Fareed Zakaria interviewed Barack Obama last summer on his CNN show, and re-ran the interview last month. It was only recently, I am embarrassed to say, that I got around to reading the transcript of this terrific session. If you haven’t read it, you should. It is the best summary of the Obaman world view ...
Fareed Zakaria interviewed Barack Obama last summer on his CNN show, and re-ran the interview last month. It was only recently, I am embarrassed to say, that I got around to reading the transcript of this terrific session. If you haven't read it, you should. It is the best summary of the Obaman world view I've seen, more instructive than reading a month of op-ed yammerings. Despite my pops at Obama on this blog, I am consistently impressed by his breadth and poise.
Fareed Zakaria interviewed Barack Obama last summer on his CNN show, and re-ran the interview last month. It was only recently, I am embarrassed to say, that I got around to reading the transcript of this terrific session. If you haven’t read it, you should. It is the best summary of the Obaman world view I’ve seen, more instructive than reading a month of op-ed yammerings. Despite my pops at Obama on this blog, I am consistently impressed by his breadth and poise.
Here are the comments that especially struck me, with my introductions in bold:
Stop snubbing Russia, even if Putin is a hooligan. "Look. If we’re going to do something about nuclear proliferation — just to take one issue that I think is as important as any on the list — we’ve got to have Russia involved." A little respect goes a long way.
Bring China more into the international conversation. "[W]e have to engage and get them involved and bought-in into dealing with some of these transnational problems."
Enough with the Vietnam overhang. "The Vietnam War had drawn to a close when I was fairly young. And so, that wasn’t formative for me in the way it was, I think, for an earlier generation."
Take a true multilateral approach. "[W]e should always strive to create genuine coalitions — not coalitions that are based on us twisting arms, withholding goodies, ignoring legitimate concerns of other countries, but coalitions that are based on a set of mutual self-interests."
Emulate the caution and pragmatism of Truman and Bush senior. "One of the things that I want to do, if I have the honor of being president, is to try to bring back the kind of foreign policy that characterized the Truman administration with Marshall and Acheson and Kennan, but also characterized, to a large degree, the first President Bush with people like Scowcroft and Powell and Baker, who I think had a fairly clear-eyed view of how the world works and recognized that it is always in our interests to engage, to listen, to build alliances, to understand what our interests are, and to be fierce in protecting those interests, but to make sure that we understand it’s very difficult for us to — as powerful as we are — to deal with all these issues by ourselves."
Deal with terrorism more broadly-less "direct action" killing, more microlending. "[W]e have to hunt down those who would resort to violence to move their agenda, their ideology forward. We should be going after al Qaeda, and those networks, fiercely and effectively.
"But what we also want to do is to shrink the pool of potential recruits. And that involves engaging the Islamic world rather than vilifying it, and making sure that we understand that, not only are those in Islam who would resort to violence a tiny fraction of the Islamic world, but that also, the Islamic world itself is diverse, and that lumping together Shia extremists with Sunni extremists, assuming that Persian culture is the same as Arab culture — that those kinds of errors in lumping Islam together result in us not only being less effective in hunting down and isolating terrorists, but also in alienating what need to be our long-term allies on a whole host of issues."
Be very wary of arbitrary government actions, both here and abroad. Living in Indonesia just a year after the anti-Sukarno coup left several hundred thousand people dead, Obama became "aware that, for example, the generals in Indonesia, or the members of Suharto’s family, were living in lavish mansions, and the sense that government wasn’t always working for the people, but was working for insiders — not that that didn’t happen in the United States, but at least the sense that there was a civil society and rules of law that had to be abided by. My stepfather was essentially dragged out of the university he’d been studying in in Hawaii, and was conscripted and sent to New Guinea. And when he was first conscripted, he didn’t know whether he was going to be jailed, killed — that sense of arbitrariness of government power."
Small is good. His mother "was a specialist in international development, who worked — was one of the early practitioners of microfinancing, and would go to villages in South Asia and Africa and Southeast Asia, helping women buy a loom or a sewing machine or a milk cow, to be able to enter into the economy."
So, to summarize:
Winners: Neoliberals, Muslim moderates, nonproliferation specialists, panda-hugging diplomats who want to engage China, and centrist think tanks like my CNAS. And Joe Nye, the "soft power" guy.
Losers: Autocratic Third World generals. Are you listening, Burma? (And Pakistan? That’s a much tougher case. The future of that country is, I think, the biggest threat the world faces today.) I also suspect that the free ride is over for Saudi Arabia, though I am not quite sure why.
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