PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — For all the attention wrenched elsewhere in recent days — on new violence in the Middle East, the ‘‘fiscal cliff’’ back home — President Obama’s speedy trip to Southeast Asia achieved a major goal: It was clearly seen in the region as a validation of Asia’s strategic importance as the United State refocuses its foreign policy to counter China’s clout.
It was not easy. Even in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand, Obama could not escape the budget woes waiting for him back home. And his historic visit to Myanmar was all but drowned out by the rocket fire and missile strikes between Israel and Gaza. He went half a world away to promote US-style democracy but could not leave his troubles behind.