Obama’s Pivot to Asia Trip overshadowed by Events

November 16, 2015

Foreign Policy: Obama’s Pivot to Asia Trip overshadowed by Events

by AFP

MANILA: US President Barack Obama arrives in the Philippines Tuesday with his much-vaunted “pivot to Asia” again overshadowed by events in Europe, the Middle East and politics at home.

Obama and King of Malaysia

Coming to Malaysia again

Obama will touch down in Manila with the world’s focus on the murderous attacks in Paris claimed by the Islamic State group and soul searching about how to counter it in Syria and Iraq.

The long-planned Asia trip had been designed to underscore America’s role as a “Pacific power” and timed to coincide with high-profile regional summits, which Obama has made a point of attending.

“When we’re not at the table, we’re on the menu,” said senior foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes half-jokingly, explaining the administration’s policy.

Before the Paris attacks, National Security Advisor Susan Rice previewed Obama’s trip as an opportunity to herald a vast trans-Pacific trade deal and efforts to promote a “rules-based order” amid tensions in the South China Sea. But Obama has spent the last few days talking about Syria, Iraq and the Islamic State, and will likely do so again with Asian leaders.

That focus may actually sit well with some Asian nations, according to Ernest Bower of Washington think-tank CSIS.“Countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei – have real and immediate concerns about citizens who have left to fight in Syria and Iraq and will be returning,” said Bower.

“After Paris, most Asian countries will be looking to the US for leadership in the counter-ISIS (Islamic State) fight. This will underline the US global security role.”

For his part, Obama may point to majority Muslim nations in Southeast Asia as examples of how economic development can put a lid on radicalism.

Still, another sidetracked trip to the region is a far cry from early in Obama’s term when the Hawaii-born commander-in-chief confidently declared himself “America’s first Pacific president”.

Throughout his administration, key aides have been frustrated at events in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere perennially dominating presidential agendas and security briefings.In their view, populous and fast-growing Asia has, as a result, not always received the attention it deserves.

All politics is local

But events in Europe and the Middle East are not the only things holding Obama back as he arrives in Manila.The White House faces an uphill battle to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal — which would spur trade between 12 Pacific rim nations representing 40 percent of the world’s economy — through Congress.

Sources on Capitol Hill say the agreement may not be ratified until after US elections in November, 2016, or until a new president has taken office in early 2017.

Top Democrats, including Obama’s would-be successor, Hillary Clinton, have opposed the deal, while Republicans are loath to give Obama a major policy victory.

The White House is pressing its case hard, insisting there is no reason to make US business wait to reap the benefits of the deal.

Before leaving for Asia, Obama assembled some of the most prominent foreign policy thinkers from past Democratic and Republican administrations to sell the geo-political case for the agreement.

The deal is seen by some as a counterbalance to growing Chinese economic clout in the region. Beijing is not a member.

“Economically, the Asia-Pacific region is the most dynamic, the most populous and fastest-growing region of the world,” Obama said flanked by luminaries Madeleine Albright, James Baker, Henry Kissinger and Colin Powell.

“And strategically, it is a region that’s absolutely vital to our economic and national security interests in the 21st century.”

Congress has also thwarted White House efforts to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which experts say could strengthen Washington’s case that Asian nations must solve maritime disputes by legal means.

The accord provides the ground rules for maritime claims and passage, just as China is moving to assert greater control in the hotly contested South China Sea.

The Philippines has filed a case against China’s claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, using UNCLOS as its legal foundation.

“The President strongly supports ratification,” a senior administration official told AFP, referring to the agreement that has been signed, but not yet ratified by the US Senate.

Bill Bishop, author of the Asia-focused Sinocism newsletter, said the United States not ratifying UNCLOS hurt its credibility on the issue.

Bishop said the United States was currently only using a “blunt instrument” of military posturing, pointing to a US missile destroyer recently sailing close to Chinese-made artificial islands in the sea.

“It would be much better for the entire region if the US had a portfolio of options that were both hard and soft,” Bishop said.


13 thoughts on “Obama’s Pivot to Asia Trip overshadowed by Events

  1. Please do not wait for the U.S. to solve your problems. Just look around for yourself. Marshall plan and Japan stand out as success. May be Korea. If you want to call it that. In other areas where they did not make a mark they imported refugees and green card holing elite form the failed states.
    We have to get our act together and then may be with some help from friendly countries may be we cam make Malaysia better.

  2. Sarawak Report………

    1MDB Sleaze Casts Shadow Over US Democrats On Eve Of Obama Visit – INVESTIGATION

    15 Nov 2015

    Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe received US$25,000 for his 2013 campaign

    Money paid by 1MDB to the US company DuSable Capital Management, tasked with lobbying US Government support for its Kedah solar panel project, found its way into the the 2013/14 election campaigns of at least 7 Democrat candidates, according to official filings.

    Substantial sums were paid, including US$25,000 to the Governorship campaign of Virginia’s Terry McAuliffe in late 2013 and US$5,200 each to three candidates for the Senate in 2014, Mark Begich, Michelle Nunn and Dick Durbin.

    Dick Durbin is currently the Democrat Party’s minority Whip in the Senate, making him a powerful political figure.

    DuSable is headed by Frank White, who was President Obama’s chief fundraiser during his own election campaign in 2012 and known as a Democrat Party stalwart.

  3. Partial piece from Sarawak Report:

    Liar’s, Forgers And Paid PR People Posing As Activists – Black PR Against Sarawak Report Exposed

    11 Nov 2015

    The recent PR campaign against Sarawak Report, supposedly supported by a team of enthusiastic Tweeters and Facebook fans, has accused this writer of being a “liar” and a “forger” and of being a paid “activist posing as a journalist”.

    Yet our research, together with the UK’s Independent newspaper, into the anonymous outfit behind this campaign, has shown that these descriptions perfectly fit the accusers instead.

    The Independent has today published their investigation and featured our complaint against Facebook and Twitter, for taking inadequate steps to protect victims from this kind of abuse.

    Because, it is not only Sarawak Report that is being defamed and abused by this expensively commissioned ‘Black PR’ campaign.

    A whole series of innocent and vulnerable people are also being exploited, because their pictures and identities are being stolen and used to create fake characters in a clear act of forgery and lies.

    These include Ashraf Rossli (above) a Malaysian student, who gained world sympathy when he was robbed on camera during the London riot. Ashrai is depicted by these hired forgers as a fictitious character called Sam Woo, who falsely claims in his tweets that Sarawak Report removes comments by people who disagree with its reports. ………………………


  4. “Congress has also thwarted White House efforts to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)…..” and Congress can do the same again with TPPA. It’s all talks about nothing……

  5. Pivot to Asia is nothing more than U.S effort in containing China as per their strategic doctorine that no other nation will be allowed to challenge the American Empire either militarily or economically.With this in mind Asian countries shouldnt be participating in this U.S hegemonic planning,the end result of which will be future war with China.However the recent aggressive policies of China regarding the islands in South China Sea will push Asian countries into the arm of America.

  6. One is a declining power ten thousand miles away, the other is a rising power in the neighborhood. Malaysia should be cautious to take a balanced relation with both, lest the little mouse deer would squash into mash when two elephants fight.

    LaMoy, yes. Unfortunately Najib is not that sort of a leader who cares about Malaysia’s future. He is very consumed with himself. Moreover, we have a foreign service which is unable to think in strategic terms. Malaysia should use ASEAN to manage its relations with the US and China, instead of playing like a big boy when it is an ant in the global power game.Thanks for your comments. I look forward to reading your comments in future.–Din Merican

  7. Din, thank you for your response. Like you, I came to the United States in 1969, four months after the May 13 Riots. Unlike you, I never returned. I have since established a successful and happy life in San Francisco, but Malaysia always lingers in my mind. I discovered your blog by accident. It pains me to learn the race relations in Malaysia today is worse than the time I left, and the country is close to becoming a failed state.

    I witnessed the independence of Malaya as a boy and the formation as a teenager, maybe I will live long enough to see its disintegration. If Malaysia continues to practice communal politics, disintegration is inevitable. For communal politics divide rather than unify the nation, dividing the citizenry along racial lines and complicate further by religious fanatics.

    Anyway, like you, I am an avid golfer and, unlike you, I do not care too much for Arnie Palmer. My golf idol is Jack Nicklaus. God bless you.


    I had the opportunity to live in the United States after I graduated in 1970, but I chose to return to Malaysia. If I had the foresight then to see what Malaysia was going to be today, I would not have returned. But some decisions we make are irreversible and here I am trying to make the best of what is on hindsight a bad one. I was fortunate that after three failed and acrimonious marriages, I met and married in 2009 a brilliant dentist and intellectual who is 24 years younger than me.

    I stayed and fought but I could not win. Being stubborn, I am still trying to make our country a better place for all of us. But as you know, I am also at my journey’s end and may not see my dream of an inclusive Malaysia come to fruition. But I will have to have console myself that I did my best.

    So now, I am in Cambodia to make a small contribution to the intellectual development of the wonderful young Cambodians who live in a more open and tolerant society. Unlike the Malays, the Cambodians will rebuild their nation into an indispensable member of the ASEAN community; unlike the Malays, they had a great civilisation, culture and a proud but tragic history under the genocidal Khmer Rouge led by the mentally deranged Pol Pot.

    Well, Mr. Palmer is a charismatic personality who played a different kind of golf. For him the shortest route to the pin is a straight line. I like his “Go for Broke” Philosophy. I play golf with his kind of mindset. I have a 14 handicap,and was a 6-handicapper when I was 29. But I do acknowledge that the Man from Columbus, Ohio, the Golden Bear Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer of our generation.

    Take care, my friend and please use this blog to share your ideas, views and experience with my readers. May God Bless you and your family.–Din Merican

  8. I like what I see in many parts of the U.S. But the inconsistent application of the law on certain communities does take off some of the generous comments on that country.

  9. Din: I admire what you are doing, your devotion and your dedication to your mission in life. Most people going through life not knowing what purpose of existence and what meaning of life. They are too busy eking a living and have no time or unable to think how to live. It is noble of you trying to make their lives a little easier. You might not succeed and they may not know. But God knows.

    Hang in there, bro. I have a group of six friends usually travel together to play golf around the world. Early this year we played in Yunnan, China. We have not played in Cambodia. Okay to look you up? But not in Malaysia.

    Eight years ago we played at Genting. After the game we stopped by the casino but were refused entrance because, the security guard told us, we were wearing sandals without socks exposing our toes. We were so angry and dumbfounded, my friends vowed never to set foot on Malaysia again. Take care, bro. – Lawrence Moy
    Thanks, Larry, I am moved by your kind remarks. You are welcome to visit Phnom Penh and play golf here. We can play a round or two together. You will be able to assess me as an Arnold Palmer go for broke golfer. Let me know when you decide to come.I am only an e-mail away–dmerican2@gmail.com in this interconnected 21st century world.

    I chose to be what I am today. I have no regrets for my choice. It was my late mother, a nurse, who showed me how to be a useful, honest and compassionate person with a quest for knowledge. As someone whose father died when he was 5 years old, I was raised by my mother as a single parent. I learned soft skills from her. I saw her as a person who was race, colour, status and religion blind. She worked hard to raise 3 children (and I was the most rebellious and difficult one for challenging her authority). All she wanted to do was to tend to the sick in the best way she could. I am the same too in terms of how I deal and serve people. But I am far from perfect.

    I have come a long way and am now very conscious that I am at my journey’s end with lots of unfinished business left. It is scary to look back and realise how little I know about life.

    I wasted too much time over petty matters, when I was younger. As a result, I now advise my young Cambodian wards to lead purposeful lives, and not waste their time bickering over inconsequential things, and serve their country well.

    I will stay the course, no matter what. I do not suffer fools easily. So people like Najib and his types in UMNO make me sick. They know it and I do not give a damn. –Din Merican

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