Linking Latin America and the Pacific: A Strategy for the Long Term

July 12, 2012

The Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) strategic guidance—“Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense”—is intended as a guide for the joint force of 2020 and the nation’s defense community as a whole. A key pillar of this guidance is a new emphasis on the Asia–Pacific region, with special attention paid to China’s role as a rising global power. This “rebalance” of priorities toward Asia and—to a certain extent—away from the Middle East is an understandable strategic response toward a nation that has the potential to eventually rival and challenge U.S. global presence. However, the United States could be better served in this regard by expanding its scope and considering the Pacific as defined by the ocean rather than just Asia, even at the risk of further complicating an already complicated strategic picture. An Asia–Pacific focus ignores the North, Central and South American nations that are also part of the Pacific and will be (or already are) theaters for U.S.–China competition. By connecting Western Hemisphere nations, especially in Latin America, with the Asia–Pacific region, the United States can form a broader, globally relevant, long-term strategic plan that better addresses the diverse security picture vis-à-vis the United States, China and the world.