Encircling the Middle Kingdom

Atlantic correspondent Robert Kaplan is touting "India's emergence as a great Eurasian power" as "the best piece of news for American strategists since the end of the cold war" in a very lengthy New York Times op-ed. He emphasizes that President Obama's trip to Asia took him all the way around—but not to—China, with the real purpose of the visit to prepare geopolitically for the PRC's rise. Kaplan sees naval power as essential to present and future international politics, making the land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan increasingly "diversionary." He applauds the administration's efforts to get New Delhi and Jakharta on board, and calls for more "discreet operating locations" to help Tokyo and Seoul rather than the gigantic "cold-war-type" bases on their soil that make their publics "restive." And in the Washington Post, columnist Charles Krauthammer praises the president's Asia tour as "worth every penny," for much the same geostrategic reasons that Kaplan highlights.

Also in the Post, pundit Robert Kagan thinks Republicans "are missing the bigger strategic picture" when it comes to the New START arms control pact with Russia. "Whatever its flaws," he writes, it's "not a threat to U.S. security" and worries of "a nuclear-free utopia" or disarming America are overblown. (For the opposite take, see Ariel Cohen's piece here at TNI online.) On the other hand, Kagan says, blocking New START's passage will have adverse consequences. Rejecting the treaty will strengthen Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's hand while at the same time letting Obama "off the hook" and setting up the GOP "as the fall guy if and when U.S.-Russian relations go south." Kagan thinks that's too big a "price to pay to derail such a minor treaty."

And Council on Foreign Relations fellow Ray Takeyh adds to the sentiments of Kenneth Pollack and Hossein Askari (in the latest issue of The National Interest and at TNI online, respectively) that Washington should focus on Tehran's human-rights record, instead of its thus-far-too-narrow economic-sanctions strategy. Harping on its human-rights problems will empower the opposition Green Movement, Takeyh claims, and "pave the way for Iran's transition to a more tolerant society" as well as helping to halt its "nuclear ambitions." He believes Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei "has all but ensured that his republic will not survive him," and history proves "that human rights do contribute to dramatic political transformations"—at least in Eastern Europe, where he credits them with doing more than "arms races and arms control treaties" to help end the Cold War.