Thursday, April 17, 2014

Once more with the Asian pivot

A WaPo piece by David Nakamura -- quick reading because so much of it is what might be called 'mainstream-media foreign-policy boilerplate' -- concludes that the Obama admin's Asian pivot is falling short of expectations. The, by implication, obstructionist Dems are blocking the TransPacific Partnership 'free trade' pact (did it ever occur to the WaPo that maybe the TPP has problems?); the State Dept, according to a recent Senate report, is not focusing much of its resources on Asia; and as a result (gasp, what a surprise) the pivot has come to be seen in the region as militarily-focused, the piece informs us.

Also (how shocking), the Chinese believe the aim of the pivot is containment, the Obama administration's protests to the contrary notwithstanding. Of course the piece does mention, in quick passing, the placement of a rotating contingent of U.S. Marines in Australia that was announced shortly after the pivot was launched. What if China placed a rotating contingent of its soldiers in, say, Cuba or, less plausibly, Jamaica? Wouldn't the U.S. admin think China's aim was containment of the U.S.? The distinction between containment and hedging, mentioned in the article, seems not worth wasting all that much time on: China likely will view the redeployment of U.S. military assets to the region as containment, regardless of what the U.S.'s  preferred label is.

There is however at least one success story, or semi-success story, from the pivot, and that is Burma. Hillary Clinton made two trips there as Sec. of State, the second time accompanied by Pres. Obama, and Burma is on what seems to be a gradual path to political liberalization, with emphasis on "gradual." (Jeffrey Brown on the NewsHour had a report from Burma/Myanmar the other day, which I heard on the radio but haven't watched yet.)

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