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The recent collapse of the post-war international order has recently given rise to a vigorous debate within this country over American foreign policy and American purpose in a vastly changed and changing world. In a democracy such as ours, a debate of this kind is healthy and necessary. It enables us to examine old policies in order to determine their relevance to new circumstances--in Abraham Lincoln's words, it enables us to "think anew."
This debate has really only begun, and it is unlikely to produce a consensus until a new international order has taken shape--a seemingly elusive goal, at least for the foreseeable future. There is one aspect of the debate, however, which I find worrisome and which I would like to discuss today in view of its particular relevance to this distinguished group of corporate executives assembled here under the auspices of Business Week.
I am referring to a body of opinion which holds that the elements which made for American success in the Cold War are a liability in a post-Cold War world characterized by an entirely different set of challenges. To be precise, it is being said in some quarters that our military and diplomatic prowess will be, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, a handicap to us in the coming struggle to be waged largely on new issues and new challenges--most of which will be of an economic character. As a result, we are being urged to cut military spending drastically, and to cut back on overseas commitments, in order to gird ourselves for the remorseless economic combat which lies ahead.
At present this argument, at least in its extreme form, is coming mostly from the margins of the political spectrum. However, it is fairly clear that fertile ground exists within the body politic at large upon which such sentiments could grow. The fact is that the American people have a well-founded desire to see our domestic challenges addressed and to see our allies assume a greater and fairer share of international responsibilities. The danger is that these legitimate concerns may be exploited to undermine the public's support for the kind of US global leadership role which continues to be important--even in terms of the narrowest definition of our national interests.
US Well-Being and a …