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The Asia Re-Re-Re-Pivot

April 24th, 2014 - 9:45 am

It’s easy to get dizzy when our attention keeps getting pulled from Ukraine to East Asia and back again — and you don’t have to be a paranoiac to think there might be some method to that madness. So Dustin Walker wants to know if our Asia Pivot is dead:

Our regional allies are worried because our leadership has been “required” in the Middle East and Europe. Even after the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the U.S. presence in the Middle East is not likely to shrink. And in the aftermath of Ukraine, there are calls for a pivot to Europe as more U.S. troops are sent to NATO’s eastern frontiers.

But our allies are also worried because of the perceived failure to demonstrate such leadership. In particular, the handling of the crisis in Syria left security experts and government officials in the Asia-Pacific wondering how much America’s security commitments mean when challenged. Among America’s Asian allies, there was no appetite for American intervention in Syria, particularly military intervention. If America were to become too involved, many feared the rebalance would be over before it began.

Nonetheless, the credibility of the United States was hurt because it appeared that America was going soft on its commitments. President Obama’s red line on chemical weapons in Syria never had the same force as the mutual defense treaty with Japan, for example. But the importance and weight of the president’s public statements on matters of war should never be trivialized. The president set forth the conditions under which the United States would become militarily involved in Syria, and when those conditions presented themselves, he got cold feet. So, too, did many in Congress. Even for countries like Japan and South Korea who didn’t want the United States to become embroiled in Syria in the first place, that is a worrisome precedent.

It’s a lengthy piece, but you will want to take the time to read the whole thing.

The fact is that no country, not even ours a the height of its powers, has the resources to be everywhere and do everything at once. But if we were strong somewhere then we wouldn’t have to be racing around everywhere, because our rivals wouldn’t be willing to take so many risks against us, and our allies would be more willing to take risks for us.

As it is, we find ourselves facing emboldened rivals at a time when we have fewer resources and shakier alliances.

This, I shouldn’t have to add, is how bad things happen.

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All Comments   (6)
All Comments   (6)
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the Asian pivot is like the twist, lot of movement but not actually getting anywhere
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
Having been pwned by our adversaries in the Middle East and Europe, President Obama pivots to Asia, hoping to find an opponent he can beat -- or at least get respect from. Against the Chinese, he'll end up 0-for-3.

When you look around the poker table and can't find the sucker, leave the table at once: you're the sucker.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment

This is how we got into the Vietnam War. After the Bay of Pigs, Russia's relative lead in space technology, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, there was a perception in Europe that the U.S. could not or would not effectively stand up to the Soviet Union. The U.S. had to make a firm stand somewhere, and Kennedy chose South East Asia.

Of course, what followed were the logical consequences of needing to be seen as standing firm without actually believing that victory is necessary.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is why we have area commands. Asia is the purview of Pacific Command, and is primarily a Navy/Marine Corps effort. The Ukraine issue belongs to Europe Command and is mostly Army. At the important levels nobody is distracted and the two crises don't drain many resources from each other. The only ones who could be distracted are Obama and Hegel, and frankly the more they're confused the better off we are.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
We can't be everywhere and we shouldn't be nowhere.

We should be someplace in between.

22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
I recall discussing the whole "we cannot be everywhere" conundrum with a ROTC student during the dying years of the Cold War. He mentioned something that I assume was active doctrine of the day and is actually quite profound. He said that, if need be, the US could fight a war on 10 fronts simultaneously and could prevail everywhere. The only hitch was that 8 of those fronts would be fought with nukes. Obviously, we would rather not do that. Nevertheless, friends and foes alike knew this was the ultimate "stick" in US possession and we could very well use it in a SHTF situation. Food for thought as we now career from crisis to crisis.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
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