America’s Dangerous Quest to Dominate the Pacific

In its policies toward Asia, the United States has long sought to reconcile its unsurpassed military, economic, and rule-setting prowess with a desire for stability. Until recently, this was not hard to accomplish. Washington’s international dominance coincided with the post-1979 “Asian peace”—a period of remarkable stability in East Asia and the Pacific—and so the United States had little trouble holding sway over the region without provoking any conflicts. Over time, Washington even came to believe that U.S. supremacy and regional tranquility could not just coexist but were causally related. As a result, U.S. policymakers made maintaining Asian primacy the foundation of their regional strategy, arguing that without Washington’s leadership, Asia would devolve into warfare.


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