Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Grand Strategy Obama Needs

Vali R. Nasr, NYT
SEPT. 10, 2014

Washington — The twin crises in Ukraine and the Middle East are perhaps the most serious President Obama has faced. He has been spurred into action, but still hopes to balance his show of leadership with his own inclination to protect America from foreign engagements. This is an untenable mix. It will not convince allies or intimidate adversaries, and his effort this week to seem more muscular relies so much on a military solution that it risks a broader military entanglement.

What’s missing is a grand strategy — a road map not just for managing two crises but for ending them. In that he would do well to look back to 1956 — the last time the United States had to grapple with crises in both Europe and the Middle East.

In that year the Soviet Union invaded Hungary to crush a revolution while Britain and France, seeking to regain the Suez Canal, collaborated with Israel in a war against Egypt. The simultaneous crises could have led to war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Instead, the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower assiduously sidestepped military confrontation. It backed away from challenging the Soviet suppression of Hungary, then forced America’s European allies into an ignominious retreat from Egypt.

These were difficult and unpopular decisions. With them, the United States confirmed Soviet control of Eastern Europe but not European control of the Middle East. But Eisenhower had a larger goal — not upsetting the delicate balance of power in the Cold War. Above all, he sought to avoid greater conflict, especially when he was trying to start arms control talks with Moscow.

(More here.)

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