Pacific Pivot

Much ink has been spilled discussing the United States “Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region” or as it is known more colloquially – especially in naval circles, the “U.S. Pivot to the Pacific.” President Obama put it this way almost five years ago:

“Our new focus on this region reflects a fundamental truth – the United States has been, and always will be, a Pacific nation … Here, we see the future. With most of the world’s nuclear power and some half of humanity, Asia will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation, needless suffering or human progress.”

President Barack Obama
Remarks to the Australian Parliament November 17, 2011

There has been much talk of late of the United States’ “Rebalance Towards Asia,” or as it is more popularly known, its “Pivot to the Pacific.” This “Pivot” is being watched carefully – and it should be.  Major powers have sometimes been long on rhetoric and short on action. Understanding the factors that are driving the United States in this direction can help in discerning whether this rebalance – or pivot – is something that will be sustained or an initiative that will run its course until a new “strategy de jour” presents itself.

Without putting too fine a point on it, beyond the economic, demographic, trade and other reasons the United States is becoming more focused on the Asia-Pacific region to the extent it has announced a substantial shift in its military forces to the region; the rise of China as a major Asia-Pacific and world superpower is clearly driving U.S. initiatives in this region.  It is fair to say that the moves by the United States are a natural response to new geopolitical realities of a rising China in general and the rise of China’s military in particular.  Most would agree the United States’ rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific is one of the most effective ways for the United States to provide and sustain credible military presence in the world’s most dynamic area.

It’s clear that the United States wants to “Pivot to the Pacific,” but how it plays out is still a matter of debate.

In this prize-winning article in the Australian Navy League’s premier publication, The Navy, we examine whether this “pivot” is real or just rhetoric.