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Thursday 22 Feb 2018 | 15:51 | SYDNEY
Thursday 22 Feb 2018 | 15:51 | SYDNEY

The influence of sea power upon Asia



3 September 2010 14:16

In his recent 'Strategic Snapshot', Mike Green, one of America's leading Asia hands, looks to the principles and ideas of Alfred Thayer Mahan (pictured) for answers to some of the most pressing strategic challenges facing Washington today.

It's a great piece and a fascinating exercise, not least because of the enduring relevance, even increasing salience, of so many Mahanian preoccupations — the historical centrality of sea power to geopolitical influence, the interplay between geography and strategy, between offence and defence, and the importance to national well-being of seaborne trade.

For Washington, though, and for Canberra, this is not just theoretical. In both capitals, and many others as well, the growth of Chinese sea power – in particular, the extent to which China has already managed to complicate American planning – is becoming a source of considerable concern.

These anxieties are compounded by an awareness of just how difficult it will be for Washington to retain command of the sea in the way that it has for so long. Not only does it face China's emerging capabilities, but also an economy teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, a potentially more introspective population, a lost and futile war in Afghanistan, and emerging regional challengers in Moscow and Tehran.

For Mike Green one of the logical solutions involves a more equal burden-sharing arrangement among American allies. The US navy retains many potent capabilities, he notes, 'but not enough to maintain a stable strategic equilibrium without the combination of greater external balancing...'

This raises some very deep questions for Australia, whose alliance with the US has for decades been an extraordinary asset. As a new regional security order takes shape, as US primacy fades and Washington begins looking to allies for greater support in the face of rising Chinese power, could the alliance begin to entail new and more serious risks and liabilities'

Forthcoming 'Strategic Snapshots' will be exploring these questions, and many others, in the coming weeks. Stay tuned... 

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