In a scathing denunciation of Mitt Romney last week, Fareed Zakaria praised Barack Obama for his nuanced understanding of what Zakaria has called the “Post-American World”:
This is a new world, very different from the America-centric one we got used to over the last generation. Obama has succeeded in preserving and even enhancing U.S. influence in this world precisely because he has recognized these new forces at work. He has traveled to the emerging nations and spoken admiringly of their rise. He replaced the old Western club and made the Group of 20 the central decision-making forum for global economic affairs. By emphasizing multilateral organizations, alliance structures and international legitimacy, he got results. It was Chinese and Russian cooperation that produced tougher sanctions against Iran. It was the Arab League’s formal request last year that made Western intervention in Libya uncontroversial.
By and large, you have ridiculed this approach to foreign policy, arguing that you would instead expand the military, act unilaterally, and talk unapologetically. That might appeal to Republican primary voters, but chest-thumping triumphalism won’t help you secure America’s interests or ideals in a world populated by powerful new players.
Where to start with Mr. Zakaria’s indictment? George Bush traveled frequently to “emerging nations,” as did Bill Clinton. The former’s multibillion-dollar initiatives to help battle AIDS in Africa have saved millions of lives. Long before Obama, the G-something meetings were already more than “the old Western club.” Unlike Obama in Libya or Clinton in Serbia, Bush did not intervene in Afghanistan or Iraq without first obtaining congressional support. Bush obtained United Nations approval for our intervention in Afghanistan and tried to for Iraq. In contrast, Clinton did not go to the U.N. before bombing Serbia, and Obama obtained U.N. resolutions to enforce a no-fly-zone in Libya and offer humanitarian aid, and he then summarily far exceeded both by bombing ground troops.
(photo credit: World Economic Forum)