In Singapore last week, Defense Secretary Gates spoke at an International Institute for Strategic Studies meeting and argued for “sustaining a robust [U.S.] military presence in Asia.” He spoke of overcoming “anti-access and area denial scenarios” that the U.S. military faces in Asia, which threatens America’s access to strategic markets and resources. Predominantly, Gates explained, U.S. military presence in Asia-Pacific is important in “deterring, and if necessary defeating, potential adversaries.”
While perhaps more straightforward than reigning politicians and diplomats, Gates’ explanation of U.S. military strategy was nothing new. As was reiterated in the 2002 National Security Strategy, it was of foremost importance that “our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.” Similarly, in former Secretary of Defense William Cohen’s 1999 annual report to President Clinton the crucial task was to “retain the capability to act unilaterally” to prevent “the possibility that a regional great power or global peer competitor may emerge” and to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources.” Under the subheading Additional Security Concerns was mention of China and its “potential to assert its military power in Asia.”
Maintaining global hegemony through the threat or use of military force has been the singular approach in American foreign policy for some time. Keeping Europe dependent on our military through NATO was effective in preventing any competitors, but also in extending the jurisdiction of U.S. security interests to the entire continent.
The general approach in the Middle East was to implement a vast array of proxies, peppering the region with military troops and permanent installations, but balancing them against each other to prevent any one state from gaining too much power or influence. Only America is supposed to have power and influence, and if it means propping up dictatorships throughout an entire region and making the lives of millions of innocent people utterly miserable, so be it. Tyranny and war are legitimate tools to prevent competitors and to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources,” according to the doctrine. After all, the world is our jurisdiction, so they’re our resources.
With America losing its grip on many proxies in the Middle East with the eruption of the current independence movement, and with NATO increasingly seen as antiquated, Gates of course is placing our crosshairs over Asia. That’s a region of emerging markets that the U.S. national security state wants command over. It’s also one where attempts to terrorize the world into deference to U.S. hegemony has failed to prevent a rising military rival like China. We can only hope that signs of the American empire ripping at the seams in Europe and the Middle East are indications that another half century of ruling the world by force and aggression fails when we attempt to make all of Asia our jurisdiction as well.