US Vice-President Joe Biden has given a speech on Asia Pacific policy to mark his upcoming trip to the region. That link has a full video, but at time of writing I haven't found the transcript online yet.
I'm working off a transcript sent to me by email, and I thought this was notable:
President Obama adopted a new Defense Strategic Guidance endorsed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff after months of study that elevates our focus in the Asia-Pacific area. And economically and strategically it's clear why the United States had to rebalance -- to direct more resources and attention toward the Asia-Pacific region...So we're all in, this administration. Absolutely committed to this rebalance. The President is absolutely committed, and so am I. And so is our entire national security and economic teams.
At the Lowy Institute you regularly see US officials from various departments come through for briefings and meetings, and it's been fascinating to see the subtle variations on the meaning of the 'rebalance' from each of them. Some embrace the concept enthusiastically, others resist the term altogether, while still others swear that a focus on Asia will not mean the US pays any less attention on Europe or the Middle East, an assurance that defies logic: resources are finite, and when you commit more in one place, others get less.
So the Biden quote above is important in that it does confirm that the Administration actually wants to 'elevate our focus' and shift resources rather than simply trying to do more everywhere. Yes, later in the speech he talks about maintaining US focus on the Middle East and Europe ('To use the vernacular, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. That's what big powers do.'), but that's simply stating the obvious that the US won't forget those two regions altogether; Biden does not go out of his way to say that those two regions will maintain their place in US priorities.
From my vantage point, that message is directed internally as much as externally. As Michael Fullilove has argued, it takes a lot to pivot an entire nation, and the Administration still has some work to do in order to carry its own machinery of state along with it.
Photo by Flickr user afagen.