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Sustaining an Approach of Strategic Ambiguity for U.S. Policy in the Asian Pacific

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Technical Report

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Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States

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Since the beginning of the Cold War, United States policy in the Asian Pacific has applied strategic ambiguity to sustain a status quo defined by stability and prosperity. This status quo has served U.S. national interests in a dynamic security environment while fostering Chinas rise to a great power in the 21st Century. As the United States rebalances its strategic focus to the Asian Pacific, this strategic approach will continue to serve U.S. national interests.Strategic ambiguity, as an approach to U.S. policy in the Asian Pacific, is the paradoxical concept that stability is sustainable in the midst of a crisis by increasing uncertainty. By avoiding self-righteous behavior and quick closure, promoting cooperation through unified diversity and not focused wrongness, and signaling intentions through relationships and actions rather than just words, the United States has achieved normalization of relations with Communist China and maintained status as the global leader of a liberal international order.As a benefactor of Asian Pacific stability and prosperity, China has risen to great power status, creating concerns for U.S. allies and partners in the region. While continued U.S. involvement in the Asian Pacific is consistent with its national interests, the United States must find the delicate balance between emboldening Asian Pacific nations, who would challenge Chinas increasing influence and assertiveness, and depriving them of U.S. security commitments. Emboldened or abandoned states are more likely to destabilize the region. The framework for an approach of strategic ambiguity provides U.S. policymakers with a guide to walk the narrow line that avoids instability and potential escalation to an undesirable confrontation between the U.S. and China.

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