Thursday, October 23, 2008

Backhanded Talking Points

This post from the online edition of Foreign Policy is actually titled "(Not Quite) 101 Things Sarah Palin Should Know About the World", but it's more important than that. As Americans, we often fail to see things through the eyes of other world citizens. That's the theme of The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria and Ron Suskind's The Way of the World, two excellent books I read within the last few months. Why is this so important? As we face an economic downturn and foreign hostilities, understanding your world neighbors is no different than understanding customers in business, or understanding voters in politics. Our ability to act in a unilateral manner as a nation has been, and will likely continue to be, greatly diminished due to a number of economic and geopolitical factors. Even if that were not the case, though, there are good arguments for being good neighbors. It increases demand for our involvement in affairs and markets. It decreases obstacles in our path that carry a number of costs. Perhaps most importantly, it revalidates our standing within the world community. I have no doubt that much of the world still sees the United States as a "city on a hill". Yet, our shine has lost some of its luster. It would be counter to our history as a nation to simply shine "bright enough". It's our obligation not to act to inspire other or outshine others, but to live up to the standards that we claim.

To quote A Bronx Tale, one of my favorite movies, "The saddest thing in life is wasted talent". Arguably, the greatest resources we have are the proliferate talent pool of our population, and the freedoms to use those talents. Here's hoping we start using our talents based on dialogue with others, not pre-conceived notions or senses of entitlement.