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April 22, 2009

Kissinger: Obama's Foreign Policy Challenge

Posted: 09:02 AM ET

By Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger

The vast diplomatic agenda that the Obama administration has adopted will test its ability to harmonize national priorities such as relations with Iran and North Korea with global and multilateral concerns.

President Obama has come into office at a moment of unique opportunity. The economic crisis absorbs the energies of all the major powers; whatever their differences, all need a respite from international confrontation. Overriding challenges such as energy, the environment and proliferation concern them to a considerable degree and in an increasingly parallel way. The possibility of comprehensive solutions is unprecedented.

Obama has launched negotiations on an extraordinary range of subjects. Each has a political as well as a strategic component. Each deals with issues peculiar to itself. Each runs the risk that inherent obstacles could obscure ultimate objectives or that negotiating tactics could warp substance. But the challenges are also closely related. For example, arms control negotiations with Russia will affect Russia's role in the nonproliferation effort with Iran. The strategic dialogue with China will help shape the Korean negotiations. The negotiations will also be affected by perceptions of regional balances - of the key participants, for Russia, this applies especially to the former Soviet space in Central Asia; for China and the United States, to the political structure of Northeast Asia and the Pacific Rim.

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Filed under: International • President Obama


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Dave of Detroit   April 22nd, 2009 9:28 am ET

Dr. Kessinger, as always, gives a brilliant analysis of the political forces at work in the world and possible ways to negotiate a moderate and sensible world peace and workable economic ties. To me, there is a twofold problem-North Korea came out of isolation because its people were starving to death and badly need the world trade that would feed its people but their system is so secretive and paranoid that even this need limits their ability to open up their Country to other Nations-As a Nuclear Power that now has a longer range missile capability and a mindset of threat and coercion, they are a real threat! Iran is playing a very dangerous game in developing nuclear weapons and their constant threat of obliterating Israel is not being overlooked by Israel who has shown itself to be well able to both protect itself with or without world approval. Finally, the ability of the U.N. to control and reason with the Superpowers of the World is waning badly. President Bush just pushed them aside, Russia has done the same, and strangely, the economically emerging China is becoming more of a partner than either. Thankfully, President Obama does not shoot from the hip but the world situation is extremely dangerous!


Michael C. McHugh   April 22nd, 2009 9:44 am ET

It's pretty clear at this point that we are no longer the hegemonic superpower that we once were. Indeed, we have been in decline since the 1970s relatively speaking, although after the collapse of the Soviet Empire, we once again had the delusion that the whole world was going to be re-shaped in our image. At this point, it should be obvious to anyone over the age of three that isn't going to happen.

Today, we are more in the position of being one great power among many. Our economic weakness is beyond doubt, and everyone can see it. That free market, laissez faire economic model we've been pushing for the last 30 years–the Second Gilded Age–has failed spectacularly, and once again the whole world knows it.

In this crisis, we are going to have to accept our relative decline, put our own house in order, and also learn to work better with other powers and with international organizatiosn. There are a host of important problems in the world that must be dealt with in this way or they won't be dealt with at all: poverty, the environment, social and economic development, diseased, and so on.

None of these can be solved by military power, of course, that goes without saying. Nevertheless, the US should its part to solve them in the years ahead, always working with other nations, especially those in the Global South. If we don't do this now, then when is it going to be done?
Nor do I believe we have any chance of winning the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan unless social and economic development at the grassroots level is a major part of our strategy.

On the military side, I think we should maintain our commitment to NATO, and also to defend South Korea and (de facto) Taiwan, although I don't think war in any of those places is likely at all. I just don't believe that even regimes like North Korea and Iran, unpleasant as they are and unpopular even with their own people, are going to start wars they know they can't win. I have never believed that Russia and China would actually want to start a world war, and I know we have never wanted that. No person or government on this side of sanity would.

One thing I would suggest is that NATO badly needs a name change and a serious re-think about just what its purpose is in the 21st Century. No one seems to have noticed that many of the newer members are not on the North Atlantic ocean, and some are not on any ocean at all. This is part of the problem, along with the fact that it was designed to deter a Russian attack on western Europe–an attack that today is just not very likely at all.


Terry, TX   April 22nd, 2009 11:36 am ET

I don't disagree..with diplomacy and negotiations....but then what...this is not whether the US is a superpower or not...or people like us or not...it's what is next? We have a UN who sends memos of condemnation... NATO who releases Muslim Pirates because they can't detain them...no Plan...they were unaware of Muslim Pirates...so what does NATO do in international waters..get sun tanned. You let Iran and N. Korea become nuclear while your talking. The president who does...put a fork in him...he's done ...and so is the Congress.


ed,vancouver canada   April 23rd, 2009 1:20 am ET

the experts are trying to analyze a soccer game with moving goal posts.
fact is no one knows until it happens.

pakistan does not want to stop the taliban from invading.
they are muslim buddies.

india should have took care of it after the mumbai attacks.

the united states trained the taliban to fight the russians back in the eighties.


ed,vancouver canada   April 23rd, 2009 1:28 am ET

the pakistanis have had no success dealing with the taliban.
the united states created and trained the taliban.
the united states is still sending billions to pakistan.

people are so poor in pakistan that employment with the taliban looks good.
hitler did the same in germany.
that is the real danger of suppression. a little is ok,but eventually a big risk is taken,and the american economy is heading in the wrong direction,the direction to create a monster.


Ted   April 23rd, 2009 8:00 am ET

I was and still am 100% for Mr. Obama, he is the first President to realize we have no God given rights to force our style of living on other people.
We were doing this for 60 years with bombing, invading, using the CIA to overthrow democratically elected government, because we did not like their political lines. Iran, Chile, Honduras, Afganistan, just to name a few. At the same time we called the bloodiest dictators our best friends, I prefer not to name the countries as I may run out of space. However, we should remember that bin Laden and most of the 9/11 terrorist come from Saudi-Arabia and their money was also coming from that country. That much for good friends.
Mr. Obama does what I propagated for a lifetime, you must talk to your friends, but you must talk even more to those who are not friends to us. As long as you are talking there is no killing! With wars you never solve a problem, you just create a few more.
With embargoes you do not accomplish anything, see Iraq, North-Korea, Cuba, etc. You just hurt the people, because the ruling class will always find the way to get what they want.
Our 48 years embargo against Cuba is the most stupid thing we ever did. It did not hurt Castro, it stabilized his position! Did we allow trade and travel to that country, in my belief Castro would have been a long gone historical figure.
Mr. President, give your hand to Raul Castro, and allow free trade and travel. If we get off the high horse may realize other people are just as good as we are and want what we want, peace and well being.


Gary   April 23rd, 2009 3:51 pm ET

Attorney General Eric Holder placed all federal prosecutors on notice that his Justice Department will play by the rules!

But are federal prosecutors above the law when comes to bribery?

The time has come for congress to step in and take look at our federal court system. Congress must enforce existing anti-bribery legislation because when the law was written it did not exclude federal prosecutors or the federal government. Federal judges must be able to make more sound decisions to make it a little more equal between prosecution and defense attorneys. It is almost impossible for defense attorneys to win a conspiracy case when federal prosecutors promise to pay out thousands, sometimes millions of dollars and give leniency to career criminals wasting tax payer money on people who should be in prison, all because the government can not make a real case. Tax payers are funding personal vendettas! Are we to believe that with all the training that federal agents are given, that at the end of the day, the United States government must use bribery and shake hands with carrier criminals to get a conviction? Authorities rely exclusively on paid informants and co-defendants-turned-informants that have no corroborating evidence to support the informant’s testimony. How are these witnesses credible?


Kristen Van Meter   May 25th, 2009 9:34 pm ET

Hi I think that they should not have another war over in North Korea or Cuba. I think that we need to bring the troops back home. We already are in Iraq War and we sure do not need another one right now. I hope they don't have one in Korea but who knows. Thanks Have a nice day


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