Betwixt balance and community: America, ASEAN, and the security of Southeast Asia

Amitav Acharya, See Seng Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Realist scholars have long claimed, not incorrectly, that a US-led balance of power is fundamental to the security and prosperity of Southeast Asia. Yet the Southeast Asian experience has also been one where multilateral security dialogue and regional community formation figure prominently. In contrast to views which exaggerate the importance of US preponderance in Southeast Asia whilst dismissing regional multilateral efforts, we offer seven arguments against any undue overstatement of the US contribution to regional peace and stability. If anything, a historically ambivalent US presence contributed to ASEAN'S emergence as a mechanism of regional diplomacy. Such ambivalence is no longer feasible since 9/11. However, Washington's current engagement in Southeast Asia should focus on revitalizing regional multilateralism. Our claim is not that the region's security is due to ASEAN regionalism rather than US strategic dominance. We argue instead that absent the region's fluency with 'soft' multilateralism, Southeast Asia's security would probably has been far worse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-59
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Relations of the Asia-Pacific
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2006


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