Guest Authors

The U.S. Can’t Afford Not to Lead


15 November 2012

Written by: Paul Wolfowitz

Paul Wolfowitz, a former president of the World Bank and former deputy secretary of Defense, is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

President Obama may believe he can abandon “nation-building abroad” to focus on “nation-building at home,” but that is what he would normally call a “false choice.”

In his next term he will face major challenges abroad, not just challenges of “nation-building” but threats to our national security: an unstable and nuclear-armed Pakistan; a possible Taliban take-over in Afghanistan; a potential Iranian nuclear capability threatening vital U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf and the security of Israel; the growing strength of anti‑American Islamist extremists in Syria in the absence of meaningful support for the non-Islamist opposition.

Libya does present a challenge of nation-building, but the U.S. has already suffered a major setback -- including the murder of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans -- by leaving the new pro-American Libyan government unable to provide for that country’s security.

Obama may wish to “pivot” away from all of these trouble spots and focus on the more promising Pacific region, but there the future challenges may be even greater. For three decades, that previously bloody region has actually been “pacific.” But tensions are rising and it will be dangerous if the U.S. is perceived as inward-looking and in decline.

True, the U.S. can’t afford to lead unless we fix our economy. But we can’t afford not to lead. And we can’t fix our economy by abandoning America’s role in the world. Our entire national security and foreign policy spending is barely one-fifth of all federal spending. Eliminating it entirely -- which is unimaginable -- would still leave us with a large and growing deficit. Some prudent cuts are possible, but they will not solve the overall problem. To fix our economy there must be a reform of “entitlement” spending. The president needs to tell that inconvenient truth to the American people.


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Just Saying · 7 years ago
    I find it ironic that Mr Wolfowitz talks about the dichotomy of future international US relations and the heavy cost we will endure for being leaders in the world since he had no issues giving his girlfriend a $200,000 plus job at the world bank. And if I recall correctly you left that position because of it. Mr Wolfowitz should not be lecturing others about costs and burdens when it is evident he has not endured very many.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Scott Dudley · 7 years ago
    Wolfowitz is a morally bankrupt POS unworthy of being listened to. He was most instrumental in pushing a phony was in Iraq,killing 4000 Americans, each of whom was more valuable than him.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Hercdriver · 7 years ago Wolfowitz who stated that the Iraqis would be throwing rose petal under the tank treads as our people rolled into Baghdad? He blew that one. Now, this neocon dinosaur wants to try to build another nation somewhere out in the sh*t using funding from a broke-flat treasury and get another big bunch of guys slaughtered for nothng? Maybe he's missed it, but bombs are still detonating all over Iraq. His last attempt at nation-building ain't working out quite the way he planned it, or so it seems...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    T2 · 7 years ago
    Dear Mr. Wolfowitz,

    What we really can't afford to do is allow you or your cronies who led us into a horrible money-sink of a war to have any legitimacy whatsoever in our policy discussions.

    They should hire people to follow you around and... well, I was going to say "pointing and laughing" but there's nothing funny about the carnage you helped unleash so maybe instead it should be veteran amputees from Iraq who follow you around. Silently. Just so you don't forget what you did.

    ps Michael, why would you post this article?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    simon_tpd · 7 years ago
    Sooner or later we're going to realize that neither the Democrat or the Republican parties as they exist now are going to change the path we've been on for the past 50 years (maybe longer, someone better schooled in history might have a more accurate assessment). We walk the left side of the path or the right side but neither the scenery around us nor the destination changes.
    Until the people demand a better slate of leaders to choose from absolutely nothing will change.

    Paul Wolfowitz was in a position to make a difference and failed (I wish I knew a better descriptor for the magnitude of that failure). He does not deserve a second chance at pointing a direction for our country, even if it is only opinion.
    I have my own ideas of what he does deserve but I'll not put those in writing.

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