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Marty Linsky
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Marty Linsky

Co-founder of the leadership-focused consulting firm, Cambridge Leadership Associates, Marty Linsky teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School, co-authors the advice column, Leadership House Call and blogs at Linsky on Leadership .

Keeping Bush in the Toolkit

I worry that Obama and some of his minions are driven by a desire to be the un-Bush.

Obama needs the fullest possible toolkit as he tries to reset America's place in the international world order. Being devoutly un-Bush means giving up valuable options that might come in handy under certain circumstances. He has already adopted the last Bush Iraq strategy in Afghanistan, although the While House has reportedly banned the use of the word "surge," to describe its surge.

The issue is much more than vocabulary. Obama does not have foolproof ideas for what will bring lasting peace to the Middle East, bring European governments into the economic recovery in a more robust way, or bring North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions to a halt.

Given that uncertainty and the failure of everything the US has tried to date, presidential leadership on the international front is the same as on the domestic side. If you don't have an absolutely sure policy bet, run a lot of simultaneous experiments. Monitor them closely. Make mid-course corrections. Nurture the ones that seem to be working.

But the lesson of Obama's first international foray is that the global community thinks the U.S. is part of the problem, as well as a necessary part of the solution. He can ask for their help, for them to take action, but he will have to do more than just ask. Nations won't answer America's call unless the U.S. takes some real risks and that probably means giving up some of its beloved autonomy. For example, the nuke-free world Obama called for means a nuke-free West. There will never be progress on a nuclear weapons proliferation slowdown until the United States is willing to do something about its own arsenal.

By Marty Linsky

 |  April 7, 2009; 11:19 AM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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