The Obama administration has announced that it is back in Asia. After years of being distracted with the so-called "War on Terror" and regime change/state building in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States is turning its attention back to what many foreign policy analysts inside and outside the government agree is the primary foreign policy challenge of the 21rst century: maintaining and promoting the development of a peaceful and prosperous Asian region. The US policy faces many challenges outside of Asia, including continued instability in the Middle East as well the implications of fiscal austerity measures. But perhaps some of the thorniest problems it faces are inside of the region. Powerful forces are feeding increased tensions in Asia over an array of territorial maritime issues - many of them involving uninhabited islands and rocks of little intrinsic economic or even strategic value. These disputes pit two central US policy objectives against one another: engaging China versus reassuring America's traditional allies in the region. What is driving these disputes? What are their implications for US relations with its allies, and for peace and stability in the region? and what may the consequences be for US allies and partners outside of Asia, especially in Europe? These are the questions that will be addressed in the presentation.
Thomas Berger is Associate Professor of International Relations at Boston University. His research focuses on German and Japanese Politics, International Relations and Comparative Government in East Asia. He is the author of War, Guilt and World Politics After World War II, Cultures of Antimilitarism: National Security in Germany and Japan and is co-editor of Japan in International Politics: Beyond the Reactive State. His articles and essays have appeared in numerous edited volumes and journals, including International Security, Review of International Studies, German Politics and World Affairs Quarterly.