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A World Without America
Asian Distrust of U.S. Undermines Obama’s Pivot

President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” has been a long time coming. Part of what’s delayed it has been that the Middle East never quite let go of the U.S.—to pivot towards somewhere, one has to pivot away from somewhere else. But President Obama seems intent on pushing the pivot as far as he can in his last year, perhaps having decided the U.S. can finally extricate itself from the Middle East. The problem, the NYT reports, is that Asian leaders aren’t convinced the U.S. has the political will to follow through:

When President Obama announced Monday that he was ending a half-century-long arms embargo against Vietnam, it was another milestone in his long-running ambition to recast America’s role in Asia — a “pivot” as he once called it, designed to realign America’s foreign policy so it can reap the benefits of Asia’s economic and strategic future.

Yet as Mr. Obama’s time in office comes to an end, Asian nations are deeply skeptical about how much they can rely on Washington’s commitment and staying power in the region. They sense that for the first time in memory, Americans are questioning whether their economic and defense interests in Asia are really that vital.

Not only in Asia are governments sensing that the United States might not be committed to policing world order as it has since the end of the World War Two. In Europe, officials warily eye Trump’s criticisms of NATO and ask where American power has been while the continent struggles with refugees and monetary crises. But Asia may be the place where retrenchment is easiest to pull off: If fewer and fewer Americans feel an urge to spend resources in Europe, even fewer will care about far-away Asia. China certainly has been operating lately on the premise that regional influence matters more to Beijing than it does to Washington.

President Obama has expressed skepticism about the value of deterrence and perception in international affairs. The facts, however, tell a different story. World leaders discern a less engaged America and that makes it more difficult for Washington to pursue its policy goals. We hope the next administration, whoever may be in it, is paying attention.

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  • Andrew Allison

    ” In Europe, officials warily eye Trump’s criticisms of NATO and ask where American power has been while the continent struggles with refugees and monetary crises.” says it all. Why is it America’s job to deal with Europe’s domestic crises?

    • Angel Martin

      It’s learned helplessness. It’s like people permanently on welfare.

      But instead of welfare dependency, in europe we have “alliance dependency”.

    • Nevis07

      My personal opinion is a bit more nuanced. American power and influence is increased by organizations such as NATO, so no, it’s not our job, but we do have an interest in NATO. However, if our NATO partners in Europe don’t care enough to defend themselves then it’s really not worth it for us either. As I’ve said many times on this topic, you can’t help someone that doesn’t want to help themselves to begin with.

      • Andrew Allison

        “. . . Europe’s domestic crises.” As to NATO, I agree.

    • vb

      Obama’s pulling out of Iraq and drawing a pale pink line in Syria is a cause of Europe’s refugee problem, as is his failed reset with Putin and his support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Since China has detected our weakness, it has decided to push harder too to gain hegemony. Given our two potential candidates for president, no one trusts the US anymore. Meanwhile our attention is focused on AGW, BLM and transgender bathrooms.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Obama is the “Worst President in American History”. Chinese belligerence is herding all the Asian cats in the same direction, which gives America an opportunity to negotiate a very favorable economic and military alliance across Asia, from India to Japan and from South Korea to Australia.

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