chapter  5
15 Pages

Bush and Asia: The evolving strategic context

ByWILLIAM TOW

The events of September 11, however, initiated a broadening of American strategic activity in areas previously viewed by Washington as less central and marginal to its core strategic interests. America’s global war on terror (GWOT) compelled US officials to redefine US strategic relationships with various Asian actors that would facilitate the integration of their global and regional security interests with America’s. In this context, selected forms of multilateralism were resuscitated as a means to project and sustain US power in Asia. However, these were still assigned secondary importance to an overriding reliance on long-standing bilateral security ties with Japan, Australia and other regional allies (Friedberg 2002; Pollack 2003). At the same time, a sweeping Global Posture Review was conducted by the US Defense Department, directed towards ‘respond[ing] to tectonic shifts in the global strategic landscape’. It was preoccupied with responding to the forces of international terrorism at a time of intensifying globalization and as the United States’ military resources were becoming increasingly stretched (IISS 2004). The results of this posture review promised to permanently and radically transform the purpose and scope of America’s postwar bilateral alliance network in Asia – the so-called ‘hub and spokes’ system that had sustained US strategic hegemony in East Asia for a half century. With President Bush’s reelection, the challenge of squaring policy intentions with strategic capabilities has emerged as the central US policy requirement and one that is likely to be increasingly contested by other regional players determined to

resist or at least modify his vision of a world dominated by American values and wealth.