2003 March 04 Tuesday
US Reverting To Maritime Power Role?

Writing for the Financial Times of London William Richard Smyser argues the US is returning to its historical role as a maritime power.

Sea powers behave in predictable ways. Strategically, they try to dominate the oceans (and now the skies). They abhor large and fixed land deployments, preferring to use local auxiliaries. They like to control or at least to neutralise the opposite shores of contiguous seas and oceans.

Diplomatically, they have no fixed alliances but only fixed interests.

According to this view the US no longer needs to be a land power in Europe. Europe is, in the foreseeable future, facing no conventional military threat. The US needs to be able to project power across oceans in far less plannable and predictable ways. NATO is chiefly useful as a staging area. Therefore NATO is less important but not obsolete.

US actions in the Middle East are partly explainable by this interpretation. The capture of Iraq will decrease the US need for aircraft carriers in conditions where carrier operation is risky (i.e. in the Persian Gulf) and will free up carriers for other theaters (notably the Pacific). The US does not need to become a major land power in the Middle East because the Middle Eastern regimes all have weak militaries. The Middle East will pose a threat to the US only thru terrorism and the development of weapons of mass destruction. Firm control of bases in Iraq places US air and ground forces on the border of the two countries that pose the greatest threats from WMD and terrororism: Iran and Saudi Arabia.

After the Iraq war it then seems reasonable to expect a build-up of US naval and air forces in the Pacific. Bases in Hawaii, Guam, and Japan might be expected to see upgrading.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 March 04 03:41 PM  Politics Grand Strategy


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