The Pivot Starts Now

In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, the United States has gained some ground at China's expense.

Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on Nov. 8, killing thousands, affecting millions, and leaving hundreds of thousands of Filipinos desperate for help. A natural disaster of that magnitude requires a massive relief effort, and the United States took the lead: dispatching the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, distributing food and water, and maneuvering rescuers and supplies to remote areas. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) pledged more than $22 million in assistance.

U.S. allies soon followed. Japan offered $30 million in emergency relief, along with roughly 1,000 soldiers to help deliver the aid, on top of ongoing assistance programs, such as $20 million through the Asian Development Bank. Australia pledged $10 million, South Korea $5 million, and when Britain's carrier the HMS Illustrious arrives on Nov. 24, it will begin delivering some $30 million in relief supplies. But China, the region's rising power, is noteworthy for its stinginess. Beijing originally pledged $100,000, increasing that to a still-paltry $1.6 million on Nov. 14.  

Since former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the rebalance to Asia in late 2011, many in the region have doubted America's ability to sustain the level of its operations in the Pacific. In October, for example, President Barack Obama's absence from two prominent Asian meetings due to the crisis in Washington over the government shutdown allowed Beijing to steal the spotlight. But when it comes to global crises, including natural disasters, it is still the United States -- even war wary, reputationally challenged, fiscally indebted, and politically gridlocked -- that takes the leading role. The response to Haiyan could be a turning point for the United States in Asia: an opportunity to re-up the pivot, and to pour cold water on the narrative of a dominant China.

That's not to say China isn't trying to play a more assertive role in the region. Since taking office in November 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has focused on maintaining order and economic growth at home while reducing external conflicts that could impede China's rise. Xi and his colleagues envision their country eventually supplanting the United States as the world's largest economy and sharing -- at a minimum -- responsibility for the Asia-Pacific region. China is emphasizing its periphery, particularly mainland Southeast Asia; in October, Xi announced plans to create and fund an "Asian infrastructure bank."

But China still fails at building soft power in the region. In early November, Chinese scholars and even officials emphasized to my colleagues the tiered levels of Chinese friends and partners. Countries that support China diplomatically or bring wealth to China, they said, are given preferential treatment -- almost like international relations as one big fundraising tribute. Because tensions are high with Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea, and with the Philippines over disputed territory in the South China Sea, Beijing withholds cooperation and support from those two nations, instead doling out rewards to those countries most willing to work closely with China.  Although this approach sometimes mutes regional criticism, it tends to fail at persuading neighbors that a more potent China will look after their interests.

And this is where the U.S. rebalancing, or "pivot" to Asia comes in. The region has generally viewed the pivot in military terms, as a reassurance of U.S. presence in Asia, and as a counterweight to Chinese pressure and coercion. But as the distribution of world power continues to shift from West to East, the United States can also use the pivot to help build an inclusive, rules-based order in Asia. An open trading regime must be part of that. But to foster China's potential as a force for good, the United States and its allies need to integrate China into this order.

Instituting a common response to humanitarian disasters is a good place for China and the United States to start. Holding back assistance to neighbors because they defend their core national interests against a more powerful neighbor who occupies a disputed area -- as China does with the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea -- goes against international norms. If the United States can protect universal rights such as freedom of the seas and promote more effective regional security cooperation, it will continue to be a great power that is welcome throughout the region.

China appears eager to cooperate with the United States on disaster relief. The two sides have shared detailed lessons learned in responding to domestic disasters, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that killed roughly 87,000 people. In June, the two countries cooperated with an Asian-wide humanitarian assistance and military medicine exercise, allowing China to showcase its photogenic military hospital ship, dubbed the "The Peace Ark." Unfortunately, that ship remains docked in a Chinese port. Adding to the irony, on Nov. 12, Chinese and U.S. troops participated in a joint humanitarian aid and disaster relief exercise in Hawaii, the exact time the Philippines needed urgent support. China under Xi wants a "new type of great power relationship" with the United States -- an invitation to further push China to cooperate on disaster relief. 

This pays dividends for the United States domestically, as well. U.S. leadership in helping those in desperate need around the world is a forceful riposte to declinists, who ignore America's enduring and exceptional global role. Bipartisan support for U.S. humanitarian efforts is a hopeful instance of policymakers pulling together to achieve greatness.

Obama is seeking more than $4.1 billion for the fiscal year 2014 for humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian aid should not be used as a political tool, but that doesn't deny the reputational advantages of doing good and the hits from sitting idle during a crisis. It's a lesson China is learning right now.



With The Middle East In Crisis, U.S. and Turkey Must Deepen Alliance

From Syria to Iran, regional stability depends on Washington and Ankara's continued cooperation.

As I prepare to visit Washington next week, I disagree with the perception that United States and its Middle Eastern allies are growing apart. The truth is, in Turkey's case, our two countries have long been close allies and will remain partners going forward. In today's ever more complex and fluid international environment -- with Syria in crisis and much of the Middle East in flux -- the U.S.-Turkish relationship remains vital for a sustainable regional and global order.

The partnership between the United States and Turkey is value-based, founded upon universal principles of fundamental rights and democratic norms. Turkey promotes these values in its neighborhood and encourages its Western partners to uphold them as well. Alignment with the West during times of crisis, such as the Arab Spring, is testament to how deeply such shared values are embedded in the genesis of our foreign policy. On that ground, the United States and Turkey do not have the luxury of remaining aloof or apart from each other; our joint work has proven indispensable to regional security and stability. As a result, we have diversified our cooperation with the United States in areas ranging from counter-terrorism and non-proliferation to defense cooperation, energy security, know-how transfer, and more.

Turkey's leading role in transatlantic institutions is the primary pillar of its foreign policy. As the euro crisis gives way to recovery and consolidation, we believe that Turkey can play a more constructive role in shaping the future of Europe. Recently, the EU membership process has been reenergized by the opening of a negotiation chapter, among other things, and there are signs of progress towards liberalizing the visa regime for the Turkish citizens travelling to the EU. NATO, meanwhile, stands as the cornerstone of Turkish security policy and our security cooperation -- from the Balkans to Central Asia -- continues to form a bulwark against instability in the broader region. Yet, nothing would anchor Turkey in the Western world more than our future association with the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership -- an initiative that would be greatly enriched by Turkey's participation.

In the Middle East and North Africa, both Turkey and the United States face an increasingly chaotic geopolitical environment. The tensions we are witnessing in this region -- which is overwhelmingly identified with human suffering, political and sectarian conflicts, and threats to global order -- initially grew out of popular uprisings for dignity, legitimacy, and prosperity. As a result, they should also be viewed as the birth pangs of an inescapable normalization. The people on the streets have set in motion a powerful transformative process. Any return to the old regional order is now inconceivable, and those who have tried to resist change will find themselves on the wrong side of history.

The future of the region will not be determined by strongmen with dictatorial illusions, but by legitimate and visionary leaders. United by a common belief in peoples' right to a decent life, Ankara and Washington share the very same objectives when it comes to engaging with the Middle East. We have both sided with the new collective consciousness in the region -- one that prioritizes good governance in its struggle against authoritarianism.

As a keen supporter of President Barack Obama's multilateral approach to diplomacy, Turkey has also welcomed his recent engagement with Iran. The possibility of a diplomatic settlement of the dispute over Iran's nuclear program raises hopes for peace and stability in the region. Turkey has been among the few to actively pursue such a course and will continue to advocate this crucial initiative. The resuscitation of the peace process in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict may also help restore the regional order's legitimacy and sustainability.

In Syria, progress toward the elimination of Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons is a step in the right direction, but there is still more to be done. Turkey will continue to extend its full support to the Syrian people until a political transition is achieved and the rule of cruel despotism comes to an end. We will not become casualties of the ongoing psychological war that in vain tries to identify the Syrian people's legitimate resistance with the dark forces of terrorism.

Despite our many and early warnings about the radicalization of the Syrian opposition, the international community has so far failed to deliver a just and decisive settlement. Yet, even counting the attempts of extremist groups to step into the political void, there is no greater threat to Syria and its people than Assad and his anachronistic rule. Let us not forget that it was the cruel despotism of this regime that triggered the current conflict in the first place.

As the political transformation gets underway in our neighborhood, the main challenge in years ahead will be to establish a sustainable regional order. Turkey and the United States have worked closely together at critical junctures in the past. In the years following the end of the Cold War, we both contributed to the stabilization of regional hotspots, such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. Today, we share the new collective consciousness urging good governance and democratic accountability in our part of the world. This awareness should form the basis of a strong U.S.-Turkish partnership as we work to deal with the urgent challenges in this era of global transformation.

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