Friday, May 15, 2009

Lunge Worthy

I've noted that Australian defense build-up plan. I figured the surface warfare elements were best suited to leverage allied help.

This article argues that the entire force is really designed to leverage our help against China:

But the even greater development that appears to be driving Force 2030 is not be the rise of China, but the potential decline of U.S. military primacy. For decades, the U.S. military has been responsible for maintaining an uncontested order in the Asia-Pacific that has served to greatly benefit Australia. The decline of American primacy in the coming decades would jeopardize Australia's security by fueling strategic competition amongst the economically charged powers of the region.

While Force 2030 concludes "the United States will remain the most powerful and influential strategic actor over the period to 2030," it is concerned that American power may become too stretched as it seeks to content with emerging events, further constraining its ability to respond. "This is likely to cause the United States to seek active assistance from regional allies and partners, including Australia, in crises, or more generally in the maintenance of stable regional security arrangements."

Perhaps drawing on the lessons of Australia's inaction during the decline of British hegemony, Force 2030 seeks to build a force that will enhance Australia's capacity to contribute to U.S.-led operations, while also granting the nation the ability to operate more independently if it needs to.

Eventually this will be true although in the shorter run, the aircraft and subs would be a potent threat to a moderate-sized force approaching the shores of Austalia.

It is disturbing that the Australians seem to assume we will need a little encouragement to help them in the face of a future Chinese threat (although I wish the Taiwanese had a little more of that attitude). In the early days of World War II, we spent much of our limited resources to safeguard the line of communication to Australia. The Australians clearly worry about being on their own, with India not getting strong enough fast enough to help and America weakening enough to lose the ability to help easily.

I think they are right to think this way, sad to say, but we need to be careful that our "ten year rule" on defense spending doesn't reduce our power so much that it discourages our allies and potential allies from arming up to resist the rising regional power. If we are strong enough, we become the glue that welds the power of many nations together to resist Chinese ambitions. In this situation, it makes sense for smaller countries to spend on defenses that alone are insufficient but in concert with allies led by America, are enough to blunt Chinese aggression.

At some point, however, if our power continues to decline relative to China, worries among our allies and potential allies over Chinese power and our ability to resist it in the western Pacific could lead some of these nations to decide the safest--and cheapest, since they can't afford on their own a military capable of resisting China--option is Cold War Finlandization. American sufficiency in miltiary strength suddenly becomes grossly deficient, when stripped of allies.

If that happens, and our western Pacific allies check out of our alliance system, we'll be pushed back to the mid-Pacific as the relative power balance swings far faster than the bilateral Chinese-American balance would seem to indicate.