House Democrats who've been interfering with President Barack Obama's ability to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership are missing something very important: The trade deal isn't primarily significant because of the economy. It matters because it's part of the broader American geostrategic goal of containing China — which pointedly hasn't been invited to join the TPP.

In the new cool war, China's rising economic influence is giving it greater geopolitical power in Asia. The TPP is, above all, an effort to push back on China's powerful trade relationships to reduce its political clout. By weakening Obama's ability to pursue it, congressional Democrats had been unintentionally weakening the U.S. side in the cool war.

It's easy to miss the geopolitical importance of the TPP, because in the cool war, economics and politics sometimes appear to be operating in unrelated spheres. Consider that the U.S.-dominated security regime in Asia since World War II has depended on a "hub and spokes" arrangement with the U.S. at the center and allies such as Australia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all connected to the U.S. and only very loosely to one another.