Category Archives: Uncategorized

It’s High Noon for America

high-noonElection Day 2016 is High Noon for America and this time we can’t let Marshal Hillary face the outlaw alone.  Ok, so Hillary is not exactly Gary Cooper and Bill Clinton is certainly not Grace Kelly, but the villain played by Ian McDonald also doesn’t look anything like Donald Trump.  None of that matters, because our America is in danger, just like Hadleyville.  Whether Democrat or Republican, Independent or Green; Whether you love or distrust Marshal Hillary or even if you are willing to forgive the villain his past transgressions, we must not let Donald Trump take over our town! Our marshal knows that it is the citizens, however intimidated,  who own Hadleyville, and that she is not a one-woman reality show.  November 8 is High Noon, and this time, we are all her deputies! Note to all Western fans: please explain to the rest of the country.

 

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America’s Changing Global Role: Happiness is Wanting What You Get

Indispensable NationPropelled, or rather held back by our overwhelming national rejection of acting in Syria or elsewhere outside the United States, we Americans are taking another step toward a new world order of our own making.  In this new order, Russia and China set the standards for international behavior and the Syrias, North Koreas, and Irans are empowered by Russian and Chinese rules.  The United States meanwhile voices the occasional world opinion and even sets some redlines when it comes to unacceptable behavior, but accepts that our full national power will not be used unless our homeland itself is once again directly under attack.  This new reality is not the result of comments by our Secretary of State or by the decisions of the President of the United States, but a direct consequence of the vast majority opinion of the American people. Historians will of course remind us that we have been exhausted by foreign entanglements before before, since our very founding in fact, and since both after WWI and WWII, and at many other junctures of history.  They will also acknowledge that the times we have gone to war and lost precious blood and treasure, have made us justifiably weary of the next hostile engagement.

I am among the apparent minority of Americans who do do not wish to accept such a new world order.  I am proud that we engaged in and won both WWII and the Cold War.  I am proud that we fought Communist totalitarianism and global terror.  I am delighted that we threw Saddam Hussain out of Kuwait and that we dislodged Slobodan Milosevic and brought him to Justice for his crimes against humanity.  Our country paid a price for its victories as well as its failures.  Clearly not every one of our engagements was wise.  But our intentions and our principles were.  There used to be a time when the U.S. set international parameters for acceptable behavior, and both our friend and foes paid very close attention.  The 20th century was the American Century and I firmly believe that the world will be a better place if the 21st is so as well.

On Syria we are now reduced to being lectured by an autocratic Russian leader on peace, democracy and international law!  And rather than standing forcefully against a regime that has taken to kill its own people, we are breathing a sigh of relief that Russia has offered us a way out of acting on our convictions by engaging in Russian/Syrian “diplomacy” instead.  In the end, the most serious consequences  of this sad state of affairs are not the loss of credibility of the United States or our President or even the message our inaction conveys to repressive regimes around the globe.  The real tragedy is that we seem to have lost something that we Americans have long stood for:   the conviction that the whole world is entitled to certain inalienable rights and that we are the champions of these rights.

Today, our leaders are delivering to us, step by step,  the America we are asking for:  a nation that looks inward, that is less confident, that feels economically pressured, and just no longer sees itself as that exceptional, indispensable nation.  We will not like the world we are allowing to be built by others who don’t share our values.

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A Diplomat’s New Life

I am back.  On July 22 this year I departed Estonia for the last time as U.S. Ambassador and launched the transition from 35 years in my country’s Diplomatic Service into my new life as a private sector diplomat.  On October 1, I joined the new McCain Institute for International Leadership as Senior Director.  Located in Washington, D.C. and supported initially by a $9 million gift from the McCain Institute Foundation, we are part of Arizona State University (ASU), America’s largest public university.  Our mission is to advance leadership based on security, economic opportunity, freedom, and human dignity, in the United States and around the world.

I will be directing a unique new global leadership fellows program that will bring emerging leaders from around the world to the U.S. to engage in a year-long deepening of their “character-driven” leadership skills, along with professional development in their respective fields.  As an ASU Professor, I will also be passing on 35 years of diplomatic and international leadership experience to the next  generation of U.S. and international foreign affairs leaders.

And of course the issues and subjects that have been important to me in the past continue to excite me in my new capacity:  cyber security, e-governance, U.S. global leadership, the trans-Atlantic relationship, American values, and technology and policy, to name just a few.  Thank you for your patience with my temporary absence from the blogosphere and stay tuned — you will hear from me on these and many other issues again from now on.  Follow me and the McCain Institute also on Twitter and Facebook.

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An American Diplomat’s Message in Support of Europe

As I prepare to depart my mission as U.S. Ambassador to Estonia in a few days, the future of European unity — economic, political, and perhaps most importantly, emotional, remains hotly debated by our friends in Estonia and the rest of the continent.  Governments, parliaments, and supreme courts are passing judgments.  Their sovereigns — the people of Europe — are expressing their views forcefully.  In a determined effort to emerge from the current economic crisis, European leaders are seeking to put systems in place to heal current ills and prevent future disease.

With its decision last week, the Estonian Supreme Court supported Estonian Government’s participation in the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), designed to create a rescue fund for ailing economies.  Despite the burdens such participation places on his country’s finances, Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip is quoted as saying:”I have always believed that our interests are protected through cooperation.  In the last 20 years, Estionia’s primary foreign policy goal has been integration with ….European institutions.” 

The firm and politically courageous (and risky) statement by this European statesman again demonstrates the model role Estonia continues to play in European affairs today.  One of the smaller members of the Union, Estonia is also one of its most courageous and most committed.  Courage and commitment in support of European cohesion — and correction — are exactly what is needed right now, along with further swift action.  The U.S. position is clear:  we support a strong and united Europe and any and all actions in support of this unity and common success.

Clearly failure is not an option.  Errors of the past matter only in so far as they inform future success.  Stakes are too high for both sides of the Atlantic, as are the opportunities for greater prosperity of our 800 million people in the U.S. and Europe.  It is at times like this that as an American diplomat I am reminded of our first, and infinitely more emminent  American diplomat, who in a wholly opposite context spoke words that nevertheless have some meaning in Europe today:

“We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

– Benjamin Franklin, in the Continental Congress just before signing
the American Declaration of Independence, 1776.

 

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American Staying Power is Staying

The last 10 years have been hard on the United States.  From the tragendy of 9/11 forward, good news has sometimes been in short supply.  Instead, we have seen an abundance of conflict, an economy stumbling, and often bitter political debates over the future of our society and our country as a whole.  At the same time, we have also rediscovered who our true friends are around the world, along with reminding ourselves of our innate strength and determination to help others in need, from Haiti to Japan and the African continent, as well as our fellow citizens from the Gulf oil spill to nature’s devastation in the South.

The elimination of a major threat to the lives and safety of peoples in all corners of the globe by removing Osama Bin Laden was more than a brilliant military operation by the bravest of Americans.  It was an affirmation of our nation’s persistent vision and enduring reality that we are an exceptional people, not without our faults, but ultimately good, compassionate, and fearless in standing up for our values, not matter how often we fall or are pushed down. 

Pundits at home and abroad have long speculated that the end of the American age has arrived; that the American dream has faded and that new world powers and a new world order are on the rise.  Many have predicted dire consequences for our nation’s future in the face of exploding budget deficits and a staggering debt burden.  Critics have asserted that we lack the discipline, the peseverance, and the maturity to overcome our most serious challenges.  And yet ……for ten years and longer we have pursued global terrorists, together with our allies and friends.  We never tired.  We never gave up. We just scored a major success.

I have never been prepared to write the United States off.  Since our 18th century fight for independence in the face of overwhelming odds, and through countless struggles since, including a bloody civil war, we have always prevaled.  “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” is after all an American saying.  Our country continues to carry the hopes and dreams of the world, not because Americans are a special people, but because special people are Americans.  From every corner of the globe, the American melting pot has created the most diverse nation on earth, united by the pride of making ourselves and calling ourselves Americans.  So as long as there is a place called earth there will be a special and important place on this planet called the United States of America.

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Serious About Cyber Defense

I understand there is a bit of concern among some in Estonia regarding the country’s past, current and future performance in cyber defense.  There has also been some implication that Estonia may not have been nearly as prepared as it should have been when the 2007 large scale denial of service attack ocurred.  Some may even argue that Estonia talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk of cyber protection.  I disagree.  This country has done exceedingly well in dealing with a rather new threat that is now on many countries’ strategic planning agenda — after Estonia.  In 2007  Estonians not only overcame a unique challenge on their own, but they also learned a great deal and went about planning for future cyber security.  And with the establishment of the NATO Cyber Defense Center of Excellence and the creation of Estonia’s Cyber Defense League, our allies in Tallinn have done much more than just help themselves.  The U.S. will join the NATO Center this year to share even more in the common effort of  a growing number of Alliance countries to build the NATO cyber defense strategy agreed at the Lisbon NATO Foreign Minister’s meeting last November.  In addition, the strong relationship between Estonia’s National Guard and our Maryland National Guard is yielding solid bilateral results, among them the appreciation of the public-private sector community of purpose in protecting civilian as well as governmental infrastructure from cyber attack.  Now, do we all have more to learn and more actions to take?  Of course.  As information technology and its applications in our daily lives advance and change at lightening speed, so does the capacity of criminal actors to disrupt our societies using these tools.  But when it comes to hands-on cyber defense, both Estonia and the United States remain committed and capable of maintaining leadership roles.

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The United States is Different

Last evening in the United States President Obama addressed the American people, and through them the Libyan people and the world community, on the the current conflict in Libya.  The reaction of the international community to regime violence, expressed in a firm UN Security Council Resolution, has been almost unanimous.  Our President acknowledged that some Americans have concerns about U.S. efforts in Libya.  But Mr. Obama made clear that “to brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and…our responsibilities to our fellow human beings …would have been a betrayal of who we are.  Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States is different.” 

For peoples around the world and especially for our close friends and allies such as Estonia, President Obama’s words on Libya carry a most important broad message.  The United States will not hesitate to lead in world events, and our leadership includes mobilizing the international community for collective action.  History has shown that American leadership is an essential ingredient in meeting the challenges of our globe.  It is equally clear that when we choose not to play our role, in whatever way, there are inevitable consequences.  Of course we are not immune from criticism.  Not everyone always agrees with our views.  Some strongly disagree.  We can make mistakes.  But as a great nation of free men and women we are also strong enough to deal openly with our regrets.  

In the final analysis we are proud of who we are.  And today, and for the future, we “stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms.”

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