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Why Are Current American Relations with Asia More Stable than with Europe?

Experience and Access:

If you look at the backgrounds of Bush Administration officials, you will see many with long and strong experience in Asia, a factor which must contribute to the stability of policy toward Asia. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific James Kelly were both naval officers with service records in the Pacific and hands on knowledge of Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia. Armitage is also thoroughly familiar with Pakistan and India, and has been the point man in dealing with that region. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, best known as the author of our Iraq policy, was former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, and served as Ambassador to Indonesia for several years. Ambassador to China Clark “Sandy” Randt has extensive experience as a lawyer in Hong Kong, speaks Mandarin, and most important has a strong personal relationship with the President. As a former fraternity brother in college, he can pick up the phone any time and get through. There are others, but it is clear that this government is not flying blind when it comes to Asia.

Domestic Politics

Finally, with the exception of a looming issue this election year centered around the export of jobs to Asia, there are few areas of our Asia policy that have strong constituencies in domestic American politics. Taiwan has an effective lobby on capitol hill, but has few domestic links, and nothing compared to the clout of AIPAC, which can directly hurt the reelection chances of any congressman or senator who goes against it on Middle East policy. The émigrés of Dade County, Florida dominate the policy of a key Presidential election swing state, dictate our policy toward Cuba, and affect our diplomacy throughout Latin America. American politicians are increasingly aware of the growing Asian American communities in their districts and woo them for votes, but the communities are still too fragmented to represent real power on any one Asian issue.

So, there you have it. For a variety of reasons—strategic interests, growing relative economic importance, qualified personnel in government and a lack of domestic political complications, we have a more stable and successful foreign policy in Asia. Let’s pray it stays that way.

Now, let’s open the floor for discussion.