This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Evan McMullin is making waves with strong polling in Utah. But there are still challenges facing him. In particular, many Utahns with a strong libertarian streak strongly supported Ron Paul and remain staunchly anti-military. These have given rise to a series of attacks that McMullin is too militant and generally continues a trend of Republican adventurism and failed Bush policies.
In the era of Donald Trump attacking the invasion of Iraq, this is not surprising. But policy analysis, especially regarding this critical region, has been sorely lacking. Evan McMullin represents a wing of the party that has been muted and often attacked this election cycle, and his policy is not a warlike stance but rather a responsible stand for American interests and international rights.
The attacks against McMullin center on these platforms from his website:
McMullin will impose tougher sanctions on Russia and increase America's military presence in the Baltics in order to deter and reverse Putin's aggression, rather than pretending that he is a partner for peace in Syria. McMullin will stand up for the rights of American and allied ships to sail freely in international waters, rather than letting China dominate the Western Pacific.
Critics of this policy have attacked McMullin's plan for "picking a fight" with China and for continuing adventurism. But McMullin's policy actually has the best chance of supporting peace! China thumbed its nose at the world court ruling against them regarding Scarborough shoal in the Spartly Islands. As a response, they've placed even more weapons systems and missiles on the island even though it was ruled as part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
Immediately after losing the court case, they used their new advanced weapons systems in the East China Sea. Near the disputed Senkaku Islands, they practiced locating and sinking a ship as an obvious message to Japan, which approved of the ruling. Japan has had to launch their fighter planes more than 200 times this year alone in response to Chinese provocation. Japanese fishermen, operating legally in international waters or in their exclusive economic zone, have been harassed by Chinese naval vessels.
China has illegally built up islands and placed advanced radar systems, anti-air batteries, shipping docks that can handle blue-water ships, submarine bases and large runways that can support their advanced fighters (which are being built using stolen technology from the F-22 and F-35.) Keep in mind they are doing this in the Spratlys and other islands in the South China Sea that are vigorously disputed. (It's true that other nations have done so as well, but not to the extent that China has and definitely not with the same degree of militarization.)
When the U.S. performs a Freedom of Seas operation, they send an important signal of strength and peace. Because the islands are disputed, the U.S. performs these operations to reaffirm the importance of international law. These prevent the de facto recognition of this territory as China's.
If international law is disregarded, it will be a free-for-all in this region where disputes are settled by force. As the biggest military power in the region, this would naturally encourage more assertive action by China. If China aggressively controls this territory they could easily cut off shipping in the region, through which almost half of the world's merchant fleet passes.
That's why McMullin says he will stand for the rights to sail in international waters. He is not picking a fight with China (though these Freedom of the Seas operations do have some danger) but simply reasserting basic rights of international law that China is actively threatening. Supporting international law is something most Republicans are accused of ignoring in favor of their cowboy diplomacy. But McMullin actually supports international law as an important mechanism in leading to peace.
As somebody who regularly studies the region, I believe McMullin is only proposing appropriate steps to stop Chinese aggression through the assertion of international law.
Morgan Deane is a professor of military history at American Public University and author of "Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon."