Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Right Kind of Pivot the U.S. Should Avoid Military Involvement in East Asia

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Right Kind of Pivot the U.S. Should Avoid Military Involvement in East Asia

Article excerpt

If one accepts the questionable assumption that the United States needs to be actively involved in some external part of the world to be happy and successful, President Barack Obama's pivot to Asia, away from the expensively war-prone Middle East, makes sense.

What doesn't make sense is for the United States to concern itself militarily with some of Asia's tired, centuries-old rivalries and petty scraps. I put squarely in that category the current mini-duel between China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu pieces of rock sticking out of the East China Sea and the U.S. military response (a B-52 flyover) to China's claim that it controls the air space above them.

U.S. involvement in this quarrel is the moral equivalent of the NCAA intervening in an offside-penalty call in a football game between two small South Dakota high schools.

China's and Japan's problems with each other date back at least to the 19th century. America's are more recent, as follows.

The Department of Defense is in a state because it can see budget cuts coming down the pike after the new year, perhaps $20 billion more due to continued sequestration than it initially anticipated. It thus needs to justify undoing the cuts based on what it will claim as heated-up tensions in East Asia - now that the war in Iraq is over and the one in Afghanistan is winding down, in spite of efforts to keep the United States mired there through an unbelievable 2024.

The matter in East Asia is complicated further by the inter- service rivalry for money among the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Army. The Army and Air Force largely fought - and got the money for - the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Navy was sort of dealt out of the game, not playing a particularly visible or expensive role.

The Navy sees - from a military and budgetary point of view - the Obama administration's "pivot to Asia" as a mother's dream. All that water, all those distances, all the ships and planes that would be required to enable the United States to play on that board - a veritable miracle in justification for more ships and planes for a "neglected" service. Never mind the belabored taxpayer.

And never mind the question of why, exactly, the United States has to play a major military role in East Asia.

I grasp that the United States continues to have interests in East Asia. But they are overwhelmingly economic and commercial in nature. And Mr. Obama is in some ways the best-suited American president yet to play a diplomatic and political role in Asia, having lived there, albeit briefly.

Trying to deal America into old intra-Asian rivalries militarily is unrealistic and just flat irresponsible, given the global nature of American interests, the state of the U. …

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