A defining moment in world history

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have a profound opportunity at a defining moment in history to achieve great goals in world affairs.

The president and secretary of State share a friendship that has grown, a vision of America’s role in the world, an immense global popularity based on who they are and what they stand for and one of the strongest national-security teams since Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

In a world that is diverse, multicultural, interconnected through 24/7 communications and heavily influenced by the rising aspirations of women, the global appeal of Obama and Clinton is a national asset of incalculable dimension reminiscent of President Kennedy and his battle of ideas.

The entire national-security team shares a vision of leadership that involves listening as well as speaking, in a world that hungers for American leadership but also for an America that values and respects the nobler aspirations of nations and people everywhere. From the global economic crisis to the dangers of global warming; from the menace of terrorism that murders the innocent to the plague of nuclear proliferation that threatens mass destruction; from poverty and fear to joblessness and hunger in a world where the young are often punished by the sins of the old, the world awaits leaders of good faith searching for common solutions.

For every deadly danger there is a golden opportunity.

Financial cooperation. Terrorism. Iraq. Afghanistan. Pakistan. Iran. China. Global warming. Nuclear proliferation. Middle East peace. World trade. Relations with Russia. The list of dangers and opportunities is long and complicated.

Vice President Biden is one of the wisest and most experienced leaders ever to hold the job. With global knowledge, sophistication and contacts worthy of a president, Biden is a voice of reason whose judgment benefits any president and is respected by allies and adversaries alike. When Joe Biden says our allies should help us in Afghanistan or that diplomacy may be possible with Iran, the world takes note.

Gen. James Jones is a national-security leader who is admired in capitals around the world and on both sides of the aisle at home. From commandant of the Marine Corps to Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Jones is a deep strategic thinker whose achievements transcend military and diplomatic affairs.

With a shared partnership with Congress essential to the success of any global mission, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has returned to its historical role. Its chairman, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and ranking Republican, Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.), are presidential-caliber leaders who offer wisdom, ideas and unity to strengthen American interests beyond the water’s edge.

Of all the statesmen I have ever met, I learned the most from the great diplomat Philip Habib, who spent a career negotiating cease-fires and trouble spots around the world.

When I worked for the House Democratic leadership and Habib was President Reagan’s special ambassador, I collaborated with him closely and learned much from him. Habib believed that for diplomacy to succeed, the president and secretary of State must be committed to the mission, share a bold vision for great goals and back hands-on diplomats of creativity and skill.

Naming former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine) as Middle East envoy brings his creativity, credibility and clout to the hardest diplomatic mission on earth. Mitchell succeeded brilliantly in working to end the seemingly intractable carnage in Ireland. Leaders across the Middle East know that Mitchell means business and that the president means business with Mitchell.

It is profound that the president gave his first major interview to al-Arabiya. This move dramatized the president’s cultural breadth and his desire to reach out with mutual respect and seek a new day communicating with people throughout the Middle East.

Obama and Clinton understand that in a world of interconnected communications, the media plays a vital role that transcends nations and cultures, explaining the facts and sharing the message. There will be more such interviews, more reaching-out to young people of all religions in all places of the Middle East, who prefer the way of hope to the way of death. Naming former United Nations Ambassador and über-diplomat Richard Holbrooke to the team brings another five-star talent with a history of great achievement in challenging wartime and diplomatic missions.

Some of the crises facing the president are dangerous and immense. In Afghanistan, while Washington debates whether “the surge worked,” the more urgent crises are that Afghanistan policy has failed, terrorists have regrouped, Pakistan has grown unstable and tensions between India and Pakistan have risen.

Afghanistan is in crisis. More troops will be needed, but more important is the need to end corruption, replace the skyrocketing poppy trade, offer economic hope to Afghans and end civilian casualties.

Failure is not an option, but no great power in history has entered and left Afghanistan pleasantly. The mission requires multilateral support that the president and his team make far more likely.

Some engage in the parlor game of trying to play one official against another. They are out of the loop that matters. These are men and women of great achievement, shared aspirations and long experience who know each other well and have collaborated for many years. They share a vision with the president who shapes the policy and meant what he said when he challenged us to change America, and change the world.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics and sits on the Advisory Council of the Intelligence Summit. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it