Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chinese Fortune Cookies and CS-21

It is noteworthy that in today's edition of China Daily there is a complaint being directed towards the United States for a deployment yet to actually happen.

The JoongAng Daily, in the ROK, reported last week that the US decided to send another nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, to East Asia.

If true, this will be the third US aircraft carrier deployed in the area, in addition to the USS George Washington, which earlier took part in Washington's joint military drills with Seoul and Tokyo, and the USS Carl Vinson, which just arrived at Guam in the western Pacific.

Analysts accused the US of increasing the danger of war in the region even though the DPRK has shown restraint amid a number of recent ROK drills.

"Three aircraft carriers in the same region are going to be interpreted as a signal of preparing for war," Major General Luo Yuan, with the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, told China Daily.
What is this about? The scheduled deployment of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) is in the near future, and China believes the aircraft carrier will immediately be heading to show the flag near North Korea. That may be true, although it may not be true.

Because it might be true, China is filing a complaint about that possibility today, in sort of a preemptive complaint about a future deployment. It is interesting to note, but won't impact where the US sends aircraft carriers - after all if you browse other news you will notice how many folks are discussing the very possibility that North Korea plans to be very provocative in 2011, and you will also notice that China appears to be unable to do anything about that.

While three carriers is a big show of force, I think more realistically what we can expect in the near future is the continuous presence of 2 US aircraft carriers in the Pacific for the first half of 2011. They won't always be around North Korea, as there will be other requirements, but North Korea will be the reason the Pacific will be more crowded in 2011 than it was in 2010. China won't be happy about that, so I suspect a lot of complaining will be the new normal from China.

It doesn't need to be that way though. Strait of Malacca piracy is up, and within problems like that lies opportunity for the US and China to find common ground and work together in the Pacific. I don't see it though, I think China believes it is in their best interest to complain about the US Navy rather than work with the US Navy, even though that will continue to be a failing strategy. Let me explain.

Today over at the USNI Blog CDR Salamander said something I disagree with.
The Maritime Strategy is unclear, ineffective, and seen as irrelevant to tomorrow’s challenges. When looking forward, our maritime strategy documents should be Ref. A. They are not. That is probably part of the problem, for reasons I covered over at my home blog over three years ago.
I think this analysis fails to study what messages have worked and what messages haven't worked in the maritime strategy, because the record appears to be more of a mixed bag rather than an absolute. For example, one of the developments we are seeing in the maritime domain is the rising expectation of multilateral security cooperation over bilateral security agreements. It started with the anti-terrorism task forces both in the Mediterranean Sea and Gulf of Aden, but now involves the development of multinational working groups for specific issues including piracy and global partnership stations.

Multinational, shared security in the maritime domain is one compelling idea from the maritime strategy that did resonate, and it has changed the way business is being done. The united front of US, Japan, and South Korea in dealing with North Korea is just the latest example. It was only recently that ADM Roughead suggested that the model for addressing piracy has application in the Pacific - which in itself represents an operational evolution of a specific strategic concept promoted from the Cooperative Strategy on 21st Century Seapower (CS-21). One might claim the idea itself isn't new, but it is also true the idea didn't resonate until communicated through the maritime strategy.

And that is key. The Pacific region has changed as a result of CS-21, because everyone's expectations of what a security solution looks like - multinational shared solutions - has evolved to become the US vision of what security should look like. We see it in the way Vietnam has reached out to neighbors to balance their security interests with China. We see it in the way Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Japan, and Indonesia have all begun making security arrangements both with China, and without. China expected to become a hegemony influencing the Pacific to be that of harmony with Chinese characteristics, and instead has found every initiative that is absent a multinational character to result in outreach from a neighbor to the US, Russia, or even India.

That is why when I look at CS-21 I see mixed results. I think it is fair to suggest that CS-21 was intended to resonate domestically as a way for the US to manage global security challenges as an alternative to large deployments of ground forces, but in execution it ultimately has become a way the global security environment has shaped its expectations as a hedge in balancing security concerns associated with rising powers - most specifically China but also to some degree Russia and India.

What does another aircraft carrier strike group in the Pacific Ocean represent in 2011? Try Forward Presence, Deterrence, Sea Control, Power Projection, Maritime Security, Humanitarian Assistance, and Disaster Response. To Japan and South Korea it represents a US commitment that preventing wars is as important as winning wars, and our intentions are to achieve results through collective security. Another CSG represents insistence that trust and cooperation cannot be surged, so it must be present at all times.

A CSG represents the full range of military operations for purposes of cooperation. Another carrier represents Regionally Concentrated, Credible Combat Power as part of Globally Distributed, Mission-Tailored Maritime Forces. If you want to treat these words from CS-21 as slogans, be my guest, but it is the follow through with the actual deployment of naval forces that puts meaning behind the words.

I note the Chinese expectation that US Navy actions will match the words in CS-21 is why China is complaining preemptively about an upcoming deployment in the Pacific. That same expectation by everyone else in the region is why the words of CS-21 have become more than just slogans.

The American elected leadership may not be buying what the US Navy is selling to our satisfaction, but in no small part due to CS-21, the rest of the world absolutely is buying what the US Navy is selling - and I would suggest the front page headlines of every maritime security issue in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean represents evidence as such.

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