Lawmakers and analysts on Wednesday described the Obama administration’s Asia-Pacific “pivot” as still unclear and a bit contradictory.But the most attention-grabbing portion of aHouse Armed Services Committee hearing on the pivot focused on what several analysts told the panel: New combat hardware is popping up all over the Asia-Pacific realm.
Patrick Cronin, senior advisor and senior director of the Asia Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), told the committee America’s friends and foes in the region have moved from “an arms crawl to an arms trot.” Is that good thing for Washington and its interests? While China and its allies are building up, so are America’s allies.
Turns out, like the Obama “pivot,” the answer is unclear and a bit contradictory. Michael Auslin, a resident scholar in the American Enterprise Institute’s Asian Studies program and director of its Japanese Studies program, cast the Asian arms race as a net negative.
U.S. officials and lawmakers, he said, should find it “worrisome” that every nation in the Asia-Pacific that can afford more weapons is buying more. Asia, more than any other region, is massing machines of war. Cronin’s take was a bit different. He told HASC members the trend of Asian nations building and buying more combat platforms merely reflects those nations’ desire to defend themselves rather than have someone else (read: the U.S.) do it for them.
As if those descriptions failed to conjure up images of a regional naval and air battle, enter a former military man with ample experience in the Asia-Pacific area. Gary Roughead, former U.S. chief of naval operations, told the committee the most likely Asia-Pacific war would be between an increasingly armed China and an increasingly aggressive Japan. (Yikes.)
What worries the former four-star admiral is, as he put it, a lack of the “mechanisms” needed to defuse a potential regional war. (Double yikes.)