Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts In These Pages Fall 2007

In These Pages Fall 2007

Ever since the end of the Second World War, the United States has promoted and supported a more open world economy and world society.  Presidential administrations come and go and Republicans and Democrats oscillate in political power, but they have all agreed upon this fundamental and central U.S. goal.  In our own time, this project and the process bringing it about has been called globalization, and today the global economy and society are more developed and integrated than anytime in history.  U.S. interventions in this or that foreign war, including the current debacle in Iraq and the earlier one in Vietnam, may flow and ebb, but the U.S. promotion and support of some version of globalization will remain. 

However, a global economy and society can only survive and thrive within a global security order.  This requires not only a leading power – a global “hegemon” – to maintain it, but actual military power on occasion to enforce it.  And, given the fact that most of global trade goes by sea, that power must be naval power.  It is not an accident that historically all of the leading global powers have also been leading naval powers, most obviously and in succession, Spain, the Netherlands, Britain, and now the United States. Whatever the eventual outcome of the Iraq War, the United States for the foreseeable future will have to maintain the strongest – and overwhelmingly strongest – navy in the world.

In recognition of these enduring global realities, the U.S. Navy has recently embarked upon the course of constructing a new, comprehensive “Maritime Strategy.”  (The last maritime strategy was developed in the early 1980s and was designed to fight a global conventional war with the Soviet Union.)  In particular, the U.S. Naval War College, located in Newport, Rhode Island, is actively engaged in this innovative and important project.  The War College has held a series of conferences and supported a variety of studies which have discussed maritime strategy.

This issue of Orbis is consequently devoted to the topic of maritime strategy and global order.  In it, we present some of the best scholarly works written thus far concerning the U.S. Navy’s new strategy.  We invite our readers to join us on an engaging voyage across the great sea that connects navies and economies, strategy and policy, and war and peace.

Globalization and Maritime Strategy

We begin with a cluster of three articles which discuss how the grand U.S.-led prospect of globalization depends upon a robust U.S. maritime strategy. Barry Posen, a scholar at MIT and one of America’s most discerning and respected strategic thinkers, presents an analysis of the contemporary choices for U.S. grand strategy. Geoffrey Till, who is a scholar at King’s College London and one of the world’s most authoritative and prolific writers on naval strategy, similarly addresses the choices for maritime strategy in a globalizing world. Timothy Hoyt, who is a professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College, shows how historically maritime strategies have varied greatly according to the changing economic and geographic conditions of the major global powers. Following these three interrelated essays, my own article compares and contrasts the U.S. Navy’s Maritime Strategy of the 1980s with the new maritime strategy that the Navy is now developing. Like Timothy Hoyt, I emphasize the roles of specific enemies, geographies, and weapons systems.

An effective U.S. maritime strategy for a globalizing world will require many more naval instruments than the 280 ships which the U.S. Navy now has. That is why the Navy seeks to establish a “1000 ship navy,” which will also include the ships of other naval powers who share an interest with the United States in global law and order on the seas. Claude Berube, who teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy, analyzes the potential for this project. He concludes with the innovative argument that its goals will be best met by using a new version of the once-common privateers. Analogous to the now-widespread phenomenon of Private Military Companies (PMCs), these would be Private Naval Companies (PNCs).

The world of the global economy is also the world of global warming. Climate change is having a major impact on many countries, particularly on poor ones. One of the results is more illegal immigrants arriving by sea; another is more flooding of coastal areas. Paul Smith, who also teaches at the U.S. Naval War College, analyzes what the consequences of climate change will be for naval forces.

Central to the global economy, of course, is global finance.  This is especially the case in our contemporary information economy, when vast amounts of capital move suddenly and smoothly on computer networks around the global.  But these essential financial flows are also vulnerable to interdiction and disruption by a variety of global actors, including states.  This is not naval warfare, but rather financial warfare.  Paul Bracken, a scholar at Yale and one of American’s most perceptive and creative strategic thinkers, provides us with a comprehensive, innovative and intriguing analysis of this increasingly-important kind of warfare.

China and Maritime Strategy

The major military challenge and potential “peer competitor” for the U.S. Navy comes from China. Consequently, we present another cluster of three articles which discuss the rise of Chinese military power. June Teufel Dreyer, an authoritative scholar of contemporary China at the University of Miami, discusses the interrelation between China’s booming economy and its military expansion.  Jonathan Pollack, a respected and innovative scholar of East Asian security who also teaches at the U.S. Naval War College, similarly discusses the interrelation between China’s military strategy and that of the United States. And Andrew Erickson and Gabriel Collins, who are analysts at the China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College, give us a thorough and important analysis of China’s energy security strategy and the central roles in it for the Chinese oil tanker fleet and the Chinese Navy.

A Tour of Three Countries

This issue of Orbis also includes three articles which deal with three regions or countries which have always been important for U.S. strategy and foreign policy. Joseph Figiereido discusses the widespread disappointment in Latin America with the U.S. globalization project and the resulting revival there of radical, populist, and anti-American regimes. He sees the most viable alternative for the United States to work with to be moderate-leftist or social-democratic political parties. Paul Gottfried, a prolific and thoroughly-informed scholar of recent European history, takes us back to an era which now seems so long ago, but which powerfully shaped contemporary Germany and Italy, the era when Christian Democracy was America’s most loyal and effective ally. And our review essay by Karl Scheffenburg looks deeply into the Russian soul and into the two conflicting traditional definitions of just what “Russia” means. These definitions continue to shape the policies of President Vladimir Putin and the Russia of today.

With this issue, we come to the end of volume 51 of Orbis, and also to the end of my three-year term as its Editor.  My tasks have been greatly facilitated by my very able and responsible associates – William Anthony Hay, who is our Associate Editor and Book Review Editor, and Trudy Kuehner and Ann Hart, who have served as our two successive, and successful, Managing Editors.  The tasks of Editor, of course, can be time-consuming and occasionally trying, but they are also engaging and highly rewarding.  This has particularly been the case when American foreign policy and military strategy themselves have been going through an especially trying time, but a time which generates many excellent articles dealing with the challenges which confront us.  Our next Editor, like any new administration, will doubtless make some important changes in our course, but the direction of Orbis will still be toward the light of understanding which illuminates the dark realities of world affairs.  We invite our readers to continue which us on this quest.