Why Air-Sea Battle is Needed

Every so often we are clearly reminded why the foreign policy of President Jimmy Carter's administration was an absolute disaster (and an existential threat to the United States), necessitating Reagan's housecleaning and realignment.

Writing over at The Diplomat, Amitai Etzioni from George Washington University -- and a former Senior Adviser in Carter's administration -- attempts to make the case that the Pentagon's Air-Sea Battle (ASB) concept "makes war with China more likely." Etzioni's absurd arguments culminate in the following statement:

"The main flaw Air-Sea Battle it is [sic] not merely that it is a particularly aggressive military response to the anti-access/area-denial challenge. The problem is that ASB is developing in a foreign policy vacuum. If the U.S. were to conduct a thorough review of China's military capabilities and its regional and global ambitions -- and found that the Chinese were planning to forcefully expand their territory or unseat the U.S. as the global power, perhaps Air-Sea Battle might be deemed appropriate.

There are few signs, however, that China is on this path. China's leaders have embraced a foreign policy of 'peaceful development' and are moving the country toward greater participation in the prevailing world order rather than trying to undermine it. It participates in the United Nations where it often votes 'absent' rather exercise its veto power; it plays by the World Trade Organization rules and increased its contribution to the IMF; and it has used legitimate channels to resolve most recent trade and territorial disputes."

On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence China is on this path, which is why ASB is necessary. Military spending in China is on a trajectory to exceed that of the USA within the next decade. Much -- if not most -- of this spending is directed at offensive power projection hardware, such as aircraft carriers and their associated battle groups, a potent submarine force, and stealth bombers, among others. The nature and scope of the territorial disputes between China and its maritime neighbors in the South and East China Seas-- which includes several tense martime confrontations with the Japanese in recent months -- also hint at anything but "peaceful development" and the use of "legitimate channels to resolve most recent trade and territorial disputes."

China also vetoed threats of sanctions against Syria at the UN in 2012, and more recently prevented a UN probe into the poison gas attack at Damascus. In addition, China opposed sanctions on Sudan in 2007, draft resolutions on Myanmar in 2007 and Zimbabwe in 2008, and the extension of the UN Preventive Deployment Force in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia back in 1999. Thus, China is most certainly exercising its veto power at the UN Security Council, and not in the direction of increasing geopolitical stability or improved human rights.

As well, there is no evidence that China "plays by the World Trade Organization [WTO] rules." In the last few years, the WTO has found China in violation of its rules by placing "restrictions on the importation of certain forms of steel from the United States," by "restricting exports of raw materials like bauxite, coke, magnesium, manganese, and zinc, which inflated prices and gave domestic Chinese firms an unfair competitive advantage," and by "imposing duties on imports of U.S. chicken-broiler parts."

Etzioni's claims of China's innocence and pacifism have little merit, which only reinforces the need for ASB and other military strategies and concepts to deal with future possible threats from this nation.

Dr. Sierra Rayne writes regularly on environment, energy, and national security topics. He can be found on Twitter at @rayne_sierra.