Saturday, January 19, 2008

"Where Ever The Banner Of Liberty Is Unfurled, There America Should Be"

O.K., I think we just have to understand that with great power comes sometimes adverse action. I'm not apologizing for it. I do think that we have to make a much better effort to explain who we are and to show the goodness of America to the rest of the world. I mean, there are some countries where the state-controlled press in authoritarian countries spew out lies about us; I mean, pictures of us that you would not recognize.

And so in those situations, you have to stand up and make the argument. That means you have to talk to people, even people you don't like; people who might be on opposite sides of the barricades and try to communicate a more true picture of who we are.

Despite all the anti-Americans in the world today -- yeah, and there's a lot of it, and we face it personally, all of us, when we go overseas -- people vote with their feet. We still have several million people who try to come in legally or illegally in this country. Why? Not just because we're rich and life is good here. It's because we're free.

And so I guess I would say, as someone involved in foreign policy, we should never shrink from supporting democracy. And we should never be bashful or embarrassed to stand up and say we don't support dictatorship in Russia; we don't support massive human rights violations in Zimbabwe, which is occurring right now; we don't support the massive violations of the rights of the people in Burma. I think Americans need to stand up for those values.

Read that quote from John Quincy Adams: "America should not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy." The preceding clause is that we should -- whenever the banner of liberty has unfurled, there should America be. And I think that he was right.

We also have to understand that anti- Americanism is not a mass global phenomena. In India, for example, the United States is very popular, as is President Bush. We are well regarded in China. In general, we have a fairly good reputation in East Asia and the Pacific. If you look at the recent Pew public opinion poll, the United States has high favorability ratings in most African countries.

There is a higher degree of anti- Americanism in the Middle East, in most of the Muslim countries of the world, in Europe and in parts of Central and South America. We have to understand that it’s not just a massive global uprising against American power, but it tends to be centered in certain regions of the world. We need to do our best to combat it, and we have to convince people that we as a country can speak to their aspirations and their interests and be a good and reliable friend.

The United States is the greatest power in the world. Part of the unhappiness with the United States in certain parts of the world is because of the very fact that we are powerful. They see our military, they see Starbucks, they see Microsoft as ever present in their societies. Yet we can convey a sense that we’re not arrogant, that we’re not unilateralist, that we don’t think we can go it alone in the world, that we need friends and allies, that we depend on friends and allies and we do have shared interests. Over time, that kind of a more open and positive spirit can help to address a lot of the anti- Americanism.

We also need to convince people that we’re not going to be isolationist. Those are the two twin tendencies of our policy that go back 231 years—isolationism and unilateralism. Most of us in the career Foreign and Civil Service understand that we have to be centered on multilateralism, that America has to lead in the world. Sometimes you have to lead alone, but more often than not we’re much better off by trying to win friends, by trying to act multilaterally and by creating alliances so that our soldiers don’t have to do all the fighting and our taxpayers don’t have to do all the spending around the world.

I think in this administration we have very much focused on that commitment to multilateralism over the last two to three years. That’s certainly been a great priority for Secretary Rice; since she came into office, she has tried very hard to rebuild our regional alliances and to communicate this sense of commitment to the rest of the world.

Let's think of it this way. Politically, we are the indispensable country. That's not an arrogant statement, I think that's a factual statement. Whenever a country is called to mediate a difficult crisis, whether it's Darfur or Kashmir or Jerusalem or Taiwan, they call us. And whether people love us or not, they want the United States in the middle of the world's hot spots and we really can't avoid that major political role in the world.

Economically, we have the largest economy. We have the most innovative private sector. We're still the world technology leader, although India, especially, and China are creeping up upon us. And the world economy can't run without the United States at the wheel.

Militarily, and here's where it really becomes interesting, and think of it in historical terms, we may just be the strongest country relative to all the others since the Roman Empire 2000 years ago. Now think of the huge strategic advantage that gives us. But also think of the huge responsibility it gives us to use that power effectively.

So this unprecedented power demands that we embrace our status as a global leader. And we haven't done it for 230 years, and we need to now. That's my first challenge for our country.

Second, we must simply reject the lure of isolationism, which has too often been our reflex at great international turmoil. We need to choose instead a policy of permanent engagement in the world; it's our overriding national interest and priority.

And if there's one central lesson that we can learn from 9/11, and there are a lot of them, and they're mostly bad and negative, is that you can't live apart from the world. You can't turn away from challenges.

Submitted by R. nIcHoLaS