President Barack Obama’s decision to step up military operations against Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria raises fresh doubts about the “Pacific pivot” — a shift of military and diplomatic resources to a region Washington feels is the highest U.S. priority in decades to come.
Defense experts say it’s too early to know whether the new U.S. commitment in the Middle East — from where resources were being shifted to the Pacific — will stunt the ongoing rebalance. The boost in America’s economic, diplomatic and military presence is well under way in the Pacific, a “whole-of-government” approach that the analysts say likely won’t diminish with months of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
But the military already has been dealing with force reductions with the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan amid deep budget cuts including across-the-board reductions imposed under sequestration. Without a major reversal of such cuts, the military is already headed toward tough decisions on what it can afford to do.
In his Sept. 10 speech to the nation, President Barack Obama seemed to be preparing the country for another long slog, calling the escalating U.S.-led military campaign against the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq a “steady, relentless effort” that he likened to the slow process of eradicating cancer.