Trump was right about health care for most of his life


March 31, 2017

Trump was right about health care for most of his life–Go Back to Basics

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

https://www.washingtonpost.com

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Since becoming POTUS, DJT is under pressure

The recent Republican debacle on health care could prove to be an opportunity. It highlighted, yet again, the complexity of the U.S. system, which continues to be by far the most expensive and inefficient in the advanced world. But President Trump could actually use the legislative collapse to fix health care if he went back to basics and to his core convictions on the topic, which are surprisingly intelligent and consistent.

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Markets would not work well in Healthcare

There is an understandable impulse on the right to assume that health care would work more efficiently if it were a free market, or a freer market. This is true for most goods and services. But in 1963, economist Kenneth Arrow, who later won a Nobel Prize, offered an explanation as to why markets would not work well in this area. He argued that there was a huge mismatch of power and information between the buyer and the seller. If a salesman tells you to buy a particular television, you can easily choose another or just walk away. If a doctor insists that you need a medication or a procedure, you are far less likely to reject the advice. And, Arrow pointed out, people think they don’t need health care until they get sick, and then they need lots of it.

Every advanced economy in the world has implicitly acknowledged his argument because they have all adopted some version of a state-directed system for health care. Consider the 16 countries that rank higher than the United States on the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. All except Singapore (which has a unique state-driven approach) have universal health-care systems that can be described as single-payer (Medicare for all), government-run (the British model) or Obamacare-plus (private insurance with a real mandate that everyone opt in). Hong Kong, often considered the most unregulated market in the world, has a British-style government-run system. Switzerland, one of the most business-friendly countries, had a private insurance system just like the United States’ but found that, to make it work, it had to introduce a mandate.

While producing a CNN documentary on health-care systems around the globe, I was particularly struck by the experience of Taiwan, another free-market haven. In 1995, 41 percent of its population was uninsured and the country had very poor health outcomes. The government decided to canvass the world for the best ideas before instituting a new framework. It chose Medicare for all, a single government payer, with multiple private providers. The results are astonishing. Taiwan has achieved some of the best outcomes in the world while paying only 7 percent of its gross domestic product on health care (compared with 18 percent in the United States). I asked William Hsiao, an economist who helped devise the country’s model, what lessons they took, if any, from the United States. “You can learn what not to do from the United States rather than learn what to do,” he replied.

Americans often assume that despite its costs, American health care provides better services than others. We often hear about the waiting time for care in other countries. But according to the Commonwealth Fund, among industrialized countries the United States is in the middle of the pack for wait times, behind even Britain . Moreover, one of the world’s leading experts, Uwe Reinhardt of Princeton, has found that Americans use less care than the average for developed countries when it comes to things such as seeing a doctor and spending time in the hospital. The problem with the free market is that there is little profit in prevention and lots in crisis care.

Trump has now taken up the call to repeal Obamacare. But until recently, health care was actually one of the rare issues on which he had spoken out, before his campaign, with remarkable consistency. In his 2000 book “The America We Deserve,” he wrote:

“I’m a conservative on most issues but a liberal on this one. We should not hear so many stories of families ruined by healthcare expenses. . . . We must have universal healthcare. . . . The Canadian plan . . . helps Canadians live longer and healthier than Americans. There are fewer medical lawsuits, less loss of labor to sickness, and lower costs to companies paying for the medical care of their employees. . . . We need, as a nation, to reexamine the single-payer plan, as many individual states are doing.”

Trump was right on this issue for much of his life. He has now caved to special interests and an ideology unmoored by facts. He could simply return to his convictions, reach out to Democrats and help the United States solve its health-care crisis.

Trump’s Engagement with Asia on America’s Terms


March28, 2017

Trump’s Engagement with Asia on America’s Terms–creating new opportunities for US businesses 

by Mieczysław P Boduszyński and Tom Le

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

Former US President Barack Obama sought to move the United States away from what he saw as costly, distracting and unwinnable entanglements in the Middle East. Instead, he pivoted his foreign policy efforts towards Asia where he believed that US military, political and economic engagement could reap much greater rewards for the country.

Obama championed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as part of his signature ‘pivot to Asia’. Obama’s pivot served as a security reassurance for US allies in the region and fortified linkages among those allies, encouraging, for instance, reconciliation between Japan and South Korea. Most importantly, the pivot signalled to Asian allies that they would never be just an afterthought or a region only important when it was useful for US grand strategy. The future lay in Asia and the United States would be a part of that future.

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Today, many of the pivot’s achievements are at risk under President Donald Trump’s brand of isolationism and a transactional ‘America First’ approach to foreign policy. The TPP is dead and alliances may be next. Trump has repeatedly stated that the United States is ‘losing’ and has suggested plans to re-evaluate Washington’s security guarantees in Asia. Despite more recent backpedalling, Trump’s apparent affection for Russia and his early willingness to barter Taiwan’s sovereignty for a good trade deal with China has signalled to longstanding US allies that the security reassurances of the Obama era are a thing of the past.

While the ‘liberal internationalist’ tenor of Obama’s pivot may have passed, a Trumpian worldview can and should still build on Obama’s momentum in Asia. If Trump can enhance, repair and deepen alliances without committing to a US-led regional order in the mould of the Obama administration, he could stay true to his worldview by creating new opportunities for US businesses while encouraging Asian allies to play a more active role in their security. The pivot need not be reversed and there are steps Trump should take to ensure it remains.

In lieu of the TPP, Trump could work to build new bilateral free trade agreements in East Asia, modelled on the existing US–South Korea and US–Australia Free Trade Agreements.  The region’s support for the TPP, and its potential replacement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), suggests that Asian countries are willing to negotiate new trade deals. But the Trump administration must be ready to make some concessions. Trump can also capitalise on the positive personal relationships he has with Asian leaders.

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Obama had a very poor relationship with Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, who flung insults, threatened to kick out US troops and sought closer relations with China. While Obama was highly critical of Duterte’s bloody anti-drug campaign, Trump’s focus on US business interests presents an opportunity to repair the US–Philippines alliance. Duterte expressed a very positive view of Trump after a brief phone call. The Philippines have longstanding historical ties to the United States and it is a crucial alliance to preserve.

Trump’s budding relationship with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could also serve as his basis for diplomatic success. Although the Obama–Abe relationship improved over time, it was always marred by Obama’s criticisms of Abe’s revisionist tendencies. Yet thanks in part to Obama’s pivot, Japan passed new security laws increasing its ability to defend US forces during times of war directly related to Japan’s security.

Once South Korea chooses a new president, Trump could continue to support the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile defence system and build upon the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) between Japan and South Korea. Both are critical to counter the North Korean nuclear threat. But such actions are likely to draw the ire of China as the United States makes it clear that it is fully committed to its allies and the region.

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Vietnam’s Blossoming Relations with Xi’s China

Along with maintaining existing alliances, Trump could work towards forging new relations in East and Southeast Asia. Vietnam has been receptive to a US role in the region as it tries to prevent further Chinese encroachment in the South China Sea. The US–Vietnam relationship is exceptionally pragmatic and there are ample opportunities to build on an already solid foundation. Besides a free trade deal, moving forward with military linkages such as the base-sharing agreement that was announced, and cooperating in areas such as higher education and scholarships should be on Trump’s agenda.

The pivot to Asia was by no means a resounding success. Unfinished business in Obama’s pivot gives Trump the chance to craft his unique brand of foreign policy in East Asia — a willingness to work and trade with almost anyone. This way, the United States can maintain its pre-eminence in East Asia without pursuing a comprehensive security community. Unlike highly politically charged issues such as Russia and immigration, policy in Asia need not be divisive in domestic US politics.

By leading with direction without directing, the United States can influence its East Asian allies to take more responsibility for maintaining regional stability. As the country has long advocated a rules-based order in East Asia regarding freedom of navigation and trade, the Trump administration must be present to help write those rules.

Mieczysław P Boduszyński and Tom Le are Assistant Professors of Politics at Pomona College, California.

From Obamacare to Ryancare to Don’t Care and maybe Trumpcare


March 15, 2017

From Obamacare to Ryancare to Don’t Care  and maybe Trumpcare

Twenty-Four Million Reasons the G.O.P. Health-Care Bill Is No Good

 By John Cassidy
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Is Ryancare the alternative to Obamacare?

For days, the political world had been waiting nervously for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) ’s assessment of the House Republicans’ Trump-endorsed proposal to replace Obamacare. On Monday afternoon, when the numbers-heavy report finally appeared, one figure it contained dominated all the others: twenty-four million.

This was the C.B.O.’s estimate of how many fewer people would have health insurance if the Republican legislation—which is called the American Health Care Act—passes. In 2018, the first year that many of the bill’s changes would go into effect, fourteen million “more people would be uninsured under the legislation than under current law,” the report said. The difference “would rise to 21 million in 2020 and then to 24 million in 2026.”

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By anybody’s terms, twenty-four million is a lot of people. It is far larger than the fifteen million that two economists from the Brookings Institution had suggested last week that the C.B.O. might come up with. “To put the 24 million coverage loss in perspective, that reverses the entire coverage gain from the ACA,” one of the Brookings economists, Loren Adler, said Monday on Twitter.

As recently as January, Trump was promising that his Administration would provide “insurance for everybody.” Even for a President whose acquaintanceship with the truth is a casual one, explaining away the figures in the C.B.O. report could be tricky. It was not surprising, therefore, that the White House quickly dispatched Tom Price, the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, to rubbish the C.B.O. analysis. “We disagree strenuously” with the coverage estimates in the report, Price told reporters at the White House. Price insisted that the G.O.P. plan would “cover more individuals at a lower cost.”

Price didn’t provide any numbers to back up this claim. He hasn’t got any. (In fact, on Monday night, Politico reported that the White House’s own internal analysis of the health-care bill projected that twenty-six million fewer people would have coverage over the next decade.) The only thing that the Administration and its allies on Capitol Hill have to fall back on is the vague promise to follow up the A.H.C.A. with a second piece of legislation that would give insurers more freedom to offer cheaper, lower-quality plans, which, in turn, might persuade more young and healthy people to sign up. But that’s a pie-in-the-sky promise. Changing the rules for insurers would require sixty votes in the Senate, which the Republicans don’t have.

The C.B.O. analysis didn’t account for the possibility of insurers being able to offer cheap and lousy plans. The main thing driving its conclusions wasn’t changes to the individual market but the House Republicans’ reckless and deliberate assault on Medicaid, the federal program that provides health care for the poverty-stricken and the working poor. In estimating that twenty-four million people stand to lose their insurance coverage, the C.B.O. said that fourteen million of this total would be accounted for by reductions in Medicaid rolls.

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Any Hope for Trumpcare?

It is important to understand how this estimate was arrived at, and why it is reasonable. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government lifted the income threshold for Medicaid eligibility to nearly a hundred and forty per cent of the poverty line. At the same time, Washington also promised states, which administer Medicaid, that it would pay ninety per cent of any costs entailed in this expansion. Thirty-one states, including sixteen that now have Republican governors, took the feds up on this offer. The G.O.P. bill would end the Medicaid expansion in 2020—sooner, possibly, if the White House accedes to demands from ultra-conservative groups. The legislation would also change the way the rest of the Medicaid system is financed, shifting to a “block grant” model in which Washington would pay a fixed amount to the states for each recipient.

As a result of these changes, the C.B.O. report said that “some states would discontinue their expansion of eligibility, some states that would have expanded eligibility in the future would choose not to do so, and per-enrollee pending in the program would be capped.” The end result would be a big drop in enrollment and also a big drop in spending—eight hundred and eighty billion dollars over ten years. “By 2026, Medicaid spending would be about 25 percent less than what CBO projects under current law,” the report says.

The drop in spending on Medicaid helps explain why the C.B.O. estimated that the G.O.P. reform would reduce the deficit by three hundred and thirty-seven billion dollars—a fact that some Republicans seized upon. But why, you might ask, would the deficit be reduced by just three hundred and thirty-seven billion dollars over ten years when spending on Medicaid would fall by eight hundred and eighty billion dollars? The answer is that the bill would take most of the money that is saved from reducing Medicaid and hand it out to rich people in the form of tax cuts. The legislation would abolish the 3.8-per-cent Medicare tax on investment income and the 0.9-per-cent surtax on ordinary income that the A.C.A. applied to people who make more than two hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year. According to the C.B.O., getting rid of these taxes and some annual fees that the A.C.A. imposed on insurers would reduce revenues by five hundred and ninety-two billion dollars over ten years.

If the Republicans really wanted to fulfill Trump’s promise of insuring everybody—or, at least, preventing a big fall in insurance rates—they could have taken the five hundred and ninety-two billion dollars and used them to maintain the Medicaid expansion. Or to enlarge the new tax credits they want to offer for the purchase of individual insurance, which, in some cases, would be much smaller than the subsidies offered under Obamacare.

And I mean much smaller. In a table at the end of its report, the C.B.O. provided some “illustrative examples” of how different types of people might fare under the new system. Take a single sixty-four-year-old with an annual income of twenty-six thousand five hundred dollars. Under Obamacare, after receiving a generous federal subsidy, this person would pay seventeen hundred dollars in annual premiums. Under Trumpcare, or Ryancare, or whatever we want to call it, this person would pay fourteen thousand six hundred dollars. That’s an increase of twelve thousand nine hundred dollars!

To be sure, the way the new system would be set up, not everybody would be a loser. For example, a single forty-year-old with an annual income of sixty-eight thousand two hundred dollars could end up saving more than four thousand dollars a year, according to the C.B.O.’s figures. But, in general, people would pay more, at least in the early years after the measure goes into effect.

In the first few years, as some healthy young people drop their insurance plans because they are no longer mandated to purchase them, premiums would go up fifteen or twenty per cent, the report says. After 2020, average premiums could start dropping, and by 2026 the C.B.O. projects they would be ten per cent lower than under the current law. But that would mainly be because insurers would be offering cheaper, crappier plans to young people, and older people would be dropping insurance because they could no longer afford it. It will be interesting to see how Trump tries to sell that prospect to his supporters, many of whom are older and living on modest incomes.

John Cassidy has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1995. He also writes a column about politics, economics, and more for newyorker.com

Jeffery Sachs on his new book, Building the New American Economy


February 27, 2017

Jeffery Sachs on his new book, Building the New American Economy–Smart, Fair, & Sustainable

 

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Money is politics is a serious problem in America today–Jeffery Sachs

Professor Jeffery Sachs discusses his new book, Building the New American Economy– Smart, Fair, & Sustainable. I agree with this Columbia University don that America needs a make over by a progressive President like a President Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately, Americans have to learn to live with a Republican President Donald J. Trump and a Republican controlled  House of Representatives and the Senate. To these politicians, sustainable development is a Grecian nightmare.

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Trust (s0cial capital) is diminishing in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. The last decade has been 10 years of greed and widening income inequality in American polity. Politics ought to return to the politics of IDEAS, says Sachs. Listen him and decide what you think of his book.  –Din Merican

Don’t be discouraged. Just click and you can watch it directly on youtube.com

Book Review: Jonathan Chait’s Audacity


January 22, 2017

Review by Peter Baker

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AUDACITY
How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail
By Jonathan Chait
240 pp. Custom House. $27.99.

If everything had gone according to plan, these would be valedictory days for President Obama. With the economy humming if not roaring and his approval ratings higher than they were through most of his time in office, Obama expected to take a victory lap, map out his memoir and hand the reins to a like-minded successor to build on his accomplishments.

But everything did not go according to plan, and instead he finds himself bequeathing his record to Donald J. Trump, a man he disdains, who was elected in large part on a promise to take a sledgehammer to anything with Obama’s name on it. Obama is left trying to explain the debacle, salvage what he can from the wreckage and make his case to history that his was still a transformative presidency.

In his corner will be Jonathan Chait of New York magazine and one of the country’s leading progressive voices, who has come to Obama’s defense with “Audacity,” a timely, trenchant and relentlessly argued book presenting the 44th President in terms that he himself would approve. Not only did Obama change America for the better, Chait writes, he also cemented a new policy infrastructure that will resist Trump’s efforts to tear it down.

What is Obama’s Legacy?–On Time Will Tell–Audacity or Mendacity

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To be sure, this was a book written largely before the November election with the evident expectation that Hillary Clinton would be preparing to move into the Oval Office, and it cannot help reading that way. After Trump shocked the world with his improbable Electoral College victory, Chait tweaked the text to address the upheaval in American politics. But he did not change his fundamental conclusion or buy into the notion that Clinton’s defeat represented a harsh verdict on Obama.

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“She lost despite, not because of, her association with the popular sitting president,” Chait writes. Republicans nurtured the opposite conclusion to justify a demolition of Obama’s new foundation. “The myth of repudiation had a clear purpose: to make it appear both fair and inevitable that the conquering Republican government would destroy Obama’s legacy.”

But, he adds, “the fatalistic conclusion that Trump can erase Obama’s achievements is overstated — perhaps even completely false.” Chait’s point is that “good ideas advance in fits and stops” and that Obama’s presidency “represented one of those great bursts” that will not simply be erased despite momentary setbacks.

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Whether that is the case remains to be seen. Certainly in facing the judgment of history, much of the record that Obama will point to is beyond any Republican effort to reverse. He helped pull the country back from the brink of the economic abyss, saved the auto industry, ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and broke the ultimate racial barrier.

Yet despite Chait’s confidence in the durability of Obama’s legacy, other elements of his agenda appear to be in jeopardy. Obama’s health care program, efforts to ease immigration rules, crackdowns on emissions by coal-fired plants, regulations on Wall Street, labor rules intended to improve worker conditions and a free-trade pact with Asia all seem unlikely to survive, at least in the form he prefers. The fates of his nuclear agreement with Iran and his diplomatic opening to Cuba are at least in question, although Trump may ultimately find it harder than he thinks to unravel either.

Other Presidents, of course, have been followed by successors of the other party who in the end sustained their signal accomplishments. Dwight Eisenhower did not undo Harry Truman’s record, nor did John Kennedy undo Eisenhower’s. Richard Nixon, given the chance, left Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society largely in place. Even Obama preserved many of George W. Bush’s achievements, including the vast bulk of his tax cuts, his Medicare expansion, his AIDS-fighting program in Africa and his homeland security architecture.

Trump, on the other hand, is more mercurial, so it is harder to predict how far he will go to wipe out Obama’s imprint on the country. He has sent conflicting signals since the election about his commitment to following through on certain campaign promises while Obama has quietly tried to nudge him away from a radical change.

It could well be that Trump unintentionally helps his predecessor’s case for history as a point of contrast — that whatever Obama’s leadership flaws, his calm, no-drama performance will look better in hindsight to many Americans. At the same time, it raises the question that if Obama was so successful, why do so many Americans feel so dissatisfied and left behind? How could an America that twice chose Barack Obama decide to replace him with Donald Trump?

Beyond noting Clinton’s popular-vote margin, Chait, like others on the left, points to willful distortion by Republicans determined from the start to tear down Obama and cynical news media that were complicit in that strategy. But he also faults liberals who were too willing to flay a president they agreed with because he failed to achieve some impossible standard of progressive perfection.

Indeed, Chait’s book seems more like an argument with the left than with the right. “The yawning chasm between the scale of Obama’s achievements and the mood of his supporters presents one of the mysteries of the era,” he writes. “Its resolution also helps us understand how to judge the Obama Presidency. What would a successful presidency even look like? Would Democrats recognize one if they saw it?”

While Chait agrees that “Obama has not done the job perfectly,” he echoes Michael Grunwald in “The New New Deal” by making the case that his programs will have long-lasting if often overlooked impact. Obama’s fiscal stimulus package, for instance, was “a gigantic success,” not only by helping stanch job losses but also by investing in the future in the form of renewable energy, transportation infrastructure and scientific research.

Likewise, Obama’s health care program covered 20 million more Americans while also producing an “economic miracle,” Chait says, in slowing the rise of medical costs even though premiums for some continued to rise sharply. Obama’s green energy revolution, he adds, has already brought down climate change emissions and “changed the economic calculus irreversibly.” While Obama’s foreign policy may not have transformed the world, Chait concludes, he made incremental progress and avoided catastrophic mistakes.

For disenchanted Obama supporters, this appraisal may seem like a surprise. The Obama who leaves office has traveled a long way from the hope-and-change moment eight years ago. In his early days, he was likened to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Kennedy, even Ronald Reagan. When things turned dark, he was compared unfavorably with Johnson, Jimmy Carter, even George W. Bush.

“The various theories of disconsolate liberals all suffer from a failure to compare Obama with any plausible baseline,” Chait says. “Instead they compare Obama with an imaginary president — either an imaginary Obama or a fantasy version of a past president.”

Now he will be compared with his successor, and that is a comparison Chait thinks favors Obama. “Trump is the poisoned chalice of a failed ideology,” he writes. “Obama, not Trump, is destined to supply the model for American governance in the decades to come.”

Chait’s argument probably will not persuade many on the right, who still see a president who expanded the size and reach of government at home while undercutting American authority abroad. But it may encourage those on the left and in the middle to come around again to a president they once believed in.

For Obama, that may be enough for now. Deprived of the valediction he had sought in November, Obama may want to keep a copy of Chait’s volume on the night stand in his new home in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood.

John Kerry–We got it right


January 20, 2017

We got it right–John Kerry

“Diplomacy requires creativity, patience and commitment to a steady grind, often away from the spotlight. Results are rarely immediate or reducible to 140-character bites. But it has helped build a world our ancestors would envy — a world in which children in most places are more likely than ever before to be born healthy, to receive an education and to live free from extreme poverty”–Secretary of State John Kerry.

With a new administration taking office this week, it is natural to assess the inheritance it will receive from the old.

There are some who see nightmares wherever they look and insist that the entire global system is unraveling and that America’s position as world leader is in precipitous decline.

As the departing Secretary of State, I cannot claim objectivity. But I will leave office convinced that most global trends remain in our favor and that America’s leadership and engagement are as essential and effective today as ever.

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A major reason is that President Obama has restored assertive diplomacy as our foreign policy tool of first resort and deployed it time and again to advance our security and prosperity.

This is evident, first of all, in our campaign to defeat the Islamic State, also known by its Arabic acronym, Daesh. Two and a half years ago, these murderers were on the march across Iraq and Syria. Instead of rushing into a unilateral war, we responded by quietly helping Iraq form a new and more inclusive government, and then assembling a 68-member coalition to support a rehabilitated Iraqi military, the Kurdish Peshmerga and other local partners to liberate territory once occupied by Daesh.

We are engaged in a climactic effort to free the largest remaining strongholds in Iraq (Mosul) and Syria (Raqqa). These military steps depended on the diplomatic cooperation we brokered to cut off Daesh’s finances, slow its recruiting and rebut its poisonous propaganda on social media and within the region.

President Obama took office with Iran’s nuclear program racing ahead and our nation under mounting pressure to take military action. While making clear we would do whatever it took to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, we started with diplomacy, building the strongest international sanctions regime the world has ever seen, and testing whether Iran would negotiate a deal that could ensure its nuclear program was exclusively peaceful. As a result, without firing a shot or putting troops in harm’s way, the United States and our partners reached the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which blocked Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon and made our nation, our allies and the world safer.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, the United States could have responded as we had six years earlier, when Russian intervention in Georgia was largely met with rhetoric alone. But having repaired diplomatic ties badly damaged by the Iraq war, the Obama administration was able to defy skeptics by working with our European Union partners to impose sanctions that have isolated Russia and badly damaged its economy. We also bolstered NATO with a major expansion of our security assistance to allies in the Baltics and Central Europe.

Throughout, we continued to work with Russia when it was in our interest to do so. But because we have stood firm, Russia is now — despite the boasts of its leaders — plagued by dwindling financial reserves, a historically weak ruble and poor international relations.

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Love or Hate Him–Obama served America with distinction, making friends around the world through diplomacy with his charisma, charm and Harvard elegance.

President Obama has made clear to our allies and potential adversaries in Asia that the United States will remain a major force for stability and prosperity in their region. We have rallied the world behind unprecedented sanctions against a menacing North Korea, increased our naval presence in the Pacific, worked with regional actors to support the rule of law in the South China Sea and forged a strategic partnership with India. We also united key partners behind a landmark, high-standard trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that we still believe should be ratified by Congress — all while maintaining an often mutually beneficial relationship with Beijing.

When President Obama took office, efforts to protect our planet from the catastrophic impacts of climate change were going nowhere, stymied by decades of division between developed and developing countries. But our outreach to China led to a series of breakthroughs that made last year the most consequential in the history of climate diplomacy. Building on, rather than backing away from, that progress would allow a historic shift toward clean energy and a chance of saving the planet from the worst ravages of climate change.

The fruits of this administration’s diplomacy can also been seen in our own hemisphere, where we strengthened our position by normalizing relations with Cuba and helped end Colombia’s decades-long civil war. In Africa, we gained friends by training young leaders and led a successful global effort to contain Ebola.

Obviously, we haven’t solved every problem, particularly in the chronically combustible Middle East. But the United States was absolutely justified in stressing the need for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.

I also remain convinced that the formula we pursued to end the agonizing conflict in Syria was, and remains, the only one with a realistic chance to end the war — using diplomacy to align key countries behind establishing a nationwide cease-fire, providing humanitarian access, marginalizing terrorists and promoting Syrian-led talks on creating a constitution and democratic government.

The response of the international community to the tragedy in Syria will long be debated. For years, United States officials had those same debates in the Situation Room. Some options, such as an enormous deployment of ground troops, were rightly dismissed. Others, including deploying additional special forces in limited operations, were closer calls. Month after month, we weighed the deteriorating conditions and uncertain benefits of intervention against the very real risks, including deeper involvement in a widening war. While I did not win every argument — no policy maker does — I can testify that all viable ideas received a fair hearing.

I am not a pacifist. But I learned as a young man who fought in Vietnam that before resorting to war, those in positions of responsibility should do everything in their power to achieve their objectives by other means.

I just returned from Vietnam, where smart and sustained diplomacy has accomplished what a decade of war never could: developing a dynamic capitalist society, opening an American-style university with the promise of academic freedom and, perhaps most improbably, strengthening ties not just between our people, but also between militaries that once saw each other as enemies.

Looking ahead, my hope is that the turbulence still evident in the world does not obscure the extraordinary gains that diplomacy has made on President Obama’s watch or lead to the abandonment of approaches that have served our nation well.

Diplomacy requires creativity, patience and commitment to a steady grind, often away from the spotlight. Results are rarely immediate or reducible to 140-character bites. But it has helped build a world our ancestors would envy — a world in which children in most places are more likely than ever before to be born healthy, to receive an education and to live free from extreme poverty.

The new administration will face many challenges, like every administration before it. But it will take office this week armed with enormous advantages in addressing them. America’s economy and military are the strongest in the world, and diplomacy has helped put the wind at our back, our adversaries on notice about our resolve and our friends by our side.