An extraordinary group of leaders — politicians, military commanders, diplomats — defined a practical and moral role for America in the global defense of free governments and institutions. “In natural abilities and experience,” writes historian Paul Johnson , “in clarity of mind and in magnanimity, they were probably the finest group of American leaders since the Founding Fathers.” Harry S. Truman lent his defiant moral sensibilities to the enterprise. Dwight D. Eisenhower matched humility with power. John F. Kennedy gave poetry to the struggle. “For it is the fate of this generation,” he said, “to live with a struggle we did not start, in a world we did not make. . . . And while no nation ever faced such a challenge, no nation has ever been more ready to seize the burden and the glory of freedom.”
This is what some now dismiss as “globalism” — the combination of America’s founding purpose with unavoidable international responsibilities. The postwar preeminence of the United States has been sustainable, not only because of our military power but also because the global order we shaped is not a zero-sum game. Both America and our allies benefit from American security commitments in Europe and East Asia. Both America and our trading partners can benefit from relatively free global markets.