As the U.S. turns its strategic eye toward the Pacific, it's facing a new set of defense challenges. One of the major ones, according to Marine Lt. General Terry Robling in an interview with AOL Defense, is sustaining a "persistent presence" despite the massive distances involved yet without the traditional land bases that could alienate key allies:
Many of our partners in the region do not want us to be the Uncle that visited and never returned home. They want us engaged and present but not permanently based in their countries. This means that seabasing and its augmentation is a fundamental requirement.
Another way the U.S. will resolve this potential tension is to simply not call bases "bases," as C. Raja Mohan explains:
Washington is fully aware that full fledged military bases of the traditional kind generate intense political opposition in host countries and is not worth the unending political headache.
The strategy, instead, is to seek ‘places’ through which the US could move its forces on a regular basis, preposition some equipment, and have pre-negotiated arrangements for relief and resupply.
The US is not the only one looking for such ‘places’ to sustain its forward military presence around the world. China, whose economic and political interests in the Indian Ocean are growing, is said to be considering similar arrangements.
Other major powers like Russia, France and Japan have established such facilities in the Indian Ocean littoral.
Elsewhere in the AOL piece, author Robin Laird inadvertently highlights one of the fundamental tensions with U.S. strategy in the Pacific. First, Laird identifies that strategy as "constraining Chinese engagement in the Pacific." Naturally, the Chinese aren't going to appreciate this, so then there's the threat:
We need a strategy to prevail against what the Chinese are doing and likely to do. And the we need to be much clearer about the threat: it is about missiles, their evolution, and the need to combine defense with offense in dealing with these evolving missile threats.
One of the reasons China is working on missile technology is to prevent America's ability to "constrain their engagement" in the Pacific. There's no simple way to work around this tension, which is one reason most realists remain convinced that the security competition between China and the U.S. will only grow more intense with time.