Over the course of the past several presidential administrations, American foreign policy was characterized primarily by its engagement in the Middle East. When Barack Obama assumed office, he argued that the United States disproportionally allocated its resources toward the Middle East at its own peril. The 21st century, he argued, would be defined by the rise of Asian powers, like China. Therefore, the President believed that it was in America’s strategic best interest to shift its focus eastward to reflect the shift in the global balance of power.
Former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt M. Campbell, one of the chief architects of the pivot (also known as the rebalance), states in his new book, The Pivot: The Future of American Statecraft in Asia, that one of the central tenets of the Obama Administration’s pivot was building relationships with emerging Asian powers. Such initiatives as the U.S.-India-Japan trilateral dialogue, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and various defense agreements with Asian nations, were praised by the Obama Administration, but met with deep criticism and suspicion from China. To Beijing, the ‘pivot to Asia’ was an aggressive containment strategy aimed at curbing China’s growing regional capabilities. Now, as tensions simmer across East Asia, from the Korean peninsula to the South China Sea, how has the rebalance affected America’s capacity to assert its influence in the region? Dr. Kurt M. Campbell discussed his new book, his experience in crafting and implementing the ‘pivot to Asia’, and the future of America’s role in the region, with the National Committee on July 14, 2016 in New York City.