"The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay," declared President Obama during his speech to the Australian parliament in 2011, following his announcement to deploy 2,500 marines to northern Australia to help protect American interests across Asia.
As Washington remains embroiled in domestic economic issues and conflicts throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, the Obama administration has come under great scrutiny for not living up to the promise of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific, the world’s most economically-dynamic region. The US president’s recent trip to the region was the most significant and tangible development to occur since the rebalancing policy was unveiled.
Obama’s trip had two primary dimensions: deepening the role of the US military throughout the Asia-Pacific, and shoring up support for the faltering Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, an all-encompassing trade deal led by Washington that would embolden transnational corporate power at great public expense.
As the Obama administration moves ahead on plans to relocate some 60 percent of its navy into the region, Washington's current Asia doctrine is grounded in the notion that no other power can be allowed to reach parity with the United States. Washington’s strategy to pivot toward the Asia-Pacific is adorned with the language of pragmatism and neutrality, and despite repeated denials, the Obama administration’s actions are quite transparently aimed at capping the influence of a rapidly developing China.
Washington has inserted itself into complicated, long-standing historical and territorial disputes under the guise of neutrality, which risks potentially setting the stage for an irreparable strategic blunder: antagonizing two major world powers simultaneously at a time when relations between the US and Russia are already deteriorating over the crisis in Ukraine.
President Obama’s milestone four-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific may have laid the foundations for the region’s local territorial disputes to grow into an increasing tense superpower stand-off.