Professor James Holmes and I are in the middle of the usual public back and forth that takes place between academics who disagree strongly. In a January piece here at War on the Rocks, Holmes took issue with an article I wrote that was published in the Diplomat, which itself was a rejoinder to his article criticizing our National Defense University (NDU) report, “Not An Idea We Have to Shun: Chinese Overseas Basing Requirements in the Twenty First Century” (NDU Press, October 2014). Holmes first takes me to task for not responding to the substance of his argument that a fictitious Spanish NDU would have concluded in 1897 that the United States would not build bases and engage in conflict with the Spanish Empire. His larger conclusion is “Never Say Never!” Next, he accuses the NDU report of “cherry picking” its definition of the “String of Pearls” concept, essentially creating a “straw man” and then shooting it down. He prefers the definition laid out in the original Booz Allen Hamilton Report to the Office of Net Assessment in 2004, which hypothesizes that China will form commercial and strategic partnerships in the Indian Ocean to ensure continued access to facilities there to protect China’s overseas shipping and access to energy and raw materials.
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