In a rare appearance at the Pentagon, US President Barack Obama, along with Defense Secretary Leon E Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin E Dempsey, unveiled on January 5 a new defense strategy, “Sustaining US Global Leadership, Priorities for 21st Century Defense”, indicating that a military strategy review is a matter of high concern for Washington.
The US is at a “moment of transition” after a decade of war, Obama had written in the introduction to the strategy, which calls for a cut in American defense budget and troops. But despite the fact that the American military will be “leaner,” Obama said the US would maintain its “superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full array of contingences and threats”. Also, the US defense budget would continue to be “larger than roughly the next 10 countries combined”.
The strategic review says that as the American military continues to contribute to global security, the US will rebalance itself toward the Asia-Pacific region while its military posture in Europe will “evolve”. It also says that American armed forces should succeed in their primary missions, such as fighting terrorism, seizing and demolishing weapons of mass destruction and, especially, enhancing the US’s operational ability in environments where adversaries try to deny it access.
The American military has been hampered in recent years because of Washington’s involvement in too many issues, some of which beyond its reach, and its naked ambition to dominate the world. Its problem has been compounded by the financial crisis, economic recession and the decade long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The White House unveiled the National Security Strategy in 2010 to renew US global leadership and advance its interests in the 21st century by “building at home and shaping abroad”. Thus the US has increased its strategic investment in Asia Pacific and stirred regional unrest, creating and subsequently amplifying the panic over China’s rise in the region to rev up its return to Asia.
The US intention is clear. It took advantage of the Cheonan sinking incident and the exchange of fire over Yeonpyeong island between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea in 2010. It succeeded in preventing Japan from deviating from the US-Japan alliance, increasing Seoul’s reliance on Washington and worsening the environment around China. Despite China’s warning that “external forces” should not get involved in regional affairs, the US has intervened in South China Sea disputes and instigated regional resistance against China.
Moreover, the US criticizes the development of China’s military which has been (and will always be) defensive in nature, using the excuse of enhancing its operational ability in the region to initiate the AirSea Battle concept and transform it into concrete action. By doing so, the US has escalated the arms race in the region and thus jeopardized regional peace, stability and prosperity.
The newly released defense strategy document indicates that the US’s plan to increase its military expenditure in Asia Pacific will be implemented, and its effects are foreseeable. The US claims to be the largest provider of ‘public good’ security and criticizes China for its military secretiveness and non-existent threats to regional security. In fact, the exact opposite is true: China has been contributing to regional security while the US has become a real troublemaker in the region by putting in more military resources and undertaking series of joint military drills.
The US had been engaged in the war against terrorism for years, and hence did not get deeply involved in Asian issues. The absence of US deep involvement made peace and prosperity the theme of the region, and regional cooperation adhered to effective mechanisms such as “10+1” (10 ASEAN member states plus China) and “10+3” (10 ASEAN member states plus China, Japan and ROK), which helped improve economic, political and security ties among countries in the region.
But regional stability has been punctuated by disputes since 2009 when the US chose to return to the region. It’s obvious that the US is desperately in need of money for its economic recovery. But it will not be welcomed to the Asia Pacific for many regional countries know its game plan. That’s why the US is trying relentlessly to stir regional conflicts, trumpet the “China threat theory” and cash in on any chance to sell arms to countries and regions in Asia Pacific to make money.
Unrest in Asia Pacific will probably intensify with the increasing presence of the US military, but Washington may not be able to realize its wishful thinking because all countries in the region will see through its plans sooner rather than later.
Yang Yi, Rear Admiral (ret),Former Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies,National Defense University, PLA, China