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Future US Naval Policy in the Western Pacific

By Taylor Marvin

Next quarter is my last at UCSD, and I’m interested in doing an independent paper looking at future US naval policy in the western Pacific. I’ve been playing around with a few potential thesis statements, and here’s the one I think I’m most interested in:

“US military strategy in the western Pacific faces two notable challenges. Uncertainty about which “type” of China the US faces – an expansionist “dissatisfied” China or a cooperative “satisfied” China – and US policymakers’ preference for frequent small wars has created a US military tasked with fighting both major and minor conflicts but optimized towards neither. Continued advances in anti-access/area-denial weapons and strategies are likely to shift the most important determinant of military victory from force superiority to locality; if inferior forces can asymmetrically deny superior adversaries control over a local battlespace, they can cheaply achieve strategic victory. This bodes poorly for the US, whose control over distant sphere’s of influence (most notably the western Pacific and Persian Gulf) is highly dependent on the ability to project power.

America should expect its power projection ability to decline in the future. If it wishes to maintain a credible commitment to military hegemony in the western Pacific, the United States must shift away from assets irreplaceable assets vulnerable to A2AD strategies – most notably supercarriers — and increase the American public’s tolerance for losses. US politicians have shied away from this commitment, for good reason. Given America’s relatively peripheral interests in East Asia, the growing Chinese defense budget and high costs of war, a risky US containment strategy towards China is not feasible. However, a policy of full engagement that cedes military hegemony in the western Pacific to China is not politically acceptable for both the US or its allies; “mixed” engagement is suboptimal, but appears unavoidable. Given these constraints, the US should cede influence in the western Pacific to China, but balance this realignment  by emphasizing that the US would respond to the loss of a supercarrier with dramatic escalation while leaving the nature of this escalation ambiguous.”

A little broad, though I plan on narrowing it down as I do more research. Thoughts?

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