Barack Obama, and America's place in the world
US domination is giving way to greater balance.
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2. New ways of ordering the international economy. Bush made a good start by shifting from the Western-dominated "G-7" to the "G-20" that brings in China, India, Brazil, Russia, and other rising powers. China's leaders have said that Americans need to enact significant reforms and belt-tightening to save the US economy.Skip to next paragraph
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Meantime, Asian nations have been discussing a regional alternative to the Washington-based International Monetary Fund. Decisionmaking power on economic issues has migrated eastward.
3. New possibilities for stabilizing Afghanistan and Pakistan. Until now, the US project in Afghanistan has been a Western-dominated (NATO) one, pursued through mainly military means. But Afghanistan's lengthy crisis of governance has no military solution – and certainly not one pursued by Western armies.
Meanwhile, China has bought itself a chunky stake in the Afghan economy and enjoys historically good relations with Pakistan. China, Russia, and other powers can all be enrolled in a new, UN-led project to help stabilize Afghanistan and its region.
4. New ways of looking at human rights. Most people in the world view economic and social rights as just as important as civil and political rights. But the US government has never joined the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. As we ask China to increase its respect for civil and political rights, we should do our part to strengthen social and economic rights.
5. A shift away from military force. Recent experiences in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Lebanon have shown that military force cannot solve international problems. Most global security challenges cry out for policing-based solutions that enjoy strong local support, rather than more military force.
Other, less optimistic scenarios are also possible for the years ahead. But Obama has vowed to find new, better ways to engage with the rest of the world. The world will give him a very sympathetic hearing. Now he will need to use his considerable smarts to understand and work with the dynamics of the networked world.