Beaten to the punch on our 'pivot to Asia'?
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The Hill's "Overnight Finance" crew has done some due diligence on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which President Obama has been pushing on us during his last years in office. (As noted in The Hill, "The TPP deal is between the United States and 11 other nations: Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore.") The White House has finally released the text of the meetings, many of which were conducted in secrecy.


The TPP may be seen long term as an attempt to turn our gaze away from the troublesome issues of the Middle East and the old souls of Iran, Iraq, Russia, Israel, Germany and the rest, which constantly entrap us in their miserable little wars and pesky diplomacy — and to start again fresh in a world new to us, carving out our own territory as a Pacific nation in the rising Pacific Century, where all the real action and passion is said to await us. And make no mistake, it is a hedge against China, economically, culturally and militarily, and the president has said so.

Note the conspicuous absence of our traditional allies mentioned in our new lineup: nations like Britain, Italy, Germany and France. In this we will go alone, Young America unimpeded by Old Europe; that which we perhaps euphemistically since Yalta have called "the West." It is possibly an attempt here to say "Good-bye to All That," as British poet Robert Graves titled his iconic autobiography in 1929. "It was my bitter taking leave of England," he wrote later.

It was the end of one era and the beginning of another. And that is how we see ourselves today with the TPP as we face west across the Pacific. We will be leaving it all behind now with new friends and turning east in the new TPP matrix.

I have long ago turned east, since military duty in Southeast Asia in the mid-Sixties, and my computer desktop features an ancient photo of the elegant and sublime Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk who became an icon of that warring period. And I couldn't help notice that others who feel the lure and temptation of the East — including former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, former Democratic candidate for president, who says the idea of the "pivot to Asia" came from his desk, and Obama, who had youthful experience in Jakarta — support the TPP.

America has been enriched by Asian culture since the Sixties and figures like the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Dalai Lama have found their way into the mainstream, but is seems unlikely that an American tradition that recedes back centuries to Europe, and Britain in particular, is likely to flip overnight to Asia. Or anytime soon. Or ever.

And there seems to be some urgency now about getting this done as something happened on the way to the Pacific Century: Britain beat us to it.

As noted in this column last March:

Since March 12, one issue has dominated the financial pages in London: The rise of China's Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the rush of world nations to join in in opposition to America's interests. Learned voices have called it a tectonic shift in world power. "Some events are epochal," writes Kishore Mahbubani of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. "The decision by Great Britain to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was one such event. It may have heralded the end of the American century and the arrival of the Asian century."

And Britain led the pack. And Britain did not join in to the AIIB as a hedge against China's economic rise. Quite the contrary — It led the Western nations and many others to share in it, implicitly acknowledging the obvious: That China is, and will be, the essential rising economy in Asia. As Rebecca Liao wrote this July in Foreign Affairs:

When China proposed the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in late 2013, it hoped to offer a regional alternative to the multilateral institutions of the Bretton Woods system that left Asia underrepresented. When 58 member nations bucked Washington's warnings and joined the bank this year, including allies of the United States and G–7 stalwarts such as France, Germany, South Korea, and the United Kingdom, China realized that it had a potential vanguard for an alternative economic world order.

It is not that Britain was blind to America's ambitions ahead with the TPP. They were certainly aware of it. Instead it was an intentional strategic action to take the initiative and to be first partner in friendship with, not in opposition to, China.

Most important for us as Americans: In an attempt to establish dominance in the Pacific through the TPP, America has in fact yielded dominance in its historic relationship to Britain. The TPP was an insidious and poorly thought-out policy from the beginning.

As reported last year in Common Dreams in 2014 and repeated in The Hill:

As President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Hill's Campaign Report: Gloves off in South Carolina 6 ways the primary fight is toughening up Democrats for the fall general election Bloomberg called Social Security a 'Ponzi scheme' as mayor MORE prepares to embark on his fifth visit to the Asia-Pacific region, grassroots protests against U.S. efforts to ram through the Trans-Pacific trade deal and the U.S. military pivot to Asia are mounting on both sides of the Pacific.

"People are saying we don't want more U.S. militarization in our countries," said Rhonda Ramiro, Vice Chair of BAYAN-USA — an alliance of Filipino organizations in the U.S. — in an interview with Common Dreams. "This is about U.S. military power and economic domination."

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at