Obama's "Rebalance" in Historical Context

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Political Science



Publication Title

The New US Strategy Towards Asia : Adapting to the American Pivot


When Barack Obama's Administration first announced plans to accord top priority to the Asia-Pacific in its global foreign policy planning, it referred to the campaign as a 'pivot ' to Asia. It soon became clear, however, that the term created problems for Washington, since key friends and allies interpreted a pivot as a brief, tactical manoeuvre. As a result, the United States has set­tled upon the term 'rebalance' to describe the priority that it accords to the Asia-Pacific. This term makes much more sense, not just from the point of view of marketing, but also from the point of view of historical accuracy, since the Obama Administration 's engagement with Asia is the next stage in an American grand strategy of balance of power that has been evolving since the late nineteenth century. The core of this grand strategy has been an American commitment to block any government from achieving hegemonic dominance in the Asia-Pacific. US policies designed to serve this strategy have met with varying degrees of success, but the commitment has endured for over a century. This chapter begins by surveying the history of America's grand strategy in the Asia-Pacific. I then discuss the challenges that the Obama Administration has faced, and will face, in its effort to rebalance US grand strategy in this rapidly changing region .


Published as:
Stuart, Douglas. “Obama's "Rebalance" in Historical Context.” In The New US Strategy Towards Asia : Adapting to the American Pivot, edited by William T. Tow and Douglas Stuart, 9-29. New York: Routledge, 2015.

For more information on the published version, visit Routledge's Website.

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