One could argue that the Bush/Cheney response to 9.11–which is synonomous, really, with Bush/Cheney foreign policy–only represented the worst, conditioned response of most Americans. That is, if we have a problem, it’s someone else’s fault and it must be solved *now,* to our complete and immediate satisfaction. . In foreign affairs-even more than in our own economic mess–the next President must establish early that the only solid solutions are those whose success is likely to be confirmed in someone else’s Presidency. I think it was either Acheson or Rusk who said that 70-80% of the Secretary of State’s job is to build consensus at home behind a coherent strategy abroad.
“We are in a struggle against Islamic extremism, but it is more like the cold war than a hot war—a long, mostly peacetime challenge in which a leader must be willing to use military power but also know when not to do so. Perhaps the wisest American president during the cold war was Dwight Eisenhower, and his greatest virtues were those of balance, judgment and restraint. He knew we were in a contest with the Soviet Union, but—at a time when the rest of the country was vastly inflating the threat—he put it in considerable perspective. Eisenhower refused to follow the French into Vietnam or support the British at Suez. He turned down several requests for new weapons systems and missiles, and instead used defense dollars to build the interstate highway system and make other investments in improving America’s economic competitiveness. Those are the kinds of challenges that the next president truly needs to address.
In a sense, the warriors are pessimists. In the old days they were scared that communists would destroy America. Today they rail that Al Qaeda and Iran threaten our way of life. In fact, America is an extremely powerful country, with a unique and extraordinary set of strengths. The only way that position can truly be eroded is by its own actions and overreactions—by unwise and imprudent leadership. A good way to start correcting the errors of the past would be to recognize that we are not at war.
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