In Bending History, Martin Indyk, Kenneth Lieberthal, and Michael O'Hanlon measure Obama not only against the record of his predecessors and the immediate challenges of the day, but also against his own soaring rhetoric and inspiring goals. Bending History assesses the considerable accomplishments as well as the failures and seeks to explain what has happened.
Obama's best work has been on major and pressing foreign policy challenges—counterterrorism policy, including the daring raid that eliminated Osama bin Laden; the "reset" with Russia; managing the increasingly significant relationship with China; and handling the rogue states of Iran and North Korea. Policy on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, however, has reflected serious flaws in both strategy and execution. Afghanistan policy has been plagued by inconsistent messaging and teamwork. On important "softer" security issues—from energy and climate policy to problems in Africa and Mexico—the record is mixed. As for his early aspiration to reshape the international order, according greater roles and responsibilities to rising powers, Obama's efforts have been well-conceived but of limited effectiveness.
On issues of secondary importance, Obama has been disciplined in avoiding fruitless disputes (as with Chavez in Venezuela and Castro in Cuba) and insisting that others take the lead (as with Qaddafi in Libya). Notwithstanding several missteps, he has generally managed well the complex challenges of the Arab awakenings, striving to strike the right balance between U.S. values and interests.
The authors see Obama's foreign policy to date as a triumph of discipline and realism over ideology. He has been neither the transformative beacon his devotees have wanted, nor the weak apologist for America that his critics allege. They conclude that his grand strategy for promoting American interests in a tumultuous world may only now be emerging, and may yet be curtailed by conflict with Iran. Most of all, they argue that he or his successor will have to embrace U.S. economic renewal as the core foreign policy and national security challenge of the future.
Longtime China scholar Kenneth Lieberthal brings to bear a unique combination of experiences as former top government official, political scientist, professor of international corporate strategy, and consultant. In Managing the China Challenge, he draws on his deep understanding of China's political and economic systems and the priorities of local and national leaders to illuminate the strategies foreign companies must master to succeed in the Middle Kingdom.
In straightforward language, using numerous concrete examples to support his ideas and recommendations, Lieberthal cogently presents not only how to benefit from doing business in China, but also how to avoid the serious risks that the endeavor entails. The implications Lieberthal lays out for corporate strategy are wide-ranging and critically important.
Together, these analyses highlight the history, strategy, policies, and implementation of governance reforms since 1978 and the authors' recommendations for future changes. This extensive work provides the deep background necessary to understand the sociopolitical context and intellectual currents. behind the reform agenda announced at the landmark Third Plenum in 2013. Shedding light through contrasting perspectives, the book provides an overview of the efforts China has directed toward developing good governance, the challenges it faces, and its future direction.