The following are excerpts from an essay written for the Washington Post by Peter J. Munson, a major in the Marine Corps and the author of "War, Welfare and Democracy: Rethinking America's Quest for the End of History."
After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the United States sent its military off to war and fretted about post-tramatic stress disorder - but paid little attention to the fact that America itself was traumatized. Americans became angry and withdrawn. We are fearful and paranoid because, after a strike on our nation, we chose to focus on defense rather than the resilience and vitality that made America great. In our defensive mindset, we bristle at every change in a world undergoing an epochal transformation.
We have little reason to be so negative. Certainly the rest of the world is gaining on us, but this represents the successes of explicit U.S. policies, the United States sought to create a world of economic interdependence and prosperity, hoping to banish the malaise that helped precipitate the global conflict. The prospect of rapid growth was not viewed as a threat but rather offered the promise of robust markets for American goods and ingenuity. We were confident and focused on the positive tasks of expanding the economy rather than fearing change.
Collectively we have lost that positivity - what historian Louis Mumford called an "inner go". Mumford was referring to the Romans, who in their decline focused only on security and stability, losing the vitality to embrace change and take risks. In our increasingly paranoid discourse, we too, have lost focus on the positive, creative tasks that continuously remake American power, resilience and vitality. We cannot agree to invest in education for our children or infrastructure for our commerce, to rationalize the regulations that underpin out markets or to act collectively to create value. Instead we hunker in a defense crouch.
A nation cannot survive on defense alone. Militaries and wars produce nothing. They only consume - time, lives, resources and hope. Banish the fear, paranoia and dissension. Lead again.