Pentagon Prepares for Confrontation in the Asia-Pacific
In January of this year the three officials in charge of U.S. global military strategy and operations - commander-in-chief President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey - unveiled the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, entitled "Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense," which officially confirmed American plans to increase its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region to counter China, now the world's second-largest economy.
Alternately referred to as rebalancing, reemphasis, refocusing and a pivot away from Europe and toward the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, the new doctrine reflects the past twenty years' consolidation of U.S. military and political control of Europe through the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the subjugation of North Africa and the Middle East except for, at least for the present, Syria and Iran through the creation of U.S. Africa Command, NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative military partnerships and its ten-and-a-half-year-old Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean, and the wars against Iraq and Libya.
Having not so much neutralized opposition - there were no effective challengers to U.S. geopolitical hegemony in the indicated areas - as eliminated remaining pockets of independence and nonalignment (Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya), the Pentagon and its allies are free to move against China, having already surrounded Russia through NATO expansion and partnerships from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, the South Caucasus to Central Asia, the Arctic Ocean to Mongolia.
On June 1 Pentagon chief Panetta spoke at the eleventh annual Shangri-La Dialogue defense summit in Singapore, where the U.S. has recently gained basing rights for its warships, and reiterated plans to expand, tighten and integrate its alliances with defense treaty partners in the Asia-Pacific: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand. (Taiwan is practically if not formally in that category.)
As the Defense Department's news agency, American Forces Press Service, reported, Panetta emphasized that "Defense policy in the region calls for the U.S. military to expand military-to-military relationships well beyond the traditional treaty allies." The allusion is to the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand) not already included in bilateral military alliances with Washington as well as new partners like Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Tonga and others supplying troops or transit bases for the U.S.-NATO war in Afghanistan. An old ally, Pakistan, and newly acquired ones, India and Bangladesh, are also within the Pentagon's purview.
In the past few years the U.S. has pulled Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam into its political-military orbit and expanded partnerships with Malaysia and Singapore, which have troops serving under NATO command in Afghanistan along with Australia, Mongolia, New Zealand, South Korea and Tonga.
Panetta's comments in Singapore included the following: "By 2020, the Navy will reposture its forces from today's roughly 50/50 split between the Atlantic and Pacific to about a 60/40 split between those oceans - including six aircraft carriers, a majority of our cruisers, destroyers, littoral combat ships and submarines."
To appreciate the scale of what that redeployment portends, it's worth noting the unprecedented and unparalleled military capacity the U.S. has built from the end of World War II to the present, in the process establishing the first and only global military force.
The U.S. has eleven aircraft carriers with attached strike groups; all the world's supercarriers and all but one of its twelve nuclear-powered carriers. (France has the other.) The eleven American supercarriers are the largest warships ever built.
It has 61 guided missile destroyers and 22 guided missile cruisers, all of which are part of or can be upgraded to join the Aegis Combat System, thereby being capable of participating in Washington's worldwide interceptor missile program.
The U.S. Navy also possesses 72 submarines, 18 ballistic and 53 attack models, and 24 frigates, nine amphibious assault ships, seven amphibious transport docks, 12 dock landing ships, four littoral combat ships and scores of other vessels.
Washington has pledged to deploy 60 percent of the above to the Asia-Pacific region in the imminent future.
Ahead of his trip to Singapore, Panetta visited the headquarters of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) in Honolulu, Hawaii and American Forces Press Service reported that "There are 330,000 U.S. service members in the Pacific Command area now, and Panetta anticipates the proportion of the total military in the region will rise."
The same source added: "The American military also wants to strengthen power projection capabilities in the region. Panetta said there will be new platforms and capabilities for troops in the area."
U.S. military chief Martin Dempsey is also attending the three-day Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore and his meetings in the Southeast Asian nation indicate one component of the Pentagon's "power projection" strategy for the Asia-Pacific area. He met with the host country's defense minister, chief of defense and heads of its army, air force and navy and toured the Sembawang Air Base and other military facilities.
His discussions included topics like the regular Commando Sling joint U.S.-Singapore air combat exercises and the imminent deployment of U.S. littoral combat ships to Singapore agreed upon late last year.