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Lieberman on the Asia-Pacific

1:51 PM, Nov 4, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Independent Democratic senator Joe Lieberman recently visited the Heritage Foundation to talk about the Asia-Pacific: 

Here's the full text: 

Thank you, Ed, for that kind introduction, and for your distinguished leadership of the Heritage Foundation over many years. It is always a pleasure to come over to Heritage.

From the Hart Office Building where my Senate office is, I can see the American flag that flies over this building -- a constant reminder to me of the principled, patriotic, and important work that I know is being done every day at Heritage.

I am grateful for the invitation to deliver the B.C. Lee Lecture on International Affairs. Some of our country’s most distinguished national security leaders have participated in this lecture series, and I am honored to have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps. I also want to recognize Walter Lohman, the director of the Asian studies program at Heritage, for all his work in organizing today’s event.

Over the past decade, the region of the world that has most visibly occupied the attention of American foreign policy has been the greater Middle East. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a day in the life of either President Bush or President Obama during the past ten years in which the Middle East did not play a prominent role -- whether because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Iranian nuclear program, or now the Arab Spring. The Middle East is a part of the world that has been, and remains, the source of some of the most direct and potent threats to our national security. It has also been the subject of some of the most polarizing and partisan debates in our domestic politics. 

The Asia-Pacific region, by contrast, has not occupied nearly so prominent a place in our public discourse. But as the old expression goes, still waters run deep.

In fact, for the past several years, under both Presidents Bush and Obama, the U.S. has been pursuing a variety of initiatives that have deepened and strengthened America's presence and engagement across the Asia-Pacific region.

Among the most significant of these measures have been efforts to modernize and expand our historic alliances and partnerships in the region; establish new strategic partnerships with rising powers like India; foster greater trilateral security cooperation -- for instance, among the U.S., Japan and South Korea; conduct enhanced dialogue with China on a range of issues; and embed the U.S. in the evolving multilateral security and economic architecture of the region.

These collective efforts to deepen our presence and engagement in the Asia-Pacific over the past decade have been driven by several real and powerful factors. Most broadly and fundamentally, they reflect a longstanding, bipartisan recognition that America’s own security, freedom, and prosperity are inseparably intertwined with the future of the Asia-Pacific region. This is a consensus that has tied together not only the Bush and Obama presidencies, but multiple administrations of both parties since the late 1940s.

As former Defense Secretary Bob Gates rightly put it during his final appearance at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore in June, “The commitment and presence of the United States as a Pacific nation has been one of relatively few constants amidst the furious changes in the region over the past half-century.” 

America's deepening engagement also reflects the recognition that as countries in the Asia-Pacific region have experienced extraordinary economic growth over the past several decades, there have opened new opportunities for us to work together to build a freer, safer, and more prosperous world that will benefit them and us. Having reaped the rewards of an international system that has enabled their rise, the successful countries of the Asia-Pacific region now have both a self-interest and a responsibility to help reinforce and sustain that system.

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