A Leadership Vacuum: U.S. Actions in the South China Sea Dispute
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLL FORT LEAVENWORTH KS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED MILITARY STUDIES
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This monograph is a case study examining the substitution of the Cold War strategy of large forward deployed military forces and nuclear deterrence for the Post Cold War strategy of global engagement and leadership and the implications of that substitution on the attainment of U.S. security objectives. Post Cold War realities and domestic political pressures forced the United States to reduce the size of American forward deployed military forces and to remove them as a cornerstone of the security strategy. To fill the gap thus created the Clinton administration embraced a new security strategy that substituted active leadership and engagement for large forward deployed military forces. Whether engagement and active leadership can be as effective in preserving and advancing U.S. interests as large forward deployed forces is yet to be determined. However, the circumstances surrounding territorial and resource claims in the South China Sea and the actions the United States and those of the parties directly involved in the South China Sea dispute constitute a significant test case of the United States strategy of leadership and engagement. Many of the broader U.S. policy objectives in Asia and the Pacific cannot be achieved without a satisfactory resolution of the disputes in the South China Sea. By examining U.S. actions in the South China Sea dispute and the actions and perceptions of Asian leaders we can measure the effectiveness of the American strategy of leadership and engagement. If the United States has moved the parties in the dispute to act in a manner that promotes U.S. interests, then it will be possible to conclude that the Clinton Administrations strategy has been effective and that the strategy is valid. On the other hand, if events seem to largely ignore the actions of the United States, then either the United States is not engaged and exercising leadership, or its chosen actions have been inappropriate and ineffective.
- Government and Political Science