Panel Paper: The Evolving Nature of US Security Alliances in East Asia: Viewed As a Complex Adaptive System

Friday, November 9, 2018
8228 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Tim R McDonald and Dung Huynh, Pardee RAND Graduate School

The U.S. security alliances and partnerships in East Asia (including Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Singapore) are critical to both American interests and Asian security and stability.

Traditional perspectives on U.S. security alliances and partnerships, such as “hub and spoke” pattern or bilateral ties, with concentration on separate relations, may no longer work well in the new context characterized by globalization with diverse and multi-disciplinary interconnections; emerging non-state actors; unpredictable security threats e.g. cyber risks; advanced technology in defense and security; changing targets from Cold War communism to China, North Korea, terrorism; and new potential partners like Vietnam or Myanmar.

Understanding the current and future U.S. security alliances therefore requires a new approach which should account for these changing conditions. This paper will review traditional perspectives of US alliance and partnership in East Asia as well as their drawbacks and then suggest frameworks from different fields of complexity analysis that can provide novel perspectives, viewing them complex adaptive systems (CAS). Doing so places focus on the interactions among states and non-state actors in a multidisciplinary context of the alliance and their consequently emerging behaviors.

The implications of this approach would include additional, possibly novel options for the U.S. and its partners which are relevant to the U.S. newly-launched National Security Strategy. While it may not necessarily provide a solution to security issues, this complexity perspective may offer new thinking and understanding of the issues, more relevant to today’s context.