Dempsey: Partners Enthusiastic About Asia Strategy
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, June 6, 2012 The nation’s top military officer set out May 29 for a week’s travel in the Asia-Pacific pledging to listen to partners’ perspectives on the new U.S. security strategy that rebalances forces toward the region.
That mission took him from Singapore and a number of senior-level meetings with allies at the 11th annual Asia security summit, the Shangri-La Dialogue, to the Philippines and Thailand. Now returning, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told American Forces Press Service the leaders he heard welcomed U.S. strategic objectives.
The chairman frames the strategy as consisting of “three mores” the U.S. military wants to bring to its Asia-Pacific partnerships: more interest, more engagement and more quality.
U.S. partners in the region, he said, are not only accepting of the strategy but also enthusiastic.
Another aspect of the strategy that resonated with partners, Dempsey said, is “the idea that as we rebalance, we want to invest first and foremost in the human capital, the human dimension, in building relationships and increasing the cultural awareness of leaders.”
Dempsey said the initial impression allies and partners had of the rebalancing strategy was a “huge shift” of resources and equipment.
“That’s not the intent,” he noted. “The intent is to increase the quality of our engagement, the quality of our relationship-building, the quality of our thinking, the quality of our leaders. Because that’s really the key, I think, over time, to seizing opportunity and avoiding liability.”
Dempsey said the major themes he’s heard back from allies and partners in response to his own “three mores” are largely consistent. He listed technology and information sharing; greater access to U.S. military schools; faster delivery of equipment through the foreign military sales program; and “a desire for more transparency.”
The chairman elaborated on that last item. “They’re worried about the possibility that our rebalancing to the Pacific will become confrontational with China,” he said. “They want us to take measures, bilaterally and multilaterally, to be as inclusive as we can with China. And by the way, we are eager to do that.”
Dempsey said the U.S. and China agree on many issues, and disagree on others.
“I think we need to be very clear about where that line is drawn, because we stand for certain principles that they may not agree with, and we will continue to stand for those principles and promote our values,” he said. “I think our partners here just want to make sure that they’re part of that conversation, because they live in this neighborhood.”
A potential source of tension among nations throughout the Asia-Pacific rests beneath the water, the chairman said. Emerging technologies, he said, are making undersea exploration and exploitation of resources increasingly likely, which in turn makes the maritime domain more competitive and potentially more contentious.
“What we’re encouraging is developing codes of conduct, develop multilateral fora, so that these issues can be resolved without coercion,” he added. “That’s an important message and one that we’ve been very clear about not only with our partners but with China.”
Emerging frictions caused by increased competition for resources and increased technological capability to exploit resources mean “we really need to get ahead of [them] and not wait until they become crises,” the general said. “That’s new, and another part of our effort toward rebalancing.”
All of the partners and allies he spoke with also raised the issue of cyberspace, Dempsey said.
“They’re very concerned about emerging trends,” he explained. “They know they’re very vulnerable, because many of them have grown information architectures that bypassed some of the security mechanisms that we may have put in.”
Allies are interested in how the Defense Department counters the growing cyber threat, “but more importantly what they can do about it,” he added.
“So that’s another difference that provides us an opportunity to have a conversation,” the chairman said.
Across the region, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief are enduring and growing concerns, Dempsey said.
“It certainly seems to me that over the last few years, extremes of weather have caused real suffering, genuine suffering, particularly in this part of the world. And they would like to be ready for it, not be reactive to it.”
The United States can contribute “our incredible expertise in command and control” to that effort, Dempsey said.
“One of the things we do best is we organize, we flow resources rapidly -- because our logistics architecture is, by leaps and bounds, the best in the world -- we understand command and control better than anybody in the world, [and] we understand how to fuse intelligence to operations better than anyone in the world,” the chairman said.
The U.S. military’s expertise and capabilities, he said, are adaptable to the range of threats, such as humanitarian issues, counter-narcotics, border control and maritime security, which Asia-Pacific nations face.
“I think [Asia-Pacific nations] see in us a partner willing to help them develop their capability,” Dempsey said. “Not to be exploited by us, but rather to allow them to become more active and contribute more to stability in the region. That’s our motivation.”