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Obama's Foreign Policy, A New Expression Of American Power

The Obama administration says, try talking to truculent states instead of squeezing or bombing them. In its own way, this is an eminently imperial approach.

Obama and top advisors on Air Force One.
Obama and top advisors on Air Force One.
Ricardo Kirschbaum

-OpEd-

BUENOS AIRES — President Barack Obama is redirecting U.S. foreign policy, and it is no trivial shift. Washington has opened a dialog with Cuba, applying a tone that is not only already a radical departure from what it has been for decades, but is also bound to change further in the near future.

In Myanmar, it is using all its diplomatic might to sustain Myanmar's fledgling democracy against the autocratic designs of its army. Of course, we also know that it is negotiating and forging agreements on nuclear proliferation with Iran, which itself has shifted toward more moderate positions. This too was a historic step, though it provoked the irritation, if not ire, of two Washington allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

These are three strategic zones: the American continent, southeast Asia and the ever-simmering Middle East. Obama most recently told The New York Times that a country with overwhelmingly superior strength should also have confidence. He said the United States should see itself as capable of trying out possibilities without constant fear of endangering itself.

While the shift is decisive, it also contains a clear, straightforward message. For we shouldn't imagine that the U.S. President just realized his country was powerful. The point is, the United States is now displaying its power in another way. It does not fear negotiations. Its change of tack is also a recognition of past failures.

Negotiations are at the center of diplomacy and politics, even if certain obtuse people see them simply as weaknesses.

Progress in talks with Cuba will mean that very soon, the idiotic embargo will be forgotten and a new reality will take shape, with immediate regional repercussions. Venezuela has already taken note, amid increasing pressures over the state of human rights there by non-governmental organizations.

The draft agreement with Iran, announced days ago, still requires much work with that country, as well as with United States' fearful allies and the U.S. Congress itself and right-wing Republicans. But even the deal's most vociferous critics cannot deny the enormous impact it can have on the international sphere.

Obama has said he would like Congress not to meddle in these affairs, but he cannot stop it from doing so, nor impede a public debate on the deal that could subject him to vicious criticisms. Other powers that helped broker the deal, like Russia, have warned that the provisional text was a step toward easing tensions but, obviously, cannot assure a successful outcome.

And yet, this opportunity — like others being revealed — should not be spurned: the world is now seeing an American stab at using reason to resolve international conflicts.

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Indigenous Women Of Ecuador Set Example For Sustainable Agriculture

In southern Ecuador, a women-led agricultural program offers valuable lessons on sustainable farming methods, but also how to end violence.

Photo of women walking in Ecuador

Women walking in Guangaje Ecuador

Camila Albuja

SARAGURO — Here in this corner of southern Ecuador, life seems to be like a mandala — everything is cleverly used in this ancestral system of circular production. But the women of Saraguro had to fight and resist to make their way of life, protecting the local water and the seeds. When weaving, the women share and take care of each other, also weaving a sense of community.

With the wrinkled tips of her fingers, Mercedes Quizhpe, an indigenous woman from the Kichwa Saraguro people, washes one by one the freshly harvested vegetables from her garden. Standing on a small bench, with her hands plunged into the strong torrent of icy water and the bone-chilling early morning breeze, she checks that each one of her vegetables is ready for fair day. Her actions hold a life of historical resistance, one that prioritizes the care of life through the defense of territory and food sovereignty.

Mercedes' way of life is also one that holds many potential lessons for how to do agriculture and tourism better.

In the province of Loja, work begins before sunrise. At 5:00 a.m., the barking of dogs, the guardians of each house, starts. There is that characteristic smell of damp earth from the morning dew. Sheep bah uninterruptedly through the day. With all this life around, the crowing of early-rising roosters doesn't sound so lonely.

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