Monday, June 21, 2010

Some green shoots of multipolar leadership?

Like all foreign policies, the Obama administration's more collaborative, less confrontational approach will be judged by its long-term  effects. The administration has certainly had its share of setbacks. Nonetheless, some recent green shoots are worth noting:
  • The Chinese have announced that they will allow modest and gradual yuan appreciation - after signs that the Euro debt crisis might scotch their expected move in this direction. On this front, the administration has been under tremendous pressure to pressure, and has done so with delicacy -- amassing developing world allies in the effort, always placing the issue in the context of global rebalancing, sidestepping a deadline to deem or not deem China a "currency manipulator" -- and most recently, doubtless citing the pressure that Congress has been placing on the administration via threats to pass retaliatory legislation (as well as its own very pointed forbearance to this point).

  • China was also brought on board, seemingly against the odds, for new sanctions against Iran.  While the likely impact of those sanctions is questionable at best, the harnessing of China and Russia seemed unlikely and does indicate progress in the U.S. ability to  choreograph collective action..

  • The Israelis have just announced a significant easing of the Gaza blockade, brokered by Tony Blair but underwritten by the U.S. with an immediate rescheduling of the Netanyahu-Obama meeting that was postponed afer the Mavi Marmora boarding.  From the outset of that crisis, U.S. shielding of Israel from Security Council condemnation was balanced by insistence that the blockade in current form was "unsustainable."

  •  Backing up a few weeks,the President signed his nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, an important marker in its overall anti-proliferation strategy and prelude to sanctions against Iran.
There's plenty to chronicle on the other side of the ledger: a seeming disintegration of efforts to build up governance and check the Taliban in Afghanistan; failure to move Netanyahu on settlements and a subsequent collapse of faith in Obama in the middle east; a retrograde move away from stimulus in Europe and many other countries that could endanger world economic recovery.  Still, there is at least some evidence that the administration is succeeding in reconstituting U.S. leadership in an inevitably more multipolar world.

1 comment:

  1. I wish I could share your optimism but the 'easing' of the blockade, such as it is, was inevitable given international reaction to the flotilla deaths. Bottom line is that Israel is still expanding its lawful borders, they called Obama's bluff and won. The Israeli tail continues to wag the US dog