Saturday, March 24, 2012

Obama Shrinks America's Global Footprint

Media coverage of President Barack Obama's high-profile visit to Australia and plan to boost US presence in Asia may mask America's shrinking global footprint. The combination of concern over China and the US debt crisis could set Washington on a course to becoming a mere regional power in the Asia Pacific.

According to a just published report by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies, defense spending is rising in Asia - much of it driven by China, which accounts for 30 percent of the region's military budget - and falling in Europe and US. The think tank attributes the trends to economic growth in Asia and what it calls strategic uncertainty. And that uncertainty has provided the US with a tempting opportunity to reassert itself in the region while cutting back elsewhere.

Last November, the Hawaiian-born Obama announced what his administration is calling a pivot towards Asia, representing a significant shift in policy since he took office. The change is driven by changing perceptions of Chinese power, but it's also partly a result of diminishing US financial clout. Although Washington insists it will retain military superiority, the pivot could well mark the beginning of a geopolitical shift that ends up with the US being predominantly a regional power in the Asia-Pacific.

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