- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Life and history are the arenas for the tug-of-war between hope and disquiet regarding mans relationship with God, with himself, and with his country. If he believes in a personal, transcendent God, then his life largely will be an expression of hope, as found in the words of a favorite hymn of mine: "May we praise You, oh Lord, with heart and hand and voice, and since life itself is Your gift to us, then may all that we are be Yours."
In times past, belief in some kind of divinity usually won out be default. But the history of the 20th century discloses a fork in this road. It witnessed the maturation of a secular faith a collectivist, humanistic religion based on utilitarianism. On the right side of the political spectrum this new religion became fascism, and on the left side it became Marxism. The United States led a coalition that vanquished the power of fascism in World War II, and over the following 44 years it played the leading role in bringing down the most powerful embodiment of Marxism, the Soviet Union.
The Clinton administration, entering office in the post-Cold War environment, inherited a United States pre-eminent to a degree it had not been since the end of World War II before its brief unilateral disarmament. Mr. Clinton set out to create a "feel-good," politically correct military to carry out a "feel-good" foreign policy which, to a dangerous extent, ignored the maintenance of Americas long-term goals and interests. As a result, the George W. Bush administration inherited a world where its allies are restive and uncertain and its enemies emboldened.
The recent collision between the Chinese and American airplanes off Hainan Island has exposed a possible creeping softness in our present military. No one should expect the lives of our military men and women to be trifled with. But we should understand and demand that those who volunteer to serve in dangerous ways should appreciate that their first obligation is to further the nations security and only then, to look to their own survival. It is hoped that the crew of the EP-3 was able to destroy classified material to the maximum extent possible. If they sought their safety before they had completed the standard procedures for destroying those materials, they may well have compromised Americas ability to carry out its military aims in the region.
As the new century dawns, the biggest foreign policy challenge for the new Bush administration is to articulate to Beijing that we welcome the rise of a peaceful, powerful China and that, although we believe in the fruits of a representative democracy, we will not undermine their efforts to work out their own internal governance. We must also assure them that we believe what happens to Taiwan is in the hands of the future and the good sense that the Chinese exercise, whether they live on the mainland or on Taiwan. However, Beijing must also understand that it is our long-term responsibility to be vigilant in the defense of freedom. Beijing must be aware we will not tolerate either violence toward or intimidation of the people of Taiwan as they seek to reap the benefits of political and economic freedom.
Beijing should be cognizant that the United States is powerful not because of what it has but because its system fosters a high degree of interaction between economic and political freedom. The result has been an explosive, exponential growth of opportunity for all its citizens. Any country which has given this system an honest trial has benefited in terms of its wealth and power and the welfare of its citizens.
For its part, the United States stands at a fork in the road as it views China. Its relationship with mainland China in the recent past helped it destroy aggressive Soviet power. But it is clear that, until the Chinese make their broad choices for the future, we should not assume they want to have a benevolent relationship with us. The most prudent decision we could make now is to undertake a forceful buildup of American military power in the Pacific to dissuade possible military adventurism, while making it clear we have no designs on Chinese or Asian territory.
In domestic as well as foreign policy, the Clinton administrations use of unfettered moral and political expediency, to ensure its survival even in the face of its leaders horrific failings, undermined Americas longstanding moral force in the world and exposed a tendency to acquiesce in utilitarianism. As a result, large segments of our society are adrift in a shadow world of uncertainty regarding appropriate norms of private and public behavior. Influential opinion-makers who once viewed compartmentalization of behavior with suspicion, having witnessed Mr. Clintons deft application of it, now seem to view it as a sign of giftedness, not degradation.
The Founding Fathers, out of their own moral sense, understood that, by placing the real power of governance in the hands of the electorate, they were doing something new in human history: making concrete, in a secular form of government, Gods great gift to humanity of a free will and His hope that people would use it responsibly. They presupposed that those who exercised authority under the Constitution would be people of character and integrity, and they feared that, if those traits were absent for an extended period, the artful system of checks and balances they had fashioned would collapse.
Our nation thus is engaged in a great experiment testing whether a secular state can foster and protect the continuing desire of the people to maintain a fruitful balance between expressing their free will exercised in their own governance and being aware of and open to Gods mercy and justice.

William F. Goldcamp is a diplomatic historian and a former intelligence analyst.

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