I just wanted to flag two thought-provoking articles on the strategic shifts associated with China's rise, which I've taken to calling, "The Great Asia Rebalancing." The first is by Hugh White (excerpted from a longer essay here), the second by Michael Clarke. Together, they offer fascinating insights into the strategic choices faced by two historic U.S. allies, both of whom face very real constraints on their ability to keep up with the dramatic changes shaping the global security environment.
Clarke notes that with the end of any real security threat either originating from or menacing Europe, the U.S. has effectively reversed poles, becoming an Asian power first, and a European power only a distant second. That shift increasingly renders obsolete Britain's defense identity of the past 80 years, namely being the trans-Atlantic bridge cementing U.S. engagement with Europe. But facing paralyzing budget constraints over the course of the next decade, the U.K. will have difficulty fielding the kind of expeditionary force that would allow it to maintain the same privileged relationship with the U.S. in the latter's new stomping grounds, namely the Middle East and Asia.
For Australia, as White describes, the shift in U.S. strategic focus similarly calls into question Australia's security identity, but for the opposite reason. As America's closest ally in the region, Australia could potentially take on the kind of role in Asia that the U.K. played in Europe. But that role would necessitate a commitment, in terms of both budget and skin in the game, that Australians are unlikely to be willing or able to bear.