Reductive, reactive, and military-centric by ZENEL GARCIA
The United States’ geopolitics-first approach to the Indo-Pacific ignores the region’s complexities and treats its development goals as pawns in competition with China, Zenel Garcia writes.
The United States-led reconceptualisation of the Asia Pacific as the ‘Indo-Pacific’ has been partly driven by the recognition that the Indian and Pacific Oceans are increasingly linked by the problems they face.
However, this process has been primarily shaped by American anxiety about its dominant military position in the region, with direct reference to China’s growing power. Countries that have subscribed to the concept, but especially the United States, have taken a reactive and military-centric policy approach that fails to account for the region’s complexities.
The most prominent example of this are the United States’ Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM)’s ‘spatial boundaries’. While there are practical reasons for the United States Department of Defense to have boundaries for its commands, these will be necessarily arbitrary. Unfortunately, adhering to these imagined, superimposed boundaries is inherently flawed for the purpose of building a coherent concept of the Indo-Pacific.
The lines dividing the Department of Defense’s INDOPACOM, African Command, and Central Command in the Western Indian Ocean Region (IOR) ignore the increasingly linked security and development of states in east Africa, the Persian Gulf, and the rest of the Indo-Pacific. Transnational issues like climate change, pandemics, crime, trade, and migration cross these bureaucratic borders, whether American systems recognise them or not.
Despite this, the Indo-Pacific white papers produced by the Trump and Biden administrations focus almost entirely on East Asia and Southeast Asia, with the notable exception of India, which officials view as pivotal to the new regional construct. Even the recent Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity exhibits these pitfalls.
READ FULL ARTICLE : Why America’s Indo-Pacific strategy is flawed – Policy Forum