Axios chronicles the legacy and challenges of US military involvement in the Indo-Pacific region.
In this article, I speak with John Boulton, the US Army’s deputy chief of staff, on the role of the US in the region, and how the legacy is still shaping US foreign policy today.
Boulton told me he was inspired to write this piece when he watched the video of the India-US bilateral meeting last month between then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
It was an extraordinary moment of reconciliation.
Boucher, the author of The US in India, has written extensively about the US military role in the Asia-Pacific and the impact of the military buildup in the area on US interests in Asia.
In the past few years, Boucher and I have been discussing the challenges of maintaining and improving US military presence in the Indian Ocean and in the Middle East, which are largely invisible to most Americans.
This was something that Boulson and I had been discussing and discussing in our discussions over the past year.
The US military’s role in East Asia has been the subject of some debate, as some argue that its presence there is inextricably tied to China and its ambitions to dominate the region.
Others argue that it has played a role in helping to shape the security environment in Asia, helping to stabilize regional stability, and contributing to US-Indian relations.
Boutros, the chief executive officer of the American Security Project, told me that he believes there is still a need for US troops in the South China Sea, but also a strong need to maintain the US’s presence in East Asian regions.
In recent years, US bases have been built in the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
“What’s needed is to have a US presence on a scale that is sustainable and doesn’t depend on China,” Boutros said.
“If the US is in South China, it’s not going to have the kind of footprint that China wants.
It will have a footprint that will be in China’s interests.”
Boulson echoed that sentiment.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why the United States is a relatively small presence in Southeast Asia, and I think the US needs to be more focused on Southeast Asia than it is,” he said.
In the meantime, Bouyer told me the United Kingdom is still planning to rearm and deploy to the region with a similar level of military support to that deployed by the US and its allies in the Pacific.
“We have a pretty good picture of what’s going on in the East China Sea and what’s happening in the Paracel Islands and in waters off South Korea,” Bouyer said.
He said the United Nations Security Council should “hold a new debate about the extent to which the United states is a security force in the 21st century, and should reconsider how that role is defined in the global security order.”
Bouyer noted that the US has not provided much detail about its plans for the region for the foreseeable future, and that the country does not have an official strategy to support its military presence.
But he said it is clear that the United, for now, has no plans to leave its base in Hawaii.
In a speech last month to the American Enterprise Institute, former US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called on Congress to act to protect US troops stationed in the islands, as well as to ensure that the bases are not used to prop up China’s influence in the world.
“At a time when we have seen an erosion of our alliances, of our allies’ security and the security of our friends, it is time to stand up for our troops,” Hagel said.