U.S. Forces: Challenges Ahead

Courtesy Reuters

Enormous Power, Sobering Responsibility

AMERICA IS a remarkable nation. We are, as Abraham Lincoln told Congress in December 1862, a nation that "cannot escape history" because we are "the last best hope of earth." The president said that his administration and Congress held the "power and . . . responsibility" to ensure that the hope America promised would be fulfilled. Today, 130 years later, Lincoln’s America is the sole superpower left on earth.

Often I wonder what Lincoln would think were he here to see us and to marvel at our strength. There are aspects that would make him shudder—the turmoil of our inner cities, our still unresolved racial inequalities, the rising crime and continued drug use—but on balance I believe he would be pleased. Democracy is the most powerful political force at work in the world today. Our values, our persistence, our determination helped bring about this situation. America is not perfect by any means, but the nation does offer its citizens the individual and collective opportunity to strive to be better.

America is still the last best hope of earth, and we still hold the power and bear the responsibility for its remaining so. This is an enormous power and a sobering responsibility, especially since America is no longer alone but is accompanied by a free world growing ever larger and more interconnected.

As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. armed forces, I share the responsibility for America’s security. I share it with the president and commander in chief, with the secretary of defense and with the magnificent men and women—volunteers all—of America’s armed forces. In truth, we share it also with every citizen of the nation, for that is one of the unique aspects of America; while many other nations constantly lay claim to "peoples’ armies," our nation actually has one.

America’s armed forces are as much a part of the fabric of U.S. values—freedom, democracy, human dignity

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