The American Promise and “World Order”

by Carl W. Hunt

This week, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reviewed another former Secretary of State’s latest book, expressing some insights common to those we publish in Reconnecting to the American Promise. Clinton published a thoughtful book review of Henry Kissinger’s book World Order, comparing the chaos of past and present world events. [1] World Order - Kissinger

This RAP post is not specifically a review of Kissinger’s book but more a review of Clinton’s review. While her appraisal of Kissinger’s book is enlightening, so are Clinton’s thoughts about how the America of today must meet our own obligations to our people while continuing to inspire a world in which enlightened leadership is so desperately needed. [2]

The contrasting and complementary reflections of a Secretary who served a Republican administration during the more global Cold War and a Secretary who served a Democratic administration during several regional hot wars are interesting. According to Clinton’s review, there are actually more complementary thoughts than contrasts. And, there are significant agreements between their perspectives that are worth noting in light of the theme of RAP.

Perhaps paradoxically, RAP has not sought to discuss a great deal about world events, preferring to address issues related to helping America focus more on equal access to opportunity and the political environment that we need to bring about that focus. That, along with restoring the voice of the American Center, comprises the key principals of RAP. It was gratifying to see that Hillary Clinton’s review emphasized that as well: “Sustaining America’s leadership in the world depends on renewing the American dream for all our people,” she wrote in her Washington Post book review this week.

We’ve created a distinction between the American Promise and the “American Dream” in this blog, primarily to emphasize the leadership responsibilities of our elected officials to both create and enforce access to opportunity. In other posts, we’ve commented on the failures of our politicians in that area, so no need to dwell further there.

The main point here and in Clinton’s review is that ensuring opportunity for Americans is central to our nation’s ability to inspire, lead and even motivate other nations in the world to embrace what both she and Kissinger called a “bipartisan commitment to protecting and expanding a community of nations devoted to freedom, market economies and cooperation” that worked successfully during the Cold War.

Thanks in large part to an America that has politically curtailed the concept of domestic cooperation in the last few years, it’s hard to know if we still actually maintain that kind of globally-focused bipartisan commitment Clinton discusses. After all, bipartisanship is a word rarely used to describe American political leadership any longer. In fact, it would appear we’ve forgotten as a nation not only our responsibilities globally but also nationally in terms of bipartisanship and cooperation in an increasingly chaotic world as described by both Clinton and Kissinger.

This is the sad point that we’ve not addressed in RAP: the danger in forgetting these responsibilities to act in a bipartisan way is not just to America (and its failure to fulfill the American Promise of access to opportunity), but it’s also to the rest of the world. The dangers we create in pulling away from the responsibilities we’ve met in past times of global chaos affect the world in significantly different ways today. Kissinger and Clinton both point this out with their insights about globally distributed social media and diverse and diffused political perspectives.

However, when it comes to ultimately recognizing and discharging global responsibilities, America in the past has indeed been the leader. There is just no other nation in the history of our world that can meet these responsibilities – as Clinton and Kissinger both point out, that’s just the way it is!

In this day and age, America is the only nation that can “relate ‘power to legitimacy’” Clinton writes, quoting Kissinger’s book. That’s an enormous responsibility, burdened by the pull of the chaos that exists in this world today. But, we are the only nation that can take on this responsibility and help ensure both our own national security and freedoms and help the world see the value in emulating some of our better nature.

Most importantly, we can only live up to these responsibilities on a framework of cooperative and collaborative bipartisanship here in American government (at all levels). That has been the enduring theme of Reconnecting to the American Promise. This time, however, we need to look at this theme through the lens of America at home and abroad…we certainly will in the future.

Originally posted by Carl W. Hunt, 9/7/2014.

Notes:

[1] World Order is scheduled to be released Tuesday, 9-9-2014, by Penguin Press.

[2] In my cursory examination of various other reviews of Kissinger’s book, I found a gamut of perspectives that included critiques that Kissinger was calling for America to form a new “world order.” As a graduate of the US Defense Department’s National War College in 2003, and recalling the readings of Kissinger at the time, I don’t think that’s what he’s saying…I’ll have to read the book to be certain, of course. But, by my review of Clinton’s piece in the Washington Post and a look at other online reviews, I think what Kissinger is pointing out is that a new “world order” is taking place whether America wants to be a part of it or not and that if we don’t figure out how to play a distinctly American role, as described by Clinton, this new “world order” will leave America increasingly irrelevant. In my view, failure to engage in any opportunity to shape an equitably beneficial “world order” should not be acceptable to any American.

* Image of World Order, courtesy of multiple book review sites, including Amazon.com, Google Books and Publishers Weekly.com.

2 thoughts on “The American Promise and “World Order”

  1. John Donne’s adage “No man is an island,” appears to apply to nations as well, especially in an interconnected age. I think your most compelling point is that a new, interconnected, world is forming, whether we like it or not. Time we figure out a productive role in it that will enable us to continue to lead.

    • Thanks Larry! I think that is the precise point both former Secretaries Kissinger and Clinton are making also. The world is changing whether we engage or not. We are one of the few nations in history that can help shape the change in a large-scale, positive and objective manner (as long as the rest of the world will find common ground to work with us at it!). This cannot be a US-centric new “World Order” but we have much to offer to a collaborative and cooperative family of nations. – Carl

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