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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

‘Grandmaster of the Great Game’ Vexes Republicans

Alfred W. McCoy, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has an article at HuffPo, “Grandmaster of the Great Game: Obama’s Geopolitical Strategy for Containing China,” which should elevate debate about America’s foreign and trade policy.
Republicans will dismiss McCoy’s post as liberal propaganda, and his analysis will be completely lost on the more rabid Obama-haters among them. But McCoy, an author of several ground-breaking books on international politics, has revealing insights which merit a fair hearing, including:

…Obama has moved step-by-step to repair the damage caused by a plethora of Washington foreign policy debacles, old and new, and then maneuvered deftly to rebuild America’s fading global influence…Viewed historically, Obama has set out to correct past foreign policy excesses and disasters, largely the product of imperial overreach, that can be traced to several generations of American leaders bent on the exercise of unilateral power. Within the spectrum of American state power, he has slowly shifted from the coercion of war, occupation, torture, and other forms of unilateral military action toward the more cooperative realm of trade, diplomacy, and mutual security — all in search of a new version of American supremacy.
…Moving from repair to revival, from past to future, President Obama has been using America’s status as the planet’s number one consumer nation to create a new version of dollar diplomacy. His strategy is aimed at drawing China’s Eurasian trading partners back into Washington’s orbit. While Beijing has been moving to bring parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe into a unified “world island” with China at its epicenter, Obama has countered with a bold geopolitics that would trisect that vast land mass by redirecting its trade towards the United States.
…Obama has unleashed a countervailing strategy, seeking to split the world island economically along its continental divide at the Ural Mountains through two trade agreements that aim to capture nothing less than “the central global pole position” for “almost two-thirds of world GDP [gross domestic product] and nearly three-quarters of world trade.” With the impending approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Washington hopes to redirect much of the vast trade in the Asian half of Eurasia toward North America.

McCoy has much more to say about the particulars of Obama’s global political and economic strategy in his HuffPo post. Further, he adds, “In his determined pursuit of this grand strategy, Obama has revealed himself as one of the few U.S. leaders since America’s rise to world power in 1898 who can play this particular great game of imperial domination with the requisite balance of vision and ruthlessness.”
McCoy argues that there are “just three grandmasters of geopolitics: Elihu Root, the original architect of America’s rise to global power; Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Carter, who shattered the Soviet Empire, making the U.S. the world’s sole superpower; and Barack Obama, who is defending that status and offering a striking imperial blueprint for how to check China’s rise. In each case, their maneuvers have been supple and subtle enough that they have eluded both contemporary observers and later historians.”
It will likely take many years before President Obama’s remarkable expertise in ‘The Great Game’ is fully-appreciated. If “grandmaster” seems a little grandiose for describing Obama’s statecraft, consider McCoy’s contextual overview:

To the consternation of his critics, in the waning months of his presidency, from Iran to Cuba, from Burma to the Pacific Ocean, Obama has revealed himself as an American strategist potentially capable of laying the groundwork for the continued planetary dominion of the United States deep into the twenty-first century. In the last 16 months of his presidency, with a bit of grit and luck and a final diplomatic surge — concluding the nuclear treaty with Iran to prevent another debilitating Middle Eastern conflict, winning congressional approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and completing negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — Obama just might secure the U.S. a significant extension of its waning global hegemony.

Looking forward, Democrats are in excellent position to continue building on this impressive legacy, because President Obama has included two top Democratic leaders, Vice President Biden and former Secretary of State Clinton in the development of the Administration’s foreign and trade policies. Republicans will continue to howl and parrot their memes that the Administration is projecting “weakness” on this and that. In reality, however, few of their leaders are equipped to understand what Obama has accomplished, despite their all-out opposition to everything he has done.

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