The United States faces a dilemma in Asia. It wishes to preserve a balance of power, reinforce the rules-based regional order, avoid conflict, and maintain stable economic relations with China– all at the same time, and all at acceptable cost. While carrying off such a balancing act would be a challenge even in a region of strategic stability, today numerous drivers complicate the effort. Beijing couples rising assertiveness with a military modernization effort that directly affects U.S. and allied defense capabilities. North Korea is ever erratic, routinely testing missiles and nuclear weapons, and terrorism is an ever present challenge across the region. When the trafficking of narcotics is added to this mix, along with piracy in the maritime domain, the rising proliferation of cyberattacks, and the need to respond to large-scale natural disasters, it becomes clear that the demand for U.S. attention and resources is increasing at precisely the time defense expenditures in the United States have been falling. The result is an ends-means mismatch in which U.S. objectives increasingly outstrip available resources. Managed security networking in Asia can help to counteract this problem.
Read the full piece in The Washington Quarterly.