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from The Great Debate:

Obama: Going ‘all in’ for the Asian Century

The reaction in Asia to the dominance of U.S. power is only surpassed by a fear that the United States is in retreat.

As President Barack Obama traveled to Asia Tuesday for a four-country trip, this fear should be foremost on his mind. What many of Asia’s political and cultural leaders  fear most, however, is the United States retreating inward while distracted by crisis after crisis -- from Libya to Syria to Crimea. With China on the brink of becoming the world’s largest economy and the geopolitical puzzle pieces of the China seas seemingly in renegotiation, the Eastern world is asking where Washington stands. This is Obama’s moment to demonstrate the components of his much-heralded, but still largely  undefined, tilt to Asia.

The stakes for Obama’s legacy as a world leader -- and for the U.S. position as a Pacific power -- could not be higher. The president was right to signal a “tilt” in U.S. policy toward Asia. He now has an important opportunity to carry the Asia pivot through to a conclusion.

Though many U.S. allies wring their hands about the prospect of Washington moving toward Asia and, they fear, away from Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, virtually all nations have been busy “rebalancing” their foreign policy and trade agendas toward Asia.

from David Rohde:

John Kerry will not be denied

The secretary of state's critics call him arrogant, undisciplined, and reckless -- but his relentlessness in pursuit of negotiations might produce some of the most important diplomatic breakthroughs in years.

When John Kerry succeeded Hillary Clinton as secretary of state in February, Clinton’s emotional departure from the State Department received blanket media coverage. Kerry’s arrival received next to none.

from The Great Debate:

Fighting for democracy in South Asia

For the first time in post-colonial history, all of the countries of South Asia are democracies.

From Bhutan to Bangladesh, Kabul to Kathmandu, democratic institutions are taking hold and giving people a voice in how they are governed. But these historic gains could be short-lived if troubling trends in some impending political transitions go unchecked.

from David Rohde:

The Iraq war’s most damaging legacy

American households will be blanketed this week by a torrent of coverage, commentary and regret about the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war. Liberals claim that Twitter – if it had existed - could have stopped the invasion. Conservatives argue that the links between Saddam Hussein and terrorism have, in fact, been underplayed.

The glaring lesson of the war is that American ground invasions destabilize the Middle East, instead of stabilizing it. The 100,000 Iraqis who perished, the 4,500 American soldiers killed and the $1 trillion spent should have halted what Tufts University professor Daniel W. Drezner has called the “creeping militarization of American foreign policy.” Instead, the civilian American institutions that failed us before Iraq have grown even weaker.

from The Great Debate:

On Keystone pipeline, consider Canada

The Oscar for Best Picture last month went to Argo, the Ben Affleck movie about the Canadian government’s help in spiriting U.S. diplomats out of Iran during the hostage crisis  – which  underscores the United States’ historic relationship with its closest ally, Canada. Back in the real world, however, the Obama administration is on the verge of severely damaging this strategic partnership with its poor handling of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The State Department’s favorable draft environmental analysis, released on Friday, should pave the way for final administration approval of the pipeline. Of course, the State Department has already gone through this process once before. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deemed Keystone XL to be in the national interest – only to have President Barack Obama shelve the project in January 2012, during the run-up to his re-election campaign.

from David Rohde:

Clinton: International portfolio, domestic concerns

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday hosted a working dinner here for Afghan President Hamid Karzai – one of her last official meetings with a foreign head of state.

On paper, Karzai’s talks with Clinton are historic. A famed American political figure is helping negotiate the end of the longest war in U.S. history – a 12-year odyssey that has claimed 2,100 American lives and more than $600 billion in treasure.

from David Rohde:

State fixes are long overdue

This week's scathing report on the death of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya – followed by the resignation of one department official and removal of three others – confirms that the United States has an underfunded State Department is in decay. It also gives the clearest understanding yet of where fault lies for four unnecessary deaths in Libya and how the U.S. can do the vital work of diplomacy in dangerous areas.

The goal of the attackers was to drive American diplomats and aid workers out of Libya. We must not let this happen. Washington’s most effective weapon in the post-Arab Spring is promoting economic growth, trade and technology ‑ not mounting invasions. Diplomats and aid workers are the vital heart of that effort.

from Tales from the Trail:

Demonized in Damascus? Kucinich protests

One of the Obama administration's sharpest critics on the left is coming in for some sharp criticism himself after what appeared to be a friendly visit to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich -- an Ohio Democrat who has proposed ordering Obama to halt U.S. participation in NATO airstrikes in the Libya conflict -- sat down with Assad in Damascus over the weekend and emerged to face accusations that he was getting too cozy with an autocrat whose security forces have killed some 1,300 people as they attempt to crush a revolt against his rule.

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra – Not enough

The word is not enough. That was the message from the United States to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who pledged reforms in a speech at Damascus University.

"What's important now is action, not words," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

from Tales from the Trail:

Clinton doesn’t want Iran taking ‘one iota of credit’ for Mideast revolutions

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says when it comes to the pro-democracy movements sweeping through the Middle East give credit where credit is due. And that means not to Iran.

The United States has long been at loggerheads with Iran over its nuclear program -- the West suspects Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons, Iran says it is trying to provide energy for its people. USA/

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