How does Obama’s upsizing of diplomacy, downsizing of military power, and “retrenchment” on domestic issues work? The former US Ambassador-turned Columbia SIPA professor Stephen Sestanovich (@SSestanovich) explores the historical analogues for how Presidents manage periods such as these:
He also describes the impact on diplomacy–and how the paradox of retrenchment results in less of a hand to play in global politics:
An activist foreign policy is hard to sustain on a shrinking material base. In the ’70s Leonid I. Brezhnev rejected the arms-control concessions that American presidents asked of him. He was building more and bigger missiles; the Americans were not. In diplomacy, you need something to bargain with. Retrenchment typically gives you less of it.
The Obama administration has built new leverage in one crucial case. A tough American-led sanctions regime has gotten Iran’s attention. Elsewhere, Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry count too much on negotiation to achieve their goals. Ruling out an assertive role in Syria’s civil war reduced American influence over both government and rebels. No surprise, then, that the “Geneva II” peace conference has deadlocked.