The Scarborough Shoal flashpoint: The road not (yet) taken?By Asia Sentinel May 28, 2012 10:06AM UTC
A hypothetical look at how US indecisiveness over the South China Sea can lead to military conflict
As the Philippines and China continue to square off over the Scarborough Shoal, there are very real fears that this disputes—an extension of the greater South China Sea disputes—could not only lead to regional instability, thereby setting back economic progress made by Asia-Pacific countries, but also war. Not unlike an elastic band stretched to its limits, all that is required for the Scarborough Shoal confrontation to erupt is one, irreconcilable mistake.
Although the cause may vary, we can imagine such a scenario playing out like as this:
The Worst Possible Thing
Television monitors were tuned to BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and every abbreviated news station at home and around the world. As with most breaking news, the stations, unless present at the scene with their own camera crews, were replaying the same video footage over and over.
Sitting at the head of the table in the Situation Room, the President of the United States grimly watched that same footage as the rest of the world: it was a blurry, shaky video clip of a ship on fire taken by one of the crew members. Sailors in fire-retardant gear rushed to extinguish the flames, which had charred the steel hull. Censored but noticeable were the bodies of dead sailors. The clip ended with the recording sailor turning his camera to another vessel—or rather, many vessels—on the horizon nearby. They were grey shapes, barely identifiable due to the footage’s poor quality. Fortunately for viewers at home, one particular news station that was ahead of the curve claimed in bold, capitalized characters beneath the video: “China Attacks Philippines.”
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