Friday, April 20, 2012

A Look at "the Pacific Century" by the New America Foundation

On Wednesday the 18th of April, in Mid-town Manhattan, there was a panel discussion sponsored by the New America Foundation on the future of the USA's relations with the nations of the Orient. Among the panelists, were the American writer Robert Kaplan, who has published some widely commented upon articles dealing with the geopolitical future of the Far East and Orient. The following were some of the comments made by in particular Mr. Kaplan: That China's military growth is "organic" and that per se there is nothing either wrong or illogical about said growth. Very similar in some ways to what the United States did at the beginning of the 20th century. That Asia is seeing the development of a civilian-military post-industrial complex. That the growth, both military and economic is inevitably resulting in a much more multi-polar world than at present. That China's inevitable military expansion overseas, to the extent that it does occur, will be the result of a mercantilist-type expansion `a la Venezia in the early Middle Ages as well as the Dutch and later on the English. That China's foreign policy "seems to be a resource acquisition foreign policy." That the future will see an extensive Chinese-Indian rivalry in the near future over the Indian Ocean. That what we are seeing is the near term, is not so much "American decline", as "American power normalizing". That Chinese elites for the most part, would like to become the dominant power in the Far Eastern sphere and use said dominance for purposes of extra-regional hegemony. An aspiration which Kaplan notes is "not very likely in the near future". Another panelist, Thomas Donnelly, an American security specialist at the Washington-DC, based, American Enterprise Institute, stated that recent Chinese behavior in the Far East, especially in the waters of the South China Seas, has en faite, given adherents of the "Chinese Menace", a very plausible argument. Indeed, as per Donnelly, this view of the PRC, is: "military & strategic fact of life in the region". But that overall, Peking suffers from feet of clay due to a variety, mostly domestic reasons. Another panelist, Steve Coll, President of the New America Foundation, made the cogent argument, that per contra to Kaplan, that China's mercantilist policies, is indeed "at variance with modern day markets". That per se, in the absence of wrestling naval hegemony from the USA, the buying up of companies and leases for various types of resources in Africa and elsewhere, will not prevent indigenous governments from, if need be, seizing them `a la the Argentine seizure of the Spanish-owned, Oil Company this past week. As per this panelist, it would behoove Peking to pursue a land-based strategy instead of its current model. In a rejoinder to other comments and as a summing up, Mr. Kaplan noted that perhaps the greatest current unknown in International Politics, was the fact the likelihood of there being a serious regime crisis in China. With perhaps a chance of the overthrow, or something akin to the same of the current regime. With perhaps shattering aftershocks all over the world, fundamentally changing the geo-political structure of the Far East. That China's present mercantilist strategy was au fond, due to umbrage at American naval dominance of the seas and in particular of the waters in the Far East. That in the absence of a severe reduction in the size of the American navy, that US forces in the region were more than sufficient to guarantee the peace in the Orient. A fact which the recent 'pivot' from Europe & the Near East to the Far East will help to assure. A pivot which should have taken place circa the mid-1990's, but for the First Gulf War. In short, "the pivot is natural...twenty years too late". That while the USA has to indeed accommodate itself to greater Chinese military power, sans a serious withdrawal of American power in the region, something which none of the other powers therein wish for, that a "Finlandization" of the region vis-à-vis Chinese military power is unlikely for now. Or as Kaplan aptly put it, one should never ignore the "pacifying effect of American military hegemony". Kaplan closed the discussion, by opinoning (`a la my own last entry to the journal) that it would not be entirely unlikely that the North Korean regime, may collapse in the very near future. What is one to make of the above comments and observations? I for one was for the most part impressed & indeed surprised, by their cogency and intelligence. Far from indulging in bouts of illogical and indeed idiotic, pessimism about the decline of the West and the USA in particular, the panelists, had a very healthy appreciation of the fact, that while the PRC's behavior in recent years, has indeed a very menacing air to it, per se, in the absence of a complete American-Western military and political collapse and withdrawal in the region, that the PRC will be unable to assume any sort of hegeomonic role or position in the region. That the vast majority of the countries in the region, sans China, were actively looking for greater American and Western involvement in order to counter-balance the threat from Peking. And that even with as slight reduction in American military forces, that the USA will still possess more than sufficient forces to prevent any untowards behavior by the PRC for the foreseeable future. Something which I of course have been stating in this journal for quite awhile now. Per contra to those bien-pensant, professional pessimists, like Edward Luce in the Financial Times, or the egregious Martin Jacques.


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