17 January 2012

The U.S. Security Outlook in the Asia-Pacific Region

Andrew S. Erickson,The U.S. Security Outlook in the Asia-Pacific Region,” in Asia Pacific Countries’ Security Outlook and Its Implications for the Defense Sector, NIDS Joint Research Series 6 (Tokyo: National Institute for Defense Studies, 2011).

The future for the U.S. and its partners is bright: they have prevailed in the Cold War and have established the systems and institutions—based on what are arguably universal human principles—to allow for the greatest human possibilities in the twenty-first century world. Blessed with abundant resources, cutting-edge universities and research institutions, an innovative capitalist economy, the world’s largest and most advanced military, a diverse and adaptable democratic society, a robust and reasonably efficient legal and regulatory system, attractive cultural “soft power,” the most favorable demographic profile in the developed world, and excellent allies, friends, and partners with which to cooperate, the United States is positioned to remain the world’s preeminent power and public goods provider for at least the next several decades. Increased American willingness to collaborate with partners around the world to provide collective security solutions is likely to underwrite enduring influence. Even in light of current economic difficulties, this is powerful and inspiring.

Nonetheless, Washington faces a rapidly-changing world that is becoming increasingly complex, vulnerable to disruptive trends, and diffused in power—in addition to needed domestic reforms, particularly with regard to fiscal policies and social entitlements. …

Projecting notionally out to 2025, the longest time horizon generally considered in unclassified U.S. government studies and their scholarly equivalents, and as far as 2050 in selected instances, several trends seem likely to define the emerging international system, and America’s role within it. Fortunately, Washington is well-placed to turn these challenges into opportunities, provided that it pursues intelligent, pragmatic policies and works well with a growing network of allies, friends, and partners. …