The United States and China are by far the two most consequential actors in the Indo-Pacific. Therefore, they have an outsized impact on regional stability. In this chapter, I want to suggest that whether we manage Indo-Pacific security challenges successfully rests heavily on the degree to which we appreciate the importance of certain kinds of ‘interests’ that most scholars and most policy makers do not accord sufficient weight: identity, emotion, pride, honour, and the sense of justice. All of which is to say that Indo-Pacific security certainly does require a hard-headed sense of one's material interests and both the capacity and will to defend them. But it requires much more: a capacity for empathy, a capacity for circumspection, and a sensitivity to the dangers of misperception and misjudgment (Blight and Lang 2012; Welch 2022). Not every problem in the Indo-Pacific is a realpolitik nail in need of a realpolitik hammer.