The Obama administration released its second National Security Strategy report at the beginning of 2015. Compared with the 2010 report, the new report displays a more confident tone, believing that the U.S. is stronger now with better internal and external environment, so it claims that “the question is never whether America should lead, but how we lead”.
Originally appeared at China Military Online
With such confidence, the U.S. has adopted more aggressive and ambitious military and security policies in 2015.
Such confidence and aggressiveness is first reflected in the strategic reports and documents of the American military. The National Military Strategy released by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in July 2015 stated that “Forward deployed, rotational, and globally responsive forces regularly demonstrate the capability and will to act. Should deterrence fail to prevent aggression, the U.S. military stands ready to project power to deny an adversary’s objectives and decisively defeat any actor that threatens the U.S. homeland, our national interests, or our allies and partners. ”
A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower: Forward, Engaged, Ready, a report jointly released by the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, put forth the unprecedented concept of “all domain access”. It means that ” This function assures appropriate freedom of action in any domain—the sea, air, land, space, and cyberspace, as well as in the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum.”
America’s military confidence and aggressiveness has reached a height never reached before. Not satisfied with sea and air advantages any more, it has begun to pursue comprehensive advantages and vows to deter and defeat “any rival”.
Under such circumstances, the U.S. has obviously sped up its moves for the Asia Pacific military “rebalancing” in 2015 with more high-profile and aggressive actions. This acceleration partly stems from America’s strategic confidence and partly from the push by high-ranking military and political officials in the United States.
The acceleration is reflected in three aspects. First, the American military has intensified its deployments in the Asia Pacific region. While increasing sea and air forces to the region, it has paid more attention to improving its deployments there, upgrading the equipment and refining the combat concept, so as to comprehensively enhance the combat capability of American troops in the region, especially the capability of “all domain access”.
In addition to advanced equipment that’s currently in service such as the F-22 warplane, P-8A reconnaissance plane and Virginia-class nuclear submarine, the U.S. also plans to deploy a series of equipment that hasn’t been commissioned yet to the Asia Pacific region, including the Zumwalt-class destroyer and X-47B and MQ-4C UAV.
Second, it has intensified and expanded the system of allies and partners. By revising the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, launching with ROK the 4D combat program targeting the DPRK, promoting the U.S.-Japan-ROK intelligence cooperation and anti-missile integration, and strengthening the military & security cooperation with India and Southeast Asian countries, the U.S. strives to establish a U.S.-dominated military & security system covering the entire “India & Asia Pacific region”.
Third, it has played an active part in regional disputes concerning China. For example, the U.S. has announced on many public occasions that the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty applies to the Diaoyu Islands, sent warships to 12 nautical miles from islands and reefs of the South China Sea, and dispatched P-8A reconnaissance plane and B-52 bombers to approach relevant islands and reefs.
It has also provided more military support to claimant countries for South China Sea islands and reefs in Southeast Asia, instigated those countries to unite against China, hyped up the South China Sea issue on multilateral occasions, and enticed external forces such as Japan, India, Australia and the EU to engage in the South China Sea disputes.
However, taking itself as a “world cop”, the U.S. also carries many “tasks” it has to fulfill around the world.
In Europe, the prolonged Ukraine crisis has forced the U.S. to intensify its military presence there, particularly Eastern Europe, including improving the military deployments, assigning more heavy-duty ground equipment and the most advanced warplanes, and carrying out more frequent military exercises in Eastern Europe.
It also has to increase the economic and military aid to Ukraine in order to keep the new government going.
In the Middle East, the Syria crisis has lasted many years without any sign of a solution. The IS has not only gained ground there, but has reached out to North Africa, South Asia, Central Asia and even Europe and the U.S. The terrorist attack in Paris made the U.S. feel more keenly the tangible threat posed by IS, so it has increased its forces in the Middle East and begun to have dialogues with Russia on anti-terrorist activities in that region.
To mitigate the concerns of its allies in the Middle East, the U.S. has planned to increase the number of its vessels there from the current 30 to 40 in 2020.
In Southern Asia, Taliban has made a comeback and the IS has also made aggressive inroads there, resulting in the continuous aggravation of the security situation in Afghanistan and forcing the U.S. to repeatedly adjust and delay its plan to withdraw troops from there.
In fact, none of those hotspot issues can be solved easily or in the short term. They will drag the American military’s feet from turning to the Asia Pacific and will affect America’s investment of resources and energy in the region.
Therefore, it’s not easy for the U.S. to concentrate on the Asia Pacific region.
The U.S. has always been ambitious in military and security, and its ambition is bolstered by rich resources and powerful allies, but there are so many things on its plate that it simply cannot have it all.
In sum, for those who formulate and implement the American military and security policies, the year of 2015 is an ambitious, busy and also frustrating year.
The author is Jia Chunyang, associate fellow with the American Institute under China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, and the opinions expressed here don’t represent views of China Military Online website.