ivoting to Asia.” It’s the centerpiece of the Pentagon’s strategic guidance report. Subtitled “Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” the report insists that the U.S. “will of necessity rebalance towards the Asia-pacific region.”
So it’s out with the old-fashioned preoccupation with Europe and the Middle East [No problems there, right?], and in — militarily, economically and diplomatically — with the Far East.
But there’s a problem. We’re not alone. China is pivoting to Asia, too.
On Sunday, Beijing announced an 11 percent increase in military spending. The message was loud and clear: China will not let President Obama’s rhetoric about amping up American influence in Asia go unchallenged.
It is doubtless that China will invest in exactly the capabilities best calculated to give its military a decisive advantage in key regional disputes from the Taiwan Strait to the South China Sea, thereby diminishing the influence of the U.S. military in the Pacific.
Along the way, China will get more bang for its military buck (or, rather, yuan). That’s because when it comes to influencing Asia, China enjoys the advantage of what military strategists call “internal lines of communication.” Asia is Beijing’s backyard. It doesn’t have to cross half the world to get its ships, planes and troops into posture.
China has another advantage. It has to worry only about Asia. But Washington needs to defend the American flag wherever it flies and American interests wherever they are materially significant. Since we still boast the world’s largest economy, there are few places — from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean — we can afford to ignore.
But wait, there’s another problem with the administration’s pivot. It’s pretty much all talk. The White House certainly is putting no money where its mouth is. Yes, it announced that it would send more Marine Corps and Air Force members for tours in Australia. But the Pentagon has identified no permanent increase for military force in Asia.
In private, officials confess that the forces for Australia will be “globally sourced.”