Monday, 14 April 2014

Navies of South-East Asia: A Comparative Study - James Goldrick and Jack McCaffrie

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in The Canadian Naval Review. Therefore, the material is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the Review. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Editor CNR (Ann.Griffiths@Dal.Ca). Website for the Review is:

Title: Navies of South-East Asia: A comparative study
Author: James Goldrick and Jack McCaffrie
ISBN: 978-0-4158-09429
Pages: 302

Goldrick and McCaffrie have written an educational and enlightening book on the development and present day level of effectiveness of navies in South-East Asia. They have consciously excluded the larger, more widely known countries of Japan and China in order to focus upon the smaller, developing countries that encompass this region.

The first chapter is used to provide the context within which the national evaluations are undertaken. Therefore the historical influences of colonialism, primary training doctrine and methodology of the UK, US and USSR on long term development, role of the navy within society and the physical requirements (both long and short term) of establishing an independent navy are investigated at length. Additionally, they also define national navies in terms of an easy to follow chart that clearly identifies parameters of capability, developed by Morris/Grove, termed the “Hierarchy of Navies” (HN).

The follow on chapters are specific analysis of individual countries: Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, South Vietnam and the People’s Army of Vietnam Navy are all addressed. Each of the chapters is structured in a similar manner thereby providing for ease of comprehension and a common method of evaluation. The historical development of each of the fleets and the factors affecting them are laid out in an easy to decipher manner. The authors are to be complimented on the way in which they are able to present what, in reality, are very complicated and involved issues. Thus, for example, the unique challenges of Brunei where the limiting factor on the navy is not cost but population as opposed to the Philippines where both internal instability and cost were key factors on development and employment.

Their concluding chapter focuses on the influences of the present and future that will drive development including the diminishment of US regional influence, the quest for disputed resources especially centering upon the Spratly Islands, the growing assertiveness of China and the increasing internal stability of the nations that are the focus of this review. Additionally, the authors provide some very concrete insights for regional progression. These focus on the need for cooperation between the smaller states, a proactive acceptance that naval progression requires not only good governance but also long term commitment and a realization of the critical need for inter-agency operability. They also extrapolate where they anticipate the countries will be in terms of the (HN) in the next few years.

The book itself is of a very high production value. Included in the text is an extensive acronym /abbreviation listing (critical for understanding the jargon associated with each country); in addition to this is a comprehensive bibliography and footnotes. I would have liked to have seen a regional map at the front of the book in order to provide a quick reference of the area.

Goldrick and McCaffrie have produced a stellar reference for the navies of the Far East. What sets this apart is that it looks at the history and factors in development as opposed to a two-dimensional rendition of ship types and capability. They focus on what happens behind the scenes and where they anticipate this is leading to. This book is not for the casual reader but rather for those with a more focused interest in the naval development of the region. Recommended.

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