Impossible Isolationism

John Kerry just completed his trip in Asia after visiting Seoul, Beijing and Jakarta.  US involvement has been confirmed—it’s the 5th mission in Asia in little over a year—but results are being entrusted to diplomatic patience rather than spectacular results of the decisions.  The Obama administration knows that however powerful the US may be, they cannot resolve global tensions alone.  There are too many players and interests involved.  This new situation is frequently mistaken for partial but growing disinterest.  It reinvigorates the idea of a neo-isolationist country, proud of its history, which entrusts its supremacy to its founding values.  The US’ economic recovery is made to coincide with the progressive disengagement from international issues.  Even if the approach is at the very least hasty, there are some important signs.  As a result of his political formation, Obama prefers internal affairs.  Apprenticed in Chicago for a long time, Obama prevails on his Kenyan origins or his youth spent in Indonesia.  The role of gendarme was reduced after the withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq, while the White House prefers negotiation or NATO intervention alongside its allies on every other front.  Lately, the US’ forthcoming energetic self-sufficiency has rendered the Middle East a prevalently political terrain, where oil supplies are no longer strategic.  Obama’s battles are fought internally.  His greatest ambition remains the controversial Obamacare bill, meant to reform the healthcare system.  Saving the automotive industry and creating new employment are issues within his potential.  His decision to cancel his trip to Asia last fall due to his involvement in difficult talks with the Republican Party over federal budget limits created uproar.

The perception of a superpower closed in on itself—large enough to produce and consume alone—is, in reality, challenged by many observers.  Secretary of State, John Kerry, denied any possible US disengagements from international affairs and its most dangerous theaters at a recent summit in Davos.  Instead, he reiterated the importance of political pressure and multilateral interventions.  It was a position captured from Joseph Nye’s analyses, a notable American political expert, made famous for coining the term, “soft power,” the force that derives from ideas, and from the global knowledge of a model that’s recognized even before being admired.  Joseph Nye imagines US interventions to combine hard and soft power in the management of complex realities, where the relationship between Washington and Beijing, as opposed to that with Moscow during the Cold War, is only one of numerous aspects to consider.  “China isn’t the only problem for US power in the 21st century, but the reemergence of other countries.”  The complexity of the situation can be measured against the Asian giant and, therefore, the short-term focus of analyses on the new isolationism.  The US, just like China, cannot do without collaboration.  Obviously, this doesn’t signify that tensions will lessen or downright disappear.  In reality, it seems that the more ties that are created, the more differences that appear and eventually flare up.  In any case, the G2 has no choice but to dialogue.  Obama knows that in his country’s history, foreign affairs were directed by internal needs.  Isolationism was defeated when the two oceans that flank it could no longer confine the new power.  The president will have to patent a more mediated and agile involvement—and pass it on to his successors— but he certainly will not be able to revive arguments from a century ago, arguments that globalization and the laws of development consigned to history a long time ago.