Average people pay respect to those in the military because that service to our country is worthy of praise; and,
A few very influential people - in the defense industry, the oil industry, and the media - make vast fortunes off the defense budget and the wide coverage any military engagement is given.
In one sentence, the strategic narrative of the United States in the 21st century is that we want to become the strongest competitor and most influential player in a deeply inter-connected global system, which requires that we invest less in defense and more in sustainable prosperity and the tools of effective global engagement.
Among the trends that are already shaping a "new normal" in our strategic environment are the decline of rural economies, joblessness, the dramatic increase in urbanization, an increasing demand for energy, migration of populations and shifting demographics, the rise of gray and black markets, the phenomenon of extremism and anti-modernism, the effects of global climate change, the spread of pandemics and lack of access to adequate health services, and an increasing dependency on cyber networks. At first glance, these trends are cause for concern. But for Americans with vision, guided by values, they represent opportunities to reestablish and leverage credible influence, converging interests, and interdependencies that can transform despair into hope. This focus on improving our strategic ecosystem, and favorably competing for our national interests, underscores the investment priorities cited earlier, and the imaginative application of diplomacy, development, and defense in our foreign policy.
In complex systems, adaptation and variation demonstrate that "binning" is not only difficult, it often leads to unintended consequences. For example, labeling, or binning, Islamic radicals as "terrorists," or worse, as "jihadists," has resulted in two very different, and unfortunate unintended misperceptions: that all Muslims are thought of as "terrorists;" and, that those who pervert Islam into a hateful, anti-modernist ideology to justify unspeakable acts of violence are truly motivated by a religious struggle (the definition of "jihad," and the obligation of all Muslims), rather than being seen as apostates waging war against society and innocents. This has resulted in the alienation of vast elements of the global Muslim community and has only frustrated efforts to accurately depict and marginalize extremism.
As Americans, our ability to remain relevant as a world leader, to evolve as a nation, depends as it always has on our determination to pursue our national interests within the constraints of our core values. We must embrace and respect diversity and encourage the exchange of ideas, welcoming as our own those who share our values and seek an opportunity to contribute to our nation. Innovation, imagination, and hard work must be applied through a national unity of effort that recognizes our place in the global system. We must accept that to be great requires competition and to remain great requires adaptability, that competition need not demand a single winner, and that through converging interests we should seek interdependencies that can help sustain our interests in the global strategic ecosystem. To achieve this we will need the tools of development, diplomacy and defense - employed with agility through an integrated whole of nation approach. This will require the prioritization of our investments in intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America's youth; investment in the nation's sustainable security - on our own soil and wherever Americans and their interests take them, including space and cyberspace; and investment in sustainable access to, cultivation and use of, the natural resources we need for our continued well-being, prosperity and economic growth in the world marketplace.
As Americans we needn't seek the world's friendship or to proselytize the virtues of our society. Neither do we seek to bully, intimidate, cajole, or persuade others to accept our unique values or to share our national objectives. Rather, we will let others draw their own conclusions based upon our actions. Our domestic and foreign policies will reflect unity of effort, coherency and constancy of purpose. We will pursue our national interests and allow others to pursue theirs, never betraying our values. We will seek converging interests and welcome interdependence. We will encourage fair competition and will not shy away from deterring bad behavior. We will accept our place in a complex and dynamic strategic ecosystem and use credible influence and strength to shape uncertainty into opportunities. We will be a pathway of promise and a beacon of hope, in an ever changing world.
* See Bud Meyers related post - Why is all our money spent on defense?