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The Asian Pivot: Does America Still Rule the Waves?

9:37 AM, Apr 16, 2014 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
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The need to give such public assurances, however, is itself a manifestation of the extent of America’s Crimea perception problem in Asia. Some have even suggested that Secretary Hagel’s public comments will alleviate the necessity of President Obama having to make any similar pledges in Tokyo, Seoul and Manila. However, there is only one commander in chief and he is not the secretary of defense. In the final days of the 1952 presidential campaign it was soon-to-be President Eisenhower, and not his foreign policy advisors, who made the public pledge “I shall go to Korea” to end the Korean War. It was President Kennedy, not Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who stood at the newly constructed Berlin Wall in 1963 and said “Ich bin ein Berliner.” More than two decades later, in 1987, Ronald Reagan, not Caspar Weinberger, stood at the same wall and uttered the words “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Those troubled times called for a public manifestation of presidential resolve. President Obama’s trip to Asia to salvage the pivot will require no less.

Dennis P. Halpin is a former advisor for Asian issues on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is currently a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS (Johns Hopkins) and a consultant to the Poblete Analysis Group (PAG).

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