Saturday, February 2, 2013

Banish the Fear, Paranoia, and Dissension. Lead Again.

This weekend, the Washington Post published my opinion piece which they have titled "An America Cramped by Defensiveness." In it, I argue that a traumatized America has an overwhelmingly defensive focus and must learn to stand up, create, and lead again.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States sent its military off to war and fretted about post-traumatic 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 Americans became angry and withdrawn.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. ... 
We have little reason to be so negative. ... In our increasingly paranoiac 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 in infrastructure for our commerce, to rationalize the regulations that underpin our markets or to act collectively to create value. Instead, we hunker in a defensive crouch. 
Defense is an act of negation. It brings no victory, instead making us fearful, paranoid, angry and uncooperative. ... We must exalt those who create value in our society: parents, teachers, workers, builders, entrepreneurs, innovators. We must go forth confident that we can lead a changing world by continuing to create, by working together and by living the sorts of fearless lives that our fallen lived.

Read it all here. It is online now and will be in the Sunday print edition. The thoughts here are drawn on much deeper foundations in my book, War, Welfare & Democracy: Rethinking America's Quest for the End of History, which you can explore here.


  1. Saw this in the Washington post this morning. Outstanding piece! I believe many in the military and government can be very reflexive in our support for defense initiatives, to the detriment of our country.

    1. I too saw Maj Munson's OpEd in this morning's WaPo and was so impressed I've been trying to find a way to contact him directly to express my hearty endorsement, but without success. Nevertheless, I just ordered his book from Amazon and am looking forward to diving into it.

      My career in the active and reserve components of the Air Force spanned 30 years, and my career in DoD civil service stretched nearly as long. I have seen the general attitude toward the military in this country swing from one of vilification during the Vietnam war to one of near beatification in the post-9/11 era of OEF and OIF. It is difficult for me to say which extreme of attitude is more troubling to me when I reflect upon its significance as an indicator of core values and perceptions of Americans about our country and how it relates to the world.

      I will say that my final years of government service afforded me the opportunity to observe at close range the extent to which "defense" has become a "core industry" of the US, and I gradually came to regard that as a deeply troubling trend.

      Finally, should Maj Munson choose to converse with me, he may contact me at

  2. An excellent, excellent article in the Feb 3 WaPo. The political rancor since 9/11 has become very shrill -- "everyone on the right is a war-mongering moron..." "everyone on the left wants to burn Old Glory and force communism on us..." Munson's incisive commentary should be required reading for all pundits -- right, left, and center. "Exalt those who create value..." Great stuff, ready to see more.