Education About Asia, Winter 2012 edition

The US As a Pacific Nation


In “The US As a Pacific Nation”, published as the lead article in the Winter 2012 edition of Education About Asia, Dr. Satu Limaye shows readers that the American commitment to being a Pacific nation is not new, but it is ongoing. In the article, Dr. Limaye specifically addresses America's Pacific presence, doubts about the US as a Pacific nation and the US pivot toward Asia.

Throughout the analysis, Dr. Limaye demonstrates that it is a complex mix of American ideas as well as broad US-Asia connections that now make the US part of the Asia Pacific region. According to Dr. Limaye,

“Part of what makes the US a ‘Pacific nation’, apart from a Pacific coastline and owning territory in that ocean, is a mental image or identity of being so. A complex and intricate mix of history, ideas and interests have shaped the story of the US being a Pacific nation.”

History has seen the US turn from a strictly Eurocentric nation to one with a plethora of Pacific territories and interests. Dr. Limaye recounts some of these watershed historical moments such as the opening of the Panama Canal by the US in 1915. But, to truly understand what comprises this country’s Pacific nature today, one must consider the multitude of ongoing interactions between Americans throughout the country with Asia. Dr. Limaye points to trade, investment, Asian-Americans, foreign students and other relationships as examples of this broad and sustained connection.

In a section of the article titled A Pivot Toward the Pacific? Dr. Limaye addresses the Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen relationships in the Asia Pacific region:

“The notion that America’s destiny depends in great part on getting the Pacific right has echoes from earlier periods in US history and has been a staple across US administrations, whether led by a Democrat or Republican.”

Citing policy statements by President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Dr. Limaye explains to readers why recent rebalancing and pivoting toward Asia is necessary. Dr. Limaye concludes that,

“The US has long sought to prevent a situation in which a major country seeks to exclude the US from pursuing its interests in the region.” Current strategic competitions in Asia “…will heavily influence whether the US will remain, as it has so longed to do, a committed, enduring Pacific nation in the unfolding twenty-first century”.