- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Threats from Asia are likely to grow over the next decade, as tight budgets force the United States to rely on closer partnerships with allies to bolster its military power in that region, a Pentagon report says.

“The nation’s strategic priorities and interests will increasingly emanate from the Asia-Pacific region,” states the U.S. National Military Strategy that the Defense Department published Tuesday.

“As [non-U.S.] military capability and capacity increases in Asia, we will seek new ways to catalyze greater regional security cooperation,” reads the 24-page document, released as the 10th anniversary of post-Sept. 11 combat operations approaches.

The strategy, the first since 2004, also says the military must deal with an increasingly complex global security environment as it winds down the longest continuous conflict in its history and deals with an end to the growth in its budget and cuts in manpower for the Army and Marine Corps.

The key to the growing importance of Asia lies in the shifting balance of the world economy, the emergence of “two rising global powers,” China and India, “and a large number of consequential regional powers,” the report says.

The strategy articulates a dual approach toward China. It calls for increased cooperation with the growing Asian giant but cautions that the intentions of its increasingly powerful People’s Liberation Army remain unclear.

The U.S. military will seek closer ties with its Chinese counterparts “to expand areas of mutual interest and benefit, improve understanding, reduce misperception and prevent miscalculation,” the strategy states.

It also promises to keep a careful eye on “the extent and strategic intent of China’s military modernization, and its assertiveness in space [and] cyberspace.”

In a clear, if unstated, reference to Taiwan and other allies in the region, the strategy pledges that the United States stands ready “to demonstrate the will and commit the resources needed to oppose any nation’s actions … that threaten the security of our allies.”

Written by a team from the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, the strategy calls for expanding “military security cooperation, exchanges and exercises with the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia [and] Singapore.” It also pledges to continue close cooperation with Japan, South Korea and Australia.

The strategy says the military will seek to deepen other bilateral and multilateral security relations in Asia.

“Leveraging our convening power, we will expand the scope and participation of multilateral exercises across the region,” it added, referring to the U.S. military’s ability to draw U.S. allies closer to one another.

Beyond Asia, the strategy echoes a consistent theme of Adm. Mullen’s recent public statements. The report warns that U.S. “military power alone is insufficient to fully address the complex security challenges we face.”

“Military power and our nation’s other instruments of statecraft are more effective when applied in concert,” it adds.

The United States is at “a strategic inflection point,” it adds, noting the increasing complexity of global security issues in an “interdependent world [in which] the enduring interests of the United States are increasingly tied to those of other state and non-state actors.”

This more complex global security environment is driven in part by “population growth and urbanization,” which will “contribute to increased water scarcity and may present governance challenges.”

The growth in the capabilities of non-state actors such as “terrorists, criminal networks and pirates” is another challenge for U.S. power.

Like other national security policy documents over the past several years, the strategy does not use the word “Islamic” to describe any terrorist groups or other threats, but refers only to “violent extremists.”

The strategy was published one week before the White House is scheduled to release President Obama’s 2012 budget request, the opening act of a long-running political play in which Congress, the administration and the military services will debate the level of military spending next year.

The administration proposes to level off defense spending over the next four to five years, which, the strategy states, will mean striking a tough balance between funding the wars that are currently being fought and preparing for different conflicts in the future.

“Defense budget projections indicate that leaders must continue to plan for and make difficult choices between current and future challenges,” the strategy states.