Thursday, November 24, 2011

We've Been a Pacific Power

Lacey gets to the point of something that bugged me about our recently unveiled Asia focus:

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.

I did mention that we've been working on Asian issues for a long time before the Obama administration noticed it. So even while I saluted the initiative, it bugged me. This is why. The administration can't help but try to act like anything BOE (Before the Obama Era) didn't happen. If it is new to them, it must be new! And so now they claim they will correct what was ignored by others (coughBushcough) until now. Baloney.

I know our left likes to say that Bush ignored Asia while he went off on (Congressionally authorized) bad wars of choice, but that is false. Obviously, wars against al Qaeda and campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan got the most press coverage--and being actual shooting wars did demand an outsized presidential focus--but we were active in Asia, too. These include expanding relations with India, strengthening defense ties with Japan and Australia, repositioning our forces in South Korea (away from the DMZ where they were hostages to North Korean artillery) and Japan (to Guam) to make them deployable and more secure rather than tied to static defenses, shifting naval power to the Pacific, and working with Southeast Asian states to bolster ties. All that was done during the Bush administration.

So yes, the Obama administration is doing something good here--if they follow through with deeds after the words to defend what we've staked out. But as with many of the good things that this administration has done in foreign policy, it is in the context of resorting to the right thing after trying to do the stupid things they thought were smart and "anti-Bush."

Being an optimist, I'm hoping that the next right thing will be to negotiate an agreement with Iraq to return our ground and air forces to Iraq.