Woody Allen Meets America's Pivot to Asia
Image Credit: Flickr (Colin Swan)

Woody Allen Meets America's Pivot to Asia

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Last Thursday the Naval Diplomat ventured into that strange northern land known as Providence Plantations to give a talk at the World Affairs Council of Rhode Island and hobnob with some of the Ocean State’s upper crust. I titled my presentation “Pivot to Asia: U.S. Strategy in the Indo-Pacific Region.” Having mostly spoken my piece about the Asia pivot, and since the audience for World Affairs Council events is a lay audience, I took a back-to-basics approach to the topic.

Punditsfling around the term pivot rather cavalierly; seldom does anyone define what the pivot is. Well, then, what is it? Let’s ask the strategist Woody Allen, who counsels that eighty percent of life is showing up. Quite so! If the United States pivots to a given region, it must concentrate not just policy attention but diplomatic, economic, and military resources on that region. It has to show up in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean—and stay there. History is unkind to powers that speak loudly yet carry small sticks.

As Admiral J. C. Wylie observes, the element where warriors operate colors how they see the world. Airmen, for instance, view air power as the go-to instrument for achieving operational and strategic goals. I am a mariner and see the world through a seaman’s eyes. In maritime terms, the pivot is about preserving the United States’ capacity to project sea power (including its aerial and ground components) onto East and South Asian shores, preferably in concert with allied armed forces. Without allies to anchor the American presence, no pivot can long endure. Hence the prominent place Japan and other partners occupy in U.S. grand strategy.

Thus has it been since the Spanish-American War of 1898, when the United States wrested a modest Caribbean and Pacific empire from Spain. Before that the New World was an object on which European great powers acted. By World War II, however, the pattern of geopolitical influence had largely reversed. Power radiated from North America toward Eurasia. This was America’s first pivot, to the rimlands of Western Europe and East Asia. Keeping a single hegemon or hostile alliance from dominating Eurasia—and thereby constituting a threat to the Western Hemisphere—has been central to U.S. grand strategy since those halcyon days.

Now as then, the determinants of the pivot’s success will be strategic mass and strategic maneuver, meaning the U.S. armed forces’ capacity to amass superior might in far-flung—and increasingly contested—theaters. The U.S. military only plays away games. Factoids about the size of the U.S. Navy—that it’s bigger than the next thirteen navies combined, or smaller than it has been since 1917—say little about whether Washington can execute a Woody Allen strategy in the Indo-Pacific.

How well U.S. and allied sea power matches up with real opponents in today’s setting comprises the true standard by which to gauge the pivot’s success.

Comments
11
MajorDamage
December 12, 2012 at 22:39

Which 'plot' would that be, Banko?
The 'plot' to keep International Waters, international?
The 'plot' to let the Republic of Korea, the Taiwanese and the Philippinoes choose their own destiny, free from fear of communist takeovers?
The 'plot' to reduce/eradicate piracy and other illegal events on the high seas?
The 'plot' to uphold and recognize international norms on EEZs and territorial waters to within 200 miles, not whatever the PRC says it is today?
 
 

JohnX
December 12, 2012 at 07:23

Bankotsu wrote: "I agree with your views, sooner or later, the U.S will have to withdraw from Asia. China should join forces with India, Russia, Indonesia, Korea and Japan to rid asia of the U.S. They must beware of U.S plotting.".
 
I am not sure that I agree with you. The U.S. is a cultural creation and not an ethnic one, thus its makeup consists of citizens from many different regions of the world including Asia. Its citizens have family ties with Asian nations and thus the building of relationships can use those ties to improve the U.S. role in the region.
 
Considering the relationship that exists between certain U.S. citizens and Asia, its actually more likely that the U.S. will come to play a greater role in Asia than a smaller one. In fact, if the US ever wanted to truly pull the tail of the tiger, it could use its ethnic Taiwanese citizens to justify offering Taiwan the role of a state as they are all family members.
 
The U.S. is a culture not an ethnic state such as China is, thus its culture can exist and grow in Asia. Its ties to Asia are well known in certain areas of the U.S. and thus why should we accept that they will not remain in Asia?

JohnX
December 12, 2012 at 07:13

Calling the Bet wrote: ". It is highly likely you'll lose your bet .. and your pants too, leoturd. Bet on it.".
 
Are you a high school student or uneducated?
 
Educated people understand that facts can dispel another commentators arguments better than an insult. If you have facts to prove him wrong, then post them.
 
Is he wrong, not 100% sure myself, but I prefer to read well written arguments against a posting than some meaningless insult. I also need to learn this truth though and so I don't expect that you will find it easy to change, (I know I don't) but in fact, a well presented factual argument trumps a misinformed one.
 
Thus, if you wish to dispute Leonards writings than do so with a well written counter argument.

Concern Citizen
December 12, 2012 at 06:40

Bankotsu, alcohol and drug abuse is dangerous to your health, please get help ASAP!!

Calling The Bet
December 11, 2012 at 18:16

I'd bid you and double your bid. You're just a B-Sh*tter in my books talking big just to create negative perceptions of the Chinese. It is highly likely you'll lose your bet .. and your pants too, leoturd.  Bet on it.

Bankotsu
December 11, 2012 at 12:35

"Eventually, the US will probably have to withdraw from Asia and the Indian Ocean, when a super India, a super Japan, and a super Vietnam/Russia partnership start to demand their own influences around their home turfs."
I agree with your views, sooner or later, the U.S will have to withdraw from Asia. China should join forces with India, Russia, Indonesia, Korea and Japan to rid asia of the U.S. They must beware of U.S plotting.

vic
December 11, 2012 at 08:46

#next_pages_container { width: 5px; hight: 5px; position: absolute; top: -100px; left: -100px; z-index: 2147483647 !important; }
Since US and China have nothing to gain by fighting each other, then why should they?  Back to aquare one, try to stare down each other and see if the other guy blinks first.  
 

Leonard R.
December 10, 2012 at 23:18

@Cowboy:
 
Actually, that's an insightful comment. I can't say if it will pan out. But it's certainly more plausible than many of the comments I've read around here. 

Cowboy
December 10, 2012 at 15:46

The pivot will probably be very successful, in terms of containing and crippling China, but the winners will probably be other nations. Both the U.S. and China will be forced to spend huge amount of their resources in this pivot game, with little net gain (if not losses) for themselves eventually.
 
History has shown that, other countries can take advantage of the situation like this and gain greatly at the expense the US and China. Particularly, India will benefit from both sides and can rise fast. Russia will get a nice-to-have vacuum to rebuild their power. Japan will certainly get the opportunity to become a super military nation.
 
Eventually, the US will probably have to withdraw from Asia and the Indian Ocean, when a super India, a super Japan, and a super Vietnam/Russia partnership start to demand their own influences around their home turfs.
 
The pivot may well become a process, in which the US will defeat China, while cultivating several new future competitors at the same time.    Remember that Thatcher said, “In this world, there are no permanent friends.”  When situation changes, the allies will change.
 

vic
December 10, 2012 at 11:13

#next_pages_container { width: 5px; hight: 5px; position: absolute; top: -100px; left: -100px; z-index: 2147483647 !important; }
Actually Asians will welcome American business with open arms.  If American cowboys would be kind enough to check in their guns at the concierge, they are all welcome.  Arming poor developing nations isn't exactly helpful for the economic well-being of Asians.  Insisting on using the military arm to provide the pivot may land one into a sinkhole; it might get stuck with a high expense bill which it could not afford specially if American civilians still want their entitlements back home.  A pivot means to put one foot down and to swing into a position to do what one intends to do.  Think carefully, America.  
 

Leonard R.
December 10, 2012 at 04:04

Fortunately, it's not just the USN 'showing up'. It's the Australian Navy, the Japanese Navy, the Indian Navy, the Russian Navy. they are all showing up, making ports of call in Vietnam and the Philippines, and even establishing oermanent presences there. In fact, there are so many navies showing up, it makes a mockery of Beijng's U-shaped line.
 
China, is a laughing stock now, claiming an entire swath of ocean over a thousand miles from its shore. Let the PLAN enforce that claim. The world is watching. Let it try to board an American, Russian, Indian or Japanese ship . Watch what happens. 
 
I'm betting that's where the next world war breaks out. 

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