Hillary Rodham Clinton. Foreign Affairs. Volume 86, Issue 6. November/December 2007.
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 for cooperating over acting unilaterally, for exhausting diplomacy before making war, and for converting old adversaries into allies rather than making new enemies. At a moment in history when the world’s most pressing problems require unprecedented cooperation, this administration has unilaterally pursued policies that are widely disliked and distrusted. Yet it does not have to be this way. Indeed, our allies do not want it to be this way. The world still looks to the United States for leadership. American leadership is wanting, but it is still wanted. Our friends around the world do not want the United States to retreat. They want once again to be allied with the nation whose values, leadership, and strength have inspired the world for the last century. To reclaim our proper place in the world, the United States must be stronger, and our policies must be smarter. The next president will have a moment of opportunity to restore America’s global standing and convince the world that America can lead once again. As president, I will seize that opportunity by reintroducing ourselves to the world. I will rebuild our power and ensure that the United States is committed to building a world we want, rather than simply defending against a world we fear. We should aim to lead our friends and allies in building a world of security and opportunity. America has long been the land of opportunity. But as we know at home and as we see today in Iraq and Afghanistan, opportunity cannot flourish without basic security. We must build a world in which security and opportunity go hand in hand, a world that will be safer, more prosperous, and more just. We need more than vision, however, to achieve the world we want. We must face up to an unprecedented array of challenges in the twenty-first century, threats from states, nonstate actors, and nature itself. The next president will be the first to inherit two wars, a long-term campaign against global terrorist networks, and growing tension with Iran as it seeks to acquire nuclear weapons. The United States will face a resurgent Russia whose future orientation is uncertain and a rapidly growing China that must be integrated into the international system. Moreover, the next administration will have to confront an unpredictable and dangerous situation in the Middle East that threatens Israel and could potentially bring down the global economy by disrupting oil supplies. Finally, the next president will have to address the looming long-term threats of climate change and a new wave of global health epidemics. To meet these challenges, we will have to replenish American power by getting out of Iraq, rebuilding our military, and developing a much broader arsenal of tools in the fight against terrorism. We must learn once again to draw on all aspects of American power, to inspire and attract as much as to coerce. We must return to a pragmatic willingness to look at the facts on the ground and make decisions based on evidence rather than ideology.
Power and Principle
Leadership requires a blend of strategy, persuasion, inspiration, and motivation. It is based on respect more than fear. America’s founders wrote the Declaration of Independence to explain our actions to the world out of a decent respect for the opinions of mankind. Gaining the respect of other nations today requires that we harness our might to a set of guiding principles. Avoid false choices driven by ideology. The Bush administration has presented the American people with a series of false choices: force versus diplomacy, unilateralism versus multilateralism, hard power versus soft. Seeing these choices as mutually exclusive reflects an ideologically blinkered vision of the world that denies the United States the tools and the flexibility it needs to lead and succeed. There is a time for force and a time for diplomacy; when properly deployed, the two can reinforce each other. U.S. foreign policy must be guided by a preference for multilateralism, with unilateralism as an option when absolutely necessary to protect our security or avert an avoidable tragedy.
Use our military not as the solution to every problem but as one element in a comprehensive strategy. As president, I will never hesitate to use force to protect Americans or to defend our territory and our vital interests. We cannot negotiate with individual terrorists; they must be hunted down and captured or killed. Nor can diplomacy alone stop the perpetrators of genocide and crimes against humanity in places such as Darfur. But soldiers are not the answer to every problem. Using force in lieu of diplomacy compels our young men and women in uniform to carry out missions that they may not be trained or prepared for. And it ignores the value of simply carrying a big stick, rather than using it. Make international institutions work, and work through them when possible. Contrary to what many in the current administration appear to believe, international institutions are tools rather than traps. The United States must be prepared to act on its own to defend its vital interests, but effective international institutions make it much less likely that we will have to do so. Both Republican and Democratic presidents have understood this for decades. When such institutions work well, they enhance our influence. When they do not work, their procedures serve as pretexts for endless delays, as in the case of Darfur, or descend into farce, as in the case of Sudan’s election to the UN Commission on Human Rights. But instead of disparaging these institutions for their failures, we should bring them in line with the power realities of the twenty-first century and the basic values embodied in such documents as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ensure that democracy delivers on its promises. Gnawing hunger, poverty, and the absence of economic prospects are a recipe for despair. Globalization is widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots within societies and between them. Today, there are more than two billion people living on less than $2 a day. These people risk becoming a vast permanent underclass. Calls for expanding civil and political rights in countries plagued by mass poverty and ruled by tiny wealthy elites will fall on deaf ears unless democracy actually delivers enough material benefits to improve people’s lives. The Bush administration’s policy in Iraq has temporarily given democracy a bad name, but over the long term the value of democracy will continue to inspire the world. Stand for and live up to our values. The values that our founders embraced as universal have shaped the aspirations of millions of people around the world and are the deepest source of our strength—but only as long as we live up to them ourselves. As we seek to promote the rule of law in other nations, we must accept it ourselves. As we counsel liberty and justice for all, we cannot support torture and the indefinite detention of individuals we have declared to be beyond the law.
A Stronger America
Ending the war in Iraq is the first step toward restoring the United States’ global leadership. The war is sapping our military strength, absorbing our strategic assets, diverting attention and resources from Afghanistan, alienating our allies, and dividing our people. The war in Iraq has also stretched our military to the breaking point. We must rebuild our armed services and restore them body and soul. We must withdraw from Iraq in a way that brings our troops home safely, begins to restore stability to the region, and replaces military force with a new diplomatic initiative to engage countries around the world in securing Iraq’s future. To that end, as president, I will convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of defense, and the National Security Council and direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home, starting within the first 60 days of my administration. While working to stabilize Iraq as our forces withdraw, I will focus U.S. aid on helping Iraqis, not propping up the Iraqi government. Financial resources will go only where they will be used properly, rather than to government ministries or ministers that hoard, steal, or waste them. As we leave Iraq militarily, I will replace our military force with an intensive diplomatic initiative in the region. The Bush administration has belatedly begun to engage Iran and Syria in talks about the future of Iraq. This is a step in the right direction, but much more must be done. As president, I will convene a regional stabilization group composed of key allies, other global powers, and all the states bordering Iraq. Working with the newly appointed UN special representative for Iraq, the group will be charged with developing and implementing a strategy for achieving a stable Iraq that provides incentives for Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey to stay out of the civil war. Finally, we need to engage the world in a global humanitarian effort to confront the human costs of this war. We must address the plight of the two million Iraqis who have fled their country and the two million more who have been displaced internally. This will require a multibillion-dollar international effort under the direction of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Meanwhile, the United States, along with governments in Europe and the Middle East, must agree to accept asylum seekers and help them return to Iraq when it is safe for them to do so. As we redeploy our troops from Iraq, we must not let down our guard against terrorism. I will order specialized units to engage in targeted operations against al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist organizations in the region. These units will also provide security for U.S. troops and personnel in Iraq and train and equip Iraqi security services to keep order and promote stability in the country, but only to the extent that such training is actually working. I will also consider leaving some forces in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq in order to protect the fragile but real democracy and relative peace and security that have developed there, but with the clear understanding that the terrorist organization the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) must be dealt with and the Turkish border must be respected.
Getting out of Iraq will enable us to play a constructive role in a renewed Middle East peace process that would mean security and normal relations for Israel and the Palestinians. The fundamental elements of a final agreement have been clear since 2000: a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in return for a declaration that the conflict is over, recognition of Israel’s right to exist, guarantees of Israeli security, diplomatic recognition of Israel, and normalization of its relations with Arab states. U.S. diplomacy is critical in helping to resolve this conflict. In addition to facilitating negotiations, we must engage in regional diplomacy to gain Arab support for a Palestinian leadership that is committed to peace and willing to engage in a dialogue with the Israelis. Whether or not the United States makes progress in helping to broker a final agreement, consistent U.S. involvement can lower the level of violence and restore our credibility in the region. To help our forces recover from Iraq and prepare them to confront the full range of twenty-first-century threats, I will work to expand and modernize the military so that fighting wars no longer comes at the expense of deployments for long-term deterrence, military readiness, or responses to urgent needs at home. As the only senator serving on the Transformation Advisory Group established by the U.S. Joint Forces Command, I have had the chance to explore these issues in detail. Ongoing military innovation is essential, but the Bush administration has undermined this goal by focusing obsessively on expensive and unproven missile defense technology while making the tragically misguided assumption that light invasion forces could not only conquer the Taliban and Saddam Hussein but also stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq. Our brave soldiers who are wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq must receive the health care, benefits, training, and support they deserve. The treatment of wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center was a travesty. Those convalescing or struggling to build new lives after grievous injuries need an expanded version of the Family and Medical Leave Act to enable their families to provide the support they need. Beyond health care, it is also time to develop a modern GI Bill of Rights in order to expand professional and entrepreneurial opportunities as well as access to education and home ownership.
Winning the Real War on Terror
We must be unrelenting in the prosecution of the war on al Qaeda and a growing number of like-minded extremist organizations. These terrorists are as determined as ever to strike the United States. If they think they can carry out another 9/11, I have no doubt that they will try. To stop them, we must use every tool we have. In the cities of Europe and Asia—such as Hamburg and Kuala Lumpur, which were the springboards for 9/11—terrorist cells are preparing for future attacks. We must understand not only their methods but their motives: a rejection of modernity, women’s rights, and democracy, as well as a dangerous nostalgia for a mythical past. We must develop a comprehensive strategy focusing on education, intelligence, and law enforcement to counter not only the terrorists themselves but also the larger forces fueling support for their extremism.
The forgotten frontline in the war on terror is Afghanistan, where our military effort must be reinforced. The Taliban cannot be allowed to regain power in Afghanistan; if they return, al Qaeda will return with them. Yet current U.S. policies have actually weakened President Hamid Karzai’s government and allowed the Taliban to retake many areas, especially in the south. A largely unimpeded heroin trade finances the very Taliban fighters and al Qaeda terrorists who are attacking our troops. In addition to engaging in counternarcotics efforts, we must seek to dry up recruiting opportunities for the Taliban by funding crop-substitution programs, a large-scale road-building initiative, institutions that train and prepare Afghans for honest and effective governance, and programs to enable women to play a larger role in society.
We must also strengthen the national and local governments and resolve the problems along Afghanistan’s border. Terrorists are increasingly finding safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Redoubling our efforts with Pakistan would not only help root out terrorist elements there; it would also signal to our NATO partners that the war in Afghanistan and the broader fight against extremism in South Asia are battles that we can and must win. Yet we cannot succeed unless we design a strategy that treats the entire region as an interconnected whole, where crises overlap with one another and the danger of a chain reaction of disasters is real.
Combating terrorism around the world will require better intelligence and a clandestine service that is out on the street, not sitting behind desks. As president, I will work to restore morale in our intelligence community, increase the number of agents and analysts proficient in Arabic and other key languages, and raise the profile and status of intelligence analysis. Most of the terrorists apprehended for plotting attacks against the United States, both before and after 9/11, were arrested in other countries as a result of cooperation between intelligence and law enforcement agencies. To maximize our effectiveness, we have to rebuild our alliances. The problem we face is global; we must therefore be attentive to the values, concerns, and interests of our allies and partners. That means doing a better job of building counterterrorist capacity around the world. We must help strengthen police, prosecutorial, and judicial systems abroad; improve intelligence; and implement more stringent border controls, especially in developing countries. We must also keep our guard up at home. As a senator from New York, I have long advocated full investment in our first responders and in protecting our critical infrastructure. I have pushed for new strategies and new technologies, such as a new federal interoperable communications and safety system. After years of Bush administration neglect, 80 percent of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations on homeland security have now been enacted, principally as a result of the Democratic Congress’ work. But there is more to do. We must match the resources to the stakes and help the most vulnerable and at-risk cities prepare for an attack. We must improve health-care delivery systems in order to manage the consequences of attacks. Finally, we must improve the security of chemical plants and safeguard the transportation of hazardous materials so that terrorists do not have easy targets.
Security Through Statesmanship
The Bush administration has opposed talks with our adversaries, seeming to believe that we are not strong enough to defend our interests through negotiations. This is a misleading and counterproductive strategy. True statesmanship requires that we engage with our adversaries, not for the sake of talking but because robust diplomacy is a prerequisite to achieving our aims.
The case in point is Iran. Iran poses a long-term strategic challenge to the United States, our NATO allies, and Israel. It is the country that most practices state-sponsored terrorism, and it uses its surrogates to supply explosives that kill U.S. troops in Iraq. The Bush administration refuses to talk to Iran about its nuclear program, preferring to ignore bad behavior rather than challenge it. Meanwhile, Iran has enhanced its nuclear-enrichment capabilities, armed Iraqi Shiite militias, funneled arms to Hezbollah, and subsidized Hamas, even as the government continues to hurt its own citizens by mismanaging the economy and increasing political and social repression. As a result, we have lost precious time. Iran must conform to its nonproliferation obligations and must not be permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table. On the other hand, if Iran is in fact willing to end its nuclear weapons program, renounce sponsorship of terrorism, support Middle East peace, and play a constructive role in stabilizing Iraq, the United States should be prepared to offer Iran a carefully calibrated package of incentives. This will let the Iranian people know that our quarrel is not with them but with their government and show the world that the United States is prepared to pursue every diplomatic option. Like Iran, North Korea responded to the Bush administration’s effort to isolate it by accelerating its nuclear program, conducting a nuclear test, and building more nuclear weapons. Only since the State Department returned to diplomacy have we been able, belatedly, to make progress. Neither North Korea nor Iran will change course as a result of what we do with our own nuclear weapons, but taking dramatic steps to reduce our nuclear arsenal would build support for the coalitions we need to address the threat of nuclear proliferation and help the United States regain the moral high ground. Former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and former Senator Sam Nunn have called on the United States to “rekindle the vision,” shared by every president from Dwight Eisenhower to Bill Clinton, of reducing reliance on nuclear weapons. To reassert our nonproliferation leadership, I will seek to negotiate an accord that substantially and verifiably reduces the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. This dramatic initiative would send a strong message of nuclear restraint to the world, while we retain enough strength to deter others from trying to match our arsenal. I will also seek Senate approval of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by 2009, the tenth anniversary of the Senate’s initial rejection of the agreement. This would enhance the United States’ credibility when demanding that other nations refrain from testing. As president, I will support efforts to supplement the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Establishing an international fuel bank that guaranteed secure access to nuclear fuel at reasonable prices would help limit the number of countries that pose proliferation risks.
In the Senate, I have introduced legislation to accelerate and reinvigorate U.S. efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism. As president, I will do everything in my power to ensure that nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and the materials needed to make them are kept out of terrorists’ hands. My first goal would be to remove all nuclear material from the world’s most vulnerable nuclear sites and effectively secure the remainder during my first term in office. Statesmanship is also necessary to engage countries that are not adversaries but that are challenging the United States on many fronts. Russian President Vladimir Putin has thwarted a carefully crafted UN plan that would have put Kosovo on a belated path to independence, attempted to use energy as a political weapon against Russia’s neighbors and beyond, and tested the United States and Europe on a range of nonproliferation and arms reduction issues. Putin has also suppressed many of the freedoms won after the fall of communism, created a new class of oligarchs, and interfered deeply in the internal affairs of former Soviet republics. It is a mistake, however, to see Russia only as a threat. Putin has used Russia’s energy wealth to expand the Russian economy, so that more ordinary Russians are enjoying a rising standard of living. We need to engage Russia selectively on issues of high national importance, such as thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions, securing loose nuclear weapons in Russia and the former Soviet republics, and reaching a diplomatic solution in Kosovo. At the same time, we must make clear that our ability to view Russia as a genuine partner depends on whether Russia chooses to strengthen democracy or return to authoritarianism and regional interference. Our relationship with China will be the most important bilateral relationship in the world in this century. The United States and China have vastly different values and political systems, yet even though we disagree profoundly on issues ranging from trade to human rights, religious freedom, labor practices, and Tibet, there is much that the United States and China can and must accomplish together. China’s support was important in reaching a deal to disable North Korea’s nuclear facilities. We should build on this framework to establish a Northeast Asian security regime. But China’s rise is also creating new challenges. The Chinese have finally begun to realize that their rapid economic growth is coming at a tremendous environmental price. The United States should undertake a joint program with China and Japan to develop new clean-energy sources, promote greater energy efficiency, and combat climate change. This program would be part of an overall energy policy that would require a dramatic reduction in U.S. dependence on foreign oil. We must persuade China to join global institutions and support international rules by building on areas where our interests converge and working to narrow our differences. Although the United States must stand ready to challenge China when its conduct is at odds with U.S. vital interests, we should work for a cooperative future.
It is important to engage our adversaries but even more important to reassure our allies. We must reestablish our traditional relationship of confidence and trust with Europe. Disagreements are inevitable, even among the closest friends, but we can never forget that on most global issues we have no more trusted allies than those in Europe. The new administration will have a chance to reach out across the Atlantic to a new generation of leaders in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. When America and Europe work together, global objectives are within our means. In Asia, India has a special significance both as an emerging power and as the world’s most populous democracy. As co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, I recognize the tremendous opportunity presented by India’s rise and the need to give the country an augmented voice in regional and international institutions, such as the UN. We must find additional ways for Australia, India, Japan, and the United States to cooperate on issues of mutual concern, including combating terrorism, cooperating on global climate control, protecting global energy supplies, and deepening global economic development. At our peril, the Bush administration has neglected our neighbors to the south. We have witnessed the rollback of democratic development and economic openness in parts of Latin America. We must return to a policy of vigorous engagement; this is too critical a region for the United States to stand idly by. We must support the largest developing democracies in the region, Brazil and Mexico, and deepen economic and strategic cooperation with Argentina and Chile. We must also continue to cooperate with our allies in Colombia, Central America, and the Caribbean to combat the interconnected threats of drug trafficking, crime, and insurgency. Finally, we must work with our allies to provide sustainable-development programs that promote economic opportunity and reduce inequality for the citizens of Latin America. Equally important are the growing ranks of democracies in Africa—some established, some new—which will be the engines of Africa’s future. We should target these countries for aid and other forms of support and work with them to strengthen regional institutions such as the African Union. The AU seeks to emulate the European Union by requiring and supporting democracy among its members, but it has a long way to go. It has thus far failed even to denounce the blatant political corruption and brutality of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. It must also develop the ability to act with sufficient strength and speed to stop mass atrocities, such as those in Darfur.
Our interests in Africa are strategic, not just humanitarian. They include al Qaeda’s efforts to seek safe havens in failed states in the Horn of Africa and the growing competition with other global players, including China, for Africa’s natural resources. The long-term solution, for us as well as for Africa, is to help Africans develop both the will and the capability to address their own problems and help the continent live up to its vast potential.
Building the World We Want
To build the world we want, we must begin by speaking honestly about the problems we face. We will have to talk about the consequences of our invasion of Iraq for the Iraqi people and others in the region. We will have to talk about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. We will also have to take concrete steps to enhance security and spread opportunity throughout the world. Education is the foundation of economic opportunity and should lie at the heart of America’s foreign assistance efforts. More than 100 million children in the developing world are not in school. Another 150 million drop out before they finish grade school. By failing these children, we sow the seeds of lost generations. As president, I will press for quick passage of the Education for All Act, which would provide $10 billion over a five-year period to train teachers and build schools in the developing world. This program would channel funds to those countries that provide the best plans for how to use them and rigorously measure performance to ensure that our dollars deliver results for children.
The fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other dreaded diseases is both a moral imperative and a practical necessity. These diseases have created a generation of orphans and set back economic and political progress by decades in many countries. These problems often seem overwhelming, but we can solve them with the combined resources of governments, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We can set specific targets in areas such as expanding access to primary education, providing clean water, reducing child and maternal mortality, and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases. We can strengthen the International Labor Organization in order to enforce labor standards, just as we strengthened the World Trade Organization to enforce trade agreements. Such policies demonstrate that by doing good we can do well. This sort of investment and diplomacy will yield results for the United States, building goodwill even in places where our standing has suffered. We must also take threats and turn them into opportunities. The seemingly overwhelming challenge of climate change is a prime example. Far from being a drag on global growth, climate control represents a powerful economic opportunity that can be a driver of growth, jobs, and competitive advantage in the twenty-first century. As president, I will make the fight against global warming a priority. We cannot solve the climate crisis alone, and the rest of the world cannot solve it without us. The United States must reengage in international climate change negotiations and provide the leadership needed to reach a binding global climate agreement. But we must first restore our own credibility on the issue. Rapidly emerging countries, such as China, will not curb their own carbon emissions until the United States has demonstrated a serious commitment to reducing its own through a market-based cap-and-trade approach. We must also help developing nations build efficient and environmentally sustainable domestic energy infrastructures. Two-thirds of the growth in energy demand over the next 25 years will come from countries with little existing infrastructure. Many opportunities exist here as well: Mali is electrifying rural communities with solar power, Malawi is developing a biomass energy strategy, and all of Africa can provide carbon credits to the West.
Finally, we must create formal links between the International Energy Agency and China and India and create an “E-8” international forum modeled on the G-8. This group would be comprised of the world’s major carbon-emitting nations and hold an annual summit devoted to international ecological and resource issues. The world we want is also a world where human rights are respected. By surrendering our values in the name of our safety, the Bush administration has left Americans wondering whether its rhetoric about freedom around the world still applies back home. We have undercut international support for fighting terrorism by suggesting that the job cannot be done without humiliation, infringements on basic rights to privacy and free speech, and even torture. We must once again make human rights a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy and a core element of our conception of democracy.
Human rights will never truly be realized as long as a majority of the world’s population is still treated as second-class citizens. Twelve years ago, the UN convened a historic conference on women in Beijing, where I was proud to represent our country and to proclaim that women’s rights are human rights. Since then, women have been elected heads of state in countries on nearly every continent. Thanks to the United States, many, but not yet all, Afghan women have been liberated from one of the most tyrannical and repressive regimes of our day and are now in schools, in the work force, and in parliament. Yet progress in key areas has lagged, as evidenced by the continuing spread of trafficking in women, the ongoing use of rape as an instrument of war, the political marginalization of women, and persistent gender gaps in employment and economic opportunity. U.S. leadership, including a commitment to incorporate the promotion of women’s rights in our bilateral relationships and international aid programs, is essential not just to improving the lives of women but to strengthening the families, communities, and societies in which they live.
Reviving the American Idea
Seasoned, clear-eyed leadership can take us far. We must draw on all the dimensions of American power and reject false choices driven by ideology rather than facts. An America that rebuilds its strength and recovers its principles will be an America that can spread the blessings of security and opportunity around the world. In 1825, 50 years after the Battle of Bunker Hill, the great secretary of state Daniel Webster laid the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument that stands today in Boston. He exulted in the simple fact that America had survived and flourished, and he celebrated “the benefit which the example of our country has produced, and is likely to produce, on human freedom and human happiness.” He gloried not in American power but rather in the power of the American idea, the idea that “with wisdom and knowledge men may govern themselves.” And he urged his audience, and all Americans, to maintain this example and “take care that nothing may weaken its authority with the world.”
Two centuries later, our economic power and military might have grown beyond anything that our forefathers could have imagined. But that power and might can only be sustained and renewed if we can regain our authority with the world, the authority not simply of a large and wealthy nation but of the American idea. If we can live up to that idea, if we can exercise our power wisely and well, we can make America great again.