A New Pacific Strategy: Washington Is Evolving a Deterrence Theory for China

Article excerpt

When Disney Productions descended on Hawaii last year to film its forthcoming movie about Pearl Harbor, director Michael Bay was ecstatic at the condition of the U.S. naval base there. "Admiral, this is great," he said to the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. Dennis Blair. "To film a historical movie here we don't have to change a thing."

Recalling that in testimony on Capitol Hill last week, Blair was rueful: "He was excited about it; I was embarrassed." Pearl Harbor Naval Station, headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Command, has been so starved of modernization funds that it's a period-film set. For most of the last half century, the Pacific Command was the military's orphan child--deprived of money that went to Europe, front line of the cold war.

But the Pacific may be neglected no more. President George W. Bush's surprise statement last week that the United States would do "whatever it took" to defend Taiwan from an attack by mainland China appeared to abandon decades of calculated U.S. ambiguity about Washington's intentions in the event of a conflict between the two Chinas. Some question remains about whether Bush meant exactly what he said. But his remark gave a glimpse into a major shift that is gathering momentum in U.S. defense planning. Part of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's strategic review, this involves changing the focus of America's military from Europe to the Pacific, and putting in place a new doctrine of deterrence. …