Posts Tagged ‘Okinawa’

My 2011 Master’s Thesis Now Available: Looking at China’s A2/AD Capabilities and U.S. Perceptions of the Challenge

April 24, 2012

It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally been cleared to post my 2011 master’s thesis, entitled “AMERICAN PERCEPTIONS OF CHINA‘S ANTI-ACCESS AND AREA-DENIAL CAPABILITIES: IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. MILITARY OPERATIONS IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC.” I completed the research on it in May 2011, defended it in June in front of a thesis committee featuring a pair of highly-regarded defense and security experts in Taiwan (Dr. Wen-cheng Lin of National Sun Yat-sen University, who served as my thesis advisor, and Dr. Andrew N. D. Yang, Taiwan’s currently serving Deputy Minister of National Defense), and then made my post-defense revisions throughout the summer, finally completing the work in September. It’s basically been in various states of review for release since then. I suppose it is only fitting that I am finally able to release it on the occasion of the joint Chinese and Russian naval drills taking place in the Yellow Sea and the anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Enjoy!

Abstract:

The post-Cold War world has created a number of important new challenges to the United States‘ power projection capabilities. The worldwide network of bases and stations that enabled the U.S. to contain the Soviet Union have, in many cases, been made into liabilities. U.S. dependence on fixed, vulnerable ports and airfields for the buildup of combat power, as seen in the 1990-91 Gulf War and 2003 Iraq War, have shown potential foes like China and Iran that it doesn‘t pay to allow penalty-free access and freedom of action in maritime, air, and space commons. In the Western Pacific, China has pursued an anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) strategy, developing capabilities designed to deny U.S. freedom of movement in the region.

This study examines U.S. perceptions of China‘s growing A2/AD capabilities and their implications for U.S. military operations in the Western Pacific through the analysis of authoritative official and unofficial U.S. documents and studies. This work establishes a comprehensive, up-to-date picture of Chinese A2/AD capabilities through American eyes, updating previous comprehensive works in key areas such as the status of China‘s anti-ship ballistic missile, conventional ballistic and cruise missile capabilities and their implications for key U.S. facilities in the region, and new technology and platforms like China‘s first aircraft carrier and stealth aircraft.

The thesis concludes that the U.S. has been slow in reacting to Chinese A2/AD developments and that it is unlikely that continued Chinese military modernization (including the refinement and development of additional A2/AD capabilities) will end in the near future. For the U.S., this means that development and implementation of a truly joint concept for counter-A2/AD operations, as well as the right mix of military capabilities to carry out such operations, cannot be delayed any longer.

View this document on Scribd

“A disaster of absolutely historic proportions”

March 14, 2011

You’d have to have been living under a rock not to have heard about the massive earthquake (they’re giving it a 9.0 magnitude now), then tsunami, now nuclear disaster of unclear proportions that struck Japan starting on Saturday, March 12. It seems almost like the “perfect storm” of calamities is unfolding –  a national security strategist’s worst nightmare. The most surreal part of it all is that it took place in the middle of the day and that people around the world were able to watch the destruction unfold live on television and online.

For its part, the U.S. Navy has kicked its deployments in the region into high gear in order to provide as much humanitarian assistance / disaster relief (HA/DR) as possible, as soon as possible. At least eight warships have been dispatched to the area to render assistance, with more to follow. And it’s not just the Navy pitching it – the Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, from Okinawa, Japan, are embarked on the USS Essex (LHD-2) and related ships of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and are also on the way after a brief stop in Malaysia. Already there has been a nuclear issue, with personnel from the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) being irradiated to an as yet-to-be-determined degree after the ship steamed through the nuclear fallout cloud emanating from the damaged nuclear reactor at Fukushima. Some people believe that the nuclear crisis we are witnessing in Japan will be the death knell of the resurgence of nuclear power in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Michael Turton over at The View From Taiwan muses about a similar disaster striking Taiwan. From what he says, it leaves one with the distinct suspicion that the regime that brought you the botched handling of Typhoon Morakot in 2009 would not be making the strong showing that the Naoto Kan government in Tokyo is (though he also emphasizes that it is not simply a Ma Ying-jeou issue or a KMT issue).

Finally, the best bunch of photos of the destruction in Japan I have yet seen are here at the Atlantic’s In Focus blog – truly worth looking at. Amazing, terrifying stuff.

Links of Interest 02/19/2011

February 19, 2011
Typhoon Morakot (Kiko) was taken over Taiwan i...

Image via Wikipedia

  • My alma mater in the U.S. hosts one of these…though it wasn’t yet established when I was a student there.

    tags: China Confucius_Institute FC

    • Confucius Institutes have two, and only two, functions: one is propaganda, and the other is intelligence on the academic community.
  • tags: Guam Okinawa USMC FC

    • The Japanese government is considering freezing budget expenditures for the relocation of the Futenma military base, Japanese media reported.

      According to Asahi News, such a freeze would please Japan’s radical Social Democratic Party, but would raise the ire of Washington, resulting in a further delay in the transfer of 8,000 U.S. Marines to Guam.

    • If the budget for Futenma-related projects are frozen, this will further delay the Guam buildup which is already delayed up to 2020.
  • tags: Guam buildup USMC FC

    • The $3.7 trillion federal budget proposal for fiscal 2012 offers more than $367 million for military construction on Guam, including the foundation of a Marine base in Finegayan.
    • The proposed budget includes about $77 million to lay water infrastructure for the Finegayan base and another $78 million to install basic utilities at the Andersen North Ramp, where Marines will need a runway and a hangar for aviation training.
  • Taiwan is also interested in increasing its amphibious capabilities for the purpose of responding to humanitarian crises such as 2009’s Typhoon Morakot.

    tags: China amphibious power FC Taiwan

    • Just a decade ago, China had only a token amphibious force. Today, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has two new, large landing ships of the Type 071 class plus the ‘Ship 866’ hospital vessel all—of them optimized for over-the-beach operations. Lighterage boosts the ships’ ability to move supplies onto shore, and retrieve patients for medical treatment.
    • Some alarmists would point to these new amphibious capabilities as proof that Beijing intends to attack Taiwan. But the systems are equally useful for disaster relief and humanitarian operations.
  • Commentary on the new U.S. long-range strike bomber program.

    tags: China anti-access US US_military FC

    • War planners argued that the bomber is needed to fly deep inside China if Beijing were to begin firing salvos of anti-satellite missiles, first successfully tested in 2007, at U.S. satellites, which are used for everything from communications to weapons targeting. The new bomber would be called on to conduct rapid strikes against ASAT launchers before the Chinese could deal a potentially deadly blow to U.S. military capabilities.
    • Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said the bomber is a premier element of a “family” of long-range strike weapons that are “key to anti-access challenges that we expect to face in the future” — anti-access being Pentagon code for China in particular, which is building forces and weapons designed to prevent the U.S. military from supporting regional Asian allies such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
  • tags: China soft_power FC

    • As China becomes a global economic powerhouse, its cultural influence remains feeble, with the country’s culture industry only accounting for less than 4 percent of the world’s output, according to a blue book released on Friday.
    • However, the paper also acknowledged China’s cultural soft power development in the past years. This includes its reform of the cultural system, the development of the cultural industry, and the spread of Chinese culture overseas.

      As of November 2009, about 282 Confucius institutes, which are considered a channel and a brand name for spreading Chinese culture around the world, have been set up in higher educational institutions around the world. They are jointly held by Chinese and foreign universities.

  • tags: US China Pacific military AirSea USPACOM FC

    • The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said Thursday that the Pentagon is developing new battle plans for Asia that include adding Marines to better-coordinated naval and air forces in the region where China is expanding its military might.
    • Officials said the plan responds to China‘s “anti-access” strategy of using ballistic and cruise missiles, submarines and aircraft to drive U.S. forces out of the western Pacific or limit them in aiding U.S. allies.
    • The four-star admiral’s comments were unusual because the study’s details are highly classified. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered the study in 2009 amid concerns that U.S. forces, especially the Navy and the Air Force, were unable to operate closely in a wartime scenario.
  • tags: FC Taiwan US currency debt

    • Taiwan increased its holdings of U.S. Treasury securities by 0.6 percent to US$131.9 billion in December 2010, making it the ninth largest foreign owner of U.S. government debt, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Treasury Department.
  • tags: FC US defense budget China

    • As for adversaries, there are none that pose a truly existential threat to the U.S. The closest any non-ally comes is China.
    • The U.S. spends many times more on defense than China. According to the Pentagon, the Middle Kingdom shells out between $105 and $150 billion a year for defense. The U.S. “base” budget – not including money spent in Iraq or Afghanistan or money spent by the Department of Energy on nuclear weapons – is $523 billion. China understands this dynamic. That’s why China is investing in asymmetric weapons such as the “carrier killer” missile. They know they can’t afford to keep up with the U.S. in terms of dollars spent, but they can build weapons to take out more expensive weapons such as aircraft carriers with systems that cost very little. The flipside, of course, is that China’s ability to project power, the thing Americans should really feel threatened by, is quite limited.
  • A pair of Australia’s leading defense intellectuals debate how to proceed in the face of a rising China.

    tags: FC Australia China defense

  • tags: asbm China FC

    • An article in the 18 February 20[1]1 English edition of Global Times quotes “a military source close to [ballistic missile] development” as stating that “‘the Chinese-made Dong Feng 21D missile, with firing range between 1800 and 2800 kilometers, is already deployed in the army.’” The article adds: “Foreign media have also speculated that the Dong Feng 21D is a ‘carrier killer’ and would prove to be a game-changer in the Asian security environment, where US Navy aircraft carrier battle groups have ruled the waves since the end of World War II, the AP reported.”
    • The bottom line: the era of “ASBM denial” is over. China’s ASBM is not science fiction. It is not a “smoke and mirrors” bluff. It is not an aspirational capability that the U.S. can ignore until some point in the future.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Links of Interest 01/30/2011

January 30, 2011
  • tags: guam buildup okinawa FC

    • The delegation included one member of the Japanese Diet, five Okinawa Assembly members and one Nago City Assembly member, according to an e-mail from the Office of Speaker Judith Won Pat. Okinawa and Guam are on opposite ends of the buildup, but the plans have sparked controversy on both islands.
    • In a separate news release, the Guam Legislature’s Republican leadership on Thursday voiced demands of its own, saying it’s insisting the governor and island’s delegate ensure Guam receive certain “deliverables” as decisions are being made in preparation for the transfer of Marines from Okinawa.

      These should include war reparations; full reimbursement for Compact-Impact costs; and support and services for the schooling, heath care and infrastructural needs of the resulting population growth, the senators said.

  • tags: taiwan arms sales FC

    • Wang Jin-pyng, president of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, called on the U.S. Jan. 26 to sell Taiwan F-16 C/D fighters and diesel-electric submarines.

      “Continuing U.S. arms sales are of great significance,” Wang said. “Taiwan has to maintain sufficient self-defense capabilities so it can stand on an equal footing with mainland China in cross-strait negotiations.”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The Pacific: Endgame

December 31, 2010
Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

Image via Wikipedia

Note: I wrote this post in May 2010 after viewing the final episode of HBO’sThe Pacific” miniseries.  I think I meant to work on it more and then post it a bit later, but since it’s now the end of the year and I am just now posting it, clearly it fell by the wayside.  Previous posts on the series can be found here and here.

The final episode of HBO’s original miniseries “The Pacific” aired last night in Taiwan.  As I have written about a couple of times previously here at Facing China, I’ve been doing some reading related to the series and the World War II in the Pacific.  My final selection related to HBO’s The Pacific was the new book about the survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb attack, Charles Pellegrino’s The Last Train from Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back. But before I get into the book at all, let’s discuss The Pacific, shall we?

I enjoyed the series.  It had big shoes to fill, though.  I would say that if The Pacific had come out 10 years ago in place of Band of Brothers, people would be gushing about it, me included.  But since it had so much to live up to, I must reluctantly admit (I already admitted that as a U.S. Marine myself, I am biased) that in my opinion Band of Brothers is the superior series.  Why?  I am not completely sure…perhaps it was because Band of Brothers focused on a smaller “scene” in the European theater of war, as compared to the far-ranging American effort across virtually the entire vastness of the Pacific Ocean.  I think that as a result The Pacific was a bit disjointed, it didn’t flow as smoothly as Band of Brothers did.  Then there was the characters – none of the actors in The Pacific really excelled and stuck with me the way certain characters did in Band of Brothers, like the crazy-legs lieutenant that seemed invincible running across many a battlefield, inspiring the troops to greater accomplishments.  Or Dick Winters, the ultra-charismatic officer who Band of Brothers followed throughout the war.  His equivalent, Sledge’s company commander at Peleliu, “Ack Ack,” did not survive that island’s fighting.

I asked at the outset whether or not the producers of The Pacific would be able to do justice to the baseness and ferocity of the fighting in places like Peleliu and Okinawa as described in Eugene Sledge‘s book.  I think they did a fair job in showing the incredibly demanding conditions the fighting took place in, like the never-ending rains in Okinawa that turned everything to a sea of mud.  In his book, Sledge described one Okinawan vista this way:

It was the most ghastly corner of hell I had ever witnessed.  As far as I could see, an area that previously had been a low grassy valley with a picturesque stream meandering through it was a middy, repulsive, open sore on the land.  The place was choked with the putrefaction of death, decay, and destruction.  In a shallow defilade to our right, between my gun pit and the railroad, lay about twenty dead Marines, each on a stretcher and covered to his ankles with a poncho – a commonplace, albeit tragic, scene to every veteran.  Those bodies had been placed there to await transport to the rear for burial.  At least those dead were covered from the torrents of rain that had made them miserable in life and from the swarms of flies that sought to hasten their decay.  But as I looked about, I saw that other Marine dead couldn’t be tended properly.  The whole area was pocked with shell craters and churned up by explosions.  Every crater was half full of water, and many of them held a Marine corpse.  The bodies lay pathetically just as they had been killed, half submerged in muck and water, rusting weapons still in hand.  Swarms of big flies hovered about them.

In the end, it’s back to the old cliché – read the book.  At one point in The Pacific, a Marine on Okinawa slips down the side of a hill of mud while trying simply to get from one place to another.  He ends up in a deep puddle of maggotty mud-water along with a rotting corpse or two.  While it is disgusting by any measure on the screen, here’s how he described the same events in the book:

My buddy rose, took one step down the ridge, slipped, and fell.  He slid on his belly all the way to the bottom, like a turtle sliding off a log.  I reached the bottom to see him stand erect with his arms partially extended and look down at his chest and belt with an mixed expression of horror, revulsion, and disbelief.  He was, of course, muddy from the slide.  But that was the least of it.  White, fat maggots tumbled and rolled off his cartridge belt, pockets, and folds of his dungaree jacket and trousers.  I picked up a stick and handed him another.  Together we scraped the vile insect larvae off his reeking dungarees.

I’d certainly recommend The Pacific as a good series to watch about World War II in the Pacific from the U.S. point of view.  It doesn’t tell the whole story, but how could it?  Four years of fighting can hardly be compressed into under 10 hours of television.  Nice effort – 4 of 5 stars.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I also wanted to talk about the book The Last Train from Hiroshima.  First, it’s important to note at the outset that the book is controversial because of problems with key sources of information the author used in researching the book.  In fact, because of these source problems, the publisher pulled the book from further sales earlier this year and the author is re-writing the book without the tainted sources.  Oh yeah, the sources scandal also raised questions about the author’s academic credentials, and it turns out that the PhD he claimed wasn’t real.  Due to all these problems, Last Train may not have been the best book to choose in retrospect, but in my own defense, I bought it soon after it was released, prior to all these skeletons coming out of the closet.  I decided to read it to tie in with World War II‘s “endgame” – nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, and a few days later, Japanese capitulation.

The nuclear attacks on Japan are not a major event in The Pacific – they occur at the end of the 9th episode, and are not shown, only alluded to in a conversation about some fancy, new “super bombs” wiping out a couple Japanese cities.  This is not to downplay their significance; it is simply because the attacks themselves are beyond the scope of the story.  It is because of the atomic bombs used on Japan that the story ends as it does, with a U.S. victory on Okinawa, with no need to chance the estimated 1 million U.S. casualties that would be necessitated by a breach on mainland Japan itself.

Last Train talks about some of the poor souls who managed to survive the bombing in Hiroshima and thought that fleeing would be a good idea, to get out of the area.  I agree, but a few who fled Hiroshima went to join family in Nagasaki and were there a few days hence when the second, more powerful nuclear bomb was detonated.  This could called “really, really bad luck.”  The book also asserts that the Hiroshima bomb was a “dud.”  The yield was only about 10 kilotons (KT), even though it was supposed to be between 20 – 30KT. (The Nagasaki bomb‘s yield was in this latter range.) One Japanese survivor, a medical doctor who wore glasses to correct his eyesight, had his vision corrected by the blast.  In what might be the ultimate deadpan, he said that he does not recommend weathering a nuclear attack as an alternative corrective vision surgery. (!!!)

I visited both Hiroshima and Nagasaki earlier this year.  I wanted to see both of the bombing sites and see what the cities that still exist there are like now.  It’s remarkable, really – what I took away most from the visits was the resilience of mankind.  To see the photos of the destruction the bombs caused and to stand at the hypocenter today and take a look around, to see all the bustle and urban metropolis still surrounding you there, is quite a testament to being able to bounce back from a really, really big setback.

A related book I also recently completed was John Lewis Gaddis’s newest book of history related to the aftermath of World War II, called The Cold War: A New History.  I found the book to be quite interesting in how it ties so many different themes together, from the evolution of containment, detente, the creation of the Iron Curtain, the Cold War in Asia, the opening of China, and on and on.  It was a nice way to bring me pretty much right back to the modern day, tracing out the results of World War II to (near) the present.  Excellent book.

Halfway through “The Pacific”

May 1, 2010
Guadalcanal map

Guadalcanal campaign map

Episode 5 of HBO’s The Pacific aired here in Taiwan last Saturday night.  I’ve seen all five episodes thus far and want to offer my impressions of the series halfway through.  I think it is useful to tie in some related reading I have been doing.

In a previous post I talked about reading E.B. Sledge’s account of the fantastically terrible fighting on Peleliu and Okinawa as preparation for the series.  Selection of Sledge’s book, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa was in fact a matter of convenience; it had been setting on my shelf, begging to be read for nearly a year since I found a very affordable paperback copy used at a bookstore in Monterey, California.  My latest tie-in selection, William Manchester’s Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War was also one of convenience – during a “fire sale” on Audible.com in September 2009, I picked up the unabridged audiobook for cheap.  It had been waiting in my audiobook queue, also beckoning – “Listen to me!”  The time had come.

First of all, my full review of the book, which I finished yesterday, is here at Goodreads.  However, there are a few things I would like to mention about it here in contrast with what I read in Sledge’s book.  Not that  really creates any disputes in the descriptions of the fighting – far from it.  Rather, it is a matter of scope.  Sledge’s book takes an almost “soda straw” view of the fighting he personally engaged in on two islands in the Pacific during World War II.  Much has been written about how successful he was in describing the undeniably brutal combat in both places.  Manchester’s book contains some of the same intense accounts of personal battle, but to it he adds a great deal of context, both from at the time the Pacific campaign was taking place, but also, and very uniquely, from the future – looking back at the battles and their aftermath from the vantage point provided by over three decades of hindsight and perspective.  Writing in the late 1970s, Manchester was critical of the return of the Japanese in commercial and consumer roles to many of the same places that so many U.S. servicemen died in securing during the war, for instance Guam.  I have spent some time on Guam, first in late 1996 and most recently in early 2008.  If he though the place was overcommercialized and had too many Japanese tourists in the late 1970s, I shudder to think what he would make of it today.  The main drag along Tumon Bay compares not unfavorably in terms of commercial development with Waikiki and is now studded with high-rise hotels and fancy boutiques.  Yet only a few miles away in little villages life is completely different, lacking in basic needs like fresh water.  As a legacy of the war, the island is already has a large U.S. military presence, but that will increase by a large margin when in the coming decade nearly 10,000 Marines and their families will most likely move from Okinawa to a new installation on Guam.  Guam’s sons and daughters serve and give their lives in a disproportionately high percentage in today’s U.S. military forces, yet the people there cannot vote in the American presidential elections.  Conditions in Guam today, faced with the impending U.S. military buildup, have many residents feeling like they are colonial subjects of the U.S.  This situation bodes not well for the stability of the island in the future and is even more important as Guam takes a more central role in American strategy in the Pacific as traditional basing locations like Okinawa become less palatable, as the recent protests about the relocation of the Futenma Marine air base in Ginowan, Okinawa and the ongoing friction between the government of Japan and the Americans about what the plan is for the relocation of U.S. forces.

View of Guam from the air, 2008

Manchester also visited Okinawa during his return to the Pacific, and was appalled by what he saw there as well.  He called the base exchange he saw at Camp Foster, the largest of the Marine bases on Okinawa, bigger than any department store he had seen in the U.S.  His return to the Philippines was a bit less shocking, if only because it seemed a bit less “Americanized.”  I’ve also been to Manila and other places in the Philippines and what shocks the most is the contrast between rich and poor.  Manila has no shortage of high-end Western hotels, shopping malls (the Mall of Asia there is the one of the largest in Asia), restaurants, and so forth, but oftentimes just a block or two away are people living in some of the most grinding conditions imaginable.  Panhandling is epidemic.  And then there is the Manila American Cemetery, where many of America’s battle dead from World War II are buried.  When I visited it in 2007, I felt almost as if I had stepped into Arlington National Cemetery, with the rolling expanses of white cross-studded greenery.  It was spacious and peaceful, a stark contrast to the teeming metropolis that surrounded it.

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Even with Manchester’s and Sledge’s lucid descriptions of the combat all across the Pacific, it’s hard for me to imagine fighting in some of these places.  Conditions on Guadalcanal sounded absolutely oppressive.  It’s no wonder the 1st Marine Division emblem still boasts of their fortitude there.

1st MarDiv insignia

1st Marine Division insignia

Finally, specifically about The Pacific, I am enjoying each week’s episode.  I prefer the installments that are more heavy on combat, less so the ones that are about “chasing tail” (i.e. episode 3 about Marines resting and refitting in Australia between the battle on Guadalcanal and the Cape Gloucester landing).  In this respect I agree with critics who say that the series tries to hard to make a “love story.”  Perhaps the second half of the series will be able to tie it all together.  All in all, I would say that halfway through the ten-part series, I prefer Band of Brothers, though it left some seriously big shoes to fill.

Episode 6 of The Pacific airs tonight in Taiwan.  Tune it to HBO to watch.

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Asahi Shimbun interview with former U.S. Pacific Command commander

April 23, 2010
ADM Keating

ADM Timothy J. Keating, USN (Ret.)

The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest newspapers, today ran a long and long-ranging interview with retired Admiral Timothy J. Keating, U.S. Navy, the former commander of the United States Pacific Command.

Keating’s remarks ran the gamut of topics this blog likes to deal with, from China – U.S. relation, U.S – Japan relations, the U.S. military buildup on Guam, Taiwan Strait security, the situation on Okinawa related to the relocation of the Futenma Marine air station, and more.  It’s worth reading in its entirety, reproduced for you here in whole after the jump.  But first, a few highlights:

  • On China’s naval modernization:  “They’ll never get better than we are. We’re going to work hard to ensure that that’s the case.”
  • Why it is preferable to have U.S. Marines forward-deployed in Okinawa: “Because they’re there now. And neither one of our countries can afford to, in my opinion, undertake the cost attendant to moving those 18,000 Marines from Okinawa to some other location in Japan.”
  • On a “rising China” as a strategic threat to the U.S. and American allies in the Asia-Pacific: “I’d be careful focusing entirely on China. There have been a couple of opportunities, in similar engagements today, where folks tried to concentrate the conversation on the growing Chinese threat and the likelihood of fighting China. I don’t see it that way.  We have to remain strong, the alliance, the forces of our two countries, and those of our two allies and partners in the region. It is not exclusively to counter Chinese military growth.  If China is less forthcoming than we want them to be, if they develop tactics, techniques, procedures or capabilities that could threaten access or deny area access, then we would have to be prepared to respond. But I do not see a situation in the near term that would require specific focus on China.

(more…)

HBO’s “The Pacific” Premieres Tonight in Taiwan (April 3)

April 3, 2010

For those readers in the US, this is not going to seem like anything new – HBO’s miniseries The Pacific premiered a few weeks ago.  But in Taiwan, today’s the day!  There will be a double feature on tonight (episodes one and two), and I plan to see it!

With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
In preparation for viewing the series, I took it upon myself to brush up on my World War II Pacific theater history by reading Eugene Sledge’s classic account of Marines taking Peleliu and Okinawa, With The Old Breed.  I wrote a short review of it here.  After reading Sledge’s account of the brutal fighting, I am left wondering to what degree Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are going to be able to capture the experience in this ten-part series.

Since as I mentioned at the outset The Pacific has been out in the US for several weeks, there have been many reviews of the series in the mainstream media and the reviews that I read from this category all seemed to be highly laudatory (NYT, LAT).  Not everyone in the “blogosphere” was drinking the Kool Aid, though.  Historian Eric Hammel, writing on Tom Ricks’s award-winning blog The Best Defense had this to say about it:

Why should I be surprised a “docudrama” like The Pacific is shit? The whole effort behind the docu part is invested in toys such as gunner’s gloves. I long ago boycotted documentary filmmakers who want my brand to legitimize their sorry little TV vignettes. Their objective is entertainment centered on the dramatic visual, not the intellectual, and not quite the historical. If self-professed documentarians can’t get it right because they edit the talking heads to accommodate their thin film libraries, why should self-professed entertainers make a better effort, show greater concern?

Ouch.  So it’s not a documentary, it’s entertainment, got it.  I guess my standards just aren’t as high as someone like Hammel’s.  I fully anticipate having the same reaction to it that Tom Ricks initially did: “hooked instantly.” (He later took on a more critical stance about the series.)  Let’s put it this way: I really enjoyed watching the Hanks/Spielberg/HBO series that preceded and set the standard for this one, Band of Brothers, and when I finished watching that series, I said to myself, what about a series like that for the Pacific theater and the Marines? (Band of Brothers, for those who haven’t seen the series, focuses on U.S. Army soldiers in the European theater of war during WWII – Marines do not play a role.) The series I had hoped for is now here.  As a U.S. Marine, I am naturally going to be partial to something telling “our” story, and I think that the desire by parties involved in making The Pacific to “get… it right” is a noble one.  The Pacific would have to be pretty crappy for me not to like it.  But I don’t think that a series that cost some $200 million and took nearly a year to film is going to be crappy.  If I feel differently after watching tonight’s episodes, I will write about it later.  Otherwise, it’s time for me to make sure my Saturday nights for the next 2 months are clear.

I would be interested to hear what anyone who has already seen one of the first three episodes aired in the US has to say about them.  The comments section awaits your input.

Here are a couple links:

http://www.hbo.com/the-pacific/index.html (US official homepage)

http://www.hboasia.com/pacific/ (HBO Asia official homepage)

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Latest update on the Guam relocation

March 6, 2010

Here’s another new article from Stars and Stripes that does a nice job of summing up very concisely the current state of affairs related to the Guam relocation.  It’s interesting that what is most often stressed about the proposed realignment plan, as in this article, is the commonly referred to “not-in-my-backyard” issue – as in, we want the security that forces like U.S. Marines provide, but we don’t want them to come too close to where we live.  Candidly, I think that most of our Asia-Pacific allies and partners would prefer for us to be closer to the potential rising threats in the region rather than farther away, but it is not popular politically for them to express this sentiment publicly.  As for the people of Guam…I think they feel like a train is coming and they are on the tracks.  In the long-term, the relocation might bring some benefits to Guam (economically, etc.), but there is so much “pain” required to get to that point (congestion on the island, changes in their accustomed way of life, and so on) that few look at it in that way.

Guam expansion central to U.S. realignment strategy in Asia

By Teri Weaver, Stars and Stripes
Online Edition, Friday, March 5, 2010

RELATED STORY: Uncertainty surrounds future of U.S.-Japan military alliance

TOKYO — When it comes to regional security, many Western Pacific nations like the idea of thousands of U.S. Marines permanently stationed close by. As long as they are not too close.

As part of a complex plan to reduce the sprawling American military presence on the Japanese island of Okinawa, U.S. officials approached Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and Australia about the possibility of hosting permanent new American military bases.

All four said no.

That left tiny Guam, which for more than six decades has served as a reliable American staging point during wars and an often-forgotten port and air strip during peacetime.

Military leaders say that maintaining a stable home for U.S. troops in Asia is vital for security in a region where Islamic extremists are fighting in the Philippines and Indonesia, North Korea remains erratic and threatening, and China is seeking to expand its economic and military influence.

Even if that stable home is more than a thousand miles from Japan.

“It’s a U.S. possession that’s the closest to Asia,” said Rick Castberg, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. “I think the military sees it as invaluable.”

What’s more, the plans for stationing 8,600 Marines on Guam fit with the military’s emphasis on building long-lasting bases around the world that can provide rapid, flexible response in times of crisis. And it’s a friendly home for U.S. military assets that are not always welcome elsewhere, such as nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and high-flying Global Hawk surveillance drones.

“Guam is, in some ways, the poster child for that kind of notion, where you can operate as you need to, to take on new challenges flexibly,” said Derek Mitchell, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs. “It is central, I think, to realignment strategy.”

Many on Guam embraced the proposed U.S. expansion and the prospect of additional federal money for the island’s crumbling infrastructure and struggling public services. The long-term military investment — an estimated $10.3 billion for the Marines’ move alone — would put money back into a part of the United States, another benefit of building inside the country, Mitchell said.

But as plans have evolved, so have concerns about how the island’s 178,000 residents will handle a huge spike in permanent population, which will be an estimated 34,000 new troops, civilian workers and dependents. The fast-paced construction schedule also could add nearly 80,000 temporary workers to the island by 2014.

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sharply criticized as “inadequate” the environmental impact statement that the military prepared in advance of the Guam expansion, noting that the massive project would “exacerbate existing substandard environmental conditions.”

Among the environmental agency’s concerns: threats to 71 acres of coral reef in Guam’s main harbor and contamination risks to the island’s only freshwater aquifer.

Other critics on Guam are concerned about plans to build expanded firing ranges and increase training flights on the island.

Madeleine Bordallo, Guam’s delegate to Congress, said last month she would withdraw support for the buildup unless the Pentagon slows its construction plans. Around the same time, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., who chairs the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee, visited Guam and Japan and said he shared concerns about the construction schedule.

“Specifically, the U.S. government should recognize the needs and sensitivities of the people and the limitations of space on the island,” he said in a written statement after the trip. “If the United States remains committed to an active forward presence in Asia, and an increased U.S. military presence on Guam, then it must demonstrate that commitment by providing the civilian infrastructure and services needed to support an increased population on the island.”

Yet the military doesn’t seem to be backing down. In fact, it’s asking Guam to do more. The Army is now looking at Guam as one of five possible locations for its new joint high speed vessels.

“When God gives you a gift,” said Stephen Yates, a senior fellow in Asian studies for the American Foreign Policy Council, “it’s good to use it.”

We Fight Together (So we train together, too)

March 6, 2010

In a new article in Stars and Stripes, U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway indicates that it is his belief that all the components of the Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) need to remain in Okinawa in order to facilitate effective training for ongoing overseas contingencies.

Marine commandant stresses importance of keeping air-ground task force together on Okinawa

By David Allen, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Thursday, March 4, 2010

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — As long as Marines remain on Okinawa, it’s vital to retain both ground and air elements on the island, the commandant of the Marine Corps said Tuesday.

“It’s important that we keep our Marine air-ground task force together,” said Gen. James T. Conway, who stopped on Okinawa on his way to participate in the commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima.

In an interview with Stars and Stripes, he emphasized that closing Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and moving Marine air operations to a new facility on Camp Schwab remains the best option for maintaining training and ensuring stability in the region.

The U.S. and Japan agreed in 2006 to close Futenma and move Marine air operations to a new air facility to be built on the lower part of Camp Schwab. However, Japan’s new left-center government decided late last year to review the project, examining how the Camp Schwab project was selected and whether the Marines can be based somewhere else.

“We’ve got to be able to train effectively,” Conway said. “If you were to separate our Marine aviation from Marine ground units and from Marine logistics support, it would be — with the distances out here — virtually impossible to do that.”

On other matters, Conway said he is pushing for funds to replenish equipment.

“We’re encouraging Congress to recognize the need to get us up to pace with the losses that we’re experiencing both in combat and just from equipment being worn out,” he said.

“There’s a promise out there that when the guns fall silent in Afghanistan that there will be two or three years of getting [equipment] back in good order,” Conway said. “But I think from the national fiscal picture, that’s a promise that could be at risk. So we need to do as much as we can now, in stride, and not face the day when we present a huge bill to Congress.”

Anticipating his trip to Iwo Jima, Conway said the 1945 battle remains an important part of the legacy of the Marine Corps.

“It wasn’t the most exquisite campaign, it wasn’t the longest, it wasn’t the most bloody fight in the Pacific, but all that said, it is an epic battle that probably holds more importance to our legacy than any other,” Conway contended.

“And when you look at those 36 days of battle and the determination, the courage, the sacrifice that those three divisions of Marines and their supporting elements demonstrated, it’s just incredible,” he said. “The more I research it, the more dumbfounded I am by the ability of people to endure what they saw for 36 days.”

Conway said Afghanistan is becoming another important part of the Corps’ legacy.

“You’re going to see an increasing number of Marines in Afghanistan,” he said. “I received a cable this morning that said that the last Marine convoy had left al-Asad in Iraq, so our chapter in Iraq has almost exclusively closed out at this point, which allows us to focus, like we think we need to focus, on Afghanistan.”

I read elsewhere that this trip to Okinawa and Iwo Jima is a “farewell” for General Conway in the Asia-Pacific region – his term of service as Marine Commandant is due to expire later this year.  In yet another article I saw a “short list” for the job, which unsurprisingly included General James Mattis, currently commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, and a pair of three-star generals, one of whom was unconventionally promoted from 1-star to his current rank (skipping right over the two-star rank, major general) in 2007, reportedly for this very reason, so that the general could be on the short list when it was time to pick the next commandant.  It will be interesting to see who ends up taking over as the Corps’ top officer.

Finally, somewhat related, I finally saw Avatar today, and while watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think that the caricatured Marine colonel in the movie (Colonel Miles Quaritch, played by Stephen Lang) reminded me of General Conway, appearance-wise.  Without the cranial scar, of course.

http://www.imdb.com/media/rm246384896/ch0098396


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