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The Indo-Pacific: Strategy Making in the Priority Theater


The Indo-Pacific region has surfaced as a critical strategic space, where inter-state competition is being fundamentally reshaped. As a designated “priority theater,” the Indo-Pacific is home to nearly two-thirds of humanity with a history of inter-state warfare between various nuclear-armed neighbors. The region hosts the world’s most trafficked sea lines of communication as the globe’s wealth moves increasingly eastward. At the same time, its geopolitical landscape is marred by a rapidly unfolding competition between China and the U.S., with distinctive cultural and ideological variations redefining foreign policy dynamics.

As senior defense and military officials designate the Indo-Pacific “as the most consequential theater” year after year, this regional course seeks to enhance a thought leader’s ability to sustainably conduct the art of strategy making. The Indo-Pacific is home to four culturally distinct sub-regions: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific. The escalating Sino-American competition in this strategic space requires policymakers and relevant stakeholders to remain proactive in tailoring policy to each critical sub-region.

As such, this course will begin with a high-level discussion of the evolution of this strategic space. The second section will draw historical guidance to illustrate how the complex interplay of these factors prompts a national leader to execute strategic decisions.

Students will build on a plethora of state-level considerations, such as strategic culture, domestic politics, and economics, to consider the role of individuals and ideological decision-making processes. The existing security strategy documents provide substantive insights into how policy is empirically developed and implemented.  The final section of the course will examine each sub-region for two to three weeks at a time. The first week of each subregional module will provide the cultural, historical, and strategic imperatives of stakeholders in the priority theater, followed by a comprehensive examination of current sub-regional and, in many cases, country-specific U.S. policies, accomplishments, and potential vulnerabilities to manage consequences.


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