Secretary of State (and Secretary of the Treasury) James Baker offered A Roadmap for Restoring American Leadership in a recent Wall Street Journal, and it’s worth a careful read. While his seven steps are entirely appropriate, though, it occurs to me that they must come as steps two through eight, instead.
There are many things we need to do first, and we need to do them unilaterally, without waiting on other nations to…follow. Consult, certainly. Attempt to persuade, certainly. Attempt to get others to act, also if not in concert, certainly.
But, to paraphrase a man, some things can’t wait. Some things need prompt action. We’re still big enough, prosperous enough, strong enough to do those things alone, and where the urgency of the matter won’t pause for consensus, we have an obligation to act first and build consensus later. See Russia’s partition of Ukraine, ISIS’ dismantling of Iraq, if you doubt that.
There’s another aspect of leading that’s missed in the multilateralist, gotta have a UN imprimatur, gotta have European/Russian/Chinese/whomever agreement to our leading before we can…lead, also. That aspect is “by example.”
We can’t set any kind of useful example if we aren’t acting.