On May 28, President Barack Obama delivered a commencement speech at the graduation ceremony of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. This has traditionally been the preferred venue for U.S. national leaders seeking to acknowledge their foreign and security policy accomplishments and articulate their visions for the role of the United States in future international affairs. This year was no exception.
However, while Obama highlighted his work toward the conclusion of the U.S. military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan and reminded Americans that the United States is still the indispensable leader in international affairs, his vision for future U.S. foreign and security policy fell short of expectations. Perhaps the most noticeable omission was that of the President’s keystone foreign policy undertaking: the U.S. strategic rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific. Was this just sloppy speech writing, or was it a subtle indication that all is not well with the strategic rebalance?
We argue the latter. Although many may find this assertion alarming, there are valid reasons to argue that the strategic rebalance has been stumbling since its launch, has produced questionable results along the way, and is in serious need of modification. Indeed, signs of change are evident in the President’s second term. The turn of events clearly started with the ascension of Secretary of State John Kerry. Although Kerry supports the rebalance, his focus has been in Europe and the Middle East. With the change of leadership in Washington in 2016, there is a good chance that the strategic rebalance will undergo some rebalance of its own.
Doomed from the Start?