My name is Joseph Singh. I am a Government major and Public Policy minor at Dartmouth College. My thesis will study the impact of major shift in U.S. grand strategy — from deep engagement to off-shore balancing — on the strategic environment in East Asia.
I grew up fascinated by international relations. I came of age at a time when the public focus turned from an inward to decidedly outward focus. During the 1990s, foreign policy was a marginal concern for most, with huminitarian interventions momentarily dotting the screens of the evening news. Even George W. Bush, when campaigning during the 2000 elections, said little about foreign policy. Some characterized his foreign policy stance as isolationist in response.
Everything change after 9/11. All I can remember as a child was war and international politics as I watched the news with my mother or heard elders talking politics over dinner. In turn, the enormous costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the dire fiscal situation in the United States, have caused a new surge in scholarship about America’s current grand strategy. Should it stay the course and stay deeply engaged in the world? Should it keep its dozens of alliances and security commitments, its robust basing presence overseas and continue to spend large sums of money on defense? Can it still pursue its interests (perhaps even more effectively) with a retrenched presence abroad, and one which relies on fewer alliances and bases, and more heavily on off-shore balancing power?
The political science literature is full of reasoned and thoughtful opinions on the merits of each side. But the arguments have been mostly theoretical. Some posit that retrenchment will cause greater instability. As the U.S. retreats from regions like East Asia, arms races will spur and conflict may become more likely. Others posit that the current grand strategy makes conflict more likely because America’s overwhelming military power causes adversaries to “balance against” it. But none of these theories has been robustly tested. My paper seeks to draw out a hypothetical scenario in which the United States partially retrenches from East Asia and test the impact of this withdrawal on public support for various security strategies in Japan and Korea. For instance, would Koreans be more likely to support developing nuclear weapons without American security commitments? In turn, I hope for this paper to shed some empirical light on the robust, but principally theoretical grand strategy debate.