Where Actions Undercut Strategies

Commentary | June 14, 2010

In his fortnightly column on livemint.com, W. Pal Sidhu argues that while the Obama administration’s first National Security Strategy emphasizes diplomacy, much remains to be done before U.S. actions meet the document's ideals. 

Barack Obama's National Security Strategy is similar to George W. Bush's, Sidhu suggests, in that they recognize the need for and the limitations of American leadership in the world. "Both acknowledge that while the U.S. will continue to provide global leadership, it can no longer carry the burden of all global challenges by itself and will build cooperation with other centres of influence," he writes.

But Sidhu suggests that the U.S. has not yet acheived this balance. “This assertion reflects an inherent tension between the growing recognition in Washington of the limits of its global leadership and its inability or unwillingness to allow others to provide this essential leadership,” he writes. Pointing to U.S. reluctance to accept the Iran-Turkey-Brazil nuclear deal, he adds: "While it is clear that all of the U.S.-led efforts to address the Iranian nuclear challenge have been largely ineffective, Washington is unable and unwilling to accept that other countries might be in a better position to deal with this issue and it should give them a chance to provide this necessary leadership."

Sidhu sees similar complications in U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. "While clearly recognizing and articulating the need to view the Afghan conflict in a regional context and to engage Afghanistan, Pakistan and their neighbours, Washington has been singularly unsuccessful in engaging one of the most critical countries in the region—Iran," he writes.

“All of these drawbacks actually underline the salience of the NSS and the need for any administration to align its actions more closely with the guidelines set out in the document,” he concludes. " Other aspiring global powers, such as India, might do well to undertake a similar exercise."

Click here to read Sidhu's column in livemint.com