Amitai Etzioni argues that the pivot is something like a “bluff,” and is motivated by election-year efforts to divert attention from other foreign policy questions—the actual conflicts in the Middle East.
He points to the challenge of getting the Chinese government to understand the domestic drivers of U.S. foreign policy, and also notes that the Romney-GOP side is pointing to Asia for similar distraction regions. [I would add that it would be nice for the U.S. government to understand the domestic drivers of Chinese foreign policy.]
Comment: It seems to me that Etzioni is suffering from traditional international relations bias—the idea that international issues should basically be explainable on their fundamentals without domestic politics. The election year element makes some sense, but how important is foreign policy this year? As my colleague David Firestein has argued, perhaps China is itself a domestic policy issue in this campaign.