The End of an (Abysmal) Era
After the way the Bush administration soured relations with allies and friends alike, President Obama has taken exactly the right approach.
The Bush administration ushered in an abysmal era of U.S. international relations first punctuated by ignoring NATO, when under Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty, the organization declared the attack on 9/11 an attack on all its members. Statements like, "Come on down," "Old Europe," and claiming to "see into Putin's soul" established a shocking level of ignorance in the ways of working at the strategic level with international partners. The animosity created did not serve US interests at all well.
With a wounded and staggering economy, a military structure running on empty after years of conflict in Southwest Asia, and Russia and China openly reaching for ascendancy, we cannot afford a capricious demonstration of toughness. Our unprecedented challenges range from China's sly suggestion that the dollar be replaced as the world's sovereign currency, to dealing with North Korea's nuclear brinksmanship, to finishing our campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, hopefully leaving nations behind that can enforce sovereignty within their own borders. We need strong alliances to help balance these challenges.
The situation with North Korea offers a good example of why an understated approach makes sense. We cannot marshal support in the UN with bluster. We must act in a reasoned and persistent manner. China has a strategic interest in North Korea not generating crises that negatively affect Beijing's own interests. A successful response for us would entail some kind of improved sanctions regime China would accept along with the PRC's firm use behind the scenes of its considerable influence with Kim Jong Il.
The president is doing what he must to improve our standing in the world. He is clearly stating our interests and principles for action. With the flexibility he demonstrated at the G-20 Conference in London last week, he established that the U.S. still knows how to "go along to get along." He is making a strong, positive impression on the constituents in nations whose leaders we must ask for assistance and support. We will have multiple occasions in the near future to be tough.
When international players respect the way one uses power, they tend less to test one's skill with it.
Posted by: studentoflearning | April 7, 2009 5:25 PM
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