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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

Cut from the same cloth
Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 03, 2013
First Published: 21:35 IST(3/2/2013)
Last Updated: 21:36 IST(3/2/2013)

Barack Obama is a US president deeply conscious of his country's economic weakness, the costs inflicted by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and, with the onset of his second term, sees the threat of terror ebbing away. He is also imbued with determination to address the social inequities and discrimination that he is aware continue to trouble the social fabric of the US. His theme has been "nation-building at home" in preference to doing it in Afghanistan. The past administration he is inspired by is that of Dwight D Eisenhower, a president who felt America was war-weary and needed domestic succour.

In his second term, Mr Obama has pulled together a foreign policy group that reflects his worldview. Secretary of State John Kerry, nominated Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, intelligence head John Brennan and his continuing National Security Adviser Tom Donilon are cut from the same "bring the troops back home" cloth as Mr Obama. The plan is for an enormous shrinking of the military machine, a stance supported by Mr Hagel. Mr Brennan, an anti-terrorism chief in the first Obama term, is dedicated to a security ideal of a drone war whose main area of operation is the shores of the US. Mr Kerry is committed to multilateral solutions to global problems and believes Washington should reach out to foes like Iran and North Korea.

New Delhi will receive a quasi-isolationist US presidency with some concern. The US military presence in Afghanistan advanced India's strategic interest. Washington's presence in the Asia-Pacific remains the greatest deterrence to an assertive China. The haste of the US's Afghan withdrawal signals a lack of concern for the strategic consequences to nations like India. Similarly, the so-called "rebalance to Asia" lacks enough details to serve as a blueprint for a region that includes China. The Obama world team will walk a fine line. On the one hand, they will oversee a reduction in America's overseas footprint. On the other, they will need to do so in a manner that does not trigger conflicts, uncertainties and threats that will force the world back on to the US consciousness. George W Bush, it is often forgotten, began his presidency with plans to reduce the US's overseas profile.


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