21 March 2017

News Story: 1914 Redux? Growing Asia-Pacific Tensions Demand New US Strategy


American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is paying his first visit to Asia this week. Just before he left, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton told reporters the Trump Administration “will have its own formulation” of the Pacific pivot, or the rebalance to Asia declared by the Obama Administration.

“Pivot, rebalance, etcetera — that was a word that was used to describe the Asia policy in the last administration. I think you can probably expect that this administration will have its own formulation. We haven’t really seen in detail, kind of, what that formulation will be or if there even will be a formulation,” she said.

In this timely op-ed, Maj. Paul Smith, who works in the J-9 of U.S. Pacific Command but is, of course, writing in a personal capacity, compares today’s international security situation to that preceding World War I and sees worrying parallels. He calls for a reassessment of our strategy toward China. Read on. The Editor.

The global environment today eerily resembles that of Europe in the early twentieth century, when a rising tide of nationalism swept through the continent. That nationalism led to increased trade competition, networks of intertwined and complicated alliances and social and political ferment that sparked a war that eventually spread to engulf much of the world in the flames of World War I.

Are we headed towards another global conflict? If so, then where? Most importantly, can this crisis be averted?

The geopolitical climate most similar to pre-war Europe lies within the Asia-Pacific. This region consists of a highly complex web of interwoven treaties and alliances, is home to the world’s most formidable rising power, and has historical flashpoints, that if triggered, could lead to armed conflict. These same issues had been present in Europe for years before the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand began the chain of events that eventually plunged, first Europe then much of the world, into the Great War. 

Read the full story at Breaking Defense