Today, by almost all objective measures, the United States sits on top of the world. But the atmosphere in Washington could not be more different from 1982. We have become a nation consumed by fear, worried about terrorists and rogue nations, Muslims and Mexicans, foreign companies and free trade, immigrants and international organizations. The strongest nation in the history of the world, we see ourselves besieged and overwhelmed. While the Bush administration has contributed mightily to this state of affairs, at this point it has reversed itself on many of its most egregious policies—from global warming to North Korea to Iraq.
In any event, it is time to stop bashing George W. Bush. We must begin to think about life after Bush—a cheering prospect for his foes, a dismaying one for his fans (however few there may be at the moment). In 19 months he will be a private citizen, giving speeches to insurance executives. America, however, will have to move on and restore its place in the world. To do this we must first tackle the consequences of our foreign policy of fear. Having spooked ourselves into believing that we have no option but to act fast, alone, unilaterally and pre-emptively, we have managed in six years to destroy decades of international good will, alienate allies, embolden enemies and yet solve few of the major international problems we face.
In a global survey released last week, most countries polled believed that China would act more responsibly in the world than the United States. How does a Leninist dictatorship come across more sympathetically than the oldest constitutional democracy in the world?
Though Democrats sound more sensible on many of these issues, the party remains consumed by the fear that it will not come across as tough. Its presidential candidates vie with one another to prove that they are going to be just as macho and militant as the fiercest Republican. In the South Carolina presidential debate, when candidates were asked how they would respond to another terror strike, they promptly vowed to attack, retaliate and blast the hell out of, well, somebody. Barack Obama, the only one to answer differently, quickly realized his political vulnerability and dutifully threatened retaliation as well. After the debate, his opponents leaked furiously that his original response proved he didn't have the fortitude to be president.
In fact, Obama's initial response was the right one. He said that the first thing he would do was make sure that the emergency response was effective, then ensure we had the best intelligence possible to figure out who had caused the attack, and then move with allies to dismantle the network responsible.
We will never be able to prevent a small group of misfits from planning some terrible act of terror. No matter how far-seeing and competent our intelligence and law-enforcement officials, people will always be able to slip through the cracks in a large, open and diverse country. The real test of American leadership is not whether we can make 100 percent sure we prevent the attack, but rather how we respond to it.
Read the whole thing. This is what America needs to hear, not more tough-guy "Bomb Mecca and Tehran and Damascus! Double Gitmo! Close our borders and full cavity searches at every county border, because they all want to KILL YOU!" crap from the Rudy Giuliani's and Mitt Romney's of the world.