Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Witless To History

I was reading James R. Holmes' most recent post at The Diplomat (Link). For the most part the essay argues quite cogently that the United States should reduce the size and change the composition of the naval forces it has based upon its Atlantic Coast. Basically since there are no peer competitors or major zones of instability in the Atlantic, north or south, there is really not much point in having half of the U.S. carrier force based in Atlantic ports.

However, one line in the essay made me gag:

The 2007 U.S. Maritime Strategy calls on the U.S. sea services—the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard—to stage "credible combat power" in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean for the foreseeable future, remaining the dominant maritime force in East, Southeast, and South Asia. Yet some 40 percent of the navy remains in the Atlantic, where it risks becoming a wasting asset. It’s high time to reallocate forces in to support the Maritime Strategy, and to back up President Barack Obama’s pledge to keep the U.S. military number one in this critical region. China’s People’s Liberation Army would be the yardstick for a new "one-power standard." Once concentrated in the Pacific—arrayed not only along the West Coast, Hawaii, and Guam but at forward bases in Japan and, preferably, in central positions like Australia—preponderant U.S. forces would dissuade China from mischief-making, much as Theodore Roosevelt’s "Great White Fleet" did vis-à-vis Imperial Japan a century ago.
Oh yes, great. We all remember how well that policy of prevention of "mischief-making" on the part of the Japanese Imperial Navy turned out in the end, do we not?

The key to an extended peace in the East Asian region is not trying to deter China from "mischief-making." First, it is unaffordable, as the means by which Chinese forces will achieve access denial capabilities in the Western Pacific are far, far cheaper than it will cost to counter these access denial capabilities.

Second and more importantly, the accession of China to a certain level of military power needs to be viewed as an inevitable and desirable corrollary of China's reemergence as a world politco-cultural-military center. Rather than the demeaning puffery of seeking to "defer mischief-making," the goal of the allied Pacific naval powers should be to smother the PLA Navy with collaborative and burden-sharing proposals. Diplomats and military experts traveling to Beijing or Qindao or Hainan should bring with them flash drives packed with great presentations on "The U.S. Navy can do this, the Maritime Self Defense Forces can do that, the Korean Navy can do this, the Aussies and Kiwis can do that and you can do this. Together, with each force providing a vital piece of the puzzle, we can solve this."

The key point to drive home is that the PLA Navy, even as it is currently constituted, can and should provide vital security services within its immediate area of operations and around the globe. The approach should be pro-active, with the navies of the Asia-Pacific showering the PLA Navy with positive actions for its burgeoning assets to perform.

With institutions as with individuals, nothing flusters, confuses and changes plans so much as being loved.

1 comment:

The Chrysanthemum Sniffer said...

Am I the only one who finds it a little strange that when American does it, it is usually called "forward deployment" or "power projection," but when China does it, it is usually called "access denial"?