In their 1998 book, “A World Transformed,” George H.W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft recount the events that fundamentally changed the world during the Bush presidency. At the end of the last chapter Bush observes: “The importance of American engagement has never been higher. If the United States does not lead, there will be no leadership. . . If we fail to live up to our responsibilities, if we shirk the role that only we can assume, if we retreat from our obligation to the world in indifference, we will one day pay the highest price once again for our neglect and shortsightedness.”
For all the challenges the past 20 years brought on this country—for all the loss, the heartache, the hubris and the errant decisions—in times of crisis, the world still looked to America to lead. They believed that in spite of our political differences, our domestic turmoil, the ugliness of our democratic process and some bad decisions, America in the end would do the right thing. That we would stand up to tyranny, lift up the downtrodden, free the oppressed, and fight for the righteous.
Now, the world no longer looks up to America. They have been witness to our dismissiveness, our lack of respect and our transactional approach to global issues. They have seen us tear up our treaties, leave our allies on the battlefield and cozy up to despots and dictators. They have seen our incompetence in handling the pandemic and the wildfires. They have seen us struggle with social injustice. They no longer think we can lead, because they have seen an ineptness and a disdain for civility that is beyond anything in their memory. But, without American leadership the world will indeed be transformed, just not in the way we hope.
This could all change in November.
We need a president who understands the importance of American leadership, at home and abroad. We need a leader of integrity whose decency and sense of respect reflects the values we expect from our president. We need a president for all Americans, not just half of America.
This week I went to the polls in Texas. Truth be told, I am a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, small-government, strong-defense and a national-anthem-standing conservative. But, I also believe that black lives matter, that the Dreamers deserve a path to citizenship, that diversity and inclusion are essential to our national success, that education is the great equalizer, that climate change is real and that the First Amendment is the cornerstone of our democracy. Most important, I believe that America must lead in the world with courage, conviction and a sense of honor and humility.
If we remain indifferent to our role in the world, if we retreat from our obligation to our citizens and our allies and if we fail to choose the right leader, then we will pay the highest price for our neglect and shortsightedness.
I voted for Joe Biden.
Mr. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, 2011-14.
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