“When Alexis de Tocqueville came to the young United States, he commented less on our individualism than on our remarkable social capital — we create civic associations for every purpose imaginable — and on our ‘habits of the heart,’” writes former State Department policy planner Anne-Marie Slaughter:
In my 2007 book, “The Idea That Is America,” I argued that our history is a continual “process of trying to live up to our ideals, falling short, succeeding in some places, and trying again in others.” …..Common purpose creates the trust and empathy that reveal us as individual human beings, not as statistics and stereotypes. It is then harder not to care. That cohesion, as Robert Putnam has shown, is the foundation of a successful democracy. And it is a precondition for achieving our founding credo of equality.
“Elevating care alongside competition would have implications for our foreign policy as well,” adds Slaughter, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group:
It would underpin a new era of U.S. leadership, affecting where and how we work with other nations on issues of water, food, climate, poverty and the violence that rips apart everyday lives. When we looked at Syria, Egypt or any country menaced by government violence and government failure, we would see not only that government’s political allegiances and its place on the global chessboard. We would also see human beings who want the same things we do: jobs, education, a better life for their children.
As the U.S. Congress prepares to debate the merits of intervening in Syria, she cautions that “an uncaring foreign policy will haunt us — through the global ties of our own citizens and through the channels that transmit crime, disease, recession and other ills across borders.”
Slaughter recently warned that “U.S. credibility is on the line” over Syria.
“Obama must realize the tremendous damage he will do to the United States and to his legacy if he fails to act [and] understand the deep and lasting damage done when … those who wield power are exposed as not saying what they mean or meaning what they say,” she argued.