NEWS, OPINION & EDITOR’S COMMENT: An American awakening?

Picking up after failed war on terror

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.

Next president urged to fix global image

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]

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2 thoughts on “NEWS, OPINION & EDITOR’S COMMENT: An American awakening?

  1. m.tongberg

    I am confused is this group talking about Finland or maybe Sweden? What planet are they from? “So we have to get back to our moral higher ground and everybody will love the USA once again ” When was that exactly? Oh thats right If you offer up a some foreign aid or some co-operation at the UN everything is going to be alright .Its a quick fix not too expensive and we can afford it . I mean just think we could be back in the lime light again no Problem. The thing is nobody would ever remember what we had done or would they.

  2. delia ruhe

    I appreciate what Nye and Armitage are saying, but they are longing for the good old days of the Cold War, when America could get away with imposing its will around the world and fooling itself into thinking that this was benign “soft power.” As a citizen of America’s greatest imperial triumph — i.e., the vassal state of Canada — my whole (long) life has been spent taking note of the way in which I’m being daily colonized. We read American magazines, watch American TV, provide the venue for American films. The kind of massive cultural colonization which these mere 3 examples represent is effectively erasing any cultural difference that might have been worth preserving in a world which America is in the process of homoginizing. My prime minister happily takes his orders from Washington, and we happily keep on voting for him. We are currently engaged in making plans for full Anschluss in 2010 — which means troops and US bases on Canadian soil, forfeiture of what’s left of Canadian-owned natural resources, and obligatory support for whatever other wars Washington wants to wage. This will all be read by the vast majority of Americans as Canada making a “free choice.” In sum, “soft power” may not kill with bullets and bombs, but it kills nevertheless.

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