Keep Asia in forefront of U.S. foreign policy
By Matthew Goodman & Michael Green
Published: Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
President Barack Obama's decision to cancel his visits to the economic and political summits in Asia is a setback for the U.S. position in the region. As Woody Allen said, 80 percent of life is showing up and this is especially true of diplomacy in Asia.
But having planned and participated in similar trips for this president and for George W. Bush, we also know that the extent of the damage will depend on what the White House does next.
This is not the first time a president has pulled out of diplomatic engagements in Asia because of domestic politics. In 1995, President Bill Clinton canceled his trip to a regional economic summit in Osaka, Japan, because of a federal government shutdown. He was widely criticized at the time but recovered the following spring with highly successful visits to Japan and Korea that resulted in far-reaching changes to our alliances.
Today, nobody remembers that Clinton did not go to Osaka. In 1998, Clinton pulled out of a summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and sent Vice President Al Gore in his place. In the midst of Asia's worst financial crisis and major strains between Washington and regional capitals over the proper remedies, Gore gave an ill-advised “reformasi” speech, criticizing the host country and amplifying the impression that Washington did not get the region.
Everyone in Asia remembers that summit and U.S. diplomats are still repairing the diplomatic and strategic damage.
This time, the stakes are higher. Asia-Pacific economies account for more than half of global gross domestic product and Asia is the fastest-growing part of the world economy. Governments across the region are worried about China's increasing assertiveness and are eager for more active U.S. diplomatic, military and economic engagement to maintain a favorable balance of power.
Not surprisingly, polls show that a plurality of Americans consider Asia the most important region for U.S. interests. Obama's announcement in his first term that the United States would “pivot” or “rebalance” to the Pacific was broadly welcomed but doubts have grown. The driver of the strategy, Hillary Clinton, is out of government; sequestration has weakened the Pentagon's ability to shift to the Pacific; and the president's recent address to the United Nations appeared to signal that his core focus going forward would be the Middle East.
The president needs to reinvest in his Asia policy. The administration's actions over the next few months will determine whether this cancellation is seen as a blip or a longer-term setback to U.S. relations with the world's most dynamic region.
Matthew Goodman, a former member of the National Security Council staff in the Obama administration, is a chair in political economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Michael Green is senior vice president for Asia at CSIS and a professor at Georgetown University. He served on the National Security Council staff in the George W. Bush administration.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Garden Q&A: Firecracker vine OK for trellis?
- Three ejected after Pirates, Brewers brawl
- Starkey: Penguins’ arrogance astounding
- Egg decorating turns to fight, charges in Brookline, police say
- Cool chemistry: Programs at Springdale library take inspiration from late science professor
- Plum man revels in Keystone hall of fame induction
- Choral concerts planned in Dawson church
- Six NA students finalists in Musical Kids competition
- Bridge work planned for Route 68 in Brady’s Bend
- Hillside repairs to cost $35K more than expected
- Study to target pool use at Belmont Complex