Monday, November 15, 2010


David Rothkopf has an incisive post-mortem on Obama's Asian trip, the upshot being that Obama is reaping the bitter of harvest of Bush's destruction of U.S. economic power and prestige.

A perhaps unintended pun in the headline is telling, I think -- or at least my inadvertent response is:

The perils of America's Pacific presidency
I had to check back whether "Pacific" was capitalized (maybe because of the triple alliteration).  Obama's approach to world affairs is more pacific than Bush's (and perhaps prior presidents') by design, by necessity (in large part thanks to Bush's disastrous foregin gambits and tax cuts), and by character and inclination. "Pacific" needn't mean "weak" -- the coming age should be about leading by example and building multilateral coalitions and institutions (see here and here).  But weakness is a worry -- as Krugman once again forcefully suggests.

Not to skate too fast past Rothkopf, here's his upshot:

On this most recent trip to Asia, Mr Obama discovered just how different the next century is going to be. The US will still be the most powerful country but it is faltering economically. With the wind of history no longer at its back, others – rivals and allies alike – flex their muscles. They are doing so in ways that confounded the president’s aspirations for this visit, and are quickly derailing other important policy initiatives too.
His prescription: turn back to the domestic cockfighting pit and get a long-term deficit reducton deal. That is this century's ticket to "peace through (economic) strength." 

Afterthought: that piety about 'leading by example and building coalitions" above made me wonder in passing whether at some point some Chinese Bismark will arise to recast the equation as a set of questions to be settled by blood and iron.  And a related thought: what malign new ideology, as yet undreamed, will some segment of humanity cook up in the century to come -- perhaps under pressure of environmental disaster?

1 comment:

  1. In David Mendell's biography of Obama there's something pertinent. Friends of Obama tell Mendell he will not understand his subject without experiencing Hawaii first hand. He does-and describes both the landscape and related temperaments he finds there. We are blessed with a Pacific President--but it will take some time before everyone can see and appreciate what this means.