18 January 2014

Wishlist for a New Naval Cooperative Strategy

Robert Farley, “Wishlist for a New Naval Cooperative Strategy,” The Diplomat, 17 January 2014.

Chatter suggests that the U.S. Navy will soon release an update to the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.  The Cooperative Strategy envisioned the maritime commons as a space for collective action, in which productive rules of the road could lead to partnerships that could help every player win. The Cooperative Strategy made provision for “bad” actors, but at its heart sought to include and acclimate, rather than isolate.

Thus, the strategy was, in some sense, dependent on the willingness of the world’s major navies to agree on several critical areas, including the reality of U.S. maritime leadership. As Bryan McGrath argues, the most hopeful projections of Chinese maritime behavior have not panned out.  At the very least, China has expressed a desire to play a larger role in the formation of global rules than the U.S. was willing to allow, and has also demonstrated an interest in carving out its own space for exceptional behavior.

At the same time, we’re a long way from a zero-sum maritime world. And as Andrew Erickson and Austin Strange have argued, Chinese naval behavior in the PLAN’s immediate neighborhood has differed considerably in tone from its more distant operations. In the Gulf of Aden and in the Mediterranean, China has more or less been a model maritime citizen. This suggests that there are still considerable potential gains to a cooperative approach that, at least on some issues, includes China as a serious contributor.

For the full text of one of the articles cited, see Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange, China and the Far Seas: China’s Far Seas Presence Enables it to Escort Syria’s Chemical Weapons Marked for Destruction,” The Diplomat, 10 January 2014.