Green on US Asia Policy

I didn’t catch this until today, but apparently Michael Green, CSIS Japan Chair and participant in the drafting of the latest Armitage-Nye Report, had an op-ed on US Asia Policy in the Washington Post last Tuesday (via CSIS).

The title pretty much says it all: “America’s Quiet Victories in Asia.”

Green’s point is that the US position in Asia is quite firm, in part because it has been diligently built up over decades. Indeed, the US, as an Asian power, has been characterized in a large part by steadiness: steady commitments to allies through deployments in Japan and South Korea, the steady deepening of trade ties, and, since the third wave of democratization swept through the region, steady support for the solidification of democratic regimes. Over time, American steadiness has borne fruit. As Green wrote:

None of these leaders embraced democracy because it was imposed by the United States, nor are they contemplating imposing democracy on their neighbors. Many continue to have major governance and democracy challenges (Thailand’s coup for one) and are torn over how to manage the undemocratic disaster that is Burma. Yet all recognize that their economic development and national security depend on the spread of democratic principles and good governance. As these values are consolidated across the region, they will inevitably affect China, Burma and even North Korea.

This sums up the aim of the latest Armitage-Nye Report. The authors clearly desire that the US continue to play a steady, largely silent role in the region, with a light touch, reassuring words, and a willingness to let a newly vibrant Asia make its own way to a more liberal regional order, even if that means that occasional setback along the way. Of course, part of the quiet US role is a continuing military presence in the region, to continue to provide an all-purpose deterrent and supply public goods (open sea lanes, etc.). But even that role is evolving to be less visible, as with the consolidation of US forward deployments in Japan and planned redeployment of Marines to Guam.

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