First, pretty much everyone in Washington supports the idea of a “pivot” or re balancing of American foreign policy toward East Asia. Second, few of us could explain precisely what the re balancing is. Official Washington supports a policy it can’t define. So — what is the rebalancing? Much like its military cousin, the operational concept Air‐Sea Battle, the rebalancing is hard to pin down. According to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, though, it definitely isn’t about containing China. In Panetta’s murky phrasing, it really is about “bringing China into a relationship to try to deal with some common challenges that we all face: the challenge of humanitarian assistance and needs; the challenge of dealing with weapons of mass destruction that are proliferating throughout the world; and dealing with narco‐trafficking, piracy, how to improve trade and how to improve lines of communication.” This is nonsense,and the Chinese know it. One part of the rebalancing was the pledge last June from Panetta that 60 percent of U.S. naval assets would be dedicated to the Pacific by 2020. The idea that drugs, piracy, proliferation and humanitarian assistance require 60 percent of U.S. naval forces is laughable.
If China tried this sort of rhetoric to defend deploying more than half of its naval assets to the Western Hemisphere, American leaders would not give the argument a moment’s consideration. The re balancing is absolutely about China.
Unfortunately, it is more about competition between the United States and China than between China and its neighbors. In keeping with historical precedent, Washington is leap frogging its allies to take the lead in dealing with potential security challenges in faraway regions.