Sunday, November 09, 2008

The U.S. Has Power. What It Needs Is Authority.

Washington Post: The US Has Power, What it Needs is Authority - Ron Suskind

If ever there were a president who could credibly claim to signify a clean break from his predecessor, that commander in chief is Obama. But the United States also needs a plan that shows that what's coming won't be business as usual.


The sensation of absent moral power has been felt, like a lost limb, by Americans of all stripes. But its effects are also concrete: Without it, the United States would be unable to muster a coalition to challenge Iran's nuclear ambitions, oppose Vladimir Putin's bullying in Georgia or mount a global effort to round up loose fissile materials in the world's black markets. Without moral leadership, there's no way to herd the world's cats, large and small. The response of rogue states, such newly hopeful competitors as Russia and even terrorist networks will be uniform: Welcome to the mud, America. Kind of messy at this end of the slippery slope, isn't it?

But climbing back to the moral high ground will require qualities that the United States has allowed to atrophy, starting with self-discipline. With tight funds needed for a new generation of priorities, Obama should be thinking about transforming two huge, related kingdoms: defense and intelligence. That'll set the table, institutionally, for the restoration of American moral power.


(emphasis mine)

This is the thorniest part of the equation. The new president will have to lead the country through a process that people may know from their own lives: getting out of the doghouse. Large errors demand large responses, and not just for show. You have to mean it.

The American list of sins is long -- from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay, from human rights abuses to actual legal violations.This sort of cleansing -- of confronting the truth and taking the consequences -- is the only way to move forward on a moral arc. It is the sign of a mature country -- steady, prudent, ready to re-chart its course when needed. One worth following.

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