He points out the fact that the Navy’s shipbuilding budget has been too low for years, resulting in fewer vessels than we need to fulfill our obligations in Asia and elsewhere. Gen. John M. Paxton Jr., assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, asked in a recent speech: “Do we have enough people and enough ships to do it?” The answer was clearly no.
“The ‘Asia Pivot’ or ‘rebalance’ has always been more hype than reality,” Klinger adds. “The policy is a sound one only if sufficient resources are devoted to deploy the requisite military forces in the Pacific.”
So if reassurances were needed, the Obama administration has itself to blame. The most successful part of the trip -- soothing our worried allies -- shouldn’t have been necessary.
The trip wasn’t solely about security, however. It was also supposed to be about free trade. The president, however, failed to get an agreement with Japan on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that is meant to expand trade in the Asia-Pacific region. Expanding economic freedom there and elsewhere requires strong presidential leadership, but his track record on this issue isn’t nearly good enough.
President Obama is good at campaigning, though, and that’s exactly what his administration’s “the U.S. is back in Asia” sounds like – feel-good sloganeering. The fact is, the U.S. never left Asia.
But unless we fully fund our defense commitments and get serious about promoting economic freedom, we might as well have. Doing those things, though, takes true leadership. And right now, our allies in Asia aren’t the only ones who need reassurances on that score.
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