VAdm (retd.) Vijay Shankar
Download full article here: Shankar, Strategic Posture in the Eastern Ocean
Keywords: India Maritime Strategy, Strategic Approach, Eastern Ocean, China Comprehensive National Power, ASEAN, Look East Policy
It was Clausewitz who first noted an area of darkness when it came to characterizing the complex relationship between national strategy and the military resources that were needed to muscle and enable that strategy. He perceived this region of obscurity as one caused by a lack of an understanding of the nature of power and the need to sculpt it in a manner that it promoted national strategy. Specifically within the framework of the military as a tool he identified this as a failure to distinguish between the maintenance of armed forces and their use in pursuit of larger objectives.[i] In Book II of Clausewitz’s On War, while discussing ‘The Theory of War,’ he notes,
“Even if we break down war into its various activities, we will find that the difficulties are not uniform throughout. The more physical the activity, the less the difficulties will be. The more the activity becomes intellectual and turns into motives which exercise a determining influence on the commander’s will, the more the difficulties will increase. Thus it is easier to use theory to organize, plan and conduct an engagement than it is to use it in determining the engagement’s purpose.”[ii]
This quandary was not unique to Clausewitz’s period as the dilemma continues to contemporary times when the momentum that propels the development of armed forces builds logic of growth that defies purpose and is often self fulfilling.
The absence of a cogent theory, which integrates the promotion, nurturing and maintenance of force with a convincing contract for use, is one of the first imperatives that the State must seek to reconcile. From this resolution emerges the concept of ‘Strategic Poise.’
A Hundred Battles: Chinese Security Perceptions[iii]
China published its sixth Defense White Paper in January 2008. Its contours were that of a self-confident China recognizing its own growing economic and military prowess. Unwritten was Beijing’s intention to improve her image the first step of which was to provide some clarity by the issuance of the White Paper. At the same time, the paramountcy of containment of the various social fissures that their development has precipitated was top of their agenda. Their appreciation of the security situation underscored the belief that the risk of world wide all-out war was relatively low in the foreseeable future, yet, the absence of such risk did not automatically imply a conviction that stability and peace pervades international relations. The paper critically points out that struggles for cornering strategic resources, dominating geographically vital areas and tenanting strategic locations have, in fact, intensified. Power as a natural currency for politics remains the preferred instrument. Under these circumstances the portents for friction are ever present and would therefore demand preparedness, modernization and orientation of a nature that would serve to neutralize the fall out of such friction.[iv]
[i] Howard, Michael, Causes of War, Harvard University Press 1980, p.102.
[ii] Clausewitz Carl Von, On War, Howard and Paret (Eds.), Princeton University Press: New Jersey, 1989, p. 140
[iii] In Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Knowing the enemy and knowing oneself is the key to victory in a hundred battles. Sun Tzu, Art of War, Samuel B. Griffith (trans.) Oxford University Press, 1963.
[iv] Ma Cheng-Kun, PLA News Analysis, “Significance of 2008 China’s National Defense White Paper” no. 15, pp. 49-60
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