The long-promised turn of USA toward Asia was finally gaining momentum: new security arrangements with Philippines and Indiaexpansion of military maneuvers and plans with allies to get ahead of Chinese technology.
But middle Eastlike a vortex, has once again attracted Washington. And for the partners of USA in it Indo-Pacificmany of whom already fear that USA is not moving fast enough to counter Beijingthe sudden attention paid to Loop – with Pentagon task forces, increased US arms deliveries to Israel and rushed visits to Middle East capitals – feels like a loss, delaying progress on some of its most critical challenges.
“What worries us most is the diversion of US military resources from East Asia to Europe, to the Middle East”he declared Akihisa Nagashimalegislator and former national security advisor of Japanat a strategy forum held last week in Sydney (Australia). “We really hope that the conflict ends completely very soon”.
US military commanders have stated that no equipment has left the Indo-Pacific. And two senior cabinet officials, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and the Secretary of State Antony J. Blinkenthey will travel Asia this week with messages of calm, making stops separately or together in India, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia.
Along the way, you’ll most likely hear a mix of opinions about Loopwith India more in favor of Israel, Japan seeking a more balanced approach and Indonesiahome to the world’s largest Muslim population, increasingly angered by the thousands of civilians killed in the Israeli invasion that followed the assault on Hamas to Israel.
But what all these countries share are doubts about how the entanglement of Washington with another distant war, in addition to Ukraineand the needs of the Indo-Pacific. Many are wondering: How many promises of support to how many nations can it really make? USAa power at the limit of its forces abroad and politically divided at home?
Guns are one of the common concerns. The US defense industry has had to face shortages of ammunition supplied to both Ukraine like Israel, including 155-millimeter artillery shells. More complex U.S. guided munitions and systems are also being sent to both conflicts, even as U.S. partners in the Indo-Pacific They await their own arms deliveries.
Japan, Taiwan and Australia could experience delays in military equipment contracted and promised by USA.
“It’s not just about material“, he claimed Andrew Nien-Dzu Yang, former Minister of Defense of Taiwan. “People must be taught or trained to manage these systems.”.
“The concern is that the United States does not have a more effective and abundant capacity to deter China”he added.
If the war of Loop is prolonged, its repercussions could change. Although a prolonged conflict could further strain U.S. arsenals, China could learn from him that urban warfare is extraordinarily difficult, which would perhaps deter Beijing to follow through with his threats to take the densely populated island of Taiwanwhich he considers a lost territory.
For now, however, Beijing seems to be in favor of continuing with risky maneuvers. Two weeks after Hamas will attack Israel On October 7, a Chinese coast guard ship and a maritime militia vessel rammed Philippine ships conducting a resupply mission in the Second Thomas Shoala Filipino outpost in a part of the South China Sea that China claims as his own. It was one of the most conflictive meetings between both countries in more than 20 years of comings and goings through the disputed territory.
A few days later, a Chinese fighter came within 3 meters of a American B-52 bomber in a night maneuver over the South China Sea which nearly caused a collision, part of what the US military called “dangerous pattern of coercive and risky operational behavior”.
The objective of Chinaaccording to the admiral John C. AquilinoUS commander of the Indo-Pacific, is “force the United States out of the region”. Pentagon officials have insisted that will not happen.
But for skeptics of American commitment, the wild swings in attention Washington They are woven into the historical fabric. Vietnam is an example, but so is the era of George W. Bush. In the 2000 election campaign, he said: “When I am president, China will have no doubts about our power and purpose in the region, about our firm commitment to democratic allies across Asia”.
A month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he traveled to Beijing to meet with the then Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin. Bush avoided talking about the emerging giant as a “strategic competitor”, and emphasized trade and the need to fight terrorism together.
India still remembers the impact of that change: the war of Afghanistan approached USA to the archenemy of New Delhi, Pakistan. And now you’re expected Xi Jinpingcurrent Chinese leader, meets with the president Biden at a summit to be held this month in San Franciscosome Indian commentators wonder if Washington could once again lean towards the Middle East.
“If we return to the old trade relationship and the idea of ’we are going to solve the accommodation in Asia’, that would affect Taiwan, Japan, India and all our neighbors“, he claimed C.Raja Mohanprincipal investigator of the Asia Society Policy Institute of New Delhi. “But I don’t think we’re there yet.”
For some countries, the renewed conflict over the Palestinian question has also inflamed old beliefs that USA is anti-Muslim, or at least too biased towards Israel. After years of seeing how Washington avoided confronting the mistreatment inflicted on Palestinians by both the Israeli government and extremist Israeli settlers, some no longer trust that USA be a fair intermediary.
When austinthe Secretary of Defense, arrives at Indonesiais likely to face an angry public, if not anti-American protests, despite his efforts to advise the US military. Israel on how to avoid civilian casualties in Loop.
“There is great cynicism towards American calls for Israeli restraint“, it states Chong Ja Ianassociate professor of Political Sciences in the National University of Singapore. “In many ways, the Biden administration has a difficult job and must carry the baggage of past American policy, making it even more important for the administration to get things right and show that it strives to be even-handed.”.
The efforts of Blinken for meeting with Arab leaders and trying to negotiate a pause in the fighting in exchange for humanitarian aid.”somewhat mitigate the impression that the United States simply supports Israel regardless of its actions“he added Chong. And at a meeting of foreign ministers of the G7 held this week in Japanthe grouping of the main democracies joined that request of “humanitarian breaks”.
But for Japan and many other American partners in Asiathe war in Loop risks disrupting both oil supplies and security advances. The sooner it ends, in his opinion, the sooner the world can return to what it was. Washington continues to define as its most important challenge: deterrence and competition with China in an interdependent world.
When asked Wednesday in Japan Yeah USA I was too busy with the conflicts of Loop and Ukraine to continue its pivot towards AsiaMr. Blinken answered: “I can tell you that we are determined and that we are, as we would say, running and chewing gum at the same time. The Indo-Pacific is the critical region for our future”.
“Even as we face a real crisis in Gaza and the Middle East“, he added, “We are not only capable, but fully committed to all the interests we have in the Indo-Pacific”.
*This article was originally published in The New York Times.-