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The politics of power projection: the pivot to Asia, its failure, and the future of American primacy

Harris, Peter and Trubowitz, Peter (2021) The politics of power projection: the pivot to Asia, its failure, and the future of American primacy. The Chinese Journal of International Politics, 14 (2). 187 - 217. ISSN 1750-8916

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Identification Number: 10.1093/cjip/poab002


Why did the Obama administration's attempted pivot (or “rebalance”) to Asia fail? In this article, we argue that three interrelated domestic factors are to blame: hyper-partisanship in Washington, DC; the lack of a compelling foreign-policy narrative to make the pivot intelligible and attractive to a broad slice of the political class and domestic public; and the related failure to convince enough Americans that the pivot was necessary to boost their economic fortunes. These domestic stumbling blocks made it impossible for the Obama administration to invest US power assets toward a long-term programmatic endeavor in the Asia-Pacific. In making this argument about the domestic foundations of US power-projection, we improve upon existing explanations of the pivot's undoing that focus on international-level obstacles, problems with the pivot's design and implementation, or the unexpected election of Donald Trump as Obama's successor. We conclude by drawing implications for US power projection beyond the pivot and, indeed, beyond East Asia—suggesting that the US political system has become a weak foundation upon which to build any ambitious foreign-policy superstructure.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
J Political Science > JK Political institutions (United States)
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2021 13:30
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2024 03:21

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