- Exercise strategic restraint. The United States cannot afford quagmires that drain resources without providing lasting security. Playing world policeman from the Potomac is a seductive temptation. Its allure is encouraged by inertia and by free riders. But it is neither America's sole responsibility nor its remit. A strong military is the U.S. ace in the hole, but better still are indirect approaches, strategies of leverage, and "smart power."
America cannot afford to be the world's exclusive security guarantor, but the world is ill prepared for American retrenchment. A shrewd and realistic strategy that balances broadening strategic ends with narrowing national means will require visionary leadership and the best that America has to offer.
The Greek poet Archilochus said that the fox knows many things and the hedgehog has one big idea. Any Obama Doctrine will have to be as clever as the fox. Above all, the United States must keep its eye on multiple challenges, taking care not to exert its finite resources on any single problem.
Patrick M. Cronin is the director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in Washington and the editor of the forthcoming Global Strategic Assessment 2009. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and not those of the U.S. government.