from Asia Program

Lost Decade

The U.S. Pivot to Asia and the Rise of Chinese Power 

Robert D. Blackwill and Richard Fontaine evaluate the limitations of the Pivot to Asia and offer a compelling vision for the future of U.S. foreign policy in the Indo-Pacific.

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

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Lost Decade is an essential guide for understanding the historic shift to Asia-centric geopolitics and its implications for the United States’ present and future. 
Across the political spectrum, there is wide agreement that Asia should stand at the center of U.S. foreign policy. But this worldview, first represented in the Barack Obama administration’s 2011 “Pivot to Asia,” marks a dramatic departure from the entire history of American grand strategy. More than a decade on, we now have the perspective to evaluate it in depth. In Lost Decade, Robert D. Blackwill and Richard Fontaine—two eminent figures in American foreign policy—take this long view. They conclude that while the Pivot’s strategic logic is strong, there are few successes to speak of, and that we need a far more coherent approach to the Indo-Pacific region. They examine the Pivot through various lenses: situating it historically in the context of U.S. global foreign policy, revealing the inside story of how it came about, assessing the effort thus far, identifying the ramifications in other regions (namely Europe and the Middle East), and proposing a path forward. 
The authors stress that the United States has far less margin for foreign policy error today than a decade ago. As the international order becomes more unstable, Blackwill and Fontaine argue that it is imperative that policymakers fully understand what the Pivot to Asia aimed to achieve—and where it fell short—in order to muster the resources, alliances, and resolve to preserve an open order in Asia and the world. Crafting an effective policy for the region, they contend, is crucial for preserving American security, prosperity, and democratic values. 

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Reviews and Endorsements

Getting Asia right is the single most important issue for American foreign policy. This bracing book must be read by anyone who wants to understand or shape policy. Agree or disagree, this is a perspective that must be reckoned with. 

Dr. Lawrence H. Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary

An important and well-researched explanation of the flawed assumptions that underpinned US policy for far too long.

General H.R. McMaster (ret.), former U.S. National Security Advisor

Three administrations in a row, on a bipartisan basis, have now prioritized Asia in key strategic documents. Yet the day-to-day preferences of the U.S. government have demonstrated that this shift exists on paper only, with few concrete resource or force allocation shifts to speak for over a decade of apparent effort. Lost Decade represents an important contribution to help policymakers understand why the long-promised pivot to Asia failed to materialize, and just as important, how America can meet the scale of the challenge in its priority theater.

Representative Mike Gallagher, Chairman of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party

A must-read for foreign policy analysts. Blackwill and Fontaine's diagnosis of U.S.’ failed Pivot to Asia—a ‘historic missed opportunity’—is a compelling explanation of why reordering priorities in American foreign policy is almost too hard.

Dr. Graham Allison, Harvard Professor; Author of Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydidess Trap?

Lost Decade constitutes an enormously important contribution by two universally respected practitioner-scholars and clearly identifies the actions that need to be taken by the United States and its allies to accomplish the most important task in the world today—ensuring that the elements of deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region are absolutely rock solid.

General David Petraeus (ret.), former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

In Lost Decade, Robert Blackwill and Richard Fontaine examine the U.S.’ decade-plus attempt to focus on Asia. Their account details a critical period in the history of U.S. foreign policy, and it discerns lessons directly applicable to today’s policy choices. In calling for a renewed pivot to Asia while maintaining key commitments elsewhere, the authors offer a grand strategic approach to the new world now upon us. All those interested in the great foreign policy issues of our day should read this book.

Governor Jon Huntsman, former U.S. ambassador to China and Russia

Blackwill and Fontaine bring their extensive government and academic experience to bear in documenting the Pivot’s history, and they articulate a new strategic concept that couples a focus on China with other threats that aren’t going away. A must-read for policymakers and others trying to make sense of a world awash with challenges.

Representative Jane Harman, former Congresswoman; Chair, Commission on National Defense Strategy

This authoritative, carefully researched study shows why the pivot never quite materialized...but also explains why it is still needed and what is required for it to become a reality.

Dr. Richard Haass, President Emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations; former Director of Policy Planning, U.S. State Department

Meticulously researched and powerfully argued, Lost Decade lays out why the United States’ last “pivot” to Asia fell short and why we can’t afford to fall short again. Fontaine and Blackwill take on some of the most fundamental questions in U.S. foreign policy while retaining a sharp focus on practical solutions, making Lost Decade vital reading not just for policymakers, but for anyone interested in the past, present, and future of U.S. grand strategy.

Representative Seth Moulton, Congressman, Massachusetts

Lost Decade raises grand strategic questions about how the United States should deal with China that foreign policy thinkers and practitioners must address. Happily, it provides specific answers that are likely to attract bipartisan support, including a policy “to-do list.” Even China watchers who disagree with the authors’ assumptions and conclusions will find this a valuable read.

Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Director of Policy Planning, U.S. State Department

In the Press

Obama Tried to Pivot to Asia in 2011. We Must Succeed This Time.

Courtesy of the Washington Post

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