If a single word could sum up the goal of Barack Obama's Asia tour, it would be "reassurance."
Obama went to Tokyo to reassure Japan that, should China attempt to seize its Senkaku Islands, America will fight at her side.
He reassured Seoul of our commitment to defend South Korea.
He went to Manila to reassure the Filipinos, who threw our Navy out of Subic Bay at the end of the Cold War, that America will be there in any clash with Beijing in the South China Sea.
Yet, as Clyde Prestowitz writes in the Financial Times, while we are committed to go to war to defend all three countries if attacked, none of them is obligated to go to war if we are attacked.
What Tokyo, Seoul and Manila get out of their alliances with the United States is easy to see -- the security of a superpower's pledge to come and fight their wars for them.
But what do we get out of these commitments, other than an obligation to go to war with a nuclear-armed China or North Korea over shoals, rocks and borders on the other side of the world that have nothing to do with the peace or security of the United States?
Saudis, Turks and Israelis are angry because Obama backed down from his "red line" warning to Bashar Assad, when Syria's army allegedly used chemical weapons.
They were all counting on the United States to attack their enemy, Syria, and we let them down. Now after the red line fiasco and the U.S. failure to stop Vladimir Putin from annexing Crimea, our allies want reassurances that we will not fail in our obligations again.
But if Assad's alleged use of sarin or chlorine is a moral outrage, why did his neighbors not punish him themselves?
Why is this America's duty? Why is Syria America's war?
Historically, great powers and empires exact tribute, exploit colonies, and demand conscripts of their protectorates.
America is something new in the way of world powers. We not only provide the legions to protect "allies," but provide the tribute in the form of foreign aid, IMF and World Bank loans, and bailout billions.
Moreover, America has thrown open her home market, largest in the world at $17 trillion, to Europe, Japan, Canada, Mexico, and even China, and invited them to come and capture it from our manufacturers.
In a quarter century, these trade partners have run up $10 trillion in trade surpluses at our expense, eviscerating our industrial base to where Detroit looks like Dresden in 1945.
But while we preach free trade our partners practice protectionism.