From Condoleezza Rice, the Financial Times: If Americans want the tectonic plates of the international system to settle in a way that makes the world safer, freer and more prosperous, the US must overcome its reluctance to lead. We will have to stand up for and promote the power and promise of free markets and free peoples, and affirm that American pre-eminence safeguards rather than impedes global progress. . . .
In the Middle East we must patiently use our aid, expertise and influence to support the creation of inclusive democratic institutions. The fundamental problem in the region is the absence of institutions that can bridge the Sunni-Shia divide, and protect the rights of women and minorities. Even as we make necessary immediate choices – including arming theSyrian rebels– we must insist upon inclusive politics. The US cannot afford to stand aside; regional powers will bring their own agendas that could exacerbate confessional divisions. . . .
The US “pivot” to Asia (a region that had hardly been abandoned) has focused heavily on security issues. America should remain the pre-eminent military power in the Pacific. But consider this: China has signed free-trade agreements with 15 nations over the past eight years and has explored FTAs with some 20 others; since 2009 the US has ratified three FTAs negotiated during the Bush administration and it has continued – but not concluded – talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which began in 2008. One of the US’s best assets in managing China’s rise is its regional economic engagement. . . .
Most important, we need to reassure our friends across the globe. The rush to court adversaries has overshadowed relations with trusted allies. Our engagement with Europe has been sporadic and sometimes dismissive. Strategic ties with India, Brazil and Turkey have neither strengthened nor deepened in recent years. Hugo Chávez and the Iranians have bitten off the extended hand of friendship. There is no Palestinian state because it will only come through negotiation with a secure Israel that is confident in its relationship with the US. The decision to abandon missile defence sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, to “reset” relations with Russia was pocketed by Vladimir Putin who quickly returned to his anti-American ways. Friends must be able to trust in the consistency of our commitment to them. . . .
The American people have to be inspired to lead again. They need to be reminded that the US is not just any other country: we are exceptional in the clarity of our conviction that free markets and free peoples hold the key to the future, and in our willingness to act on those beliefs. Failure to do so would leave a vacuum, likely filled by those who will not champion a balance of power that favours freedom. That would be a tragedy for American interests and values and those who share them.
The writer is a former US secretary of state. (graphic: Ingram Pinn/ Financial Times)