This is from a speech by a politician we would consider quite “liberal”, as that term is used in American politics – spoken by Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister, just the other day in Chicago.
And that is why we should not revert to the foreign policy of years gone by, of the world weary, the supposedly sensible practitioners of caution and expediency, who think they see the world for what it is, without the illusions of the idealist who sees what it could be.
We should remember what such expediency led us to, what such caution produced. Here is where I remain adamantly in the same spot, metaphorically as well as actually, of ten years ago, that evening in this city. The statesmanship that went before regarded politics as a Bismarck or Machiavelli regarded it. It's all a power play; a matter, not of right or wrong, but of who's on our side, and our side defined by our interests, not our values. The notion of humanitarian intervention was the meddling of the unwise, untutored and inexperienced.
But was it practical to let Pakistan develop as it did in the last thirty years, without asking what effect the madrassas would have on a generation educated in them? Or wise to employ the Taliban to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan? Or to ask Saddam to halt Iran? Was it really experienced statesmanship that let thousands upon thousands die in Bosnia before we intervened or turned our face from the genocide of Rwanda?
Or to form alliances with any regime, however bad, because they solve 'today' without asking whether they will imperil 'tomorrow'? This isn't statesmanship. It is just politics practiced for the most comfort and the least disturbance in the present moment.
I never thought such politics very sensible or practical. I think it even less so now. We live in the era of interdependence; the idea that if we let a problem fester, it will be contained within its boundaries no longer applies. That is why leaving Africa to the ravages of famine, conflict and disease is not just immoral but immature in its political understanding. Their problems will become ours.
And this struggle we face now cannot be defeated by staying out; but by sticking in, abiding by our values not retreating from them.
It is a cause that must be defeated by a better cause. That cause is one of open, tolerant, outward-looking societies in which people respect diversity and difference in which peaceful co-existence can flourish. It is a cause that has to be fought for; with hearts and minds as well as arms, of course. But fought for, nonetheless with the courage to see it through and the confidence that the cause is just, right and the only way the future of our world can work.
If we had a Democrat who thought this clearly, who communicated with such clarity, who was so direct and specific, and whose view of the existential threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism was so closely aligned with mine – I'd vote for him, regardless of the many other liberal views he held that I disagreed with.
Because this is the most important thing, the threat to our very being.
And this is what scares me the most about Obama. The rest is just details...