Okay, let’s play a little game of “Pin the tail on the donkey.” Here are a small handful of pins. They represent your nation’s limited military and economic resources. No blind folds here. Bring all your knowledge and information about the world to bear. Now where the map will you allocate our finite strengths? One, two, maybe several Middle Eastern countries? Iran? Yemen?
How about Africa with so many challenges such as Nigeria, Sudan, or Somalia? Maybe even some Latin American countries such as Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, Manuel Ortega’s Sandinista suppressed Nicaragua or even America’s trouble border with ITS NAFTA neighbor, Mexico. Are you concerned about the Russian bear that is sniffing around more again?
Now who would have imagined that one’s national security might well depend on the successful outcome of just such a game? It does of course, and in a very real way. For those men and women tasked with securing our nation’s future, losing is definitely not an option.
Probably you would find that most people and most maps have unrecognized cultural orientations and assumptions in them. Take that big wall map of the world for instance. There is a good chance it is centered on America, or even more likely, the Prime Meridian, running smack dab through the center of Her Majesty’s Royal Naval College. Most likely the extra pins were in your left hand, and you reached with your right hand…to the right…to the east, the Orient by any other name. Indeed, do we not refer to the Middle, Near, and Far East? The Anglo-European mind is, so to speak, oriented to view the world that way. And therein lays an interesting phenomenon.
Had you noticed the irony? While our attention tends to be drawn geographically and geopolitically towards the east, the East itself is actually less noticed behind us there in the west.
If given just one pin to stick in a map to indicate one of the most likely places for serious future conflict to arise, where would this author place it? Having spent some considerable time and research and discussions with military planners, that pin would pass right over the seas that lap onto the shores of China and right into the heart of Southeast Asia:
The South China Sea.