US Military Strategy and China
William Toti
March 28, 1996
Letter to the Editor: Washington Post March 25, 1996
As the Navy fellow at the Brookings Institution, I might be expected by The Post to support my Brookings colleagues Mike Mochizuki and Michael OHanlon as they lobby for a naval response in dealing with China [“Slow Motion Crisis,
W Outlook, March 17]. Their proposal is not compelling, for the following reasons:
  • It is inconsistent. If we were to adopt their proposal, articulated elsewhere, to reduce naval force structure to eight aircraft carrier battle groups, we would be unable to execute the naval strategy proposed by Mochizuki/O’Hanlon.
  • They are wrong when they state that only one battalion could be transported from Okinawa to Korea to respond to a crisis there. In fact, almost all the combat Marines stationed in Okinawa would get to this fight quickly— most of them by air.
The authors also recommend we move most of our Okinawa Marines to California. If we were to do so, these Marines would not be able to get to the fight quickly enough to affect the outcome, and with the current shortfall in strategic airlift, might not be able to get there at all.
The proposal ignores the larger, strategic picture. Mr. Mochizuki and Mr. O’Hanlon would have us withdraw Marines from Okinawa even as China continues to rattle its saber over Taiwan. Even if you don’t believe that this act would be destabilizing, it would be tantamount to rewarding China for its aggression.
Because the United States has been withdrawing its armies of occupation from around the world, naval alternatives—which include Marines— will increasingly be our only option for dealing with crises like these.
If and when North Korea comes apart— a prospect that seems increasingly likely— we will need those Marines right where they are. There may come a time when we can indeed reduce our presence in the Pacific, as they suggest, but with one crisis brewing, and another not far off, that time is not now.