Kamala Harris doesn't exactly 'wow' them in Asia
Giggling her way through Afghanistan questions on the flight over, Kamala Harris touched down in Singapore for the first leg of her Asia trip, supposedly to reassure America's partners and allies that the U.S. has their back.
It didn't go well.
Supposedly, she's there to reassure America's partners that the U.S. remains committed to them as China grows aggressive in their South China Sea. That's critical now because all eyes are focused on the U.S. fiasco in Afghanistan. Every state in Southeast Asia is asking itself at this minute: will the U.S. bug out on them just as quickly as it ditched its Afghanistan commitment and left its collaborators in the lurch?
Harris wasn't about to answer that in any serious way. And when she did answer it, she was awful.
On Afghanistan, Harris had absolutely no answer and, apparently didn't even recognize the concern of America's Southeast Asian allies. Here's how stupid her evasive response was to a question from the press about what she thinks went wrong:
"So, I understand and appreciate why you asked the question. And I think there's going to be plenty of time to analyze what has happened and what has taken place in the context of the withdrawal from Afghanistan," the vice president said. "But right now, we are singularly focused on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who worked with us, and Afghans who are vulnerable, including women and children."
Harris added that "we have a responsibility and we feel a deep commitment to making sure that folks who helped us are safe."
She's not exactly on top of things, despite being "the last person in the room" in Biden's decision to pull out of Afghanistan. Nor does she want to talk about it. She says the time for analysis is later.
By any standard, that's not reassuring. Meanwhile, her claim to having a "laser focus" on civilian evacuations is belied, too, given that she's taken a time like now to show up in Singapore. Rest assured: Asians will notice that, too.
And what are they to take as proof?
Well, for one, here's the State Department response from Singapore's Straits Times:
After her speech, senior members of Ms Harris' delegation took part in a panel discussion moderated by Ambassador-at-Large Chan Heng Chee, who asked them if the US would have a harder time persuading other nations to work together with it given the "unfortunate" images coming out from Afghanistan.
Responding, Mr Kin Moy, senior bureau official for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State, pointed out that the US is an Indo-Pacific nation and is already investing in the region more than any other country in the world.
"If you look at the foreign domestic investment, if you look at how many jobs we help create in the region, I think that the track record is actually very, very good," he said, noting that it shows the US is committed to the region.
America's presence in South-east Asia has created an opportunity for all countries here to thrive, Mr Kin said, adding it is looking to create even more opportunities in the region.
As if that pablumy response, in light of the U.S. abandoning $83 billion's worth of weapons and a $700-million embassy, and telling 2,000 dead soldiers families their sacrifices were in vain would not also be an investment of sorts that the U.S. has been happy to pitch over the side on the fly. That claim won't assure.
Bad as that answer was, it wasn't worse than the "proof" of U.S. commitment that Kamala gave them.
According to Fox News:
But Harris, during a joint news conference with Prime Minister Lee on Monday, said that her presence in the country, combined with the agreements around greater cooperation that the Biden administration has pursued with Indo-Pacific countries, speak "volumes in terms of the integrity of the relationships that the United States has around the world on many issues."
You see, she's Lady Bountiful, and her mere presence, deigning to be in Singapore, was quite enough evidence that the U.S. won't pull an Afghanistan on them, too.
That is nonsense. Harris hasn't been much of anywhere abroad in her socialite's life, and sparkling clean Singapore's a nice country with lots of pretty gardens, enchanting shophouse architecture, world-class cuisine, drinkable tap water, and English-speakers, which she's never visited before. She's there to get away from Washington and give herself a government-paid vacation and take some Instagram pics. Note that she's staying there until Tuesday afternoon, an eternity in jet-stop diplomacy, with plenty of time for dining and sightseeing.
Meanwhile, her hubby Doug makes no bones that he's in the vicinity for vacation:
Here's another thing that isn't reassuring: Kamala is a profoundly poor strategist. At a time when China is threatening the South China Sea, she tells all the Asians: "Our engagement in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific is not against any one country, nor is it designed to make anyone choose between countries[.]"
This is basically saying that as the Chinese wreak havoc, go ahead and keep enabling them, and leave it to America to sort it out. Allies who benefit from the U.S. naval presence aren't being asked to do anything, while any footsie with China at a time when it's rampaging is going to be ignored. She's likely afraid to ask them for a commitment to check China as it throws its weight around in the region. That's not reassuring. Very likely, she's misreading the ambivalence among nations there as not wanting to disturb shipping, finance, and trade ("buy Christmas presents," she said), while the far more likely reason for the allies' ambivalence is that the allies aren't terribly sure that the U.S. has their back.
The Singapore response to all these reassurances was distinctly bone-chilling:
Lee was asked about American credibility in light of current events and said that what happens next will be key for how the U.S. is perceived in the future.
"What will influence perceptions of U.S. resolve and commitment to the region will be what the U.S. does going forward: how it repositions itself in the region, how it engages its broad range of friends and partners and allies in the region, and how it continues the fight against terrorism," Lee said.
"Countries make calculations and take positions, and they have to make recalculations and adjust their positions from time to time," Lee continued. "Sometimes it can be done smoothly; sometimes there are hiccups. Sometimes things go awry and take time to put right."
Does that sound like a country that trusts us? That's a country reconsidering its longtime alliance with the United States, one that hosts a U.S. airbase at Sembangwan and docks U.S. naval ships at Changi. They're making "recalculations" now, and the more they see of who's running the U.S. (you know the giggling and cackling won't go down well with them — at all), the less they're going to like. Look for them, and all the Asians, to adjust accordingly. Next stop: Vietnam.
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