Best Defense is in summer re-runs. This item originally ran on April 9, 2014.
By Captain Paul Lushenko, U.S. Army
Best Defense guest respondent
questions the U.S. Navy's utility. The issue at stake, however, is how to
achieve the best balance between the services to (1) provide for regional
security and order while (2) meeting America's security obligations to its
allies and partners, especially Australia, Japan, and South Korea. While the
Navy, as both a 'way' and 'means,' as you point out, can help achieve both 'ends,' your analysis is parsimonious to the point of obfuscating, particularly
the diplomatic or messaging dividends of deploying land-based forces across the
region beleaguered by a mélange of threats and vulnerabilities, epitomized by
North Korea's increasingly brazen machinations and natural disasters
respectively, the Navy can't do it all
or by itself. Here, think of the U.S. Army's equally important response to
Japan's 3/11 or its live-environment training exercises on the Korean Peninsula
that do much to reassure regional-states -- again, especially allies -- of
America's staying power.
other things, the dispatch of land-based forces is designed to placate allies
and partners as well as deter potential challengers, namely the Chinese
party-state on account of its reputed revisionism. All of these actors
increasingly question the viability of America's so-called ‘pivot' or rebalance
towards the Indo-Pacific. Such uncertainty is based not only on sequestration
and its attendant spending caps, but the recent denigration of U.S. soft power
given the country's failures in Iraq and Afghanistan and its frustrated
management of global security challenges including Syria's implacable civil war
and Russia's annexation of Crimea. If you don't believe me, perhaps you'll
appreciate this recent article published by the New York Times, titled "U.S. Response to Crimea Worries Japan's
because the Navy is not necessarily omnipresent -- unlike you, I disagree that
the Navy can be everywhere at once on the basis of simple math, logistics, and
manning -- land-based forces provide a tangible and stable deterrent. Do you
think North Korea or China's provocations would be lessened if the Pentagon removed
land-based forces on the peninsula and in Okinawa, respectively? Do you think
Russia might also abrogate its competing claims to the Kuril Islands vis-à-vis
Japan as well?
answer is no. Such redeployment would undermine America's regional hierarchy or
"hubs and spokes" alliance system that has provided security throughout Asia
since WWII, attenuate any offshore-balancing thereafter, and encourage more
insouciance regarding the procedural norms that frame regional and
international order, including sovereignty and territorial respect. Within a
regional context, this is a damning proposition given that it would countermand
or unravel the intent of especially Southeast Asian states to shepherd a
security order based on consensus and consultation. Since its promulgation in
1967, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, published by the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN, has provided the basis for resolving regional
challenges like competing irredentist claims or lingering war memories through
cooperative and diplomatic measures. With respect to 'HADR' missions on the
other hand, who do you think provides the situational awareness and collects against
intelligence requirements that focuses the Navy's presence and assistance? That's
right, land-based forces.
frightens me about your analysis, notwithstanding that it is informed by a
recent deployment throughout the antipodes, is that it may actually represent a
standing position among at least a segment of the Navy. While I concur that
funding amid sequestration should be tailored against the most important
capabilities, your position represents a veritable gutting of one aspect of the
hard-power component of America's rebalance, albeit an important one -- the U.S.
Army. Meanwhile, your argument is myopically focused on what America provides
the region in terms of materiel, training, and so forth. The more astute point
would have been, especially given ongoing shifts in the regional security order
embodied by China's "peaceful rise," how America can best deputize its regional
allies and partners. Put differently, what can and should policymakers and
senior leaders expect from allies and partners by way of burden-sharing? To me,
this seems the more important issue given that, amid a probable continuation of
sequestration, such a broader distribution of security responsibilities enables
longevity of American influence across the region largely unencumbered by
I think you should have focused on the 'joint' pay-offs of investing in both
the Army and Navy. Recall, seven of the world's 10 largest armies are
positioned within the Indo-Pacific. Does investing in the Navy alone achieve
parity with these forces, especially if it is blinded or ‘fettered' by
China's anti-access strategy? No.
event of a states-based conflict, you'll appreciate that the historical trend
has been that nothing is won until it is occupied. Admittedly, the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan have demonstrated that even this paradigm is now subject to
scrutiny, particularly given a movement towards 'armed politics,' whereby great
powers pursue military action more as policy than to condition political
objectives. Nevertheless, it seems that victory (definitions of this hotly
contested word aside) is predicated on occupation, something that the Navy,
based on its mission and training (the Marine Corps is fundamentally about
gaining a lodgment) cannot and will not provide.
In the final
analysis, I think you failed to realize that we are as much brothers-in-arms as
we are services-in-arms.
luck and stay safe.
Captain Paul Lushenko is the Commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 502D Military
Intelligence Battalion, assigned to the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade
at Fort Lewis, Washington. He is a Distinguished Honor Graduate of the U.S.
Military Academy and holds a Master of Arts in international relations and a
Master of Diplomacy from the Australian National University. Capt. Lushenko is a friend of Lt. Robb, who was his twin brother's roommate at the U.S.
Naval Academy. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and
do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Department of the Army, Department of
Defense, or government.
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images