Do you remember the cartoons you watched as a child? Occasionally the characters would get into a fight, symbolized by a small tornado whirling madly. Frequently an innocent bystander would get unwillingly sucked into the fight. As if we don't already have enough problems, it appears that the United States may get sucked into World War III. Unfortunately, if that happens, there is no way we can claim to be innocent bystanders.
I don't recall what I was researching when I stumbled onto a Wall Street Journal article explaining that China and Japan are rattling sabers, and threatening each other with war talk. Really?! Oddly enough, the bone of their contention seems to be a small group of islands that have no intrinsic value whatsoever. Each country seems to consider it a matter of national pride, and thinks they should be the ones who claim ownership of the islands - not unlike two dogs fighting over the same chew toy. Utterly ridiculous if you ask me.
But here is where the United States is likely to get caught in this political vortex. Near the end of World War II President Truman gave approval for dropping the newly designed atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These bombs instantly killed 80,000 and 70,000 respectively, with many thousands more dying later because of radiation. When Japan surrendered we made it clear they were not allowed to reestablish any military forces, because the United States promised to defend them with our military. China, on the other hand, has purchased nearly four trillion dollars of American debt, which is perhaps the only reason that Federal Reserve Notes (aka "U.S. dollars") have any value anywhere in the world. If these two countries eventually go to war, we may try to defend Japan, but we will be unable to do so when China tries to call in its debt. We would refuse to pay, of course, but that would drag the United States into a war with China. Did I mention that the Chinese population is five times larger than our American population? And I'm pretty sure that if push comes to shove, Russia will end up siding with China.
Now I know how Odysseus felt during his epic voyage, stuck between Scylla and Charybdis. From Wikipedia:
Scylla and Charybdis were mythical sea monsters noted by Homer; later Greek tradition sited them on opposite sides of the Strait of Messina between Sicily and the Italian mainland. Scylla was rationalized as a rock shoal (described as a six-headed sea monster) on the Italian side of the strait and Charybdis was a whirlpool off the coast of Sicily. They were regarded as a sea hazard located close enough to each other that they posed an inescapable threat to passing sailors; avoiding Charybdis meant passing too close to Scylla and vice versa. According to Homer, Odysseus was forced to choose which monster to confront while passing through the strait; he opted to pass by Scylla and lose only a few sailors, rather than risk the loss of his entire ship in the whirlpool.
The only peaceful solution to this problem seems to be to negotiate a truce between two angry countries concerned only with their nationalist pride. That would be a difficult proposition even without a pending global economic collapse. NOW do you see why the Founding Fathers discouraged us from "entangling alliances"?