FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: Essays for the Presidency

Reengaging With the World

A Return to Moral Leadership

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate former Senator John Edwards arrives at the Democratic Presidential debate in Johnston, Iowa, December 13, 2007. Eric Thayer / Reuters

At the dawn of a new century and on the brink of a new presidency, the United States today needs to reclaim the moral high ground that defined our foreign policy for much of the last century.

We must move beyond the wreckage created by one of the greatest strategic failures in U.S. history: the war in Iraq. Rather than alienating the rest of the world through assertions of infallibility and demands of obedience, as the current administration has done, U.S. foreign policy must be driven by a strategy of reengagement. We must reengage with our history of courage, liberty, and generosity. We must reengage with our tradition of moral leadership on issues ranging from the killings in Darfur to global poverty and climate change. We must reengage with our allies on critical security issues, including terrorism, the Middle East, and nuclear proliferation. With confidence and resolve, we must reengage with those who pose a security threat to us, from Iran to North Korea. And our government must reengage with the American people to restore our nation's reputation as a moral beacon to the world, tapping into our fundamental hope and optimism and calling on our citizens' commitment and courage to make this possible. We must lead the world by demonstrating the power of our ideals, not by stoking fear about those who do not share them.

The last century saw tremendous advances in the human condition—from increased economic prosperity to the spread of human rights and the emergence of a truly global community. But the century also brought two devastating world wars, the death of millions, and a Cold War that lasted two generations and risked the end of humanity. The new century, too, will bring both promise and peril. We can look forward to incredible technological advances in communications and medicine and an expanding world economy that will lift millions out of poverty while raising the standards of living for working people at home and abroad.

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