The Foreign Service Journal, September 2012

S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 47 n one of the most memorable scenes in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer , Aunt Polly punishes Tom for skipping school by sentencing him to put a fresh coat of whitewash on their picket fence. Being an enterprising young man, Tom convinces other kids to join in, and they quickly line up to take turns painting the boards. Twain’s scene resembles recent U.S. diplomatic efforts to obtain greater contributions from the world’s critical players. Getting other nations to play a larger constructive role is vital; in today’s interconnected world, future peace and prosperity hinge on those nations’ willingness to step up. As President Barack Obama stressed on taking office, “Our power alone cannot protect us.” Even a global super- power cannot mount effective responses to 21st-century chal- lenges on its own. The United States needs partners to help bolster the global economy, prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, stem climate change, alleviate poverty and destroy terrorist networks. Simple fairness says Americans shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of international problem-solving alone, especially as nations that have risen within the existing system seek greater prominence. And even if the U.S. were inclined to continue picking up the tab for protecting the global com- mons, fiscal realities will constrain it. This recognition has led the administration to pursue a strategy — call it the “Responsibility Doctrine”— of prod- ding other nations to shoulder the burdens of fostering a sta- ble, peaceful international order. Across its foreign policy agenda and with unprecedented emphasis, the administra- tion has persistently sought contributions from other nations. Real-world progress for the doctrine has been partial but significant. While deep, sustained cooperation among piv- otal powers remains elusive, and many serious differences di- vide them, the vision of a world where the United States draws major powers into collective efforts is not imaginary: it is already happening. The Responsibility Strategy Under a responsibility doctrine, foreign policy is driven by the need to solve global problems and strengthen the multi- lateral norms and structures on which a viable 21st-century, rules-based order depends. The aim is not simply to establish a balance of power, but to bring about a dynamic framework through which to prac- tically address global challenges. The strategic premise is that emerging major and middle powers can become significant contributors to global peace and prosperity — whether co- opted or pressed into accepting responsibility along with in- fluence. Looking at the multilateral agenda’s top-tier issues, it is clear that they represent vulnerabilities of the international system itself. Consider the consequences if the global econ- omy couldn’t sustain growth, terror groups carried out large- scale attacks, the club of nuclear-armed nations grew to 15, or the planet’s temperature rose by four degrees Celsius. Such matters can only be addressed through consistent, active cooperation among all the world’s pivotal powers. In- fluential nations must fulfill basic civic duties — adhering to international laws and norms, contributing to global problem- T HE R ESPONSIBILITY D OCTRINE A CROSS ITS FOREIGN POLICY AGENDA , THE O BAMA ADMINISTRATION HAS PURSUED A STRATEGY OF PRODDING OTHER NATIONS TO HELP SHOULDER THE BURDENS OF GLOBAL PEACE AND STABILITY . B Y N INA H ACHIGIAN AND D AVID S HORR Nina Hachigian is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and David Shorr is a program officer at the Stanley Foundation. The views expressed herein are their own. I