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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first here’s my take. Foreign policy commands attention when it’s crisis management. A street revolt breaks out in Egypt or Libya or Kiev and everyone asks, how should the president respond?

Now these are important parts of America’s role in the world, but they are essentially reactive and tactical. The broader challenge is to lay down a longer-term strategy that endures after the crisis of the moment. The Obama administration has tried to do this with its Asia’s strategy, and the president’s trip this week is a part of that, but progress has been halting and incomplete.

So for all its problems, the real threat to a serious Asia strategy comes not from the administration but from Congress and maybe the American public. In fact, the difficulties in the execution of the Asian pivot raised the broader question — can America have a grand strategy today?

Obama’s basic approach is wise and in many ways a continuation of U.S. foreign policy since Bill Clinton’s presidency, including George W. Bush. On the diplomatic front, it has two elements — deterrence and engagement. All countries in Asia as well as the United States seek stronger and deeper economic ties with China and want to ensure that that country does not become an expansionist regional bully.

Now getting the balance between those two elements — engagement and deterrence — is hard to do and easy to criticize. There is, however, a broader aspect to Asia policy, one that is constructive. At the center of this is the Transpacific Partnership. It would not only be the largest trade deal in decades if it happened involving most of Asia’s large economies and perhaps eventually even including China but it would strongly reinforce America style rules about free and open trade worldwide.

Yet the president has not been able to get the fast track authority that makes it possible to negotiate such a trade deal. The Democratic Party, once the greatest champion of free trade, has long turned its back on it. A sad shift in a once open and optimistic party. And in recent years, Republican support for trade has also gotten much weaker.

America’s military strategy in Asia requires significant budgets, and these are under pressure from both sides of the aisle. Public support for any kind of ambitious, generous foreign policy is pretty low these days.

Now the most worrying obstacle to a serious American strategy might seem at first to be a highly technical issue. The administration has proposed reform of the International Monetary Fund which congressional Republicans are blocking. But reforming the agency is crucial to America’s future global vote.

Let me explain. The IMF governing board has long been dominated by the United States and Europe. As Asian countries have become a large part of the global economic pie, the Obama administration has proposed enlarging their votes on the board. Now this mostly would take power away from Europe, not the United States. And yet congressional Republicans have held up this plan for three years, and they show no signs of being ready to pass it.

This issue has united Asian countries from China to Indonesia to Singapore who see it a sign that the West will never let them share real power in these institutions. And you know what? They have a point. After World War II, the United States confronted Soviet communism but it also built a stable world order by creating many institutions that set global rules and norms, and shared power from the U.N. itself to the IMF and the World Bank.

The urgent task is to expand these institutions to include the rising powers of Asia. If Washington does not do this, it will strengthen those voices in Asia, especially in China, who say that their countries should not try to integrate into a Western framework of international rules because they will always be second class citizens, and they should, instead, buy their time and create their own institutions, played by their own rules and do their own thing.

And at that point, we will all deeply regret that we did not let these countries into the club when we had a chance.

CNN.com – Transcripts

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Posted April 28, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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