Shadow Government

Six challenges Obama faces in Asia in 2011, and six ways to overcome them

President Obama had a good year in Asia in 2010. It featured a more realistic China policy, a breakthrough visit to India, the shelving of an irritating base dispute with Japan, a surge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan that is creating results, intensification of a successful drone campaign against terrorists in Pakistan, and closer cooperation with key Southeast Asian nations. But challenges loom: China's growing assertiveness, mercantilistic trade policy, and development of anti-access capabilities that erode U.S. deterrence commitments in Asia; North Korean belligerence; Burmese repression and proliferation; and the continuing weakness of the Afghan and Pakistani states. How can President Obama counteract these trends in the new year while building on previous successes?

1.Implement a long-range strategy to sustain U.S. primacy in Asia in the face of China's challenge.

This means diversifying U.S. military-access and basing rights beyond Japan and Korea, deepening missile defense collaboration with these and other countries (including Taiwan), building up naval power in the Pacific and Indian oceans, and investing in next-generation technologies to counteract asymmetric Chinese weapons systems. With sustained commitment and smart investments, the United States is well-positioned to sustain its military edge in Asia, in part because nearly all regional powers find it reassuring and want to enable rather than constrain it. The harder work may be at home: decisively investing in the domestic reforms that liberate the United States to shape a new century, rather than wallowing in growing indebtedness and domestic discord.

2. Invest in the rise of key countervailing Asian powers that can contribute public goods of stability and security.

This includes prodding Japan, with its enormous but latent military and technological capabilities, to act on its new defense guidelines to become a "normal country" that is a net security provider in Asia; investing further in India's ascent to the top tier of global powers and partners; and working with Indonesia and Vietnam to develop the means to contribute to regional stability while maintaining their independence vis-à-vis their giant neighbor. It also means incorporating Russia into the Asian strategic equation in ways that reinforce common interests in sustaining the balance of power.

3. Unite the democracies.

Concern about China is accelerating the development of an array of minilateral groupings among regional democracies. These include U.S.-Japan-Australia, U.S.-Japan-Korea, and U.S.-Japan-India trilaterals as well as new security pacts between Japan and India, Japan and Australia, Australia and India, and India and South Korea. In the meantime, all these countries are working to forge closer strategic ties with Indonesia, a next-generation BRIC. An infrastructure of democratic security cooperation could help deter proliferation from problem states like North Korea and Burma, incentivize China's peaceful rise, and secure increasingly contested maritime commons.

4. Lead the big economies into deeper interdependence to catalyze trans-Pacific prosperity.

An aggressive agenda of economic liberalization is as important a source of U.S. leadership in Asia as its military forces stationed there. A new free trade agreement with South Korea, finalization of a Bilateral Investment Treaty with India, India's admission into APEC, and conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership would all be building blocks toward a Free Trade Area of the Indo-Pacific that would make the vast space from Miami to Mumbai the world's economic center. Only the United States, with its equally deep ties to the European Union (still the world's biggest economy), can muster the leadership to bring about such an outcome -- putting us at the center of a new global web of prosperity.

5. Win in Afghanistan.

President Obama's commitment, General Petraeus' strategy, and the hard work of U.S. forces and civilians partnered with Afghans could lay the foundation for a new era of stability in Afghanistan that sidelines the Taliban -- if Washington and its Western and Afghan partners have the will to sustain recent progress until it is irreversible. Construction of an Afghan state that can govern and secure itself, in which the insurgency is neutralized through a combination of military campaigns, improved governance, and political co-optation, would change Pakistan's calculus about its Afghan interests in ways that could reinforce rather than undermine regional stability. The United States and its partners should see the effort through -- not so we can stay there forever but so we can move on to bigger challenges (see above).

6. Don't run away from our values -- run on them.

China's intense debate about political liberalization, endemic corruption, and the next stage of economic growth -- which will hinge on innovation and ideas rather than unskilled manufacturing- demonstrates the vitality of what even the Chinese debate acknowledges as "universal values" of openness, accountability, transparency, and rule of law. Open societies from India to Indonesia embrace these values as their own. That is why it is so odd to hear some Americans envy China's state capitalism, or to assume that India's democratic politics mean it can never grow as fast as China. It may be that only open societies can sustain economic dynamism over time in ways not undermined by social inequality or political revolution. The United States should assume that its reformed model of democratic capitalism, appropriately regulated by trustworthy public institutions, is the model of the future -- not of the past. That bodes well for our continued leadership in 21st century Asia.

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Shadow Government

After New START, Obama must move forward on missile defense

The conventional wisdom about the pre-holiday lame duck Senate debate of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is that Republican leaders lost control of a bitterly divided caucus, handing President Obama a much-needed foreign-policy victory.

The reality, however, is closer to the view put forth by Senator Bob Corker, who, during the final floor debate prior to ratification, termed New START the "Nuclear Modernization and Missile Defense Act of 2010."

Although many key Republicans, including Sens. Jon Kyl, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and minority leader Mitch McConnell, ended up voting against ratification, the work they did behind the scenes in the months and weeks prior to the vote vastly improved the U.S. strategic situation post-ratification.

New START itself is a rather minor arms control agreement, with only minimal cuts to U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. Therefore much of the debate about the treaty was about ancillary issues the Russians attempted to bring into the treaty or about strategic issues not addressed by the treaty.

In two of these areas, Sen. Kyl and his colleagues did yeoman's work by prodding the administration to improve nuclear and missile defense policy. Through months of negotiations, he extracted a commitment from the Obama administration to provide $84.1 billion of funding over the next ten years to ensure that the aging U.S. nuclear stockpile is modernized. And during the final days of the Senate debate, Sen. Kyl, joined by Sen. McCain and others, obtained assurances from Obama regarding his long-term commitment to develop effective missile defenses.

Neither item may seem like a concession, given that both actions are fully in line with positions taken by previous administrations of both political parties.

But the president has made his goal of a world without nuclear weapons his top national security priority. He has been supported in this by a disarmament community on the left that has for years strongly opposed modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Similarly, Obama has not always been a strong supporter of missile defense and even appointed an official to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy who questioned the feasibility and necessity of such a system.

During his eight years in office, President Bush withdrew the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and proceeded to deploy a limited missile defense system in Alaska and California to protect the continental United States from threats emanating from North Korea and Iran. But many on the left, including then-Senator Barack Obama, were skeptical.

Candidate Obama highlighted concerns about the underlying technology behind the system. He spoke of the need to ensure missile defense technology was "pragmatic and cost-effective" and did not "divert resources from other national security priorities until we are positive the technology will protect the American public." He also pledged to "cut investments in unproven missile defense systems."

Missile defense advocates were, not surprisingly, concerned. Their fears were heightened when the president's first budget slashed missile defense by $1.4 billion and were amplified when in September 2009 the president announced his intention to abandon President Bush's plan for missile defense sites in Central Europe to confront the threat posed by Iran's emerging long-range missile capability.

The suspect timing of the announcement, just as the administration was attempting to conclude negotiations with Moscow on New START and the bungled handling of the rollout raised further concerns that the administration was willing to barter away missile defense in an effort to overcome Russia's longtime opposition to U.S. missile defense. The treaty text signed by Obama contributed to conservative angst by linking offensive and defensive weapons in the preamble, a linkage that Russia had long sought but that the Obama administration insisted would not affect its future missile defense plans.

President Obama reaffirmed this position in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid during the Senate debate on New START, his strongest statement to date on missile defense. The president wrote that "as long as I am president, as long as the Congress provides the necessary funding, the United States will continue to develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect the United States, our deployed forces, and our allies and partners."

The president also reaffirmed his commitment to fully implement all four phases of his new missile defense plan in Europe, including the fourth phase, which will involve interceptors capable of defending against long-range Iranian systems -- the phase that Russian officials may have had in mind when they threatened to withdraw from the treaty if the United States develops its missile defense system quantitatively or qualitatively.

Despite these commitments regarding funding for nuclear modernization and continued expansion of missile defenses, the administration will now have to follow through on its promises.

Modernization will have to be adequately funded even in the current tough economic climate. As it enters a new round of arms control negotiations with Russia on the issue of tactical nuclear weapons, the administration will have to do a better job of withstanding continued Russian efforts to limit U.S. missile defenses than they did during the negotiation of New START.

A more immediate concern relates to the fourth and final phase of Obama's approach to missile defense in Europe. This phase calls for the deployment later this decade of a missile that does not yet exist. This is exactly the type of untested technology that candidate Obama railed about in 2008, something he can address by providing continued funding in the FY 2012 budget for a backup in case the new interceptor doesn't prove to be viable in time to meet the rapidly evolving threat.

The Senate debate over New START was impassioned and divided Republicans. But Republicans successfully used the debate to prompt Obama to once again distance himself from the views of candidate Obama and many of his supporters on the left. By doing so, they strengthened U.S. national security.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images