The US Makes One Too Many Parties to the Spratly Spat

Spratly with flags

On September 30, a US Navy destroyer, the USS Decatur, sailed within 12 miles of the Gaven and Johnson reefs in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands.  Twelve miles being the “territorial waters” limit set by the UN’s 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Decatur was met and warned off by a Chinese destroyer.

The US government complains that the Chinese ship maneuvered “in an unsafe and unprofessional” manner, approaching within 45 yards of the Decatur before veering to avoid a collision. Now, CNN reports, “[t]he US Navy’s Pacific Fleet has drawn up a classified proposal to carry out a global show of force as a warning to China.”

The Decatur had no legitimate business in those waters. It was there for one and only one purpose: To rattle the US saber in a continuing domestic propaganda campaign for “containment” of Chinese “expansionism,” (read: “Keep spending lots of money on the US Navy”).

No fewer than six states — China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Brunei — assert territorial claims over all or part of the (largely uninhabited) Spratly archipelago.  To which, if any, of those states do the Spratlys “belong?” That’s for them to work out between themselves, through arbitration and mediation or maybe even war. The US government, neither numbering itself among those claimants nor having any plausible basis upon which to do so if it wished to, needs to butt out.

In 1821, then US Secretary of State (and later president) John Quincy Adams wrote that the United States “has abstained from interference in the concerns of others …. she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.”

Adams’s words echo the sentiments of his former rival, Thomas Jefferson, who in his first inaugural address called for “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”

While those principles of peace and non-interventionism more often found expression in breach than observance — the Mexican War comes to mind —  they fell completely apart with the Spanish-American War, which marked the beginning of the US as a global empire.

We’ve been paying the price ever since: Two world wars, 33,000 American dead in Korea, 58,000 in Vietnam, more than a quarter century of war in the Middle East and Central Asia, and no end in sight.

The rest of the world has paid an even higher price in blood, treasure, and servitude for the imperial games of self-styled “superpowers” — a class the US often holds itself out as the sole remaining example of since the Soviet Union’s 1991 dissolution.

It’s time to retire the “superpower” nonsense entirely, stop gaming other countries’ conflicts to justify our own military-industrial complex’s corporate welfare checks, and let the parties to the Spratly spat work it out among themselves.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Sleep Research Shows How Homework is Harmful

“More than 70% of high school students average less than 8 hours of sleep,”  according to an October 1 research letter in JAMA Pediatrics (“Dose-Dependent Associations Between Sleep Duration and Unsafe Behaviors Among US High School Students”), “falling short of the 8 to 10 hours that adolescents need for optimal health. Insufficient sleep negatively affects learning and development and acutely alters judgment, particularly among youths.”

The letter doesn’t venture any guesses as to why high school students in the one-size-fits-all government (“public”) education system and private schools modeled on that system aren’t getting enough sleep. Here are three clues:

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average length of the public school day (for 2007-2008 — the most recent table I could find) is 6.64 hours.

Also according to NCES, this time for 2011-2012, the average public school starting time is 7:59am.

Finally, according to a 2014 University of Phoenix/Harris poll of teachers, high school students take home an average of 3.5 hours of homework per night.

That’s 10.14 hours per day spent on school,  not counting morning grooming, travel time each way, or any extracurricular activities.

Or, to put it a different way, the average public high school student works a full 40-hour week plus 10.7 hours of overtime — without pay, of course, and on a uniform schedule taking no heed of individual kids’ natural sleep cycles.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably worked some overtime in your career. And when working overtime on an extended basis, you’ve probably cut down on your sleep hours in favor of the other things that make life worth living.

Now, think about your teen years. What was important to you and how important was it? Dating, or at least trying to find a date? Music? Sports? How many times did you rush through dinner to be on time to an event, or just to get over to a friend’s house for movie night?

When you were that age,  everything was the most important thing ever, and it was important NOW NOW NOW. Except when you wanted to sleep in. Which was, admit it, every morning.

Is it any wonder our kids are tired? In a society that’s over-protective of “childhood” in many ways, up to and including visits from social workers over letting kids play unattended or walk to school alone, we’re working them on aggressively adult schedules instead of letting them listen to their bodies and get the rest they need.

The most obvious — and best — solution is to take your kids out of the “public” schools and homeschool them. On THEIR schedules, not someone else’s. But not everyone can do that.

Shorter school days and later starts might help. Online schooling is a more flexible, and increasingly available, option. But those possibilities are mostly the prerogative of “education administration” bureaucrats.

One option does remain in parents’ hands, though: Just say no to homework and make it stick. When you clock out at work, you’re done for the day. When the final bell rings at school, your kids should be done too.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.