Reconsidering America’s place in the world

In Nader Mousavizadeh‘s interesting analysis on America’s failure to deal effectively with so-called “rogue states”, he begins by pointing out that the world that created such states is gone:

Obama came into office thinking that a more responsive diplomacy could rally global support for the old Western agenda, but that’s not enough. What’s needed, more than a change in tone or a U.S. policy review, is a new set of baseline global interests—neither purely Western nor Eastern—defined in concert with rising powers who have real influence in capitals like Rangoon, Pyongyang, and Tehran. This requires a painful reconsideration of America’s place in the world. But it promises real help from rising powers in shouldering the financial and military burden of addressing global threats.

Today countries large and small, well behaved and not, are looking for partners, not patrons. Where Washington looks to punish rogues, seeking immediate changes in behavior, rival powers are stepping in with investment and defense contracts, and offering a relationship based on dignity and respect. This is the story of China in Burma, Russia in Iran, Brazil in Cuba, and so on down the line. And given that the core institutions of global governance—the U.N. Security Council, the World Bank, and the IMF—are unwilling to grant the new powers a seat at the decision-making table, it’s not surprising that they feel no obligation to back sanctions they’ve had no say in formulating.

Far from being coy about their newfound independence, the rising powers are asserting their status with increasing strength. During a recent state visit, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva stood beside President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and declared bluntly: “We don’t have the right to think other people should think like us.” These words resonate more deeply outside the Western world than new calls for unity against the rogues. Days earlier, Ahmadinejad had been hosted by Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had embraced his neighbor at a summit of Islamic nations and insisted that Iran’s nuclear program was “peaceful.” Predictably, the Western press attacked both Lula and Erdogan for betraying democratic values and solidarity, missing the point entirely. Established democrats like Lula and Erdogan are not siding with Ahmadinejad, supporting his government’s violent crackdown on protesters or its covert nuclear programs. Rather, they are demonstrating their intention—and, more important, their ability—to have a say in who the rogues are and how they should be dealt with.

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