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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.
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