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31 March 2014
Possible implications of the U.S. 'pivot' to the Pacific?
OP-ED: The Elephant vs. the Shark By Lawrence Wilkerson The Obama administration's nebulous "Pacific Pivot" is setting the stage for a superpower conflict in East Asia. Lawrence Wilkerson was Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff as well as associate director of the State Department’s Policy Planning staff, where he was responsible for East Asia and the Pacific. Before serving at the State Department, Wilkerson served 31 years in the U.S. Army. He is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.
The Obama administration’s “Pacific Pivot” will make it more difficult than ever for countries of the region to stay neutral in an emerging rivalry between the United States and China. Credit: U.S. Navy/public domain
WASHINGTON, Mar 25 2014 (IPS) - To pivot, according to the venerable Oxford English Dictionary, means “to turn as on a pivot.” Which takes us to the noun, which seems more appropriate for describing the Obama administration’s Pacific policy: “That on which anything turns; a cardinal or central point.”
The problem, however, is that finding a cardinal or a central point in the administration’s Pacific policy is extremely difficult. What is clear is only a verb tense.
At the climax of this awesome conflict, the massive land power will confront the formidable sea power.
The United States is turning from more than a decade of war – ineffective and costly – in western Asia to a more important and strategic region, eastern Asia, plus the waters that approach it. Perhaps the central point of the pivot is Asia, and the United States is switching from one end to the other.
The “Pacific,” however, suggests a broader turn, although new allies and commitments in the Indian Ocean seem to balance if not outweigh those in the Pacific Ocean. India is the most potent example, a country located more or less at a central point.
If geographical and policy clarity is lacking, so is clarity around security, and in particular military security. Muddling matters more, U.S. Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel on Feb. 25 outlined a resource approach that implied that China is the number one challenge for the United States, therefore land forces will subsidise sea and air forces.