Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part XXVI

Real decline, or relative decline? You can argue that it is one or the other - or a little of both. I am more of the feeling that this is the natural result of once very poor nations, India and China, who are very large - simply becoming less poor.

It is also a case, in China more than India - of an insecure nation with a long memory and some pride to get back. There is the danger. A very nice overview by
Mary Kissel in the WSJ.
From the tranquil vantage point of Pacific Command's headquarters here at Camp H.M. Smith, overlooking Pearl Harbor, it's hard to recall the postcards from China that have jolted this command's peace of mind. Yet they are there: in 2004, when a Chinese Han-class nuclear submarine was spotted cruising near Japan's Miyako island; in 2006, when a Chinese Song-class submarine, armed with torpedoes and antiship cruise missiles, surfaced less than five miles from the USS Kitty Hawk carrier battle group off Okinawa; and in March, when a coterie of Chinese ships harassed the USNS Impeccable, an unarmed U.S. Navy surveillance ship operating in international waters off Hainan Island.

All sides counseled calm in these incidents, and none more so than the admiral in charge of Pacific Command, the U.S. military's biggest combatant command. The current chief, Timothy J. Keating, travels the region, as his predecessors before him, preaching the virtues of engagement. "It's not like we're going to go charging around the Pacific with our chin thrust out," he tells me. "Quite the contrary: We want to ease around the Pacific." China is not a "threat." Yet the tone of his public message is so resoundingly and consistently upbeat that it's starting to bring into question the Command's credibility and worry America's allies about the Navy's muscularity in the face of a rising China. Call it the Pacific Command conundrum: How to talk frankly about threats and reassure U.S. allies while not goading Beijing needlessly?
A not so objective view into the future; its defense white paper projecting out to 2030, Australia predicted "the rise of China, the emergence of India and the beginning of the end of the so-called unipolar moment; the almost two-decade-long period in which the pre-eminence of our principal ally, the United States, was without question." Andrew Shearer, national security advisor to former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, says no one in Asia wants a "fractious" U.S.-China relationship, but equally, "nor do U.S. allies want the U.S. to be a pushover." "When someone is kicking sand in your face and you continue to lie back on your beach towel, that's a risk," he quips.
Listen to the guys from Oz. They are a small country on a continent full of wealth with hungry, overpopulated neighbors.

They don't have time or space for foolishness.

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