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Research Report

COUNTERBALANCE: Red Teaming the Rebalance in the Asia-Pacific

Mira Rapp-Hooper
Patrick M. Cronin
Harry Krejsa
Hannah Suh
Copyright Date: Nov. 1, 2016
Pages: 70

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-2)
  2. (pp. 1-1)
  3. (pp. 2-5)
  4. (pp. 6-12)

    An November 2011, President Barack Obama delivered a major speech describing the “deliberate and strategic” U.S. decision to refocus attention on Asia after two protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a harrowing domestic financial crisis.⁴ Eventually termed the “Rebalance,” the initiative comprises diplomatic, economic, and military efforts to reinforce, in consistent and predictable ways, U.S. leadership in the world’s fastest growing region. This renewed focus directly engages some of the most fundamental geostrategic questions of the twenty-first century: namely, how the United States will maintain a leadership role in Asia and protect its allies and its interests as China...

  5. (pp. 13-21)

    America’s strategic influence in Asia relies on credible power-projection capabilities. U.S. armed forces can operate at will throughout the Western Pacific. Yet China’s military modernization is casting doubt on this assumption. Within a few years, the United States will no longer enjoy uncontested access in the seas between the Asian mainland and East Asian maritime states. Moreover, because most of the U.S. forces in Asia are stationed in Northeast Asia, it would be more difficult for the United States to deter or enter a conflict in Southeast Asia. As China continues to rise and to develop significant sea and air...

  6. (pp. 22-32)

    As U.S. concerns have risen over China’s anti-access capabilities, military and civilian leaders have also had a renewed interest in security assistance or partner capacity building. The Asia-Pacific region has traditionally received a scant portion of U.S. security assistance aid. However, partner capacity building may be a way to improve U.S. access in and around the Western Pacific. In addition, mutually beneficial security relationships with local allies and partners could, over the long term, favorably incline those partners toward U.S. goals and values more broadly.

    But not all such programs are created equal, enjoy successes commensurate with their investment, or...

  7. (pp. 33-41)

    Defense analysts in the United States and worldwide continue to debate what precisely is involved in the Pentagon’s “Third Offset strategy.” Since floating the term in 2014, the Department of Defense has not defined this initiative clearly. One reason for the confusion is that calling something the “third” of anything requires explaining the preceding efforts. Another reason for the lack of clarity is confusion of the strategy with the Pentagon’s other efforts related to technology and innovation. Third, Pentagon policymakers did not agree on a consistent view of the Third Offset strategy until relatively recently. Fourth, until the Pentagon’s FY2017...

  8. (pp. 42-49)

    The United States has not faced the prospect of a high-end competitor since the demise of the Soviet Union. Even during the Cold War, when U.S. planners were focused on this possibility, the actual conflicts in which the United States became involved were against far weaker, less technologically sophisticated adversaries. Over the last several decades, the U.S. military has developed operational concepts and capabilities oriented toward long-range strike and the rapid establishment of air and sea superiority. This “American way of war” is undergoing major changes: American defense planners have sought to confront new challenges by developing operational concepts that...

  9. (pp. 50-57)

    Our analysis of each of the Pentagon’s four major initiatives yielded a number of specific policy recommendations presented in the preceding chapters. We summarize them here, and then outline how a new administration can strengthen the Rebalance and prepare for future challenges.

    To enhance U.S. force posture, the Pentagon should:

    commence a global force posture review at the beginning of the new administration that assumes the United States will need to retain substantial forces in Asia, and that assesses whether existing rotational agreements meet DoD needs;

    conduct an annual large-scale military exercise to demonstrate U.S. and partner capabilities from new...

  10. (pp. 58-66)
  11. (pp. 67-68)