A “rebalance” of U.S. military might to the Asia-Pacific region is underway and the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet explained why at the University of San Diego’s 17th annual Stockdale Lecture on Nov. 7.
Four-star Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., who assumed his new command just last month, pointed out that 80 percent of the world’s population lives within 100 miles of the ocean. Ninety percent of the world’s commerce travels across it and 95 percent of the world’s Internet traffic travels underwater. Moreover, 52 percent of the ocean is in the Pacific Theatre and more of the world’s people live within it than outside of it, he said. Fifteen of the world’s busiest seaports are in the Pacific and 10 of those are in China. The top 10 busiest air travel routes are also in the Asia-Pacific region, he added.
“This is why the Pacific matters,” Harris told several hundred attendees at the James Bond Stockdale Leadership and Ethics Symposium in USD’s Shiley Theatre. “Our nation’s security and global prosperity depend upon the ocean.”
The result of this shift in global power to the Pacific has resulted in a “rebalance” of U.S. economic, diplomatic, information technology and military assets, Harris said. About half of the Navy is already in the Pacific and in another 10 years, 60 percent of its material assets will be there, he said.
“Our rebalance is real,” he said, citing the movement of manpower and weapons systems such as the V-22 osprey and the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter plane to the Pacific region. “We are making a conscious effort to put things and people with Pacific experience forward in the Pacific where it matters.”
As to specific threats in the region, Harris declared that “China is not the enemy.” But he noted that China is seeking a more global presence with a growing fleet of submarines, ships and even an aircraft carrier. “That in itself is not a threat,” he said, but “it behooves us to be watchful and encourage China, as we do other nations in the region, to do things in accordance with established international norms and policies.”
Harris, a 1978 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, has served in every geographic combatant command region and participated in major operations including Desert Storm/Desert Shield and Iraqi Freedom. With Veterans Day on the horizon, he offered a word of thanks to current veterans and some advice, both humorous and serious, for the future military officers from the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) in the audience.
“Tattoos are forever,” he noted, drawing laughter from the crowd. “Life is a shipwreck. Take all you can,” he also said, quoting the philosopher Voltaire. “Your career is what you make it. Take every opportunity that’s presented to you.”
The purpose of the Stockdale Symposium is to help attendees understand some of the difficult moral and ethical issues facing military officers today. The late Admiral Stockdale, a Medal of Honor recipient, bore witness to the importance of studying, understanding and applying ethical principles to one’s profession and the conduct of one’s life.
USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences and the NROTC San Diego Battalion are sponsors of the symposium.
— Liz Harman