Fire on the Water

China, America, and the Future of the Pacific
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Published:September 15, 2014
By Robert Haddick (Author)

"...Fire on the Water is strongly recommended. It is, quite simply, one of the most interesting and clearly argued books on the subject I have read for a very long time. These are views that need to be thought about seriously even if not, in the end, fully accepted."

—Geoffrey Till, Headmark, Australian Naval Institute

In Fire on the Water, Robert Haddick contends that much of the general public and many U.S. policy experts are unaware of the threat that China’s military modernization poses to America’s national interests in the Asia-Pacific region. He maintains that within a decade China will have the military power to place U.S. influence throughout East Asia at risk. To avoid a future crisis, the United States needs to fashion a new and more competitive strategy, one that better matches the strengths of the United States and its allies against China’s vulnerabilities.

The U.S. forward military presence in East Asia is essential to protecting America’s standard of living, its strategic interests, and the region’s stability. This will be an increasingly difficult burden for the United States to sustain. However, U.S. forward presence will be less costly and less risky than encouraging China’s neighbors to counter China’s rising power by themselves, which would likely result in an unstable arms race and a conflict that would damage America’s interests.

China’s military strategy, centered on its rapidly expanding aerospace, naval, and land-based missile forces, is exploiting emerging vulnerabilities in America’s forces in the region. Plagued by institutional barriers, the United States has been slow to adapt to China’s rapid military modernization. Current U.S. responses are impractical, because they expend defense resources against China’s strengths rather than its weaknesses.

Fire on the Water proposes far-reaching changes to U.S. diplomacy, military programs, and strategies to counter China’s well-designed military modernization plan. The proposed competitive strategy will strengthen deterrence and bolster the credibility of U.S. alliances in the region. Throughout history the rapid arrival of a new great power has usually resulted in conflict. The United States, China, and Asia can avoid that fate if the United States adopts a more competitive strategy to influence China’s choices and thus maintain the region’s stability and prosperity.

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Product Details
  • Subject: China & the Asia Pacific
  • Hardback : 288 pages
  • Illustrations: 15 b/w photos; 4 maps
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (September 15, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1612517951
  • ISBN-13: 9781612517957
  • Product Dimensions: 6.125 X 9.25 in
  • Shipping Weight: 21.6 oz
  • "Haddick has a talent for explaining how otherwise obscure topics of defence analysis, like the technical capabilities of weapon platforms or the quirks of military doctrine, place real pressures on broader issues of policy ... Haddick proposes a suite of concrete measures to tilt the military balance back in favor of the United States."—
  • “Haddick suggests that the current US military policy in the region is inadequate to deter Chinese adventurism and needs to be reformed. Fire on the Water is his argument for change … He offers pertinent and detailed criticisms about the suitability of current US military equipment and organization for the Pacific anti-access mission … can be recommended collectively as the skunk works of the military anti-access debate.”—Martin H. Murphy, Parameters, Summer 2015
  • "...Fire on the Water is strongly recommended. It is, quite simply, one of the most interesting and clearly argued books on the subject I have read for a very long time. These are views that need to be thought about seriously even if not, in the end, fully accepted."—Geoffrey Till, Headmark, Australian Naval Institute
  • Fire on the Water provides the extended argument for a coherent strategy in dealing with the rise of China … Fire On the Water is systematically organized and thorough. [Haddick] shows the hallmarks of a strategic thinker aware of the gravity of the task at hand. He is concerned to make the strongest possible case for a solution to a serious problem requiring massive effort and considerable change … The author is deeply knowledgeable about American and Chinese military strategy and capabilities, domestic and foreign politics, trade and business concerns. He has a definite agenda that he advocates with considerable skill and passion. Fire On The Water should provoke thought and discussion about China and its strategy, with reflections on the similarity between 1914 Europe and East and Southeast Asia today. These sobering thoughts should at least awaken people to the potential dangers. They also warrant the need to think and act effectively in order to preserve peace and well being through involvement and wise diplomatic and military strategies.”

    —Naval History Book Reviews (NHF)
  • “The book contributes to the existing literature on maritime security and military strategy in the Asia-Pacific. It argues convincingly that the security context is deteriorating and that the risk of war will continue to rise unless the United States adopts a strategy that targets China’s vulnerabilities. The book cuts across the disciplines of strategic and area studies and provides a strong conceptual and empirical foundation. It is well structured and researched. Its various chapters cover the sources of conflict in the Asia-Pacific, America’s regional military presence, as well as China’s military modernization, before detailing the competitive strategy that the United States ought to adopt to preserve the existing regional order.”—International Journal of Maritime History
  • "Serious-minded and forward-thinking, Fire on the Water is an invaluable wake-up call to counter America's current drifting on diplomatic, trade, naval, and military matters in the Asia-Pacific region. Highly recommended."—The Midwest Book Review
  • "The PRC’s military and economic expansion, although seemingly (at present) confined to East Asia, has transformed the world’s strategic framework. Most analysis of the changing strategic balance in the Pacific either over- or under-estimates the reality on one side of the equation or an other, or fails to address salient contextual issues. Not so Robert Haddick’s Fire on the Water: China, America, and the Future of the Pacific. It is so comprehensive and authoritative that it may be the most important wake-up call yet seen on the reality of the changing military balance in the Pacific.”—Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis
  • “Fire on the Water is the right book at the right time. Many in Washington these days are inclined to simply supplement acquisition policy or technology for strategy in regions like the Asia-Pacific. Thankfully, Haddick takes two steps back and provide wide-ranging clarity on the nature of the peacetime competition with China before offering his own unique strategy for how the United States can best position itself for success. Perhaps most refreshing is his discussion of ‘competitive strategies’ and how the U.S. should seek to maximize its natural military, economic, and diplomatic advantages to shape Chinese decision-making. It will take hard-nosed thinking like this if the U.S. is to continue to assure its allies and preserve peace and stability in the region in the decade ahead.”

    —CONGRESSMAN J. RANDY FORBES, U.S. House of Representatives, 4th District of Virginia
  • “The security of the United States is inextricably woven into the security of the Indo-Pacific region. Cooperation and healthy competition will help deter nations from confrontation. The United States must maintain a position of strength in dealing with the challenges ahead in this region. Haddick's book proposes interesting approaches for our nation as we address those challenges.”—ADM. TIMOTHY J. KEATING, USN (RET.), Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Command, 2007-09
  • "Fire on the War provides superb political-military analysis unencumbered by the interests of the armed services, national security bureaucracies, and defense industries. It is an insightful and constructive contribution to better inform American decision-making, policy, military procurement, and, yes indeed, war planning for China. This book should be placed on the top of the reading stacks for anyone, from informed citizens, to students, faculty, military commanders, and policy makers, who want to get smart fast on the acute challenges for American security policy in Asia. Above all, Robert Haddick provides a great public and national service by warning those of us distracted by global crises in Europe and the Middle East of China’s strategically impressive and ominous sharpening of political and military swords in Asia."—The National Interest
  • “It should now be clear to anyone familiar with the news that there is a security crisis growing in the Western Pacific, the result of China’s rising power and ambitions. Robert Haddick’s very timely Fire on the Water explains in clear terms what’s at stake for the United States and why current policies are only increasing the danger. His proposed strategy, with rejuvenated American airpower a central pillar, is a feasible path for maintaining stability in this critical region. America now faces some long-overdue decisions on how to avoid a ruinous tragedy in East Asia. Fire on the Water provides a lucid analysis of the challenge and a bold yet sensible strategy that will keep the peace and protect America’s interests in Asia.”—LT. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA, USAF (RET.), Chief planner of the 1991 Gulf War air campaign
  • Fire on the Water is a powerful and needed corrective to our current habit of responding to global challenges with gauzy aspirations and comforting rhetoric. Robert Haddick dissects the diplomatic, technological, economic and military challenges facing our nation and proposes a rigorously analyzed strategy that persuasively argues for action now if we are to maintain peace and stability in the Western Pacific at an affordable cost. That future will not happen without action by today's policymakers and strategists—pressed by an informed private sector. 100 years ago we ‘sleepwalked’ into a disastrous war. Fire on the Water provides the roadmap to avoid a repetition.”

    —LT. GEN. WALLACE GREGSON, USMC (RET.), Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, 2009-11
  • “It is often said that history doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes. It is certainly now rhyming in the western Pacific. In the early 20th century the U.S. relied on Arms Control in the Washington Naval Agreements rather than a strong Pacific Fleet, while Japan built a massive blue-water fleet, resulting in the great Pacific War between the U.S. and Japan. Today as the U.S. continues to reduce its fleet toward pre-WW II levels, China rapidly grows a modern blue-water fleet. History tells us again and again that there is no choice between maintaining a balance of naval power on the one hand; or some other internationalized alternative. Rather the only possible choice is between maintaining that balance or failing to do so. There is no better person to address this growing crisis than Robert Haddick, a former Marine, distinguished strategist and successful international businessperson. In Fire on the Water, he writes compellingly about the growing problem in all its political, economic and military aspects, and he proposes real and achievable solutions. It is must reading for every informed citizen.”—JOHN F. LEHMAN JR., Secretary of the Navy, 1981–87

Robert Haddick is a military analyst with three decades of experience researching security trends in Asia. He is currently based in Washington, D.C., as a research contractor for U.S. Special Operations Command. A former U.S. Marine Corps officer with service in East Asia and Africa, he has also been a columnist for Foreign Policy Magazine, the managing editor of Small Wars Journal, and a consultant to U.S. Central Command, the U.S. State Department, and the National Intelligence Council

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