Obama on Post-Bush America

The United States will have a brief window of opportunity when George W. Bush leaves office. To renew its global leadership and overcome unconventional threats, it must do more than replace a failed president. It's time for America to show a new face to the world.

The first challenge will be repairing the damage done by the catastrophic decision to respond to 9/11 with an invasion of Iraq. To end the war responsibly will take rallying Iraq, its neighbors and the world behind a new consensus for stability in the region. This will require putting the acrimony of the invasion behind us. Washington will be in a stronger position to do this if the next president does not carry the baggage of having supported the war, or the burden of refusing to talk with Iran and Syria's leaders unless they meet preconditions. I will offer this clean slate.

Ending the war must be part of a new chapter of engagement. The United States is seen as arrogant and aloof, protective of its power but unable to use it wisely. It talks tough but refuses to work with allies or meet with leaders it doesn't like. This undermines America's ability to lead, to drive wedges between its adversaries and to negotiate settlements to protracted problems. U.S. foes win propaganda battles by decrying America for not coming to the table. Russia and China fill in the gaps left by Washington's failure to lead.

The United States needs a president willing to talk to all nations, friend and foe. Such openness will help reverse America's perceived obstructionism. The nation needs a leader who will win propaganda battles with petty tyrants, and who will personally engage in conflict resolution, instead of parachuting in for photo opportunities. To support that effort, Washington should increase its Foreign Service personnel and reopen consulates in tough corners of the world.

To overcome the threat of Islamic extremism, the United States should replace its overreliance on the use of large-scale military forces with targeted action against terrorist safe havens and an international program of intelligence and law-enforcement cooperation to break up terrorist networks. To counter prophets of hate with a message of hope, America should send its best and brightest abroad to build ties with the Islamic world. And the president must restore moral leadership by shutting down Guant?namo and renouncing torture without equivocation.

The world will work with—not against—U.S. power if it is put to principled use and directed toward common goals. We need to renew the goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons, and I will secure loose nuclear materials, strengthen the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and negotiate deep reductions in global nuclear arsenals to pursue it. The United Nations' goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015 must be made America's goal, and I will double foreign aid to $50 billion to achieve it. We need to combat climate change by leading the world toward an 80 percent reduction of emissions below 1990s levels by 2050. We should do so with an aggressive, binding and transparent cap on U.S. emissions.

The world will see a new face of America the day that I am elected. My understanding of these challenges was not just shaped in the corridors of power; it has been shaped by the wider world. My father crossed an ocean to seek the dream of America. As a boy, I played barefoot with children in Indonesia. As a young man, I worked in the forgotten corners of America, where people struggled with violence and hopelessness. Whether I am at a G8 summit or in Africa, I will speak not just as someone who mastered my brief, but also as someone whose grandmother lives in a hut without indoor plumbing in a Kenyan village devastated by HIV/AIDS.

U.S. leadership has succeeded whenever a new generation of Americans has offered the world new visions, new policies and new faces. I will unite and rally Americans behind this approach by being open and honest with them at home. And I will lead an America that the world can trust and believe in once more.