WASHINGTON: The military’s top Marine officer today argued the country’s traditional forms of deterrence have not worked as intended, and suggested the United States shift to a more nuanced approach where adversarial microaggressions are spotlighted on the world stage.
“You could drive three aircraft carriers into the East China Sea, it’s not going to deter [China’s] coast guard or the maritime militia that is scaring away a fishing fleet,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said on Wednesday during a virtual event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the U.S. Naval Institute. “The threat of punishment — conventional deterrence … I don’t think that works, it hasn’t, clearly, the last 10 years, last five years have shown that that will not work in all cases.”
Aggression below the level of armed conflict — or as the Pentagon calls it, “gray zone activity” — has been a persistent issue for the United States while combating China’s activity in and around the waters just off the country’s shores. Chinese coast guard and maritime militia forces will often harass vessels sailing through what the country claims to be its territorial waters. While US Navy warships often transit those waters despite constant radio warnings from Chinese forces, civilian fisherman cannot withstand the harassment as easily. Dealing with “gray zone” activity without escalating the conflict by threatening Chinese forces with a carrier strike group has proven difficult for Pentagon brass.
With that in mind, the commandant suggested the military use more of a name-and-shame tactic he called “deterrence by detection.”
“How do we deter by presenting an adversary with the perception — convincing them that there’s nothing they can do that we’re not going to see, and we’re not going to shine a big light on and make a big deal,” Berger said.
During a separate part of the virtual event, Berger said the Marine Corps would be taking part in a different form of deterrence later this year — either October or November — with allies in the Indo-Pacific: American F-35s flying off the decks of Japanese ships.
US Should Pursue ‘Deterrence By Detection,’ Says Marine Corps Commandant – Breaking Defense Breaking Defense is written by Justin Katz for breakingdefense.com