For five years the Obama Administration has emphasized the importance of Southeast Asia and its association, ASEAN. The President’s recent cancellation notwithstanding, his Administration has stepped up diplomatic engagement with the region and with ASEAN itself to positive reviews both in DC and in Southeast Asian capitals. A recent swing through the region by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel featured pledges of increased military financing and training as well as the sale of arms. The question now arises what specific American interests are being served by this engagement? What interests should be served? Closer relations and accumulation of soft power are not, in and of themselves, suitable ends. What strategic end should assistance like the Lower Mekong Initiative, joint training, and arms sales serve? Are arm sales to the region integrated into American force posture needs, or are the sales simply gestures of goodwill? Foreign policy is often about getting other countries’ leadership to do things they do not want to do? Is the U.S. asking them to do anything? Are ASEAN or Southeast Asian countries priorities or strategies changing as a result of American engagement, or is the U.S. adopting ASEAN objectives and strategies?
Join us as we try to get beyond the rhetoric of Southeast Asia’s importance to the United States and focus on its real contributions to securing American national interests.
More About the Speakers
Senior Advisor for Asia, Center for Naval Analysis
Contract Instructor, Foreign Service Institute
Resident Fellow and Director of Asian Studies, American Enterprise Institute
Director, Asian Studies Center