Friday, December 4th 2015
“In recent years, challenges at home and abroad have led some Americans to question the value of US international engagement and our ability to be effective overseas. Some have wondered, at a time of economic uncertainty, whether the United States should mind its own business and focus on nation building at home.” Two former senators, John Kyl and Joseph Lieberman, examined this trend in a report, “Why American leadership still matters,” issued by the American Enterprise Institute on December 3, 2015. They explored three dimensions of international leadership by the United States – security, prosperity, and principles of freedom.
In the third section, the two Senators discuss “Many Tools in Our Toolbox.” Here are just a few bullet points:
- The tragic events of 9/11 and the prolonged and bloody conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have led some Americans to equate global engagement with military conflict. In fact, going to war is the exception, not the rule.
- There will be some cases where upholding freedom or protecting our national security will require the force of arms because some global bullies speak no other language. Whether the US is seeking to confront al Qaeda or ISIS, or other groups carrying out genocide, some emergencies will have passed the point where diplomacy and peaceful persuasion can be effective.
- . . . being a global leader does not mean going to war. In fact, sometimes it means doing the hard, patient work required to prevent a war. As General James Mattis once said, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.” Our many forms of nonmilitary international engagement include * * * * *
Rhetoric, speeches, and conversations among American leaders and foreign governments, citizens, and organizations, in person or through media outlets such as Voice of America or Radio Free Europe, and via governmental institutions or nongovernmental organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy and other US government–supported democracy promotion organizations. * * * * *
Working through international institutions to infuse our values and interests . . . * * * * *
People-to-people programs, including fellowships, study abroad programs, and other activities to foster understanding between citizens of different nations. * * * * *
Trade, entrepreneurship, and business programs to help American businesses sell goods to customers overseas, as well as programs to build international entrepreneurship and ability so that these countries innovate for global benefit. * * * * *
- American leadership, foreign policy, diplomacy, and generosity—infused and empowered by America’s principles of freedom—have fueled the expansion of freedom and human dignity and continue to do so in both example and deed. Americans should not forget that, while imperfect, the United States has been an indispensable force of good in the world. The world is freer, more prosperous, healthier, and safer as a result—and this benefits both Americans and people around the world.
- The United States has fallen short—both within and outside its borders—in trying to live up to these values. We should never hesitate to admit that or to remember that not every good intention produces the desired results.
- But neither should these failings make us hesitant to support freedom in the world. As we continue the permanent effort to form a “more perfect Union” at home, we can and should support those who are struggling to do the same in their own nations. This is neither hypocritical nor about imposing our values.