To lead, a great nation must command the respect of others. America has been respected in the past as a powerful nation, a purposeful nation, and a generous and warm-hearted nation. In my travels around the world as senator and as first lady, I have met people from all walks of life. I have seen firsthand how many of our past policies have earned us respect and gratitude.
The tragedy of the last six years is that the Bush administration has squandered the respect, trust, and confidence of even our closest allies and friends. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the United States enjoyed a unique position. Our world leadership was widely accepted and respected, as we strengthened old alliances and built new ones, worked for peace across the globe, advanced nonproliferation, and modernized our military. After 9/11, the world rallied behind the United States as never before, supporting our efforts to remove the Taliban in Afghanistan and go after the al Qaeda leadership. We had a historic opportunity to build a broad global coalition to combat terror, increase the impact of our diplomacy, and create a world with more partners and fewer adversaries.
But we lost that opportunity by refusing to let the UN inspectors finish their work in Iraq and rushing to war instead. Moreover, we diverted vital military and financial resources from the struggle against al Qaeda and the daunting task of building a Muslim democracy in Afghanistan. At the same time, we embarked on an unprecedented course of unilateralism: refusing to pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, abandoning our commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, and turning our backs on the search for peace in the Middle East. Our withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and refusal to participate in any international effort to deal with the tremendous challenges of climate change further damaged our international standing.
Our nation has paid a heavy price for rejecting a long-standing bipartisan tradition of global leadership rooted in a preference
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