All Grown Up
[With his comforting smile, Obama sat down next to his gray-haired and grumpy friend, whom had just received the news.]
“Does this mean you will not take care of me anymore?” cried Europe.
“Look. You are all grown up and it is time for you to take care of yourself. I can’t continue to support you.”
“Is this because of all those mean things I said about you? You know, I don’t really think you are a hypocrite. I actually like you. I even like those missile toys you gave me.”
“We all say and do things we don’t mean. Keep the toys. It will keep the bears away.”
“But where will you go Obama?“
“There is a whole world out there! Remember what I told you about the Pacific?”
[Europe frowns and sighs loudly in dismay.]
“You know, Europe, you could make an effort to help me out with those Chinese making trouble the South China Sea. You could even show off some of those skills I’ve trained you with in our trip to Libya!”
“Nah, I don’t want to get the Chinese angry. Why do you insist on showing off your muscles? It will only make the Chinese jealous and irritated. I like buying cheap stuff from them. Look I got these for half the price!”
[Europe points happily at the tailored skinny jeans.]
“Plus, these days I am really strapped with cash. I have serious problems with my Greek wife. She lied about her 401k and spent all my savings. Thinking about a divorcing her. ”
“Well, you’re on your own Europe. I got 99 problems but a monetary union ain’t one.”
In the spirit of Kissinger’s now famous quote, “Who do I call if I want to speak to Europe”, this is how Obama must have broken the news about his planned “Asia Pivot” at the NATO summit at Camp David earlier this year.
Despite Europe’s concern about Obama’s provocative Asia move, the pivot is likely to last considering the ongoing and planned regional investments in defense.
Nevertheless, Europe’s worries over United States’ Asia pivot is substantive and well founded. The economic stagnation, uncertainty over the future of the euro, and the huge debt remain critical. Virtually all European members and partners of NATO have been cutting back on defense spending. While European forces were built for conflicts closer to home, the simple Libya mission proved that the U.S. is still vital to Europe’s ambitious humanitarian missions, national security and Brussels leather wallet.
Perhaps Europe would tag along with the U.S. on this Asian excursion if the perceived pivot shifted away from a military competition to economic, diplomatic and political cooperation. Established international organizations exist in the region that can facilitate Obama’s ambitious project. A different focus might bring Europe on board U.S.’s sailing ships. Europe favors the newly formed Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Shanghai Cooperative Organization, which includes not only China but also Russia. For Europe, this makes great diplomatic and economic sense.
If the White House wants support from a cash-struck Europe outside of Afghanistan, there must be a clear overarching strategy to provide the context for this offensive military expansion. The pivot has been perceived as militarizing the geo-economic region in Asia and it has offended China. This worries European diplomats. No one wants to see those “made in China” skinny jeans and other essential hi-tech Apple products increase in price in times of austerity.