The Problem of Asia: America’s Search for Strategy in the Pacific from 1784 to the Rise of China

Michael Green Headshot
Date & Time Dec 02 2021 4:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Michael Green
Audience Open to the Public

In this talk Professor Michael J. Green will preview his forthcoming book on the history of American statecraft in Asia and explain how those lessons apply as mastery of the Western Pacific is again being contested. While many accounts of American policy in Asia begin with the end of the Second World War or perhaps the Spanish American War, in fact the core concepts of American engagement across the Pacific were established by the first Americans to travel to the Far East in the year after the Revolutionary War ended. First and foremost among these concepts was the principle that no rival hegemon should be permitted to turn the Pacific from a conduit for the free flow of trade and ideas Westward into an avenue for threats that might emanate from Asia towards the North American continent. Yet these earliest thinkers on Asia also encountered challenges that have complicated American planning to this day. Are U.S. interests more closely aligned with China at the center of Asia or Japan at the center of the Pacific? How far forward should the American defensive line be in the Pacific? Are democratic values an instrument of influence in the region or an obstacle to national interest? And how much of a stake does the United States have in Asia compared with historic ties to Europe and the immediacy of crises in the Middle East?

Professor Green will examine how American strategists have wrestled with these contradictions over two centuries and why these themes continue to shape strategic debates on the region today.  He will draw not only on his forthcoming book, but also his recently completed report on the Obama administration’s “Rebalance to Asia” which was commissioned by the U.S. Congress and published in January.


Michael Jonathan Green is senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and chair in modern and contemporary Japanese politics and foreign policy at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He served on the staff of the National Security Council (NSC) from 2001 through 2005, first as director for Asian affairs, with responsibility for Japan, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, and then as special assistant to the president for national security affairs and senior director for Asia, with responsibility for East Asia and South Asia. Before joining the NSC staff, he was senior fellow for East Asian security at the Council on Foreign Relations, director of the Edwin O. Reischauer Center and the Foreign Policy Institute, and an assistant professor at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University, research staff member at the Institute for Defense Analyses, and senior adviser on Asia in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He also worked in Japan on the staff of a member of the National Diet.

Dr. Green is also currently a nonresident fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, and a distinguished scholar at the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation in Tokyo. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Strategy Group, the America Australia Leadership Dialogue, the advisory board of the Center for a New American Security, and the editorial boards of the Washington Quarterly and theJournal of Unification Studies in Korea. He is also an associate of the U.S. Intelligence Community. Dr. Green has authored numerous books and articles on East Asian security. His current research includes a book project on the history of U.S. strategy in Asia; a survey of elite views of norms, power, and regional institutions in Asia; and a monograph on Japanese strategic culture. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees from SAIS and did additional graduate and postgraduate research at Tokyo University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his bachelor’s degree in history from Kenyon College with highest honors. He holds a black belt in Iaido (sword) and has won international prizes on the great highland bagpipe.