Europe and the United States share a truly breathtaking record of achievement, one that remains unmatched by any other two regions of the world. But admirable past achievements simply aren’t enough to lead us into the future. This era of compounding complexity demands leadership, bold ideas, new models of doing business, and unbridled ambition on a scale we haven’t seen in several decades. There are countless reasons, though, why today’s leaders may not rise to the occasion. Our publics are weary, resources are scarce, and the relentless pace of social media makes it difficult to maintain strategic attention. The West has also experienced some sobering lessons in recent years about the limits of U.S. and European power. But one of the lessons of the last seventy years is that when the West marshals the right mix of will and leadership, it does indeed have the ability shape the world order in unimaginable ways, even in less than perfect conditions. The real tragedy, therefore, would be not if the West tried and failed to take on such an ambitious agenda but if it did not try at all.
Julianne Smith is Senior Fellow and Director of the Strategy and Statecraft Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). She also served as Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President of the United States from April 2012 to June 2013. Follow her on Twitter: @julie_c_smith.
This piece was originally published on the Berlin Policy Journal.