American policy in the Pacific continues to be based on Alfred Thayer Mahan’s precepts: forward operation bases, positioning assets around choke- points and main sealanes, deploying a navy presence on all seas, and maintaining the capability to intervene at key geostrategic points.
American strategic thinking is further influenced by geopolitician Homer Lea. In his books The Valor of Ignorance and The Day of the Saxon, Lea regarded frontiers are mobile lines.
Should this view be used to interpret recent American strategy in the Asia Pacific, it would appear there is an American desire to ensure America’s national interests. This translates into a triple line of defense:
• Japan-South Korea-Taiwan-Thailand-Singapore.
• Alaska/Aleutian Islands-Hawaii-Samoa.
Lea insisted on the need to rely on forward operation bases in the form of a triangle. “Strategic geometry” was the key principle on which much of his work was based, a strategy that translates quite well into what is currently taking place in the Asia-Pacific region. His argument is that there is a need to take into account:
• The number of triangles the bases will form.
• The frequency with which the main base is at the intersection of these triangles.
• The presence or not of enemy bases inside this network.
• The increase of maritime power leading to an increase in the number of bases.
By forming numerous triangles with Guam as the potential center or node, the United States is actually executing the argument presented by Lea.
Other examples of strategic triangles are the “Guam-Japan-South Korea,” “Guam-Darwin-Pearl Harbor,” “Guam-Taiwan-Japan” triangles.
For further information see “The Reassertion of the United States in the Asia- Pacific Region” byTanguy STruye de Swielande in journal Parameters of Spring 2012.
BBC News on its website describes Guam as an important staging post, allowing rapid access to potential flashpoints in the Koreas and in the Taiwan Strait. Excerpts below:
The largest military installation, Andersen Air Force Base, was used by B-52 bombers during the Vietnam War in the early 1970s. Nuclear attack submarines are based on the island.
The waters off Guam are the scene of major US navy war games.
The US plans to move 8,000 Marines and 10,000 dependents from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to Guam by 2014 as part of its global realignment of US forces.
Visitors from Japan are the mainstay of the tourist industry. Away from the resorts and shopping malls, coral reefs and waterfalls are among the natural attractions.
Guam’s diverse population includes Japanese, Chinese, and incomers from other Pacific islands. The indigenous Chamorro are a people of mixed Micronesian, Spanish and Filipino descent.
The island was settled in the second century BC. A Spanish expedition led by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan arrived in 1521.
Guam was ceded to the US in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. The island was occupied by Japan during World War II. Many Guamanians died under the occupation before the territory was wrested from Japanese control in 1944.
Guam is vulnerable to storms. Typhoons swept across the island in 2002, leaving around 35,000 people homeless.