Friday, April 19, 2013

Pivot Divot

Two women assemble stacks of beer cans as temple offerings. Any country where they offer beer to the gods is all right with me.

"For years we thought of ourselves as a production oriented company, meaning we put all our emphasis on designing and manufacturing the product. But now we understand that the most important thing we do is market the product. We've come around to saying that Nike is a marketing-oriented company, and the product is our most important marketing tool." -- Phil Knight, CEO of Nike.

John Pfeffer at FPIF scribes:
The Obama administration has revived the old Clinton dream of rebranding the United States as a Pacific power. But there are two reasons why this new pivot doesn’t really exist except at a rhetorical level.

During the 1990s, the Clinton administration was successful in turning around the U.S. economy, at least in terms of shrinking deficits, encouraging impressive economic growth, reducing unemployment, and improving median wages. In other words, the United States was in a good position to take advantage of cooperation with Asian economies.

Today, by contrast, the U.S. economy is in difficult straits. Unemployment remains high, and growth anemic. Projected budget cuts may well send the economy into a downward spiral. The Obama administration bills the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a vehicle for growing its members’ economies. But the reality may well be closer to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which only contributed to the hollowing out of the U.S. manufacturing sector as companies fled south and north of the border.

The most buzz about the Pacific pivot, however, has been on national security. Having presided over military fiascos in the Middle East and Central Asia, the Pentagon is planning a move to calmer waters. Former Pentagon head Leon Panetta announced, for instance, that the United States would devote 60 percent of its naval warships to the region, up from 50 percent.

But that’s about it, actually. There will be some rearrangement of existing U.S. forces in Asia, with some Marines heading to Australia and an expansion of facilities on Guam. But this shell game of “strategic realignment” is largely an effort to reduce the U.S. military footprint on Okinawa, again something promised a while ago by Bill Clinton.
"Rebranding" is exactly what is going on. The Pivot is an exercise in branding, it is like all branding in that it is an exercise in creating the perception of value where no real value exists. Ironically, in the corporate world, where do branded products actually get manufactured? In China, of course. I noted last year that actual force redeployments were thin upon the ground. Dean Cheng at Heritage has also argued that the Pivot is more rhetoric than reality. Really, it is something marketed to the folks at home...

....while in the world outside, the deadly stupid business of producing terrorists in Central Asia and the Middle East via Obama's continued pursuit of Bush-era violence goes on, while Asia gets... warm fuzzies. The Pivot is also a classic example of how Obama always says the right thing and then does whatever the Bush Administration did. As I've noted, our policy has essentially become pacifying Afghanistan using American blood and treasure, in order to make it safe for Chinese expansion into Central Asia. Calling such a policy idiotic would be a compliment...

Wendell Minnick wonders aloud in DefenseNews whether the Senkakus mess will be the undoing of the Pivot....
America’s strategic rebalancing toward the Pacific — known as the “Asia pivot” — could meet its first unwanted test over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, now being challenged for control by China.

Could the Asia pivot’s true fulcrum be located on these desolate, rocky outcrops in the East China Sea? China, which calls them the Diaoyu Islands, claims they were stolen from it after World War II. Over the past two years, Beijing has taken aggressive actions to intimidate Japanese Coast Guard vessels in charge of safeguarding the islands’ territorial boundaries.

There are concerns an accidental war could be triggered by miscalculation or by China, in the spirit of nationalism, taking a calculated risk by invading the islands.

The question many are asking is: Would Washington fulfill its defense treaty obligations with Japan by taking an active military role to remove Chinese forces from the islands? Or would the U.S. hesitate for political and economic reasons to placate China? If so, what would this mean for regional confidence in America’s commitments to peace and stability?

This could be America’s “Suez moment,” said Paul Giarra, who heads Global Strategies & Transformation, a national defense and strategic planning consulting firm in Washington. It could be the moment when America, hobbled by massive debt, domestic political spasms and the lingering wounds of two exhaustive wars, finally realizes, as did Great Britain during the Suez crisis of 1956, that its ability to fulfill its international strategic commitment in a complex, multipolar world ends.
The remainder of the article is devoted to consideration of specific scenarios. One of the most critical costs of the Bush-Obama madness in the Middle East is its effect on Asia. Hadrian built walls as much to prevent imperial overstretch as to keep the people on the other side of the wall out of the Empire; the US should borrow that policy. But we won't...

The same theme runs through this article that runs through many similar articles about Taiwan: would the US really go to war over the Senkakus/Taiwan/Scarborough Shoal? The commonality, of course, is the declining power of the US. There's a whole industry back home devoted to writing about how the US isn't really in decline, but everyone out here can smell the carrion odor.

Including Beijing. The reciprocal of the question beginning Would the US.... ? is of course When will Beijing....?
Daily Links:
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

No comments: