June 3, 1997
American foreign and defense policy is adrift. Conservatives have criticized the incoherent policies of the Clinton Administration. They have also resisted isolationist impulses from within their own ranks. But conservatives have not confidently advanced a strategic vision of America's role in the world. They have not set forth guiding principles for American foreign policy. They have allowed differences over tactics to obscure potential agreement on strategic objectives. And they have not fought for a defense budget that would maintain American security and advance American interests in the new century.
We aim to change this.
We aim to make the case and rally support for American global leadership.
As the 20th century
draws to a close, the United States stands as the world's preeminent power.
Having led the West to victory in the Cold War, America faces an opportunity
and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to build upon
the achievements of past decades? Does the United States have the resolve
to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?
We are in danger of
squandering the opportunity and failing the challenge. We are living off
the capital -- both the military investments and the foreign policy achievements
-- built up by past administrations. Cuts in foreign affairs and defense
spending, inattention to the tools of statecraft, and inconstant leadership
are making it increasingly difficult to sustain American influence around
the world. And the promise of short-term commercial benefits threatens
to override strategic considerations. As a consequence, we are jeopardizing
the nation's ability to meet present threats and to deal with potentially
greater challenges that lie ahead.
Of course, the United States must be prudent in how it exercises its power. But we cannot safely avoid the responsibilities of global leadership or the costs that are associated with its exercise. America has a vital role in maintaining peace and security in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. If we shirk our responsibilities, we invite challenges to our fundamental interests. The history of the 20th century should have taught us that it is important to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire. The history of this century should have taught us to embrace the cause of American leadership.
Our aim is to remind Americans of these lessons and to draw their consequences for today. Here are four consequences:
Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next.
William J. Bennett