Since President Obama announced his intention to "rebalance" foreign policy attention toward the Asia-Pacific region, there has been much debate – and much misunderstanding – about the purpose and function of this shift. As elements of the rebalance begin to fall into place, this conversation will only grow louder.
As the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans from 2009 to 2012, I was responsible for developing the military elements of this policy and recommending changes to our military posture to support the president's strategy. Having left government almost two years ago, I'm still amused to note how misunderstood the strategy is. I'd like to clear up three of the most common misconceptions and myths about the policy:
Myth #1: The So-Called "Pivot"
The first misconception is a word itself – "pivot" – which implies that we're pivoting awayfrom someplace in order to pay more attention to Asia. This is usually what worries our European allies the most. But in reality, no military units were moved from Europe to Asia because the U.S. is not pivoting away from our long-time allies. It is rebalancing its diplomatic, economic, and strategic focus following a decade of war.