Sunday, November 30, 2008

Obama's New Global Architecture?

Fareed Zakaria, as has been noted of late, is perhaps the world's best known foreign policy intellectual and pundit.

Zakaria, expanding on his recent theory of America's relative decline ("
the rise of the rest"), has a new cover story at Newsweek: "Wanted: A New Grand Strategy."

After reading through this I was left pretty much blank ... where is this "new grand strategy" that Americans should expect?


Actually, Zakaria's piece is mostly boiled over multilateral institutionalism (which at the U.N. is a poorly disguised shield for anti-Semitic demonizations of Israel). Also included is a few obligatory reminders of the coming multipolar world - and Americas' need to accommodate itself to "the new realities" - topped off with a paean to aligning American "interests and ideals with those of most of the world's major powers"

The payoff, really, in Zakaria's essay, is the conclusion, where he just comes out as a top Obama cultist of Washington's foreign policy elite:

In a world characterized by change, more and more countries—especially great powers like Russia and China and India—will begin to chart their own course. That in turn will produce greater instability. America cannot forever protect every sea lane, broker every deal and fight every terrorist group. Without some mechanisms to solve common problems, the world as we have come to know it, with an open economy and all the social and political benefits of this openness, will flounder and perhaps reverse ....

The United States retains a unique role in the emerging world order. It remains the single global power. It has enormous convening, agenda-setting and leadership powers, although they must be properly managed and shared with all the world's major players, old and new, in order to be effective.

President-elect Obama has powers of his own, too. I will not exaggerate the importance of a single personality, but Obama has become a global symbol like none I can recall in my lifetime. Were he to go to Tehran, for example, he would probably draw a crowd of millions, far larger than any mullah could dream of. Were his administration to demonstrate in its day-to-day conduct a genuine understanding of other countries' perspectives and an empathy for the aspirations of people around the world, it could change America's reputation in lasting ways.

This is a rare moment in history. A more responsive America, better attuned to the rest of the world, could help create a new set of ideas and institutions—an architecture of peace for the 21st century that would bring stability, prosperity and dignity to the lives of billions of people. Ten years from now, the world will have moved on; the rising powers will have become unwilling to accept an agenda conceived in Washington or London or Brussels. But at this time and for this man, there is a unique opportunity to use American power to reshape the world. This is his moment. He should seize it.
This article was apparently written before the Mumbai attacks (as there's no reference to the barbaric killings), so there's no discussion of where America's future counterterrorism policy fits into this "new" grand strategy.

But we do, actually, know what Obama's grand strategy is going to be, as he announced it in his own essay in Foreign Affairs in 2007: "
Renewing American Leadership."

Like Zakaria, Obama is all about feel-good rejuvenation for America's standing in the world. By "renewing American leadership" those of a multilateralist persuasion primarily propose policies that are anti-Bush: close Guantanamo, repudiate torture, drawdown ongoing military deployments, "repair" our alliances, and abandon liberalism in international trade. It's all about restoring America's "image," and is thus an implicit repudiation of force and moral statecraft.

Unfortunatetly, then, renewing America's leadership looks so far like a grand strategy of retreat.

The fact is - as the full ramifications of the Mumbai attacks sink in - the Obama administration will have Afghanistan - with the corollary of Indo-Pakistan relations - as its Iraq war. That is, in foreign policy, as Iraq was the defining challenge for the Bush administration for most of this decade, Afghanistan will be the Obama's key challenge as this decade gives way to the 2010s.

It will not be an easy or inexpensive transition. Pakistan and India are mortal enemies, and the South Asian continent is the world's contemporary nuclear flash point. Pakistan is a seething hotbed of violence and religious extremism, and to the extent that the Bush administration has accommodated Karachi's foreign policy independence, it has enabled a subterranean and largely unknown role for the regime's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), which is said to have fostered militants who are waging an under-the-radar campaign against Indian control of the Kashmir, not to mention the likely support of pro-Taliban elements and al-Qaeda functionaries in the Afghan-Pakistani borderlands.

How will Obama proceed? It's not unlikely that the Mumbai terror cohorts maintained planning and logistical operations at the border. Will Obama bomb Pakistani camps suspected of launching terror attacks? Will he send in U.S. ground troops to sweep out terror sanctuaries?

What about India? The Indian goverment
may be under intense pressure to launch military operations inside Pakistan, reigniting armed hostilities between the two nations. How will the U.S. respond? How will the U.S. restrain New Delhi.

The policy dilemmas for the new administration won't be solved by attracting hordes of Obama cultists to Nuremberg-style tours of Third World regimes (like we saw at Berlin last summer). The U.S. will need to act decisively. Yet, at present
there is no "multilateral" framework to make progress on the region's intractable and volatile hostilities.

The U.S. cannot simply throw up its hands and refuse a major buildup of troops to Afghanistan in fear alienating the Democratic Party's clueless antiwar base or the international community's appeasement bureaucracies in Brussels and Turtle Bay - not to mention
top U.S. military officials who so far are working the President-Elect like a blob of silly putty.

There will be demands for real action, at some point, even a reckoning, if U.S. and allied intelligence services pin down the perpetrators of the current wave of senseless killings.


In the end, America's "unique role" in a changing world may be a lot like its unique role in the old, unchanging international system of states where a preponderance of power - and the willingness to use it - is the sine qua non of effective international leadership.

13 comments:

EDGE said...

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving, my friend!

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Edge!

Ben Sutherland said...

Some people never learn, Donald.

Mark my words, Dr. Douglas. If you do not recognize that you are one the wrong side of this question by the end of your life, it will be because you are a stubborn and embittered man who cannot face being wrong.

The world is repudiating this very idea because it is a bad one, Donald, not because they are all wrong and you are right. You are wrong. And too stubborn to admit it.

And either you will face that fact, sooner rather than later, hopefully, or you will whine about how the world does not recognize a brilliance that is just mistaken and too proud to admit it.

Now I understand why pride was called the deadliest of sins. Because it is the one that gets the most people killed.

And thank goodness that we live in a democracy, Donald, where, when people like you cannot learn the lesson, I and everyone else can vote for the other guy.

And if you didn't notice, Donald, they just did.

Good luck sticking with those guns, partner. Because, if you didn't see it happen, you just got beat.

Norm said...

Before Zakaria gets that thrill going up his leg he should remember that our world has other cult leaders who are cold stone killers. Admadineajad and Putin are just two who believe only in strength and the threat of power. Makes no difference how many Iranians may turn out to see an Obama
visit because in the end they are nationalists who want to see their country on top, not the USA.

But let's remind ourselves that since WWII the American people have willingly been helping other nations to become democracies and
wealthier. We have helped Russian during their economic problems; China has benefited greatly from our purchasing power; as has India from our aid, purchasing power and
business. So if other nations become successful and more powerful
it is not a problem, but a situation that we had hoped to deal with. Meanwhile, for the foreseeable future the United States must expand its power militarily; its business globally;
and our American Revolution interplanetary if necessary. This is not the time to withdraw our power and rely on the cult of personality. I wish Obama the best and all the luck in the world, but he'll need more than luck...he'll need the most powerful nation on earth behind him.

Tom the Redhunter said...

"In a world characterized by change..."

Sigh. Right there you know you've got trouble. Has the world ever not been characterized by change? And can we really be so - arrogant - to think that today's change is different than what occurred at various points in, say, the 20th century?

I agree that from what we have seen so far Obama is all about feelgoodism. "Renewing America's leadership" and "our standing in the world" seems to be all about holding big conferences with lots of photo ops and nice sounding press releases.

Of course, I hope I'm wrong.

Ben Sutherland - How did you manage to write so many paragraphs without saying anything of substance?

Law and Order Teacher said...

Ben,
You are getting a little heated here. Every one of your posts is getting a little more strident. I have news for you, your guy is assembling a cabinet that will recognize the proper direction of US foreign policy. Hillary is a centrist at best, Gates is a Bush guy, and Jones is a tough guy on foreign policy. I think the change train left the station. Obama got off at the reality stop. We'll see if he embarks on a radically different policy. BTW, would you take the Gitmo inmates in your neighborhood? Their home countries certainly don't want them, maybe you can help them out.

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Welcome to the New Era! Just like the old era!

America is the indespensible nation and #44 is getting a crash course in Great Satan's abilities and opportunities in the New Milennium.

Libby said...

obama's going to have more trouble with this job than, I think, he anticipated...it doesnt seem like a change...except a 180 degree one...

Anonymous said...

Gates is a Bush guy

That would be Bush 41, not Bush 43, so I can't see how any of you would be happy about that either. Realism doesn't square with neoconservativism well, does it?

Jason_Pappas said...

The parallels are striking.

Bush tried to police Iraq as “insurgents” steamed in from Syria and Iran.
Obama will try to police Afghanistan as “insurgents,” funded and organized by the ISI, stream in from Pakistan.

Bush started his term amidst a barrage of Islamist attacks against Israelis.
Obama starts his term amidst a barrage of Islamists attacks against Indians.

Bush held back Israel as the USA took the brunt of the fighting in the Persian Gulf.
Obama will try to hold back India as he takes on Pakistan.

Bush worried about Iran becoming a nuclear power but did little.
Obama will face Pakistan, a nuclear power, and do little.

Bush sent aid to Pakistan and received token help against terrorists.
Obama plans on sending more aid everywhere in hopes of buying cooperation.

Leftist critics whined that Bush squandered his opportunity for world cooperation after 9/11.
Leftist critics imagine that Obama has an opportunity for world cooperation.

Bush took office shortly before Durbin I.
Obama takes office as Durbin II gets underway.

Bush said “Islam means peace” and inadvertently invited Islamists to the White House.
Obama echoes the politically correct party line and intends to chow down with Ahmadinajad

China tested Bush, early on, by downing a plane.
China will test Obama … but how?

It’s time to watch another liberal get “mugged by reality.”

shoprat said...

I am beginning to believe that even the Chosen One has begun to realize that he has bitten off more than he can chew.

2010 will be an interesting election as America faces reality.

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 12/01/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Law and Order Teacher said...

Gates is a Bush guy, just as I said. Reality? Read what is written instead of what you want it to say.