FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. – Command and General Staff College’s Cultural and Area Studies Office hosted “Great Power Competition in the Indo-Pacific: Is Conflict Imminent?” Thursday, Sept. 30, at the Arnold Conference Room, Lewis and Clark Center, Fort Leavenworth. The panel of Army War College and Command and General Staff College scholars and international officers was the first CASO offering this year.
Dr. Jack Kem, Dean of Academics, Command and General Staff College, and Chief Academic Officer, Army University, provided opening remarks. Dr. Mahir J. Ibrahimov, Director, CASO, served as the panel moderator. In his introduction, Kem noted that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had identified China as our pacing threat—the only country that poses a systemic challenge to the United States--in his first press briefing as Secretary of Defense. Kem said the response at CGSC is to focus our efforts on this pacing threat and enhance our understanding of the Indo-Pacific Theater and specifically China.
“One step we are making toward this end is to conduct a series of faculty development Seminars and professional forums on the Indo-Pacific Theater and China,” said Kem. “Today’s panel is the first step in that direction.”
Panel Members included Dr. Roger Cliff, Research Professor of Indo-Pacific Affairs, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College; Col. Jim Walker, British Army Liaison Officer to the Combined Arms Center; Dr. John H. Modinger, Department of Joint, Interagency and Multinational Operations, U.S. Army Command & General Staff College; and Lt. Col. Paul Mostafa, Australian Army, Department of Joint, Interagency and Multinational Operations, CGSC.
China, said Cliff, believes its rightful place is leading in the area. He listed Hong Kong, Taiwan, islands in the South China Sea, islands in the East China Sea and Southern Tibet as areas that China believes should be part of the nation. China has become more assertive recently because of the increasing capability of the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese public becoming increasingly nationalistic, and China’s new leader said Cliff.
Walker followed highlighting the United Kingdom’s efforts to compete in the Indo-Pacific. The UK recently completed its review of defense and security, he said. The challenge facing the UK required the integration of soft and hard power in a way yet to be achieved.
Russia continues to be the largest threat to European security, said Walker, but China’s rise poses a complex and systemic challenge for worldwide security. The ability to project power remains a defining feature of Britain’s national defense policy. Walker said the UK defense force is evolving from a force primarily designed for contingency to a force that is ready for permanent and persistent engagement. Walker described the Indo-Pacific as critical to the UK economy, its security and its global ambition to support open societies. More than 1.7 million British citizens live in the Indo-Pacific.
“The storm is coming,” said Modinger. He quoted the former Pacific Command Commander saying China will probably take some action against Taiwan in the next 6 years. The current U.S. policy of strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan has been practiced for 50 years. It may be time to revisit that policy, said Modinger. China sees “no room for compromise or concessions” he said.
Mostafa finished the panel’s prepared remarks. He framed the question as a continuum with cooperation at one end, conflict on the other, and competition in the center. In addition to competition he said we must consider interests, values, and intent. Intent, he said is formed by the intersection of interests and values. Not all nations will use the same figures when making the intent calculation. His answer to “Is conflict imminent?” was “it depends.” It depends on what lens you use to view conflict.
Following presentations by each panel member, the near-capacity audience in the conference room and those attending by Facebook and VTC were able to ask questions of the panel experts.
This panel is part of series of seminars and panel discussions on issues of operational and strategic importance to the United States that CASO in coordination with CGSC, universities, think tanks, interagency organizations and other partners conducts every two to three months broadcasting them through Video Teleconference and live on CGSC's Facebook page. Videos of the sessions are available on the CGSC Facebook and YouTube sites.
For questions on CASO events please contact: Dr. Mahir J. Ibrahimov, Director, Cultural and Area Studies Office (CASO), U.S. Army CGSC at (913)684-3345 or email@example.com.