As the US Pivots toward Asia, Europe Stumbles
The US is engaged in a strategic shift: President Obama has declared that in the future, more American attention and resources will be devoted to the Pacific region, rather than the Atlantic. Amidst an existential crisis, the EU must begin to find its own place in the Pacific century.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is calling this a “pivot point.” The United States, after a decade of funneling immense amounts of resources into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with an eye to the balance of economic and military power in what Fareed Zakaria calls the Post-American World, is reassessing how and where it should invest the bulk of its time and energy. And for the Obama administration the choice could not be clearer: the United States needs to engage in a “strategic turn” to the Asia-Pacific region.
Clinton voiced these views in a recent Foreign Policy piece titled “America’s Pacific Century,” and again at a speech on November 13 in Hawaii at the start of President Obama’s current Asia-Pacific trip. This has seen the president host 21 leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Hawaii, travel to Australia to discuss military cooperation with Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and on November 18 attend the East Asia Summit on the Indonesian island of Bali, as the first American president ever to participate in the gathering. Later in the month Secretary Clinton will go on to South Korea for a separate meeting on aid cooperation. The goal of these visits is to strengthen bilateral security alliances and expand U.S. trade and investment in the region. It is also to formally reassert U.S. presence in a part of the world increasingly in the shadow of a rising China.
The pivot is part of an ongoing shift in American foreign policy pursued by the Obama administration since it arrived in office. Hillary Clinton was the first Secretary of State since Dean Rusk in 1961 to choose Asia as the destination for a maiden voyage, and Obama has often called himself America’s first “Pacific president.” Asia is, as Clinton said in her speech, “home to nearly half the world’s population, it boasts several of the largest and fastest-growing economies and some of the world’s busiest ports and shipping lanes, and it also presents consequential challenges such as military buildups, concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons, natural disasters, and the world’s worst levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
It is becoming increasingly clear that in the 21st century, the world’s strategic and economic center of gravity will be the Asia Pacific, from the Indian subcontinent to the western shores of the Americas.”