Global Leadership Will Continue To Be Lacking In 2014
A Year Of Geopolitical Challenges Will Highlight Lack Of Global Leadership
The world in 2014 will face an increasing number of geopolitical challenges which will force the US to further reexamine its role. But Ian Bremmer believes that no matter how risky the world will be in the next year, the “erosion of global leadership and coordination will become more apparent and pronounced” than it was in 2013.
Shifts within the US on how it perceives its role in the world, including US polls that show an unwillingness to play an active role, have only become more complicated by numerous foreign policy missteps by the administration. That creates a perfect storm says Bremmer.
“A poorly defined, more risk-averse US role in the world has allies frustrated with and uncertain about Washington’s longstanding policy preferences and commitments. They are actively questioning some American security guarantees and worrying about Washington’s reluctance to deploy military, economic, and diplomatic capital.
“This new period of uncertainty for American foreign policy will impact US relations with countries around the world—but by no means equally. Despite their consternation, America’s closest allies don’t have viable alternatives. Mexico and Canada are far too economically integrated with the US to effectively hedge the relationship with outreach to other major powers. For Japan, Israel and the UK—the United States’ preeminent ally in each of their respective regions—the same is true strategically. As a result, they are particularly exposed in an increasingly leaderless world order.”
The State Of The Union Masked Real Foreign Policy Record
Ilan Berman contends President Barack Obama’s State of the Union may have portrayed US foreign policy in a positive light, but that his words cannot mask a “stunning array” of failures.
Berman fact checks the speech point-by point, including Obama’s claims about relations in Asia and US efforts to promote democracy in Ukraine.
On Asia, he argues in USA Today that “two years after its inception, the Obama administration’s vaunted “pivot” to Asia remains largely notional, with scant evidence of a serious U.S. commitment to a strengthened network of alliances in the region. Perhaps that is why Washington has failed to muster a robust response in the face of China’s increasingly aggressive territorial claims in the South and East China Seas — leaving regional allies like the Philippines and Japan much the worse for wear.”
And on the Ukraine: In Ukraine, we stand for the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully, and have a say in their country’s future.” Maybe so. But Team Obama has done little to date to tangibly support the brave protesters of the “Euromaidan” in their struggle against the corrupt, repressive government of pro-Russian strongman Viktor Yanukovych. America’s inertia, in turn, has served to embolden the Kremlin in its efforts to bring Ukraine back into its geopolitical orbit.
Judy Dempsey of the Carnegie Foundation examines what Obama’s SOTU address means for Europe. She notes somewhat ironically that the speech was made three days before the beginning of the 50th Munich Security Conference, but offered few mentions of foreign affairs.
“Atlanticists who are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Munich Security Conference from January 31 to February 2 might have hoped that Obama would speak, even briefly, about the transatlantic relationship. But why should he, given the huge problems he faces back home? And how can Europeans expect the United States, long the guarantor of Europe’s security, to confirm an anachronistic status quo?
“Even more worrying for the security analysts gathering in Munich was the lack of any reference to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently under negotiation between the EU and the United States. That is despite the fact that American supporters of the talks wax lyrical about jobs and investment opportunities. There are also huge hopes that the partnership could put the entire transatlantic alliance on a new footing,” she adds.
Atlanticism In The Age Of Globalization
Strobe Talbott has written a long essay on what Atlanticism means 50 years after the first Munich Conference when the world is more global and integrated. In common parlance, Talbott writes, ‘Atlanticism’ has been associated with the global and seemingly permanent challenge of containing “a giant adversary sprawled across the Eurasian landmass—from Vilnius on the Baltic to Vladivostok on the Pacific.”
“Fifty years later, the concept and goals of Atlanticism are still valid, but they have taken on new dimensions, including expanded geographical scope. “Western Europe” has extended eastward, and North America is an increasingly integrated economic space that includes Mexico in a way that was unforeseen in the sixties,” he continues.
Americans Largely Disconnected From Foreign Policy
Benjamin Friedman of Foreign Affairs asserts that pundits may focus on divisions between Republicans and Democrats on foreign policy but that the real divide is between the public and the political class. Friedman says that the public may favor a less engaged foreign policy, but their inattention to foreign policy during elections means their views rarely impact the direction of US official policy. Friedman concedes he favors a less active US on the global stage.
“As many studies have shown, people’s foreign policy preferences rarely determine their decisions when it comes to national elections. So political leaders — those in Congress and those vying for the White House — can generally buck the public on foreign policy without losing votes. It is not that politicians entirely ignore voters’ foreign policy views. But, at least compared with tax and entitlement issues, politicians have considerable rope to pursue their own agendas. Only in rare circumstances, such as very unpopular wars, do voters hold politicians to account on foreign policy,” he writes.
He adds that trade matters for certain industries but for the most part Americans have “bigger things to worry about, such as job security and health care, [and] Americans have little incentive to inform themselves about foreign policies; it is rational for them to remain ignorant.”