Thursday, June 26, 2008

Will Obama redefine national security?

Toni Morrison, winner of Nobel Prize in Literature for 1993, recently told an interviewer that she likes Obama because he has "wisdom." I am skeptical and cannot help but wonder what she sees. Few politicians exhibit that rare quality.

However, Gary Hart is one public figure in the US who I think "gets" the big picture. Former presidential contender Gary Hart has written a NY Times Op/ed about "historical cycles." He thinks that another major historical cycle is just about to begin. Moreover, Hart thinks Obama has a chance to shape it. Hart writes:
What matters more than the length of the cycles is that these swings, between what Schlesinger called periods of reform and periods of consolidation, clearly occur. If we somewhat arbitrarily fix the age of Franklin D. Roosevelt as 1932 to 1968 and the era of Ronald Reagan as 1968 to 2008, a new cycle of American political history — a cycle of reform — is due.
Gary Hart shares his thoughts about what will really matter during the next cycle. Note that Hart views its challenges as transnational, making it seem unlikely that overtly nationalistic American solutions will suffice to overcome them.

No individual can entirely determine the architecture of a historical cycle. But much of the next one will be defined by how we grapple with a host of new realities, ones that reach beyond jihadist terrorism. They include globalized markets; the expansion of the information revolution into places like China; the emergence of new world powers including India and China; climate deterioration; failing states; the changing nature of war; mass migrations; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; viral pandemics; and many more.

Back in February, on this blog I asked: "What if Obama redefined national security?" Gary Hart believes the question must be central to framing the country's new priorities:

Senator Obama’s attempt to introduce the next American cycle should include, at minimum, three elements. National security requires a new, expanded, post-cold-war definition. America must transition from a consumer economy to a producing one. And the moral obligations of our stewardship of the planet must become paramount.

Regarding the third element, I blogged that Obama's pledge to provide clean energy and save the environment must amount to far more than a sweet deal for his supporters in the biofuel industry. We have heard nothing particularly revolutionary from the presumed Democratic nominee beyond the facts of his ancestry and early life adventures. So far, it can be said that Obama has not moved far to embrace any "new cycle."

Of course, one can claim that a cycle began or ended at various times. But I tend to agree with Gary Hart that the time has come to present Americans with some bold new ideas. A rethink of national secutity would seem the ideal place to start. Yet it remains to be seen whether Obama has the wisdom.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't seen what I would call "wisdom" in McCain or Obama. They may both possess it, but I haven't seen either one show the requisite patience that I think comes with true wisdom. Obama seems hell-bent on leading a revolution, and I wonder how long it will be before this revolution grinds him into powder. And I may be missing something, but McCain, despite his years, hasn't seemed to have accomplished anything that requires that patience.

    The closest analog to wisdom I can think of is experience, and Obama seems to be lacking that quite a bit.


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