James Fallows, a national correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly, spoke Tuesday evening at Claremont McKenna College’s Athenaeum on foreign policy and America’s challenges.
For yours truly, one challenge was grasping the erudite Fallows’ arguments; for Fallows, the greatest challenge was getting to the point. (He spent a fair amount of time outlining how his talk would go instead of just, you know, talking.)
Here are his four ideas for the post-Bush era, as best I can summarize them:
* We have a window of opportunity to remake ourselves and put our house in order not seen since the post-World War II era. We should think big.
* We should reconsider what measures are worth taking to defend ourselves after 9/11 and what ones undermine our society.
* We should focus on how can America best remain attractive to the world through the power of our example through such traditional American strengths as opportunity, innovation, openness, equality and trust.
* We should take a world leadership role in slowing global warming and energy use.
“If it’s possible to scare up $700 billion over a weekend to avert a financial crisis, it would take a lot less to make a significant difference in climate change,” Fallows said.
The former Carter speechwriter has been living in China for two years and said that nation is very poor, its army focused on Tibet rather than us, and its citizens largely positive about America.
His only partisan comment was to repeat something a Chinese financial official told him in a recent interview. Noting that the U.S. criticizes China’s one-party system while extoling the virtues of our two-party system, the official said that after the American disasters under Bush, putting another Republican in the White House will make us look like hypocrites when we say our democratic system fosters accountability.
Fallows encouraged students, who made up much of the audience, to live abroad for a year before age 30 to gain a better understanding of the world. His final words were addressed to them: “Go forth and save us.”
OK, that part I understood perfectly.