Looking Beyond Iraq: East Asian Challenges and Opportunities

In both his public speech to the nation Wednesday evening and his private meeting the day before with House Democrats, President Bush warned that a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq would encourage international terrorism and gravely damage America's standing in the Middle East. On this basis, he has called for increasing the commitment of U.S. troops and other resources to the region.

Although the crisis in Iraq is important, the administration needs to pay more attention to other regions of equal if not greater long-term significance. In particular, the conflict has already generated major trends in East Asia gravely harmful to U.S. goals and interests.

First, many influential Asians believe that the United States has become excessively preoccupied with the Middle East at the expense of its interests in the Pacific. Second, American military difficulties have reinforced perennial if mistaken doubts about U.S. staying power in East Asia. Third, Washington's problems in Iraq have emboldened rogue states and hostile non-state entities to challenge the United States and its allies in the region. Fourth, developments in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea have stimulated concerns that Japan might loosen its tight security ties with the United States and perhaps even develop an independent nuclear arsenal. Finally, China has been exploiting these and other trends to bolster its own position in East Asia at U.S. expense.

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