Recognizing the Limits of US Power

Kennan was telling us almost 40 years ago that there were things we couldn't fix. We should have listened.

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From The American Conservative:

Jeremy Shapiro wrote an interesting review of Shields of the Republic, a new book by Mira Rapp-Hooper about U.S. alliances. Dan Drezner responds to Shapiro by changing the subject to talk about the recent clash between Indian and Chinese forces in Ladakh:

This is not a clash that involves US allies. But I can remember a time in which the United States possessed enough diplomatic capital and network centrality to function as a mediator between the two nuclear-armed countries. As this border skirmish was heating up, Donald Trump offered to act as a mediator only to be rebuffed by India almost immediately.

When exactly was this time that the US could have served as a mediator in a situation like this? The only comparable case that I can think of was during the Kargil war between India and Pakistan more than twenty years ago, and even in that case the US didn’t really mediate between the two. The US did encourage Pakistan to de-escalate, but even at the height of the so-called “unipolar moment” the US had virtually nothing to do with bringing that conflict to an end. The crisis between India and Pakistan in late 2001 and early 2002 following the attack on the Indian parliament was likewise resolved with minimal US involvement. No doubt Trump is too lazy to do the kind of diplomatic work that would be required to sustain an effective mediation effort, but India rebuffed US mediation because India has a long history of not wanting others to get involved in its bilateral disputes with its neighbors. Modi previously blew off Trump’s offers to mediate the Kashmir dispute for the same reason, just as an earlier Indian government dismissed Obama’s suggestion of mediation. India has no wish for the US to insert itself into the showdown with China, and the US is in no position to appeal to Beijing about anything right now. The US could have the most “robust” diplomatic presence in both countries, and it still would not make our involvement any more welcome or constructive.

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