Rudolph W Giuliani. Foreign Affairs. Volume 86, Issue 5. September/October 2007.
The defining challenges of the twentieth century ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Full recognition of the first great challenge of the twenty-first century came with the attacks of September 11, 2001, even though Islamist terrorists had begun their assault on world order decades before. Confronted with an act of war on American soil, our old assumptions about conflict between nation-states fell away. Civilization itself, and the international system, had come under attack by a ruthless and radical Islamist enemy.
America and its allies have made progress since that terrible day. We have responded forcefully to the Terrorists’ War on Us, abandoning a decadelong—and counterproductive—strategy of defensive reaction in favor of a vigorous offense. And we have set in motion changes to the international system that promise a safer and better world for generations to come.
But this war will be long, and we are still in its early stages. Much like at the beginning of the Cold War, we are at the dawn of a new era in global affairs, when old ideas have to be rethought and new ideas have to be devised to meet new challenges.
The next U.S. president will face three key foreign policy challenges. First and foremost will be to set a course for victory in the terrorists’ war on global order. The second will be to strengthen the international system that the terrorists seek to destroy. The third will be to extend the benefits of the international system in an ever-widening arc of security and stability across the globe. The most effective means for achieving these goals are building a stronger defense, developing a determined diplomacy, and expanding our economic and cultural influence. Using all three, the next president can build the foundations of a lasting, realistic peace.
Achieving a realistic peace means balancing realism and idealism in our foreign policy. America is a nation that loves peace and hates war. At the core of all Americans is the belief that all human beings have certain inalienable rights that proceed from God but must be protected by the state. Americans believe that to the extent that nations recognize these rights within their own laws and customs, peace with them is achievable. To the extent that they do not, violence and disorder are much more likely. Preserving and extending American ideals must remain the goal of all U.S. policy, foreign and domestic. But unless we pursue our idealistic goals through realistic means, peace will not be achieved.
Idealism should define our ultimate goals; realism must help us recognize the road we must travel to achieve them. The world is a dangerous place. We cannot afford to indulge any illusions about the enemies we face. The Terrorists’ War on Us was encouraged by unrealistic and inconsistent actions taken in response to terrorist attacks in the past. A realistic peace can only be achieved through strength.
A realistic peace is not a peace to be achieved by embracing the “realist” school of foreign policy thought. That doctrine defines America’s interests too narrowly and avoids attempts to reform the international system according to our values. To rely solely on this type of realism would be to cede the advantage to our enemies in the complex war of ideas and ideals. It would also place too great a hope in the potential for diplomatic accommodation with hostile states. And it would exaggerate America’s weaknesses and downplay America’s strengths. Our economy is the strongest in the developed world. Our political system is far more stable than those of the world’s rising economic giants. And the United States is the world’s premier magnet for global talent and capital.
Still, the realist school offers some valuable insights, in particular its insistence on seeing the world as it is and on tempering our expectations of what American foreign policy can achieve. We cannot achieve peace by promising too much or indulging false hopes. This next decade can be a positive era for our country and the world so long as the next president realistically mobilizes the 9/11 generation for the momentous tasks ahead.
Winning the Early Battles of the Long War
The first step toward a realistic peace is to be realistic about our enemies. They follow a violent ideology: radical Islamic fascism, which uses the mask of religion to further totalitarian goals and aims to destroy the existing international system. These enemies wear no uniform. They have no traditional military assets. They rule no states but can hide and operate in virtually any of them and are supported by some.
Above all, we must understand that our enemies are emboldened by signs of weakness. Radical Islamic terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, the Khobar Towers facility in Saudi Arabia in 1996, our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and the U.S.S. Cole in 2000. In some instances, we responded inadequately. In others, we failed to respond at all. Our retreat from Lebanon in 1983 and from Somalia in 1993 convinced them that our will was weak.
We must learn from these experiences for the long war that lies ahead. It is almost certain that U.S. troops will still be fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan when the next president takes office. The purpose of this fight must be to defeat the terrorists and the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and to allow these countries to become members of the international system in good standing. We must be under no illusions that either Iraq or Afghanistan will quickly attain the levels of peace and security enjoyed in the developed world today. Our aim should be to help them build accountable, functioning governments that can serve the needs of their populations, reduce violence within their borders, and eliminate the export of terror. As violence decreases and security improves, more responsibility can and should be turned over to local security forces. But some U.S. forces will need to remain for some time in order to deter external threats.
We cannot predict when our efforts will be successful. But we can predict the consequences of failure: Afghanistan would revert to being a safe haven for terrorists, and Iraq would become another one—larger, richer, and more strategically located. Parts of Iraq would undoubtedly fall under the sway of our enemies, particularly Iran, which would use its influence to direct even more terror at U.S. interests and U.S. allies than it does today. The balance of power in the Middle East would tip further toward terror, extremism, and repression. America’s influence and prestige—not just in the Middle East but around the world—would be dealt a shattering blow. Our allies would conclude that we cannot back up our commitments with sustained action. Our enemies—both terrorists and rogue states—would be emboldened. They would see further opportunities to weaken the international state system that is the primary defense of civilization. Much as our enemies in the 1990s concluded from our inconsistent response to terrorism then, our enemies today would conclude that America’s will is weak and the civilization we pledged to defend is tired. Failure would be an invitation for more war, in even more difficult and dangerous circumstances.
America must remember one of the lessons of the Vietnam War. Then, as now, we fought a war with the wrong strategy for several years. And then, as now, we corrected course and began to show real progress. Many historians today believe that by about 1972 we and our South Vietnamese partners had succeeded in defeating the Vietcong insurgency and in setting South Vietnam on a path to political self-sufficiency. But America then withdrew its support, allowing the communist North to conquer the South. The consequences were dire, and not only in Vietnam: numerous deaths in places such as the killing fields of Cambodia, a newly energized and expansionist Soviet Union, and a weaker America. The consequences of abandoning Iraq would be worse.
Our goal is to see in Iraq and Afghanistan the emergence of stable governments and societies that can act as our allies against the terrorists and not as breeding grounds for expanded terrorist activities. Succeeding in Iraq and Afghanistan is necessary but not sufficient. Ultimately, these are only two battlegrounds in a wider war. The United States must not rest until the al Qaeda network is destroyed and its leaders, from Osama bin Laden on down, are killed or captured. And the United States must not rest until the global terrorist movement and its ideology are defeated.
Much of that fight will take place in the shadows. It will be the work of intelligence operatives, paramilitary groups, and Special Operations forces. It will also require close relationships with other governments and local forces. The next U.S. president should direct our armed forces to emphasize such work, in part because local forces are best able to operate in their home countries and in part in order to reduce the strain on our own troops.
A Stronger Defense
For 15 years, the de facto policy of both Republicans and Democrats has been to ask the U.S. military to do increasingly more with increasingly less. The idea of a post-Cold War “peace dividend” was a serious mistake—the product of wishful thinking and the opposite of true realism. As a result of taking this dividend, our military is too small to meet its current commitments or shoulder the burden of any additional challenges that might arise. We must rebuild a military force that can deter aggression and meet the wide variety of present and future challenges. When America appears bogged down and unready to face aggressors, it invites conflict.
The U.S. Army needs a minimum of ten new combat brigades. It may need more, but this is an appropriate baseline increase while we reevaluate our strategies and resources. We must also take a hard look at other requirements, especially in terms of submarines, modern long-range bombers, and in-flight refueling tankers. Rebuilding will not be cheap, but it is necessary. And the benefits will outweigh the costs.
The next U.S. president must also press ahead with building a national missile defense system. America can no longer rely on Cold War doctrines such as “mutual assured destruction” in the face of threats from hostile, unstable regimes. Nor can it ignore the possibility of nuclear blackmail. Rogue regimes that know they can threaten America, our allies, and our interests with ballistic missiles will behave more aggressively, including by increasing their support for terrorists. On the other hand, the knowledge that America and our allies could intercept and destroy incoming missiles would not only make blackmail less likely but also decrease the appeal of ballistic missile programs and so help to slow their development and proliferation. It is well within our capability to field a layered missile defense capable of shielding us from the arsenals of the world’s most dangerous states. President George W. Bush deserves credit for changing America’s course on this issue. But progress needs to be accelerated.
An even greater danger is the possibility of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil with a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapon. Every effort must be made to improve our intelligence capabilities and technological capacities to prevent this. Constellations of satellites that can watch arms factories everywhere around the globe, day and night, above- and belowground, combined with more robust human intelligence, must be part of America’s arsenal. The laudable and effective Proliferation Security Initiative, a global effort to stop the shipment of weapons of mass destruction and related materials, should be expanded and strengthened. In particular, we must work to deter the development, transfer, or use of weapons of mass destruction. We must also develop the capability to prevent an attack—including a clandestine attack—by those who cannot be deterred. Rogue states must be prevented from handing nuclear materials to terrorist groups. Our enemies must know that they cannot murder our citizens with impunity and escape retaliation.
We must also develop detection systems to identify nuclear material that is being imported into the United States or developed by operatives inside the country. Heightened and more comprehensive security measures at our ports and borders must be enacted as rapidly as possible. And our national security agencies must work much more closely with our homeland security and law enforcement agencies. We must preserve the gains made by the U.S.A. Patriot Act and not unrealistically limit electronic surveillance or legal interrogation. Preventing a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attack on our homeland must be the federal government’s top priority. We must construct a technological and intelligence shield that is effective against all delivery methods.
Military victories are essential, but they are not enough. A lasting, realistic peace will be achieved when more effective diplomacy, combined with greater economic and cultural integration, helps the people of the Middle East understand that they have a stake in the success of the international system.
To achieve a realistic peace, some of what we need to do can and must be accomplished through our own efforts. But much more requires international cooperation, and cooperation requires diplomacy.
In recent years, diplomacy has received a bad name, because of two opposing perspectives. One side denigrates diplomacy because it believes that negotiation is inseparable from accommodation and almost indistinguishable from surrender. The other seemingly believes that diplomacy can solve nearly all problems, even those involving people dedicated to our destruction. When such efforts fail, as they inevitably do, diplomacy itself is blamed, rather than the flawed approach that led to their failure.
America has been most successful as a world leader when it has used strength and diplomacy hand in hand. To achieve a realistic peace, U.S. diplomacy must be tightly linked to our other strengths: military, economic, and moral. Whom we choose to talk to is as important as what we say. Diplomacy should never be a tool that our enemies can manipulate to their advantage. Holding serious talks may be advisable even with our adversaries, but not with those bent on our destruction or those who cannot deliver on their agreements.
Iran is a case in point. The Islamic Republic has been determined to attack the international system throughout its entire existence: it took U.S. diplomats hostage in 1979 and seized British sailors in 2007 and during the decades in between supported terrorism and murder. But Tehran invokes the protections of the international system when doing so suits it, hiding behind the principle of sovereignty to stave off the consequences of its actions. This is not to say that talks with Iran cannot possibly work. They could—but only if we came to the table in a position of strength, knowing what we wanted.
The next U.S. president should take inspiration from Ronald Reagan’s actions during his summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik in 1986: he was open to the possibility of negotiations but ready to walk away if talking went nowhere. The lesson is never talk for the sake of talking and never accept a bad deal for the sake of making a deal. Those with whom we negotiate—whether ally or adversary—must know that America has other options. The theocrats ruling Iran need to understand that we can wield the stick as well as the carrot, by undermining popular support for their regime, damaging the Iranian economy, weakening Iran’s military, and, should all else fail, destroying its nuclear infrastructure.
For diplomacy to succeed, the U.S. government must be united. Adversaries naturally exploit divisions. Members of Congress who talk directly to rogue regimes at cross-purposes with the White House are not practicing diplomacy; they are undermining it. The task of a president is not merely to set priorities but to ensure that they are pursued across the government. It is only when they are—and when Washington can negotiate from a position of strength—that negotiations will yield results. As President John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address, “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”
Another step in rebuilding a strong diplomacy will be to make changes in the State Department and the Foreign Service. The time has come to refine the diplomats’ mission down to their core purpose: presenting U.S. policy to the rest of the world. Reforming the State Department is a matter not of changing its organizational chart—although simplification is needed—but of changing the way we practice diplomacy and the way we measure results. Our ambassadors must clearly understand and clearly advocate for U.S. policies and be judged on the results. Too many people denounce our country or our policies simply because they are confident that they will not hear any serious refutation from our representatives. The American ideals of freedom and democracy deserve stronger advocacy. And the era of cost-free anti-Americanism must end.
Since leaving the New York City mayor’s office, I have traveled to 35 different countries. It is clear that we need to do a better job of explaining America’s message and mission to the rest of the world, not by imposing our ideas on others but by appealing to their enlightened self-interest. To this end, the Voice of America program must be significantly strengthened and broadened. Its surrogate stations, such as Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, which were so effective at inspiring grass-roots dissidents during the Cold War, must be expanded as well. Our entire approach to public diplomacy and strategic communications must be upgraded and extended, with a greater focus on new media such as the Internet. We confront multifaceted challenges in the Middle East, the Pacific region, Africa, and Latin America. In all these places, effective communication can be a powerful way of advancing our interests. We will not shy away from any debate. And armed with honest advocacy, America will win the war of ideas.
Strengthening the International System
The next U.S. president will share the world stage with a new generation of leaders, few of whom were in office when the attacks of 9/11 occurred but all of whom have been influenced by their impact. This will be a rare opportunity for American leadership to make the case that our common interest lies in defeating the terrorists and strengthening the international system.
Defeating the terrorists must be our principal priority in the near future, but we do not have the luxury of focusing on it to the exclusion of other goals. World events unfold whether the United States is engaged or not, and when we are not, they often unfold in ways that are against our interests. The art of managing a large enterprise is to multitask, and so U.S. foreign policy must always be multidimensional.
A primary goal for our diplomacy—whether directed toward great powers, developing states, or international institutions—must be to strengthen the international system, which most of the world has a direct interest in seeing function well. After all, the system helps keep the peace and provide prosperity. Some theorists say that it is outmoded and display either too much faith in globalization or assume that the age of the sovereign state is coming to a close. These views are naive. There is no realistic alternative to the sovereign state system. Transnational terrorists and other rogue actors have difficulty operating where the state system is strong, and they flourish where it is weak. This is the reason they try to exploit its weaknesses.
We should therefore work to strengthen the international system through America’s relations with other great powers, both long established and rising. We should regard no great power as our inherent adversary. We should continue to fully engage with Europe, both in its collective capacity as the European Union and through our special relationship with the United Kingdom and our traditional diplomatic relations with France, Germany, Italy, and other western European nations. We highly value our ties with the states of central and eastern Europe and the Baltic and Balkan nations. Their experience of oppression under communism has made them steadfast allies and strong advocates of economic freedom.
America is grateful to NATO for the vital functions it is performing in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Yet NATO’s role and character should be reexamined. For almost 60 years, it has been a vital bond connecting the United States and Europe. But its founding rationale dissolved with the end of the Cold War, and the alliance should be transformed to meet the challenges of this new century. NATO has already expanded to include former adversaries, taken on roles for which it was not originally conceived, and acted beyond its original theater. We should build on these successes and think more boldly and more globally. We should open the organization’s membership to any state that meets basic standards of good governance, military readiness, and global responsibility, regardless of its location. The new NATO should dedicate itself to confronting significant threats to the international system, from territorial aggression to terrorism. I hope that NATO members will see the wisdom in such changes. NATO must change with the times, and its members must always match their rhetorical commitment with action and investment. In return, America can assure them that we will be there for them in times of crisis. They stood by America after 9/11, and America will never forget.
As important as America’s Western alliances are, we must recognize that America will often be best served by turning also to its other friends, old and new. Much of America’s future will be linked to the already established and still rising powers of Asia. These states share with us a clear commitment to economic growth, and they must be given at least as much attention as Europe. Our alliance with Japan, which has been strengthened considerably under this administration, is a rock of stability in Asia. South Korea has been a key to security in Northeast Asia and an important contributor to international peace. Australia, our distant but long-standing ally, continues to assume a greater role in world affairs and acts as a steadfast defender of international standards and security. U.S. cooperation with India on issues ranging from intelligence to naval patrols and civil nuclear power will serve as a pillar of security and prosperity in South Asia.
U.S. relations with China and Russia will remain complex for the foreseeable future. Americans have no wish to return to the tensions of the Cold War or to launch a new one. We must seek common ground without turning a blind eye to our differences with these two countries. Like America, they have a fundamental stake in the health of the international system. But too often, their governments act shortsightedly, undermining their long-term interest in international norms for the sake of near-term gains. Even as we work with these countries on economic and security issues, the U.S. government should not be silent about their unhelpful behavior or human rights abuses. Washington should also make clear that only if China and Russia move toward democracy, civil liberties, and an open and uncorrupted economy will they benefit from the vast possibilities available in the world today.
Our relationships with other American nations remain of primary importance. Canada and Mexico, our two closest neighbors, are our two largest trading partners. With them, we share a continent, a free-trade agreement, and a commitment to peace, prosperity, and freedom. Latin America faces a choice between the failures of the past and the hopes of the future. Some look to the governments of Bolivia and Venezuela, and their mentor in Cuba, and see an inevitable path to greater statism. But elections in Colombia, Mexico, and Peru show that the spirit of free-market reform is alive and well among our southern neighbors. Cuba has long stood out in Latin America, first as one of the region’s most successful economies, later as its only communist police state. The death of Fidel Castro may begin a new chapter in Cuban history. But America should take nothing for granted. It must stand ready to help the Cuban people reclaim their liberty and resist any step that allows a decrepit, corrupt regime from consolidating its power under Raul Castro. Only a commitment to free people and free markets will bring a prosperous future to Cuba and all of Latin America.
More people in the United States need to understand how helping Africa today will help increase peace and decency throughout the world tomorrow. The next president should continue the Bush administration’s effort to help Africa overcome AIDS and malaria. The international community must also learn from the mistakes that allowed the genocide in Darfur to begin and have prevented the relevant international organizations from ending it. The world’s commitment to end genocide has been sidestepped again and again. Ultimately, the most important thing we can do to help Africa is to increase trade with the continent. U.S. government aid is important, but aid not linked to reform perpetuates bad policies and poverty. It is better to give people a hand up than a handout.
Finally, we need to look realistically at America’s relationship with the United Nations. The organization can be useful for some humanitarian and peacekeeping functions, but we should not expect much more of it. The UN has proved irrelevant to the resolution of almost every major dispute of the last 50 years. Worse, it has failed to combat terrorism and human rights abuses. It has not lived up to the great hopes that inspired its creation. Too often, it has been weak, indecisive, and outright corrupt. The UN’s charter and the speeches of its members’ leaders have meant little because its members’ deeds have frequently fallen short. International law and institutions exist to serve peoples and nations, but many leaders act as if the reverse were true—that is, as if institutions, not the ends to be achieved, were the important thing.
Despite the UN’s flaws, however, the great objectives of humanity would become even more difficult to achieve without mechanisms for international discussion. History has shown that such institutions work best when the United States leads them. Yet we cannot take for granted that they will work forever and must be prepared to look to other tools.
Extending the International System’s Benefits
Most of the problems in the world today arise from places where the state system is broken or has never functioned. Much of the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America remains mired in poverty, corruption, anarchy, and terror. But there is nothing inevitable about this. For all these troubled cases, there are many more success stories that deserve to be celebrated. The number of functioning democracies in the world has tripled since the 1970s. The poverty rate in the developing world has been cut by roughly one-third since the end of the Cold War. Millions of people have been liberated from oppression and fear. Progress is not only possible, it is real. And it must continue to be real.
America has a clear interest in helping to establish good governance throughout the world. Democracy is a noble ideal, and promoting it abroad is the right long-term goal of U.S. policy. But democracy cannot be achieved rapidly or sustained unless it is built on sound legal, institutional, and cultural foundations. It can only work if people have a reasonable degree of safety and security. Elections are necessary but not sufficient to establish genuine democracy. Aspiring dictators sometimes win elections, and elected leaders sometimes govern badly and threaten their neighbors. History demonstrates that democracy usually follows good governance, not the reverse. U.S. assistance can do much to set nations on the road to democracy, but we must be realistic about how much we can accomplish alone and how long it will take to achieve lasting progress.
The election of Hamas in the Palestinian-controlled territories is a case in point. The problem there is not the lack of statehood but corrupt and unaccountable governance. The Palestinian people need decent governance first, as a prerequisite for statehood. Too much emphasis has been placed on brokering negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians—negotiations that bring up the same issues again and again. It is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism. Palestinian statehood will have to be earned through sustained good governance, a clear commitment to fighting terrorism, and a willingness to live in peace with Israel. America’s commitment to Israel’s security is a permanent feature of our foreign policy.
The next president must champion human rights and speak out when they are violated. America should continue to use its influence to bring attention to individual abuses and use a full range of inducements and pressures to try to end them. Securing the rights of men, women, and children everywhere should be a core commitment of any country that counts itself as part of the civilized world. Whether with friends, allies, or adversaries, democracy will always be an issue in our relations and part of the conversation. And so the better a country’s record on good governance, human rights, and democratic development, the better its relations with the United States will be. Those countries that want our help in moving toward these ideals will have it.
Using Economic and Cultural Influence
Economic development and engagement are proven, if not fail-safe, engines for successfully moving countries into the international system. America’s robust domestic economy is one of its greatest strengths. Other nations have found that following the U.S. model—with low taxes, sensible regulations, protections for private property, and free trade—brings not only national wealth but also national strength. These principles are not ascendant everywhere, but never has it been clearer that they work.
Ever more open trade throughout the world is essential. Bilateral and regional free-trade agreements are often positive for all involved, but we must not allow them to become special arrangements that undermine a truly global trading system. Foreign aid can help overcome specific problems, but it does not lead to lasting prosperity because it cannot replace trade. Private direct investment is the best way to promote economic development. The next U.S. president should thus revitalize and streamline all U.S. foreign-aid activities to support—not substitute for—private investment in other countries.
Our cultural and commercial influence can also have a positive impact. They did during the Cold War. The steadfast leadership of President Reagan, working alongside British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, helped the Soviet Union understand that it could not bully the West into submission. Although such leadership was essential, alone it might not have toppled the Soviet Union in the time that it did. But it was effective because it came with Western economic investment and cultural influence that inspired people in the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries. Companies such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Levi’s helped win the Cold War by entering the Soviet market. Cultural events, such as Van Cliburn’s concerts in the Soviet Union and Mstislav Rostropovich’s in the United States, also hastened change.
Today, we need a similar type of exchange with the Muslim countries that we hope to plug into the global economy. Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates are pointing the way by starting to interpret Islam in ways that respect the distinctiveness of their local cultures but are consistent with the global marketplace. Some of these states have coeducational schools, allow women to serve in government, and count shopping malls that sell Western and Arab goods side by side. Their leaders recognize that modernization is their ticket to the global marketplace. And the global marketplace can build bridges between the West and the Islamic world in a way that promotes mutual respect and mutual benefit.
Economic investment and cultural influence work best where civil society already exists. But sometimes America will be compelled to act in those parts of the world where few institutions function properly—those zones that lack not only good governance but any governance—and in states teetering on the edge of conflict or recovering from it. Faced with a choice between leaving a troubled zone to anarchy or helping build functioning civil societies with accountable governments that can serve as bulwarks against barbarism, the American people will choose the latter.
To assist these missions, the next U.S. president should restructure and coordinate all the agencies involved in that process. A hybrid military-civilian organization—a Stabilization and Reconstruction Corps staffed by specially trained military and civilian reservists—must be developed. The agency would undertake tasks such as building roads, sewers, and schools; advising on legal reform; and restoring local currencies. The United States did similar work, and with great success, in Germany, Japan, and Italy after World War II. But even with the rich civic traditions in these nations, the process took a number of years. We must learn from our past if we want to win the peace as well as the war.
Civilization must stand up and combat the current collapse of governance, the rise of violence, and the spread of chaos and fear in many parts of the world. To turn back this tide of terror and defeat the violent forces of disorder wherever they appear, America must play an even more active role to strengthen the international state system.
In this decade, for the first time in human history, half of the world’s population will live in cities. I know from personal experience that when security is reliably established in a troubled part of a city, normal life rapidly reestablishes itself: shops open, people move back in, children start playing ball on the sidewalks again, and soon a decent and law-abiding community returns to life. The same is true in world affairs. Disorder in the world’s bad neighborhoods tends to spread. Tolerating bad behavior breeds more bad behavior. But concerted action to uphold international standards will help peoples, economies, and states to thrive. Civil society can triumph over chaos if it is backed by determined action.
After the attacks of 9/11, President Bush put America on the offensive against terrorists, orchestrating the most fundamental change in U.S. strategy since President Harry Truman reoriented American foreign and defense policy at the outset of the Cold War. But times and challenges change, and our nation must be flexible. President Dwight Eisenhower and his successors accepted Truman’s framework, but they corrected course to fit the specific challenges of their own times. America’s next president must also craft polices to fit the needs of the decade ahead, even as the nation stays on the offensive against the terrorist threat.
The 9/11 generation has learned from the history of the twentieth century that America must not turn a blind eye to gathering storms. We must base our trust on the actions, rather than the words, of others. And we must be on guard against overpromising and underdelivering. Above all, we have learned that evil must be confronted—not appeased—because only principled strength can lead to a realistic peace.