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2009 May 08 Friday
Australia Ponders US Decline

A defense review in Australia looks ahead to the end of US dominance in the Pacific Ocean region.

In the preface to a sweeping defense review released Saturday, Australian Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon writes: "The biggest changes to our outlook . . . have been the rise of China, the emergence of India and the beginning of the end of the so-called unipolar moment; the almost two-decade-long period in which the pre-eminence of our principal ally, the United States, was without question."

Australia isn't forecasting the end of U.S. dominance soon; the report predicts that will continue through 2030.

I think 2030 seems a bit optimistic. China might not have a bigger fleet by then. But Chinese ability to sink the US fleet will increase greatly by then. The problem as I see it for the US Navy is that big ships are very vulnerable to fairly small weapons. The US Navy has had it easy in the sense that no nation had the money to spend to strike at the vulnerabilities of a surface fleet. But that'll change the weapons for attacking will cost far less than the prices for the ships.

The US has really big demographic problems that will combine with financial problems and Peak Oil to weaken the US economy in the next 20 years. What could change that picture? I'm thinking artificial intelligence and genetic engineering. But while AI will raise living standards (until they take over and wipe us out) I expect the Chinese to embrace and use AI as fast as we will.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2009 May 08 02:29 PM  Foreign Policy Power Balance


Comments
Dead in the Water said at May 8, 2009 3:27 PM:

"The US Navy has had it easy in the sense that no nation had the money to spend to strike at the vulnerabilities of a surface fleet. But that'll change the weapons for attacking will cost far less than the prices for the ships."

Those weapons already exist and they have been used before, like on the USS Cole. The Exocet missile took out the HMS Sheffield. Plenty of nations now have cheap stuff like Silkworm missiles. The US Navy has been very lucky so far. Probably not for much longer. But having a US ship hit by a missile is the least of the problems we face today. Once the Taliban take over Pakistan, there will be larger issues. I work in NYC. I Just hope I have that day off...

Dragon Horse said at May 8, 2009 5:33 PM:

China is looking at a lot of things, newer quieter subs, EMP bombs that can be attached to ballistic missiles, aircraft carriers. America's answer is to try to keep the technological edge, something we are not doing well, and also triangulation. America has been encouraging (to mild success) to get the Japanese to "expand" their definition of "self defense" or even change their constitution since the first Gulf War. I thought Koizumi was going to do it when he was in office, but he couldn't even get the support and the recent PMs have been jokes. America wants Japan, India, and Australia to control China's expansion in the South China Sea and Indian ocean. Meanwhile China is making plans for ports in Burma, possibly Cambodia, and also Pakistan. China is about to make a free trade zone with ASEAN securing its control in East Asia economically for the future, although South Korea and Japan will join the FTA, I'm not sure how much clout Japan is going to have in the coming years.

China is nowhere near the level of spending on its military that America is. Hell the Japanese spend more on their Self Defense Force (SDF) than China spends on its military (if my numbers are up to date) but China is not trying to "win" they are just trying to make it not worth our while to engage them. They don't have to win, they just have to bloody us enough so that the U.S. public will get sick of it and want to give up (as it has done since Vietnam), they are not a democracy and their people are nationalistic anyway, so they are not concerned about that.

A.Prole said at May 9, 2009 6:00 AM:

Technology is THE key to modern naval warfare.
This process has been ongoing since the 19th century when the Royal Navy's unquestioned dominance was seriously challenged by the Kaiserliche Marine - submarine warfare pursued by Germany nearly brought Britain to its kness and sunk many a Dreadnought.
Further developments including the aircraft carrier and advances in nuclear submarines, radar and electronics have rendered naval warfare essentially into one great big Nintendo game - Oh and the ultimate weapon that has ever been designed and ever will be designed - the strategic missile submarine or 'boomer' is an aquatic beast.
That all said, it is reasonable to assume that naval superiority depends on two factors.
1/. The mean IQ of the population - As high tech systems are designed by high IQ people - China is ,of course, blessed in this area having a mean IQ of 105 and graduating *millions* of science and engineering graduates per annum.
2/. The industrial and economic prowess of the nation.Here too China is blessed with having the huge sums of money necessary to throw at the problem, the skilled workforce and industrial infrastructure.

Dead in the Water said at May 9, 2009 7:50 AM:

"1/. The mean IQ of the population - As high tech systems are designed by high IQ people - China is ,of course, blessed in this area having a mean IQ of 105 and graduating *millions* of science and engineering graduates per annum."

Falling in the US due to more and more NAMs.

"2/. The industrial and economic prowess of the nation.Here too China is blessed with having the huge sums of money necessary to throw at the problem, the skilled workforce and industrial infrastructure."

Our money is being thrown at NAMs (like the mortgage disaster). Results are predictable.

TCO said at May 10, 2009 6:21 AM:

I have been hearing this whole "hit the surface ships with missiles and track them with sattelites" spiel since the 1970s. It wasn't true then. Still not true now. So likely 2030 is a reasonable expectation.

What always happens is that the armchair strategists who've never been to sea, have no feel for what real blue water Navies are like in terms of mobility, etc.


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