Barack Obama’s new defence strategy caps the most important year in American foreign policy for a decade. Whatever grade one gives to the president’s decisions, they are certainly consequential, adding up to the most profound shift in US foreign policy since the convulsive period between September 2001 and August 2002.
The shift is reflected in the planned defence posture outlined last week by the Obama administration, which makes clear that the “Atlantic community” is being eclipsed by the rising Asia-Pacific one.
Some of the Asia-Pacific move reflects older initiatives; some is mainly symbolic. However, the cumulative boost of American energy and commitment is palpable. Indeed, the main challenge now for Washington may be to restrain the momentum of the large, coarse Sino-neuralgic political forces it has set in motion. Some of America’s Asian friends are uneasy. They wanted more reassurance, but not at the expense of rattling the table.
In fact, one of the more interesting phenomena of the past year or so is the rising US reliance on “grey power” – neither traditional diplomacy nor conventional military might – that operates in twilight worlds of special operations and financial clearing houses. Continue reading »