Sea Power and American Interests in the Western Pacific

Sea Power and American Interests in the Western Pacific

David C. Gompert
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 216
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Sea Power and American Interests in the Western Pacific
    Book Description:

    This book examines the strategic choices that American and Chinese decisionmakers face regarding sea power in the Western Pacific, shaped by geography, history, technology, and politics. In particular, the author explores the potential for cooperation on maritime security in the Western Pacific, and how the United States might pursue such cooperation as part of a broader strategy to advance its interests in the region.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-7893-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. iii-iv)
    James Dobbins

    Referring to how “those far distant, storm-beaten ships, upon which the Grand Army never looked, stood between it and the dominion of the world,” Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan both described Britain’s successful blockade of Napoleonic France and sought thereby to persuade Americans that their own nation’s manifest destiny should not stop at the water’s edge. Mahan’s massively popularThe Influence of Sea Power upon Historywas signally successful in so doing, becoming part of the intellectual backdrop to America’s acquisition of Caribbean and Far Eastern colonies and the construction of a world-class battle fleet.

    Unfortunately, Mahan’s thesis also impressed many...

  3. Preface
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Figure and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xi-xviii)

    American power in the Western Pacific has been, is, and will remain largely defined by sea power. Yet China views nearby U.S. sea power as a menacing presence, a counterweight to its regional interests, and a potential barrier to its access to the world’s oceans, resources, and markets. It is therefore deploying anti-ship missiles, submarines, and other capabilities that threaten the U.S. surface fleet. China is also expanding its own naval forces in East Asian waters to back its territorial claims, secure its trade approaches, and extend its influence. Because this vital region could become unstable or fall under China’s...

  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    Since Commodore Matthew Perry arrived, uninvited, with a squadron of U.S. warships in Edo (now Tokyo) Bay in 1854, American Pacific power has been defined by American sea power.² It was sea power that enabled the United States to assert itself in these waters and lands around them in the late 1800s. During the 20th century, U.S. fleets patrolled and, when called upon, controlled the Western Pacific, confirming that the United States has a Pacific calling to go with its Atlantic heritage. Today, with its heavy reliance on East Asian products and markets, the economic interests of the United States...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Theory and Lessons of History
    (pp. 21-68)

    Sea power is the product of economics, politics, technology, and geography: necessitated by economics, textured by politics, enabled by technology, and shaped by geography. From international economics comes the need to transit the oceans safely and predictably. From international politics come confrontations and hostilities that may prompt nations to interfere with other nations’ sea-borne trade, giving rise to the need for navies.² Domestic politics allow naval officers, business interests, and politicians to advocate, machinate, and formulate the particulars of sea power. Technology, defined to include the skill and ingenuity of people, can determine the balance between offense and defense, as...

  11. CHAPTER THREE U.S. and Chinese Interests and Sea Power in the Western Pacific
    (pp. 69-118)

    Whether the United States and China compete, cooperate, or merely co-exist at sea depends on how each sees its national interests and the role of sea power in defending and advancing them. In the light of theory and history, this chapter examines U.S. and Chinese interests and strategy in the Western Pacific. It looks especially at American and Chinese thinking about trade and other maritime interests, about the operational and political purposes of navies, and about sea control and sea denial. Obviously, sea power figures importantly in U.S. strategic thinking, globally and in the Pacific, as it has for a...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Technological Change
    (pp. 119-154)

    Mahan thought and wrote at a time when naval capabilities were limited and operational concepts were defined by the distances of gunnery and visual communications. While he clearly understood the implications of industrialization—from sail to steam and wood to steel—he can be pardoned for believing that the offensive power of the concentrated battle fleet, with the line of dreadnoughts as its spine, was the key to naval victory and world sea power. He died (in December 1914) before the dreadnought proved to be something of a flop—hardly engaged by either side at Jutland (1916).² Ironically, the great...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Regional Maritime Security
    (pp. 155-180)

    If concentrated surface power was Mahan’s prescription, competitive great-power politics was his premise. The preceding chapter indicates that concentrated surface power has been overtaken by the information revolution. This chapter explores whether the premise of great-power competition necessarily remains valid.

    Recall that Mahan was a son of the century of Darwin and Bismarck, of ambitious nation-states pitted against one another, strength on strength. The race for possessions and resources—imperialism—globalized their competition. Industrialization both expanded sea-borne trade and furnished the resources to build strong modern navies to protect or disrupt that trade. Common interests in trade were subordinate to...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Conclusions and Recommendations
    (pp. 181-188)

    It is worth considering the Sino-American case in the framework used in Chapter Two to assess historical cases. This facilitates both a comparison with those cases and a “net assessment” of the risks and opportunities for American sea power in the Western Pacific. Table 3 thus presents the three historical comparisons shown in Table 1, along with a summary of the current Sino-U.S. case.

    What does this reveal? First, China and the United States are as reliant on oceanic trade as the great sea-power rivals of old. Like 19th-century Germany, Japan, and the United States itself, 21st-century China will be...

  15. References
    (pp. 189-193)