Dissecting the second Armitage-Nye Report, part 1

Having read the new Armitage-Nye Report published by CSIS — once again, available here — I shall, as promised, provide more thorough commentary on its contents.

As previously noted, the report is subtitled “Getting Asia Right Through 2020,” with its purpose being to outline US Asia policy for the next two to three presidential administrations, regardless of the party in power, because, like its predecessor, the second Armitage-Nye Report is a bipartisan project, showing that despite apparent partisan divisions on a host of issues, there is remarkable consensus among foreign policy experts from both parties on how to preserve US influence in a rapidly changing Asia. For that is the challenge. As the report notes:

Arguably, the United States presently suffers from a strategic preoccupation with another region of the world. If engagement in Asia remains episodic, or lacks sufficient senior-level involvement on the part of U.S. officials, a transition in the region’s power hierarchy is possible. Even absent precipitous events, a gradual erosion of U.S. influence could occur if China continues to extend its reach and if the region as a whole loses confidence in the staying power of the United States. (p. 20)

I have previously pointed to Washington’s preoccupation with “another region” here, and it is encouraging that a panel of senior foreign policy leaders — not all of whom are focused solely on Asia — acknowledges the problem and calls for greater balance and a longer-term view in US foreign policy and strategy. Also encouraging is that, as Armitage pointed out in his remarks introducing the report, a younger generation of foreign policy thinkers played a major role in its drafting, including onetime Clinton administration Pentagon wunderkind Kurt Campbell and the Bush administration’s onetime director for Asian affairs at the NSC Michael Green, both of whom will no doubt playing leading Asia policy roles in future administrations of both parties.

According, as the 2008 presidential election heats up, considering that the winner could be president for most of the way to 2020, I am more interested in knowing where the candidates stand on the views outlined in this report than in knowing which type of withdrawal from Iraq they favor, given the long-term implications of the shift to Asia as the “center of gravity” in international politics. (Besides, sooner or later it will be Asian powers looking to sort out the Middle East’s problems as they grow ever more dependent on it for energy, a point made by, among others, Tom Barnett.)

I have a lot more to say on this report, so I am going to break up my analysis into two subsequent posts, the first on the report’s ideas about the changing shape of the Asia-Pacific region and the second on the report’s ideas about how the US-Japan alliance needs to change as the region changes.

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