US Asia-Pivot Could Inflame Anti-Colonialist Sentiment

John Glaser, November 14, 2013

Obama’s strategic pivot to Asia has been hamstrung by hard facts. Sequestration included cuts to the defense budget that officials say handicapped the planned military surge in East Asia. The Syrian civil war, nuclear negotiations with Iran, and efforts to get Israeli and Palestinian leaders back to the table have drawn the U.S. back into the quicksand of the Middle East. And the October government shutdown led Obama to cancel a trip to Southeast Asia, in what was widely regarded as a diplomatic victory for China.

Don’t play your violins just yet. President Obama’s Asia-Pivot is essentially a military surge throughout East Asia meant to threaten and therefore contain a rising China. Does China threaten U.S. security? No. But expansionist U.S. policies in Asia to maintain hegemony over the world do threaten to provoke conflict between China and it’s U.S.-backed neighbors.

In addition to the above-mentioned roadblocks to a successful Asia-Pivot implementation, Ely Ratner of the Center for a New American Security is worried about another hinderance to U.S. imperialism – namely, popular opposition.

U.S. policymakers need to remember that foreign governments permitting the access and presence of U.S. troops and military equipment are engaging in highly politicized acts that can evoke deeply rooted nationalist sentiments associated with sovereignty, independence and, in some cases, colonialism and occupation. This has been manifest in America’s modern experience in the region. The Philippine Senate expelled U.S. forces from Subic Bay and Clark Air Force Base shortly after the end of the Cold War. Accidents and incidents associated with U.S. bases in Japan and South Korea have also created public outcry and led to painstaking negotiations to realign U.S. forces. More recently, in 2009 leaders from the newly elected Democratic Party of Japan sought domestic political advantage by undoing plans to relocate Futenma Air Station on Okinawa. The issue to this day remains a thorn in the side of the alliance.

For Washington and it’s helpful D.C. policy wonks, the task is not to acknowledge and respect the fact that foreign populations don’t want to be occupied by a non-native military. Instead, the task is to figure out how to get around this inconvenient obstruction.

This is why the humanitarian disaster following the Philippine typhoon is so politicized. Washington intends to give $20 million in relief and the U.S. military arrived quickly to assist in emergency relief operations. In contrast, China is sending less than $2 million in relief and has been much less visible. Washington is exploiting the humanitarian crisis in order to make U.S. military presence more palatable.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the phenomenon of “blowback” received a lot of focus. The Muslim world, especially militant Islamist groups, are infuriated by U.S. military presence in their lands and the bribing of unrepresentative governments that comes along with it. As it turns out, the costs of blowback, which manifest in events like 9/11, were well worth it to grand strategists in Washington, who expanded their presence and increased their interventionism in response to the attacks.

Incidentally, it was “blowback” in the Asian countries occupied by the U.S. that was first popularized. In 2000, Asia policy expert and professor at the University of California Chalmers Johnson, who also fought in the Korean war and was a consultant for the CIA, published a book called Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire and largely focused on the popular opposition to U.S. military presence in Asia. After 9/11, he became the go-to expert on blowback.

The U.S. government will do whatever it takes to continue to expand into Asia and wage a cold war with China, so long as it is possible to gain net benefits vis-à-vis its own geopolitical power. If Asian populations don’t like it, too bad. If Americans are hated for it, no problem. As Chalmers Johnson taught us, those are seen as acceptable costs and consequences of Empire.




23 Responses to “US Asia-Pivot Could Inflame Anti-Colonialist Sentiment”

  1. It appears that Japan is willing to take up the war drums once again and the militancy of a very large sector of the financial military and scientific community become more vocal by the day.
    There is only one more hurdle to vvompletely surround Chinas’ Pacific and SE Asia moves;the almost virulent hatred beteeen S.K and Japan.
    Japan has always had a strong racist component within its culture and it is obvious even today by the way peole of Okinawa are treated.
    The so far war of words between China and Jsps over ownership of a dew islands has mostly hid the very heated arguments betwern Japan and Korea ovrr other Islands and thrfts made by Japan in WWII and its treatment of Korean women
    US has just about driven Chinrse tradr out of Phillipines but in dooing so the vosy to americsm work force is horrendous as OBAMATRONS hive Phillipine almost unlimited immmigration and allow ecport from there to vut our eorkers throats wjile giving Phillipines cosl and oil at along eith Nstural gas Zzz LPG below world pricrs yet subdidizing US and Texas Csnsda firms. Laos, Myanma Thailand ; Cambodis and Viet nam are already recieving special trade status and even Mysnmar will recirleve iver 80 million in mostly military aid as all thode nations will.
    US military already squashing small regional dissenting groups, if you can’t buy em off pay a militia group to kill them or as in Indonesia Specisl Forces are integrated into its military so as theirs and ours as in Phillipines are indistinguisable.
    Ya Japan needs a good killing as its industrial base had neen stagnant and its unemployment and wages reflect it.
    Industries such as Mitsubishi are now gearing up for military aircraft. Tanks missles and especially in Naval fleets.
    Hipe they televise in full HD.
    Should be good watching.

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  3. Wow—I never had it explained to me quite like that before….

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  12. Probably a Keynesian economist. It reads like The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.

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  14. […] US <b>Asia</b>-Pivot Could Inflame Anti-Colonialist Sentiment – Antiwar.com […]

  15. Chalmers Johnson joule be required reading.

  16. sounds like my con gress critter.

  17. As America loses what respect is has left with its traditional friends and makes more and more enemies at an alarming rate, it becomes more and more obvious that as the US collapses there will be little if any sympathy available for Americans. It will be a lonely planet for the American people – they live in a democracy and let it all happen.

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