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American Defence Policy and the Challenge of Austerity: Some Implications for Southeast Asia


This article examines the Obama administration's attempt to rebalance U.S. strategy towards the Asia-Pacific region with special emphasis on Southeast Asia. It argues that America's regional pivot is occurring at a time of unprecedented domestic fiscal austerity caused by a staggering level of national debt. The U.S. domestic budget crisis, the current "declinist" debate, concern over the rise of China, and the impact of sequestration on American defence spending are analysed and their implications for Southeast Asia are assessed. The article suggests that the most serious aspect of the U.S. debt crisis may be its impact upon American strategic resilience and geopolitical confidence. Thus, while many ASEAN nations have welcomed the U.S. strategic pivot as a valuable reinforcement of their security, they remain unsure that it is a sustainable policy. In the future, it is likely that reassuring ASEAN of the longevity of the U.S. commitment to the Asia-Pacific will require of Washington a skilled blend of budgetary reform, military presence, and sustained diplomatic effort.

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