When I was in Washington last week, one of
the last things I saw was the Kennedy flame at Arlington National
Cemetery. The flame is merely a flame, minor in comparison to the
grand monuments, which serve as a testament to the legacy of those
who have served and sacrificed for this country and its vision at
home and abroad. Nonetheless, it was a row of quotations inscribed
opposite the flame that I found most moving. One, specifically,
stuck with me:

Suhael Momin

Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear
arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though
embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long
twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope,
patient in tribulation” — a struggle against the common
enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.

Taken from Kennedy’s inaugural address, this line
eloquently symbolizes an idealistic and noble international agenda,
far more uplifting and inspirational than anything currently coming
out of Washington. Today, the neoconservative revolution has bred
an ideology that embraces similar end goals, but advocates
militaristic means. The Bush Doctrine, in stark contrast to
anything preceding it, actively embraces the idea of preemption, an
unprecedented step for any nation in the modern era.

What is needed is a renewal of the Kennedy spirit — an
international optimism that seeks to use America’s position
and power to foster cooperation, strong multidimensional alliances
and a global consensus on the virtues of freedom, liberty and
democracy. The neoconservative policy emanating from Washington in
untenable and unsafe, while the alternative — withdrawal from
international affairs — will let pass this opportunity to
fundamentally alter the dynamics of this world.

Neoconservatives have some of it right — this is a
unipolar world, and the spread of the economic, social and
political freedom is an inherently worthy goal. However, militarism
is not the vehicle for this change. Global aggression — the
liberal use of military power to topple unfriendly governments
— will only breed resentment and alienate allies. While the
use of force may vanquish enemies, it will not create friends. The
American position in the world will be literally enforced; other
nations will not respect our ideals or our vision. They will fear
our tendency to exterminate unfriendly governments.

The current challenge facing America — terrorism —
will not be wholly overcome by force. Terrorism is not an entity,
it is a strategy. Generally, it is not employed by states, but by
rogue individuals and fringe elements. The discontent, which fuels
terrorism, cannot be targeted by a cruise missile or bombed out of
existence. While the war on terror has a legitimate military
component, it can only be truly won by addressing the root cause.
This cannot be done through the military; overt aggression will
only exacerbate the problem. Instead, a war of ideas must be waged.
America must form a new coalition of the willing — willing
not to march to war, but rather willing to educate and uplift those
most at risk of alienation. In the words of a former five-star
general and president, “Though force can protect in
emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation
can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.”

While the common enemies of man persist to this day, America now
has more power than ever to fight them. Through alliances rooted in
common ideologies, outreach aimed at countering radicalism and
economic development initiatives, which encourage advancement, the
Kennedy vision can be fulfilled. A return to liberal
internationalism, which encourages the international community to
unite in the defense of freedom and liberty, is needed.

Momin can be reached at
“mailto:smomin@umich.edu”>smomin@umich.edu.

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