America's Pacific Logic
by Robert D. Kaplan
Reviewed by John Sylvester
Writing for STRATFOR, Kaplan lays out the case for the administration's "pivot" to East Asia—the move away from preoccupation with wars in West Asia to stress a balance of power in East Asia to face the rise of China.
Kaplan does not echo the more strident hawks demanding "containment" of China, noting that it is not like the USSR. "China is so much freer than the former Soviet Union that to glibly state that China is 'not a democracy' is to miss the point of China's rise entirely."
The U.S. must, however, prevent the "Finlandization" of the other countries of East Asia, so that they will not become so intimidated by China that they must bend to its will. He sees China as somewhat like the Venetian empire in that it is a potential new empire with speculative commercial and policing ventures as its companies range abroad. The primary target of China is Vietnam. If it can cow Hanoi, "Beijing will in practical terms capture the South China Sea," which China sees as its "national soil" (perhaps more correctly "national waters").
Thus, Kaplan claims, it is necessary for the U.S. Navy to guarantee that these vital seaways be kept open. (To the contrary, it might be argued that China also needs to keep these sea routes open for its own economic benefit.) He states: "If American power was diminished, China, India and other powers would be far more aggressive toward each other than they are now, for they all benefit from the secure sea lanes of communication provided by the U.S. Navy and Air Force."
The author also calls attention to other East Asia countries’ modernization of their naval and air forces in response to the Chinese military buildup, giving the example of Australia. He says, perhaps to both the flattery and puzzlement of our Aussie friends, that: "Australia might even become the premier alliance partner for the United States in the Anglosphere in the 21st century, much as Britain, whose defense budget is plummeting, was in the 20th century."