Given that Bush’s version of global war has proved such a costly flop, what ought to replace it? Answering that question requires a new set of principles to guide U.S. policy. Here are five:
* Rather than squandering American power, husband it. As Iraq has shown, U.S. military strength is finite. The nation’s economic reserves and diplomatic clout also are limited. They badly need replenishment.
* Align ends with means. Although Bush’s penchant for Wilsonian rhetoric may warm the cockles of neoconservative hearts, it raises expectations that cannot be met. Promise only the achievable.
* Let Islam be Islam. The United States possesses neither the capacity nor the wisdom required to liberate the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims, who just might entertain their own ideas about what genuine freedom entails. Islam will eventually accommodate itself to the modern world, but Muslims will have to work out the terms.
* Reinvent containment. The process of negotiating that accommodation will produce unwelcome fallout: anger, alienation, scapegoating and violence. In collaboration with its allies, the United States must insulate itself against Islamic radicalism. The imperative is not to wage global war, whether real or metaphorical, but to erect effective defenses, as the West did during the Cold War.
* Exemplify the ideals we profess. Rather than telling others how to live, Americans should devote themselves to repairing their own institutions. Our enfeebled democracy just might offer the place to start.
The essence of these principles can be expressed in a single word: realism, which implies seeing ourselves as we really are and the world as it actually is. [complete article]
Editor’s Comment — “Seeing ourselves as we really are and the world as it actually is” — yes indeed, wouldn’t that be a welcome change? But it would also amount to a profound transformation in the American psyche.
Few people in the world have a realistic self-image — what distinguishes Americans is that their lack of self-understanding has such a destructive impact on others.
As occupants of a continent with vast oceans to either side, there is a geographic realism to America’s sense of isolation. The gulf that now needs to be crossed is psychological — it requires that Americans acquire the conviction that the world matters. Yet the world as “other” — as somewhere else — is something from which we have set ourselves apart. Having distasterously ventured into this other, discovered that we are often unwelcome and even reviled, the natural response is to retreat.
The pompous advocates of engagement assert that the world needs American leadership. The message that Americans and the world really need to hear is the reverse: America needs the world. We cannot afford to isolate ourselves. We cannot afford to remain ignorant. The world that seems other is simply a world in which we have yet to understand our place. It is a world in which we should neither assert preeminence nor project our fear.
The next US president must expand American involvement in the United Nations and other international bodies and dramatically increase foreign aid – especially among Muslim countries – to reverse the steep decline in American influence and enhance national security, a bipartisan group of politicians, business executives, and academics said in a report yesterday.
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The report, titled “A Smarter and Safer America,” also condemned what it called the American “exporting of fear” since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and criticized the use of “hard power,” military might, as the main component of US foreign policy instead of the “soft power” of positive US influences.
But the authors – including Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state under President Bush, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and Harvard professor Joseph S. Nye Jr. – said their recommendations, issued one year ahead of Election Day, is a foreign policy blueprint for Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls. [complete article]