A world without alliances

The Hill – James Holmes asks what would a world without U.S. alliances look like? It’s a worthwhile thought experiment. President Trump is famously leery toward foreign alliances and standing military commitments of all types. 

Between Scylla and Charybdis: ASEAN and the U.S.-China Contest for the South China Sea

CIMSEC – ASEAN and its members are in an increasingly dangerous dilemma. They are under mounting pressure to choose between the U.S. and China in their competition for political and military preeminence in the region. In response, ASEAN member states are maneuvering to maintain their ‘neutrality’ and pursue ASEAN ‘centrality’ in international affairs affecting the region. Their perspectives and roles in this great power competition merit closer examination, as well as how they are adapting to it, and what—if anything—ASEAN can do.

The Pathway Toward Containment: Fleet Actions for the United States and ASEAN Plus 5

CIMSEC – The coalition model in the Gulf of Aden helped offset the investment the U.S. had to make in terms of military capability and national treasure. As global commerce routes travel through the Gulf of Aden, it rightfully took a globally-sourced solution to solve the situation. Now as the rules-based system is being challenged in the region of Southeast Asia, it should take a Southeast Asian solution, with outside partners offering help. Only with partners and allies can nations begin to push back the tide of revisionist China and uphold the international rule of law.

Unraveling China With Soft Balancing: Malaysia, ASEAN, and the South China Sea

CIMSEC – If China follows the international rule of law it will grow stronger and become more respected. Its growing integration with the region need not be accompanied by a growing sense of mistrust. China needs ASEAN to maintain its growth, and ASEAN needs China and the U.S. for both growth and security, respectively. Once this is understood and reflected in the policies of great powers, new dynamics will not only benefit ASEAN Members, but ultimately China and the U.S. as well.

The Mediterranean Sea Is One Dangerous Place

National Interest – James Holmes writes that Russia’s navy conducts live-fire exercises. Greek and Turkish ships collide while staking claims to undersea resources. Civil war rages in Libya and smolders in Syria, drawing in outside powers with competing agendas and little love for one another. European coast guards and navies struggle to stem a flood of refugees fleeing unrest in North Africa and the Levant. And on and on. While military and maritime folk rightly focus on managing events in maritime Asia, the headlines serve notice that the Mediterranean Sea is far from placid. Newsworthy events are commonplace of late.

A South Pacific Island-Led Approach to Regional Maritime Security

CIMSEC – Given the strong influence of the maritime space on the national economies and local communities within the South Pacific, the deleterious effects of non-traditional threats to human security in the maritime domain are of significant concern to the island nations.

The Great Fishing Competition

War on the Rocks – A Chinese fleet of 340 fishing trawlers just south of the Galapagos Islands is causing outrage from Quito to Washington. For Latin American nations like Ecuador, the presence of the state-subsidized distant-water fishing fleet offers a glimpse into the future of a dangerous combination: China’s increasing demand for resources, extractionist policies, disregard for maritime sovereignty, and irresponsible environmental practices. How can the United States best support regional partners like Ecuador, who despite siginificant economic ties to China are becoming increasingly aggravated at Chinese revisionist behavior off their shores? It is this simple: Follow their lead.

Navigating Sino-Russian Defense Cooperation

War on the Rocks – In recent years, however, cooperation between China and Russia has grown. The alignment of their interests and convergence of their efforts is amplifying the challenge they pose to the United States. This is especially true for China, which has been able to leverage its relationship with Moscow to fill gaps in its capabilities and complement its efforts to undermine U.S. global leadership.

Using Geospatial Data to Improve Maritime Domain Awareness in the Sulu and Celebes Seas

CIMSEC – Sprawling archipelagos and limited government resources make comprehensive maritime domain awareness (MDA) challenging in the Sulu and Celebes Seas. To improve their information gathering capabilities, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines have invested in advanced geospatial data acquisition technologies like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and satellites. Integrating the resulting datasets into existing databases for an aggregate analysis greatly enhances regional MDA. Incorporating geospatial information provides authorities with a deeper understanding of the Sulu and Celebes Seas’ physical environment and how maleficent actors like insurgent groups, human smugglers, and arms traffickers threaten security. These information assets assist law enforcement agencies in prioritizing the deployment of their limited maritime assets and are some of the more critical capabilities in the regional toolkit for ocean governance.

Ocean Governance and Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea

CIMSEC – Ocean governance is not only obligatory but also compulsory on nations that are contiguous to the oceans and other major water bodies around the world.

South China Sea dispute: Australia says Beijing’s claims have no legal basis

BBC – Australia has formally rejected China’s territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea, aligning itself more closely with the US as tensions rise.

Stop Seabed Mining Now

CIMSEC – The deep sea is rapidly approaching an era reminiscent of the gold rush period of the American West, when pioneers could potentially strike it big solely by venturing out to where few others wanted to go. The risk is high, but the rewards are potentially massive – if one could get seabed mining to scale. The problem is that nobody should be mining the seabed anytime soon. The looming environmental cost is monumental, and the race for seabed resources could reinvigorate any number of maritime disputes. Is seabed mining really worth the trouble?

India, Australia, and Containing the China Challenge

War on the Rocks – Australia’s strategy on engaging India has long revolved around the so-called “three Cs:” cricket, curry, and the Commonwealth. In light of the changing status of bilateral relations in 2020, let’s add a couple more Cs to the list: China, and containment of.

How Significant Is the New U.S. South China Sea Policy?

CSIS – The statement marks a significant clarification of prior U.S. positions but not a radical break from past policy. It makes explicit things that had been implied by previous administrations. And in that, it sets the stage for more effective diplomatic messaging and stronger responses to China’s harassment of its neighbors.

High stakes in a Himalayan hotspot

ABC – In the language of geopolitics it’s known as salami slicing, a tactic used to covertly snatch disputed lands, sliver by territorial sliver. And on the border between China and India in the remote reaches of the Himalayas, that’s exactly what Beijing stands accused of doing — incrementally extending its footprint.

A More Holistic Framework for Military Competition: How the War Might Be Won

Strategy Bridge – In a compelling revisionist history of the Second World War, How the War Was Won, Phillip’s O’Brien argues, “There were no decisive battles in World War II.” In his broad analysis, O’Brien develops what he terms a “super battlefield.” The superbattlefield is, according to O’Brien, the distinguishing characteristic of modern warfare. Instead of an isolated battlefield, the superbattlefield extends over thousands of miles and includes all aspects of building, training, and deploying military capability. Using this construct, O’Brien argues that the individual battles of World War II had little consequence on the overall outcome of the war…The question for American planners today is twofold. Is O’Brien’s theory of victory in warfare still applicable? And, if it is, what does it mean for how America thinks about fighting wars?

Why Yemen Matters

CIMSEC – While it is not practical, nor advisable, for the United States to commit blood and treasure to unilaterally resolve Yemen’s civil war, the instability that spills over Yemen’s borders threatens American interests.

The Geopolitics of Alaska

National Interest – James Holmes writes that Alaska is much in the news during this incipient age of great-power strategic competition. Almost daily, it seems, U.S. Air Force fighter jets scramble to intercept lumbering Russian bombers approaching North American airspace to the extreme northwest. That means our thinking about Alaska needs to change.

A Modern Deterrence Theory Case Study: America’s Failure to Deter Japan

The Strategy Bridge – Everything old is new again. The world is gripped by a pandemic, people believe the Earth is flat, and the United States is trying to suppress the appetite of an expansionist Asian superpower. While China’s rise is undoubtedly less savage than Japan’s conquest of Southeast Asia, the feeling that America has been here before seems unshakeable. Analyzing the U.S. failure to deter Japan from conquering Southeast Asia using a modern deterrence theory framework reveals opportunities to improve contemporary deterrence strategies.

Guarding the Gates: Is International Control of the Bab Al Mandeb Feasible?

CIMSEC – The security situation in the BAM does not look like it will be resolved any time soon; indeed, with the multiplying effects of pandemic, economic collapse and plunging oil prices, it is likely to get worse. International naval control of the BAM is possible, but only in coordination with regional states, with diplomatic and economic investment, and respect for international maritime law.

Chiseled in Space: Temporary, Non-Geographic Chokepoints in the Battle of the Atlantic

CIMSEC – Foreign Policy’s list of the “five top global choke points” includes the well-known maritime chokepoints of the Strait of Hormuz, the Strait of Malacca, and the Suez Canal, in addition to two-land based resource bottlenecks: the Abqaiq Oil Processing Facility and the Druzhba Pipeline. These chokepoints “potentially could play an outsized role in strategic competition.” Ultimately, the intent of identifying a chokepoint is to find an efficient shortcut to victory. As such, at times it can function as a kind of intellectual “silver bullet.”

The Strategic Littoral Geography of Southeast Asia

CIMSEC – Military decision-makers instinctively think in geographic terms. Southeast Asia’s complex economic, military, political, legal, and environmental layers are best portrayed visually. By spatially portraying information, troops can work their way through geography to comprehend the interaction of these complex layers.