tv Thomas Mahnken Discusses U.S. Defense Strategy Toward China CSPAN February 21, 2017 11:11am-12:02pm EST
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next a look with china's military strength and us defense strategy in the asia-pacific with the president and ceo of the center for strategic and budgetary assessments. he also addressed south china sea military security and future of us/china relations. this is about an hour. >> good morning and welcome to the center for strategic and budgetary assessments. my name is jamie graybill and we were discussed originally released report reinforcing the front line. defense strategy for the rise of china. this is the first of three regional reports that fit under
an umbrella strategy we released the middle of last month called preserving the balance, us, asia defense strategy. meeting this discussion this morning is doctor thomas mahnken, our president and chief executive officer and for those that didn't get a chance to get the umbrella strategy i left more on the table, you can grab them as you leave. thomas mahnken. >> thank you. thank you for coming. as jamie said, this is the second of four reports in a series that seek to layout a fiscally informed defense strategy for the united states at the global level, released on january 19th and three regional
strategies that can comfortably sit under the overall framework and this is the first of those three regional reports and we look forward to rolling out the remaining regional reports in the next week. this report was written by evan montgomery, senior fellow, it is my pleasure to stand in for evan who is serving as council on foreign relations, the defense department, falls to me to tell you about his work which is great. any brilliance is his. this will be the order of the day but i will keep it brief and entertaining and move on to some discussion. already failed.
back here. maybe not. back please. as laid out in the overall umbrella report we believe asia will be the most important going forward. we also acknowledge that it has competed for attention or continue to compete in the middle east and asia is most important doesn't mean we dismiss them at all but it does acknowledge a very important point. the united states is a global power. we are not a regional power, we are a global power and we have to balance interest and commitment across multiple
theaters. the fact that asia's strategic weight is growing and increasing importance goes back, the recognition of that goes back across multiple administrations, at least 15 years, backing the recognition of capabilities has proven challenging. the challenge for the top priority, economic, geopolitical, military. not just a majority of the world, military spending, the economies in asia. asia is increasingly the scene of competition, the chinese military modernization.
china has moved from being a continental power, largely self regarding to a composite or amphibious power, more oriented -- posing challenges to the united states and challenges for our allies as well. as a result we can no longer take for granted our ability to project power into the western pacific. we shouldn't think there is some impermeable wall to doing so but we should no longer take that for granted. the risk to us forces and allied forces in the western pacific is going up. that risk, growing chinese military capability, has been the backdrop for increasing
tensions related to territorial dispute in the western pacific. china's military power, ships and military balance has made it easier for china to contest the international status quo. with that as a backdrop i want to look back at the traditional us strategy in asia, traditional being post world war ii and look at options for dealing with a changing environment. it is almost getting to be a taken for granted at this point, we all are at an inflection point when it comes to us global leadership and engagement, where many on different parts of the political spectrum are questioning the traditional strategy the united states follows since the end of world war ii so before we go and look at options it is worth recapping what that strategy, what our
objective has been as well as the challenges to it. since world war ii and articulated in different ways by different administrations the united states has followed a relatively consistent strategy. strategy based on achieving the objectives of preventing hostile actors from helping us allies, protect themselves, and patrolling as something that has benefited the united states in terms of free passage of goods and information but also benefited others as no other state benefited from that and globalization as has china. over the decades there has been
a bipartisan consensus, and the proposition there is no defensive position on this side of the ocean meaning the ultimate guarantor of american security was forward defense that we dealt with early on and far from our shores in our interest to do so. the question today, is there still a consensus backing that proposition. in recent days we have followed a relatively consistent modus operandi to carry out our strategy, we relied on continuous global presence of us forces, relied upon a strategy of forward defense and relied upon nuclear deterrence being the backstop of our conventional capabilities. we relied on that throughout the cold war and since the end of the cold war we continued to
follow that modus operandi. today we face the return of great power competition and increasing possibilities of great power conflict. whether forward defense remains the right strategy for the united states and if so forward defense needs to be implemented in a different way both because of the emergence of stress and the diffusion of technology that is leveling the battlefield and eroding the us qualitative advantage we relied upon for decades. this report focuses on asia and the challenge posed by the rise of monetary monetization and a few words before we get to the real centerpiece of the report which is a discussion of
strategy options. china's economic growth in recent decades has been marked, good fraction of that economic growth is translated into military modernization. for the united states and its close allies the three trends of particular importance. the first is the fact that china is increasingly engaged in the outside world, china has moved from a relatively introverted country to one that is engaged and engaged globally. certainly in asia and beyond. china has moved from a continental power, for their
resources, as an invidious power and composite power, the asian and beyond. and modernization to build up, and political ways, increasingly to challenge the international status quo and bring its military power to bear to challenge the status quo. we drop down from the strategic level in thinking about the operational level, with a considerable amount of money, to launch coordinated strikes against military targets in the western pacific and increasingly beyond the western pacific, that started with a heavily
investment in missile based forces and investment in mental -- missile based forces, a particular challenge for the united states, we have traditionally, since the end of the cold war. a relatively small number of bases in close proximity to the asian mainland, and our style of warfare, the american style of warfare has given us great advantages, but also created vulnerabilities, reliance on information that works and china, the chinese military has very assiduously exploited those
vulnerabilities. if one looks at military modernization as it unfolded over the years it has been logical and systematic and logically and systematically aimed at taking away our ability to project power and our ability to reassure our allies. over time, we see the buildup of chinese capabilities and a move towards more offense of capabilities. bottom line, the main operational challenge and ultimately the main strategic challenge of the united states in asia and the western pacific is the so-called anti-access denial challenge, the buildup of capabilities aimed at blunting our power projection capability, to project power in defense of us interests and in defense of
america's allies. the strategic question for the united states in the western pacific is first, does forward defense remain the best strategic option and if so, how should we carry it out? the heart of the paper is consideration of those questions. stated concisely, evan argues forward defense remains as important now as it has in the past, that retrenchment carries with it many dangers, strategic and operational. we need to stick to a strategy of forward defense.
forward defense needs to be modified, needs to be bolstered to retain its credibility in a state shifting strategic environment. there are three options we could take and three options not mutually exclusive, three options that were put forward to operational -- the first, the traditional approach is a strategy of denial based on trying to stop an adversary from forcibly achieving his objectives, to prevent an adversary from achieving his gains. second option is one of punishment. we have seen this in the past where and adversary may be able to take his gains but we inflict
punishment on the adversary and force the adversary to withdraw. third, rollback, the idea there is to use brute force to directly reverse and adversary's gains. the point is they are not mutually exclusive. think about the strategy options in combination. some have to precede others in terms of implementation. denial is the default us option. a number of authors talked about thinking about a punishment campaign in the western pacific, a distance blockade, rollback is
really a throwback to mobilization strategy. and to take gains, and push you back. strategy of denial doesn't prevent punishment or rollback later but focusing on a strategy of punishment or rollback would restrict the denial up front, to be prepared for in peace time, need to signal that is your strategy and that would need to be implemented right away. punishment and for those options but also take more time to implement. one of the central challenges the united states faces not just
in asia but more broadly is that our adversaries are building up capability to achieve a fait accompli, unlikely to have the time to methodically mobilize and reverse their gains. we may not have the time for a long-term punishment campaign either. denial, denial remains the most attractive way of implementing a forward defense strategy. denial and forward defense need to be adapted to the condition we face now and are likely to face in the future. those conditions include the geography of the western pacific where geography limits the
amount of combat power both sides could bring to bear particularly at the outset, where fixed facilities, fixed cases are increasingly vulnerable and mobile forces are becoming increasingly vulnerable, not as vulnerable as fixed cases. and where we have long-term competition competitors trying to undermine our capabilities s
those that are most vulnerable in actual conflicts. the united states and our allies have to accept more risk than we have been used to in recent years or the last couple decades. the big question for the united states is how can we both effectively deter and assure at the same time. one of the ways to break this gordian knot is to integrate land power into a forward defense strategy, to emulate the chinese and field our own mobile mandate to work with our allies
to feel anti-access capabilities architectures of our own. it is going to involve socializing our competitors and allies to assurance really means and what forces are likely to be most effective in wartime. that is the overview of evan's report. i am not evan but i am happy to talk about the topic, i welcome any questions you may have and let's get the discussion rolling. [inaudible question] >> the mic is coming your way. >> thanks. >> you can correct any statements that i made. >> you mentioned land-based
capability. it has been so difficult to get that deployed, delay after delay. i am wondering whether evan's report will bring renewed attention on us emphasis on demanding the allies to be more responsible, play a bigger role than they have in the past. for us interests and their own interests, whether that is going to happen or not. >> it is axiomatic that the united states cares more about an ally's security than the ally itself cares about its own security but the good news is in asia and western pacific we have
a group of allies who care about their security and in their security. and defense forces already operate land-based anti-cruise missiles and that is being modernized. that is a virtue. for the us and particularly where you started the section on us mobile land-based, my fathers were not talking about a permanent garrison of foreign territory but equipping some subset of army units are raising new units to have as part of their mission set coastal defense which after all is a traditional army mission. coastal defense artillery was a part of the army for the great
span of army history. having that capability, not necessarily being in a fixed location but having that as part of our mission would be very important. certain allies are moving down the path for their own reason. there is more than the united states can do, the us can do in that regard. that also includes developing capabilities we can export to allies and partners as well, partners interested in anti-access capabilities of their own, there's not a lot we currently have, there is more that we can do as well.
>> one -- a correction of -- chinese to english. you mentioned chinese military power overseas, sky, the heavens. generally don't use the heavens, use space, heaven to paradise for that cause each and writes that one. i know that us military defense is the report to prepare for the war in the future.
do you see any possibility for china and the united states cooperation in this area to be more peaceful, many hotspots so from your conclusion, the whole report, it is -- do you see any space for the cooperation or reports? >> you should read evan's report. the focus of this report is defense strategy and in our defense strategy all about achieving our objectives and our
objectives are protecting american lives, property, working with our allies, maintaining the free flow of information across the global pond and one element of that is clearly deterrence, trying to deter the outbreak of war. that requires us to think about how future wars might unfold and most effectively to prevent that. i said in my remarks a couple times that the united states is in a long-term series of competitions with a number of regional powers. i use the word competition with malice of forethought. for me competition is not the same as conflict.
not the same as pure cooperation either but somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. just to say there is competitive relationship is something many authors and scholars on the chinese side say as well, doesn't include cooperation in a number of areas, to think about the possibility we do that with a hardheaded sense of what each side's objectives are, where they are coincident with one another and may be in conflict. i wouldn't put aside the possibility of cooperation at all but that cooperation needs to take into account the objectives of both sides. >> i'm russell king, retired
federal employee. and encyclical that pope pius wrote, in one sentence it goes something like this. communism is intrinsically wrong and those who would defend christian civilization would not cooperate in any undertaking whatsoever. donald trump of course deals with communism, very much a negotiator. i agree with most of your defense of strategies but it will provoke china to make economic retaliation against us and there's a lot of economic leakage, we have most favored nation status and multibillion-dollar trade deficit, you take the cooperative approach or the non-cooperative approach of pius xi, do you think what he said was significant or not?
>> to my previous answer, i think the best way to characterize the us china relationship is one of long-term competition, not long-term conflict, not long-term cooperation and one of the challenges past administrations have faced and that we already see, the new administration facing which is depending on where you are in us china relationship both government relationship and also economies are intertwined, that relationship looks different. if we go back to the cold war by contrast, period of us soviet competition, things weren't easy, they were risky, fraught with danger but they were simple
in a lot of ways so whether you were in the business of diplomacy, if you were in the business of diplomacy were in the business of containment trying to contain soviet political influence. if you were in commerce you were trying to limit soviet access to key technologies was you were in the containment business. if you were stationed on the boulder gap like my father in law was you were very much in the containment business. if you were in the us information agency, agencies that don't exist anymore, you were -- that is not where we are today in the us china relationship and i don't think -- if you were in one part of that relationship that looks
very cooperative in other parts of the relationship it is more competitive. because of that fact it is difficult to draw a white line and say it is all about cooperation and competition. i think that is a fact of life that has to do with the global economy, where a bunch of things are in differences, that is an excellent question and i wish there was a simple answer. the new administration -- >> thanks, tom. contractors support to headquarters, my question is more focused on the shift in growth strategy we are approaching here. it seems the current
administration is more of an isolationists approach. what you are trying is more of a global approach. how would you advise the administration from isolationists? >> on february 10th, still a little bit early to talk about a shift in grand strategy, i will leave that part of it aside. what i would say, i will say is very much in evan's paper which i would say that united states has reaped great rewards from strategy of international engagement. we followed a strategy of international engagement for a bunch of reasons, least important of which in many ways
are altruistic. we followed a strategy of engagement because it is fundamentally in our interests, the quote that i have on one of the first slide is first and foremost an expression of that, it is in america's interest to be internationally engaged because it allows us to be far from our borders, the pacific and atlantic oceans are great defenses, better to be on the far side of those notions depending those. that was true in the 1940s and equally true now. our alliances benefit us and
exist because of shared values because of societies, share a lot of common values and that is true in 2017 in past decades. >> the foreign policy issue, my question is about the war fighting presence, seems like it was depicted as a decision to be made between overt and clandestine and i am wondering in light of i haven't read the report yet, i am wondering in light of weapons such -- some other things. there with a spectrum to be envisioned and maybe covert activity as opposed to clandestine.
i am wondering if you can comment on covert activities, maybe not necessarily china's near or broad or western pacific but elsewhere in the globe that can demonstrate two allies in the western pacific the us's resolve her capabilities to contest. >> the basic point, capability to deter, to reassure almost by nature has to be visible. and think about our allies what tends to reassure them, a visible visible things.
for the united states since the end of world more ii the most visible presence has been the carrier strike group, soldiers stationed on foreign soil. land-based aviation, us forces, on allied territory. and visible manifestations of american power because of trend in military technology. we have socialized the world to equate american presence with the carriers at a very time,
carrier strike groups are increasingly vulnerable and less effective in certain tasks than other military means. that is the challenge, that there is a misalignment between visible manifestations of american power and what is likely to be effective. we need to deal with that. we need to deal with that in concert with our allies and we need to be talking to our allies and allies about that. conversely, those things, other examples as well of military capabilities that may be more effective are by their nature really invisible like cyber only virtually invisible, or low
observable or not located in the theater. how we come up to the earlier point, this is really about deterrence and enhancing deterrence, how we come up with a posture that deters and assures is a real challenge. we need to address that challenge working closely with our allies. if deterrence is creating a state of mind in our adversary, assurance is about creating a state of mind in the mind of our allies. that is a key part of this. be change >> my question is about options in gray zone. and a rapid investment and rapid
part of the united states and the other claimants in the south china sea to take one example as to how much we really care, how much those claims matter, what is the value, the objective. and then, if we conclude that we really do care, and we care enough to contest the expansion then we have to take riskier actions than we have taken so far? why do i emphasize risk? by taking risky action we communicate just how much we care and have given me the opening, an excellent report in december looking at a range of
allied options in the south china sea to illustrate what those things might be. and those options included not just military but other options as well but we have gotten that used to thinking about risk and the fact that we are in a period of competition we are used to thinking in terms of risk calculations, we have to think in terms of risk much more. the thinking in washington has been either don't do anything with any risk or the alternative is full-scale war and that is absurd, not really the way the world works so we have to think about how much we care and based on that what are we willing to
do and realize part of that will require we accept more risk. the final part is we are having a serious discussion in the united states, japan and elsewhere to inform them about the world we are living in, the challenges we face and the need to take more risky actions. putting it in historical perspective, we lived for decades in a more dangerous riskier environment than we are in now. one of the dangers of acting so risk-averse is competitors can misjudge us. they can believe we don't care about something that in the end we wind up caring about and so
if there's a risk of confrontation that comes from being too aggressive it is the risk of confrontation that comes by not being forthright about what we really care about. any other questions? >> publishing on foreign affairs in 2015, last year, how to reinforce, and keeping that defense. there are many similar elements. how to lend this, for defense.
>> one of the hallmarks over the years is developing new concepts and each of our own perspectives our work informs other work and we build off of it, speaking of evan's paper, sure. but i think evan goes beyond that and put it into a strategic contest with operational concepts. >> thomas mahnken, my question is some of your recommendations appear to be in response to strength. do you identify any weaknesses
in china's strategy. >> a great question. pla has done a good job trying to exploit our weaknesses both geographic and the fact that the united states is away from possessions and western pacific, our allies, have certainly gone to school on modus operandi. inherent in this strategy is an effort to flip a number of those things. when we talk about geography, yes, it is true that china on the asian continent is closer to our allies and our positions then we are in washington dc but china's access to the broad
pacific and indian oceans is constrained, constrained by an archipelago that includes us allies. when we talk about developing and working with allies and developing our own anti-access capabilities that is playing on a geographic weakness. the fact that chinese forces are increasingly becoming networked creates a series of vulnerabilities as well but do i think those should be harnessed in the service of deterrence and strengthening, absolutely. any other questions? seeing none, one more question. yes? >> second chance. you mentioned several times the united states should be getting used to taking more risks. can you give us an example
regarding the south china sea and east china sea situation, the risk the united states military can and should take without starting a shooting war? >> let me go back to recent history to illustrate what i see as the risk of that. we have been in a situation where every u.s. navy freedom of navigation operation has become the subject of intense decisionmaking. ..
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