May 12th, 2014
09:07 AM ET

Obama's minimalist approach to foreign policy

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

What the United States needs is a set of sophisticated strategies to shore up the existing global system but also keep the major powers invested in it.

With Ukraine, for example, it's vital that Obama rally the world against Russia's violation of borders and norms. And yet, the only long-term solution to Ukraine has to involve Russia. Without Moscow's buy-in, Ukraine cannot be stable and successful. But Obama's strategy of putting pressure on Moscow, using targeted sanctions, and rallying support in Europe is the right one – it might even be showing some signs of paying off.

Similarly with China, the challenge is to provide the assurances that other Asian countries want, but to make sure that the pivot does not turn into a containment strategy against China, which is now the world's second-largest economic and military power. That would make for a Cold War in Asia that no Asian country wants and would not serve American interests either.

Obama's restraint has served him well in avoiding errors. But it has also produced a strangely minimalist approach to his constructive foreign policy agenda. From the Asia pivot to the Russian sanctions to new trade deals, the administration has offered an ambitious and important agenda, but the president approaches it cautiously, as if his heart is not in it and he is being pulled along by events rather than leading them.​

Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column

 

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Topics: Fareed's Take • GPS Show

soundoff (120 Responses)
  1. Dave in IL

    "minimalist approach" to foreign policy as in "Don't bother me with this stuff, I have golf to play and fundraisers to attend!"

    May 12, 2014 at 6:36 pm | Reply
    • chawlas

      You took the words out of my mouth.

      Obama is too busy playing with balls to pay attention to anything of substance. Country be damned.

      May 12, 2014 at 11:05 pm | Reply
    • Allen Friedman

      For nearly a 100 years, zionists have stolen Palestians' land, terrorized Palestinians, and committed crimes against humanity against Palestinians. When some Palestinians try to retaliate, israel calls them terrorists. Who are the real terrorists, the real criminals? It's very very clear to 99.99% of humanity that the criminal state of israel and zionists are the original terrorists. Look at all these morally defective zionists and their "zionist-fawning parasites" defending the racist, fascist, terrorist, apartheid state of israel. Israel is a criminal organization masquerading as a state. Rothschild zionists = the enemies of humanity, not just enemies of Islam.

      May 12, 2014 at 11:40 pm | Reply
      • @315smw

        It's very clear that you are hiding behind a Jewish name.

        May 13, 2014 at 8:05 am |
      • andres

        Tell my Allen, who would you blame for your miserable existence if a tragedy occurs that eliminates all of the Jews? Who would be next on your list. Why don't you get out of mommy's basement and get a life. The ONLY person limiting your life is YOU. So go get one.

        May 16, 2014 at 7:06 pm |
    • @315smw

      President Obama has always been a master of rhetoric. American presidents typically seem to prefer taking a back seat to critical events during the waning days of their second and final terms in office. They wish to be remembered for any gains attributed to them during their first four years in office. Therein lies the problem in today's Obama administration. He's "playing it safe" by appearing at events, commenting on human interest issues and generally, maintaining a low profile in world problems. The real problem is, that he insinuates himself into world events with rhetoric that the world no longer believes, due to his lack of follow-through and lack of action.

      May 13, 2014 at 7:59 am | Reply
    • Igor

      Mr. Zakaria is back from writing about deers, which he did very well.

      Citing from the end of present article: From the Asia pivot to the Russian sanctions to new trade deals, the administration has offered an ambitious and important agenda, but the president approaches it cautiously, as if his heart is not in it and he is being pulled along by events rather than leading them.​

      Obams's heart is not in it because he is forced by military/industrial complex of USA to support Nationalist-based Junta in Kiev. Because for 23 years after USSR dissolved, the US elaborated a policy towards Russia based on the old Cold War model, in which Ukraine was used as an important piece in an attempt to continue surrounding Russia with NATO or pro-NATO regimes. Continuous investment in this strategy will continue drain our tax dollars and will lead to nothing except escalation of confrontation with Russia. China will stay neutral, but will make it's conclusions. So far, after this new conflict in Ukraine started, relations between Russia and China are improving.

      May 13, 2014 at 3:30 pm | Reply
    • Igor

      Citing from the end of present article: From the Asia pivot to the Russian sanctions to new trade deals, the administration has offered an ambitious and important agenda, but the president approaches it cautiously, as if his heart is not in it and he is being pulled along by events rather than leading them.​

      Obams's heart is not in it because he is forced by military/industrial complex of USA to support Nationalist-based Junta in Kiev. Because for 23 years after USSR dissolved, the US elaborated a policy towards Russia based on the old Cold War model, in which Ukraine was used as an important piece in an attempt to continue surrounding Russia with NATO or pro-NATO regimes. Continuous investment in this strategy will continue drain our tax dollars and will lead to nothing except escalation of confrontation with Russia. China will stay neutral, but will make it's conclusions. So far, after this new conflict in Ukraine started, relations between Russia and China are improving. China and Russia are performing joint military drills: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2014-05/01/c_133303158.htm

      May 13, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  2. Ted

    Zakaria – what a spin calling it Obama's "minimalist policies". It is more like "do nothing" policies, except go on world tours, palaces, red carpets, staged speeches, golf and retreats.

    May 12, 2014 at 6:39 pm | Reply
  3. Portlandtony

    Obama inherited two wars, neither which has done the US much good. He's getting us out of the last war......and is attempting to keep us out of any hot wars by trying diplomacy.....which may or may not work...however we just can't continue to fight all out hot wars and pay the price in dead and maimed warriors as well as the financial burden these wars put on our economy. There is positively nothing we can do militarily to put out the fires in the Ukraine, Syria, Palestine and so on with out putting many American patriots in harms way. Perhaps the next President will feel differently? Who knows

    May 12, 2014 at 8:11 pm | Reply
    • Talk sense

      There's one good reason why you need to stop meddling and fighting in other countries – Sadly, you're no good at it!
      And you don't JUST get your own troops killed – you get countless thousands of innocents killed too!
      Please stay at home and look after your own divided, failing country.

      May 13, 2014 at 9:15 pm | Reply
  4. Straightdeck

    Zakaria doesn't say exactly what Obama should do. It seems to me that Zakaria, based on his past columns, likes intervention.

    May 12, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Reply
    • ✠RZ✠

      Intervention begets violence, violence begets military action, military action begets big expense to the taxpayer and profits to the MIC. In the end, you pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq amidst on going violence, bombing, and bloodshed. The few who made billions of dollars off it are smiling, but lot of sons and daughters are dead, and you're holding a few more trillion dollars in debt that can never be paid back. But instead of learning any lessons and coming to grips with this cycle, the insanity just continues. Even a "war to end all wars" cannot end all wars. It's a proven fact.

      May 12, 2014 at 11:22 pm | Reply
    • ✠RZ✠

      Did I mention the role of main stream media and government as agents to garner support for war? They too get paid well to do their part.

      May 12, 2014 at 11:26 pm | Reply
  5. J Anthony

    Mind-numbing, some of the tough-guy talk and ignorance here. This country needs a Mass Enlightenment so bad it isn't funny.

    May 12, 2014 at 9:41 pm | Reply
  6. Quarant

    I don't care what the great Fareed Zakaria thinks, and neither should you. People should arrive at their own opinions and views and not have some canned "expert" roll out on queue and dictate what the "right" POV is .... after all, one would not want to be, as the Obama put it – "wrongheadded".

    May 12, 2014 at 10:08 pm | Reply
  7. Allen Friedman

    For nearly a 100 years, zionists have stolen Palestians' land, terrorized Palestinians, and committed crimes against humanity against Palestinians. When some Palestinians try to retaliate, israel calls them terrorists. Who are the real terrorists, the real criminals. It's very very clear to 99.99% of humanity that the criminal state of israel and zionists are the original terrorists. Look at all these morally defective zionists and their "zionist-fawning parasites" defending the racist, fascist, terrorist, apartheid state of israel. Israel is a criminal organization masquerading as a state. Rothschild zionists = the enemies of humanity, not just enemies of Islam.

    May 12, 2014 at 11:37 pm | Reply
    • Talk sense

      IDid you flunk history or what?
      In 1948 after 76 UN nations offered dual statehood for Israel and Palestine – the Israelis accepted Statehood ..... the
      snivelling Palestinians REFUSED statehood till "every Jew is pushed into the sea"
      They REFUSED so they've no right to be there at all!

      May 13, 2014 at 9:11 pm | Reply
  8. meaning

    the us ought to work with china ,not against china.it is obvious!why wise us politician choose another way.

    May 12, 2014 at 11:49 pm | Reply
  9. Truth

    The Wounded Warrior Project is nothing but a SCAM. Do not fall for their antics.

    May 13, 2014 at 12:24 am | Reply
    • Wounded Warrior

      Do you have proof? Other than the false emails that are floating around? With 80% going into life-saving programs (as shown by independently audited financials posted on their website) and my personal experience as a wounded warrior and alumni, don't appreciate folks spreading false statements.

      May 13, 2014 at 10:46 am | Reply
  10. Allan Kinsman

    A teacher I once had identified the great presidents as those who did the least. I kind of see his point. If I remember correctly it was Andrew Johnson that won this prize. He spent his time defending an impeachment. It seems to me we really haven't had elected officials running Washington in recent decades. Sometimes it's worse and sometimes it's not as bad and I believe that is a fair statement. I believe if we compare the president is trying to pull us out of two wars. He hasn't started any new one's. Come on, let's give him credit. If we stopped dropping bombs we might begin to affect a over spending which has gone on for well since before Vietnam. And could some one answer a question for me. Who will stand up for America when we are bankrupt? China? The world wants us out and we are doing everything we can to help their agenda's. America is losing the war on mismanagement, poor policies and saving a country from failed investments coming from trying to package home's to people who couldn't afford them. I mean we can't blame North Korea on the idiots who came up with this scheme. Someone invented it, someone gave it triple A ratings and then no one from government was watching. Sounds like a bon fire with a host of people throwing gas on it from the middle east. Oh yeah this investmest scheme is still on the books, yep sounds like everything is coming up roses.

    May 13, 2014 at 12:41 am | Reply
  11. Abdul fatah

    obama should be careful with asian continent coz he might spring up a continental rift btn america n asian

    May 13, 2014 at 1:09 am | Reply
  12. jjnscbusin

    What does the article say? I didnt read it when it said Obama had little error in foreign policy. Hello, Obama's goof on not aligning rhetoric to action in Syria was the pandora's box. There needs to be better analysis because his foreign policy sucks!

    May 13, 2014 at 1:15 am | Reply
  13. luckjoe

    Obama is an egotistic community organizer. Nothing more.

    May 13, 2014 at 8:09 am | Reply
  14. EA Marco Polo

    [Could I teach real history for readers?]

    The west Europe kidnapped 25 million African people and abused them as black slaves, and tortured 8 million of black slaves to die in Europe's ships. Dirty Queen Opium Victoria used strategic famine to kill 20 million good people in Indian Peninsula. China (ROC and PRC) always supports justice and had assisted lots of African and Asian countries to fight against immoral European animals for independence and freedom.

    Could you answer me a question? During British illegal rule in Indian Peninsula, had they treated Indian people as equal to British on one day? Had they treated your grandfather or great grandfather as equal to British?

    May 13, 2014 at 9:13 am | Reply
    • nmatney353

      Everything you pointed out has been in the past. Does the West do these heinous acts anymore? No. Do some other countries I will refrain from naming continue to do heinous humanity acts? Yes. We have grown whereas these countries haven't. Your logic is fallacy. Moving on.

      May 14, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Reply
  15. EA Marco Polo

    China (Mainland + ROC Taiwan + Hong Kong + Macao + Singapore) is more and more vigorous. The world is harmonious and China has many allies.

    May 13, 2014 at 9:25 am | Reply
  16. RUDY TAGALA

    Global politics and stabilization. History states it all and as time goes by, it's going to judge vis-a-vis the end result of human-kind in this planet called Earth. Why wars ever since? Are these wars needed to stream-line over-population before achievement of human perfection (as it was supposed to be in the Christian religion – Garden of Eden) to jump-out of the solar system Sun for more habitable eco-systems in the vast universe/micro-cosm before the last sunset?

    May 13, 2014 at 9:44 am | Reply
  17. Tea Party Patriot

    A growing number of us are convinced that Sarah Palin is the only one who can heal and re-unify our country. But first she must return to her motorhome and resume her cross country tour. She will have to visit cities both large and small, being careful to speak only to real Americans, dispensing her sage advice and folksy, homespun common sense solutions. We can be a great nation again if we all follow the "Palin Path".

    May 13, 2014 at 9:46 am | Reply
    • Patrick

      Are you trying to be funny or what?

      May 13, 2014 at 11:48 am | Reply
    • Talk sense

      She was right about Russia; as was Mitt Romney! It was only Obama who didn't have the intelligence to see the truth!

      May 13, 2014 at 9:07 pm | Reply
  18. chris

    People with little ability to solve problems always do as little as possible to reduce the risk of exposing their weaknesses.

    May 13, 2014 at 11:17 am | Reply
    • Talk sense

      Excellent comment!

      May 13, 2014 at 9:06 pm | Reply
  19. Patrick

    What we need to do is to stop butting into the affairs of other countries and return to Isolationism. It worked quite well for over 150 years.

    May 13, 2014 at 11:47 am | Reply
    • Common sense

      You must be a special kind of stupid.

      May 16, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Reply
  20. mostlyright70

    Minimal? That may just be the understatement of the year. Its non-existent. Our President's foreign policy consists of "strongly" worded memos to the likes of Vlad Putin. Something is wrong when folks long for Jimmy Carter's foreign policys. http://www.thepoliticalspectator.org

    May 13, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Reply
  21. Tim

    The "minimalist" approach actually included a limited war in Libya.
    But in general, is there any valid argument against a policy of "minimalism"? Look what the Bush ear brought America in the forms of two endless wars when the US operated on a "maximalist" approach. Foreign policy "minimalism" actually served the US quite well in the past (i.e., before World War II), allowing the US to prosper in peace while other countries were drawn into conflicts. China has studiously learned the rise of the US. Who can argue that they have prospered enormously through "minimalism" while the US has waged war, spent its treasure, and received little reward for its effort?

    May 13, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Reply
  22. Rick McDaniel

    Obama's policy is simply to not get involved. That may prevent serious mistakes, but it shows zero leadership ability.

    May 13, 2014 at 5:14 pm | Reply
  23. David Witcraft

    How can they conduct foreign policy when most of their domestic policy is MIA. This will go down as the least EFFECTIVE administration of the modern era. Usually presidents dictate an agenda, some agenda. This group can barely focus on one issue at a time. Makes it easier for the GOP to dictate what that issue will be.

    May 13, 2014 at 10:54 pm | Reply
  24. Atomik1

    For those of you who wants other points of view besides CNN "minimalist" approach to journalism here is a link to the great in-depth analysis of the current situation in Ukraine and US role in that conflict: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/13/ukraine-us-war-russia-john-pilger.
    I am not sure what CNN is trying to deliver as a news or objective analysis anymore. The war unleashed by US in the Middle East is still raging and US state department have found another part of the globe to spread freedom and democracy. If you call it a minimalist approach to the foreign policy, what do you call leading: the start of another war? It will be a third one for the past ten years. Actually, the fourth one, if you are to include Libya.

    May 14, 2014 at 3:05 am | Reply
  25. Wim Roffel

    Fareed must seen another Obama than I see. I see a president whose noisy "pivot to Asia" and recent Asia trip that excluded China were clear statements of "containment". It is doubtful whether the Chinese would have started their drilling conflict with Vietnam without Obama's trip.

    I also see a president who overthrew Ukraine's legal president and whose sermons about international norms – specially when they concern Ukraine – will therefore be received with covered snickering. Covered – because your country may be next when you don't show the right measure of respect towards the world only superpower.

    May 15, 2014 at 8:38 am | Reply
  26. parabolid71

    No errors. Benghazi is as peaceful as Switzerland (only 12 dead and 91 wounded today), Iraq is boring with just a dozen bombs every day, Egypy has military hunta, Ukraine is a success. Yep, you are right, no errors. Just a disaster, but definitely no errors.

    Fareed, please find another line of work. This is not working out for you.

    May 16, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Reply
  27. andres

    Zarkia has a depth perception problem, his nose is so far up Obama's nether regions that he has gone past being a brown noser and has gone directly to being a sh head. To say that Obama has avoided mistakes is to ignore everything since day one. His middle east policy has produced what? Oh that Arab spring that allowed the MB to take over Egypt, and then when the Egyptians had their fill they kicked the MB and then Obama cries foul and is on the very wrong side of history. Libya? It has turned to civil war, Iraq? In danger of breaking up any day, Syria? Clinton and Obama helped light off the bloody war by calling for regime change, then abandoning the real rebels. Over 100,000 dead, millions displaced, and we feed the rebels just enough weapons to be a pest but not overthrow Assad, thus inducing even more deaths. Then Obama lies to the US people with his soon to be futile 'peace' with Iran, A policy that has pushed Egypt, Saudia Arabia, and many of the other gulf states firmly away from the US. As soon as Iran is nuclear, a nuclear arms race will light off in the gulf. SA already owns missiles capable of lifting a nuclear weapon and most likely an agreement with Pakistan to purchase weapons. Yes Zakiara Obama has avoided missteps indeed.

    May 16, 2014 at 7:16 pm | Reply
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