Rising to a New Generation of Global Challenges
In 64 BC, the great Roman lawyer and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero ran for consul. His younger brother, Quintus, thought Marcus had a chance -- as long as he ran a good campaign. So Quintus wrote a detailed strategy memo laying out just what Marcus needed to do to win. It’s the best guide to electioneering you’ll ever read, presented here with a commentary by the legendary political consultant James Carville.
Less than six years after 9/11, Washington is as divided and conflicted over foreign policy as it has been at any point in the last 50 years. Senator Arthur Vandenberg once famously declared that "politics stops at the water's edge"; today, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee declares that our major political parties should carry out two separate foreign policies. The Senate unanimously confirmed General David Petraeus, who pledged to implement a new strategy, as the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. Yet just weeks later, the Senate began crafting legislation specifically designed to stop that new strategy. More broadly, lines have been drawn between those labeled "realists" and those labeled "neoconservatives." Yet these terms mean little when even the most committed neoconservative recognizes that any successful policy must be grounded in reality and even the most hardened realist admits that much of the United States' power and influence stems from its values and ideals.
In the midst of these divisions, the American people -- and many others around the world -- have increasing doubts about the United States' direction and role in the world. Indeed, it seems that concern about Washington's divisiveness and capability to meet today's challenges is the one thing that unites us all. We need new thinking on foreign policy and an overarching strategy that can unite the United States and its allies -- not around a particular political camp or foreign policy school but around a shared understanding of how to meet a new generation of challenges.
A GENERATION'S LEGACY OF LEADERSHIP
Today's challenges are daunting. They include the conflict in Iraq, the resurgence of the Taliban, and global terrorist networks made even more menacing by the threat of nuclear proliferation. While Iran's leaders relentlessly pursue nuclear weapons capabilities and spout genocidal threats against Israel, the world largely stands silent, unable to agree on effective sanctions even as each day the danger grows. Genocide ravages Darfur even as the world stands frozen. In Latin America, leaders such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez seek to reverse the spread of freedom and return to failed authoritarian policies. AIDS and potential new pandemics threaten us in an interconnected world. The economic rise of China and other countries across Asia poses a different type of challenge. It is easy to understand why Americans -- and many others around the world -- feel so much unease and uncertainty. Yet although we face fundamentally different issues today, the United States has a history of rising to meet even greater challenges. Indeed, we need not look to ancient history, but only to the courage and determination of our parents and grandparents to see a stark contrast with the confusion and infighting of Washington today. Just over 60 years ago, we were in the midst of a global war that would take the lives of tens of millions. The outcome was far from certain. General Dwight Eisenhower drafted a short note before the D-day landings at Normandy accepting full responsibility "in case of failure."
The invasion did not fail. Yet no sooner had we defeated fascism than we were engaged in a 50-year struggle with communism. Those whom the journalist Tom Brokaw memorialized as "the greatest generation" made the tough choices that allowed us to prevail in these struggles. And it was not just our Washington leaders who were decisive. In the 1940s, Americans rationed and saved, and mothers and daughters enlisted to work in factories. Together with the GIs who returned home, they built this country's prosperity and fueled a sense of optimism. In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, America pursued learning and innovation to lead the world in space, technology, and productivity -- outcompeting the Soviets and driving them to an economic bankruptcy that matched their moral bankruptcy.
In the aftermath of World War II and with the coming of the Cold War, members of "the greatest generation" united America and the free world around shared values and actions that changed history. They unified U.S. military and security efforts, creating the Department of Defense and the National Security Council. They rethought U.S. approaches to the world, building the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Peace Corps. They forged alliances, such as NATO, that magnified the power of freedom and created a world trading system that helped launch the greatest expansion of economic and political freedom and development in history. Our times call for equally bold leadership and for a renewed sense of service and shared sacrifice among Americans and our allies around the world.
A NEW GENERATION OF CHALLENGES
Today, the nation's attention is focused on Iraq. All Americans want U.S. troops to come home as soon as possible. But walking away now or dividing Iraq up into parts and walking away later would present grave risks to the United States and the world. Iran could seize the Shiite south, al Qaeda could dominate the Sunni west, and Kurdish nationalism could destabilize the border with Turkey. A regional conflict could ensue, perhaps even requiring the return of U.S. troops under far worse circumstances. There is no guarantee that the new strategy pursued by General Petraeus will ultimately succeed, but the stakes are too high and the potential fallout too great to deny our military leaders and troops on the ground the resources and the time needed to give it an opportunity to succeed.
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