- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 24, 2000

Addressing the United Nations in September 1990 prior to the Gulf war, President George Bush electrified the world with the phrase "New

World Order." That goal has long since been forgotten, replaced by the new phrase assertive multilateralism.

This doesn't seem to have caught on. As Americans approach a presidential election, it is time to resurrect President Bush's vision of a global order; one that should be based upon political virtue, constitutional government and the rule of law. It is time for both political parties to re-introduce traditional values and principles as the raison d'etre of the United States in the world.

Foreign policy should define our purpose in the world, what we are about. Purpose precedes interest; it provides the national interest with direction and meaning. Purpose also reflects inner values, the core substance of America's political culture.

The United States has spent most of the past decade extremely busy in the world. NATO is enlarged, China engaged, Cuba embargoed, Haiti occupied, Somalia invaded, Serbia bombed. Yet, there seems to be no coherent purpose to hold the particular parts of these excursions together. The United States inherited the mantle of sole remaining superpower, but devoid of direction, compass or guidance this unipolar moment has been allowed to degenerate into an entangled web of globalist confusions.

Foreign policy and national security concerns properly focus on hard power interests: technology, budgets, hardware, force levels, allies, threats, geopolitics, etc. These are the tools that provide for national security and protect national interests. But such concrete elements have little virtue or meaning if they remain sterile, as if in a political vacuum. As the Roman statesman and philosopher Seneca said 2,000 years ago, "If a man does not know to what port he is sailing, no wind is favorable."

U.S. foreign policy requires first and foremost a sense of purpose. This priority reflects the intangible side to national security and foreign policy; the soft power instruments of national strength, leadership, morality, values, courage, prudence etc., that represent political character and culture rather than technology or money.

These elements have been absent far too long from the American discourse, even though they can be expressed easily and eloquently through artful political rhetoric. The record of American foreign policy through the centuries reflects the proud and bipartisan mission that political and economic liberty under constitutional government have bestowed upon American foreign policies.

Shortly before leaving the presidency, Thomas Jefferson stated this unique purpose forcefully:

"The station we occupy among the nations of the Earth is honorable, but awful. Trusted with the destinies of this solitary republic of the world, the only movement of human rights, and the sole depository of the sacred fire of freedom and self-government, from hence it is to be lighted up in other regions of the Earth, if other regions of the Earth shall ever become susceptible of its benign influence. All mankind ought then, with us, to rejoice in its prosperous, and sympathize in its adverse, fortunes, as involving everything dear to man."

A century and a half later John F. Kennedy posed the 20th century challenge in rhetoric remarkably similar to Jefferson's. Kennedy acknowledged that the world was very different in 1961 but he also acknowledged the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe. Reminding Americans to be proud of our ancient heritage, he called not for a new balance of power, but a new world of law in which his generation would light the way:

"I do not believe that any of us would exchange place with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it and the glow from that fire can truly light the world."

Twenty-one years later, Ronald Reagan, the "Great Communicator," made a similar distinction to a generation that was already on its last lap to victory in the marathon Cold War: "The ultimate determinant in the struggle that is now going on in the world will not be bombs and rockets, but a test of wills and ideas, a trial of spiritual resolve, the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish, the ideals to which we are dedicated."

Given the opportunity, Americans will respond to a foreign policy based upon generic values and tradition more than they will to universal and elitist appeals beyond their interests. The new century should begin with an unmistakable, powerful and positive approach to the mission of the United States in foreign policy; one that discards the confusions of the moment with the message that we should be proud of our ancient heritage, and determined to consolidate the frontiers of freedom where they exist and to extend them if appropriate.



John Tierney is the faculty chairman of the Institute of World Politics.

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