Geography and the coming Sino-American war at sea

A member of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force takes part in an amphibious drill on May 13 during joint military exercises on Guam involving Japan, the U.S., France and Britain that were intended to show support for the free passage of vessels in international waters amid concerns China may restrict access to the South China Sea. | AP

 

Geography is determinate in military plans, a fact that planners understand at all levels, from tactical to strategic. While tailored combat elements may traverse difficult environments on land and at sea, heavily laden logistics craft that follow and enable them can rarely do the same. This is what pushes armies and fleets toward certain immutable routes, resulting in battles occurring at the same locations, over and over, throughout recorded history. Much as the ridge at Megiddo, better known as “Armageddon,” played witness to strife no less than 13 times since the 15th century B.C. because it stood astride the route from Mesopotamia to Egypt, key maritime straits such as the waters of the South China Sea and the Sunda and Malaccan Straits will provide the backdrop for future naval battles. Geography and geopolitics are intermeshed and unavoidable. Unfortunately for China, they sit upon the wrong side of the former and are rather poor at the latter. Western advantages in both must not be squandered. Continue reading

Russia’s New Global Aims

The Cold War is back, but it is a different Cold War because it is a different Russia. It is important to know who the Russians are and what has shaped their worldview, including their sometimes justified suspicion and hostility toward the US.

Some features of Russian government go back to their beginnings as a country in the 10th century. Their geography places them very far north, which means that food, particularly grain harvests, are uncertain. The country has experienced more famine than feast. This is one reason for aggressively moving in on neighbors with better geography and better harvests (Ukraine and Belarus). Continue reading

The Coming Siege

Wisdom from 2006 with a lesson for today’s times:

 

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The United States willingness to forfeit the Panama Canal it built, shows America and Britain’s irrational desire to yield. (RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Any world power with vast overseas commitments must control the seaways necessary for safe passage of its goods, its citizens and its military forces. Why then have Britain and America so casually yielded up this power they once guarded so jealously?

Geography is the most stable factor on which the power of a nation depends.

Two thirds of the Earth’s surface is ocean. Two thirds of its inhabited land embraces the great land mass of Eurasia and Africa. The remainder, which we call the Western Hemisphere, is, by comparison, an island in the midst of the oceans.

Continue reading

The Submarine Race in the Malaccan Strait

Along with the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf near Iran and Oman, the Strait of Malacca is the world’s most important shipping chokepoint.

Linking the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean, the Malacca Strait is by far the shortest maritime route connecting Persian Gulf energy producers to their largest consumers in countries like China, Japan, and South Korea. Continue reading