- - Thursday, September 17, 2015

It’s not easy to lead, and it’s impossible to “lead from behind.” Jordan, one of America’s oldest and most reliable allies in the Middle East, has signed a military assistance agreement with China, which is eager to lead from right out front.

The agreement gives Beijing a new operating base in the midst of chaos. This will force the United States to take a look at its longtime alliance, and invite other such allies to take a look at how reliable the United States, under Barack Obama, may be in a crisis.

The late King Hussein, called the “Little King” for his lack of stature, took the side of the Iraqi dictator when the United States intervened in the first Gulf war to defend the rich but weak Kuwait. But Jordan, from its crucial place in Arabia, made peace with Israel in 1994, giving the Jewish state stability on its eastern border. First the king, and now his son, Abdullah II, have been the object of internal Palestinian opposition.

Jordan’s tying up to Beijing is the inevitable consequence of “leading from behind” and Mr. Obama’s scuttling of American leadership and influence in the region, substitutes apologies to the Islamic world for imagined American misdeeds. Although there is no treaty between the United States and Jordan, the United States has provided Jordan with economic and military aid of nearly $16 billion since 1951. The Obama administration has asked Congress for another three-year $1 billion a year aid package for the kingdom. The secretary of defense is authorized to extend additional money to bolster Jordan’s border with its neighbor, Syria, through which 1.5 million refugees have entered.

What the Jordan Armed Forces and the Chinese army signed Sept. 5 in Beijing is a military cooperation agreement providing Jordan with unspecified military equipment worth $4.7 million, which doesn’t buy much hardware. The military tie-up follows an earlier $7 billion to build Jordan’s first oil shale-fired electric power plant and a national railway network.

This is money promised but not yet delivered. There’s a history of the Chinese making announcements of overseas investments that result mostly in newspaper clippings. The promises are actually not redeemed. Payment for Chinese weapons could come from the U.S. payments to Jordan, which sounds a lot like a royal outrage from behind.

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