"With U.S. polls showing Americans wanting fewer global entanglements and dramatically reduced defense spending, and with Congress stuck in its budget limbo, the Afghanistan war still two years from Obama's finish line, and Middle East countries embroiled in a bloody tectonic shift, it will be Hagel's job to explain why Asian security, on top of all of that, is also a job for the United States."
In a way, it's a trip that is as ambitious and emblematic of the Obama administration's global security strategy. The goal: on one side of the world, cement the beginnings of a massive 21st century shift of U.S. resources, firepower, and national security time and attention to Asia, while on the other side, keeping a watching eye on internal conflicts threatening to tear apart the Middle East.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel departed Washington on Thursday for an eight-day tour of Southeast Asia during which, aides said, he will seek new permissions to rotate additional troops, ships and aircraft through the region; call for deeper, regular senior-level relations among regional allies; and push countries to embrace multilateral security – all while receiving constant updates about the stability-threatening conflicts in Egypt and Syria. It is Hagel's second trip to Asia in his first six months in office, and aides say a third trip is planned before the year's end.