The 2011 Report to Congress regarding China’s capabilities seemed to present a Din Sum of unpalatable threats from which we alone must choose. Personally I have lost my appetite for being the host nation expected to pick up the tab for much of the free-world’s defense while others have grown flabby around the ammunition belt.
Operation Unified Protector, NATO’s Libyan military action, illustrated the weaknesses of nations grown militarily lax after generations of being tied to America’s apron strings and open purse. In a June 10th speech in Brussels, then Defense Secretary Gates warned that if European defense capabilities continued to decline, American leaders in the future, for whom the cold war was not a formative experience, may not consider NATO worth the investment. Perhaps we would do well to push our chair back from the table as a growing global family reaches physically and digitally across each other’s plate. A case in point is China.
Situated in a circle around the South China Sea are Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and very much at the head of the table, China. They are all reaching across each other’s maritime-law Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims to shipping on the surface, fish in the sea and oil under the sea floor. With increasing regularity, China appears to be slapping those other grasping hands as it attempts to impose what it believes to be its historical, “core” interest over the whole region. With multiple naval incursions dating back to 1974 when Vietnam was forced off the Paracel islands, other nations such as the Philippines and Japan have quite literally bumped into China’s growing naval might. To those nations feeling under immediate threat, the protection afforded by America must look farther and farther away over the Pacific horizon.
China has been quite public of late about its increasing sophistication both in physical military equipment and cyber warfare. Many question its effectiveness and desirability, such as the new aircraft carrier or the J-20 Stealth Fighter. Indeed, such boasting may be working against China’s own best interest. Her neighboring nations now appear to be in a rapidly growing arms race to counter the perceived threat, with such things as sophisticated submarines for Vietnam and long range airplane tankers for Singapore. Such growth of defensive strength by these and other nations gives the United States a Dim Sum of options for balancing China’s growing ambitions. It may well be that the economic diet our nation must go on will make other nations become more fit to participate in the keeping of freedom around the globe.