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Reader riposte: US-AUS strategic outlooks

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This post is part of the What is the US consensus on China? debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

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29 June 2011 09:24


This post is part of the What is the US consensus on China? debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

Peter Layton responds to Sam Roggeveen:

In line with CSIS's Mike Green I am a little surprised at your surprise. While Nicolas Burns may be a little more hard line than Mike's formulation, US thinking on China has for several years (at least) been to favor a mixture of balancing and engaging. Whether this is wise, or is the optimum policy, or may have unintended consequences is another argument entirely but it certainly seems a consensus view in official and think-tank Washington DC. In this there are some mild variations, Republicans hanker after primacy, while democrats seek to 'enhance..global leadership', but the gap between the two is more apparent than real. Two points:

Firstly: Mike Green notes 'between American and Australian policymakers and scholars...we still do not completely understand each other's strategic outlooks.'  An American Under-Secretary once remarked that Australians seem to have a lot of trouble with cognitive dissonance. Australians, unlike Americans, find it difficult to hold two mutually contradictory ideas at once. Your surprise and related blog comments on combining predominance with engagement may be another proof of that observation on our respective national differences.

Secondly, the last time I recall Americans making the point as Mike Green does that 'the United States...can walk and chew gum at the same time' was in 2002 and early 2003 when doubters were advised that unipolar America could easily handle remaking Afghanistan and invading Iraq simultaneously. Maybe concerns over cognitive dissonance have a place in international relations after all.

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