Monday, January 14, 2013

PF February 2013 - U.S. Interests

This analysis of the February 2013 PF debate topic, "On balance, the rise of China is beneficial to the interests of the United States." begins here with definitions.

The Pivot (Current US Policy)

Since Obama has taken office, the State Department has been shifting the policy focus from North Africa and the Middle East toward the Far East region (known as "the pivot").  This shift has been deliberate and orchestrated as a reaction to the coming end of the occupation of Afghanistan and in recognition of growing security threats in southeast Asia and the growing power of China. 

DoD 2012:
"U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region. Our relationships with Asian allies and key partners are critical to the future stability and growth of the region. We will emphasize our existing alliances, which provide a vital foundation for Asia-Pacific security. We will also expand our networks of cooperation with emerging partners throughout the Asia-Pacific to ensure collective capability and capacity for securing common interests."
"The maintenance of peace, stability, the free flow of commerce, and of U.S. influence in this dynamic region will depend in part on an underlying balance of military capability and presence. Over the long term, China’’s emergence as a regional power will have the potential to affect the U.S. economy and our security in a variety of ways. Our two countries have a strong stake in peace and stability in East Asia and an interest in building a cooperative bilateral relationship. However, the growth of China’’s military power must be accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region. The United States will continue to make the necessary investments to ensure that we maintain regional access and the ability to operate freely in keeping with our treaty obligations and with international law.  Working closely with our network of allies and partners, we will continue to promote a rules-based international order that ensures underlying stability and encourages the peaceful rise of new powers, economic dynamism, and constructive defense cooperation."

McCain (2012):
"While it’s wrong to speak of a, quote, “pivot” to Asia, the idea that we must rebalance U.S. foreign policy with an increasing emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region, that is undoubtedly correct. The core challenge we face is how to make this rebalancing effort meaningful, for at the moment, amid all of our political and fiscal problems, we run the risk of overpromising and underdelivering on our renewed commitment across the Pacific."

The so-called Obama pivot is deemed necessary to "rebalance" the shift of power and influence in the far east which has become unbalanced by recent events, such as the general rise of China as a strategic power and the successful tests of nuclear weapons in North Korea, to name a few.

U.S. Interests

Generally, U.S. interests are those things the U.S. considers important to its vitality and continued well-being.  U.S. interests fall into two primary categories; security interests, and economic interests.  Given the broad spectrum of items which fall under the umbrella of security and economic interests, we can generally state that U.S. interests have been the same since the late 1780's when the U.S. established its national identity.  Because it is not easy to find specific definitions of U.S. interests, I will post information from two different sources.

Specific to U.S. interests in east Asia, James Przystup of National Defense University offers the following:

Taking into consideration the nearly 225-year history of U.S. engagement with East Asia, this essay defines U.S. interests as the following:
■ Defense of the homeland and U.S. territories and protection of U.S. citizens. Today, U.S. forces are engaged across the Asia-Pacific region dealing with terrorist threats to the United States and its citizens.
■ Access to regional markets. The United States has supported efforts in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to open and secure market access and has promoted efforts to expand trade by creating an Asia-Pacific Free Trade Area and by signing free trade agreements with Australia, Singapore, and South Korea.  The U.S. Navy, operating from the West Coast, Hawaii, and bases in Japan and through access agreements with Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries, is positioned to assure freedom of the seas.
■ Maintenance of a balance of power to prevent the rise of any hegemon or group of powers that would impede U.S. political and economic access to the region. The system of bilateral U.S. alliances with Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand maintains a stable balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region.
■ Preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile delivery systems. The United States, along with China, the ROK, Japan, Russia, and North Korea, is engaged in the Six-Party Talks aimed at the denuclearization of North Korea. At the same time, the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) enjoys broad support across the region.
■ The promotion of democracy and human rights. For successive U.S. administrations, this has been an enduring element in policy, with notable successes in the Philippines, the ROK, and Taiwan.

In 2000, the Commission on America's national Interests published a paper which provides several lists of U.S. national interests, generally and in key regions.  For a complete list of U.S. interests for this debate and future debates, I recommend all debaters take a copy of this paper.  The following excerpt is a shortened list of U.S. interests related to the far east region.

Summary of US National Interests at Stake

• That the US establish productive relations with China, America's major potential strategic adversary in East Asia.
• That South Korea and Japan survive as free and independent states, and cooperate actively with the US to resolve important global and regional problems.

Extremely Important
• That peace be maintained in the Taiwan Strait and on the Korean Peninsula.
• That China and Japan achieve lasting reconciliation under terms that benefit America.

• That the East Asian countries, including China, continue on the path toward democracy and free markets.
• That East Asian markets grow more open to US goods, services, and investment.
• That a peaceful solution is reached to secondary territorial disputes such as those in the South China Sea or Senkaku Islands.

Amid concerns about the direction that China's rising power may take, together with the unresolved status of Taiwan, tensions with North Korea, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, it is easy to forget how advantageous a position the US enjoys in East Asia. By maintaining approximately 100,000 troops in the region (with much of the cost borne by host nations), the United States today retains low-cost influence that stands in sharp contrast to the Cold War, when it lost nearly 100,000 troops in two major conflicts. A key to US success in Asia is the strength of its alliance system there.

Click here for a link to the Pro Position


Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,
Department of Defense, January 2012

Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Defining American Interests in Asia
Senator John McCain, 2012

The United States and the Asia-Pacific Region: National Interests and Strategic Imperatives; Strategic Forum, No. 239
by James J. Przystup, 2009

America's National Interests; The Commission on America's National Interests
July 2000
Lead Authors: Graham T. Allison, Robert Blackwill


  1. wonderful, very informative. Thank you so much. We love you

  2. Totes agree with him

  3. In one of your replies to a previous post on this topic you stated that NEG had "emotional ground." However, I believe that you can frame U.S. Interests emotionally for AFF (and Neg) by appealing to the authority of the U.S. Constitution as the framework for defining the best interests of the United States (i.e., it should be the interests of our government/country to support the ideals in the Constitution). In essence argue that U.S. (as in government) interests should be internal security (establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity), external security (provide for the common defence), and relations with other countries (regulate commerce with foreign nations, immigration policy, treaties, etc.). To me this would be more effective than trying to define our interests as being directly tied with the survival of other countries (Summary of US National Interests at Stake-above), but will still allow you to use these items as examples. Additionally, this could help prevent the "definitional debate" and allow the teams to debate on the evidence supporting the various IR theories as well as statistical analysis of where U.S. interests would be without the rise of China.

    1. I am hoping the debate does not become too centered around definitions. Perhaps there will be some dispute about interests and perhaps about whether China is currently rising or has already risen. Regardless, I think your comment is very helpful. Thanks.

  4. Thank you, i'm in a Freshman debate class and i find this website very helpful to gather resources for my debate. The web is a scary place these days and its hard to find unbiased and factual information!


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