Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Morning In America?

I'm not sure exactly how to introduce this Newsweek column from Fareed Zakaria, but I know that it is a hugely important commentary. I can't emphasize that enough. I also can say that it very much underscores my support for Barack Obama. If you didn't read Obama's foreign policy speech when I linked it before, read it (or watch the video) after you read Zakaria's piece.

There is a strong tendency on the left right now, not without justification, to want to attack and tear down everything the Bush administration has done on foreign policy, even without necessarily having a vision of what will replace it. And there is an equally strong urge, I think, on both sides of the aisle to pull back from world affairs, having been so badly burned in recent years with our mission in Iraq in shambles, with Afghanistan beset with difficulties, with economic globalism causing domestic turmoil, with public opinion of the US heading south all around the globe. These are understandable instincts, but completely wrong.

The US needs continue to be bold and aggressive on the world stage, but in a very different way than it has been in the Bush era. We need the humility to recognize that the US cannot achieve its goals alone and that the US cannot force its will upon the global community, but we also need to recognize that the world cannot move forward on its major challenges without decisive American leadership. We need to restore the image of American idealism and optimism and hope. We've seen what comes of trying to lead through bullying and stubbornness. It should be apparent at this point that our global leadership will only be effective when people want to follow us. So we must present an image that inspires.

The politics of fear have wounded us badly. Fear debilitates and diminishes us. We need to realize how truly strong America is, and that as big as the challenges facing us are, as long as America holds true to its founding ideals there are no challenges that we cannot face and overcome. As Zakaria argues, this is the message the world needs to hear, but I think it is also the message Americans need to hear. We need to restore our own pride in who and what we are before we can expect anyone else to believe in us. We need to be unafraid to engage the world, to open ourselves and our ideas up to the world, to trust in our inherent strength to overcome criticism and meet challenges even though it may be a long and difficult road.

Too many liberals, seeing how Bush has weakened the Republicans, smell blood in the water and see this as the moment to finally crush the Republicans under their heels. Tempting as that may be, I think we cannot afford to press too far along partisan lines. This is the moment, while there is a pervasive feeling that Bush has taken us in the wrong direction, when we need to build concensus, to capitalize on that sentiment to forge a broad new agreement about who and what we are and what America should represent to the world. I think Barack Obama gets all this (although I hope I'm not just projecting my hopes onto him). I don't think any other candidate in the race does.

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