QUESTIONS ABOUT AMERICAN POWER IN THE ORIENT: A LOOK
"As elsewhere, America’s role in Asia is changing. Despite the rebalancing, cuts in US defence spending and greater political attention to domestic priorities are likely to lead to a less militarily assertive role in the region and perhaps, in time, a smaller permanent military presence there. The United States will, however, remain an Asia-Pacific power, and its continued focus should not be underestimated....Over the long-term, America will continue to play a central role in the region, but not indefinitely as the lead actor. It will be looking in Asia, as elsewhere, to share the burdens of leadership. In the next 15 years, Asians may well have to get used to a situation with which Europeans are only just coming to terms – a United States that is a very important regional actor, but not always the first or principal port of call for ensuring security".Xenia Dormandy with Rory Kinane, "Asia-Pacific Security: A Changing Role for the United States". Chatham House. 1 April 2014, in www.chathamhouse.org.
"The US is developing new military tactics to deter China’s slow but steady territorial advances in the South China Sea, including more aggressive use of surveillance aircraft and naval operations near contested areas. The rethink comes in the wake of the series of low-level incursions China has used to shift the status quo in one of the vital waterways of the global economy. The challenge for the US military is to find tactics to deter these small-scale Chinese moves without escalating particular disputes into a broader military conflict. Every year, $5,300bn of goods cross the South China Sea by ship. “Our efforts to deter China [in the South China Sea] have clearly not worked,” said a senior US official".Geoff Dyer, Richard McGregor and Demetri Sevastopulo, "Pentagon plans new tactics to deter China in South China Sea". The Financial Times. 9 July 2014, in www.ft.com. At a time when the American Secretary of State and Treasury are in Peking for meetings with the leadership of the Peoples Republic, it is timely to look at the efforts by the Americans to 'beef-up' their position in the Orient and in particular the South & East China Seas 1. As can be readily seen in the above referenced reports, there is much speculation about the American position in the area. Regardless of the so-called 're-set' or repositioning of American attention and forces to the area by the current American Administration. And while the latter is an indeed timely and welcome move, it cannot gainsay the fact that in the last few years, rightly or wrong there has been much questioning of American determination and will-power by both European and Oriental elites 2. Indeed, even the former American Secretary of the Treasury and high official in the current American Administration, Dr. Lawrence Summers, was forced to concede in the pages of the Financial Times, recently that:
"It is no exaggeration to say that there is more doubt about our willingness to stand behind our allies, resist aggression and support a stable global system than at any time in decades" 2.Given this state of affairs, it is crucial that the Americans step-up their involvement, especially military involvement in the affairs of the Orient. Especially, the conflicts between in particular, Japan, the Philippines and even Vietnam vis–à–vis Peking. Given the increased Chinese tendency to challenge the status quo ante bellum, for the Americans to be lethargic in the employment of military resources would indeed be (in the words of Shakespeare) the 'very mid-summer of madness' 3. 1. Bob Davis, "U.S. Presses China on Currency: Chinese Vice Premier Calls for Balance at Summit". The Wall Street Journal. 9 July 2014, in www.wsj.com. 2. Lawrence Summers, "Put American foreign policy back on the pitch". The Financial Times. 7 July 2014, in www.ft.com. See also on the very same theme: Xenia Dormandy & Joshua Webb, "Elite Perceptions of the United States in Europe and Asia". Chatham House. 7 May 2014, in www.chathamhouse.org. Wherein it is noted that: "There exists great uncertainty among elites regarding America’s future European and Asian policies. This is leading to a perception of America as unpredictable or, in the case of its allies, potentially unreliable". 3. See in particular on the thesis that the PRC is a 'revisionist power' vis–à–vis the status quo: Walter Russel Meade, "The Return of Geopolitics: the Revenge of the Revisionist Powers". Foreign Affairs. (May / June 2014), in www.foreignaffairs.com