In his first year as president, Barack Obama has "comprehensively reconceptualized U.S. foreign policy" and tried to "redefine the United States' view of the world."
That's the observation of former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Brezezinksi believes that, for his effort to turn a new page with the Muslim world, commitment to reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, treating China as a partner, and improving U.S.-Russia relations, among other things, Obama "did deserve the Nobel Peace Prize." But so far, notes Brzezinski, Obama's foreign policy "has generated more expectations than strategic breakthroughs." In fact, he says, the United States is already losing the renewed assurance of the Arab world and his "grand redefinition of U.S. foreign policy is vulnerable."
Brezezinski's comments appear in Foreign Affairs, a publication of the Council On Foreign Affairs. He suggests in the piece that the president must now turn to the three biggest challenges which will ultimately test his ability and his resolve to significantly change U.S. policy:
1. Israel-Palestine Peace Process
"Paralysis over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has lasted far too long, and leaving it unresolved has pernicious consequences for the Palestinians, for the region, and for the United States, and it will eventually harm Israel. It is not fashionable to say this, but it is demonstrably true that - deservedly or not - much of the current hostility toward the United States in the Middle East and the Islamic world as a whole has been generated by the bloodshed and suffering produced by this prolonged conflict. Osama bin Laden's self-serving justifications for 9/11 are a reminder that the United States itself is also a victim of the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum."
2. Iran's Nuclear Program
"Those advocating a tougher stance [on Iran] should remember that the United States would bear the brunt of the painful consequences in the event of an attack on Iran, whether the United States or Israel launched it. Iran would likely target U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, possibly destabilizing both countries; the Strait of Hormuz could become a blazing war zone; and Americans would again pay steep prices at the gas pump. Iran is an issue regarding which, above all, Obama must trust himself to lead and not to be led. So far, he has done so."
3. War in Afghanistan
"Obama has moved toward abandoning some of the more ambitious, even ideological, objectives that defined the United States' initial engagement in Afghanistan - the creation of a modern democracy, for example. But the United States must be very careful lest its engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which still has primarily and most visibly a military dimension, comes to be viewed by the Afghans and the Pakistanis as yet another case of Western colonialism and elicits from them an increasingly militant response."
Brzezinski, who has advised presidents since 1977, concludes that the optimal moment for blending national aspirations with decisive leadership is when the personal authority of the president is at its highest - usually during the first year in office. He laments that, for Obama, that first year has been dominated by the economic crisis and the struggle over health-care reform.