Last Thursday's inaugural Owen Harries Lecture by former US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell will live long in the memory of the packed audience at the Lowy Institute, and not just for the Madeline Albright-Alexander Downer anecdote which closed the event. Yes, diplomacy can be funny, but Campbell, one of America's most experienced and respected Asia diplomats, also had some deadly serious messages to deliver. A few things to listen out for in the podcast below:
- US politics is witnessing an unholy alliance between far left and far right, with both wary of foreign adventurism and the excesses of the surveillance state. Centrists in the two parties must unite, but that's never been harder. Thankfully, there is bipartisan agreement around America's goals in Asia.
- The development of a strong and durable US-China relationship is the defining challenge of the next 20 years.
- That said, America is on the whole too focused on North East Asia at the expense of ASEAN.
- There is a 'remarkably small' group of people in the US who think strategically about Asia. The US military has the challenge of preparing the next generation of leaders for America's Asia pivot, many of whom have had formative experiences in entirely different military theatres and circumstances: Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Those wars also affect the way the Asia pivot has been covered in the media. With a generation of Asia-literate journalists decimated by changes in the media landscape, much Asia coverage is being done by journalists with experience in Middle East wars. They emphasised the military aspect of the pivot, which is its least important dimension.