Washington has failed to demonstrate that it has the stomach to remain a resident power in Asia.
Recognizing the geostrategic significance of Asia for the twenty-first century, President Obama told an Australian Parliament in 2011, “The United States is a Pacific power and we are here to stay.” But with U.S. membership in the Trans-Pacific dashed, and the inability of the U.S. Navy to deter a rising China in the South and East China Sea, Washington has failed to demonstrate to Asian partners and rival China that it has the stomach and resources to remain a resident power in Asia.
Recognizing waning U.S. military predominance in the western Pacific, Trump’s Asia advisers Peter Navarro and Alexander Gray recently advocated for strengthened U.S. naval presence there. Their vision of enforcing “peace through strength,” however, is likely to backfire without economic engagement–precisely what the TPP brought to Washington’s Asia strategy. Rather than increased security, more U.S. militarization is likely to add to Beijing’s suspicion of a now-outright containment strategy adopted by American defense and foreign policymakers. As Nicholas Borroz and I argued in the New York Times, this will only lead to increased Chinese aggression and hasten U.S. withdrawal, or worse, major power war.