The rapid changes underway in Asia presents the U.S. with a far more complex geostrategic challenge than that posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. America’s new Asia policy will require the deployment of the full arsenal of American power—not just economic and strategic but cultural and diplomatic as well.To this end, the U.S. needs to pay more attention to the internal debates in countries throughout Asia-Pacific. In Australia, for instance, while support for America at both the political and the individual level remains steadfast, there are rumblings within certain sections of the foreign policy community that a rising China should force Canberra to re-evaluate its strategic priorities.Which is why Washington should take heart from recent comments made by Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith:
Some assume that the economic and strategic influence of the United States, the world’s largest economy and superpower, will be rapidly eclipsed overnight as a result of this new distribution of strategic influence in the Indo Pacific.That is not Australia’s view.[. . . ]In Australia’s view, the United States has underwritten stability in the Asia-Pacific for the past half century and will continue to be the single most important strategic actor in our region for the foreseeable future, both in its own right and through its network of Alliances and security relationships, including with Australia.A continued, indeed enhanced, United States’ presence in the Asia Pacific is essential to peace and stability in our region. Australia welcomes the United States enhanced engagement, its rebalance to our region.Amidst these strategic shifts, some have posited, indeed even suggested to the US itself, a substantial decline in or a withdrawal from our region.I do not see it this way.
The Labor Party, of which Smith is a member, is traditionally the more Left of the two main parties, and if there is any serious concern about the U.S. alliance—which there isn’t—it would come from these guys. Smith’s remarks reaffirm one of the few bipartisan pillars in Australian politics: that U.S. primacy in Asia is desirable, not for its own sake but because it is in Australia’s interests for America to remain deeply involved in the Pacific theater.