A debate about the content of national foreign policy doctrines has recently intensified in the U.S. following a number of diplomatic failures. Besides, we should also take into account the upcoming presidential elections. Several think tanks actively share in the in the debate. The Congressional Research Service, a pretty official research organization of U.S. congress, released late January a report on situation in the East Asia and Pacific region.
The report points out three main challenges for America in the region: China’s emergence as an economic, political and military power; the possibility of war between neighboring states; and an increased threat of Muslim extremism. As for the first challenge, the harder Beijing attempts to convince the world that China’s military buildup is for defensive purposes only; the more apprehensive Washington seems to become. The trend is likely to continue in the foreseeable future: Si vis pacem, para bellum – prepare for war if you want peace, as the Romans put it.
According to experts with the Congressional Research Service, the second challenge refers armed conflicts which may break out between North and South Koreas, along with the intensions of the People’s Republic of China to annex Taiwan. Those intensions coupled with irascibility of the politicians on either side of the Taiwan Strait may sooner or later result in a full-blown war. The threat of Muslim extremism is particularly relevant to South East Asia. Most states of the region have been America’s longstanding allies.
The report stresses the point that the U.S. tends to pay less attention to the Far East by focusing its foreign policy efforts on the Middle East. American experts repeatedly indicated that the present U.S. troop deployment pattern in various parts of the world looked increasingly consistent with the Cold War realities. There have not been any major changes in U.S. strategy so far, the ones which could have tailored it for with the present-day situation though U.S. bureaucrats seem to be well aware of the problem. According to the report, the number of U.S. troops stationed in the East Asia has decreased from nearly 109 thousand to 82 thousand since 2000. In light of the ongoing Iraqi War, the decrease is hardly a result of any reform.
The part of the report concerning U.S.-China confrontation is a typical example of the current U.S. rhetoric on the issue. The authors of the report put all the blame on China’s leaders and diplomats who refuse to take orders from the other side of the Pacific while working hard to build up the military and economic potential of their country. At the same time, the Americans do not seem to be too much upset about the stubborn Chinese because the U.S. still has quite a few allies in the East Asia region, according to the report. The five states of the region specifically referred to as “U.S. allies” by analysts with the Congressional Research Service include Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, Japan, and South Korea. However, the analysts have some reservations about the last two on the list. First, there are lots of disagreements between Seoul and Tokyo. Second, Japan has been pursuing an increasingly independent political course in the last few years, and therefore the analysts are skeptical that Japan will be able to help America promptly and unconditionally should the latter run into serious trouble.
The report is, without doubt, a quality study into the subject. Yet is seems to be built around the spirit of idealism in terms of foreign policy, the very spirit that cost the U.S. so dearly in recent years. By all appearances, concrete goals to ensure national security and idealistic desires to spread democracy around the globe are likely to clash in U.S. foreign policy in the foreseeable future. In other words, there will be more problems facing the White House, Pentagon, and State Department.
Translated by Guerman Grachev