I actually wrote this last August, prior to the November 2006 elections and have edited it only slightly to bring it to date. It's rather a long post, so bear with me as it begins to set a theme for the future. Let me know what you think.
Recasting our framework...leadership in a changing world
We have a severe lack of leadership in this country. We seem to lack the understanding that it's not always all about us. It's not us vs them. It's about mutual benefit...or at least mutual tolerance. Win/Win. Remember. Talk of "victory in Iraq" and "winning the war on terror" is counterproductive because it means we win and they lose. But who are they? This is not about killing all the terrorists, which of course cannot ever happen. One cliche is largely true...it's about reviving the hearts, minds, and spirit of the people...both here in the US and in all countries of the world. We cannot impose our beliefs on everyone. Democracy is by defiition not something a government can impose on its people; it's what the people impose on the government. We certainly cannot impose our democracy on other countries. To attempt to do so clearly communicates to them that we think we're better than they are...that we are the crusaders come to impose our righteousness on them (sound familiar). It just cannot be done. Instead we should be leading the way to show the people of all countries what they have to gain from using their voices, as opposed to their guns. Show them what can be accomplished when you focus on working together for mutual benefit rather than the poverty and destruction of continued armed terrorism. Terrorism is self-sustaining...terrorists lose their cause and instead become their own cause. We need to empower the people to take back their cause, their paths forward, their control of their lives so they don't rely on the terrorists to try to do it for them. This will take leadership on our part...and on the part of the governments in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, and most certainly in the UN. Will it be difficult? Yes. Are governments corrupt? Yes. Must we have integrity? Yes. Will we be universally successful? No. But it must be done. Using coercion via superior weaponry has got us to the point where trust in the US is so low that Iran has actually become a leading influencer of events.
But the same is happening here in domestic policy. After 40 years of Democratic control of congress, and constant complaints by Republicans that the Democrats were abusing their power...the Republicans took that abuse to new heights (lows?) once they got control and the Democrats complain. The current administration and the now ousted Republican Congress seems to think that they have the "moral authority" to impose their holier than thou views on the country (lest they forget the closeness of the last two presidential elections). Republicans in power felt that they could dictate what we all must think and do...because they know what's right. But what happened to governing for all of the people...not just the ones that agree with you or that you favor? So what of the Democrats? As the minority party in congress they by definition had less power to decide things than the majority. But that doesn't mean they couldn't stand up for the others (defined as those not favored by the majority). Now that the Democrat have back control of both houses of congress, will they revert to the us vs them approaches that both parties succumbed to whenever in power, or will they finally learn the lessons of history. Again, congress is elected to govern for its constituents, which is us. Which brings me to the next level of lack of leadership - us! We, the people, as our founders so elequently put it. Why have so many of us become so partisan? Why is it an us vs them mentality? Why do so many of us vote based on one narrow issue that we don't even bother to fully understand rather than insist that our representatives tell us the truth and give us the information we need to make informed decisions. We have the responsibility to elect representatives that will address the important issues of our time. Yet, we reelect the same people year after year in large part because we know their names and don't even care what they do. Witness the amount of pandering that has been going on the last few months (and years) by congress trying to get reelected. It's embarrassing, but then so is the fact that we let it work on us. Votes are transparently designed to appease/inflame one special interest or another, rather than working through the difficult issues that will have long-term impact on our economy, our national security, and our leadership role in the world.
One note of warning. Look at Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, India, others and their activities regarding nuclear weapons. Look at the massive economic expansion (and impact on natural resources) of China. Look at the resurgence of the "Soviet" mindset of Vladimir Putin. Look at the complete ineffectiveness of the UN. Look at US. The US has completely lost any leadership, influence, credibility in the world. We may be the only superpower (for now at least, as China will be soon), but instead of leading the world we decided to try to impose our will on it...and forgot that while Gulliver was much bigger than the Lilliputians, there were far more of them and when banded together they were able to overpower giants. The world sees the morass of Iraq, the lack of ability to do anything substantive with such obvious world threats as Iran and North Korea, the continued freedom of Zawahiri and bin Laden, and the look the other way attitude toward "friendly" dictators...and they treat us like the buffoons that our president appears to be (don't worry, both members of both parties fit into this category with their partisan gamesmanship). Perhaps we, the people, need to be smarter in selecting our representatives. Pick them on their intellect and, most importantly, their ability to carve decisions out of different viewpoints, rather than on whether they think they are more "moral" than the other guys.