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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first, here is my take. Despite this week’s elections, President Obama has the opportunity to do big things over the next two years, but they will have to be in the world beyond Washington. Next week’s trip to Asia would be a good place to start. In fact, it’s odd that Obama has not already devoted more time, energy, and attention to foreign policy.

It’s been clear for a while now that there is no prospect of working with the Republican Party on any major domestic policy, but if Obama seeks some kind of foreign policy legacy, he will first have to maintain the discipline with which he began his presidency.

If he ends up with incremental, escalating interventionism in Syria it will absorb fully the White House’s mind share, the public’s interests and the country’s resources. It will also not succeed if by success we mean the triumph of pro-democratic forces in the Syrian civilian war.

Obama’s biggest foreign policy initiative is powerful and intelligent — the pivot to Asia. The greater threat to global peace and prosperity over the next decades comes not from a band of assassins in Syria but from the rise of China and the manner in which that will reshape the geopolitics of Asia and the world.

If Washington can provide balance and reassurance in Asia, it will help ensure that the continent does not become the flash point for a new Cold War.

But the Asia pivot remains for rhetoric than reality. Having promised a larger U.S. military presence in the Philippines, Singapore and Australia, there is little evidence of any of this on the ground. The most ambitious element of the Asia pivot is the Transpacific Partnership. The idea is simple. To lower trade barriers and other impediments to commerce among 12 large Pacific economies comprising 40 percent of the global GDP.

This will provide a boost to global growth but, more importantly, shore up the principles and practice of open markets and encourage open economies at a time when state capitalism like the Chinese model and new nationalist barriers are creeping up everywhere. The good news is that the Republican victory this week actually might make this more likely. Trade is one of the few issues on which the GOP agrees with the president.

Obama has one other major foreign policy initiative — nuclear negotiations with Iran. Again, here the basic strategy has been smart, sanctions plus talk, but it has not received presidential attention and focus.

It remains unclear whether Iran is ready to make peace with America and the West, but if it is, Obama should present Washington and the world with the deal, even though it will surely be denounced as treason by Republicans and attacked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

I know the world looks messy and the administration is now on the defensive, but recall what the world looked like when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were conducting foreign policy. America was losing a war in Asia in which it had deployed half a million troops. The Soviet Union was on the march. Domestic opposition and troubles were mounting.

Nixon and Kissinger had to initiate a major retreat, but as Robert Zoellick has pointed out, they combined this with the seize of bold, positive, assertive moves, arms control deals was the Soviet Union, the opening in China, shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East. The result was that by 1973 people were dazzled by the energy and ingenuity of American foreign policy.

The historian John Gaddis has described this as one of the most successful reversals of fortune for American foreign policy in modern history.

To achieve a similar kind of legacy, it’s now time for a foreign policy presidency.

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Posted November 10, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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