Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Deep Currents and Rising Tides: The Indian Ocean and International Security. Edited by John Garofano and Andrea J. Dew. Published by Georgetown University Press, Washington, D.C., 2013. Index, Notes on Contributors, Chapter Notes, Tables, and Figures append the texts.

Deep Currents and Rising Tides… is an apt title for a part of the world where not only political conflict hangs in anticipatory suspension, but where a 100 year-old American theory has surfaced amid new followers in Asia, specifically China. What people there are reading is known as Mahanian theory.

If you are following current political strategy in Asia, you may recognize the two factions, China and India, as co-existing for the moment in their own camps, either Mahan for China, or the Monroe Doctrine, which has its proponents in India. Remember that the Monroe Doctrine was tested successfully by Prime Minister Nehru, when ousting Portugal from Indian shores in the early 1960s. Deep Currents and Rising Tides discusses obviously contentious scenarios for the two major powers and their regional players. Shown in light of the Indian Ocean Region's unique maritime perspectives, the two philosophies of Mahan and Monroe provide the cultural background for international dispute in the region.

Expressly cited is American author Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914). Mahan wrote several treatises on naval policy and is now a favorite of Chinese scholars and policy-makers who agree with his notions of maritime control. Mahan postulated that “sea power” was based on “commerce, merchant, and naval fleets… and military bases” (see Holmes and Yoshinara in Redlines for Sino-Indian Naval Rivalry, p. 185-209). Indeed "Mahanian" may be a strategy of the new leaders in the region if they are Chinese, although Mahan has long since fallen out of favor with the west.

As Indian perspectives on naval theory and risk are notably closer to the Monroe Doctrine (1823), they are adopted to represent the sovereignty of their borders against the rest of Asia, even if they may also borrow from Mahan to arrive at a balance between developing and retaining control. So authors Holmes and Yoshinara use the term “redlines” to define a threat, real and pervading, that one power presumes where international waterways are concerned (p. 185). And if redlines are encroached on, its defenders are forced to retaliate and would presumably use economic and military means to protect themselves.

Deep Currents and Rising Tides… is composed of twelve chapters divided into three thematic groups; each chapter reviews the theme against a rigorous analysis of the nations' naval histories, events over the past 20 years, and considers current theories, fears and expectations by world powers, especially from the point of view of the west. Thematic parts of the book are labelled thus: Energy, Piracy, Terror, and Access; Emerging Rivalries and Possible Triggers; and Third Powers and the Way Forward. Editors Garofano and Dew compare the treatment by each author, supporting the ongoing dialog about the region, its requirements for growth and how its powers have developed on the international scene.

While in thematic Part I, matters are discussed and weighed that pertain to piracy and terrorism from groups both on the fringe and inside the region, Parts 2 and 3 deal with sovereign nations India and China in Part 2 and the U.S. in Part 3 and their capacities to conduct trade given present dangers associated with political rivalry and predatory action.

Each chapter is written by one or more authorities on the topic and is subtended with notes. Chapter introductions point to prevailing opinions as a basis of comparison, but offer insights based on the precarious position of the emerging powers. Especially pertinent is the rivalry between China and India against the interests of U.S. strategies, trade and energy resources.

A brief biography of each of the 16 writers sketches out their backgrounds, which range from academia to law and diplomacy, strategic military research, China maritime policy, the energy industry, forecasting, institutes for international relations, and security.

See books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library online at

  • The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future. / A.T. Mahan
  • The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783. / A. T. Mahan.
  • The International Law of the Sea / C. John Colombos.
  • The Law of Admiralty / Grant Gilmore and Charles L. Black.