The attacks of September 11 brought this new reality into a terrible and ominous focus. On that bright and beautiful day, the world of peace and prosperity that was the legacy of our Cold War victory seemed to suddenly vanish under rubble, and twisted steel, and clouds of smoke.
But the depth of this tragedy also drew out the decency and determination of our nation. At blood banks and vigils; in schools and in the United States Congress, Americans were united - more united, even, than we were at the dawn of the Cold War. The world, too, was united against the perpetrators of this evil act, as old allies, new friends, and even long-time adversaries stood by our side. It was time - once again - for America's might and moral suasion to be harnessed; it was time to once again shape a new security strategy for an ever-changing world.
Imagine, for a moment, what we could have done in those days, and
months, and years after 9/11.
We could have deployed the full force of American power to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and all of the terrorists responsible for 9/11, while supporting real security in Afghanistan.
We could have secured loose nuclear materials around the world, and updated a 20th century non-proliferation framework to meet the challenges of the 21st.
We could have invested hundreds of billions of dollars in alternative sources of energy to grow our economy, save our planet, and end the tyranny of oil.
We could have strengthened old alliances, formed new partnerships, and renewed international institutions to advance peace and prosperity.
We could have called on a new generation to step into the strong currents of history, and to serve their country as troops and teachers, Peace Corps volunteers and police officers.
We could have secured our homeland--investing in sophisticated new protection for our ports, our trains and our power plants.
We could have rebuilt our roads and bridges, laid down new rail and broadband and electricity systems, and made college affordable for every American to strengthen our ability to compete. We could have done that.
Instead, we have lost thousands of American lives, spent nearly a trillion dollars, alienated allies and neglected emerging threats - all in the cause of fighting a war for well over five years in a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.
For eight years, we have paid the price for a foreign policy that lectures without listening; that divides us from one another - and from the world - instead of calling us to a common purpose; that focuses on our tactics in fighting a war without end in Iraq instead of forging a new strategy to face down the true threats that we face. We cannot afford four more years of a strategy that is out of balance and out of step with this defining moment.
None of this will be easy, but we have faced great odds before. When General Marshall first spoke about the plan that would bear his name, the rubble of Berlin had not yet been built into a wall. But Marshall knew that even the fiercest of adversaries could forge bonds of friendship founded in freedom. He had the confidence to know that the purpose and pragmatism of the American people could outlast any foe. Today, the dangers and divisions that came with the dawn of the Cold War have receded. Now, the defeat of the threats of the past has been replaced by the transnational threats of today. We know what is needed. We know what can best be done. We know what must done. Now it falls to us to act with the same sense of purpose and pragmatism as an earlier generation, to join with friends and partners to lead the world anew.
There's absolutely no contest here. None. America may not be able to salvage a second chance from the ruins Bush leaves behind. If we elect McCain, we won't deserve one.
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