Much has been made of Washington’s “pivot” to Asia since November, when U.S. Secretary of State Clinton announced it in Foreign Policy. We took this largely in stride in the sea services, namely the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. We never left the Pacific. And we’ve been present in force in the Persian Gulf – an inlet or bay in the Indian Ocean, as Indian geopolitical thinker points out – for over two decades, since the first Gulf War. Indeed, our combat power in Asia has been on the increase for nearly a decade, since the Bush administration decided to realign U.S. forces stationed overseas. One example: the U.S. submarine force started moving units to the Pacific in 2006.
Indeed, the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard formally “pivoted” to Asia in 2007, when they published a Maritime Strategy titled A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower. As the title implies, the Maritime Strategy stresses coalition building for a variety of purposes, from counterpiracy and counterproliferation to humanitarian and disaster relief. These are worthy missions. But the document’s drafters tucked away a couple of bloody-minded passages in the text. The first directs the sea services to remain capable of imposing “local sea control” in any navigable body of water on the face of the earth. The United States will do this by itself if necessary. Evidently it’s hard to give up the habit of ruling the waves, wherever those waves may be found.