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The hegemon's choice between power and security: explaining US policy toward Asia after the Cold War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 May 2010

Abstract

After the Cold War, US strategists have suggested four strategies for the hegemon: hegemonic dominion, selective engagement, offshore balancing, and multilateralism. Rather than debating which strategy is the best for the US at all times, this article focuses on examining which policy is more likely to be chosen by the hegemon – the US – under different strategic conditions. Through a neoclassical realist argument – the power-perception hegemonic model, I argue that US foreign policy depends on how US policymakers perceive US hegemonic status in the international system. Under rising and stable hegemony, selective engagement and hegemonic dominion are two possible power-maximisation strategies given the weak security constraints from the system. Under declining hegemony, offshore balancing and multilateralism are more likely to be chosen by US policymakers to pursue security because of a resumed security imperative from anarchy. US policy toward Asia after the Cold War is a case study to test the validity of the power-perception hegemonic model. I conclude that US policymakers should prepare for life after Pax-Americana, and early implementation of offshore balancing and multilateralism may facilitate the soft-landing of declining US hegemony.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © British International Studies Association 2010

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References

1 For excellent reviews on different strategies for the US, see Barry Posen and Andrew Ross, ‘Competing Visions of US Grand Strategy’, International Security, 21:3 (1996/97), pp. 5–53; Robert Art, A Grand Strategy for America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003).

2 See Charles Krauthammer, ‘The Unipolar Moment’, Foreign Affairs, 70:1 (1990/1), pp. 23–33; William Kristol and Robert Kagan, ‘Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy’, Foreign Affairs, 75:4 (1996), pp. 18–32.

3 Art, A Grand Strategy for America, chs. 6 and 7.

4 Christopher Layne, The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006); John Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (NY: Norton, 2001), ch. 10; and Stephen Walt, Taming American Power: The Global Response to US Primacy (N.Y.: W. W. Norton, 2005), ch. 5.

5 G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars (N.J: Princeton University Press, 2001) and Joseph Nye, The Paradox of American Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Cannot Go It Alone (New York: Oxford, 2001).

6 Barry Posen, ‘Command of the Commons: The Military Foundation of US Hegemony’, International Security, 28:1 (Summer 2003), p. 19. Hegemony is a contested definition. Here I use hard power, that is, military and economic capabilities, to define US hegemony after the Cold War. For a discussion of the definition of hegemony, see John Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, p. 40; Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 29–30; and Layne, ‘The Unipolar Illusion Revisited’, International Security, 31:2 (2006), pp. 11–2.

7 It is argued that terrorism is a new form of security concern for the US after 9/11. While acknowledging the impacts of terrorist attacks on US security, I argue that terrorism cannot change the nature of international politics which is based on the interactions between sovereign states. For a similar argument, see Robert Jervis, ‘Theories of War in an Era of Leading-Power Peace’, American Political Science Review, 96:1 (2002), pp. 1–14.

8 Posen and Ross, ‘Competing Visions for US Grand Strategy’, 17. Note 13.

9 Art, A Grand Strategy for America.

10 John Gershman, ‘Is Southeast Asia the Second Front?, Foreign Affairs, 81 (2002), pp. 60–74.

11 The hegemonic dominion strategy is named as ‘primacy’ by Barry Posen, ‘dominion’ by Robert Art, or ‘global hegemony’ by Stephen Walt. For the hegemonic dominion strategy, see Charles Krauthammer, ‘The Unipolar Moment’, Foreign Affairs, 70:1 (1990/1), pp. 23–33; William Kristol and Robert Kagan, ‘Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy’, Foreign Affairs, 75:4 (1996), pp. 18–32. As Walt suggests, the implicit implementation of the hegemonic dominion strategy is Bush's National Security Strategy (Washington: The White House, 2002). See Stephen Walt, Taming American Power: The Global Response to US Primacy (N.Y.: W. W. Norton, 2005), pp. 298.

12 For the limitation of hard power, see Joseph Nye, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics (New York: Public Affairs, 2004).

13 For a discussion on soft-balancing, see Robert Pape, ‘Soft Balancing against the United States’, International Security, 30:1 (2005), pp. 7–45; T. V. Paul, ‘Soft Balancing in the Age of US Primacy’, International Security, 30:1 (2005), pp. 46–71.

14 Layne, Peace of Illusions, p. 161.

15 See Walt, Taming American Power: The Global Response to US Primacy, pp. 223–47.

16 See Mearsheimer, Tragedy of Great Power Politics, ch. 10.

17 Indeed, it is hard to calculate real costs and benefits of the offshore balancing strategy for the United States. Art argues that the United States should have been better off if it had committed its military power to Europe after World War I, then World War II might have been avoided. US offshore balancing after World War I caused the US over one million casualties. However, many historians also pointed out that without World War II, the US could not rise to be a superpower. US current unparalleled power is partly built on the US victory in World War II. Art, A Grand Strategy for America, p. 216; Art, A Grand Strategy for America, p. 216.

18 See G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars. It is worth noting that Ikenberry also suggests the ‘lock-in’ function of multilateral institutions in that the hegemon can use multilateral institutions to constrain others' behaviour in the anarchic system.

19 Hegemonic stability theory traditionally focuses on the economic arena rather than the security realm. However, as Mastanduno suggests, hegemonic stability theory can be also applied to the analysis of the security order under unipolarity. See Michael Mastanduno, ‘Incomplete Hegemony and Security Order in the Asia-Pacific’, in G. John Ikenberry (ed.), America Unrivaled: The Future of the Balance of Power (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002), pp. 181–212.

20 For realist multilateralism, see Henry Kissinger, Does America Need a Foreign Policy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001); and Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Choice: Global Dominion or Global Leadership (New York: Basic Books, 2004).

21 For a collective security argument, see Charles Kupchan, The End of the American Era: US Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-First Century (New York: Random House, 2002).

22 For a theoretical combination including the security community argument, see Robert Jervis, American Foreign Policy in a New Era (New York: Routledge, 2005).

23 See Randall Schweller, ‘The Problem of International Order Revisited’, International Security, 26:1 (2001), pp. 161–86.

24 Michael Mastanduno, ‘US Foreign Policy and the Pragmatic Use of International Institutions’, Australian Journal of International Affairs, 59:3 (2005), pp. 317–33.

25 See Posen and Ross, ‘Competing Visions of US Grand Strategy.’

26 Gideon Rose, ‘Neoclassical Realism and theories of Foreign Policy’, World Politics, 51:1 (1998), pp. 144–72.

27 Fareed Zakaria, ‘Realism and Domestic Politics’, International Security, 17:1 (1992), p. 197.

28 William Wohlforth, ‘Realism and the End of the Cold War’, International Security, 19:3 (1994/95), pp. 91–129.

29 Wohlforth, ‘Realism and the End of the Cold War’, p. 97. Also see Wohlforth, ‘The Perception of Power: Russia in the Pre-1914 Balance’, World Politics, 39:3 (1987), pp. 353–81; and The Elusive Balance: Power and Perceptions during the Cold War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993).

30 Waltz, Theory of International Politics (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979), p. 126.

31 Hans Morgenthau, Scientific Man vs. Power Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1954), pp. 90–5, cited in Randal Schweller, ‘The Progressiveness of Neoclassical Realism’, in Colin Elman and Miriam Fendius Elman (eds), Progress in International Relations Theory (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003), p. 323.

32 For the argument regarding differential economic growth rates and the fall of a hegemon, see Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).

33 See Mearsheimer, Tragedy of Great Power Politics, p. 147.

34 For the conquest-does-not-pay argument, see Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers; Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics; and Stephen Van Evera, Causes of War: Power and the Roots of Conflict (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999). For the conquest-does-pay argument, see Peter Liberman, Does Conquest Pay? The Exploitation of Occupied Industrial Societies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

35 There are contending arguments on which party is more likely to initiate wars during the power transition period. A. F. K. Organski suggests that the rising, dissatisfied powers are more likely use force to turn down the status quo of the system. Dale Copeland's dynamic differentials theory challenges Organski's argument by suggesting some strategic conditions under which the dominant but declining military great powers are more likely to initiate a major war. Gilpin is inclined toward Organski's theory, but he also recognises that a declining power may initiate wars for preventive reasons. Charles Doran and Wes Parsons suggest that the dramatic change of relative powers, including increase and decline, at certain critical points, are more likely to cause extensive wars among states. See A. F. K. Organski, World Politics (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958); Dale Copeland, The Origins of Major War; Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics; and Charles Doran and Wes Parsons, ‘War and the Cycle of Relative Power’, The American Political Science Review, 74:4 (1980), pp. 947–65.

36 Asia here is narrowly defined to include East Asia and Southeast Asia countries only. US policy toward South Asia and Central Asia are not discussed.

37 Conte Christopher and Albert R. Karr, An Outline of the US Economy (Washington D.C.: US Department of State, 2001), available online at: {http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/oecon/}.

38 The Statistical data are from World Development Indicator by the World Bank, WDI online at: {www.wdi.org}.

39 Donald Crone, ‘Does Hegemony Matter? The Reorganization of the Pacific Political Economy’, World Politics, 45:4 (1993), p. 509.

40 Detailed statistics are in Donald Crone, ‘Does Hegemony Matter?’, p. 508.

41 Statistical data are from UN Handbook of Statistics (web version): {http://www.unctad.org/}. Also see Karl Jackson, ‘How to Rebuild America's Stature in Asia’, Orbis, 39:1 (1995), pp. 11–8.

42 US Department of Defense, A Strategic Framework for the Asian Pacific Rim: Looking Forward the 21st Century (Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, 1990), pp. 1–2.

43 Richard Solomon, ‘Security Challenges and Alliances in a New Era’, US Department of State Dispatch, 2:33 (1991).

44 Douglas Stuart and William Tow, A US Strategy for the Asia-Pacific: Building a Multipolar Balance-of-Power System in Asia, Adelphi Paper, no. 299 (London: The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1995), p. 7.

45 Kennedy, Rise and Fall of Great Power, p. 530. It is interesting to note that many scholars use the leaked information from the New York Times to prove the hidden US ambition for hegemony in the early 1990s. See Layne, The Peace of Illusions, p. 25; and Art, A Grand Strategy for America, p. 88. The later published Defense Planning Guidance was toned down because of the strong public criticism. Rather than seeking a ‘strategy of preponderance’, it emphasises working with regional allies to preserve regional order. It is worth noting that the mere fact that the Bush government had to respond to public criticism reflects the lack of confidence in US hegemony in the early 1990s.

46 The power-perception model also applies to a ‘dip’ period as long as US policymakers perceive a decline of hegemony. The US may change its offshore balancing and multilateralism strategies later when the perception of hegemony alters in an upward direction.

47 EIU (Economist Intelligent Union) Country Profile: the United States 1996–1997 (London: Economist Intelligent Union, 1996), p. 13.

48 In November 1991, the US government froze its additional troop reduction plan of withdrawing 6,000 personnel from South Korea because of North Korea's possible nuclear program. See US Department of Defense, A Strategic Framework for the Asian Pacific Rim (Washington D.C., Department of Defense, 1992), p. 20.

49 Regarding US post-Cold War military strategy in the Asia-Pacific, see Stuart and Tow, A US Strategy for the Asia-Pacific, pp. 6–11.

50 Stuart and Tow, A US Strategy for the Asia-Pacific, p. 10.

51 Alan Tonelson, ‘Superpower Without a Sword’, Foreign Affairs, 72:3 (1993); and Dov Zackheim and Jeffrey Ranney, ‘Matching Defense Strategies and Resources: Challenges for the Clinton Administration’, International Security: 18:1 (1993).

52 See Les Aspin, Report on the Bottom-up Review (Washington D.C.: Department of Defense, 1993).

53 Donald Crone, ‘Does Hegemony Matter?’, p. 522.

54 Cited by Lasater, The New Pacific Community, p. 29.

55 Winston Lord, ‘A New Pacific Community: Ten Goals for American Policy’, opening statement at confirmation hearing for Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Senate Foreign Relations Committee (31 March 1993).

56 Martin Lasater, The New Pacific Community: US Strategic Options in Asia (Boulder: Westview Press, 1996), pp. 61–2.

57 Bill Clinton, ‘Remarks by the President to Seattle APEC Host Committee’ (Seattle: The White House), 9 November 1993.

58 Ellis S. Krauss, ‘Japan, the US, and the Emergence of Multilateralism in Asia’, p. 482.

59 Michael Mastanduno, ‘US Foreign Policy and the Pragmatic Use of International Institutions’, Australian Journal of International Affairs, 59:3 (2005), pp. 317–33.

60 Data from various issues of EIU Country Profile: The US (London: Economist Intelligent Union, 1995, 2000, and 2005).

61 Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth, ‘American Primacy in Perspective’, Foreign Affairs (July/August 2002), p. 21.

62 William Cohen, Annual Report to the President and the Congress (Washington D.C.: Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1998), p. 3.

63 US Department of Defense, United States Strategy for the East Asia-Pacific Region (Washington D.C., Department of Defense, 1995).

64 Joseph Nye, ‘China's Re-emergence and the Future of the Asia-Pacific’, Survival: 39:4 (1997–1998), p. 77.

65 For US hegemonic intention through the US-Japan alliance, see Mastanduno, ‘Incomplete Hegemony and Security Order in the Asia-Pacific.’

66 Sheldon Simon, ‘Southeast Asia and the US War on Terrorism’, NBR Analysis, 13:4 (2002), pp. 25–40 and John Gershman, ‘Is Southeast Asia the Second Front?’

67 George W. Bush, The National Security Strategy of the United States (Washington D.C.: the White House, 2002). For criticism of the pre-emption strategy, see Walt, Taming American Power, p. 261.

68 Bush, The National Security Strategy of the United States, p. 30.

69 Evelyn Goh, ‘The ASEAN Regional Forum in United States East Asian Strategy’, The Pacific Review, 17:1 (2004), p. 55; see also William Tow, Asia-Pacific Strategic Relations: Seeking Convergent Security (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

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