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Cooperative Maritime Strategy


I have an article up at World Politics Review on the Naval Operations Concept and the Cooperative Maritime Strategy. The article is part of a feature on maritime security, including Abraham Denmark and Zachary Hosford’s piece on China’s naval buildup and Mark Valencia’s examination of the Proliferation Security Initiative. My argument in a nutshell:

In June of this year, the United States Navy published the 2010 Naval Operations Concept (.pdf) (NOC), designed as the operational fulfillment of the Cooperative Maritime Strategy (.pdf) (CS-21) released in 2007. The 112-page NOC is an elaboration of the concepts set forth in the 20-page Cooperative Strategy, with detailed discussion of how the missions laid forth in the earlier document can be accomplished with the forces available to the United States Navy. CS-21 itself is a curious document. Deceptively modest, it was developed as the Navy’s strategic answer to the post-Cold War environment. But whether intentionally, as some have suggested, or not, it may have helped structure America’s grand strategic approach to the emergence of new powers on the Pacific Rim and elsewhere.

CS-21, and the NOC that gives it flesh, provide a liberal internationalist frame for how the United States should interpret the rise of Chinese naval power. This frame suggests that naval competition between the United States and China could be positive sum, rather than zero sum — the United States could actually benefit in some ways from the expansion of the Chinese navy. This stands in tension with more traditional and, in many ways, more accepted theories about the role and impact of navies in great power competition.

The Cooperative Strategy is one of the documents that I’ve argued progressives should pay more attention to. Long story short, I believe that the Cooperative Strategy represents, intentionally or not, a progressive framework for thinking about the relevance of US military power and US “hegemony” in the 21st century. I think that this is true not simply for the “liberal hawk” wing of foreign policy thought, but also for genuine progressives interested in engaging with the reality of US global military leadership. The Cooperative Strategy outlines a world in which maritime power is effectively positive sum, while also taking account of potentially destructive security dilemma dynamics. It wasn’t designed by progressives or for progressives, but I think that it can be fit into a progressive approach to US foreign policy.

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