Tuesday, March 4, 2014

President Obama and the power of partnership on the world stage

I'm going to provide you with two quotes on the recent crisis in the Ukraine. One is from the neo-con right and the other from the purity left. They express very different views about the situation, but see if you can find the common theme that underlies their points of view.

First, here's Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal:
...Mr. Obama was happy to accept Russian mediation for a face-saving deal on Syria's chemical weapons rather than impose the consequences he had promised if Bashar Assad used them...

It's probably asking too much of this president to see a connection between his Syria capitulation and this month's events in Ukraine.
And now here's Robert Parry in Consortium News:
The reality, however, appears to have been that neocon elements from within the U.S. government encouraged the overthrow of the elected president of Ukraine via a coup...
While coming from opposite directions, both of these writers deny agency for the events in Ukraine to the actual people involved. The common thread that unites them is a belief that - no matter what happens in the world - the United States is responsible. In that sense, both the extreme right and left in this country have embraced the idea of American hegemony.

I believe that this is perhaps the most dangerous challenge to a reasonable American foreign policy. During the Cold War, this country viewed everything through the prism of two super -powers (US and USSR) battling for pre-eminence. Other countries were merely pawns in this game. Following the demise of the Soviet Union, the neo-cons developed a strategy they called "Pax Americana" which relied on the unipolar dominance of the United States. Those ideas were challenged by the Bush/Cheney misadventure in Iraq.

What I see happening all around the world - from the 1990 liberation movements in South America to the Arab Spring to the current events in Ukraine - is a world facing the chaos that has been unleashed by the removal of super-powers who controlled their fates. As people around the globe struggle to find their own independence, that process is getting messy - just as it did when the US fought for independence from Britain's dominance.

We are currently on the cusp of developing an alternative to the two-state domination we saw during the Cold War and the unipolar dream of the neo-cons. What is possible is what some have called a multipolar world that President Obama described this way during his 2009 speech in Cairo.
For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes -- and, yes, religions -- subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared.
Getting there will require us to reject the right wing's efforts to suggest this represents "weakness" and the left wing's knee-jerk assumptions about sinister motives.

Keep this in mind as you watch President Obama deal with the situation in the Ukraine. We'll see the power of partnership at work on the world stage as he attempts to bring the community of nations to bear on resolving the crisis. That is exactly what is required as we evolve towards multipolarity.


  1. The Community Organizer at work...

    It's somewhat ironic that it takes a singular leader to show us the way to a multipolar world. But that is what a community organizer does: he/she demonstrates to a community that they hold power in their hands, if they can overcome their differences and work together.

  2. Good article! Thanks for taking the time to put your thoughts out there!

  3. Nailed it, Smartypants!


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