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You have an opinion, but do you have what it takes to be heard?

Zeba Khan
Toledo, Ohio

Zeba Khan

Voted out Nov. 23. I am a social media consultant for nonprofits. I have researched women and minority issues in the Muslim World, Islam in America and counterterrorism finance with the U.S. Treasury Department. ALL POSTS

Great expectations

Editor's note: Our pundit contestants are blogging this week. Wednesday's assignment: join the Council on Foreign Relations' 9 a.m. call on President Obama's Asia trip and then file a post by noon. (This one was a little late.)

Back at the end of September, James Steinberg, the deputy secretary of state, discussed a new policy on how to adapt to the emergence of new powers like China, India and Brazil while protecting U.S. interests. He referred to it as "strategic reassurance."

Strategic reassurance rests on a core, if tacit, bargain. Just as we and our allies must make clear that we are prepared to welcome China's arrival as a prosperous and successful power, China must reassure the rest of the world that its development and growing global role will not come at the expense of security and well-being of others. Bolstering that bargain must be a priority in the U.S.-China relationship. And strategic reassurance must find ways to highlight and reinforce the areas of common interest, while addressing the sources of mistrust directly, whether they be political, military or economic.

While the verdict on the success of this policy may be out for a long time to come, with President Obama's trip to Asia beginning Thursday, political theorists and think tanks are already weighing in with their thoughts on this policy's chance at success.

Over at Brookings, Cheng Li and John Thorton suggest that if such a policy is to be successful, it is going to require a careful balancing act on our part. While reflecting a respectful tone in our approach to China can be a first step in tempering a growing belief amongst many Chinese that the U.S. is trying to "keep China down," it is critical that the U.S. does not back away from discussing areas of disagreement, such as climate change, Iran and North Korea, trade disputes and human rights. U.S. failure to address such issues, they argue, would be perceived as being too deferential and "risk cementing the impression amongst many in China that the U.S. is only interested in the country's continued financial support and expanding consumer market."

Li and Thorton argue that with China becoming increasingly pluralistic, the proliferation of Chinese news outlets, and a rapidly expanding middle class, Obama has room "to engage Beijing on political issues in a way that can be at once consistent with American values and respectful of China's enduring cultural identity and ongoing efforts at reform."

Yet not everyone is as optimistic about this policy's potential success.

Yesterday, Robert Kagan at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Dan Blumenthal at the American Enterprise Institute published a column in The Post arguing that strategic reassurance is likely to fail as a policy. Previous Democratic and Republican administrations have maintained a two-pronged approach with China that entailed bringing China into the global community, through engagement, while ensuring China did not become too dominant, through balancing. Strategic reassurance, they suggest, moves away from this former U.S. policy, likening it to British accommodation of a rising U.S. at the end of the 19th century, a move that depended on both countries sharing similar ideologies. "No serious person would imagine a similar grand alliance and 'special relationship' between an autocratic China and a democratic United States. For the Chinese -- true realists -- the competition with the United States in East Asia is very much a zero-sum game." In the end, Kagan and Blumenthal argue that neither country will feel reassured by this policy and the only result will be to make U.S. allies in the region more nervous.

But on a conference call this morning, Evan Feigenbaum, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former Bush Administration official, dismissed the focus on strategic reassurance as a policy entirely. Rather than debating the policy's theoretical strengths and weaknesses, Feigenbaum argued that the U.S. focus should instead be on tangible actions. "The challenge is that there are far too infrequent complementary policies between China and the U.S. so the focus should be on defining an actionable agenda that reflects a global partnership in both word and deed."

We won't know which, if any, of these assessments will turn out to be correct until well after Obama returns home. Judging from the hoopla that surrounded his visit to the Middle East, people will almost certainly have a list of unrealistic expectations. What matters though shouldn't be what happens during or even immediately after the trip. Obama's success and the success of his policies will be determined by what this trip sets in motion over the next several years.

Read more posts from this round. See what the judges have been saying. And come back Friday to vote.

By Zeba Khan  |  November 11, 2009; 12:04 PM ET  | Category:  Round Two , on deadline and beyond the comfort zone
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Please report offensive comments below.

Great pundit must share sagacious viewpoint.
Pun punch or dig dip must be delivered with force!

Posted by: kyp88888888 | November 23, 2009 11:31 PM
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I agree. Kevin Huffman and Zeba Khan made the grade on this topic.

Posted by: manray132 | November 15, 2009 12:05 PM
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I agree. Kevin Huffman and Zeba Khan both made the grade on this assignment.

Posted by: manray132 | November 15, 2009 11:40 AM
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This is more of a 'news analysis' story than an op-ed piece. Clearly no one in this aspiring pundit group is a foreign affairs expert - as evryone is more-or-less floundering for a way out. The lack of your own opinion notwithstanding you at least bring some expert perspective to the effort, albeit others. After Kevin Huffman, you seem to have done the best job of extricating yourself from a tight spot.

Posted by: bkonviser | November 14, 2009 8:39 PM
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It simply didn't read like an opinion article. I realize you had an opinion, but the, "Just the facts" part of the article took center stage in an article that just wasn't that engaging.

Posted by: tspsls | November 14, 2009 9:37 AM
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Well-researched piece. This gives me a lot of new information and context for the President' trip to Asia. You are an able writer.

Posted by: citizenme | November 12, 2009 2:17 PM
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I give this low marks--too boring. I couldn't read much of it. The initial quote was too long. It's too bad. Zeba did research beyond the conference call, something I don't think the others did. But she didn't mention the conference call soon enough, and the research she dug up, while relevant, is as boring as this trip seems and as the conference seems.

Posted by: Chicory | November 12, 2009 8:19 AM
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Very good! I can see why this column was a little late. I disagree APROGRESSIVEINDEPENDENT who sees this piece as a rehash of other people's ideas. Given an assignment to find out what the Council on Foreign Relations was going to say about the Obama trip to Asia, you brought to bear a number of relevant views.

I also disagree with the commentor who thought that this wasn't about you. The blogger should not start every sentence with "I think ..." or "I feel ... ", but let the subject matter, and the selection of material inform us of her priorities and opinions. Excellent work, overall.

Posted by: GlennfromCOS | November 12, 2009 8:08 AM
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Too much of a summary of other people's opinions. Kagan often writes belligerent articles for this newspaper. Most people reject his cold war, neo-con rant.

The truth is that neo-cons, conservatives and many others do seem to seek to keep emerging powers "down," denying them and even allies such as Japan, independent foreign policies.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | November 11, 2009 9:05 PM
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The other candidates had multiple blogs yesterday. So this, being submitted around noon today, should have proved to be a far superior blog. It brought to mind birds regurgitating. It is difficult for young writers as they must form their own opionions. It's a real learning curve once professors are out of the picture.

Posted by: Lizadoo2little | November 11, 2009 6:02 PM
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Well Ms. Khan, you can certainly read, absorb the idea, and reiterate it well. But what do you think? What is your idea? What are you adding to the debate?

Posted by: chucky-el | November 11, 2009 4:57 PM
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Nice job, Ms. Khan. Was there any discussion of Chinese currency manipulation? It is my hope that Obama will not duck this issue. If we are ever able to rebalance our trade with China, it is imperative that the renminbi be allowed to rise to its true value.

Posted by: larry6215 | November 11, 2009 4:34 PM
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This is an excellent piece. You eloquently brought in differing sides of this and linked them to the goings on of the conference call this morning. You taught me something about "strategic reassurance", and I am glad you brought in Cheng Li and Thorton. Good writing. This may be the best of the bunch on this topic. Thank you.

Posted by: JennB1 | November 11, 2009 4:09 PM
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You lost me early with a mixed metaphor. It would be the jury that may be out for a long time, not the verdict. (Pet peeve.)

Having said that, this is more of a book proposal than an analysis. We're all very impressed with the breadth of your knowledge, but this is not about you.

Posted by: cybridge | November 11, 2009 4:00 PM
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Ms. Khan neglected to include Robert Kagen's update to his column of yesterday. He now finds much in "strategic assurance" to support.

The last sentence is where I would have loved Ms. Kahn to start. What does she want this trip to set in motion?

Posted by: MsJS | November 11, 2009 3:43 PM
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This assignment goes to Khan and Huff. Khan's got substance, Huff's got humor. Nice ones both.

Posted by: ralphie4 | November 11, 2009 3:19 PM
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Way too long for a blog entry, and as Tropicalfolk states below, not enough of YOUR perspective. A columnist has to be able to make a story their own.

Posted by: ChiefRocka1 | November 11, 2009 3:01 PM
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Zeba...your best piece so far...We are embarking on the Chinese century...Billions of smart, energetic folk both on the mainland and abroad. The annoying fact that they are now our biggest creditor and have the advantage of their autocratic system...funny how they dumped all things communist but the fascist it or die!
Unfortunately it reads a bit like a graduate thesis (I had to read it twice),not punditry. You need to tranaslate that mysterious language (complementary policies...actionable partnership) that experts use to define themselves as such. As previously noted, what are your assessments? My mantra...don't chicken out, pundits pontificate!

Posted by: mfkpadrefan | November 11, 2009 2:36 PM
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Nice. I would need another cup of coffee to get all the way through this, and I'm just not motivated. But based on what I read and the general organization evidenced in this blog, I tend to agree with the poster who
said you aced it.

Posted by: martymar123 | November 11, 2009 1:50 PM
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You aced this! Great job.

Posted by: Jared29 | November 11, 2009 1:42 PM
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"We won't know which, if any, of these assessments will turn out to be correct until well after Obama returns home."

What is YOUR assessment, Ms Great Pundit?

Posted by: tropicalfolk | November 11, 2009 1:41 PM
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