Kashmeri: Changing Priorities

Jul 11, 2016

The existential threat facing America today is not from Russia, which has a smaller defense budget than France and a crumbling economy, but from the continuing cleavage in America between blacks and whites, between the haves and have nots, between those who understand the importance of America's democratic institutions and those who want to tear the fabric of America apart by shredding the compact that has held this Republic together for two centuries.

America's most important priority today must be the rapidly deteriorating state of the bonds that hold this country together. Race relations must rank higher on America's agenda than whether Georgia or Ukraine should belong to NATO. Rebuilding the vanishing American middle-class must rank higher on America's agenda than worrying about what percent of their domestic budget NATO countries spend on defense. Europeans are the richest group of countries in the world. They can and will take care of their own security, American leadership is less critical in today’s Europe, but it is vitally needed here at home.

This is to me the message from the horrors of Texas, Minnesota, and Louisiana; it is the message from the legions of Americans who’ve been captivated by Senator Bernie Sanders and Mr. Donald Trump.
These messages are loud and clear calls for a pivot of American leadership to problems at home. They are not calls for isolationism, they are calls for realism

But any President, even one as thoughtful as Mr. Obama, has only so many seconds in a day and I hope that during the months he has remaining in office, he will think carefully about how American leadership should be deployed to fix our internal problems, before it’s too late.

A few years ago, while I was researching my book on the future of NATO, one of NATO's key military leaders said something to me that I’m thinking about today.

"We will never forget what America did for Europe,” he said. “But today America must take a deep breath and look to its problems at home.” He continued, “You need to attend to the serious internal issues facing America, and fix them. Or we are all in trouble."