Mediterranean: An Anti-Access ‘No-Man’s Land’ For The U.S. Navy?

The organizers have asked me to appraise the U.S. strategic perspective on the Mediterranean Sea. Simple: the Mediterranean remains critical to U.S. strategy, as it has been since the presidency of Thomas Jefferson two centuries ago. In fact, the U.S. Navy’s very first foreign station was in the middle sea during the age of the Barbary States.

But the nature of its importance has changed in recent decades. Setting and enforcing priorities is what strategy is all about. Three U.S. presidential administrations representing both major political parties have now affirmed that the Indo-Pacific is the “priority theater” for U.S. military and maritime strategy. That means the Indo-Pacific has the first claim on U.S. military and naval resources. As a corollary, the Mediterranean and Atlantic have been demoted to secondary status on America’s list of strategic priorities.

That does not mean we are abandoning these waters, however. Sometimes policy debates involving geography take a comical turn. That was the case when the Obama administration announced its “pivot” to Asia in 2012, setting loose much consternation in European capitals and much weeping and gnashing of teeth among Europhiles in the United States. Europhiles almost instantly took to claiming that Washington was “turning its back” on Europe to refocus policy energy and resources on the Pacific and Indian oceans.

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