In a speech to the Australian parliament yesterday, President Obama delivered a powerful message of America’s commitment to the region:
This is the future we seek in the Asia Pacific—security, prosperity, and dignity for all. That’s what we stand for. That’s who we are. That’s the future we will pursue, in partnership with allies and friends, and with every element of American power. So let there be no doubt: In the Asia Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in…. We will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region. We will preserve our unique ability to project power and deter threats to peace. We will keep our commitments… Our enduring interests in the region demand our enduring presence in the region. The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay.
But when it comes to the Middle East and South Asia, he had a very different message:
In just a few weeks… the last American troops will leave Iraq and our war there will be over. In Afghanistan, we’ve begun … a responsible transition—so Afghans can take responsibility for their future and so coalition forces can begin to draw down…. So make no mistake, the tide of war is receding, and America is looking ahead to the future that we must build. From Europe to the Americas, we’ve strengthened alliances and partnerships. At home, we’re investing in the sources of our long-term economic strength—the education of our children, the training of our workers, the infrastructure that fuels commerce, the science and the research that leads to new breakthroughs. We’ve made hard decisions to cut our deficit and put our fiscal house in order—and we will continue to do more. … Our new focus on this region reflects a fundamental truth—the United States has been, and always will be, a Pacific nation.
So when it comes to the Pacific, America is “all in,” “here to stay,” and will pursue a future of “security, prosperity, and dignity for all” with “every element of American power.” But when it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan, “American troops will leave” and the United States is “looking ahead to the future we must build” by shifting our focus to Europe, the Americas, domestic challenges, and—yes—the Pacific. The message to the people of the Middle East and South Asia could not be clearer—or more troubling.