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JLBC: Leadership

JLBC: Leadership

Common challenges like violent extremism, nuclear proliferation, climate change, and a changing global economy.

That is precisely why we should strengthen international law enforcement and our commitment to engage and modernize international institutions and frameworks. Those nations that refuse to meet their responsibilities will forsake the opportunities that come with international cooperation. Credible and effective alternatives to military action—from sanctions to isolation— must be strong enough to change behavior, just as we must reinforce our alliances and military capabilities. And if nations challenge or undermine an international order based on rights and responsibilities, they must find themselves isolated.

We succeeded in the post-World War II era by pursuing our interests within multilateral forums like the United Nations—not outside of them. We recognized that institutions that aggregated the national interests of many nations would never be perfect. Still, we also saw that they were indispensable for pooling global resources and enforcing international norms. Indeed, the basis for international cooperation since World War II has been an architecture of international institutions, organizations, regimes, and standards that establishes certain rights and responsibilities for all sovereign nations.

In recent years America’s frustration with international institutions has often led us to engage the United Nations (U.N.) system on an ad hoc basis. But in a world of trans-national challenges, the United States will need to invest in strengthening the international system, working from inside international institutions and frameworks to face their imperfections head-on and mobilize transnational cooperation.

We must be clear-eyed about the factors that have impeded effectiveness in the past. For collective action to be mobilized, the polarization that persists across region, race, and religion must be replaced by a galvanizing sense of shared interest. Swift and effective international action often turn on the political will of coalitions of countries that comprise regional or international institutions. New and emerging powers who seek more excellent voice and representation will need to accept greater responsibility for meeting global challenges. When nations breach agreed to international norms, the countries who espouse those norms must be convinced to band together to enforce them.

We will expand our support to modernizing institutions and arrangements, such as the evolution of the G-8 to the G-20, to reflect the realities of today’s international environment. Working with the institutions and the countries that comprise them, we will enhance global capacity to prevent conflict, spur economic growth, improve security, combat climate change, and address the challenges of weak and failing states. And we will challenge and assist international institutions and frameworks in reforming when they fail to live up to their promise. Strengthening the legitimacy and authority of international law and institutions, especially the U.N., will require a constant struggle to improve performance.

Furthermore, our international order must recognize the increasing influence of individuals in today’s world. There must be opportunities for civil society to thrive within nations and to forge connections among them. And there must be opportunities for individuals and the private sector to play a significant role in addressing everyday challenges—whether supporting a nuclear fuel bank, pro- moving global health, fostering entrepreneurship, or exposing violations of universal rights. In the 21st century, the ability of individuals and non-government actors to play a positive role in shaping the international environment represents a unique opportunity for the United States.

Within this context, we know that an international order where every nation upholds its rights and responsibilities will remain elusive. Force will sometimes be necessary to confront threats. Technology will continue to bring with it new dangers. Poverty and disease will not be abolished entirely. Oppression will always be with us. But if we recognize these challenges, embrace America’s responsibility to confront them with its partners, and forge new cooperative approaches to get others to join us in overcoming them. The international order of a globalized age can better advance our interests and the common interests of nations and peoples everywhere.


To succeed, we must update, balance, and integrate all of the tools of American power and work with our allies and partners to do the same. Our military must maintain its conventional superiority. As long as nuclear weapons exist, our nuclear deterrent capability continues to enhance its capacity to defeat asymmetric threats, preserve access to the global commons, and strengthen partners. We must invest in diplomacy and development capabilities and institutions to complement and re-inforces our international partners. Our intelligence capabilities must continuously evolve to identify and characterize conventional and asymmetric threats and provide timely insight. And we must integrate our approach to homeland security with our broader national security approach.

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