Huge hat tip here to intrepid Philadelphia blogger Susie Madrak, for spreading the good word about an amazing new paper (PDF file) -- called "A National Security Narrative" and highlighted in Foreign Policy magazine -- that really cuts right to the quick of what this whole crazy debate about the future of the United States of America is all about. The article's main point is that America's basic security as a nation in the 21st Century depends not on continuing to try to dominate the world militarily but on developing our resources, which is mainly our people through better education but also our renewable resources, our infrastructure, etc. Exactly the ideas that are pushed by progressives (and occasionally and half-heartedly by the Obama administration) and get blocked by the American exceptionalism crowd. Even as each backwards step makes America less exceptional.
No, what's really incredible about the paper is the authors -- two active-duty-military staff members of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. They describe the views expressed in their paper as "personal," but it's hard to imagine their higher-ups are not endorsing their viewpoint in some fashion. Indeed, this really needs to become the viewpoint of our leaders, if it's not already. Here's a good summary in an introductory section from Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter:
A narrative is a story. A national strategic narrative must be a story that all Americans can understand and identify with in their own lives. America’s national story has always see-sawed between exceptionalism and universalism. We think that we are an exceptional nation, but a core part of that exceptionalism is a commitment to universal values – to the equality of all human beings not just within the borders of the United States, but around the world. We should thus embrace the rise of other nations when that rise is powered by expanded prosperity, opportunity, and dignity for their peoples. In such a world we do not need to see ourselves as the automatic leader of any bloc of nations. We should be prepared instead to earn our influence through our ability to compete with other nations, the evident prosperity and wellbeing of our people, and our ability to engage not just with states but with societies in all their richness and complexity. We do not want to be the sole superpower that billions of people around the world have learned to hate from fear of our military might. We seek instead to be the nation other nations listen to, rely on and emulate out of respect and admiration.
I've been trying to make this same point here at Attytood, but not nearly as well as the authors known as "Mr. Y" do. So read their whole report, and pray it doesn't end up in a file cabinet somewhere.