The third crisis is unfolding over the East China Sea, where, in open challenge to Obama's "pivot to Asia," China has brazenly declared a huge expansion of its airspace into waters claimed by Japan and South Korea.
Obama's first response — sending B-52s through that airspace without acknowledging the Chinese — was quick and firm. Japan and South Korea followed suit. But when Japan then told its civilian carriers not to comply with Chinese demands for identification, Washington told U.S. air carriers to submit.
Which, of course, left the Japanese hanging. It got worse. During Vice President Biden's visit to China, the administration buckled. Rather than insisting on a withdrawal of China's outrageous claim, we began urging mere nonenforcement.
Again leaving our friends stunned. They need an ally, not an intermediary. Here is the U.S. again going over the heads of allies to accommodate a common adversary. We should be declaring the Chinese claim null and void, ordering our commercial airlines to join Japan in acting accordingly, and supplying them with joint military escorts if necessary.
This would not be an exercise in belligerence but a demonstration that if other countries unilaterally overturn the status quo, they will meet a firm, united, multilateral response from the West.
Led by us. From in front.
No one's asking for a JFK-like commitment to "bear any burden" to "assure the . . . success of liberty." Or a Reaganesque tearing down of walls. Or even a Clintonian assertion of America as the indispensable nation.
America's allies are seeking simply a reconsideration of the policy of retreat that marks this administration's response to red-line challenges all over the world — and leaves them naked.
Charles Krauthammer's email address is lett...@charles