Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Everybody would like a more "friendly" US

The world is dissatisfied with American leadership. Shocked and frightened after 9/11, we put forward an angry face to the globe, not one that reflected the more traditional American values of hope and optimism, tolerance and opportunity.

This fearful approach has hurt the United States' ability to bring allies to its cause, but it is not too late to change. The nation should embrace a smarter strategy that blends our "hard" and "soft" power -- our ability to attract and persuade, as well as our ability to use economic and military might. Whether it is ending the crisis in Pakistan, winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, deterring Iran's and North Korea's nuclear ambitions, managing China's rise or improving the lives of those left behind by globalization, the United States needs a broader, more balanced approach.

Lest anyone think that this approach is weak or naive, remember that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates used a major speech on Nov. 26 "to make the case for strengthening our capacity to use 'soft' power and for better integrating it with 'hard' power." We -- one Republican, one Democrat -- have devoted our lives to promoting American preeminence as a force for good in the world. But the United States cannot stay on top without strong and willing allies and partners. Over the past six years, too many people have confused sharing the burden with relinquishing power. In fact, when we let others help, we are extending U.S. influence, not diminishing it.

Since 9/11, the war on terrorism has shaped this isolating outlook, becoming the central focus of U.S. engagement with the world. The threat from terrorists with global reach is likely to be with us for decades. But unless they have weapons of mass destruction, groups such as al-Qaeda pose no existential threat to the United States -- unlike our old foes Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

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