I believe that the United States can and should play a peacemaking role across the globe. Our most powerful tools include diplomacy, economic aid, humanitarian assistance, and simply striving to understand other cultures. We must resist the impulse to demonize and refuse to talk with those who see us in unflattering ways. When push comes to shove, we should not refrain from taking military action -- be it special operations missions, counter-terrorism, training and equipping allies, or even full-scale war. But as Colin Powell famously advised, our military interventions must have clear and realistically attainable goals. As I've learned in several deployments, we should not engage in wars of choice when we, not the locals, provide most of the ground troops -- and when creating a functioning state from chaos is the only exit strategy for bringing those troops home.
The American people seem to understand the subtlety: According to a new Pew Survey, more than 60 percent want us out of Afghanistan and even less involved in determining the makeup of Middle Eastern governments, while almost as large a percentage (56 percent) urge a firm stand against Iran (up 6 percent since January).
This points to a possible way forward for any new foreign policy team. The new custodians of our national security should be willing to use all elements of American power to defend and advance our core interests -- but must be careful not to launch massive new adventures for questionable strategic goals. They must understand that preserving our economic strength, reputation for military competence, and support among the American people are also core national interests as much as any specific on-the-ground success.
America's strengths are manifest. We will not soon relinquish our global leadership in scientific research, capital markets, higher education, manufacturing, and the military. We will inevitably surmount our economic troubles. And we can continue to play a smart role as the world's cop on the beat. Let's focus on how to do it, not pull back. Because there is no international security without us, and there can be no prosperous, safe America without that security. Staying engaged, including through the use of force, if done right, will cost us less -- in both treasure and American lives.