By Patricia Lee Sharpe
The President, it seems, can’t walk and chew gum. The so-called Asian pivot is a case in point, but not the only one.
Is it really possible that a great power with the formal institutional resources available to the U.S. can’t keep an eye on the Middle East and China at the same time? Especially since the China issue massively involves the Navy and the Middle East far less so?
Or is this really just a presidential problem? Does Barack Obama lack the smarts to juggle a complex agenda or, to use the current jargon, to multitask? Or is he a colossally bad manager? Or lazy? Or more in love with the image than the obligations of being president?
Or, truly frightening to contemplate, is the obviously troubled U.S. system we used to admire rotten and corrupted to the point of irremediability?
No Lack of People
Look at it this way. There are thousands of thoughtful, well-informed people within the State Department, the National Security Council, the many-pronged intelligence apparatus and the Pentagon to gather information, assess its implications, draw up policy and/or action plans and send them up the hierarchy to be dealt with—collated, evaluated, weighed, tweaked, given relative priorities with appropriate resources—and, passing muster, implemented. Could we possibly be reduced to this: able to activate only one department of one branch of government at one time?
Seems to me that a well-managed country that pretends to super power status should be able to deal with the Middle East and with China simultaneously—and also, at the same time, with Latin America and Africa as well as all the global issues that affect the welfare of this and other countries.
If not, the Republicans are right. Thousands of people should be out of a job because they are redundant, which is a polite way of calling them useless.
A Definite Lack of Deft PD
Actually, the apparent inability to multi-task isn’t my only perplexity on the “pivot” front, and I’d like to exhaust those concerns before I return to the question of whether this government can simultaneously walk and check gum (and, one would hope, also be able to blow big beautiful bubbles—excluding the financial sort, of course).
As an old hand at public diplomacy, I deeply do not understand why the administration so blatantly announced that it was shifting its attention, i.e., executing a pivot, to the East, thus implying that the U.S. lacks the resources to handle a full plate of global issues. Maybe the U.S. isn’t equipped these days to wage a two-front war, but any world power worth the name must have the resources to carry out effective diplomacy on a global scale. Otherwise, it’s not a middling power, much less a super power.