Forward basing of US ground troops in Western Pacific is unrealistic

Graham Jenkins has an interesting rebuttal in War on the Rocks to Elbridge Colby and Walter Slocombe, who have argued for an increased land-based U.S. forward presence in the Western Pacific.

[The] question then turns to which other countries might be willing to host this enhanced forward presence, and here the answers are brief: almost none. Even though Colby and Slocombe acknowledge that “the real questions will be where, how, and when,” and that “getting host nation agreement for such basing will be a tough lift,” they leave those questions unanswered. And yet, figuring out where else in the Western Pacific the United States would actually base additional troops, much less ballistic missiles, is not merely one consideration among many but the entire ballgame. The authors’ failure to even consider whether any countries might be interested in supporting Washington’s grand strategy is emblematic of an approach that disregards the actual desires of people in the region.

It’s astonishing how much strategy is devised without regard for mundane realities such as geography. Colby and Slocombe are influential figures.

The answer, of course, is to continue to bet on the air force and the navy for forward deterrence. I especially like Jenkins’ thoughts about new dedicated cruise missile submarines:

It is worth considering whether the guided-missile submarines converted from Ohio-class nuclear missile subs could serve as a possible template for a future platform. Given that their “replacement,” the Virginia-class attack submarines with the Virginia payload module, has only about a third of the capacity, a true purpose-built successor guided-missile submarine could perform the same mission at a fraction of the cost.




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