(August 14, 2020) An MH-60R Seahawk assigned to the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77 lifts off the flight deck of America’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) while conducting operations in the South China Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Codie L. Soule)
The China conundrum: Deterrence as dominance

Michèle Flournoy could well become defense secretary should Joe Biden win the presidency in November. For that reason alone, her recent essay in Foreign Affairs, “How to Prevent a War in Asia,” deserves careful reading.

A veteran of past Democratic administrations, Flournoy previews what could well become Biden’s policy toward China. Under the guise of “reducing the risk of war,” her argument turns on establishing what she refers to as “credible deterrence.” But this is deterrence with an activist edge. It entails deflecting any challenges to U.S. primacy whether in the Indo-Pacific or throughout the world. Implicit in her essay is an argument for reasserting unipolarity, the United States acting vigorously to restore its now-tattered claim to be the world’s sole superpower.

This is primacy defined in military terms. And since methods of waging war are constantly evolving, existing U.S. capabilities, no matter how impressive, can never suffice to ensure dominance. Therefore, the need for more and better is without limit.

For Flournoy, what the United States requires of China is compliance. Nowhere does she acknowledge the possibility of the People’s Republic entertaining its own legitimate national-security interests apart from (presumably) defending itself from direct attack.

Read the full article in The American Prospect.

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