The End of American Power
Trump’s Reelection Would Usher in Permanent Decline
When it comes to U.S. foreign policy, many Asians favor Republicans over Democrats. This preference is not without grounds. Some Asian countries, Japan not least among them, cannot help but feel uneasy, threatened even, by the largely inscrutable and defiantly communist regimes that govern China, North Korea, and Vietnam. For them, the U.S.-based post-World War II alliance system, which still dominates East Asia, has been a vital stabilizing force, and they find comfort in a U.S. government that stands tough on security and firm in its anticommunist credentials -- qualities often associated with the Republican Party. The Chinese leadership leans in the same direction, although for different reasons: it sees the Republican Party as the party of free trade and the Democratic Party as protectionist; it also believes that a Republican administration in Washington would be less likely to dwell on human rights issues or meddle in sensitive areas such as Tibet. For many of the governments in Asia, a Republican United States is simply more predictable and thus easier to deal with.
Despite misgivings about the Bush administration, Asia's leaders generally regard its record more positively than do their counterparts in other regions. The next U.S. president stands to inherit the goodwill created by some of George W. Bush's accomplishments in Asia, not least the stabilization of the region through the strengthening of U.S.-Japanese security cooperation, which has hinged partly on Bush's remarkably chummy relationship with former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks and in the course of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the alliance has been raised to an almost unprecedented level, due in no small part to Japan's show of support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism.
U.S. relations with China, too, have improved considerably under Bush. Things did not start out well: during the presidential campaign of 2000, Bush called China a "strategic competitor" in the Asia-Pacific region. But partly thanks to the new opportunities for strategic cooperation that arose out of 9/11 and the continuing North Korean nuclear crisis, the past eight years have witnessed the solidification of a healthy working rapport between the United States and China -- Bush's unwavering commitment to attending the Beijing Olympics' opening ceremony this summer being a prime illustration of this. Perhaps most important, at least to the stability of Asia, under Bush, Washington has succeeded in promoting sound relationships with Beijing and Tokyo simultaneously.
To capitalize on the positive aspects of this legacy, the next U.S. president must continue to pursue dialogues with both China and Japan and make them key elements of the United States' Asia-Pacific policy. Additionally, Washington must deepen its commitment to multilateral institution building in Asia, as well as make earnest strides toward boosting American "soft power" there through innovative approaches to pressing challenges such as climate change and the backlash against globalization.
THE TIES THAT BIND
Despite Washington's accomplishments, certain concerns have emerged from various quarters of the Asia-Pacific region. For one thing, the Bush administration's myopic focus on the war on terrorism has left very little room for U.S. involvement in other matters, and the ideological overtones of Washington's rhetoric have been a source of considerable frustration. In the eyes of many Asian leaders, Washington is not sufficiently engaged in the issues that preoccupy them the most, including poverty, trade and investment, the environment, education, nation building, and regional cooperation. Bush's single-minded and dogged pursuit of his antiterrorism agenda at the meetings of the leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Shanghai in 2001 and Bangkok in 2003 -- and in other such forums -- certainly did not help. Washington has shown a similar lack of initiative in its approach to the East Asia Summit (EAS), a forum of 16 Asian states that include the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been consistently noncommital and ambiguous about the EAS, urging her counterpart, now former Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso, to keep the forum open but stopping short of making any commitment to it on behalf of the United States. Now, the foreign ministers of Asia worry that Secretary Rice has deemed the region unworthy of her attention. She has missed two of three ASEAN regional meetings since 2005. Likewise, President Bush called off plans to attend the U.S.-ASEAN summit in Singapore last September, a faux pas that was felt more deeply for the fact that this was no routine meeting but a special celebration of 30 years of ties between the United States and the organization.
Significantly, Rice skipped ASEAN's 2007 regional forum in favor of a trip to the Middle East, and Bush snubbed last year's commemoration to attend a presentation on the "surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq by General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander there. It is perhaps inevitable that Washington's attentiveness to Asia should suffer in some measure as a result of the United States' entanglement in the Middle East. But it is also unfortunate. Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has pledged to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of 2010 if he is elected U.S. president. However, Asian leaders are not convinced. They believe it is more likely that U.S. forces will remain in Iraq for many years to come -- and perhaps necessary that they do so -- regardless of whether Obama or Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) moves into the White House. As former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew has argued, a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would risk destabilizing the entire Middle East, creating shock waves that could spread throughout Asia as well. In other words, Asian leaders are as concerned about the ramifications of the United States' abandoning its mission in Iraq as they are about its neglecting Asia because of its being enmeshed in the Middle East.
Another worry for Asian leaders is the United States' continued attachment to the U.S.-based alliance system that dominated Asia during the Cold War. That arrangement served its purpose well, but there is now an urgent need to develop a new multilateral framework for peace and security better adapted to the rapidly changing dynamics and challenges of the region. It is in the United States' best interest to actively shape Asia's evolving security architecture and take the lead in creating a new world order that is open and inclusive, peaceful and rule-based. As Asian countries adapt to this still-shifting international system, of which the United States and China are emerging as central pillars, they need more, not less, U.S involvement. Yet the United States appears to have been moving away recently, even as China has reinforced its ties with its neighbors by engaging in what some analysts have called a "charm offensive."
The key for the next U.S. administration will be to maintain the old alliance system of bilateral security ties but also integrate it into this new broader framework. Most Asian leaders would like to see Washington make strides toward harmonizing the U.S.-Japanese alliance with the developing U.S.-Chinese relationship and folding these two relationships into a comprehensive Asia-Pacific policy. Such integration need not be pursued at an operational level yet. For now, it could take the form of a strategic dialogue among the United States, China, and Japan aimed at reducing potentially dangerous misperceptions and shaping a cohesive vision for the region.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the U.S. presence in Asia is its stabilizing effect. The prospect that either China or Japan might gain a predominant position is disconcerting for the rest of Asia. The rise of China -- with its aggressive military posture toward the region, its assertive nationalism (as illustrated by recent campaigns in Tibet), and its as-yet-unfulfilled aspirations for global power and prestige -- does not sit well with many Asians. Japan, for its part, carries heavy historical baggage, particularly in East Asia and the Pacific, much of which it occupied before and during World War II. Nationalism among the Japanese and Tokyo's ambition to turn Japan into a "normal country" -- meaning one with an army capable of active security engagements overseas and with both a people and a constitution that would allow such undertakings -- are seen as dangers. The United States thus has a vital role to play as a counterbalance to an assertive China and an independent Japan.
The U.S.-Japanese alliance is and should continue to be the cornerstone of the United States' Asia-Pacific policy -- an anchor in the midst of stormy regional dynamics. But robust as this relationship appears to be, and solid as its foundation is, there have been a few strains recently. For example, uncertainty about whether the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force will continue refueling missions in support of U.S.-led coalition activities in Afghanistan has been a source of contention. When the mission was temporarily suspended after the Democratic Party of Japan won the general elections in July 2007, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, J. Thomas Schieffer, warned in an address to the Japan National Press Club that Washington would take the move to mean Tokyo was "opting out of the war on terror." The attacks of 9/11 provided the United States and Japan with an opportunity to give their alliance a global dimension and extend activities beyond East Asia and even the larger Asia-Pacific region. Yet today, it is increasingly clear that stretching the partnership this way has created unrealistic expectations and strains that threaten to erode its very core.
One of the difficulties in managing the U.S.-Japanese alliance stems from the inevitable repercussions of turmoil in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region specifically. For instance, the U.S. government has yet to come to an agreement with its allies in the Asia-Pacific region, most notably Tokyo and Seoul, over what roles each of them should adopt and what resources they should devote to help stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan. This remains a serious challenge, but in view of Asia's growing global significance, the first responsibility of the U.S.-Japanese alliance must continue to be ensuring the region's stability, for on it hinges, increasingly, the stability of the world at large. So far, however, the United States and Japan have failed to map out a way to navigate Asia's changing landscape.
What has perhaps been most threatening to Washington and Tokyo's alliance lately has been their differing fears, threat perceptions, and expectations of each other with regard to North Korea's nuclear ambitions and the related security challenges in Asia. Tokyo has observed with some discomfort Washington's shift to a somewhat softer stance in its recent interactions with Pyongyang. This year, the U.S. government lifted trade restrictions on North Korea under the Trading With the Enemy Act after nearly six decades and declared that in exchange for a partial declaration of Pyongyang's nuclear programs, it would start the process of removing North Korea from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. In doing so, it has implicitly "delinked" such incentives from resolution of the issue still dearest to the hearts of the Japanese -- the return of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea. These moves have seemed like a policy turnaround, and from Tokyo's perspective, they were neither clearly signaled nor appropriately coordinated. Veteran Japanese diplomats dealing with Pyongyang now see in Secretary Rice's drive to build her legacy by scoring a diplomatic success with North Korea a disconcerting replay of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's final days in the Clinton administration, when Albright feverishly tried to arrange a visit to Pyongyang for the U.S. president.
Following a phased strategy toward North Korea may well be the only realistic diplomatic path for the time being, and Japan certainly recognizes that Washington's engagement with Pyongyang has been largely positive. The Bush administration's pragmatic policy since early 2007 has borne fruit, at least in capping North Korea's plutonium production through the agreements reached in June. Still, the Japanese government, joined recently by the new South Korean government of Lee Myung-bak, has expressed concerns about Pyongyang's continuing silence regarding its nuclear weapons program, the fuzziness of the information Pyongyang has provided on its alleged uranium-enriched activities, and a possible North Korean-Syrian connection. Some Japanese policymakers also fear that Washington may be getting ready to accept the notion that it will eventually have to live with a nuclear North Korea. Until Asia passes its first and crucial test -- the complete denuclearization of North Korea -- one will not be able to tell how much of an achievement the six-party negotiations really have been. This is especially so because Pyongyang's nuclear test of October 2006 and its continued disregard for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty have dealt a devastating blow to the credibility of the United States' nuclear deterrence ability -- representing, perhaps, the Bush administration's single most profound policy failure in Asia.
One reason for cautious optimism, however, is that the six-party talks have already substantially reinforced the United States' security commitment to Asia. In particular, this fledgling attempt at multilateral institution building has coaxed out of Beijing an acceptance that the United States' involvement in the region, as well as its military presence, is an element that is necessary to and perhaps even legitimate in achieving cooperation there. The six-party talks have laid the groundwork for Washington and, by virtue of the U.S.-Japanese alliance, Tokyo to play stabilizing roles in Asia -- and for achieving greater symbiosis between the United States and the region. Although the negotiations have been frustrating at times and their future it still uncertain, they represent an encouraging step in the right direction.
THE SOUND OF SILENCE
Compounding the effects of its diplomatic fumbling, Washington is also losing economic clout in Asia. With the dramatic growth of sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) in recent years, Western economies have had a rude awakening to the rapidly shifting balance of global economic power: the line between political and financial power is becoming increasingly blurred. Funds from the export-rich Pacific Rim (and the oil-producing states of the Middle East) have bailed out struggling U.S. banks, such as Citibank, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley, with massive investments. The collective value of SWFs worldwide is predicted to total more than $12 trillion by 2015, dwarfing private pools of capital. Today, three of the four largest economies in the world (measured on the basis of purchasing power parity) -- China, Japan, and India, in decreasing order -- are in Asia. Asian economies have also been integrating for a number of years, thanks to various trade and investment flows, as well as a burgeoning web of bilateral and multilateral agreements. In 2006, intraregional trade made up 58 percent of total trade in Asia, compared with 42 percent for NAFTA and 65 percent for the European Union. China has used the gravitational pull of its economic might to strengthen regional economic integration. It is now the largest trading partner of Australia, Japan, and South Korea and the second-largest trading partner of India. And in 2007, for the first time since ASEAN was established, China's total trade with the ASEAN countries exceeded that of the United States' trade with them.
In stark contrast to Beijing, Washington has seemed unsure of its economic strategy in Asia. During the 1997-98 Asian economic crisis, the Clinton administration gave Asian governments the impression that it lacked an understanding of their concerns when it quashed a proposal by the Japanese government to set up an Asian monetary fund that would have pooled Asia's resources and provided much-needed liquidity to countries suffering massive capital outflows. The United States also failed to either devise a new mechanism to cope with the crisis or promote a better balance between APEC's two core principles -- market liberalization and economic and technical cooperation -- in order to stimulate regional economic development. The Clinton White House focused almost exclusively on liberalization. Now, with the Bush administration focused on the war on terrorism, APEC's wheels have come off.
If APEC is to be fully reinvigorated -- and it should be -- economic development and cooperation between its members must be strengthened, particularly as a means of coping with the growing backlash against globalization. Asia has undoubtedly benefited from the U.S.-driven integration of the world economy; countries such as China, India, and Vietnam are now harvesting the fruits of their economic takeoffs in the 1990s. But the good has brought some bad. Notably, the Asian Development Bank drew attention, in an August 2007 report, to the growing gap between the rich and the poor in China and other Asian countries, warning of the potential for popular unrest. As it has in the United States, globalization has widened the disparities between incomes and opportunities in Asia, prompting doubts there regarding the U.S. model.
SOFT SOFT POWER
This problem hinges on the broader perception that Washington's soft power in Asia has been weakening -- the result, for the most part, of its paying too much attention to misguided policies (such as democracy promotion) and too little attention to essential issues (such as climate change). Under the Bush administration, democracy promotion has been used to guide and justify U.S. foreign policy. Yet on the whole, it has produced no real results. From the perspective of Asia, little can be expected of Senator McCain's proposal to create a "League of Democracies," or, as he has put forward, "a new global compact" to "harness the vast influence of more than 100 democratic nations around the world to advance our values and defend our shared interests." Worthy as the underlying goal may be, the notion that Washington should promote democracy worldwide has been marred, perhaps permanently, by its disastrous intervention in Iraq. Moreover, creating such a league would encourage a club mentality that could divide Asia into two camps -- conspicuously placing nondemocratic China outside of the inner circle -- and thus threaten to destabilize the whole region.
This is not to say that democracy has no traction in Asia. Quite the contrary, over the past two decades it has made significant and encouraging strides there: 23 of Asia's 39 countries are now electoral democracies, with regular and free elections and basic political liberties. And despite recent setbacks in East Timor, the Philippines, and Thailand -- once considered showcases of Asian democracy -- the region is still home to some of the world's most vibrant newly free states. The United States has played a critical role in these achievements by opening up its markets to the region and serving as a stabilizing force there. But democracy has gained ground in Asia mostly without ideological slogans or fanfare, advancing thanks to pragmatic measures encouraging growth and development and to the emergence of a middle class.
Consider the example of Indonesia. Following the fall of the Suharto government in 1998, four presidents have shepherded the country's evolution from an authoritarian state to a democratic and decentralized one. Indonesia's present government is by no means perfect; the country still suffers from corruption, weak application of the rule of law, and regulatory uncertainty. But democracy in Indonesia has proved surprisingly stable over the past decade, defying expectations that the country would crumble in the wake of the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s. It has also unexpectedly benefited from the otherwise catastrophic tsunami of 2004. Terrorist attacks by separatists have been subdued since then. Counterterrorism cooperation with Australia has deepened. Japan's sustained development assistance has helped shore up economic and social stabilization. And diplomatic and military ties between the United States and Indonesia have strengthened since late 2005, when the Pentagon decided to normalize military-to-military relations after six years of restricted engagement due to human rights violations by Indonesian forces in East Timor. What emerges from Indonesia's recent progress is a positive example of what can be accomplished outside of the United States' largely bankrupt democracy-promotion agenda.
Washington has also squandered a measure of its soft power by failing to lead on energy and environmental issues. Because the United States is the world's second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, Washington's lack of decisive action on climate change has been criticized in many quarters. U.S. inaction has also compounded the underlying problems by providing a good excuse for both China and India to avoid their own responsibilities and stall on developing clean-energy economies. This unfortunate leadership vacuum is not the exclusive failing of the Bush administration: it was under the Clinton administration, in 1997, that the U.S. Senate passed with overwhelming support a resolution blocking U.S. ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. This was a major political mistake, for the global-warming crisis is more than an environmental issue; it is also a critical opportunity for the United States to redefine what it stands for in the world. Washington is now paying the price for its inaction in lost influence. Even Australia, traditionally one of the United States' staunchest allies, has shown signs that it may be slowly shifting its attention toward China. Some 43 percent of Australians surveyed in a BBC poll last year described China's influence as "mainly positive"; only 29 percent said the same of the United States' influence.
So how might the next U.S. administration go about restoring its tarnished image in Asia?
First, Washington should cast a more serious gaze toward the Asia-Pacific region, where the world's center of gravity is shifting. U.S. leaders frequently throw around phrases such as "the rise of Asia" and "the Asian century," but so far they have paid little more than lip service to the region's increasing importance. To maintain the United States' credibility in Asia, the next U.S. administration must reduce the gap between awareness and action. To this end, it will have to commit more firmly to institution building in the region, in close collaboration with Asian countries.
Of course, the United States will not need to be included in all of the area's community-building exercises. In fact, it might benefit from stepping back and learning to live with some exclusively Asian regionalism. All sides, the United States included, would ultimately gain from allowing Asian institutions -- ASEAN + 3 (ASEAN and China, Japan, and South Korea), for example -- the space to grow and work through thorny issues on their own, as this would deepen the region's sense of community. At the same time, the next U.S. administration should express its clear intention to join the EAS, with a view to nurturing the forum's development into a more full-fledged peace and security framework in the future. The governments of Asia should, in turn, welcome and encourage Washington to join. Thanks to the United States' assets and influence -- which are undeniable in the military and economic realms and weakened but still significant in the area of soft power -- the United States is a stabilizing force and thus its cooperation would provide a natural foundation for East Asia's new peace and security structure.
Second, Washington must find ways to integrate its various bilateral alliances into the emerging multilateral process encouraging peace and security, including through forums such as the EAS. This will be an especially important way for the United States to balance its relations with China and Japan. Simply reinforcing the U.S.-Japanese alliance to counter China would upset the status quo, and forming a U.S.-Chinese partnership weighted against Japan would threaten the U.S.-Japanese alliance. Both scenarios would cause grave security problems in the Asia-Pacific region. The surest way to avoid these pitfalls is to create a U.S.-Chinese-Japanese trilateral consultation process that could address the security issues facing all three countries. Such a dialogue would solidify the United States' role as a stabilizer in the region. The process, which is a venue for Washington to engage with Beijing in a balanced way, would coax China into adhering to international norms, as befits a responsible stakeholder. And by reinforcing the comfortable framework of the U.S.-Japanese alliance, it would reassure Japan. This three-way process should be promoted at the same time as some of the United States' other ongoing trilateral dialogues -- such as the one involving Japan and South Korea, the one involving Japan and Australia, and the one involving Japan and India. It may also be useful to link high-level meetings of the U.S.-Chinese-Japanese dialogue to the EAS, so that a core group of the dialogue's participants could hold informal summits prior to, or on the margins of, EAS meetings.
Third, the U.S.-Japanese alliance itself should be further strengthened based on the principle of complementarity. Rather than striving to make equal contributions to all undertakings, both sides must contribute to the relationship in the areas and in the ways in which they each excel -- in Afghanistan, for example, the United States could work mostly on stabilization, and Japan could concentrate on development. Moreover, the focus of the alliance, at least for the time being, should be on regional issues, not global matters. The Bush administration has argued for modeling the U.S.-Japanese alliance after the United States' "special relationship" with the United Kingdom. But Japan cannot be a partner like the United Kingdom, for many reasons: for cultural, historical, and political reasons, but perhaps most crucially because it lacks established avenues for exchanging intelligence with the U.S. government. Rather, the next U.S. administration should focus on deepening the U.S.-Japanese policy dialogue to meaningfully address new security challenges in Asia. The Bush administration took steps in that direction but somehow neglected the two most critical issues currently confronting the alliance: the rise of China (in both economic and political terms) and Beijing's military nuclear buildup (which has implications for the nuclear-deterrence function of the U.S.-Japanese alliance). One challenge for the next U.S. president will be to satisfy two seemingly incompatible imperatives: making sure that the U.S. nuclear umbrella remains effective and at the same time advancing the long-term goal of nuclear disarmament.
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has used the word kyomei (synergy) to describe the philosophy that should guide efforts to harmonize the U.S.-Japanese relationship with the emerging multilateral process in Asia. But Washington and Tokyo should go even further than kyomei and actually integrate the old alliance system into the new. More than just vibrating with the same energy, the two systems must sound a single note. The United States and Japan should also cooperate fully with ASEAN members, particularly Indonesia, a country that is populous, contains the world's largest Muslim community, and borders on the Strait of Malacca, Asia's most strategically crucial trade route. Indonesia's stability and its treatment as a significant regional power will be crucial to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region. Washington should thus further strengthen its ties with Jakarta and encourage it to cooperate with Asia's major players -- including Beijing, New Delhi, and Tokyo -- in order to engage effectively in the region.
Fourth, the United States needs to pursue a principled "congagement" strategy toward North Korea -- a strategy based primarily on engagement but with an element of containment. The six-party talks and U.S.-North Korean bilateral negotiations have yielded a number of declarations and agreements, but there is still a long way to go before North Korea is fully denuclearized. Based on the accomplishments of U.S.-North Korean discussions to date, such as the September 2005 joint statement in which the North Korean government pledged "to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs," it is clear that U.S. engagement should remain a mainstay of future policy. Building on such strides, the next U.S. administration should pick up where the Bush administration leaves off and continue, among other things, the verification process now under way. But even as it exhausts all current diplomatic initiatives, Washington should also seek to contain the proliferation of North Korean nuclear technology.
To be clear: the United States must not consider making do with a nuclear North Korea; instead, it must pursue a tough carrot-and-stick approach -- engagement and containment -- to completely denuclearize North Korea. Meanwhile, Washington must prepare itself, in cooperation with its allies and perhaps Beijing, for the possible collapse of Kim's regime, which is being undermined by the world food crisis, and for the eventual reunification of North and South Korea -- events that could trigger a mass exodus of refugees or the proliferation of nuclear materials. Furthermore, U.S. policy on North Korea must not be allowed to divide Washington and Tokyo. So long as the ultimate dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear weapons program remains the sole gateway to the normalization of both U.S.-North Korean relations and Japanese-North Korean relations, differences over how to handle Pyongyang should not be viewed with alarmism. This common goal is the basic premise on which the U.S.-Japanese alliance rests, and both sides should stick to it.
Fifth, the U.S. government must resist the protectionist fever at home and demonstrate renewed leadership in promoting free trade worldwide. The completion of free-trade agreements with both Japan and South Korea, for instance, would serve as a powerful statement of the United States' commitment to East Asia and the greater Asia-Pacific region. By deepening the three countries' economic interdependence, these deals would create a buffer to the potential shock of either the collapse of North Korea or the possible reunification of the two Koreas. Washington should also focus on building APEC back up, returning it to its original format: a forum for increasing trade and investment, development and cooperation, rather than one for waging war on terrorism or tackling security issues (which are best delegated to the EAS). Singapore, Japan, and the United States -- the hosts of APEC's meetings in 2009, 2010, and 2011, respectively -- must collaborate effectively to solidify the institution. APEC's secretariat should be strengthened, for example, by the appointment of an executive director for a set term. New objectives also ought to be set, such as the creation of a free-trade agreement for the entire Asia-Pacific region.
Just as important, Washington will need to demonstrate that it is serious about considering the other side of the trade and investment coin: namely, globalization's potentially harmful impacts. To that end, the U.S. government should consider establishing through APEC an "eminent persons' group" -- much like the one that was established in the early 1990s to informally explore long-term economic options for the region -- to develop policies to address the problems caused by globalization, especially the widening gap between the rich and the poor. To survive and grow in the long term, global capitalism will require both Keynesian interventionism and Schumpeterian liberalism. At this time, however, it particularly needs a Keynes. Now more than ever, education and social security are crucial, and governments once more have important roles to play in providing them. This is a chance for the United States to step back up to the plate. Having inspired change throughout Asia for decades -- reformists in Japan invoked gaiatsu (outside pressure) to push their domestic agendas, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s -- the United States must now lead the response to the backlash against globalization.
Sixth, to restore the United States' soft power, the next U.S. administration should be sparing in its use of the D-word. Phrases such as "democracy promotion" ring hollow in the post-Iraq era. Washington would be better received if it talked simply of transparency, the rule of law, and good governance. In the last half of the twentieth century, the United States played a critical role in building democratic foundations in Asia by opening up its markets to the region and serving as a stabilizer. It should continue to do so. That would mean, among other things, striving to present a cohesive front in Washington and getting past the disruptive divisions between ideologues and pragmatists, traditionalists and neoconservatives that have characterized the Bush administration. These cleavages have strained the United States' relations with its traditional allies, particularly when it came to formulating a denuclearization policy with respect to North Korea. Discord in public discourse or between political parties is to be expected in any thriving democracy, but a cacophony of voices within one government can paralyze policy and damage a country's ties with other states. The next U.S. president must endeavor to repair the resulting image problem by restoring unity in Washington.
Seventh, Washington must act meaningfully on global warming. Mired as the United States is in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is still no good excuse for U.S. inaction on this looming international crisis. John F. Kennedy's Apollo program led to one of the most dramatic episodes of the twentieth century -- signaling the apex of American inspiration and power -- and it was delivered in the midst of the Vietnam War. Given such a precedent, it is not unrealistic to expect creative leadership from the United States on the issue of climate change today, even while the country fights two wars. Asian countries are by no means unified on the issue of climate change; like the United States, most of them depend on coal-based power for their energy, as well as for their economic growth. But with Asia's emerging economies becoming the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases, their active involvement in tackling global warming is essential. The United States should lead China, the European Union, India, Japan, and Russia -- the world's other top emitters of carbon dioxide -- toward decreasing global warming.
What Asia wants and needs is an open and internationalist United States. Without a partnership between Asia and the United States, the twenty-first century's potential as "the Asian century" is unlikely to be realized. Leaving aside all partisan sensitivities, one thing is certain: Asia is still U.S. territory. The United States engaged in three major wars in Asia in the past century -- the Pacific war, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War -- and the impact has been profound. The United States is bound to the Asia-Pacific region by history, trade, and ideas; it is an indispensable fixture in the security, economic, and social fabric of the region. And although its image has declined somewhat, the United States maintains a sturdy influence and great prestige across Asia.
At the same time, Asia is now far more than a bystander. It is no longer waiting to be led; it is an able and willing partner and expects to be treated as such. On matters of economic growth and development, nation building, antiterrorism, and global warming alike, valuable ideas and resources have come and will continue to come out of the region. Asia has a complementary role to play with the United States, and this is a fact that Washington cannot afford to overlook, especially as the balance of global power continues to shift eastward. Whether Democratic or Republican, the next U.S. president would be well advised to renew the United States' commitment to Asia and devote due attention to the concerns and interests of its Asian friends and allies.