By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific since 1783

By Fischer, Dušan | International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific since 1783


Fischer, Dušan, International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs


By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783 By Michael Green. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017, 725 p., ISBN 9780231180429

American interest in Asia has always concerned trade and security. One year after Donald Trump was elected president, US power is declining in both areas, with no clear future predictions. On a positive note, the largest US military base in East Asia is in Japan and has more than 38,800 soldiers (24,000 in South Korea], and America deployed ballistic missile interceptors called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD] in 2017 to aid the South Koreans in countering the threat from North Korea. However, the current administration lacks a grand strategy. Trump's administration withdrew from the Transpacific Partnership deal (TPP], and then from the Paris Climate Agreement as well. Both steps allowed China to assume a leading role in the climate and trade debate. With its "America First" foreign policy, the Trump administration is abandoning the US's prime interest in Asia and may diminish it for decades.

Defining US interests in Asia - from expanding to balancing

Michael J. Green, the author of By More Than Providence, argues that "the evolution of American strategic thought on Asia from 1784 to 1860 naturally followed the consolidation of American independence, west-ward continental expansion, and the growing interaction of Americans with the Far East." (51] In the 1820s, the US government started a debate about limiting the European colonization and this led to the Monroe Doctrine, according to which the US was to maintain complete power over the Western Hemisphere, saving them enough energy and power to focus more on Asia. Around that time, the first American expeditions in Asia took place. These were undertaken by missionaries and merchants. The former helped to spread American ideas and the latter tried to establish permanent relations with the Orient. The US power in the Pacific had "intellectual roots going back to the handful of New Englanders who first carried Bibles, ginseng, and visions of Pacific empire to the Far East." (1-2] Thus, it was the first missionaries bringing both cultural and religious ideas to the Pacific countries that created the influence and eventually the soft power wielded by the United States. Essex, the first US ship in the Pacific, then multiplied the effect of hard power.

The rest of the nineteenth century was beset by a partisan battle between the Democrats and emerging Republicans over the scope of American colonization. The partisan conflict ended with one of the most consequential US initiatives in Asia, the Open Door Policy. The term was introduced by State Secretary John Hay at the turn of the twentieth century. This policy gave the United States the freedom to create a business partnership with China. President Theodore Roosevelt [1901-1909], as Green rightly describes, wanted the Open Door Policy to be backed up by the necessary power. [96]. Roosevelt adopted a holistic approach to the situation. He maintained his focus on business opportunities while seeking stability in the region and developing relationship with partners. Under Roosevelt, the United States created a model for Asian relations in which promoting good governance, freedom, and a market based economy featured among the US government's top priorities.

In the years following the Second World War, US policy in Asia was dominated by the Domino Theory, which held that the countries in East Asia would fall to Communism if democratic regimes were not supported, even at the price of military involvement. The good relationship with China did not last long. The Truman government was so busy celebrating the end of the Second World War and developing better relations with the Soviet Union that they missed the Civil War in China, already a permanent member of the UN Security Council. "In more recent history," Green argues, "challenges to U. …

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