Commentary Magazine


No Policy–Well, Unless You Count His Policy

In today’s Christian Science Monitor, Simon Montlake speculates about “What Asia Wants From The Next U.S. President.” Asia analysts have told him they are looking for “a deeper commitment from the next US president to exploring global ways of tackling thorny issues, from trade protectionism to energy security and curbing nuclear proliferation” and “‘the next administration needs to focus on a strong U.S .presence in Asia and to convey [its commitment] clearly’ to the region.”

Montlake laments:

Beyond Iraq, neither Sen. John McCain nor Sen. Barack Obama has laid out detailed foreign-policy goals; nor do policymakers in Asia appear to expect them to at this point.

Funny he should write that. In an obscure newspaper called the Wall Street Journal, John McCain co-wrote with Joe Lieberman a piece called “Renewing America’s Asia Policy” in May. It turns out, not only has McCain addressed the future of the U.S.’s role in Asia, but his vision seems to correspond perfectly to what Montlake sees as the needs of Asians. Montlake quotes Ian Storey, of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore:

For most countries in Southeast Asia, though some say it more openly than others, the US is the most important security partner in the region, the key balancer in the region, and they won’t want to see any lessening of that role.

Here’s McCain and Lieberman:

Seizing these opportunities, however, will require strong American leadership and an unequivocal American commitment to Asia, whose fate is increasingly inseparable from our own. It requires internationalism rather than isolationism, and free trade rather than protectionism. When our friends and allies in the Asia-Pacific region think of the future, they should expect more — not less — attention, investment and cooperation from the highest levels of the U.S. government.

From the Montlake article:

For Asia, [an expressed U.S. commitment in Asia] means a stronger US presence at regional forums that the Bush administration has overlooked as it focuses on Iraq and Afghanistan.

From Sens. McCain and Lieberman:

Putting our alliances first, and bringing our friends into greater partnership in the management of both regional and global affairs, is key to meeting the collective challenges we face in a changing Asia and in a changing world. For the same reason, the U.S. must also participate more actively in Asian regional organizations.

And again. From the Montlake article:

“By enhancing mutual economic cooperation with the United States, South Korea hedges against economic dependency on China … as regional trading arrangements are increasingly shaped by the centripetal pull of China’s economic growth,” [Korea expert] Mr. Snyder wrote in a unpublished commentary.

From Sens. McCain and Lieberman:

Another objective of the next American president must be to deepen America‘s economic partnerships in Asia. U.S. trade with Asia has tripled over the past 15 years, creating millions of new jobs for Americans and elevating millions of Asians into middle-class consumers. Unfortunately, some American politicians are preying on the fears stoked by Asia‘s dynamism. Rather than investing in American innovation and entrepreneurship, they instead propose throwing up protectionist walls that will leave us all worse off.

This is profoundly irresponsible. The U.S. has never won respect or created jobs by retreating from free trade, and we cannot start doing so now.

With all the apparent experts in Montlake’s rolodex, he may want to clean house and make room for a capable research assistant.

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