The United States Is Planning An Asian Pivot While Leaning On A Broken Crutch

In November of last year, President Obama showed up at the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) where he announced a shift in US foreign policy, which he refered to as the Asian Pivot. Asia is of vital strategic and economic importance to the US and, according to the President, deserved to be the United State’s number one priority. Later, Secretary of Defense, Panetta, said that by 2020, 60% of our naval forces would be deployed in the Pacific leaving 40% for the Atlantic and Mediterranean. There, also, was announced in those days an agreement between the US and Australia, whereby the US  would maintain a contingent of Marines in Australia. It wasn’t long before US officials when talking about the US Asian pivot and relations with China that the word “containment” was repeatedly used.

What is meant by the word “containment”? Does China need to be contained? What is the Asian Pivot policy all about?

Since the end of WW II, the United States has had a position of  hegemony in South East Asia. There are American flags flying over bases in Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, the Marshall Islands, Guam, and Wake. After the cold war ended, America’s hegemony in the world has been little challenged. The US, as the only super power standing, became the world’s policeman. Someone had to be and no one else could be. The US likes to think it has been a good cop. A feeling that isn’t shared by all.

The strategic thinkers in Washington seem to be surprised that the soon to be biggest economy in the world, China, would want to challenge America’s hegemony in South East Asia, China’s backyard. They seem surprised that China would dare to flex its growing muscles in the region. There is a new cop walking the beat and the US fears it may be a bad cop.

What some “Experts” are saying.

  • Brookings Institute: The fundamental reality is that all Asian countries want to have good relations with the United States and with China. Regarding China, they want the benefit of economic engagement and a reduction of tensions. From the United States, they want a security hedge should ties with China go sour. So where did South Korean president Lee Myung-bak and Japanese prime minister Noda go after President Obama’s November swing through the region: to Beijing. Whom did Thailand and Vietnam welcome for a visit in December? PRC vice-president Xi Jinping.
  • The Heritage Foundation: Since the 19th century, Asia has been—and will continue to be—a region of vital importance to the United States. And yet, even as the threats to stability in Asia multiply, there has not been a commensurate increase of U.S. capabilities. While the Obama Administration believes its “Asia Pivot” will animate U.S. policy toward Asia, the U.S. military lacks the resources necessary to implement such a strategy. Indeed, even as the Administration heralds America’s “return” to Asia, the President has proposed cuts to defense spending. Ultimately, this is a strategy of hope: a hope that big wars are a thing of the past; a hope that America’s allies will do more; and a hope that fewer resources do not jeopardize the lives of American soldiers.
  • Forbes: “U.S. foreign policy in Asia is plagued by three problems: First, Washington’s policy centers on a contradiction:  making China more powerful while seeking to make it act as though it is weak [and will remain so].  The ‘containment’ and ‘engagement’ aspects of the policy countervail one another.  Second, the policy of ‘reassuring’ out allies forces the United States to carry a disproportionate share of the growing burden of containing China.  Finally, although Washington agrees with the pessimists that China’s growing military power is a problem, no one has specified how precisely even a very militarily powerful China would directly threaten U.S. national security.” (bold added)
  • Policymic: The back-and-forth defense escalation bespeaks the suspicious nature of security agencies in general that could contribute to the deterioration of bilateral relations. With things as they are now, tensions are quickly rising on both sides because they are both approaching each other with a zero-sum mentality…
  • The Diplomat: It’s a fool’s errand: far too costly, and politically counterproductive. As an example, already questions are being raised about the $396 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, developed to be the U.S. military’s fighter jet of the future. But the F-35 was designed for a time when the Pentagon was focused on NATO and the Middle East, and according to the New York Times, the F-35 is now “facing concerns about its relatively short flight range as possible threats grow from Asia.”
  • Carnegie-Tsinghua Center:The problem with military multipolarity is that there are more points of interaction than there are in a bipolar or unipolar system. That means that there are more opportunities for incidents—destabilizing incidents—to occur. I think that the more multipolar the military environment gets in East Asia, the more crucial it is for the United States and China to keep talking to each other on a daily basis.Given that we live in a hothouse media environment where there is always the potential for incidents to get out of hand, China and the United States need a strong military-to-military hotline. If an incident were to happen, they could talk to each other and calm down quickly. That’s the most important thing. And I think you need a continuous relationship on the economic front on all levels.
  • Press TV: The major beneficiary in the Obama administration’s decision to “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region is the military industrial complex as evident by the AIA’s report. The pivot “will result in growing opportunities for our industry to help equip our friends,” said Fred Downey, vice president for national security at the AIA.

What Asylum Watch thinks.

  • The Soviet Union learned the hard way that without a strong economic base, ones military-might buys little influence in this world. The United States can not afford to maintain its hegemony in the world. The United States is leaning on a broken crutch; economically speaking. China doesn’t need or want a military conflict with the US. China can just go about its business and watch as America becomes weaker and weaker economically.
  • China is decades way of matching the military power of the US. They seem to be in no hurry to match our military might. But, they are strong enough militarily to flex their muscles in their backyard. A bi-polar or multi-polar world is inevitable. Maybe its time for the United States to accept that reality. Maybe it’s time for the US to concentrate on fixing its broken crutch and, meanwhile, instead of trying to bully China, maybe America should learn to work with China. Maybe it is time for some adult diplomacy, because China, as an economic powerhouse, is not going away.

Well, now you know what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?

17 thoughts on “The United States Is Planning An Asian Pivot While Leaning On A Broken Crutch

  1. I am afraid that the only real containment that this administration is considering in regard to China is how low they will bow down. They are already ignoring our ally Taiwan when it requests help. I can not see it interferring if China decides to move on Taiwan or the differences between China and Japan heat up!

    1. The other thing, Patricia, is that the US pretty much screwed Taiwan years ago when it recognozed the Republic of China and invited them into the UN, but at the same time did not recognize Taiwan, which is still not a voting member of the UN.

  2. I would personally like to see the U.S. walk back from many of its military promises around the world. Contraction would not necessarily be that bad a thing. And assuming, and this is a big if, we have smart elected leaders, can rebuild our economic strength.

    Of course I doubt the rest of the world (no matter what they say publicly) would wish to see us withdraw.

  3. This is about preventing China from claiming every piece of ocean and territory in the Pacific. There are active legal disputes going on between China and numerous other Asian countries.

    Nations, like people, will do whatever they can get by with. Look at what Bush did. So, if we can provide a gentle check, a balance, while shoring up allies like Australia, Japan and Vietnam(?) without starting a shooting war, then I think it’s a good thing.

    I strongly agree with your statement about having a strong economy. That is what we are lacking.

    1. Indeed nations act in their own best interest if they have to power to do so. The US will and so will China. I’m suggesting that we are acting from a weak position if our actions bring about a costly military conflict. That is the reality that the US must face. China sees that weakness. As the one quote said, we help to make them rich and powerful. We can not expect them to act as if they are weak.

  4. I remember when I was fairly young thinking to myself: “If countries are tied together economically, and standards of living are rising, there will be no need for war. Even if people who crave power want more, the people will be more concerned with their standard of living than with helping a powerful few gain more power. The will to fight will be gone.” I still believe that. The problem, of course, is that economic growth is necessary. And when some nation (which will remain nameless) begins losing economic power due to political stupidity, and implements policies that, in the long run (or even short run), can cause an international economic crash other nations will begin to think they need to take over economic leadership. Even when their system, if left to its own devices without the economic leverage provided by the once powerful economy, would crash and burn. It IS the economy! That is our security in the world.

    By the way, none of this applies to people who, out of religious fervor, want to return to the 16th century, caring nothing for economic prosperity, only for their religious hegemony.

  5. Everyone seems to be flexing their muscles nowadays and I think that is a sign of failed leadership on the part of Barack Obama. These nations see America as weak and they are taking advantage of us.

  6. Hegel at the hearing today had a bit of a problem with the containment policy. He said there was none and was corrected by Senate members. But who knows. We just sold out our latest battery technology via the bankrupt batterty company to them, so I says he is stupid as a Fox and his intention to destroy America

    1. I guess the plan is to borrow more money from China so we can contain them. Sounds like something our fearless leader would come up with. He thinks China won’t see through that, because he is the smartest guy in the room.

  7. What Steve said.

    Also, the broken crutch analogy is spot-on.

    We can either have a Euro-style welfare state or a massive world spanning military. The US cannot have both. It’s that simple.

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