Posturing in the South China Sea. Two U.S. warships sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands today. (Nearby Fiery Cross Reef was the subject of controversy in the Philippines last week following news that China had built a maritime rescue center there.) Meanwhile, in a speech at the Royal United Service Institute, Britain’s defense secretary said the United Kingdom was sending the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier to the Pacific to demonstrate Britain’s willingness to use “hard power” to defend its interests, and especially to confront Chinese and Russian aggression. On their own, a freedom of navigation operation and a hawkish think tank speech don’t mean much, but the intensifying competition between China and the United States (and, increasingly, U.S. allies) makes even this sort of posturing significant.
The end of the Islamic State? Backed by the United States, the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces are staging a final assault