Friday, March 28, 2014

Fareed Zakaria on a 21st century foreign policy

I've been reading responses to President Obama's speech in Brussels and various people commenting on the emerging Obama Doctrine. It should come as no surprise that spokesperson for the neocons in the Bush/Cheney administration - Condoleeza Rice - doesn't get it. When the President calls on the global community to act in partnership, she sees a vacuum of leadership because she is wedded to the idea of dominance as the only source of power. On the other hand, Russian apologist Roger Cohen seems to be saying that until our union is perfected, we can't speak to our ideals in the world. What neither of these critics provide is a real alternative addressing the situations that confront us at the moment - like the one in Ukraine.

One writer that is struggling to understand is Michael Cohen. Where he stumbles a bit is that he limits himself by trying to fit President Obama into the framework of an either/or split between a "realist or internationalist."
For five years, President Obama has often struggled in finding the right mix between leading from behind and leaning in.

Yesterday, however, in calling for the US and Europe to uphold the instrumentals of global peace and security, while eschewing provocative steps or inflammatory rhetoric, Obama came pretty close to finding that foreign policy sweet spot.
Too many people can't grasp the both/and of a President who, for five years aggressively went after al Qaeda AND wants to work in partnership with the rest of the world to deal with the global challenges we face with Syria, Iran and Russia.

One person who demonstrates that he understands what President Obama means by a 21st century foreign policy is Fareed Zakaria. He opens his argument with data supporting the President's claim that working together via partnership has produced gains that were previously impossible in an era of domination (I'll let you go read the specifics). Here's how he summarizes:
Many aspects of international life remain nasty and brutish, and it is easy to sound tough and suggest that you understand the hard realities of power politics. But the most astonishing, remarkable reality about the world is how much things have changed, especially since 1945...

There is an evolving international order with new global norms making war and conquest increasingly rare. We should strengthen, not ridicule, it. Yes, some places stand in opposition to this trend — North Korea, Syria, Russia. The people running these countries believe that they are charting a path to greatness and glory. But they are the ones living in a fantasy world.
As we watch various politicians and pundits respond to the Obama Doctrine, we will increasingly see those who understand the "evolving international order" clash with those in our own country who continue to live in a fantasy world. It is important that we understand that clash and are able to articulate what is at stake.


  1. You are doing a masterful job of both understanding it and articulating it for your readers. Well done. I learn so much from your posts. I've long longed for a United States that is one of many nations instead of the big bully going around doing thing in a unilateral fashion. I want to be a nation that truly respects the sovereignty of other nations and other cultures and other world views. Finally along comes President Obama who seems to share that wish and acts accordingly. It's about respect...something Condi Rice and the neocons absolutely do not understand. I'm not convinced HRC gets it either.

    I'd really hate to see us go back to the 19th/20th century of doing things with the next administration. I found myself this week hoping that the other nations are becoming empowered and unwilling to accept anything less than the partnerships he forged during his administration. I even found myself wondering if they would ask him to mediate on their behalf after he steps down. PBO is a true WORLD leader and they know it.

    1. You are expressing exactly the same concerns I have. One of the reasons I am committed to articulating this is that I'd like people to get a good idea about how to evaluate Dem candidates in 2016.

    2. Tien, I'm more than not convinced HRC has a clue in this regard! I have very similar feelings on this partnership issue, which I shared recently at TOD, and as you'll note, so do others.

      VC -March 26, 2014 at 10:53 am: -->> ‘I’m sure world leaders are finding our current president’s competence, preparation, vision, and overall genius refreshing and long overdue. He is a leader that they have no problem following.’

      Yes, ma’am. And world leaders are blossoming beneath this kind of leadership-partnership. I got a sense that the meetings have had shared input with real and meaningful discussions, because the leaders all seem to know what they are talking about and they are talking with confidence, piggy-backing on what each person says. We are so fortunate that PBO has two more years to continue to show world leaders, and the world, what ‘leader of the world’ should look and feel like! Those still in world politics after PBO’s term is over will have a clear template to measure, and guide, the next U.S. president. I think any US president coming in and hoping to revert to the ‘me-leading-world power, you secondary’ will have a difficult time on the world stage.

      Paulita - March 26, 2014 at 11:06 am -->> I cannot believe that after experiencing Pres. Obama’s leadership that anyone could bear to hear Hillary or any other “politician” triangulating or just plain fudging of facts.

      vc - March 26, 2014 at 11:16 am -->>I don’t think they will ‘bear it’ going forward without some pushback. PBO has set the gold standard.


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