"China's military modernization, if it continues apace, may allow it to decouple America’s allies from the US extended nuclear deterrent, to destroy US and allied fixed bases in the region, and to threaten US power projection forces. This, in turn, could allow China to coerce US allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region, hold US forces at arm's length, and control the seas along the Asian periphery." Thomas G. Mahnken, Daniel Blumenthal, Thomas Donnelly, Michael Mazza, Gary Schmitt, and Andrew Shearer in the just published Asia in the Balance: Transforming US Military Strategy in Asia.
Is the United States being chased out of the Asia-Pacific by China? What action (if any) should be taken? At a time when President Obama is promoting a pivot toward the Asia-Pacific and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is visiting the region, six strategic, military, and Asian studies specialists examine and analyze America’s current situation there. They propose a series of steps that the United States should take to safeguard US interests.
The authors find that the United States faces three fundamental strategic alternatives:
- Continue America's current approach to the region--that is, pursue broad objectives even as the military balance shifts against the United States.
- Or, scale back US commitments and accept a narrower definition of America's role in the world than the nation has played for the better part of a century.
- Or, (what would be preferable) adopt a forward-leaning strategy that would balance the need to reduce the vulnerability of US forces while maintaining US commitments. This strategy would depend on:
- An effort to conduct a long-term competition with China in peacetime
- Measures to convince China that it cannot fight and win a quick regional war
The US is not the only state involved in Asia that has reason to be concerned by the region's changing military balance, explain the authors. Other regional powers are also affected, and the US needs to work closely with those Asia-Pacific countries to forge an integrated and effective response.
They conclude that what is required first and foremost is the political will to explain not just the costs but also the benefits of a vigorous US role in the Asia-Pacific region, to seek adequate funding for an enhanced US presence there, and to work with US allies and partners in the region to make that posture a reality.
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