The age of American hegemony is ending. Without question the United States will remain a great power, possibly even the most powerful country in the world. But both as a necessity and as a matter of good policy, it is important that our friends and allies take a greater role in providing for their own security and that of the regions in which they live. Correspondingly, the United States will take a lower profile, provide less in the way of immediate military capability but have the capacity to intervene decisively, as needed.
At last year’s International Institute for Strategic Studies Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described how a new security architecture is being built in that part of the world.
“What we have seen in the U.S. approach to Asia in recent years – and what I believe we will see in the future – is a very real shift that reflects new thinking in U.S. defense strategy overall. A shift that, while continuing to fulfill our commitments to the permanent presence of, and direct action by, U.S. forces in the region – places ever greater emphasis on building the capacity of partners to better defend themselves.”
While the strategic direction the Secretary laid out is a good one, more thought needs to be given to implementing this new approach. In particular, the United States needs to do more than simply build partnership capacity. It needs to develop a new global strategic architecture. This architecture would be based on an assessment of the requirements for stable regional military balances for key regions of the world. In order for the United States to reduce its role in ensuring security in these regions, America’s allies would have to be empowered to take a greater role not only in their own defense but in maintaining regional security.
The United States effort to build partnership capacity has been directed primarily at those countries confronted by the threat of terrorism, insurgency and instability. Equal attention needs to be given to dealing with the potential for regional military imbalances and the possibility for large scale aggression that, in some cases, could involve weapons of mass destruction. This means providing allies with advanced military equipment in such areas as integrated air and missile defenses, long-range ISR, local sea control and air superiority. The United States has done this to a limited degree, as in the international partnership for the Joint Strike Fighter. But this is only one example of what should be a concerted strategy to provide our allies with additional, advanced military capabilities in order to support our allies in their efforts to assume greater responsibility for their own security and that of the regions in which they reside.
Find Archived Articles: