The US and Implementing Multilateral Security in the Asia-Pacific: Can Convergent Security Work?

IFANS Review

Author/s (editor/s):

William Tow, H. D. P. Envall

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

William T. Tow and H. D. P. Envall, ‘The US and Implementing Multilateral Security in the Asia-Pacific: Can Convergent Security Work?’ IFANS Review (Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security), 19(2) 2011: 49-72.

The Obama administration has embraced multilateral security politics in the Asia-Pacific more visibly and more extensively than its predecessors. It has done so, however, by applying several key preconditions for the US involvement in this process: such involvement must be consistent with the purpose and maintenance of its bilateral alliances in the region, must reflect clear and shared interests and values which the U. could endorse and support, and must pursue clearly designated action plans to realize those interests and values. Subsequent to designating those criteria, US policy planners have employed alternate strategies of multilateral retrenchment and counterpunching which, it is argued here, have muddled Washington’s determination to achieve such conditions. Yet Washington has been reluctant to reconcile multilateral retrenchment and counterpunching by nominating a single unifying strategy to realize more concrete regional security and order-building. It is argued here that the convergent security approach provides an opportunity for the US to become a more enduring and meaningful player in evolving multilateral regional security architectures. The risk incurred in adopting this strategy is that its success depends on the willingness of the U.S. traditional allies in the region to collaborate more effectively with each other. To date, Washington has adopted a combination of bilateral, plurilateral, and multilateral security approaches to realize more effective institution-building as a way to underwrite regional stability. It has not nominated any one Asia-Pacific institution to achieve this policy objective. Instead, it has pursued what is at least a tacit convergent security posture by nominating different institutions and networks to achieve a diversity of policy interests and outcomes.

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