Global Commitments vs. Regional Balances

More smart stuff from Sam Roggeveen, who points out that alert is not the same thing as alarmed, but nevertheless admits to a case of nerves:

The thing to remember is that China does not have to match the global capability terms for U.S. allies in the Pacific to startgetting nervous about the strategic balance. All China has to do is bea credible competitor in the region, and that is already the case.

Roggeveen goes on to argue that “. . . we have already passed the point at which the U.S. could militarily intervene in a Taiwan conflict at acceptable risk,” and that the coming years/decades will witness an inexorable expansion of that perimeter.

Click through to see what he’s got to say about whether the budget priorities as signaled by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, compared to the alternatives, are a good thing or not for Australia. You might be surprised.

The broader point here is that while the “American unipolar moment” might be drawing to a close, we’re still the only country that is forced to calculate in terms of global, as opposed to regional, military capability. That reflects the magnitude of our power, influence and interests. But while an advantage in a scenario of geologic resource scarcity, it becomes potentially problematic in a scenario of political resource scarcity and a distinct disadvantage in times of financial resource scarcity.

This reinforces the need for scaling down our commitments by involving regional powers more prominently in advancing our foreign policy objectives, what I call Middle Power Mojo™. France and Turkey were my illustrative examples before they both started acting out. But part of the initial concept was the idea of identifying regional players that have got their mojo working, so that’s inevitably going to evolve with time.

Perhaps most significantly, this provides a political context for U.S. defense policy. The limitations of discussing the U.S. defense budget without the context of a strategic vision have been pointed out elsewhere. But so far, that’s mainly been shorthand for, “Wait until the Quadrennial Defense Review comes out next year,” and reinforces the militarization of foreign policy. Deglobalizing America’s defense commitments, on the other hand, will require filling gaps with both friendly capability and stable regional security architectures. And that’s more of a long-term interagency project that will “civilianize” defense policy.