22 September 2014

Military Basing Scholar Dr. Robert Harkavy Reviews “Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific”

Robert E. Harkavy, “Basing and the Pivot,” Review Essay, Naval War College Review 67.4 (Autumn 2014): 147-50.

Dr. Harkavy is currently emeritus professor of political science at Pennsylvania State University and visiting research professor at the University of Kiel, Germany.

This excellently edited volume of essays, most contributed by Naval War College faculty, is devoted to the ongoing rebalancing of U.S. forces (the Obama administration’s much-heralded “pivot”) and their concomitant basing structure from Europe and the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific. For reasons only dimly understood by this retired professorial reviewer, the term “containment” appears to be politically or otherwise incorrect, not only in this work, but also in other current efforts. Yet it is indeed containment, and its hope to impede the rise of incipient hegemonic China. One derives a certain sense of déjà vu—that “heartland” and “rimland” have returned with a vengeance, evoking the memories of Halford Mackinder and Alfred T. Mahan, respectively. Indeed, another of the old geopolitical theorists, James Fairgrieve, predicted a century ago that the heartland would one day migrate eastward, and so it has.

Sprinkled throughout the many “cases” are statements and analyses from Chinese military and political officials indicating the seriousness with which they take the strategic inevitability of a hegemonic struggle with the United States. … It is clear that the United States now has fewer problems in Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Singapore than before, for the obvious reason that its allies are nervous about American weakness and their own vulnerability in the face of rising Chinese power and North Korean nuclear weapons.

This work involves a chapter-by-chapter analysis of the past, present, and projected future of U.S. basing and forward presence, running roughly east to west, from Guam to the former-Soviet Central Asia (Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan). The analyses are dense and detailed.

The opening chapter, on Guam, by Andrew Erickson and Justin Mikolay, examines its role as a “strategically central sovereign location”—that is, a “well-placed and politically reliable location” and a major global support and logistics hub. The pros and cons of this location and of placing so many assets on one relatively small island are well covered. Above all, the authors lay out the facts of the ongoing big military building on Guam and the corresponding construction costs. There is also a discussion of the Chinese missile threat to Guam, particularly from the DF-4 (CSS-3).

The chapter on Japan, by Toshi Yoshihara, ominously and bluntly titled “Japanese Bases and Chinese Missiles,” makes extensive use of Chinese military writings and pronouncements. There is a good review of the long-held U.S. basing sites in Japan and of the complexity of U.S. facilities and force deployments in Okinawa. As with all the other chapters, a good map displays the base locations. However, not covered here are a plethora of important U.S. technical facilities facing China, North Korea, and Russian Siberia. The politics, past and present, surrounding the U.S. presence in Okinawa is discussed; however, the core of the analysis is whether the United States might be denied use of Japanese bases in a crisis under the threat of Chinese missiles.

The chapter on South Korea, by Terence Roehrig, is a review of the subject going back to the 1953 United States-Republic of Korea Mutual Defense Treaty. Current modernizations are seen to have focused on Apache helicopters and PAC-3 Patriot surface-to-air missiles. Most importantly, the United States has moved forces southward, away from the Demilitarized Zone and vulnerable Seoul, hence making for more reliance on Republic of Korea forces to repel attack. Despite past political problems and an altered command structure for wartime operational control, relations between the United States and the host appear to have improved. Also discussed are scenarios using U.S. forces outside Korea (Taiwan-China) and how they may be perceived by the South Koreans.

In a chapter by Jack McCaffrie and Chris Rahman, the U.S. strategic relationship with Australia is seen as having gone through three phases. In the first, the United States used Australian bases during World War II to repel the Japanese drive to take over the southwest Pacific and Australia itself. In the second phase, during the Cold War, the United States made use of several major “technical” facilities, especially Pine Gap and Nurrungar. More recently, the United States has continued use of these facilities, but also of training facilities and ports and other facilities for prepositioning, maintenance, logistics, and rotational deployment of Marine units. This new, third, phase, China’s strong trade relations with Australia notwithstanding, has engendered little political opposition.

In “Singapore: Forward Operating Base,” Rahman lays out the rather astounding growth of the U.S. presence in Singapore. During the Cold War, Britain and New Zealand had some access there, but the United States had none. Since then, and for the most part because the United States needed replacements for access lost in the Philippines, Singapore came into play. As Rahman suggests, “in some respects it could be argued that Singapore has become the most important partner in the U.S. Pacific Command security network after the three main formal allies—Japan, South Korea, and Australia.”

The U.S. base at Diego Garcia, the “Malta of the Indian Ocean,” is discussed by Erickson, Mikolay, and Walter Ladwig. Diego Garcia—a small island, part of the British Indian Ocean Territory belonging to the United Kingdom—has, along with Guam, Okinawa, and Singapore, become vital to the U.S. rimland posture. The problems and the invulnerability inherent in the distance factor are examined (unlike Guam, Diego Garcia is not easily threatened by China). India’s long-held opposition to a U.S. base in the Indian Ocean (India wanted an “Indian lake”) is now muted by improved U.S.-Indian relations and perhaps the latter’s fear of China.

Alexander Cooley’s chapter, “U.S. Bases and Domestic Politics in Central Asia,” addresses the ups and downs of U.S. access to the K2 base in Uzbekistan and the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan. The United States was granted access to Uzbek airspace for Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and to Manas for basing and refueling, both in exchange for security and economic assistance. These were supplemented with refueling and air-corridor arrangements with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan. As the United States now prepares to leave Afghanistan, all of this appears moot. The Russians are rolling again in Central Asia, and America appears to be out of it.

The final chapter, by Sam J. Tangredi, examines sea basing. This subject appears to be embroiled in disputes between the Army and Navy/Marine Corps and within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Just what scenario involving China might bring sea basing into play is a little difficult to discern.

A couple of other things emerge from this volume that are worth mentioning. It is noted that China has begun to leapfrog the containment ring, much as the Soviets did in the 1960s. Limited access is being acquired or at least speculated about…. There is also the elephant in the room—whether India will constitute a counterweight to China. …

Although this work was hatched in early 2014, the ongoing rush of world events may have already created the need for addenda, such as reports of pessimism in the Obama Administration about the budgetary implications of the “pivot,” some new possibilities for bases in the Philippines, Putin-Russia-Ukraine and the prospect for more of the same, and the near collapse of the U.S. security and alliance structure in the Middle East. … This has been anticipated in the McCaffrie and Rahman chapter: “However, it is also worth noting that considerable concern remains in Australia over the long-term fiscal viability of the United States and its ability to maintain the regional strategic presence at current levels.”

On a brighter note, the United States appears to be returning to the Philippines, despite considerable domestic political opposition. As elsewhere in Asia, people in the Philippines seem to be getting a bit nervous. …


Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, eds., Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2014).

Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, “Introduction,” in Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, eds., Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2014), 1-13.

Andrew S. Erickson and Justin D. Mikolay, “Guam and American Security in the Pacific,” in Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, eds., Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2014), 14-35.

Walter C. Ladwig III, Andrew S. Erickson, and Justin D. Mikolay, “Diego Garcia and American Security in the Indian Ocean,” in Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, eds., Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2014), 130-79.

Rebalancing US Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific. Edited by Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson. Annapolis, May 2014: US Naval Institute Press. 240pp, hardcover; seven maps. ISBN: 978-1-61251-465-9. $47.95.  


Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, “Bases for America’s Asia-Pacific Rebalance (Part 1 of 2),” The Diplomat, 2 May 2014.

Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, “Bases for America’s Asia-Pacific Rebalance (Part 2 of 2),” The Diplomat, 6 May 2014.


As the U.S. military presence in the Middle East winds down, the Asia-Pacific is receiving increased attention from the American national security community. The Obama administration has announced a “rebalancing” of the U.S. military posture in the region, in reaction primarily to the startling improvement in Chinese air and naval capabilities over the last decade or so. This timely study sets out to assess the implications of this shift for the long-established U.S. military presence in Asia and the Pacific. This presence is anchored in a complex basing infrastructure that scholars–and Americans generally–too often take for granted. In remedying this state of affairs, this volume offers a detailed survey and analysis of this infrastructure, its history, the political complications it has frequently given rise to, and its recent and likely future evolution. 

American seapower requires a robust constellation of bases to support global power projection. Given the rise of China and the emergence of the Asia-Pacific as the center of global economic growth and strategic contention, nowhere is American basing access more important than in this region. Yet manifold political and military challenges, stemming not least of which from rapidly-improving Chinese long-range precision strike capabilities, complicate the future of American access and security here. This book addresses what will be needed to maintain the fundamentals of U.S. seapower and force projection in the Asia-Pacific, and where the key trend lines are headed in that regard. 

This book demonstrates that U.S. Asia-Pacific basing and access is increasingly vital, yet increasingly vulnerable. This important strategic component demands far more attention than the limited coverage it has received to date, and it cannot be taken for granted. More must be done to preserve capabilities and access upon which American and allied security and prosperity depend.



Carnes Lord, currently Professor of Strategic Leadership at the Naval War College and director of the Naval War College Press, is a political scientist with broad interests in international and strategic studies, national security organization and management, and political philosophy. He has taught at the University of Virginia and the Fletcher School, and served in a variety of senior positions in the U.S. government. (For further details, see http://www.usnwc.edu/Academics/Faculty/Carnes-Lord.aspx).

Andrew S. Erickson is an Associate Professor at the Naval War College and an Associate in Research at Harvard’s Fairbank Center. In spring 2013, he deployed as a Regional Security Education Program scholar aboard the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group. Erickson runs the research websites www.andrewerickson.com and www.chinasignpost.com.


“Maritime power depends on many things, Mahan taught, not least of which is an array of well-positioned, amply supplied, and strongly defended bases. The United States can no longer take for granted its ability to operate unhindered in the Asia-Pacific, which makes this volume of thoughtful essays all the more timely and important. If the shift in American power and interest to Asia is to mean anything, decision-makers will have to heed the arguments advanced here.”

Dr. Eliot A. CohenRobert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies, Johns Hopkins SAIS; former Counselor of the Department of State; author of Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime.

“World order in the 21st century will depend more and more upon the terms of the political and strategic relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. In this very timely book, Lord and Erickson and their authors examine expertly the likelihood of achievement of an effective U.S. pivot to Asia. This is, and needs to be, largely a maritime shift in U.S. posture. A seismic correction in U.S. geostrategy is happening.”

Dr. Colin S. GrayProfessor and Director, Centre for Strategic Studies, University of Reading

“The announced U.S. ‘pivot to Asia’ raised expectations and uncertainties among allies and adversaries throughout Asia and beyond.  In Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific, Carnes Lord and Andrew Erickson have produced a well-considered, written and researched primer on the political-military considerations and drivers that will shape the future U.S. military posture throughout the Asia-Pacific region.  Informed by the relevant historical background and host-country access issues in several key locations hosting or servicing U.S. forces, this book is a timely and invaluable resource that policymakers and analysts involved in Asian security affairs will want to keep close at hand.”

Ambassador Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr., former PDASD/ISA and Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs

Rebalancing U.S. Forces provides a detailed introduction to the complex, often contentious questions surrounding the deployment of U.S. forces in Asia and the Pacific. As the United States pursues an increasingly differentiated basing strategy across the region, a deeper understanding of the history of this issue is much needed, and this volume helps point the way.”

Dr. Jonathan D. Pollack, Senior Fellow, China and East Asian Strategy, The Brookings Institution

“In Rebalancing U.S. Forces, Carnes Lord and Andrew Erickson have drawn together the powerful writing of the very best thinkers concerning the Pacific, US forces in the region, and the atmospheric debates about the levels, location, and employment of military force in this most nautical part of the globe. This is a book that must be on the shelf of any 21st century geopolitical analyst.”

Admiral James G. Stavridis, USN (Ret.), Ph.D.Dean, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University; Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, 2009-13


“For those readers who have an interest in reading the plans of the U.S. Navy in addressing… operations in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as a case for efforts towards sea basing, this is a book that contains a detailed and nuanced analysis. Readers… will find a wealth of information about American capabilities in the Pacific and Indian Ocean basins….. At a slim 216 pages of written material (followed by an index), this book includes eight essays on a bevy of concerns for the Navy in the Asia-Pacific region, written by a variety of contributors from both academia as well as high-ranking officers from the United States, Great Britain, and Australia. … As a thoughtful and persuasive work, it deserves attention by military as well as civilian audiences.”

Nathan Albright, Naval Historical Foundation, 5 September 2014.

“With this well-crafted edited volume, Lord and Erickson have put together an excellent team to provide us with a valuable and much needed discussion of the current U.S. basing arrangements in the Asia-Pacific. …a truly excellent book… the quality and strength of each individual chapter is a reflection of the depth of knowledge of the authors assembled for the task. Its level of detail (including seven excellent maps) will also make it a useful reference text… in the end it’s a testimony to the book’s quality that its biggest problem is that you are left wanting more.”

Patrick Cullen, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 140 (September 2014): 74.

“The Naval Institute Press has published [an] excellent new [book] on the Pacific region’s past, present, and future …Lord and Erickson, faculty members at the Naval War College, present a very insightful and wide-ranging set of essays by some of the best minds on the Pacific.Given the rise of China and the emergence of theAsia-Pacific region as the center of global economic growth and strategic contention, nowhere is American presence and basing more important. That said, the manifold political and military challenges, to include rapidly improving Chinese long-range precision-strike capabilities, complicate the future of American access.”

—VADM Peter H. Daly, USN (Ret.), “CEO Notes,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 140.6 (June 2014): 6.

“this is an extremely informative and interesting edited volume. … Most of the chapters are organized about particular territories: Guam, Japan, S. Korea, Australia, Diego Garcia, Singapore and Central Asia. (There is also a chapter about sea basing.) While some contributions emphasize the history of the relationship with the US, e.g., the Australia and S. Korea chapters, others are intensely focused on strategic considerations. For me, these were the standouts, particularly the chapters about Guam, Diego Garcia and Japan. … a strong recommend for anyone interested in a better understanding of the geopolitical situation in East Asia and the Indian Ocean.”

A. J. Sutter, “Not-to-Miss Background for Understanding East Asian Geopolitics,” 5-Star Rating, Amazon.com, 1 June 2014.

“Lord and Erickson’s essay collection will be a must-read for the entire Asian security establishment. … fascinating details, for example about nuclear submarine reactor cores, warship steaming ranges and speeds, Australia’s targeting role during during Desert Storm, the tempo of US personnel and materiel transiting Singapore every year (150 US ships, 400 aircraft and 30,000 personnel) and even the plumbing of Diego Garcia (not trivial given its average elevation of 4 feet above sea level). … There is even a chapter at the end on ‘sea basing’, an operational concept using floating mobile platforms for storage, repair and deployment. … Nothing, as Lord and Erickson imply, shouts commitment louder than bases.”

Julian Snelder, “Bases, Places and Boots on the Ground: A Review of ‘Rebalancing US Forces’,” The Lowy Interpreter, 14 May 2014.

“the arrival… could hardly be more timely. … More than merely a history of America’s basing archipelago in the Asia-Pacific theater, Rebalancing U.S. Forces is a critical examination of the assumptions underlying U.S. basing, and therefore U.S. strategy, for the region. … Editors Carnes Lord and Andrew Erickson, both professors at the U.S. Naval War College, are uniquely suited for this project. In addition to his academic accomplishments, Carnes Lord has long service inside the White House and the National Security Council staff. Andrew Erickson’s intimate knowledge of China and its military forces and doctrine has made him a veritable one-man national asset. Lord and Erickson, in turn, have recruited an eminent roster of contributors to this anthology who provide a survey of the history, practicalities and future of the U.S. base structure in the Asia-Pacific region. … Unlike many anthologies, the contributions to Rebalancing U.S. Forces are uniformly excellent. Each chapter essay is thoroughly researched and sourced, and is written by experts well familiar with the history, dilemmas, and future challenges of each location. Seven first-rate maps of U.S. facilities spanning the region further enhance the book. … Policy makers … should read Rebalancing U.S. Forces to obtain a deeper understanding of the challenges America and its partners face.”

Robert Haddick, “America’s Military Bases in the Asia-Pacific: Strategic Asset or Vulnerability?” The National Interest, 18 May 2014.

“…leading US naval thinkers Carnes Lord, professor of strategic leadership at the US Naval War College, and Andrew S. Erickson, an associate professor at the college, were clearly key thinkers in bringing together the new US Naval Institute book, Rebalancing US Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific…. The book is a collected work of the faculty of the US Naval War College and its external contributors, but it draws very much on the College’s roots and association with the great maritime strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan, who so clearly saw, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the need for US basing options in the Pacific. … What is significant about this study is the fact that, for the first time in decades, the US has been thinking from a clean-sheet perspective about its basing needs. … The US ‘re-balancing’ toward Asia and the Pacific has begun to raise major planning issues for the US, and that is what this important new book addresses. … in an outstandingly well researched chapter entitled ‘Diego Garcia and American Security in the Indian Ocean’ … Walter C. Ladwig III, Andrew S. Erickson, and Justin D. Mikolay … chronicle India’s and the PRC’s interests and concerns in the Indian Ocean. Chapters such as this, in the book, make it a vital resource. …”

Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis 32.18 (25 February 2014): 1-2.