Leveraging the National Guard's State Partnership Program in the United States' Rebalance Toward Asia
Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States
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Chinas rise over the past decade has corresponded with the decline of the United States in the liberal international system, both economically, and after two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, diplomatically. From the 2010 National Security Strategy to the 2011 National Military Strategy, the highest levels of national power within the United States recognize the importance of forging and strengthening new and existing alliances. A critical component of the November 2011-announced rebalance to Asia is the insistence that partner nations shoulder a larger portion of their security burden in the future. The challenge for American diplomats, in and out of uniform, is to reassure our allies in the Asia-Pacific region without emboldening them toward confrontation with China. Likewise, American diplomacy should not irresponsibly challenge Chinas inevitable ascent within the region.The National Guards State Partnership Program SPP, with a robust 20-year track record of cementing regional alliances, is a low-cost, high-yield initiative that should be expanded in PACOM, particularly during this period of resource constraints in American history. The SPP, flowing from the demise of Communism in the early 1990s, establishes enduring theatre security cooperation relationships by pairing state Air and Army National Guard NG troops with partner nation counterparts. Utilizing an innovative and small footprint methodology, the SPP targets repetitive engagements, between two to three times per year, to establish partnerships of trust and reciprocity that simply cannot be achieved on a larger scale, or within the active duty military, where leadership swap-outs are routine. In an almost under the radar fashion, SPP relationships hedge against uncertainty by laying soft power steps that can lead to a hard power path if required in the future.