chapter  14
18 Pages

America’s maritime challenges and priorities: the Asian dimension


Introduction-America’s strategic approach to sea power The goal of contemporary American sea power is to protect the global maritime system more so than the US homeland proper. Whether this approach is wise and visionary or foolish and illusory, it now colors US maritime strategy as much as it shapes American national defense policy. Compared with any other nation, the United States inures disproportionate benefits, as well as absorbing disproportionate costs, in pursuit of this grandiose goal. The US Sea Servicesthe Coast Guard, Marine Corps and the Navy-work in tandem to maintain America’s leadership role in global maritime security. These forces are combined with a network of friends, allies and partner nations that bring naval and joint forces to the table-with the goal of strengthening the cause of liberal internationalism with both military forces and political authority. These friends and allies, however, also sometimes dilute systemic stability in Asia through “free riding” or an overreliance on American power to keep the peace. Some partner states also attempt to steer Washington toward courses of action that strengthen their hand in local, internecine political disputes and fairly inconsequential bilateral squabbles with neighboring states. Involvement in trying to mediate local quarrels between friendly states drains US attention from shoring up systemic security, as well as earning enmity from both antagonists. The American approach attempts to navigate these challenges, mostly through a strategy that co-opts friends and allies into a Global Maritime Partnership. The idea of a global maritime partnership is the foundation of the principle strategy document of the US Sea Services, “The Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower,” released in 2007. The contemporary maritime security environment tests the famous exclamation of the late Chairman Mao Zedong that, “Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun.” At sea, this power comes out of the capabilities of the naval fleet-sea power. Sea power is a cornerstone of globalization in a way that land power and air power are not, for the simple reason that globalization is made possible only through usage of the sea.1 More than 90 percent of world trade travels by sea, the world’s greatest highways. The world’s oceans are interconnected, forming one vast world ocean that links the continents.