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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Strategy in Southeast Asia and Australia: The U.S. Marines Land

An Australian Broadcasting Corporation look at the strategic move of sending in the Marines to the Northern Territory.
A continuation of a 60 year alliance and a message.

ALAN DUPONT, INT. SECURITY STUDIES, UNSW: It's not so much the Marines themselves but it's the symbol - the signal it sends to the region that Australia is - and the United States are working together to meet these common challenges. So I think it's quite an important shift.
UPDATE: Robert Kaplan has a related analysis at Stratfor America's Pacific Logic:
Were the United States not now to turn to the Indo-Pacific, it would risk a multipolar military order arising up alongside an already existent multipolar economic and political order. Multipolar military systems are more unstable than unipolar and bipolar ones because there are more points of interactions and thus more opportunities for miscalculations, as each country seeks to readjust the balance of power in its own favor. U.S. military power in the Indo-Pacific is needed not only to manage the peaceful rise of China but also to stabilize a region witnessing the growth of indigenous civil-military post-industrial complexes.
UPDATE2: Related - a port visit of a couple of U.S. Navy ships reported as Louisville Visits Malaysia During Western Pacific Deployment:
U.S. Navy photo by MCS 1st Class David R. Krigbaum
The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724) arrived in Malaysia April 3 for a visit as part of its deployment to the western Pacific.

Louisville moored alongside USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) to receive tended support for [sic- from?] the submarine tender.

"We anticipate performing a variety of submarine support services for Louisville to ensure all systems are fully functioning and operational when she returns to sea," said Lt. Cmdr. James Hicks, Emory S. Land's production maintenance officer.


Measuring more than 360 feet long and weighing more than 6,000 tons when submerged, Louisville is one of the most advanced and stealthiest attack submarines in the world. Louisville uses her stealth, mobility, endurance, and firepower to perform missions in undersea warfare, surface warfare, strike warfare, mine warfare, battlespace preparation including intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and combat search and rescue.


  1. mandb1:39 PM

    What on earth does Kaplan mean by.... "to manage the peaceful rise of China but also to stabilize a region witnessing the growth of indigenous civil-military post-industrial complexes." The USMC are not going to be used in the South China Sea - there is nowhere for them to go. Taiwan - no. Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand or Malaysia - I don't think so. So please give me a role not the Kaplanesque version.

  2. Alliances, mandb, alliances.

  3. mandm3:32 PM


    Alliances with a member of the AUSCANUKUS community? There is no tighter alliance. It has to be deeper and more strategically significant than that - if it was another link in a reverse Rumsfeldian String of Pearls as part of the Singapore/Darwin/Guam/Okinawa/Japan arc, an outstanding R&R base or even a tropical training school then I would agree.

  4. Aside from choke point control around the Straights of Malacca and a world class shipyard in Singapore, it's never a bad thing to reassure allies that we're still with them.

    The Marines in Australia provide a couple of things: enhancing local ties, developing regional familiarity and joint training. This last is important in insuring we can operate, together, effectively. Granted the Australians have been working with us ever since the early days of WWII (including Vietnam) and we have recent joint experience in SWA, but you don't want that to get rusty. A lot of it's seemingly l;ittle things like commonality of communications capacities and procedures (it took us way too long to establish that one within DoD)and mutually understood commands (this was demonstrated to me pretty graphically during the first day of my first National Week). The only way to insure this is to practise together, more regularly than at Rimpac, once a year.

    Another factor is, as was said increased industrial capacity, which has fueled larger militaries in the region, not all of whom are fielded by friendlies. The rise of things like Islamic militancy are also a problem, most of the places mentioned provide good staging areas to deal with these.

    Chinese attempts at regional dominance have also been expressed, in the past, by the Malay Emergancy and HUK rebellion. It's not beyond reason that such moves might be tried, again, through proxies in the event of disputes over desired territory.

    Finally, consider the coencentric ring approach to containing, then defeating, Japan. The places mentioned were key to that approach, with the exception of Singapore, which was largely neutralised and cut-off by air assets.