Wednesday, May 25, 2005

PACOM as the Asian NATO

Robert Kaplan, whose Soldiers of God and Balkan Ghosts earned him a spot among my favorite authors, wrote the cover story (subscription required) for June's Atlantic Monthly. Entitled "How We Would Fight China," his nine-page article discusses the increasing potency of the PLA Navy (PLAN) relative to the US Navy.
His article has been dissected elsewhere, but one point I found interesting was:
The functional substitute for a NATO of the Pacific already exists, and is indeed up and running. It is the U.S. Pacific Command.
Kaplan argues, and I would agree, that PACOM is more capable of coalition warfare than NATO in this, the era of the "coalition of the willing." One caveat, however, is that given all the interoperability problems in Western Europe, Asian coalitions could expect greater problems. Linguistically, English is widely spoken (if not as a first language, certainly as a second or third) by most Western European servicemen; this is not true to the same degree in many Asian countries. Additionally, pundits often complain about America's European allies are half a generation behind in military technology. The militaries of many of our Asian allies are not even that advanced.
America is working to address the linguistic friction through officer exchanges and an increased emphasis on foreign language capabilities in its own officers. Perhaps America should shorten the waiting period on sales of state-of-the-art military technology to our Asian allies.