive or military in nature, but rather represent the creation of a new international order from which we have either opted out or even oppose. Meanwhile, obsession with NATO and military alliances as the major vehicle of U.S. military policy after the Cold War, is a chief reason we are losing out in that new order.”

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