Why Obama Is Looking West
The nations that ring the Pacific have half the world’s consumers, half the world’s trade, and half the global GDP. No wonder the administration is quietly shifting its policies westward.
With little fanfare and far less media awareness than one might expect, last fall the Obama administration initiated a series of defense-policy moves that amount to the most significant transformation of America’s military position in the world since the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed. This new defense posture may even rework the post-World War II order itself. After all, if we are witnessing the dwindling in importance of Europe, a withdrawal from insoluble Middle East and South Asian crises, the inexorable pull of a growing China, and America turning to face the Pacific rather than the Atlantic, this is no small matter.
The transformation began with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s article, “America’s Pacific Century,” in the November 2011 issue of Foreign Policy, announcing “a pivot point” away from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and “a strategic turn” toward the Asia-Pacific realm — now said to be “a key driver of global politics,” where nearly half the world’s population lives and where “key engines” of the world economy reside. The security of those engines, she wrote, “has long been guaranteed by the U.S. military.” Soon enough she showed up in pariah-state Burma, now apparently democratizing, and announced a resumption of diplomatic relations with one of China’s closest allies.