My Friday column was published in today’s Daily. Having argued that defense cuts are defensible in the past, I pivot to make clear that we need to shift our attention and our military resources to the Western Pacific:
But consider that within the next two decades, it is not unreasonable to expect that the gross domestic product of China, which has a population roughly four times as large as our own, will exceed that of the United States. China will not, and will never be, in a position to dominate the United States. That is not, however, true of the countries ringing China, from Japan to South Korea to the flourishing states of Southeast Asia. There is no question that America’s relative role in this region, which is fast becoming the economic heart of the world, will diminish. The more pressing question is whether we can exert enough power in this region to prevent it from being dominated by China. That is to say, can we help our allies in the region maintain real independence, or will we allow them to become vassal states?
The South Koreans are already fretting about how they can resist Chinese power, not least because China is by far their country’s largest trading power. Japan’s short-lived, weak governments have been vacillating between a willingness to accommodate a rising China and little flickers of desire to push back against it. What leaders in these countries don’t have, and what they badly need, is the confidence that the United States will continue to, in the president’s words, “underwrite global security.”
Again, this doesn’t mean spending without limit on every shiny new weapon in every global hot spot. Instead of spending vast sums on convincing Afghan tribesmen that we should all just get along, we need to shift our efforts several thousand miles to the east. We’ve failed to make serious investments in enhancing our air and maritime power in the western Pacific, and that has to stop now.
I imagine that my take will displease friends who are both more and less hawkish than I am, but I hope the column strikes a reasonable balance.