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The Importance of American Leadership.

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Introduction

THE IMPORTANCE OF AMERICAN LEADERSHIP What I mean by leadership is just that: identifying, organizing, and leading coalitions of like-minded friends and allies in the service of shared interests. It does not mean doing everything by ourselves, any more than it means acting only when it serves our immediate, narrowly defined self-interest. The hallmark of leadership is "engagement," joining with others rather than going our own way or acting for those who will not meet their own responsibilities. Such leadership rests on a foundation of American self-interest -- shaping the international order in ways that advance our interests and reflect our values; but we must exercise that leadership in a way that makes clear to all that we are not embarked on a quest for hegemony or aggrandizement. The essence of U.S. leadership is presidential leadership. In foreign policy even more than domestic policy, only the president can set this country's objectives, establish priorities among them, and integrate them into a coherent whole. Likewise, only the president can identify, organize, and lead the international coalitions. But perhaps most important is the recognition that success at home is indispensable to effectiveness abroad, that the first task in exercising international leadership is to fashion and sustain support in the Congress and among the American people. That too, is a job which only the president can do. Nothing illustrates more vividly the case for American leadership than the Gulf War. ...read more.

Middle

Not only was the Soviet Union owed billions of dollars by Baghdad, but its hundreds of citizens in Iraq serving as civilian and military advisors were hostage to Iraqi intimidation. These very real-world circumstances made it that much harder for Moscow to take a courageous stand against Saddam. In the end, the Soviet Union stood tall under the courageous and visionary leadership of President Mikhail Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. In doing so, they made possible a response to Iraqi's invasion of Kuwait that remains a shining example of what can be accomplished when great nations transform what was once a confrontation among adversaries into cooperation among friends. The old habits of the Cold War were jettisoned, to be replaced by new-found practices of cooperation. The UN Security Council finally was allowed to operate the way its designers had intended it to respond to threats to international peace and security. (I also should note that the Security Council resolution authorizing member states to use "all means necessary" to end Iraqi aggression was critically important in subsequently getting our own Congress to acquiesce in the use of force.) That the Cold War no longer was the defining issue in our lives mattered enormously in explaining this result, but that obvious fact should not be allowed to obscure two other things that helped persuade the Soviet Union to play such a constructive role. ...read more.

Conclusion

All these stakes -- not just oil -- were put on the table when Iraq crossed into Kuwait. The world watched to see what the United States would do -- not only whether it would defend its vital interests but also whether it would stand up for what it believed in. For all these reasons, I knew immediately that we could not simply stand by and let Saddam's aggression succeed. Our response, Operation Desert Storm, reflected the integration of American interests and American values, not a choice between them. It was vivid evidence that U.S. leadership is and will remain indispensable both for protecting our interests and for achieving a world order that better reflects our values. Moreover, from a purely pragmatic perspective, it underscored that our moral authority is an indispensable element of our leadership. That is why I find debates about whether we should pursue a foreign policy grounded in "realism" or instead one guided by "idealism" often miss an essential point. To be effective, the exercise of American leadership in the post-Cold War world must be noble as well as self-interested, because if we are seen to be motivated only by our immediate, narrow interests, we will increasingly find ourselves isolated and alone. The effective exercise of American leadership requires both the capabilities that we as a superpower uniquely possess, and the will to use those capabilities. But leadership and strength alone are not enough. Leadership is the handmaiden of good policy, not its substitute. The hallmarks of good policy, in turn, are credibility, consistency, and selectivity. ...read more.

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