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The U.S. Role in the World
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Republican National Convention, Aug. 29, 2012
From that day on our sense of vulnerability and our understanding of security would be altered forever. Then in 2008 the global financial and economic crisis stunned us and still reverberates as unemployment, economic uncertainty and failed policies cast a pall over the American recovery so desperately needed at home and abroad.
And we have seen once again that the desire for freedom is universal – as men and women in the Middle East demand it. Yet, the promise of the Arab Spring is engulfed in uncertainty; internal strife and hostile neighbors are challenging the fragile democracy in Iraq; dictators in Iran and Syria butcher their own people and threaten the security of the region; China and Russia prevent a response; and all wonder, “Where does America stand?”
Indeed that is the question of the moment – “Where does America stand?” When our friends and our foes, alike, do not know the answer to that question – clearly and unambiguously – the world is a chaotic and dangerous place. The U.S. has since the end of World War II had an answer – we stand for free peoples and free markets, we are willing to support and defend them – we will sustain a balance of power that favors freedom.
To be sure, the burdens of leadership have been heavy. I, like you, know the sacrifices that Americans have made – yes including the ultimate sacrifices of many of our bravest. Yet our armed forces remain the sure foundation of liberty. We are fortunate to have men and women who volunteer – they volunteer to defend us on the front lines of freedom. And we owe them our eternal gratitude.
I know too that it has not always been easy – though it has been rewarding – to speak up for those who would otherwise be without a voice – the religious dissident in China; the democracy advocate in Venezuela; the political prisoner in Iran.
It has been hard to muster the resources to support fledgling democracies – or to help the world’s most desperate – the AIDS orphan in Uganda, the refugee fleeing Zimbabwe, the young woman who has been trafficked into the sex trade in Southeast Asia; the world’s poorest in Haiti. Yet this assistance – together with the compassionate works of private charities – people of conscience and people of faith – has shown the soul of our country.
And I know too that there is weariness – a sense that we have carried these burdens long enough. But if we are not inspired to lead again, one of two things will happen – no one will lead and that will foster chaos – or others who do not share our values will fill the vacuum. My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead – and one cannot lead from behind….
Our friends and allies must be able to trust us. From Israel to Poland to the Philippines to Colombia and across the world – they must know that we are reliable and consistent and determined. And our adversaries must have no reason to doubt our resolve – because peace really does come through strength….
We must work for an open global economy and pursue free and fair trade – to grow our exports and our influence abroad. In the last years, the United States has ratified three trade agreements, all negotiated in the Bush Administration. If you are concerned about China’s rise – consider this fact – China has signed 15 Free Trade Agreements and is negotiating 20 more. Sadly we are abandoning the playing field of free trade – and it will come back to haunt us….
America’ victorious revolutionary founding – against the greatest military power of the time; a Civil War – hundreds of thousands dead in a brutal conflict – but emerging a stronger union; a second founding – as impatient patriots fought to overcome the birth defect of slavery and the scourge of segregation; a long struggle against communism – that ended with the death of the Soviet Union and the emergence of Europe, whole, free and at peace; the will to make difficult decisions, heart-wrenching choices in the aftermath of 9/11 that secured us and prevented the follow-on attacks that seemed preordained at the time….
That is why this is a moment – an election – of consequence. Because it just has to be – that the most compassionate and freest country on the face of the earth – will continue to be the most powerful!