No Time Left For Asia

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It’s not wise to cancel the same trip twice, unless good will overflows, or your power is preeminent.

Grappling with the worst oil spill in the nation’s history, President Barack Obama has abruptly scrapped a trip to Indonesia and Australia for the second time this year.

The president informed the leaders of both countries of the news in phone calls Thursday night, offering his “deep regret” and pledging to reschedule soon, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced in a statement just after midnight. Obama was to depart on a weeklong trip to both countries, along with a quick stop in Guam, on June 13.

Asked the reason for the delay, Gibbs told The Associated Press that Obama was staying home “to deal with important issues, one of which is the oil spill.”

It’s not wise to cancel the same trip twice, unless good will overflows, or your power is preeminent.

Grappling with the worst oil spill in the nation’s history, President Barack Obama has abruptly scrapped a trip to Indonesia and Australia for the second time this year.

The president informed the leaders of both countries of the news in phone calls Thursday night, offering his “deep regret” and pledging to reschedule soon, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced in a statement just after midnight. Obama was to depart on a weeklong trip to both countries, along with a quick stop in Guam, on June 13.

Asked the reason for the delay, Gibbs told The Associated Press that Obama was staying home “to deal with important issues, one of which is the oil spill.”

Obama had a sensitive political decision to make: Risk putting off two allies in a strategic part of the world once again or endure all the downsides, including an inevitable level of backlash, for being on the other side of the world during a huge crisis at home.

It’s especially unwise when Washington needs to work extra harder not to alienate public opinion in the region.

Taken together (and at the risk of beating a dead horse), this analysis implies that managing alliance relations in Asia is going to take a lot more attention and skill than it took to manage relations in Europe during the Cold War (and even that wasn’t always so simple — remember Suez?). That task will be even harder if the U.S. government is devoting a lot of time and attention to areas that are ultimately of marginal strategic importance, like … um … Afghanistan.

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Filed under: Academia, Australasia, Politics, Southeast Asia, USA Tagged: asia trip, australia, barack h. obama, bp, indonesia, oil spill, stephen walt



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