The Asia Re-Re-Re-Pivot

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.