Kurt Campbell: The Pivot – The Future of American Statecraft in Asia

Kurt Campbell: The Pivot – The Future of American Statecraft in Asia

The book presents the transformation and military engagement of American foreign policy, diplomacy, trade and economic relations with Asia. The author, Kurt M. Campbell, former US Deputy Secretary of State, is one of the most influential figures in the Obama administration’s pivot or “rebalancing” policy towards Asia. Although the author’s book analyses the background and causes of America’s foreign policy rebalance to Asia, he offers instructive and important insights into the making of what many are calling the “Asian Century”.

Campbell served as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific from 2009 to 2013. During this time, he visited the region several times and came to the realisation that the United States must focus its foreign policy on emerging Asia, even in the face of inevitable challenges elsewhere in the world. In his book, Campbell provides an overview of the history of US interaction with Asia. In his argument, he concludes that the region has long been considered a “sideshow” in American foreign policy. One reason for this was geography, as the United States was Atlantic-oriented until the late 19th century when it extended its Manifest Destiny by expanding to the North American continent. It was not until the end of the 19th century that it expanded to the North American continent. It was only after the quick victory in the Spanish-American War (1898) that the USA became an Asian power by acquiring the Philippines, Guam and other previously Spanish possessions. Cambell believes that Washington had another cultural reason for turning to Asia. Early Americans were of European descent, which falsely confirmed Washington’s Atlantic worldview. Campbell notes that the United States did indeed turn to Asia at some moments, but in his opinion, these moments were rare and temporary. Interestingly, Campbell’s book criticises Roosevelt’s neglect of Asian affairs in the early to mid-1930s and President Truman’s early retreat from Asia in the post-war period, particularly in relation to China. In his book, Pivot’s author acknowledges the tensions inherent in China’s challenge to US dominance in Asia and the world and points to potential eruption points in East Asia and the Pacific that could lead to open conflict. However, he believes that a more “subtle” and “nuanced” US policy could convince China to abide by 21st century rules, values and principles.

Cambell’s book “The Pivot” is about Washington’s future stance towards Asia and China in particular. He examines how and what strategy the United States should develop in order to manoeuvre properly in Asia and not lose ground in the region. The book is a particularly fascinating read for anyone who wants to understand the movements of US diplomacy and strategy towards Asia today.

Szabolcs Veres – the author is a researcher at the Eurasia Center

Kurt Campbell: The Pivot – The Future of American Statecraft in Asia

Publisher: Twelve; Illustrated edition

Publication date: 2016

ISBN: 978-1455568956

Pages: 432

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