“[T]he United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.”
-President Barack Obama, addressing the United States Military Academy commencement ceremony, May 28,2014
Just because we start seeing the world without looking at it through a lens of war doesn’t mean we have stopped loving it. Rather, our relationship has grown. Its nature has changed. It is time to let the world finish its rebellion against our authority, presumed or actual, and let it go, let it fly.
“But the world is changing with accelerating speed.”
Perhaps President Obama’s recent declarations about our changing military role is a correlation to having two growing daughters, getting closer to leaving the nest and living on their own. Maybe he’s just trying to get us all to see, it’s time to release our young, and, if we have raised them right, watch them soar.
“The question we face, the question each of you will face, is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead — not just to secure our peace and prosperity, but also extend peace and prosperity around the globe.”
We never asked to be the world’s parental nest. We never asked. But we had the most money, the most successful populace with a laissez faire attitude about world affairs, and the biggest fist, the strongest hammer. Yet, as President Obama said at the West Point graduation, last week, “Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”
“[T]o say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution.”
There is difficulty in letting go of power, but there is greater difficulty in using it in unwelcome ways, like missile firing drones and monitored cellphones. If we want to have a relationship with the world, we must allow that relationship to evolve. Once we have stopped being the heavy hand with the rest of the planet, we can be the tender touch to nurture, from the strength of knowing how to get things done, what a free world creates.
That won’t be easy, mostly because the time of the United States being trusted to get things done was pretty much relegated to myth, ever since Colin Powell wagged a vial of Saddam’s “imminent threat” (which was neither a threat, nor was it imminent) at the United Nations Security Council in 2003. It was the legend with which we boastfully imbued ourselves for half a century, coming out on the winning side of two world wars (the last of which resulted in veterans actually being taken care of), propped up by Hollywood and exploited by politicians. Whether it was ever true after the 1970s is arguable. The only thing that kept it alive that long was the legacy of a strong middle class, supported by good union jobs and high taxes.
When the basis of your vision for America as the “greatest country on Earth” is rooted in soil that’s been dead for decades, you have to find a plot on a nearby field and plant anew, before the drying, prideful stalk on which we now find ourselves turns to dust.
Not talking revolution. This is a progressive evolution.
And it won’t happen with the current DC dynamic – an intransigent Congress that views any military disengagement as weakness, any unilateral action taken by the executive branch to ease tensions between us and our enemies (and to rescue American soldiers) as an unconstitutional power grab, and a chief executive doing whatever the law allows to satisfy those of us who voted for him (twice), as he tries to reconcile his legacy with the Nobel Prize he won when his administration began.
But it will happen.
In spite of decades of screw-ups on the international stage, we know how to come together to build something. It’s in our DNA, part of the nature of our republic. We can step back without stepping aside, and bring compromise and consensus back to Washington. But it will require true democracy to prevail, rather than the one bought by billionaires and run by millionaires. For that to happen, we have to commit to sowing the real grassroots, so roll up your sleeves and bring your shovel. This is going to be hard work.