“What is International Maritime Security?” is an excellent post, framing the question against the common interests, threats, and resources of nations in the effort to keep maritime commons secure. Why are these dynamics and underlying processes so complex, and what we can do with that knowledge? Professor Mearsheimer’s work The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, notes Kurt Albaugh, helps provide some answers. It discusses great powers’ search for ultimate security, possible only through hegemony. But it leaves untold the story of great powers’ neighbors. These states have a need for national security disproportionate to the real threat, which Prof. Mearsheimer explains in following way:
When a state surveys its environment to determine which states pose a threat to its survival, it focuses mainly on the offensive capabilities of potential rivals, not their intentions.
Moreover, in such a case the “stopping power of water” likely doesn’t apply, not only because neighbors could share a land border but also because defensive power is not strong enough to check a great power’s short-distance naval assault. The Impact on the navy is important. In the event of a neighbor’s build-up, the smaller neighbor’s scarce financial resources would be devoted to building as much war-fighting capabilities as possible, depleting a budget very quickly. The maritime security mission becomes a “nice to have” item, especially protecting the maritime commons, which is possibly perceived more as a foreign affairs than defense issue. The corresponding fleet composition is summarized well with another observation made by D.K. Brown in Future British Surface Fleet: Options for Medium-Sized Powers, discussing individual ship design:
This is discussed by Khudyakov, who points out that one can optimise for maximum effectiveness at constant cost or for minimum cost at constant effectiveness. Carried to extremes, he sees the one leading to what he aptly calls the Super Battleship Paradox, the other, emphasising numbers at the expense of capability, to the Chinese Junk Paradox. One may, however, wonder if the Royal Navy’s Flower-class of World War II was so limited in capability that it fell into the latter category.
The end result is a navy consisting of a very few “Super Battleships” to defend against the great powers, and under-appreciated fleet workhorses like the Flower-class to carry out International Maritime Security missions. The Naval Diplomat might offer a solution to that problem. The concept of a “Fortress-fleet” operating under the umbrella of land-based aircraft and missiles would allow a smaller nation to forgo the “Super Battleships” and develop a fleet much more oriented toward International Maritime Security. Such “fortress” should satisfy demand for national security, cover the gap between a real threat and its perception, and allow the nation to build much lighter naval forces, which theoretically could be more focused on diplomatic and constabulary missions. Governments would be also more inclined to invest in dual-use, army and navy weapons like aircraft, instead of very expensive systems with only a naval application. Rooted in the views of A.T. Mahan, this distant descendant of his original concept answers partially its critics. Fleets thus freed to get involved in international cooperation in distant waters are no longer inactive and without initiative.
Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitis is a blogger In Poland. His area of interest is broad context of purpose and structure of Navy and promoting discussions on these subjects In his country
Japan’s Coast Guard has its hands full: Latest reports indicate up to 11 Chinese maritime surveillance ships have entered the Senkakus/Diaoyus’ Continguous Zone while a pair of fishermen swam ashore one of the islands before departing.
In addition to the anti-Japanese protests and violence which has flared throughout China this weekend, Chinese state media has indicated the possibility of further reaction to the nationalization of the Senkakus/Diaoyus to come later this week. Chinese state radio said Monday that “1,000” fishing vessels are headed to the waters near the islands, as a fishing ban comes to an end. Of note, the report quoted a Chinese source who said the vessels’ activities would be monitored by a “marine observation satellite.” It is unclear whether this is an attempt to say the six vessels still believed in the vicinity of the islands will attempt to avoid a confrontation with the Japanese Coast Guard on station, or whether it just indicates China will be watching the situation very closely. Meanwhile, Hong Kong reports that the ship Kai Fung 2, which earlier helped keep the islands in the spotlight, will attempt a return voyage this week as well.
Hi, Hai Jian!
In the past week, while American attention has largely been diverted, China appears to have taken a number of steps to change the reality of the situation in the Senkakus/Diaoyus (hereafter referred to as Senkakus for brevity’s sake) in a coordinated diplomatic, media, legal, and physical push.
With the maelstrom of news emanating from the Muslim world, U.S. media coverage of other, possibly more consequential events inevitably slackened. Fortunately our international and domestic partners have carried the ball a bit with regards to the disputed islands claimed by Japan, China, and Taiwan. While we noted the reports on Tuesday of two Chinese ships – the Hai Jian 46 and Hai Jian 49 – dispatched to and arriving outside the islands’ Territorial Waters (TW), the number that arrived eventually totaled six, twice as many ever previously sent by China at one time. A good account of the stand-off, on pause for now, can be found at The Asahi Shimbun. Although the Chinese vessels have all left the islands’ TW, they remain in the direct vicinity.
The Senkakus are the same five islands, under administrative control of Japan (and populated only by goats), at the center of Japanese Coast Guard clashes with Chinese fishermen and most recently protestors from all claimants. The Atlantic Council of Canada has a good article on the history of the conflict, but the immediate cause of the Chinese flotilla was thepurchase of three of the islands by Japan’s national government (another was already government-owned, and the last owned by another private owner). The decision to go forward with the purchase was forced by Tokyo’s nationalist metropolitan government, which also attempted to buy the islands but would have furthered their use as a provocative cause célèbre – whereas the central government has mostly sought to play down tensions between the two economic partners.
Although unprecedented for this particular conflict, China appears to be following a course it charted earlier this summer in the South China Sea, where it has so far successfully established a new reality on the ground with the Philippines-claimed and previously administered Scarborough/Pantang Shoal. The Philippines Coast Guard pulled back its vessels on June 16th due to bad weather and has yet to return, effectively ceding control to the Chinese civilian maritime agencies, who have maintained a presence in the area and attempted to physically impede any non-Chinese vessels.
Back in the East China Sea, as the Christian Science Monitor noted, China likely had to take some action to appease nationalist sentiment at home in reaction to Japan’s moves. But the paper also said that the movement of the vessels back out of the islands’ TW can be taken as a sign of China’s unwillingness to take things too far. Here’s hoping they’re right – and that fears of further turmoil before the country’s leadership transition will serve as a break. But with precedence already established in the South China Sea, and the vessels still loitering in the area, many signs point to the potential for future confrontation – and it may begin as early as next week.
On Friday Xinhua said the vessels will start “patrol and law enforcement around the Diaoyu Islands” while the catalyst for conflict could begin Sunday, when China’s self-imposed three-and-a-half-month fishing ban in waters near the Senkakus ends (although a typhoon to the east of the islands may further complicate the situation (h/t Galrahn)). A Bureau of Fisheries official stated: “A large number of fishing boats will leave their ports…We will resolutely protect China’s sovereignty and the safety of fishers and step up controls in marine areas that include the Diaoyu Islands.” Adding to the fun, Taiwan has also sent two Coast Guard vessels to protect any of its own fishermen brave enough to wade into the waters.
From the perspective of the U.S., hoping to de-escalate any conflict between two of its most important trading partners and avoid being dragged in to an armed conflict, it’s clear we need better mechanisms with the PRC in case of emergency. The threat of MEOW (mutual economic obliteration worldwide) is not enough. It’s vital to separate the sides in the early stages to prevent a confrontation going past a point of no return – so we need to know who to call, and that they’ll have actual authority to call vessels back. That is of course easier said than done with a country whose future president can drop of the face of the Earth for over a week at a time. What the U.S. can work on, however, is building “habits of trust and cooperation,” through increasing partnership opportunities with China – a topic I will return to shortly.
If the long-term solution has to be through international diplomacy, China, by demarcating its claims to the specific rocks and islands around the Senkakus – a step experts have called the Chinese to take in the South China Sea – might this week actually have made progress of a sort. But next week might not be as useful.
LT Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine. He is the founding director of the Center for International Maritime Security and holds a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.
The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.
The events occurring throughout North Africa and elsewhere have sparked invective between many opposing sides on many issues. Any comment I could make on the strategic or policy implications of the tragic past 48 hours wouldn’t rise above the din of voices clamoring to control the narrative of the assaults on our embassies in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere. Public dignity should move us to memorialize those who have given their lives in the line of duty, and Rear Admiral Foggo does a better job than I could ever do over at the USNI Blog. If any immediate lesson should be drawn from our collective loss, it’s that we need to move beyond supporting the troops and re-think our approach to celebrating public service.
America has become used to supporting the military over this past decade of war. Many Americans quietly give time, money, and other services to support servicemembers who are wounded, in dire financial straits, or just because they wear the cloth of the nation. This is a good thing – it speaks to a culture of dignity, humility, and generosity that forms an important, but oft-ignored, part of American character.
But when I go to the movies and receive a military discount, or when I get head-of-the-line privileges in an airport security line, or when I’m in uniform and someone picks up a bar tab for me, I wonder why we don’t accord the same benefits to other public servants. Retired Army Colonel Paul Yingling expressed a similar thought in a Washginton Post op-ed late last year:
The iconic, life-preserving figures of the post-9/11 era — soldiers, police officers, firefighters — certainly deserve the adulation they receive. However, security is merely instrumental; peace and freedom make a good life possible but not inevitable. Especially in a democracy, we ought to respect most those who foster the character traits that make self-government attainable — parents and teachers, coaches and ministers, poets and protesters. When I hear the Army motto, “This We’ll Defend,” it’s them I have in mind.
Yes, supporting members of the armed forces is important. But there are many, many Americans in dangerous or difficult postings across the globe, and their lives are often a great risk. The Libya case proves this clearly. I’ve worked with many Foreign Service Officers during my career and greatly respect their professionalism as they fulfill important duties with little thanks. The most recent issue of Proceedingsdiscusses ways that Foreign Service Officers and the Navy can work together more closely. Secretary Gates repeatedly made calls to increase State Department funding during his time in office. Diplomats make important sacrifices for the United States, so why is the military one of the few groups that recognizes this? I don’t think the public wants to ignore this kind of public service. Is it because that, unlike the armed forces, there are no political constituencies that support the State Department? Since they wear a coat and tie, is that why they’re unlikely to have a bar tab paid by a philanthropic stranger?
My message is simple: Support our Diplomats. The professionals in the foreign service components of the Departments of State, Agriculture, and Commerce routinely sacrifice – and too often make the ultimate sacrifice – to support our nation. Service is service. To citizens who value the armed forces: think about ways you can support other kinds of public service in your community and across the globe.
LT Kurt Albaugh, USN is President of the Center for International Maritime Security, a Surface Warfare Officer and Instructor in the U.S. Naval Academy’s English Department. The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.
Force development is much like agriculture. Seeds appear trifling things; but such small objects can engulf entire fields or grow to incredible height. Investing early in incubator programs can lead to huge changes in the future. When observed from a position of strength, the small changes garnered by others seem superficial rather than tectonic. The American defense establishment is missing those tectonic changes as China’s military begins the process of stealing a march in force development.
China is pursuing a broad portfolio of revolutionizing technologies. We have discussed in detail the potential opportunities for drone warfare on this blog and elsewhere. However, those working to reap such opportunities are not here in the U.S. where ideas are shared freely, but in the People’s Republic of China. Scientists in China have developed a system by which, with thought alone, an operator can control an aerial drone. Rudimentary technology at best, it is nonetheless a leap we have yet to take. Even at the beginning stages, it shows smoother control with a mental operator rather than a manual one. Although the US does seem dedicated to drone saturation, we have not moved past our initial uses and operation of them. Drones still require legions of remote operators rather than partial automation and direct connections with the men in the field. While we have yet to integrate our many exciting advances in automation and bionics, the PRC has grabbed a great leap forward and changed the very way they interact with drones.
China is also marching past us in more mundane military technologies. We have discussed the practicality and pragmatism of theHoubei versus our misbegotten LCS. Far from the risky investment in an in-shore knife-fighter some desired, LCS was held back as a conventional, do-everything (aka: nothing) combatant without the relative advantage in speed, strength, or resilience to give it any sort of field advantage. We essentially attempted to build a Ford RS300, but halfway through decided to finish it as an Isuzu Elf. Meanwhile, with the PLAN following a disciplined strategy for blue-water modernization, a stream of solidly-constructed and capable warships are pouring into the Pacific, making the failures of our current investment ever more evident. Our attempts at modernization in the air are just as white-washed; worse than the do-everything design of LCS, the new Joint Strike Fighter attempts to stuff the needs of every branch into one frame that doesn’t quite make anyone happy. Even basic capabilities, like anti-ship missiles, lag embarrassingly behind. While the U.S. still uses a sub-sonic cold-war relic, the PRC rolls out DF-21Ds. Where technology does branch out, it seems unnecessary, like the laser-guided Griffen Missile system on PCs that already have far-more capable Mod 2 25mm cannons. China’s more reasonable and planned forays into future technology have made our past-ideas decorated with sweet rims look ridiculous.
We are also shrinking from the one area in which we could claim total dominance: space. Although our nation is now in the mini-euphoria from Curiosity’s landing on Mars, most have forgotten that this is an achievement of a program started 8 years ago. Our current manned space program is dead. NASA shifted the lion’s share of investment to “earth sciences,” a realm already well-manned by all the scientists ON earth. China not only retains a manned space program, but advertises a plan for both the Moon and Mars. Even if such a schedule is a dream, at least they still have one. While this is not directly a military issue, it is a strong force multiplier. Space is the ultimate high ground. To lose dominance there undermines a vast number of U.S. capabilities.
Our mighty oak is rotting from within. Money is pouring into failed projects. Our Sailors are over-stretched and time is cut for the training/education necessary to add critical value to those personnel. Our priorities are skewed, millions of man-hours are lost to politically correct schools and rubbish ship-wide life-choices training. Meanwhile, the PLAN marches forward, steadily planting the seeds necessary to grow a modern blue-water navy supported by a far greater industrial base than anything the U.S. can muster. They are slowly reaching into the commons, as the face put forward by the U.S. becomes harder and harder to maintain. If we don’t get back into step soon, we may need that long-view of history to see just how far ahead of us the Chinese march has advanced.
The effort necessary to regain our momentum would be disruptive, but not impossible. First, stubborn pride and sunk costs are no way to direct procurement. LCS must be cancelled. In its place, begin a vetting process for contracting apre-existanthullto be built in the US, backed up by a low-mix of new coastal patrol crafts and the new MK VI’s. This would provide the desired coverage using fast, proven, and cheaper vessels that would save us billions in these tight times.
Where the LCS has many fine replacements, the JSF has crowded out the development of real alternatives. The diplomatic/trade capital invested also makes it an impossible program to cancel without painful follow-on consequences. However, the billions saved from LCS could fund a quicker turnover to automated and integrated ComBot technology, creating an “AEGIS in the sky” of super-fast autonomous aircraft and ComBots on the ground integrated with our fighting men and women. It’s a future closer than you may think. These new automated systems could lead to new systems to take on LCS’s failed missions, such as brown-water ASW and mine-sweeping.
With the US’s new technologies, we rely heavily on space. It is a commons commanding the ultimate high ground from which we guide our weapons, communications, and our intelligence infrastructure. Less concrete, but existentially more important, we must continue our investment in the development and exploration of space. The United States, at its very essence, doesn’t represent a set of borders, we survive as an idea. Being a nation undefined by a border, we must constantly strive beyond them. When the US landed on the Moon, we didn’t represent just ourselves, but all humanity. Such is a cause and driving force behind our constant success… a dream. To abandon that dream, even worse to cede it to the likes of the PRC, would be tantamount to ideological suicide. We must re-invest in our manned space program. This is not in defense of our physical commons, but in the commons of ideas, something to believe in. Much like the JSF and LCS programs, we don’t believe anymore. We’re going through the motions. We need to regroup and find a real direction towards the future, because the PRC marching past us.
Matt Hipple is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy. The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.