Jockeying for Position
Sometimes soldiers are just symbols. President Obama was in Australia last week, meeting with Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Obama and Gillard were finalizing plans for a permanent American military presence in Australia. 2,500 Marines will be deployed in waves beginning next year, building up a footprint intended to shore up alliances with Asian allies like Japan and India. Or so the U.S. says. As most everyone understands, the token military buildup is a message directed to China. What it is not, however, is a declaration of war, a sign of future aggression, or anything remotely approaching either.
China and the United States are jockeying for position in Asia, taking steps to determine how power will be apportioned in the region in the future. The South China Sea, which also borders Australia, has been subject to a number of disputes in recent years, with China claiming sovereignty over a commercial route also contested by their neighbors. Traditional allies like Japan, and newer ones like India, are concerned about China’s growing might, and pushed for the U.S. to demonstrate its unflagging power. 2,500 Marines are hardly capable of much in the event of actual warfare. It is merely a symbol of the U.S.’ continued interest in affecting the course of events in Asia.