The future of US armed forces
The size and complexity of this chapter's topic make any attempts at prediction quite unrealistic. By way of comparison, few experts foresaw the financial crisis that swept through much of East Asia in the latter half of 1997, and even those few tended to underestimate its breadth and severity. Still, the great amount of interest in the future of US military forces in the Asia-Pacific region warrants an attempt at examining the major foreseeable factors, beginning with US strategy in the region.
The US Department of Defense has not issued any new documents comparable with its 1995 East Asia Strategy Report, described in Chapter 2. At its broadest level, the US national security strategy for the Asia-Pacific region will continue to envision a 'new Pacific community' that links security interests with economic growth and a commitment to democracy and human rights.
However, during his early 1998 visit to the region, US Secretary of Defense William Cohen delivered an address entitled 'Continuity, Change and Commitment: America's Asia-Pacific Security Strategy'. In that address, he first noted three 'enduring features of the Asian security landscape'. 1
First and foremost are the 'high stakes' involved. Asia remains a concentration of powerful states with sizable militaries, some with nuclear weapons. It is a region of great global economic importance. The East Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 has served to emphasize the growing importance of the region to the US economy. For example, a November 1997 US State Department fact sheet highlighted the following facts: