June 2nd, 2014
10:50 AM ET

U.S. needs engagement, not another war

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

By Fareed Zakaria

Criticizing presidents for weakness is a standard trope in Washington because the world is a messy place and, when bad things happen, Washington and the president can easily be blamed for them. But to determine what America – and President Barack Obama – should be doing, let's first try to understand the nature of the world and the dangers within in it.

From 1947 until 1990, the United States faced a mortal threat, an enemy that was strategic, political, military, and ideological. Washington had to keep together an alliance that faced up to the foe and persuade countries in the middle not to give in. This meant that concerns about resolve and credibility were paramount.

But the world today looks very different, far more peaceful and stable than at any point in several centuries. The United States faces no enemy anywhere on the scale of Soviet Russia. America's military spending is about that of the next 14 countries combined, most of which are treaty allies of Washington…

…In this context, what is needed from Washington is not another heroic exertion of American military power, but rather a sustained effort to engage with allies, isolate enemies, support free markets and democratic values, and push these positive trends forward…An America that exaggerates threats, overreacts to problems, and intervenes unilaterally would produce the very damage to its credibility that people are worried about.

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

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Topics: Foreign Policy

soundoff (155 Responses)
  1. franklin galvin

    I'd like to see a full international inquiry dating back to the removal of the Ukrainian leader to the present, and a proper procedure worked out for proper political changes, with Russia on board.

    Second, as China is now becoming very alienated, a substantial effort must be made to rebuild relationships, curtail espionage and intellectual property ripoffs, and build trust, on all sides.

    June 5, 2014 at 5:32 pm | Reply
  2. Sly

    I'm happy to see us working with our allies and strengthening our support with them. It is the right thing to do.

    June 6, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  3. Born in USSR

    You think you have any allies left? I think you can call em vassal states, but whatever. HF.
    All we have to do is supply Germany with nuclear weapons and ICBM's and you'll be kicked out from Europe.

    June 6, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  4. LiveFree

    Yep! I agreed. We dont need to waste time and money pursuing military superiority, especially, at time we are no longer a rich nation. Managing relationship and balance is the art for the next few decades. Aggressors need to be isolated economically and financially until their behavior change to adhere to the rules of civilized nations.

    June 7, 2014 at 12:44 am | Reply
  5. Rick McDaniel

    The question you do not answer here.......is how do we deal with the attacks from islam, not only in the middle east, and points around the world, but within the U.S. from those we have allowed to come here, who simply use that as an opportunity to attack, and kill us?

    Perhaps you really aren't facing reality.

    June 7, 2014 at 11:59 am | Reply
  6. JackDoe

    How is engaging with Israel working out for solving the Palestinian occupation ?

    June 7, 2014 at 7:40 pm | Reply
  7. RareRationalist

    Zakaria: 'But the world today looks very different, far more peaceful and stable than at any point in several centuries.'

    What is Fareed smoking ?

    June 8, 2014 at 3:23 am | Reply
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