The South China Sea, in other words, is a principal node of geopolitics – every bit as much as the Persian Gulf - and critical to the preservation of the world-wide balance of power. For it is only the United States Navy and Air Force that prevents Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and other middle-sized, very populous countries in the region from being Finlandized by China. Were China able to accomplish in the South China Sea what the United States was able to accomplish in the Caribbean, the world America made, to steal a phrase from the scholar Robert Kagan, would go a long way to being undone.
Robert D. Kaplan is chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor, a private global intelligence firm. He is the author of fifteen books on foreign affairs and travel, including The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power, Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History, and Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos. He has been a foreign correspondent for The Atlantic for nearly three decades. In 2011 and 2012 he was named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the world’s Top 100 Global Thinkers.
From 2009 to 2011, Kaplan served on the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, appointed by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Since 2008 he has been a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. From 2006 to 2008, he was the Class of 1960 Distinguished Visiting Professor at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Pavel Ranik. CC BY-SA 3.0.