Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Presenting the Summer 2014 Issue of Orbis

Presenting the Summer 2014 Issue of Orbis

  • July 11, 2014

Presenting the Summer 2014 Issue of Orbis

  • July 11, 2014

By Mackubin T. Owens

Mac Owens is Editor of Orbis, FPRI’s quarterly journal of international affairs, and Senior Fellow in our Program on National Security. Orbis is published for the Foreign Policy Research Institute by Elsevier. For subscription or other information, visit:

In the lead article of our summer issue of Orbis, Kori Schake of the Hoover Institution, a former high-level staffer at both the Pentagon and State Department during the George W. Bush administration, takes the executive branch, Congress, and the U.S. military all to task for failing to align policy, strategy, and resources. She contends that we are “playing a strong hand poorly,” while “self-indulgently consoling ourselves with the [patently false] refrain that no one has ever had it as difficult as we.”  She refutes this claim by contrasting today’s defense debate with the one that took place during the Eisenhower Administration, concluding that the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, unlike the Basic National Security Policy (BNSP) review of 1954, did not truly address the challenges the United States faces and how to reorient our forces to address them.

This issue of Orbis also contains an important cluster of articles drawn from a conference on “The Great Divergence? Economic Integration and Political Conflict in Asia,” cosponsored by FPRI and the Reserve Officers Association, held in Washington D.C. in October 2013. We will follow up in our fall issue with several more articles from this conference.

In the first cluster article, June Teufel Dreyer discusses relations between China and Japan, calling into question “integration theory,” which claims that the growing economic interdependence between China and Japan should have spilled over into more cordial political relations. But although both China and Japan acknowledge that improved economic cooperation has resulted in benefits for both sides, commercial and strategic rivalries have intensified.

Deepa M. Ollapally makes a similar case for India and China, examining the degree to which theories of economic inter-dependence and structural realism explain the disconnect regarding growing economic relations between the two countries on the one hand and continuing strategic mistrust between them on the other.  She argues that the Indian debate on China is more nuanced and complex than what an exclusive focus on either interdependence or realism would suggest.

Robert Sutter continues the discussion regarding integration and divergence, arguing that although there have been many sources of tension in U.S.-China relations since the Cold War, they generally have been held in check by circumstances that have inclined the governments to cooperate. Nonetheless, the multi-faceted U.S.-China relationship remains fragile. Given the complicated situations, such frameworks as the contemporary “great divergence,” and forecasts based on them, have proven to be incomplete and incorrect.

Felix K. Chang argues that national economic and political interests of its member countries already pull ASEAN in one direction from the inside. Yet, great power policies now pull it in a different direction from the outside.  He concludes that the United States should recognize the limits of the “ASEAN way” and not press ASEAN to do more than it can deliver.  For example, pushing for greater unity might, paradoxically, tear the organization asunder.

Although not written as part of last fall’s conference, Carl C. Hodge provides historical context for the reorientation of the defense policy of the United States in an era of austerity towards the Asia Pacific region. This “rebalancing” results from a diminished concern for European security since the end of the Cold War, and the emergence of the People’s Republic of China as a strategic competitor. He discusses, among other topics, the reasoning behind this change, operational concepts such as Air-Sea Battle that have emerged with it, and its implications for European allies.

Luis Simón and Daniel Fiott write about some of the implications for Europe as the United States refocuses its attention and resources towards the Asia-Pacific region. The authors argue that the (re)surfacing of “indigenous” geopolitical trends poses several challenges for both U.S. interests and European security. Insofar as Europe’s security and cohesion have for decades been premised upon a strong U.S. political and strategic engagement, Washington’s intention to “rebalance” to Asia casts a shadow over the sustainability of a stable and coherent geopolitical order on the continent.

W. Andrew Terrill writes that despite claims that Iran has been involved in supporting northern Yemeni rebels seeking autonomy from the Sana’a government such assertions have not always been easy to prove. This situation appears to have changed in 2011. Evidence of Iranian efforts to supply weapons to the northern rebels now seems overwhelming.  In addition, at least some of Yemen’s southern secessionists also look to be receiving at least limited Iranian financial support. 

Finally, Robert G. Kaufman examines what he claims are the main features and tenets of the so-called Obama Doctrine. He then assesses its operation, focusing on the geopolitically crucial regions of Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East before offering some concluding observations about its trajectory and consequences.

In our book review essay, Katherine L. Kidder, a research associate at the Center for a New American Security, engages three works on Bangladesh.