Maritime security beyond navalism

The navy is no longer the sole stakeholder in maritime security in the 21st century. This week, I introduce three recently published articles, which provide some insights on how maritime policy should expand beyond the naval perspective.

Report: Evolving Stakeholder Roles in Southeast Asian Maritime Security

This is a workshop report after the ‘Evolving Roles of Maritime Security Stakeholder’ workshop organised by John Bradford from RSIS Maritime Security Programme in June 2022. The workshop aims to recognise ‘various stakeholding community’s roles in regional maritime security’, particularly in Southeast Asia. It consists of experts from different sectors, including the navy, government, NGOs, and scholars. As part of the workshop, participants will publish their presented papers in the IDSS paper series. Each of them provides their insightful views on how a particular stakeholders contribute to maritime security and cooperate with other actors.

In this workshop report, as well as the introduction of the paper series, Bradford summarises that there is a growing divergence in Southeast Asian states regarding the appropriateness of maintaining the navy’s dominant role in maritime security. This is not a particularly new finding, given that the increased complexity of maritime security issues and roles of other maritime players. The remaining question is that how the navy and other stakeholders should address such changing environment. As Bradford concludes, ‘Communication and coordination between maritime security stakeholding communities are improving, but remain areas in need of greater optimi[s]ation’. Clearly, there are still more rooms for more interactions.

Commentary: Delivering AUKUS success in challenging times

Two years after the deal, Australian analysts are still debating about the short- and long-term impacts of this military technology sharing program with the United States and the United Kingdom. A timely briefing paper by Peter Jennings, former Executive Director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, engages with the debate. He argues that the AUKUS is a challenging program, in which officials from the three countries need to work closely. He warns, ‘The AUKUS countries have much to lose by being half-hearted or overly cautious’. Still, Jennings also reminds us that, despite all those challenges, policymakers should ‘the positive factors that help create the basis for AUKUS’ success’.

As a political scientist, I always suggest that political decision needs to be understood by context. Looking back in 2020, the AUKUS was needed because of the strategic and security environment. Policymakers came to this deal with good intentions. However, the program is not well-thought, which creates uncertainties for the deal. One prominent example would be the transition of government.

Still, as experts suggest, the AUKUS is more than nuclear submarines. It is a pioneer of alliance in technology sharing. Therefore, it has a wide expectation to be successful. It appears that there is no turning back of the AUKUS now. Looking ahead, the discussion about the implication of the AUKUS will never end until the coordination has some positive achievement. This may take years.

Commentary: The Navy Should Take More Academics to Sea

A recent article by Blake Herzinger suggests that the US Navy should take non-civilian analysts’ opinions, particularly academics into account. The piece was written after the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Indo-Pacific Endeavour, which invited scholars along for the ride on HMAS Canberra, one of Australian flagship vessels. Herzinger suggests that the US Navy should do the same. By ‘allowing analysts and academics first-hand access to ships, aircraft, and sailors under the strain of operations’, it helps ‘those observers bring new attention to issues of lagging maintenance, insufficient sleep, and a shrinking fleet’. It could, thereby ‘bridge the trust gap that has grown between Congress and the Navy’.

Still, constructive interaction can sometimes be difficult. To some extents, navy-civilian engagement still relies on personal connection.  The willingness to share confidential information, possibility of foreign interference, research/professional ethics are factors that people need to address.

Policy practitioners (naval officers) and civilian observers (scholars) should have more interaction. This can help the country, not just the US, to better formulate a maritime strategy. It also reduces navalism, especially when maritime security has become more complicated these days. As an academic researcher, it is always great to see such discussion happening.

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