Sunday, March 03, 2013

So That Was It?

The "pivot" to the Pacific that the president announced not even a year and a half ago was just a marketing thing. It simply reflected what had been going on as we adjusted to the demise of the Soviet Union which forced us to concentrate on the Atlantic. If it had a value, it was in reassuring Pacific allies worried about the rise of China and their ability to resist Chinese pressure. But is the pivot over already?

Via, Instapundit, is the pivot to the Pacific over? Here's a quote from Secretary of Defense State Kerry that bolsters Chinese confidence that Kerry will be good for China:

I’m not convinced that increased military ramp-up is critical yet. I’m not convinced of that. That’s something I’d want to look at very carefully when and if you folks confirm me and I can get in there and sort of dig into this a little deeper. But we have a lot more bases out there than any other nation in the world, including China today. We have a lot more forces out there than any other nation in the world, including China today. And we’ve just augmented the president’s announcement in Australia with additional Marines. You know, the Chinese take a look at that and say, what’s the United States doing? They trying to circle us? What’s going on? And so, you know, every action has its reaction. It’s the old — you know, it’s not just the law of physics; it’s the law of politics and diplomacy. I think we have to be thoughtful about, you know, sort of how we go forward.

So China reacts to others' actions? How do you explain China's military modernization given our retrenchment during our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the flat or falling (at least in inflation-adjusted terms) military budgets of South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan?

The idea that China will stop arming up if we just pull back is a disturbing thing for our chief diplomat to believe. And he is our chief diplomat--not our chief defense manager as he seems to want to be in that passage. Screwing with our military is now Chuck Hagel's job, remember.

Mead says that the optimism of believing we had won in the Middle East so could pivot to Asia is the best-case spin on this situation. Mead hopes that the administration will realize it must remain strong enough in both the Middle East and in Asia.

I worried that the "pivot to Asia" was simply an excuse to pivot from the Middle East. Now that the mission of retreating from the CENTCOM area is accomplished, there is no need for a pivot to Asia. And as I've said, with budget cuts, a pivot to Asia will be meaningless since even a higher proportion of less power will mean we grow weaker in the Pacific (just not as weaker relative to the rest of the planet).

So the pivot is over already. Well, both Hagel and Kerry have more important things to do now, I suppose.