The Trump administration is obsessively spinning the concept of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”. Apart from a small coterie of scholars, very few people around the world, especially across the Global South, know what that means since the then incipient strategy was first unveiled at the 2017 APEC forum in Vietnam.
Now everything one needs to know – and especially not know – about the Indo-Pacific is contained in a detailed Pentagon report.
Still: is this an act, or the real deal? After all, the strategy was unveiled by “acting” Pentagon head Patrick Shanahan (the Boeing guy), who latter committed hara-kiri, just to be replaced by another, revolving door, “acting” secretary, Mark Espel (the Raytheon guy).
Shanahan made a big deal of Indo-Pacific when he hit the 18th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last month, picking up on his introduction to the Pentagon report to stress the “geopolitical rivalry between free and repressive world order visions” and demonizing China for seeking to “reorder the region to its advantage”.
In contrast, all the benign Pentagon yearns for is just “freedom” and “openness” for a “networked region”; calling it the New Pentagon Silk Road wouldn’t be far fetched.
Anyone remotely familiar with “Indo-Pacific” knows that’s code for demonization of China; actually, the Trump administration’s version of Obama’s “pivot to Asia”, which was in itself a State Dept. concoction, via Kurt Campbell, fully appropriated by then Secretary Hillary Clinton.
“Indo-Pacific” congregates the Quad – US, Japan, India and Australia – in a “free” and “open” God-given mission. Yet this conception of freedom and openness blocks the possibility of China turning the mechanism into a Quintet.
Add to it what hawkish actor Esper told the Senate Armed Services Committee way back in 2017:
“My first priority will be readiness – ensuring the total Army is prepared to fight across the full spectrum of conflict. With the Army engaged in over 140 countries around the world, to include combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, training rotations to Europe to deter Russia, and forward deployed units in the Pacific defending against a bellicose North Korea,