With a considerable amount of fanfare, the Obama administration has spent most of the past two weeks “pivoting” our foreign policy toward Asia. This “pivot” is being broadcast as if the current administration was the first to notice Asia’s importance. Never mind that American presidents have been actively involved in Asia at least since Commodore Matthew Perry was sent there to force open Japanese ports for trading. If we forget about the Pacific theater in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Nixon’s trip to China, etc., then maybe it is possible to believe that this administration is the first one to take note of Asia’s importance. Of course, Presidents Clinton and Bush visited Asia over a half-dozen times each. So there is a chance the region was relatively high on their agendas. Last week’s Asian tour was President Obama’s third visit to the region, although one of those was for a G-20 summit. As far as I can see, therefore, the current administration has so far paid about as much attention to Asia as its predecessors.
So what does this much-heralded strategic “pivot” mean? Rather than admit that its Asian policy for the past three years has been a disaster, the administration has decided to go with the story that it neglected Asia for three years so as to concentrate on fixing the rest of the world. With Iran about to go nuclear, the Arab Spring turning into the Arab Winter, and Europe melting down, the administration has apparently decided to write off these unsatisfactory places and “pivot” its attention to Asia. On the plus side, however, after three years of getting it all wrong in Asia, the administration is apparently ready to face reality.
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