SEA POWER AND AMERICAN INTERESTS IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC

RAND in 2013 published a book by David C. Gompert on sea power and American interests in the Western Pacific. For details on the book see below:

China sees American sea power in East Asian waters as threatening to itself, its regional aspirations, and possibly its global access. So it is mounting a challenge with anti-ship missiles, submarines, and a growing fleet of its own. However, the United States will not relinquish its sea power, which it sees as needed to maintain its influence and stability, despite China’s growing might, in this vital region.

History shows that rivalries between established and rising sea powers tend to end badly, to wit: Britain versus Germany before World War I and the United States versus Japan before World War II. In this case, technology that enables the targeting of surface ships, especially aircraft carriers, favors the challenger, China. The United States can exploit technology more boldly than it has previously to make its sea power less vulnerable by relying more on submarines, drones, and smaller, elusive, widely distributed strike platforms. Yet, such a U.S. strategy could take decades and even then be vulnerable to Chinese cyber-war. Therefore, in parallel with making its sea power more survivable, the United States should propose an alternative to confrontation at sea: East Asian multilateral maritime-security cooperation… While China might be wary that such a regional arrangement would be designed to contain and constrain it, the alternative of exclusion and isolation could induce China to join.

Gompert recommends that the United States should pursue a strategy of making its sea power less vulnerable by relying more on submarines, drones, and smaller, elusive, widely distributed strike platforms.

The United States should also pursue a political alternative to head-to-head sea-power rivalry — one that engages its partners in the Western Pacific and, ideally, China itself.

The United States should propose and pursue an East Asian maritime security partnership. If China joins such a partnership, it may provide a path for the United States and China to avoid sea-power competition in the region; and if China does not join, such a partnership will still solidify U.S. leadership among allies in the region and provide a political and operating framework for American sea power in the Western Pacific.

David C. Gompert is a professor of national security studies at the U.S. Naval Academy and an adjunct fellow at the RAND Corporation. During 2009–2010, he was Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence. He has held a number of corporate executive and senior government positions, including Senior Advisor for National Security in Iraq, Deputy to the Under Secretary of State, Special Assistant to President George H. W. Bush, and Special Assistant to Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.

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