By Karam Singh Sethi
Feb. 7, 2014
Americans want to hear about the economy. Reasonable, seeing that after three years of increasing, unemployment is only now starting to dip into normalcy. The 2014 State of the Union gave Americans reassurance in their economy, while touching on specific resolves: raising the minimum wage, increasing benefits for the retired and toning down the Affordable Care Act banter. However successful President Obama was at increasing public confidence, he neglected to give a wink or a nod to the cornerstone of his foreign policy agenda: the Asia Pivot.
For the betterment of the domestic message, international affairs were consciously kicked to the backseat of the SOTU. More painful, though, is that the symbolic kick reflects reality. Instead of trailblazing promising new campaigns in his six years in office, President Obama has been weighed down by remnants of his predecessor’s foreign policy blunders. Fashioning positive diplomatic relations is one of Obama’s most constructive political strengths, and it’s not being utilized. This must change in his last two years. Focus on the Asia Pivot will reassert his foreword-thinking administration and rejuvenate his already benign legacy.
The philosophy behind this well-conceived foreign policy initiative is to re-balance U.S. interests and “Pivot” from the Middle East towards East Asia. What does this accomplish? Council on Foreign Relations Asia Director, Elizabeth Economy, gives a brilliant explanation. First, bolstering existing trade lines will yield great results and glorify American resources. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, connects Washington to East Asia through U.S. dominated sea lines. Second “nascent democracies” in the region will further define their political philosophies through increased U.S. presence. Myanmar, for example, is in the process of political reforms and welcomes an advisory role from one of its largest investors, the U.S. Lastly, security concerns are likely to rise in the East as its resources become more precious. The U.S. is in a position to preempt future violence by establishing an auspicious presence. The list of benefits produced by reshuffling Washington’s international focus goes on and has a low cost-benefit ratio. If the current administration more verbosely pursues ties, it should of course expect nominal hurdles.
Individual states considered apart of the refocusing efforts, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Loas, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, have, in recent memory, humanly treated its citizens. The former four, however, have a history of domestic atrocities not easily overlooked. Instead of casting a fog over the past, it would be wise for Washington to acknowledge its new allies’ faults, while cautiously mentoring transparent domestic procedure.
Last Tuesday, five out of six international affairs topics discussed were Middle East – centric and issues included in The State of the Union typically reflect the current administration’s priorities. The hope, however, is that this White House strays away from the historical norm and reignites zeal towards promising Asian frontiers.
Karam Singh Sethi graduated from Connecticut College with a degree in International Relations and Economics in 2012. He recently completed a Fulbright grant teaching Secondary school English in rural Malaysia. Besides being adept at squatty-potty and eating-with-hands etiquette, he rehabilitates anxiety driven nail biters. He reads, writes, and runs but if you want to get on his sweet side take him on the Brooklyn Brewery tour. He’s been more times than you can count, but his life force has increasingly become free alcohol.