Toward the end of his first term, President Barack Obama's election promise to reduce the American military presence in the Middle East and Afghanistan led to a general re-evaluation of priorities. What eventuated was a series of phrases to describe the new foreign policy posture. These included "rebalancing to Asia", the "pivot to Asia" and the "pivot to the Pacific".
The two principal drivers of the new posture were identified by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a key November 2011 Foreign Policy article as winding down of the military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan the "new global realities" of the Asia-Pacific Century. The juxtaposition of the two elements gave the American policy objectives a balance of power orientation with a military emphasis. The logic of "rebalancing" the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific in the wake of the growing ascendency of China is basic International Relations 101. The repositioning of US military assets into the Pacific has all the essential characteristics of classic geopolitical balance of power theory. A conservative American think tank phrased the pivot to Asia in just these terms in a recent assessment when it concluded, "the most significant problem for the United States in Asia today is China's rising power, influence, and expectations of regional pre-eminence."