Painful Realism

President Barack Obama of America wants to fearlessly face the new geopolitical reality. According to him, the United States is unable to manage itself in the world on its own. It is true that American military power is still superior, but without a corresponding political and economic basis, America becomes a giant on feet of clay. And that is exactly what some competitors want, Obama said in his first National Security Strategy, presented yesterday. “Our adversaries would like to see America sap our strength by overextending our power,” the president writes.

With this document, Obama distances himself ideologically from his predecessor, George W. Bush, who was inspired by the neoconservative thinkers of the Project for the New American Century. The primary supposition of the think tank was that the world, after the Western victory of the Soviet bloc in the Cold War, had become “unipolar.” The U.S. had waged war on many fronts at the same time. Because America would never be able to afford to do that again, according to Bush, other rival powers would emerge.

The strategic and tactical choices that were made in Iraq in 2003 were a result of the influence of the ideas by the Project for the New American Century.

Obama formulates it differently: “The burdens of a young century cannot fall on American shoulders alone.” That is one reason why the U.S. is gradually saying goodbye to the outdated, late-20th-century concept that the world is informally controlled by the G-8, the conclave of the eight traditional industrial powers. A broader club, in which China, India and Brazil take part, can put more in motion because it can support more weight. Where nuclear disarmament or containment of states such as North Korea and Iran are concerned, the G-20 offers a better platform to implement effective sanctions than the already divided G-8.

Obama seems to acknowledge that America has no choice. Aside from the question of whether the U.S. has enough political resilience, there is an economic motive. Because of the credit crisis, America is unable to endlessly carry on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is a painful, yet undeniable truth.

But this choice of words does not mean that the U.S. government will in fact do the opposite. After more than a year as president, Obama was of course also forced to face the reality that the continuity of U.S. power must be carefully defended. If national interests are at stake, the government will not hesitate to move toward unilateral action.

The National Security Strategy is one of the texts from which the realization that a new world order is announcing itself. Unlike the previous “new order,” which President Bush, Sr., announced about 20 years ago, this new order demands much more adaptability. And whoever wants to continue denying that will commit to a dangerous policy of ostracization.

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