Reengaging With the World
A Return to Moral Leadership
John Edwards, From
, September/October 2007
In the wake of the Iraq debacle, we must restore America's reputation for moral
leadership and reengage with the world. We must move beyond the empty slogan 'war on
terror' and create a genuine national security policy that is built on hope, not fear. Only
then can America once again become a beacon to the world.
John Edwards, a former U.S. Senator from North Carolina, is a candidate for the
Democratic presidential nomination.
At the dawn of a new century and on the brink of a new presidency, the United States
today needs to reclaim the moral high ground that defined our foreign policy for much of
the last century.
We must move beyond the wreckage created by one of the greatest strategic failures in
U.S. history: the war in Iraq. Rather than alienating the rest of the world through
assertions of infallibility and demands of obedience, as the current administration has
done, U.S. foreign policy must be driven by a strategy of reengagement. We must
reengage with our history of courage, liberty, and generosity. We must reengage with our
tradition of moral leadership on issues ranging from the killings in Darfur to global
poverty and climate change. We must reengage with our allies on critical security issues,
including terrorism, the Middle East, and nuclear proliferation. With confidence and
resolve, we must reengage with those who pose a security threat to us, from Iran to North
Korea. And our government must reengage with the American people to restore our
nation's reputation as a moral beacon to the world, tapping into our fundamental hope and
optimism and calling on our citizens' commitment and courage to make this possible. We
must lead the world by demonstrating the power of our ideals, not by stoking fear about
those who do not share them.
The last century saw tremendous advances in the human condition -- from increased
economic prosperity to the spread of human rights and the emergence of a truly global
community. But the century also brought two devastating world wars, the death of
millions, and a Cold War that lasted two generations and risked the end of humanity. The
new century, too, will bring both promise and peril. We can look forward to incredible
technological advances in communications and medicine and an expanding world
economy that will lift millions out of poverty while raising the standards of living for
working people at home and abroad.
But we must also prepare for a world filled with new risks: the increasing reach of
nonstate actors who reject our very way of life, the consequences of global climate
change, and the possibility that dangerous technology will fall into the wrong hands. We
can lead the world through these challenges, just as the United States led the world
through the challenges of the previous century. But we can only do so if we reclaim the
trust and respect of those countries whose cooperation we need but whose will we cannot