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Clinton Embraces the Navy

On Tuesday evening, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recounted, for the
benefit of an audience of midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy, the
tension of watching the Osama bin Laden raid play out in real time. She also warned North
Korea against testing a ballistic missile in honor of Kim Il Sung’s birthday,
and sketched out some themes relating to the future of U.S. relations with
China. In what may be the most important but least remarked upon part of the
speech, however, Secretary Clinton signaled the Obama administration’s embrace
of the vision set forth in the U.S. Navy’s Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century
Seapower, the 2007 strategic
guidance document linking
maritime power to the success of the liberal international order, and may have
tipped the administration’s hand with regard to how the defense realignment of
the next decade will play out. Clinton’s speech effectively aligned U.S. East
Asian strategy with the Navy’s cooperative strategic concept, a move that may
signal the direction of U.S. regional defense and diplomatic policy and
structure the character of China’s response.

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North Korea commanded Clinton’s immediate attention. Earlier in the
day, she held a joint press
conference
with Japanese Foreign Minister Kochiro Gemba, reaffirming the
American commitment to the U.S.-Japanese alliance and expressing concern over
the developing situation in North Korea. The central problem involves North
Korea’s apparent plans to launch a ballistic missile to mark the 100th anniversary
of Kim Il Sung’s birth. According to U.S. officials, this launch would
represent an abrogation of the accord reached earlier this year to supply the DPRK with nutritional assistance. Optimistically, the deal struck with the DPRK
might have placed North Korea on the back burner for a few months. The near record-setting
collapse of the deal means that the administration will have to divide its
attention between Iran and North Korea while making the domestic case for its
foreign-policy success.

North Korea, however, represents only a facet of the larger strategic
situation facing the United States in East Asia. Clinton repeatedly invoked themes
associated with liberal internationalism and rejected the idea that the
administration’s much-ballyhooed “pivot to Asia” represented a return to the
Cold War, or to a “zero sum” relationship with China, instead arguing that
“a thriving China is good for America, and a thriving America is good for
China.” Clinton suggested that the “architecture of institutions, norms,
and alliances” developed in the wake of the Second World War required “renovation,”
but that the basic principles of management of international relations (and of
U.S. leadership) remained sound.  She lauded
the Chinese role in fighting pirates off the Horn of Africa, but was also cagey
about China’s regional role, repeatedly emphasizing U.S. concerns over maritime
freedom in the South China Sea.

But the delivery of this speech as part of the Forrestal Lecture
Series at the United States Naval Academy was no accident. Clinton was not shy
about connecting the Asian pivot with Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal
and with the Navy, as the speech made clear that the primary responsibility for
managing military affairs in the Asia Pacific region will fall on the Navy,
with the U.S. Air Force presumably playing a significant supporting role. The
critical insight came in discussion of the nature of U.S. Navy responsibility;
Clinton lauded not the Navy’s combat capability in the manner of Alfred T.
Mahan, but rather emphasized that the Navy helps shape the contours of
political conflict in the Asia Pacific through a wide variety of means, not
least direct contact with regional navies. According to Clinton, “each year U.S.
Navy ships, and sailors and marines, participate in more than 170 bilateral and
multilateral exercises, and conduct more than 250 port visits in the region. …
This allows us to respond more quickly and efficiently when we have to work
together with partners.” She invoked the partnership between the U.S. Navy and its
Japanese counterpart, the Maritime Self Defense Force, in the wake of the Kobe earthquake
as fruit of the multilateral policy. The U.S. Navy’s ability to conduct
multifaceted relief operations in the Asia Pacific littoral (a capability that
the Chinese Navy currently lacks) highlights the persistent utility of a U.S.
leadership role; the U.S. Navy effectively makes itself an indispensible part
of any major multilateral maritime operation. Clinton repeatedly invoked themes
of maritime security as a positive-sum game, partnership building, freedom of
navigation, and multilateral dispute resolution.

These themes could have been ripped straight from the Navy’s
Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, which emphasized the same
talking points. Built on the “1,000-ship Navy” concept,
the Cooperative Strategy, known to Navy wonks as CS-21, envisions a U.S.-led
multilateral naval capability that essentially makes the world safe for the
liberal international economic order. Mahan it is assuredly not.

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Article source: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/12/clinton_embraces_the_navy

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