Is China destined to dominate the Asia-Pacific? Among U.S. allies and partners in the region, there seems to be a growing doubt that America can win the ongoing competition for influence with China, and that they must begin preparing for a regional order headed by Beijing. The challenge for America, then, is to ensure that this feeling of strategic fatalism doesn’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The Navy’s new Strategic Readiness Review lays out a bold program to fix the fleet after a summer of deadly collisions. Commissioned and championed by Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, the SSR (as it’s already initialized) will shape the debate in the Pentagon and in Congress for 2018. So we asked submariner-turned-thinktanker Bryan Clark to review the review. Clark, now with the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments, found much to praise, but he had some misgivings. While the review does an excellent job explaining the stress on the Navy and proposing a new “learning organization” to prevent future fatal mishaps, he told us, it assumes away some serious strategic problems and is short on hard data. Clark’s five-point analysis follows. Read on! The Editor.
When the continuing resolution currently funding the government runs out at midnight on Dec. 22, the Pentagon will have spent 1,096 days under continuing resolutions since 2011— more than three full years. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said the Navy alone has “put $4 billion in a trash can, poured lighter fluid on it, and burned it,” since 2011 due to the routine use of continuing resolutions instead of real full-year spending bills — and this eye-popping figure is likely an underestimate. Legislative gridlock has left the Pentagon struggling under the latest of repeated short-term continuing resolutions, stuck planning and executing programs in inefficient short-term chunks.
The new National Security Strategy talks tough — but here are the options the United States actually has, and the pros and cons of each.
The Trump administration’s new National Security Strategy is remarkably critical of China, warning that its “efforts to build and militarize outposts in the South China Sea endanger the free flow of trade, threaten the sovereignty of other nations, and undermine regional stability.” Yet even as U.S. leaders have championed a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” they have yet to explain how this approach will apply to and be implemented in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, the situation there has reached a critical stage as Chinese advances accumulate, America’s room for maneuver diminishes, and observers throughout the region wonder whether the United States is up to the challenge.
Donald Trump doesn’t seem to have much interest in spreading American values abroad. His administration has publicly denigrated the importance of promoting human rights and democracy, and Trump himself has repeatedly shown greater personal affection for dictators than democrats. The Wilsonian tradition in American statecraft –- the practice, most closely associated with America’s 28th president, of using American power to disseminate U.S. ideals and institutions overseas – has been rudely shunted aside.
After the sudden collapse of preliminary coalition talks among four of Germany’s political parties, the once hypothetical scenario of another grand coalition – not to mention a minority government, a hybrid “cooperation coalition,” or even a fresh election – is now very real. The Free Democratic Party (FDP) withdrew from the talks, dashing the hopes of building a so-called “Jamaica Coalition” among the remaining Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Greens. Although the talks stalled due to a “lack of trust” and irresolvable differences over climate and migration, the future of European defense policy will emerge as an important debate going forward. Should one of the political outcomes bring the CDU/CSU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) to the formal negotiating table, here are three key defense issues to watch.