It isn’t hard to like much of what President Obama has accomplished throughout his presidency, his blatant disregard for previous policy architecture became evident relatively early in his presidency. This outlook gained prominence in Asia, specifically the Far East and China, any gains procured throughout his tenure were obscured by a preponderance of crisis’ throughout the Near East, as well as how U.S. strategic commanders were forced to integrate indigenous platforms while Pentagon and Department of Defense acclaimed reform in acquisition. It really was a mess and it frightened many whose livelihood are dependent on clearly articulated mission statements and procurement.
In the middle of this mess, the presidents advisors shaped and held their strategic convictions from a guiding assumption that a liberal order had descended upon the Far East as it had done throughout western Europe. This is profoundly unsettling. Even a cursory view of Asian geopolitical history evidences otherwise. The next American administration will be handed an Asian strategy based on three main assumptions, all independent from Pentagon acquisition reform and the displacement embodied in new technology and platforms.
- The U.S. must find regional allies throughout Asia that can assist any U.S. led executive strategy for Statecraft. We simply cannot expect to tackle China alone in a region a divergent as the Far East.
- Any notion of an existing liberal order bolstering national sovereignty and commitments throughout Asia must be strengthened.
- Possessing a preponderance of power throughout the southeastern jut of the Eurasian continent (the near east/Mesopotamia) has met Obama’s strategic imperative of retrenchment; this means that identical resources must be found to assist both traditional alliances throughout the Near East while addressing emerging threats from Beijing.
As it stands now, Beijing is mired in the contortions of a ‘middle income trap’; absent any drive to improve pro-market reforms permits profound social, political stagnation. This alone makes Beijing unbearably volatile.
Given that China’s export led growth model has collapsed, it is worth noting that Beijing cannot address the geopolitical and moral causes of an impending collapse. China possesses abysmal demographic trends, exceedingly high level of debt, and a profoundly inefficient, corrupt financial system. The regimes response to the current global downturn shows signs that its political leadership has turned inward.
A reassessment is in order. We must anticipate the regimes capability to handle irreconcilable policy goals that mortally threaten Beijing.
To begin, analysts should not expect China’s political leadership to pursue pro-market based reforms, if only to prevent more capital from leaving mainland China.
Secondly, Beijing’s geo-strategic aim was to develop, deploy and harvest bilateral relations with nation states that it thought strategically valuable, east African naval bases, ports throughout the Arabian Sea and littoral Indian Ocean; states it sought to prevent from allying fully with Washington.
Remember, Beijing’s grand strategy was assumed during exceedingly high levels of economic growth and double-digit increases in annual defense spending. China now possesses impressive defense modernization programs, producing the world’s most active missile – aircraft – ship building programs on the planet. As it currently stands, Beijing seeks to militarize the South China Sea while challenging Japan and harassing its neighbors. All this is happening while Beijing continues to invest in unprecedented levels of domestic repression, costs that exceed annual defense spending.
American strategic commanders can anticipate an enfeebled and difficult emerging China beholden to internal repression and unable to seek hegemonic power abroad. As such, our own political leadership needs to focus on harnessing this opportunity to align our own strategic interests with Asian allies throughout the Arabian, Indian Oceans. This cannot happen if U.S. Statecraft envisions multilateral institutions as repositories of indigenous liberal order. They aren’t, because they’ve never amounted to functioning, coherent security order primarily because Asiatic nation states were never informed from a Judeo-Christian culture of open markets, free trade and respect for the rule of custom.
An indigenous Asian order would resemble something historically different from the comity embodied in NATO, the World Bank, IMF or the EU. Nation states throughout the Pacific rim have always sought policies that strengthen their sovereign independence, increase their regional autonomy and possibly block rising hegemonies. In a sentence, Asian integration could never resemble the transnational nature of European security institutions , if only because the first requirement for an emerging or established liberal order is constituent liberal nation states.
Although the early pullout from our commitments in Afghanistan and Mesopotamia damaged our credibility, it would remain a mortal strategic error if U.S. remained aloof from our traditional presence throughout Eurasia’s critical littoral regions. The misguided strategic conception was that America remained “the” source of regional conflict, not the guarantee of benevolent power.
We should remember that the Cold War strategy was simple: the United States could NEVER preserve its security nor underwrite the security of “the commons” IF a dominance of hostile power rose in MacKinder’s ‘Heartland’, Eurasia.
That calculus still holds.