Analysis & Opinions - The National Interest

A Global America Can't Pivot to Asia

| Sep. 22, 2022

If American interests remain global, the pivot to Asia will not succeed.

Since at least the Obama administration, policymakers have attempted to rebalance and refocus U.S. security commitments by making the Indo-Pacific America's top overseas priority. With European nations wealthy enough to defend themselves, domestic fatigue with America's forever wars gripping the body politic, and the continued emergence of China as a near-peer competitor, the Indo-Pacific has been steadily viewed in Washington as the most significant arena for the development of long-term U.S. economic and strategic interests.

However, successive presidential administrations have struggled to fully shift American assets, attention, and resources to Asia. This has stemmed from several crucial factors, including consistent international crises in other parts of the world—such as Russia's invasion of Ukraine—that have distracted U.S. officials, a global pandemic, and internal domestic upheaval in the United States. Yet the root cause of the so-called pivot to Asia's failure is Washington's continued belief that American power and interests are global and universal. If U.S. decisionmakers truly seek to reorient American strategic priorities, they need a clear hierarchy of the nation's interests and obligations.

This refusal to prioritize is nothing new. Since the end of World War II, U.S. policymakers and strategists have wrangled over the "Europe first versus Asia first question" in American foreign policy. In the immediate aftermath of the war, when this dispute was acutely raging, the "Europe firsters" ostensibly won the debate, as American resources poured into Western Europe to prevent the perceived threat of its subversion and takeover by the Soviet Union.

But at the same time that the Truman administration was directing the U.S. occupation of Germany and formulating its containment policy, the Marshall Plan, and NATO, it was also striving to mediate a peaceful conclusion to the Chinese Civil War, to support the European imperial powers reclaim their former Asian colonies, rebuild Japan, and compete with Moscow for prestige throughout Asia. American officials claimed Europe was their prime concern, but they committed a comparable level of resources to the rapidly shifting balance of power in Asia....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Golub, Grant.“A Global America Can't Pivot to Asia.” The National Interest, September 22, 2022.