Questions have arisen in recent months about the sustainability of the United States' rebalance toward Asia. The costly cancellation of President Obama's trip to the region during the U.S. government shutdown last fall fueled that skepticism, which has only grown as urgent foreign policy challenges have required U.S. leadership in the Middle East and Europe.
Yet the rebalancing of U.S. priorities and resources toward Asia remains the right strategy. This reorientation does not imply a turn away from allies in other regions or an abandonment of our commitments elsewhere. It represents a shift away from the war efforts in the Middle East and South Asia that have dominated U.S. national security policy and resources for the past decade and a shift toward the region that presents the most significant opportunity for the United States.
Every U.S. administration must ensure that the inevitable cascade of crises does not crowd out the development of long-term strategies. So at the outset of his first term, Obama directed his national security team to assess the projection and focus of U.S. power around the world.
The administration concluded that the United States had become substantially underinvested in the Asia-Pacific region — diplomatically, militarily, commercially and in terms of policymaker attention. We began implementing the rebalance from the very start: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first trip in office was to Asia, something no secretary of state had done since 1961.
The decision to rebalance stemmed from a recognition of the United States' crucial role in supporting Asia's social and economic development. Were it not for 70 years of U.S. investment in the unimpeded flow of commerce and the preservation of peace, Asia would be less secure, less prosperous and less free. Today, territorial disputes, nationalism, changing power dynamics and the North Korean threat make the U.S. presence all the more essential.