Oliver Turner

This chapter begins by exploring the ideational and material foundations of the United States’ modern-day presence across the Asia Pacific. Since the early to mid- nineteenth century the United States has pursued a position of imperial hegemony throughout the region, to secure an American Pacific framed by the perceived civilisational values and physical authority of the American self. As a result, the Asia Pacific has long been understood in Washington to constitute an extension of US territory and identity. The chapter then turns to the presidency of Barack Obama, to demonstrate how his policies and worldviews were heavily informed by centuries of embedded logics about the United States and its role in the Asia Pacific. It then assesses what the first two years of the Donald Trump presidency reveal about the historical legacies of the United States’ enduring regional presence in the post-Obama era. Key legacies of the American Pacific for US administrations remain manifest as routinely unquestioned truths about the United States as a local actor throughout a distant region. An ever-expanding reach of US influence and authority has led to an ever-expanding sense of responsibility to sustain and defend itself there.

in The United States in the Indo-Pacific
Obama’s Legacy and the Trump Transition

This edited volume explores the political, economic and security legacies former US President Barack Obama leaves across Asia and the Pacific, following two terms in office between 2009 and 2017. The aim is to advance our understanding of Obama’s style, influence and impact by interrogating the nature and contours of US engagement throughout the region, and the footprint he leaves behind. Moreover, it is to inform upon the endurance of, and prospects for, the legacies Obama leaves in a region increasingly reimaged in Washington as the Indo-Pacific. Contributors to the volume examine these questions in early 2019, at around the halfway point of the 2017–2021 Presidency of Donald Trump, as his administration opens a new and potentially divergent chapter of American internationalism. The volume uniquely explores the contours and dimensions of US relations and interactions with key Indo-Pacific states including China, India, Japan, North Korea and Australia; multilateral institutions and organisations such the East Asia Summit and ASEAN; and salient issue areas such as regional security, politics and diplomacy, and the economy. It does so with contributions from high-profile scholars and policy practitioners, including Michael Mastanduno, Bruce Cumings, Maryanne Kelton, Robert Sutter and Sumit Ganguly. The volume will be of interest to students and scholars of the international relations of Asia and the Pacific, broadly defined; US foreign policy and global engagement; the record and legacies of former President Barack Obama; and the foreign policies of the administration of President Donald Trump.