Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 07/2014

America in Southeast Asia before the 'Pivot': The 'Battle of Quallah Battoo' in 1832

Farish A. Noor

June 2014

S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies


Today, there is much talk about the "American pivot" back to Southeast Asia, and the role that America continues to play in terms of the geo-strategic relations between the countries in the region. That America has been a player in Southeast Asian affairs is well-known, as America's presence in countries like Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam has been well documented since the Cold War. However, there has been less scholarship devoted to America's role in Southeast Asia prior to the 20th century, lending the impression that the United States is a latecomer as far as Southeast Asian affairs is concerned. This paper looks at a particular incident – the First Sumatran expedition of 1832 – where America played a visible role in the policing of the waters off Sumatra.