Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Shield and Sword

Australia is a pivot point between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, providing access to the coastal regions of much of Asia. America and Australia will jointly man this pivot point. We will be able to project power from this central position to a region from the Arabian Sea to the South China Sea. Australia gains greater confidence of American support, in turn.

Our pivot to the Pacific has its own pivot point:

America's strategy of shoring up its security and diplomatic investment in Asia, the so-called pivot, is as much about the Indian Ocean as it is about the Pacific.

In all this, Australia's national qualities, its two-ocean geography and its status as a US ally make it a critical player.

This has deep resonance for Western Australia, which is poised to become a hub for the Indo-Pacific age.

American forces, supported by Australian forces and supplied from Australian bases, can swing west or north to support allies or react to natural or military crises from South Asia to Northeast Asia.

This shift to Asia where Australia holds a critical area has been going on for a while and makes sense.

The Obama administration "pivot" is merely the most vocal stage of our long shift to Asia following the collapse of the Soviet threat in Europe and the Atlantic. The announcement serves more to indicate our national focus rather than any real addition of forces.

And by giving America this central position, Australia gains a shield against Chinese power.

Finally, by allowing America access to northwestern Australia bases, Australia helps provide a shield that makes it safe for American forces to rush to Australia's defense without undue worry that the fleet has embarked on a death ride into the teeth of Chinese power. It also gives America confidence that Australia can hold on long enough to be saved and that Australian forces will be there to fight at our side when we get there.

Australia's defense plans fit in well with this role and their role as a hub for the Asian littorals.

Australia is small, but its location gives it a broader role than India, Japan, or South Korea, who have much larger militaries and populations. The latter three are really constrained by nearby threats and are local powers without the freedom to project significant power far from home.