THE PIVOT by Kurt M. Campbell


The Future of American Statecraft in Asia
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A former top diplomat promotes the much-ballyhooed "Pivot to Asia."

"The arc from Japan and China to India is the most dynamic in the world, home to the world's fastest-growing economies, its largest middle class, and some of its most dangerous security hotspots," declares former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Campbell (co-author: Difficult Transitions: Foreign Policy Troubles at the Outset of Presidential Power, 2008, etc.). The United States, however, has a long history of treating Asia as a "secondary theater," sporadically engaging with it and then turning away to deal with Europe, the Middle East, or domestic concerns. This behavior, argues the author, serves the U.S. poorly, and he makes a compelling case for the "pivot," a redirection or rebalancing of American attention to Asia. Campbell begins by surveying Asia's astonishing size and economic muscle and then summarizes American policy in Asia from the 1850s to the present. The heart of his argument is a 10-point American strategy for Asia, in which the author sets out in considerable detail his recommendations for intensified political, economic, and military engagement with the various nations of the continent. While Campbell covers American relations with an emerging China at length, he emphasizes that the pivot is not about that country alone but about "embed[ding] China policy within a much wider and more inclusive regional framework." Finally, the author addresses obstacles to the pivot's implementation, particularly Americans' exhaustion with foreign affairs and skepticism of trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Campbell considers "the true sine qua non of the Pivot." Given his diplomatic experience, the author is well-informed and deeply thoughtful, but too much of his book reads like a PowerPoint presentation or policy briefing. Discussions of various countries or regions are designed to be read separately, which means that common observations are frequently repeated. The work is thorough and earnestly presented but not engaging.

Invaluable for Asia policy wonks but not recommended for general readers.

Pub Date: June 7th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4555-6895-6
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Twelve
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2016


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