January 03, 2013

Smart Shift

The shift of U.S. attention and resources to the Asia-Pacific region, a signature piece of President Barack Obama's foreign policy agenda, enjoys considerable bipartisan support in Washington and has earned the praise of scholars and practitioners alike. Skeptics demur, however, arguing either that this "pivot" -- or "rebalancing," as administration officials now call it -- is toothless rhetoric or that it is a heavy-handed policy that has unnecessarily antagonized China. 

Robert Ross ("The Problem With the Pivot," November/December 2012) has put himself in the latter camp, disparaging the strategic shift as counterproductive and destabilizing. Although he astutely urges the United States to take into account China's insecurities, he misreads the motives behind Obama's Asia policy and offers a misguided prescription for the way forward. The right way to respond to China's anxieties is through sustained and deepened engagement, not withdrawal from Asia. As the United States continues to focus more on the region, it needs to make sure that its strategy is propelled forward by a reliable commitment of money, personnel, and bureaucratic resources.

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