I was relieved to read today that our Secretary of State has vowed to carry out her duties without ideology.  As a means of breaking with the former administration, this seems rather extreme to me, though tragically not very surprising.  It’s a heck of a lot easier to take pot shots at what someone else is doing than it is to craft your own approach.    

First off, I don’t think it’s humanly possible to not have an ideology.  It’s even less possible for a nation to not have an ideology.  America has a long tradition of very specific types of ideology, centered around freedom of one sort or another, and the advancement of human political rights.  We certainly haven’t always acted on that ideology very cleanly, but it’s been an overall guiding principle.  
Secondly, making a stated goal of not having an ideology does not foster the interest of either the United States or our allies around the world.  I can guarantee that every other head of state that Ms. Clinton will interact will have very specific ideologies that they hope to act on.  We believe (as though anybody really disbelieved, regardless of what the spook reports last year claimed) that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.  That’s an expression of ideology – and Ms. Clinton will be rather chagrined to find they are far less willing to give up their ideology than she apparently is.  Russia has an ideology.  China has one.  Even France has one, I’m sure.  
We ought to have one as well.  We are even more misleading than previous administrations if we think we can pass ourselves off as not having one.  That ideology may be to ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’, but it can’t simply be ‘to not be like the last eight years’.  And if we don’t, God help us all, and help those nations that have relied on us to have one – even if it wasn’t always popular.
Listening is good.  Examining facts is good.  But these things are not adequate to represent the interests of 300  million people, and a nation that wields an incredible influence around the world, both positively and negatively.  Be honest about who we are and what we hold valuable.  Be forthright about how we intend to safegard those interests, and what friends and foes alike can expect from us.  Mistakes will continue to be made – at least until such time as mistakes become more clearly a partisan issue and less a human one.  But lead with your best foot forward – don’t lead by attempting not to take a step.  

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