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Why is Obama headed to Asia?

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“It is difficult to look at a map of the world these days and find places where the Obama foreign policy has unmistakably made things better.” So said Brit Hume of Fox News Channel last night. Lest charges be leveled that Hume's motivation is purely partisan, it should be pointed out that Obama’s foreign policy approval rating has one of the largest negative gaps, 13.5%, of any barometer of his presidency. And for good reason: The “Obama Doctrine” — if it can be called that with a straight face — has consisted of unenforced red lines (think Syria, Russia), missed opportunities (think Arab Spring), and unilateral retreat (think Iraq, Afghanistan). No wonder none of the crew on NBC’s “Meet the Press” batted an eyelash when the New York Times’s David Brooks said that Obama has a “manhood problem in the Middle East.”

Undaunted, Obama is off on a four-nation tour of Asia, with stops planned in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. What is the purpose of this trip? Channel News Asia writes that the visit, which was originally scheduled for October but postponed because of the government shutdown, has been retooled:

Once, President Obama wanted to pivot American policy toward Asia.

Now ahead of his four-nation trip, his fifth to the region, his top advisers are changing the language slightly — a rebalance towards Asia, but keeping the full commitment to the region.

What does rebalance mean? Absolutely nothing, judging from the official White House statement. Evan Mederios, senior director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House, is quoted as saying:

This trip is the latest manifestation of the president’s firm commitment to his policy of Asia Pacific rebalancing. The United States is all in when it comes to the Asia Pacific and we're there for the long haul.

This is the result of a calculation of our economic and our security interests. It’s not a geopolitical fad; it’s not a political expediency. It’s about protecting American economic interests, security interests, and continuing to build our people-to-people ties that we've had for many decades in the Asia Pacific. [Emphasis added]

When an administration assures the public that the purpose of a trip by the commander in chief is not for political reasons, you can be sure that's exactly what the trip is about.

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