Hillary Clinton with the Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, at the Apec summit, November 12 and 13, 2011. Since this photo was taken, experts believe China has been in the process of creating up to eight military bases in the South China Sea on tiny islets China may not “own” due to territorial disputes and claims from other nations.
(The Philippine Star) | Updated April 25, 2015
How much the world has changed since the US unveiled its “pivot to Asia” strategy at the dawn of the Obama presidency.
At that time, it seemed to Washington that the war in Afghanistan was surely winding down. The great questions in the Middle East were just about solved. Africa was getting along quite well, pulling itself up by its bootstraps. Europe was in post-Cold War peace. Latin America was well past the ancient leftist insurgencies that bedeviled the continent in the last century.
What better conditions could there be to heed Lee Kuan Yew’s advice to the US: that the last superpower must be part of Asia to be part of this new century.
“Pivot to Asia” was a comprehensive strategy to ride the crest of the surging economies of the western Pacific, manage China’s emergence as an economic superpower by linking closely with it and iron out the remaining flashpoints in this part of the world so obsessed with the business of business.
This was, to be sure, much more than just a slight shift in military strategy – although it was that in large part.
The military component of the strategy involved containing the erratic behavior of North Korea that threatened neighboring South Korea and Japan. It likewise involved managing tensions at the Taiwan straits, guiding Myanmar back to the mainstream of regional affairs, ensuring the accessibility of the vital sea routes through the Malacca strait and up the South China Sea. It also involved terminating the remaining insurgencies, two of them in the Philippines.
No major challenge here, nothing that could not be thought through. The US simply had to show the flag and apply more proactive diplomacy. The Pacific Century was moving along pretty much like the experts predicted.
Then things began changing.
In Europe, Russia began behaving badly. After a brief war with Georgia that won Russia some territory, tensions between the faded superpower and Ukraine simply flared after the pro-Russian government was expelled by a popular uprising. We know what happened since then.
Over those same years, several Eurozone countries began running into financial difficulty. Greece needed a bailout. Other economies teetered. The viability of the common currency has come under serious doubt.
Then the so-called “Arab Spring” happened. Tunisia, then Libya, then Egypt, saw successful uprisings. The endings were not happy.
Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo September 11, 2012. Egyptian protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy, tore down the American flag and burned it during a protest. The U/S. State Department attributed the unrest to a video produced in the United States that insulted Prophet Mohammad. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
The Libyan Revolution fueled much hopefulness about the possibility of democratization in a society held together for decades only by the brutality of an authoritarian regime. That did not come about. Libya today has pretty much broken up into little tribal enclaves at war with each other.
Worse, the chaos of a failed state proved to be fertile ground for the rapidly spreading radical Islamic movements. Libya is now in a worse condition than it was under Kaddafi.
Egypt, after its own revolution, voted into office the Islamic Brotherhood – the pioneer in Islamic radicalism, causing it to be banned for decades. Eventually, the military overthrew the elected government and Egypt has since been under martial rule.
When the Saddam Hussein regime was overthrown in the course of a US-led invasion, the world somehow hoped Iraq would limp its way to democracy. Instead, the old lines of enmity between the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds simply reappeared. Today, Iraq is really three nations pretending to be one. A large part of it has been overrun by radical fighting units of the Islamic State.
Inspired by the spirit of the “Arab Spring,” Syrians began protesting against the brutal Assad regime. The protests were brutally crushed. Syria has since been in a bloody civil war for the last four years. In the intense passions and boundless chaos of that civil war, Al Qaeda began to take root. Later, a much more virulent strain of Islamic radicalism, the Islamic State, attracted support.
As the Syrian civil war ground to a bloody stalemate, the fighting units of the largely Sunni Islamic State swung to the south and overrun much of northern Iraq. They took over important oilfields and refineries, commandeered to raise funds for the radical movement.
Islamic radicalism took firmer hold in Pakistan while the Taliban was dislodged in neighboring Afghanistan. Both countries now seem ready to become a reinvigorated theater for terrorist attacks.
As trouble brewed all around her, Iran began playing a more assertive role. Tehran supported the Shiite forces in Iraq now battling the Sunni-based Islamic State. Yemen has recently opened up a new front of civil war driven both by tribalism and Islamic radicalism.
President Xi Jinping (right) meets his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rowhani in Jakarta on Thursday, April 23, 2015. Photo: Xinhua
The whole spread of Sub-Saharan Africa, from Somalia to Nigeria, saw the rising power of radical Islamic groups from the el Shabaab to the Boko Haram. This produced major incidents of terrorism and mass murder from Kenya to Nigeria.
Sub-Saharan Africa could become a large battlefield for the war against terror.
Because of all these developments, America’s “pivot to Asia” appears to have been shelved — or at least very much diminished in urgency. The US is scrambling badly to play a stabilizing role in the Middle East and in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Washington, too, is preoccupied with keeping Putin’s Russia in check and establishing a more viable relationship with Iran, which has been threatening to assemble some nuclear weapons capability. The US military is contemplating putting boots on the ground in war-ravaged Iraq. The Syrian puzzle remains irresolvable even as it takes a terrible human toll daily.
The US is again spread thinly across the globe, multi-tasking with very little success. The last superpower is not about to pick a fight with China over small reefs the Philippines claims.
Hong Kong police use pepper spray on pro-democracy and human rights activists on November 30, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Tyrone Siu
From November 16, 2011
Hillary Clinton and the New American (Pacific) Century
Secret no more, US moves openly to block the rise of China.
By Tony Cartalucci
November 16, 2011 – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently published in Foreign Policy magazine, “America’s Pacific Century,” a Hitlerian declaration of imperial intent for American “leadership” in Asia for the next 100 years. The piece, which could just as easily been penned by Neo-Con policy makers begins with, “the future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action. ”
Of course, America’s presence throughout the Middle East and the control it exercises over the region’s oil resources as well as over the region as a logistical hub is essential in tempering the rise of Asia and ultimately hemming in the rise of China and Central Asia. The “Arab Spring” which Secretary Clinton and the US State Department had been a part of preparing, equipping, training, and even arming for at least 2 years prior, is the coup de grâce meant to completely overturn the multi-polar nature of the Middle East and ultimately the world.
Upon reading Clinton’s declaration of intent for American leadership into the next century, readers may recall the similarly named, ranting “Project for a New American Century” signed off on by some of America’s most notorious Neo-Conservatives, which almost verbatim made the same case now made by Clinton. In fact, America’s evolving confrontation with China, marked acutely by Obama’s announcement of a permanent US military presence in Australia just this week, is torn directly from the pages of decades old blueprints drawn up by corporate-financier funded think-tanks that truly rule America and its destiny.
As reported in June, 2011’s “Collapsing China,” as far back as 1997 there was talk about developing an effective containment strategy coupled with the baited hook of luring China into its place amongst the “international order.” Just as in these 1997 talking-points where author and notorious Neo-Con policy maker Robert Kagan described the necessity of using America’s Asian “allies” as part of this containment strategy, Clinton goes through a list of regional relationships the US is trying to cultivate to maintain “American leadership” in Asia.
For example, the recently reinstalled Wall Street proxy regime in Thailand led by Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck, has received reassurances by Clinton herself just this week stating that, “it is in the national security and political interest of the United States to have this government succeed.” As reported in-depth in “CONFIRMED: Thailand’s “Pro-Democracy” Movement Working for US,” Thaksin Shinawatra and his political regime have had long standing, well documented ties to Wall Street and London. The US backing of puppet-regimes like Thaksin, installing them into power, and keeping them there is central to projecting power throughout Asia and keeping China subordinate, or as Kagan put it in his 1997 report, these proxy regimes will have China “play Gulliver to Southeast Asia’s Lilliputians, with the United States supplying the rope and stakes.”
It is essential to look past the empty rhetoric of “democracy,” “human rights,” and “progress” used to justify foreign-funding and meddling to install servile autocrats like Thailand’s Thaksin or Malaysia’s stooge dictator-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim and see the greater geopolitical game at play and the disastrous conclusion it is leading us all toward. It is also essential to expose the disingenuous organizations, institutions, and media personalities helping promote this global corporate-fascist agenda. Above all, it is important not to allow ourselves and our countrymen to be manipulated and their lives wasted in the inevitable conflicts that are sure to arise as Wall Street and London struggle to maintain, or even expand their global financial, economic, and military hegemony.
Hillary Clinton: America’s Pacific Century
Foreign Policy Magazine
From October 12, 2011
In a brilliant article in Foreign Policy magazine, Hillary Clinton has turned the page on that decade by announcing that “The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action”.
Clinton’s words are indeed most welcome. The past ten years have been America’s lost decade. Ben Benanke once spoke of the great moderation in the economy. But that was a mirage which presaged the US-created global financial crisis. And President Bush’s expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also weakened the economy, without making the world a safer place.
As Clinton says, “In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy … One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region”.
The Asia-Pacific region has of course been a very important driver of the US economy. And the region is equally reliant on open US markets and technology. But there is much more to do to strengthen and consolidate this important economic partnership.
Clinton highlights the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement which will hopefully be approved by Congress this week, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which is being discussed. The TPP would bring together economies from across the Pacific — developed and developing alike — into a single trading community.
While TPP’s goals are laudable, its negotiations are in fact very complex. The US insists that it include strong protections for workers, the environment, intellectual property, and innovation, and also promote the free flow of information technology and the spread of green technology, as well as the coherence of its regulatory system and the efficiency of supply chains. And one can never be sure that the US Congress will be in the mood to approve it when its time has come. The free trade agreement with Korea has been languishing for years in America’s messy trade politics.
I believe that the best thing that the US could do to forge a meaningful partnership in the Asia-Pacific region would be to implement serious regulatory reforms to its financial sector, so as to avoid future financial crises. But the US is still a long way from doing that.
The economic rise of the Asia-Pacific region also means that it “has become a key driver of global politics”, reflecting the new economic power balance. Clinton highlights the importance of the US’s treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand, as well as outreach to China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Brunei, and the Pacific Island countries.
Clinton reserves the most attention for China which “represents one of the most challenging and consequential bilateral relationships the United States has ever had to manage”. She acknowledges that “fears and misperceptions linger on both sides of the Pacific. Some in our country see China’s progress as a threat to the United States; some in China worry that America seeks to constrain China’s growth. We reject both those views. The fact is that a thriving America is good for China and a thriving China is good for America. We both have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict … It is up to both of us to more consistently translate positive words into effective cooperation — and, crucially, to meet our respective global responsibilities and obligations.”
One of Clinton’s top priorities has been to work with China to build mutual trust, and to encourage China’s active efforts in global problem-solving, including through the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
The US and China are also working to increase transparency and reduce the risk of miscalculation or miscues between their militaries. Clinton argues that both sides would benefit from sustained and substantive military-to-military engagement that increases transparency. She is pushing China to join the US in forging a durable military-to-military dialogue.
Clinton argues for “a more robust and coherent regional architecture in Asia”, and notes that the United States has moved to fully engage the region’s multilateral institutions, such as ASEAN, APEC and the East Asia Summit. “Our challenge now is to build a web of partnerships and institutions across the Pacific that is as durable and as consistent with American interests and values as the web we have built across the Atlantic”.
Clinton’s main audience in this paper seems to be the US Congress and the US people. She is clearly concerned that as the Iraq and Afghan wars wind down, there are many who “seek a downsizing of our foreign engagement in favor of our pressing domestic priorities”. As she says, “these impulses are understandable, but they are misguided. Those who say that we can no longer afford to engage with the world have it exactly backward — we cannot afford not to.”
She notes the concern that many Asians have about the US’s willingness to remain engaged and to lead. And although she says “We can, and we will”, there are many of us who doubt. The recently discovered Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the US shows what a constant distraction the Middle East can be.
The world has been blessed to have Hillary Clinton as US Secretary of State. Very few in her position have been as intelligent and hard-working. But even in these past 2 1/2 years, there are many in Asia who say that she has not been able to bring the Congress with her.
The Asia-Pacific region still has immense potential for driving global prosperity. But the risks for stability are also enormous. A strong US presence is necessary for maintaining stability — even if the US sometimes provokes instability itself by selling arms to Taiwan, by receiving the Dalai Lama or sabre-rattling about China’s exchange rate. Indeed, the US is the only country with the diplomatic and intelligence resources to lead the region.
We can only hope that the Congress listens to her carefully. And that even if there is a Republican administration in office in 2013, it realizes the stakes involved.
One of the big problems is that the easiest way for the US government to obtain Congressional and public support for staying fully engaged in the Asia-Pacific region is to paint China as an enemy — when in fact, the whole point is to make China a friend!
America’s Pacific Century, Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of State. Foreign Policy Magazine. October 11, 2011
US can focus on Asia-Pacific after Iraq and Afghan wars, says Hillary Clinton
South China Sea: Lower Your Expectation for The Asean Summit — China Has Asean in Gridlock (March 25, 2015)
The Good News: Many in the World Favor Nuclear Disarmament; The Bad News: Iran Will Likely Have Nuclear Weapons Soon
In Asia, the American-led regional order is over — Meet the new landlord