In episode 21 of Sea Control, Dennis Smith, director of the Project on International Peace and Security from William and Mary, Chris Peterson of the Fletcher School’s Neptune Group, and Alexander Clarke, Principal Researcher of the Phoenix Think Tank talk with Matthew Hipple about the next 5-10 years in maritime security, concentrating on global human security, China, and the economy.
[…] there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones. — Donald Rumsfeld, “DoD News Briefing – Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers“, 12.02.2002.
Referring to one of the famous quotes made by former US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, Hipple starts the conversation with the known knowns and known unknowns. What are, in the opinion of the guests, the most important threats in the next five to ten years? According to Clarke, the most important challenges lie in trade, in the race for securing enough energy and food resources, and in safeguarding the important supply routes. The UK is already dependent on a continuous supply of one gas carrier and two oil tankers every day. Smith agrees, but refocuses the topic on Asia. He thinks that it is unlikely that China will have an unbowed economic growth in the long therm. The question is, how will the Chinese government react to declining economic growth? Will they saber rattle to distract from internal problems? Smith fears that a weakening China will lead to all sorts of regional problems. Peterson agrees with his previous speakers and sees the main challenges appearing in the China Seas. Additionally, he thinks that combating Piracy East of Africa has a successful record, but the real problems on the eastern shore of Africa are still unaddressed. Clarke, supporting this view, reminds that there are more Piracy cases on the west-coast of Africa than on the east-coast, by now.
Regarding naval security, Clarke is against the engagement of private security contractors on ships – power has to be centralized in the hand of government. A side effect of engaging armed private security contractors on ships would be an uncontrolled escalation and rising insurance costs for the ship owners. To address potential threats, governments, on their part, have to plan on a more long term approach and they have to decide if they want to maintain a global reach or a global presence strategy. A global reach strategy requires capabilities to fight wars and deal with major threats wherever they appear. This is only possible, if you have a certain number of deployable aircraft carriers and destroyers. By contrast a global presence strategy requires a high number of frigates and corvettes to show your flag wherever you like. Smith is worried by the procurement costs of new platforms for the US Navy. In the era of austerity, it is unlikely that the US military can afford to spend so much money for new platforms, which eventually turn out to be a mistake (like the Littoral Combat Ship). He thinks for some present missions, like counter-piracy, the cheapest way may be to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles, which monitor specific regions. On the long term, the USA needs naval deterrence capability and the ability for opening sea lines of communication. Peterson asks himself how long the navies of the world will provide security for commercial vessels? Someday the source of the problem in the failed states has to be addressed and to be solved.
At the end of the show, the participants open the focus to other possible strategic challenges, realizing that there are connections between this challenges, which complicates a forecast. For example, what will happen if China stumbles into a recession? Are there other countries which could fill in the gap of manufacturing? What will happen in the Middle East? What will be the impact of the global oil supply if Saudi Arabia changes to a net oil importer in the next 15 to 20 years? And how again will that affect the global economy? This episode of Sea Control can’t give you all the answers in just under 90′, of course. But the contributions of the participants may give you new thoughts or a new point of view on these subjects. Again, Sea Control is a very fine product!
Where happens all the Piracy? This map, provided by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), shows all the piracy and armed robbery incidents reported to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre during 2013. There is also a live map and a live report for 2014.
Listen to episode #21 immediately
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The Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank. It was formed in 2012 to bring together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain. Check out the NextWar blog to join the discussion. CIMSEC encourages a diversity of views and is currently accepting membership applications here.