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We Need to Respect Oceania More
Cole Kinder

Oct 20, 2023

Oceania desperately needs a renewed American focus in the face of adversarial influences, and the USA would be wise to provide renewed focus for the many benefits the continent brings the US.

When we think of the regions that are most important in US national security, our minds will generally land on the Americas or Europe. But there’s an immensely important region we often ignore: Oceania. 

With the US State of Hawaii, US territories of Midway Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Baker Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll, Wake Island, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, and the compact of free association states (COFAs) of The Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau, the US controls a contiguous territory in north Polynesia and Micronesia that is equal to that of the continental United States. 

This area allows for the US to militarily regulate the world’s main shipping lane between the two largest economies: Mainland China and the USA. 

But recently, Mainland China has been exerting influence in this region as they attempt to break up US aligned control of the Pacific. This has been a resounding negative for oceanic countries, who have experienced corruption and lower levels of democracy. Further, territories like American Samoa and countries like Australia are now bordering nations aligned with spying adversaries

While many politicians have dismissed this threat because of Oceania’s low population and low total GDP, three key issues have been ignored. 

One, the greatest worldwide economic transformation through which people in every country have become richer is directly tied to post-WWII US aligned control of the world’s commons, the largest of which is found in the Pacific. A whopping 19% of world trade goes through the Asian-North American shipping route alone. The US and its allies have previously controlled most of the Pacific, from the Aleutian Islands down to the Macquarie Islands and from Busan to Los Angeles, in order to secure free trade.

Two, if war begins to brew between the USA and Mainland China, the Pacific may be a battleground. We need to continue to hold our island alliance chains as buffer zones and to cut off enemies from reaching their supply lines. 

More importantly, military control via these vast sea territories allows the US to intervene in any areas focused on shutting down American trade or harming US interests, providing the deterrence necessary to stop conflict in the first place.

This becomes especially important when US companies or interests become tied to the South China Sea, the East Indies or the Indian Ocean, which accounts for 60% of maritime trade and half the world’s population. The US Navy and allies can project strength from the Pacific and from their Indian Ocean ports to create a necessity for decreased tensions, improving American relations in a vast number of ocean regions.

Three, we should care about the people in Oceania. Western democracy and religious freedom are centrally important to many of these people, and Mainland China poses a threat to both.

Relations with oceanic populations also allowed for massive political victories in the UN, assembling votes that helped give the US credibility for its foreign policy objectives. 

Yet, the importance of Oceania is often lost on the American voter. The Communist Party of China is banking on this ignorance to influence even more of the Pacific against the wishes of Oceanian citizens and against the would be wishes of Americans, if only they were better informed. 

The US needs to re-engage its citizens and its policies to place Oceania on a level playing field with Europe and the Americas. Americans need to realize that Oceania is the region that provides us the most national security capital for the least amount of funding. We have an obligation to protect Oceania, both for the sake of US national security and for the well-being of those living there. 

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