My new article- Enough to Go Around? Money Matters Complicate U.S. Strategic Rebalance to Asia-Pacific

My new article was just published in the Fletcher Security Review. It was co-written by Richard Weitz- Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute.

I.  State of the “Asia Pivot”

The U.S. Strategic Rebalance to Asia – also known as the “Asia Pivot” – has been a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s foreign policy since 2011. Hillary Clinton offered a detailed explaination of the concept in a 2011 Foreign Policy article.[1] The basic idea behind the Rebalance is that many U.S. core economic and security interests are increasingly centered in the Asia-Pacific region, so the United States needs to allocate more diplomatic, economic, military, and other assets towards the region.

The Strategic Rebalance would do just that. The Defence Strategic Guidance relaeased by the Defence Department in January 2012 made supporting the rebalance a key Pentagon objective. The Obama Administration accordingly plans to increase the percentage of naval assets in the Pacific to 60 percent by 2020[2] in addition to stationing 2,500 Marines in Darwin, Australia, and 4 littoral combat ships in Singapore.[3][4] Given the region’s economic importance, this makes sense. The Asia-Pacific region accounted for 40 percent of global economic growth in 2013. In 2012, the U.S. exports to the region totaled $555 billion, which supported 2.8 million U.S. jobs.[5]

The economic and security aspects of the rebalance policy are interconnected. The U.S. strategic presence in the region has contributed to the stability that has enabled the amazing growth of Asian economies over the past 60 years. As U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter noted in 2012: “If that (U.S.) security were ever to go away… all of the people in the Asia-Pacific region that have been lifted up into prosperity in the post-War period, would be set back significantly. The global economy would be set back significantly… that is partly why we are rebalancing our efforts in the region.”[6] If the Rebalance works as promised, then the United States would continue to provide the region with security, which would in turn promote stability and continued economic growth, a significant win-win for the United States and its Asian partners.

However, U.S. economic weaknesses and the Budget Control Act of 2011 – which mandates cuts in U.S. government spending (known as “sequestration”) – have constrained the U.S. government’s ability to resource the Rebalance adequately and meet its regional security commitments.[7] The sequestration process was deliberately devised to present the Congress with an unacceptable outcome if the mebers failed to balance the budget through a combination of tax hikes and targeted spending cuts. But the congressional compromise has failed to occur, and now sequestration is threatening to wreck havoc throughout the government with arbitrary percentage-driven spending cuts. Complicating matters further in the defense domain are the Taliban’s resilience in Afghanistan and the stunning emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. During the initial planning and unveiling of the Rebalance, the United States assumed it would be possible to shift more resources to Asia as it curtailed its commitments in the Middle East and South Asia,[8] yet U.S. engagement in these areas is steadying or growing. New challenges have also emerged in Europe due to Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Among other steps, the Obama Administration will need to find common ground with the new Republican-controlled Congress to reassure allies that U.S. strategic commitments will be matched with U.S. means based on strategic considerations, rather than domestic partisan battles.

 Read the rest of the article here: http://www.fletchersecurity.org/#!whyte–weitz/c1wp1

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About Leon Whyte

I'm a recent graduate of the Fletcher school of Law and Diplomacy. My interests include Pacific Asia and Security. I am looking for related opportunities.
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